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Legacies Project Oral History: George Ramsey

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 10:04am

When: 2020

George Ramsey was born 1938 and grew up on East Warren Avenue in Detroit. He remembers experiencing the Detroit Race Riot of 1943 as a young child and the Detroit Riot of 1967 as an adult. He attended Northeastern High School with classmates who became famous Motown singers. Ramsey served in the United States Air Force and USPS before becoming a road manager for a Motown recording group in the late 1960s. He worked for Motown music producer Lamont Dozier in California in the 1970s.

George Ramsey was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2010 as part of the Legacies Project.

Transcript

  • [00:00:09.94] SPEAKER 1: OK, I'm first going to ask you some simple demographic questions. These questions may jog memories, but please keep your answers brief and to the point for now. We can go into more detail later in the interview.
  • [00:00:28.45] GEORGE RAMSEY: OK, great.
  • [00:00:29.13] SPEAKER 1: All right. Please say and spell your name.
  • [00:00:33.29] GEORGE RAMSEY: My name is George Ramsey, that's G-E-O-R-G-E R-A-M-S-E-Y.
  • [00:00:40.70] SPEAKER 1: OK. So what is your birthday? Include the year.
  • [00:00:45.59] GEORGE RAMSEY: I was born April the 8th, 1938.
  • [00:00:49.36] SPEAKER 1: So how old are you?
  • [00:00:52.27] GEORGE RAMSEY: I'm 72 years old.
  • [00:00:54.55] SPEAKER 1: Oh. How would you describe your ethnic background?
  • [00:01:01.37] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, my ethnic background is very diverse, in that I was born of African-American parents. My mother's mother was a Creek Indian. So I would certainly consider myself as an American, first of all. And ethnically speaking, I would assume a black American.
  • [00:01:22.34] SPEAKER 1: So what is your religion, if any?
  • [00:01:26.66] GEORGE RAMSEY: Baptist.
  • [00:01:27.35] SPEAKER 1: OK. So what is the highest level of formal education you have completed? Did you attend any additional school or formal career training beyond that?
  • [00:01:41.95] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah. Well, I'm-- I have an associate's degree, which is a 14 years. And I also had a degree in broadcasting. Had third class broadcasting license that I acquired over the years.
  • [00:01:58.19] SPEAKER 1: What is your marital status?
  • [00:02:03.93] GEORGE RAMSEY: I'm married.
  • [00:02:06.25] SPEAKER 1: So is your spouse still living?
  • [00:02:09.12] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yes. I just was recently wed, as a matter of fact, four years ago.
  • [00:02:15.79] SPEAKER 1: How many children do you have?
  • [00:02:19.09] GEORGE RAMSEY: I have two children, two sons.
  • [00:02:22.38] SPEAKER 1: How many siblings do you have?
  • [00:02:25.74] GEORGE RAMSEY: Currently, there is only myself and the brother. I was in a-- had six of us as siblings, but only two of us are alive now.
  • [00:02:36.90] SPEAKER 1: Oh. What is your primary occupation?
  • [00:02:41.34] GEORGE RAMSEY: I'm retired.
  • [00:02:42.16] SPEAKER 1: Oh. At what age did you retire?
  • [00:02:48.39] GEORGE RAMSEY: I retired in '94. How many years is that? 16-- '94. That's right, because I was 56.
  • [00:03:05.72] SPEAKER 1: Now we can bring the first part of our interview, beginning with some of the things you can recall about your family history. We will start this family naming history. By this, we mean any story about your last or family name, or family traditions in children first or middle names. Do you know any stories about your family name?
  • [00:03:33.35] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, the only story that I know about my family name is limited. I have a story about my name, me being named George. My sister, my older sister, who is deceased at this time, when my mother was pregnant, she was going with a fellow named George. As a matter of fact, his last name was Ramsey. She ended up marrying him. And she convinced my mother to name me after my brother-in-law with the name George. I had his first name and my father's middle name. But he and I had the same signature, George D. Ramsey, so.
  • [00:04:10.31] SPEAKER 1: Oh. Are there any naming traditions in your family?
  • [00:04:16.28] GEORGE RAMSEY: No, none.
  • [00:04:19.51] SPEAKER 1: Why did you-- why did your ancestors leave to come to the United States?
  • [00:04:28.63] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, I don't know the reasons why they left, or if, like I said, my mother's-- on my mother's side, my mother's mother was a Creek Indian, which was a native of America. And my father, I'm not sure where his parents emigrated from. I don't know if they came from Africa or one of the islands. But I don't know why any of them would came-- would have come here other than for the opportunity that anyone else came, unless they came as enslaved people.
  • [00:04:59.16] SPEAKER 1: Do you know any stories about how your family first came to the United States, and where did they first settle?
  • [00:05:08.29] GEORGE RAMSEY: No. I know that, again, my father's family was from Mississippi. But I don't-- my father died when I was two, so I had limited information about his family. So I really don't know that much about his family.
  • [00:05:33.87] SPEAKER 1: OK. How did they make a living, either in the old country or in the United States?
  • [00:05:42.33] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, my father, he left Mississippi in the 1920s, in the early '20s, running from the lynch mob, as a matter of fact. My father's father was a minister in Mississippi. And my father left Mississippi, again, in the early '20s, went into Memphis, Tennessee.
  • [00:06:01.38] From Memphis, Tennessee, he ended-- went to Chicago, Illinois, and then on into Pittsburgh. He was working in the mines in Pittsburgh. Then in about 1925 or so, '26, he came to Detroit. And he ended up working in the post office in downtown Detroit until his death in 1940. So that was his employment, the post office, primarily.
  • [00:06:27.64] SPEAKER 1: Oh. Describe any family immigration once they arrived to the United States and how they came to live in this area.
  • [00:06:39.07] GEORGE RAMSEY: I'm not familiar with that information at all. I don't know how or why-- they ended up here.
  • [00:06:49.53] SPEAKER 1: What belongings did they bring with them and why?
  • [00:06:54.44] GEORGE RAMSEY: Again, there's none that I'm aware of.
  • [00:07:00.04] SPEAKER 1: Which family members came along or stayed behind?
  • [00:07:06.19] GEORGE RAMSEY: There's none.
  • [00:07:09.93] SPEAKER 1: To your knowledge, did they try to prevent any traditions-- I mean, preserve any traditions or customs from their country of origin?
  • [00:07:20.55] GEORGE RAMSEY: None that I'm aware of, no.
  • [00:07:24.54] SPEAKER 1: Are there traditions that your family has given up or changed, why?
  • [00:07:30.74] GEORGE RAMSEY: Again, I'm not aware of any.
  • [00:07:32.71] SPEAKER 1: Thank you. What stories have come down to you about your parents and grandparents or distant ancestors?
  • [00:07:45.48] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, the only story I would-- well, again, my father's side, as an example, like I said, my grandfather was a Baptist preacher in Mississippi. And upon his death and an 18-- 19-- early something 1900s, I think 1902 at something. Whenever he died, as the story is, he was the first black in that community that was buried in the cemetery that they developed in that particular community. That the city that this supposedly took place in is no longer on the map in Mississippi. It was a small town there in Mississippi.
  • [00:08:27.83] But on my mother's side, I mean, there's more stories about my mother's ancestry, because of my mother's, as I stated, my mother's mother was a Creek Indian and her grandfather was Jewish, which was a very unique experience, from what I understand. And she informed me over the years. She and I used to talk about it. Me being the youngest, I had more conversations with her about her family.
  • [00:08:51.30] She stated that her grandfather used to walk around the house with the yarmulke on. I think the hat the Jewish priest or whatever would walk around their homes in. And she said that he had to portray himself as a Methodist preacher rather than a Jewish rabbi, as he was supposedly in that-- the community because there were-- they were hanging Jews as high as they hung blacks back then. So his position was to portray him not being Jewish.
  • [00:09:22.56] But my mother's sisters and brothers-- she had brothers and sisters who were biracial. She had a brother and a sister that passed for white during their lifetime. I had an opportunity to meet one of her brothers, who-- and I visited in California in the '50s. And he surely was very white in the sense that if you'd have saw him, you'd assume that he was a white man.
  • [00:09:47.45] He and his wife, who was a dark-skinned black woman he was married to, they were working for a movie actress at that time-- historic-- her name was Irene Dunne. She was a very popular actress at the time. He was her chauffeur, and his wife was the maid. And they fit that-- that look. He very fair complexion, and she dark enough so that they would not be confused with who he was, or whatever the situation was.
  • [00:10:19.43] But that's only incidence of stories about my background, my family's background, is the fact that my mother said is very, very racially divided. Like I said, she had brothers and sisters who pass for white. One of her sisters was killed in a fire that supposedly was started years ago, in Alabama, I think it was. And it was a racist-- a racial incident that led up to her being killed then.
  • [00:10:49.93] And at that time, my mother said that her father pulled her out of school-- she was the youngest one-- and that stopped her formal education. But I guess that's just the one story that I have. I also had an uncle who was-- who killed a man and had to change his name, became Grigsby. I think that she said he changed his name to Grigsby.
  • [00:11:12.04] SPEAKER 2: Past beliefs one more time. OK. [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:11:37.70] GEORGE RAMSEY: So we just getting started, huh? This the first interview you've done?
  • [00:11:41.30] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:11:44.25] GEORGE RAMSEY: What they should do, they should give you the script earlier so you can practice the questions, you know? Get familiar with them. Excuse me. Excuse. Mm-hmm. You need to overcome the nervousness, man. You know how it is. It's-- you'll get better by the time you're going to be interviewing other folks, too, right?
  • [00:12:21.16] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. We'll be doing it for a few days.
  • [00:12:23.31] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah. You know, by the time you finish up you'll be an old pro at it, man. You won't even need a script, you know. Just give you some notes. But this is what I used to do. I was in the producer, doing the same stuff they were doing, telling talent, hey, man, you-- look at the camera, blah, blah, blah. So like I say, all that is, it's a job.
  • [00:12:45.23] And again, be comfortable with your questions. And if you don't-- if you don't understand the question-- like what you should be doing, like they should give you some prep time. But tomorrow-- basically, the question is going to be all the same. Once I said that I didn't have any information about my family background, you weren't supposed to go continuing that line of questioning. They're supposed to tell you to skip to the next ones, you know. Because I would assume they're going edit that stuff out, anyway.
  • [00:13:11.07] So that's what's cool about anything that don't happen, they edit it out. And if they want to, you'll do this over again. Then you'd be more comfortable. And you might get different slants on some of the information that I'm saying. What happened to your friends? They didn't show up today?
  • [00:13:25.47] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:13:29.13] GEORGE RAMSEY: That's right. One of them live out in Inkster somewhere, right? And the other one-- did you all know one another before you got involved here?
  • [00:13:35.81] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:13:40.62] GEORGE RAMSEY: The other guy that was [INAUDIBLE] he seemed like he was kind of out of it yesterday. Like he might have been hanging out too late. Need to get his sleep thing together. You all got any more interviews after me?
  • [00:13:55.87] SPEAKER 1: I don't believe-- I'm not sure exactly, but I know we'll probably like do some more. [INAUDIBLE] There's like a few more sections of this.
  • [00:14:10.58] GEORGE RAMSEY: Mm-hmm. That's cool.
  • [00:14:15.81] SPEAKER 2: Thank you, guys.
  • [00:14:16.88] GEORGE RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.
  • [00:14:25.31] SPEAKER 1: Did they tell you [INAUDIBLE]. Do you have any courtship stories? How did your parents, grandparents, or other relatives come to meet and marry?
  • [00:14:45.67] GEORGE RAMSEY: No. I don't have any knowledge of that. Well, other than the fact that, again, my mother-- my mother met my father-- my mother was born in Alabama. And when her mother died, her father could not raise her. So he sent my mother to Mississippi to stay with a relative.
  • [00:15:06.70] I'm not sure exactly who that relative was. But this is where she met my father, in Mississippi, because I think she was like 14 when she went to Mississippi. And they got married when she was like 17, I think it was. But that's the basic information that I have in reference to that.
  • [00:15:36.25] SPEAKER 1: Great. Did your parents, or grandparents, or anyone in your family's history make a living working over water, or more distant relatives?
  • [00:15:49.36] GEORGE RAMSEY: No. Uh-uh.
  • [00:15:53.31] SPEAKER 1: Did anyone in your family's history like to do activities involving water, swimming, fishing, boating, et cetera?
  • [00:16:01.71] GEORGE RAMSEY: No.
  • [00:16:10.65] SPEAKER 1: Does anyone in your family's history have stories involving the water that were handed down to you?
  • [00:16:17.87] GEORGE RAMSEY: No-- no.
  • [00:16:18.91] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE] That completes-- that completes the section of our questionnaire about your family history. Thank you.
  • [00:16:32.00] GEORGE RAMSEY: You're welcome.
  • [00:16:39.02] SPEAKER 1: Where did you grow up and what are the [INAUDIBLE]?
  • [00:16:46.28] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, I was born here in Detroit, Michigan. As a matter of fact, I was born right down the street from that Charles Wright Museum of African History right here on Warren Avenue. I was born in 1938, and I lived first 18 years of my life on Warren Avenue
  • [00:17:06.02] I think one of the earliest memories I have of growing up outside of the family memories is the riot of 1943. I was five years old at that time. And I remember quite clearly, I was playing in my back yard. In my back yard, we had a lot of fruit trees, an apple tree, pear trees, cherry tree. And it was quite a big yard. And I played back there along with my friends, of course.
  • [00:17:33.14] And I was playing back there by myself this particular day. And I heard the crashing sound around front of Warren Avenue. And I ran around front to see what it was. And when I got around front, my mother was standing on the porch. And I went over and stood there next to her, and I saw the cars coming down Warren Avenue.
  • [00:17:51.47] And I saw this crowd of black men throwing projectiles at the cars, bricks, or whatever they could have. And as I stood there trying to figure out what was happening, because I'd never seen anything like this kind of chaos. And a brick was thrown through this car that this white guy was driving. And he skidded to a halt and he hit another car.
  • [00:18:12.74] And my mother let me go, and ran down the steps, and ran toward this guy as he got out of his car. And I saw her beckoning, telling him to come toward her. And he ran toward her, he was bleeding, and she pointed around to out back. And I'm assuming that she told him to go through our back yard because the juvenile detention facility, which still is in existence in Detroit, it was on that next street over. And this is where police officers were.
  • [00:18:40.64] And the crowd that was chasing the guy, when they got to my mother they, had some words with her. And I'm sure that they were very disrespectful words. But the guy got away. And that was the first memory I had of anything of any significance in my life at that time. So that was the riot of 1943 and that particular incident.
  • [00:19:03.23] SPEAKER 1: Did you find out what was the cause of the riot?
  • [00:19:09.00] GEORGE RAMSEY: It was rumors, from what I understand. It was those rumors that some white sailors had threw a black child off the bridge-- the MacArthur Bridge, which is the Belle Isle bridge. And then they said supposedly that some blacks had done the same thing to a white child. So it was a rumor-- from what I understand-- that was fed into both the communities.
  • [00:19:32.22] The blacks heard one version of an incident, and the whites heard another, and this supposedly triggered that outburst. I don't know for a fact. That I don't know if anyone really know what incident started that. But those are the rumors that that was circulating in my lifetime I thought.
  • [00:19:56.10] SPEAKER 1: When you were just a little child, how did it feel seeing all that?
  • [00:20:01.44] GEORGE RAMSEY: It was shocking. Again, I couldn't understand it because, like I said, it was a vibrant community. It was not-- when you speak in terms of Detroit, most recently, it's been portrayed as a black city. But in my lifetime, it was not that way.
  • [00:20:19.43] We lived in an integrated community. We had white neighbors. We had white folks that lived on my block behind us-- all around us, as a matter of fact. And then, on one of the main thoroughfares in the community, which was Hastings Street, you had a lot of businesses that were predominantly owned by white business people.
  • [00:20:40.20] And I remember, after the riot, my mother and I were walking down Hastings Street. And I couldn't understand. I saw the buildings that had been looted, the windows broken. And I couldn't understand what had happened, as a kid.
  • [00:20:56.71] And I remember an incident. My mother and I-- during the riot, during the course of all the confusion, people were running back and forth to the streets carrying clothes and items that had been looted from the stores. And one of my sisters came into the house carrying some clothes. And my mother asked here, where did she get them from? And she said that she had got them from a store on Hastings Street.
  • [00:21:18.60] And my mother made her take them back because, apparently, they came from a store that had extended credit to my mother as a customer. A lot of the businesses would extend credit to the people in the community. But the women-- my mother used to refer to the women as the three sisters.
  • [00:21:35.91] It was three sisters who owned this particular clothing store, this-- whatever the store was. And she made my sister take those clothes back up there. She took them out of the house. I'm assuming that she took them back up there.
  • [00:21:47.94] But again, it was just confusion. That's all it was for me as a five-year-old kid. I couldn't understand what was happening.
  • [00:21:58.72] SPEAKER 1: What was your house like?
  • [00:22:01.06] GEORGE RAMSEY: It was very lively. It was a very lively house. I grew up-- during the course of the 18 years that I was living in this particular house, one of my sisters had eight children that were born in this house. And at one point, it was me, along with my older brother, and a sister that was older than me, another sister, and her kids, and my mother. So it was always a lot of excitement. We had a lot of fun.
  • [00:22:32.35] We, as kids, we didn't have television, so we laid around house listening to the radio. We had a big fireplace in the living room. And I remember the landing in front of the fireplace, watching the logs burn, listening to the radio. But it was a very lively household.
  • [00:22:50.10] My mother did things that most parents, most mothers, did-- cooked cakes. And we had a lot of fun eating, licking the spoons and the batter that the cakes were made from. It was just a very, very happy-- I had a very happy childhood. I didn't realize that I was supposed to have been a poor child, until I went into the service, because I had so much richness in my household.
  • [00:23:14.97] SPEAKER 1: How did your family come to live there?
  • [00:23:18.89] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, when the family moved here from Pittsburgh, they moved in two other houses before they ended up at 952 East Warren Avenue, which is where I was born. But again, there was a lot of employment here, a lot of possibilities and opportunities in Detroit during that period of time, because Ford was doing what he was doing.
  • [00:23:47.94] Ford Motor Company was hiring folks. And the industry was really beginning to develop here in Michigan. So it was just an opportunity that my family-- I'm sure, along with many other blacks that migrated to Michigan, Detroit, in particular-- found appealing at that time.
  • [00:24:08.96] SPEAKER 1: How many people lived in the house with you when you were growing up? And what was their relationship to you?
  • [00:24:18.91] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, like I said, it was myself, a older sister who was three years older than me, and an older brother who was six years older than myself. He lived there until 1952 when he went into the military. And I had an older sister who, at that point, had three or four children, and her husband, and my mother. So there were six, seven, eight, nine-- I remember nine or 10 of us that lived in the household.
  • [00:24:52.64] SPEAKER 1: What languages were spoken in or around your household?
  • [00:24:57.36] GEORGE RAMSEY: English.
  • [00:25:00.81] SPEAKER 1: Nobody else knew any other language?
  • [00:25:04.38] GEORGE RAMSEY: No. No.
  • [00:25:06.23] SPEAKER 1: OK. What was your family like when you were a child?
  • [00:25:15.71] GEORGE RAMSEY: It was great. I had a great childhood. There's nothing that was missing in my life, other than the fact that my father died when I was two. But other than that, I had a happy household, a great life, and a wonderful experience growing up.
  • [00:25:34.15] SPEAKER 1: What sort of work did your father and mother do?
  • [00:25:38.63] GEORGE RAMSEY: My mother was always a housekeeper. I think she said she only had one job in her life, and that was when they first came to Michigan. She worked, cleaning up a office or something, for doctors. But that was a briefly held job because, like I said, when my father started working in the post office--
  • [00:25:58.68] This was shortly after the depression, and jobs was scarce. So he had what would be considered a great job, working in the post office. The money was guaranteed, et cetera, et cetera. But when he died, my mother had to go on aid-- ADC or welfare, whatever it was-- because he didn't qualify for any pensions or anything of that nature. And she didn't have any survivor's benefits coming from the job.
  • [00:26:27.47] But again, I don't think I was lacking in anything at that time, because people were very ingenious. I mean, they were very resourceful. My mother did a lot of things to preserve the money that we did have. So I just had a great life growing up.
  • [00:26:51.95] SPEAKER 1: So your mother was basically in charge of keeping the family budget for anything?
  • [00:26:58.19] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yes, right, because she, along with my sister's husband-- cause my sister, she had a job. She was a nurse. And her husband worked at Chrysler's. So there was sufficient money flowing within the household. And this is what we lived, as a family.
  • [00:27:17.79] He was the man of the house. He was my sister's husband, but he was the male figure that was dominant in the house. But my mother was the one who ran the household, because she was the senior living in the house. And she was the one that made all the calls for the family.
  • [00:27:37.07] So that's the way it was back then, usually. If you lived in the household, usually the mother or the father would be the head of that household, regardless of who lived there. So they put all the moneys together and survived in that manner.
  • [00:27:55.08] SPEAKER 1: What was a typical day like for you in your preschool years?
  • [00:28:00.61] GEORGE RAMSEY: My preschool years-- I just played before I went to school. Like I said, it was just a great experience growing up because, again, we had three or four fruit trees. I had a dog.
  • [00:28:18.43] The neighbors-- there was neighbors on either side. On one side, they had apricots. They had raspberries or blueberries, some berries that was growing. And neighbors two or three doors over had a big peach tree.
  • [00:28:35.62] And across the alley from our house, there was a ice man, a man who had ice. He sold ice, I think it was. And he had a horse. So he would let us come over and pet the horse. And occasionally, he would let us ride on the horse down the alley. He would put us-- one, two of the kids-- on the horse and walk us through the alley.
  • [00:28:57.72] It was just fun. It was just fun growing up in Detroit doing the '40s-- and for me, '30s, '40s, and the early '40s. It was just a lot of fun.
  • [00:29:07.83] SPEAKER 1: OK. Were there any special days, events, or family traditions you remember from your early childhood years?
  • [00:29:18.53] GEORGE RAMSEY: No special events or days-- no, other than I think one of the special treats that I remember as a young kid growing up was-- my brother-in-law, again, he had maybe two or three kids at that time. And on Sundays, he would put us in the car-- my mother, my sister, his kids, along his wife. And we would drive over to Toledo.
  • [00:29:48.17] He'd drive over there to Toledo, which was a great outing. Back then, we'd drive out to the cemetery where my dad was buried, because there was a lot of farm land out in Warren, Michigan, out in that way. So it was always a treat to drive along and see the cows and things that we didn't normally see in the city. But just to get in the car, and drive, and go somewhere-- it was just a treat.
  • [00:30:31.64] SPEAKER 2: And let me explain, too, that the summer camp that's happening at the Y is partly funded by the Herb Institute. And they're interested in knowing about people's relationship with water. So some of these water questions are that. If you don't have any answer, it's fine. But we're going to ask it first.
  • [00:30:49.38] GEORGE RAMSEY: OK. Mm-hmm.
  • [00:30:56.94] SPEAKER 1: Did you engage in activities involving water as a young child?
  • [00:31:02.74] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah. Me and my friends, we would-- again, the city was such that, as kids growing up during the summer, our parents would allow us to go and do things that they didn't know that we was doing. And one of the things my friends and I would do-- we would find a way to get out to Belle Isle. And it was considerable distance from us, because we weren't riding in cars. We weren't riding on the street cars. Many times, we would walk all the way out Belle Isle, or hitchhike.
  • [00:31:33.25] And me and my friends, we would go out there. And they had a pier that people would fish off of, right by the-- it was right before you get to the beach area. When you're leaving Belle Isle, it would be right after the beach area. And they had a long pier.
  • [00:31:51.17] And what we would do-- we would go there, and we would walk out up under the pier. We would hold onto the bottom of it and go all the way out as far as we could. And we would almost be into the deep water. And I can't swim, now. But we did that, despite the dangers that was associated.
  • [00:32:09.75] But to us, as kids, it was fun to be out there in the middle of the water. But that was my own experience with water, was going out to Belle Isle and going to the beach-- like I say, going out there under the bottom of the bridges.
  • [00:32:28.09] SPEAKER 1: So how often did y'all get to go out to the beach?
  • [00:32:34.31] GEORGE RAMSEY: Again, very seldom, as a family. The only time, like I say, I would do those kind of things-- me and my friends. My friends, we would just get out, because hitchhiking-- we were always-- and then there were horses. Not horses and buggies-- I mean a lot of jump wagons or milk people.
  • [00:32:58.61] Milk men, they had horses drawn. And a lot of the time, we were able to jump on the back of them and ride for two or three blocks before they would know that we're on. And so we did a lot of traveling like that. So we would jump on the back of a car, and we'd hitch a ride on it-- you know, with a thumb. However we could get around, we would do it.
  • [00:33:17.70] And if we wanted to take a chance and go out to Belle Isle, we would do it. Like I said, as kids, walking three, four, five miles wasn't anything. We would do that, and it would take us all day. We'd be gone all day. Our parents be thinking we're playing ball somewhere. But we'd be to Belle Isle, doing things that we weren't supposed to do.
  • [00:33:35.58] SPEAKER 1: And that completes the section, questions about your early childhood. Thank you.
  • [00:33:40.80] GEORGE RAMSEY: Mm-hmm. You're welcome.
  • [00:33:49.00] SPEAKER 2: Crossing. [INAUDIBLE] for you.
  • [00:33:54.35] GEORGE RAMSEY: [LAUGHS] Yeah. Oh, OK. [LAUGHS] OK, thank you. I get a sip then, right.
  • [00:34:08.36] SPEAKER 1: Did you go to preschool? Where? And what do you remember about it?
  • [00:34:13.33] GEORGE RAMSEY: Preschool?
  • [00:34:14.25] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [00:34:15.96] GEORGE RAMSEY: No, I don't go to preschool.
  • [00:34:21.72] SPEAKER 1: Did you go to elementary school? Where did you go to school? And what do you remember about it?
  • [00:34:28.61] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I went through all. My school years were here in Detroit-- my elementary, intermediate, and high school. My elementary school years I remember quite vividly. It was at Trowbridge, which is located on Forest Avenue, which is two or three blocks over from here, Warren Avenue. And at Trowbridge was when, I think, education really had an impact on me. Obviously, at that age, as it should-- most kids, I think.
  • [00:35:04.34] But that was when-- what was most interesting to me about that experience in elementary school was I had a music teacher named Mrs. Williams. And I remember what we would do, as students. I think she was the first class that we attended. And when we would come into the classroom, she would have us put our heads down on the desk. And she would play Clair de Lune.
  • [00:35:29.69] I don't know if you're familiar with the song. But it's in the movie-- I think it's Mighty Joe Young. This big gorilla-- that was the tune that was played that would soothe him. And in the song Clair de Lune, we'd put our heads down on the desk. And she would speak very positive things to us as student.
  • [00:35:47.51] And I didn't realize, at that time, what was happening. But we were being inundated. And we were being-- for me, and for many of my friends, we've talked about how important that was. It was very soothing. We would come up very relaxed, because she was introducing us to meditating, musical meditation.
  • [00:36:08.00] And right now, music is something that I enjoy, something that drives me. And it's driven me all of my life. And I attribute it to that experience that I had with that music teacher, named Mrs. Williams.
  • [00:36:24.82] SPEAKER 1: Did you go to high school? Where? And what do you remember about it?
  • [00:36:29.72] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yes, I went to high school here. I went to high school. It was called Northeastern High School. And again, that was a very, very important school, as all of the school that I attended was, in helping to develop me as a person.
  • [00:36:43.43] But what was great about Northeastern High School was-- we often referred to Northeastern as Motown University, because so many artists from Motown went to Northeastern High School [INAUDIBLE] graduates. Berry Gordy and his family attended Northeastern High School, Martha Reeves. Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson of the Supremes went to Northeastern.
  • [00:37:14.54] Willie Tyler was a ventriloquist. Willie Tyler went to Northeastern. I mean, and these are just the ones right off the top that I can name. Many, many musicians that came out of Northeastern were early musicians at Motown.
  • [00:37:30.78] Berry was just getting off the ground because, again, Berry Gordy came out of the neighborhood that I grew up in. The schools that I attended, I think he went to. I don't know if he went to Garfield-- I mean, Trowbridge. I think he went to the junior high school I attended. And he went to Northeastern, the high school that I attended.
  • [00:37:47.55] So Northeastern was very, very important. It was a very popular school. It had a lot of great athletes that came out of the school, great scholars. It wasn't just musicians and entertainers. It had a lot of scholarly folks that came out of Northeastern High School.
  • [00:38:03.86] One of the first black superintendents of schools was a graduate of Northeastern High School. So yeah, I feel very blessed to have came out of the era that I came out of, the community that I came out of, and attending the schools that I did attend.
  • [00:38:23.16] SPEAKER 1: Great. Did you play in sports or join any other activities outside of school?
  • [00:38:29.31] GEORGE RAMSEY: I played a little sports as a kid. Yeah, I played a little baseball. But I had a problem. I was throwing a snowball, and I must have-- I don't know what I did. But I developed a problem with my hand-- with my shoulder, rather-- which prevented me from throwing. So I stopped playing baseball early in life.
  • [00:38:50.52] I didn't play football. I didn't like the contact. I never learned how to swim. But music-- like I said, music was what I did. So I sung in the choirs, played in the band. I had sung in singing groups. We had the groups, because everybody was trying to sing at that point.
  • [00:39:08.89] So music was what I was about. And I loved writing. I used to like English. I liked to write, as a kid growing up. So that's those things that turned me on.
  • [00:39:21.00] SPEAKER 1: And when you sung in the choir, was that at church or school?
  • [00:39:24.56] GEORGE RAMSEY: The school choir.
  • [00:39:31.45] SPEAKER 1: What of your school experience is different from school as we know it today?
  • [00:39:40.69] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, for me, I couldn't imagine skipping school, first of all, because all my friends-- we were programmed to be achievers. We didn't go to school to be pampered. We went school to be educated. And it was very important that-- education was stressed. It was expected that we were going to graduate.
  • [00:40:03.63] College wasn't an option for me, because I wanted to go into the military, which I did. I have friends who did go to college, obviously. I had friends that dropped out, and started working in the factories, and did things of this nature. Because at that point, most of the schools had programs that equipped students to go into the colleges-- I mean, go into the factories and the skilled trades-- because they taught those things that led to working in skilled trades and the factories.
  • [00:40:37.08] But like I said, I knew that, when I got into high school, I was only going to go there through high school and go into the military. And that's what happened. So I got graduated in June of 1956. In August, I was in the military for the four years.
  • [00:40:55.08] So school-- it was a preparatory place, as it should be. And I think that now, you got too many students going to school for social reasons and not for educational reasons. And that's what's unfortunate about it, really.
  • [00:41:12.07] SPEAKER 1: Please describe the popular music during your school.
  • [00:41:16.31] GEORGE RAMSEY: The popular music?
  • [00:41:18.06] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. What did you like to listen to as you were a child?
  • [00:41:22.50] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, music back then, during the period of time when I came on, music was-- there was only one type of music that was being played on the radio, and that was what white folks listened to. We had to listen to that music, because our music-- the music that came out of the black community-- wasn't being exposed, to that degree. But the music-- and I liked all kinds of music.
  • [00:41:45.36] I'm just saying, the popular musicians and entertainers at that time were white. And I enjoyed the music, because it was music. Music doesn't have a color. It has a sound and a feeling. But it evolved.
  • [00:42:00.44] Like I said, that Motown sound came out of Detroit, came out of the schools of Detroit. We had a lot of singing groups that came out of Detroit that was-- again, that was popular. They had a lot of impact in the musical world. The jazz music that was being developed, that was being presented in America-- a lot of it came out of Detroit, too.
  • [00:42:25.38] We heard a lot of music in concerts. We had venues where we could go to dance halls. They had places in Detroit where they would have them live bands. They had shows.
  • [00:42:38.73] I don't know if you're familiar with it. They used to have, I like to call it, the Motown Reviews. Prior to that, they had a theater on Woodward Avenue called the Paradise Theater.
  • [00:42:48.32] And you had a lot of your jazz artists or your entertainers that came through-- came out of New York, or wherever. They would play at the Paradise Theater-- artists like Sammy Davis Jr., when he was early in his career, a lot of comedians. It was like vaudeville.
  • [00:43:05.52] Vaudeville had a lot of different variety acts. You had singers. You had jugglers. You had comedians. So we saw all of this developing, being presented to us. And the music just evolved.
  • [00:43:18.90] Like I said, I had friends of mine coming out of Detroit with some of the early singers that brought fame and attention to Detroit-- again, before Motown. Berry wasn't the only one. Berry wasn't the first black who had a record company in Detroit. It was a fellow named Joe Von Battle. And he was recruiting singers to come and sing and try to record.
  • [00:43:49.20] It never got off the ground, because he had no way to promote those artists. And that's what it took, because the records was only designed to promote the artist. It became an industry. But artists were just wanting the record so they could go out and work, because that's how artists would make their money-- off the performances, not off the records.
  • [00:44:11.34] But the difference-- I'm jumping over to Motown. The reason why, in my opinion, Berry was able to make it with Motown, and Joe Van Battle wasn't able to make it with his record company was because WCHB, as a black radio station, was just getting off the ground when Berry was starting this process. So Berry had an opportunity to have the music played on a radio station in Detroit. And therefore, it just snowballed from there.
  • [00:44:40.74] Once the black music that was being produced was able to be heard by the masses, then the popularity became from Motown to WCHB playing the records. Then it forced the radio stations in Detroit to pick up those, because you had the white youth that started listening, started liking that music. They started calling the white station when nobody wasn't playing that music.
  • [00:45:04.12] And CKOW in Canada picked it up and started playing Motown. And it was all over then, because then, they forced them. They really had to compete with CKOW to get the white market, because that's what it was all about. So Berry was very fortunate to have WCHB happening at that time. So that's what I think stimulated the growth of our music.
  • [00:45:27.47] SPEAKER 1: Did you ever have any personal favorite artist?
  • [00:45:33.39] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes-- many, many, artists. Right now, the music that's most popular is rap music. But during the '50s, there was a guy named Larry Darnell, and he rapped.
  • [00:45:53.97] You wouldn't call it rapping then, because it was so new. He just kind of talked his lyrics through. But in essence, it was what rapping is-- talking. He was so unique at that point. He was very popular.
  • [00:46:10.95] But there's-- gosh, there's just so many different artists that I enjoyed, because it was new. And something new always tends to have more appeal to you than something that's old. So yes, there was a lot of artists. I mean, right off the top, I can't think of anyone that was so unique other than Larry Darnell.
  • [00:46:34.51] SPEAKER 1: Did music have any special advances associated with it?
  • [00:46:40.40] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah, yeah. As a matter of fact, there was a song called Do the Hucklebuck. It was a dance song, and it was-- as a matter of fact, [LAUGHS] a fellow who lived across the street from me, he was a friend of the family. He played on that.
  • [00:46:57.93] He was much older than me. His wife went to school with one of my sisters. His name was Floyd Taylor. And he played on this particular song. He was a pianist.
  • [00:47:08.04] And as kids, he lived on the lower flat. And a friend of mine's mother's father owned this two-family flat in Florida. And his family lived on the first floor. And my friend, they lived up on the second floor. But what Floyd would do-- he would be playing. When he'd be rehearsing, we'd all sit on the porch and listen to him play the piano.
  • [00:47:29.74] And I remember one day in particular, when the song was very popular, and Floyd was playing the record. And he was playing the song along, playing along with the record. And we were dancing in the yard. It just became a party event.
  • [00:47:46.59] But I was very fortunate in that the street-- the block that I lived on-- it was a jazz pianist lived across the street from Floyd. His name was Will Davis. Will was a jazz pianist. And I used to sit on his porch as a kid, because his mother was where they had the big peach trees. And I'd go down there, and she'd--
  • [00:48:12.74] Out of all of my friends, I was the only one that was born on this street, on this block. So all of the families that lived there as long as my family, they knew me. They knew my father. They knew the fact that my father worked in a post office, which was a prestigious job at that point. So I had a lot of contact with people for different reasons.
  • [00:48:31.59] But anyway, Floyd-- the claim to fame that Floyd had was the fact that Detroit had what they called a black-and-tan bar. It was an interracial bar in Detroit on the west side. And Floyd was one of the first artists that played there. And we thought that that was great. I mean, it was just a great feeling for us to know that Floyd was part of this event that was happening in Detroit, playing at the black-and-tan.
  • [00:49:05.52] But again, right across the street from Floyd even-- I mean, across street from Will-- there was another fellow named Mr. Green. He sung with a gospel group called the Detroiters. The fellow who lived upstairs over me, his name was Andrew, Andrew Harkness-- his mother, Mrs. Williams. And Andrew played in a high school band. And I heard music around me all the time.
  • [00:49:30.99] Andrew, we had a shared basement. He'd be down in the basement playing his-- he played the trumpet. And I would hear him playing the trumpet. So I think that, along with what I experienced in elementary school, being around all of this music from these different musicians, it fed my desires to play, be involved in music. So music was just around me all of my life.
  • [00:49:56.53] SPEAKER 1: Did you play any instruments during school?
  • [00:50:00.68] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah, I played clarinet. I played clarinet in my junior high and high school band. I didn't get good, but I made the band. [LAUGHS]
  • [00:50:15.83] SPEAKER 1: What was the popular clothing or hairstyle of that time?
  • [00:50:21.63] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, the clothes varied. What we did a lot of times-- say, within our singing group. What we would do would try to be uniform.
  • [00:50:33.28] So what we would do, we might have a pair of dark pants. And we'd get white shirts, white handkerchiefs, and white socks. And we would dye them maybe pink. So we'd come out of there uniform-- yellow or blue. But we found variations in which we could make our uniform and be uniform very inexpensively.
  • [00:50:58.09] But the hairstyles-- the hairstyle went from processes, which we guys had to have processed, which was something different. I think they used a mixture of lye and they would straighten their hair. And they would get a particular look that got to be quite popular.
  • [00:51:21.72] But the clothes-- we were very, very conscious of being neat and dressy. We didn't wear baggy pants, nothing with-- jeans was what we worked in. If you're going somewhere, you'd put on a pair of dress pants, a shirt, and tie. We wore hats, shined our shoes. We were very, very neat about that.
  • [00:51:51.45] SPEAKER 1: What did you like to do for fun? [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:51:57.08] GEORGE RAMSEY: There was just so much to do. On Hastings and Forest Avenue, there was a place called the Forest Club. It was owned by a black guy named Sunnie Wilson. And it was a bar. He had a skating rink, and he had a bowling alley, all in this one-- it took up a whole block.
  • [00:52:22.50] So we did a lot of roller skating. I didn't bowl. I didn't bowl until I got grown. But I think roller skating was what I did. I enjoyed doing that more than anything, in particular.
  • [00:52:37.27] But as kids, even during the winter, we were always doing something. In the winter, we'd ice skate. We had sleds. When it would get cold, when we got below zero, we'd be looking for those days because there'd be something to do outside.
  • [00:52:55.68] We didn't have television. We didn't have video. We didn't have those kind of things. So we had to be busy. You didn't want to sit in the house. If you sit in the house, you're going to be doing some work in there. So as soon as we could get outside, we were outside.
  • [00:53:08.82] In the summer, the same way. We didn't sit in the house looking at the television. We were out, because there was no television. So we were out playing ball-- playing handball, kickball, dodgeball. Or you just run-- I mean, just enjoy being kids growing up.
  • [00:53:29.26] SPEAKER 1: Were there any changes in your family life during your school years?
  • [00:53:36.57] GEORGE RAMSEY: No. Change in my family life-- no, not really. No, it was just a normal progression.
  • [00:53:45.67] SPEAKER 1: Great. And also, when you were in school, who manly helped you with your homework?
  • [00:53:52.86] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, we had counselors in school. And then, if you need it, they had-- I'm trying to think if they had tutors. I would imagine they might have had tutors for us.
  • [00:54:06.90] But we were expected-- we had homework-- I mean, home rooms. And this is where we went to do our assignments. If you didn't do them, some folks used home room time to goof off.
  • [00:54:21.39] Or you go to your counselor if you had a problem. And your counselor would usually be there to help you. Or you would go see the teacher and ask for some additional information. But we were expected to look for ways to solve the problem, not just let it just grow and not be addressed.
  • [00:54:39.91] So I don't know. I guess we were just prepared differently than youth seem to be prepared now. We felt that, give us the opportunity, you know? We weren't about affirmative action, if you will. All we wanted was a half a chance.
  • [00:54:55.35] We didn't want to force you to give us half a chance. We'd make that work for us. And we did, I think. My generation was the generation that made a lot happen for the current generation. They don't seem to be taking advantage of it.
  • [00:55:10.65] SPEAKER 1: Which holidays do your family celebrate?
  • [00:55:15.49] GEORGE RAMSEY: Christmas, New Year's, Easter, Thanksgiving, 4th of July was a big holiday, Memorial Day, Halloween. I think those are basically the holidays during that period of time.
  • [00:55:38.25] SPEAKER 1: Great. What was your favorite holiday to just celebrate, overall?
  • [00:55:44.62] GEORGE RAMSEY: Christmas.
  • [00:55:48.63] SPEAKER 1: What special food traditions did your family have?
  • [00:55:55.01] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, my mother was a great cook. And for me, she always would cook a lemon custard pie. And that was my favorite. And as the baby, she always would cook a smaller pie for me alone, which was great. I had that little special thing about that.
  • [00:56:19.76] But my mother was just-- I mean, she just would cook things that I don't think people enjoy now, because of her background, her ethnicity. She used to cook-- it's called succotash. It's a mixture of okra, corn, and some other vegetables. And I loved it. But I don't think I've ever-- I'm sure there are people that know about succotash, but you don't hear it being talked about as often now as it was when I was younger, because people did things differently.
  • [00:56:52.43] My mother did a lot of preserving off the pear trees and apple trees in our back yard. She would put them in Mason jars. And we always had that to eat during the winter months.
  • [00:57:06.44] She used to cook tripe, which is-- I think it's the lining of a cow stomach or something. And it has to be cooked a certain way, otherwise it's very rubbery. But my friends and I loved it. And [LAUGHS] a friend of mine, last time she and I talked, she talked about the tripe that my mother used to cook, because it was a delicacy. And then it had to be cooked a certain way.
  • [00:57:32.78] But the things that we ate was far different, to a degree, than what seems to be eaten now. You had brains, and eggs, and onions. I think it was cow brains or pig. I don't know. But just the foods was different than versus now.
  • [00:57:53.77] SPEAKER 2: Can we pause, please? We're out of tape.
  • [00:57:56.39] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh. [LAUGHS]
  • [00:57:58.37] SPEAKER 2: There's going to be something happening to the tape.
  • [00:58:01.84] [AUDIO OUT]
  • [00:58:02.84]
  • [00:58:48.96] SPEAKER 1: Back in your school years, what important social or historical events were taking place at the time? Or how did they personally effect you and your family?
  • [00:58:58.62] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, during my school years, I think-- well, the Second World War. I guess Korea and the Korean conflict, the Korean War, was happening while I was in school. And it affected me in the sense that I had friends and relatives who ended up participating in that war, if you will.
  • [00:59:17.58] As a matter of fact, I had one friend who was killed. He was an older fellow than I was. But he was a friend of the family. He was killed.
  • [00:59:25.86] And another friend of mine who lived across the street from me-- he got a heroic welcome home, because he did something heroically in that war. I'm not sure exactly what exactly he did. So that was probably the most important thing that happened, of that significance, while I was in school like that.
  • [00:59:47.87] SPEAKER 1: OK. What family members were in there?
  • [00:59:51.79] GEORGE RAMSEY: I had a brother-in-law who was in the service, and he participated. He was in the war. He served.
  • [00:59:59.97] I didn't have any close-- I had a brother who joined the service, but he wasn't in Korea. He was in the Air Force. And he went in, I think, right before the Korean War ended. So he wasn't in any combat, but he was in the military during that period of time.
  • [01:00:16.12] SPEAKER 1: OK. How old were you around this time?
  • [01:00:19.40] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, I Was born in 1938. And I guess I might have been about 14-- 13, 14 years old.
  • [01:00:26.92] SPEAKER 1: Oh, OK. This completes the section of your questions about your school years. Thank you very much.
  • [01:00:32.93] GEORGE RAMSEY: You're welcome.
  • [01:00:33.86] SPEAKER 1: OK, thanks. This set of questions covers a fairly long period of your life-- from the time you completed your education, entered the labor force, or started a family, until all of your children left home and you or your spouse retired from work. So we might be talking about a stretch of time spanning as much as four decades. OK. After you finished high school, where did you live?
  • [01:01:01.30] GEORGE RAMSEY: When I finished-- as soon as I got out of high school, I joined the military. I served in the military for four years. That was right after high school.
  • [01:01:13.93] SPEAKER 1: What branch of the military were you in?
  • [01:01:15.75] GEORGE RAMSEY: I was an Air Force.
  • [01:01:17.18] SPEAKER 1: Air Force?
  • [01:01:17.87] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yes.
  • [01:01:18.20] SPEAKER 1: OK. How did you come to live there?
  • [01:01:24.83] GEORGE RAMSEY: How'd I come to do what?
  • [01:01:26.13] SPEAKER 1: To live there.
  • [01:01:26.84] GEORGE RAMSEY: To live in where? In the Air Force? What do you mean?
  • [01:01:30.41] SPEAKER 1: Yes, where you ended up after high school.
  • [01:01:33.61] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, again, once I joined the military, I was assigned a particular base. My basic training was in Texas. And then I went to California. And I spent the last-- well, I California. I was in Illinois for a period of time. And then I ended up in Madison, Wisconsin for three years while I was in the Air Force.
  • [01:02:00.15] SPEAKER 1: OK. OK. Do you remain there or move around through your working adult life? And what was the reasons for these moves?
  • [01:02:12.04] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, when I got out of the service, I came back to Detroit. And again, I moved in with my family, my mother and my sisters, and just stayed with them for a few years. And then I ended up--
  • [01:02:30.53] SPEAKER 2: Pause. Pause.
  • [01:02:31.50] GEORGE RAMSEY: OK. Yeah.
  • [01:02:32.95] SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:02:34.88] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:02:36.33] SPEAKER 2: No.
  • [01:02:38.26] SPEAKER 1: Well, next question. I'd like you to tell me a little about your married life and family life. First tell me about your spouse.
  • [01:02:48.89] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, [LAUGHS] I didn't get married until four years ago at the age of 64. So I was a single guy most of my life growing up. And I just happened to realize that I needed change in my life at such a late age, stage.
  • [01:03:09.27] But my wife, I met her in church. She's in the ministry. She's pursuing-- her desires is to fund her own church. So I'm supporting her, in that sense.
  • [01:03:22.32] But she's a very good woman. She's a electrician by trade. And we don't have any kids together. She was previously married. She has two daughters.
  • [01:03:36.33] She's from Ohio, and her youngest daughter just graduated from Ohio State where she's attending a master's program there. She has another older daughter that's also in Akron, Ohio. She's attending school to be a lawyer. So like I said, that's the basic relationship and the status that she and I have as a couple.
  • [01:04:01.50] SPEAKER 1: OK. Why did you wait so long to get married?
  • [01:04:04.41] GEORGE RAMSEY: I don't-- [LAUGHS] I just was enjoying single life, really. And I had two sons-- out of wedlock, obviously. And I just enjoyed being a single guy. I mean, there was no particular reason. I mean, like I said, I lived with women, but I was never legally married to anyone until, like I said, I got married four years ago.
  • [01:04:28.45] SPEAKER 1: Where did y'all get married at? Was it at a church?
  • [01:04:30.39] GEORGE RAMSEY: It was here in Detroit. We got married at the church that we both were attending.
  • [01:04:33.45] SPEAKER 1: OK. That's good. That's good. Tell me about your children and what life was like when they were younger, living in the house.
  • [01:04:42.18] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, my youngest son-- now he's 38, I think he is-- he lived in the house. He and his mother and I, we stayed together. He had two older brothers. And we had a good life, I think.
  • [01:04:55.86] He grew up out in Southfield, Michigan. He was born in Detroit. But we did a lot of things together as a family while he was growing up.
  • [01:05:06.58] His mother was a great woman. We didn't get married, simply because we chose not to. It was not because of lack of love or interest in that regard, but I was just committed to being a single man. And that's how my lifestyle was.
  • [01:05:23.49] But my son, he's currently married. He has three kids, two daughters and a son. And we spend quite a bit of time together doing things still. And I like to think that we had a good relationship and a good family life really.
  • [01:05:39.38] SPEAKER 1: How old was you when you had your first child?
  • [01:05:43.56] GEORGE RAMSEY: I think I might have about 23-- 23, 24.
  • [01:05:47.62] SPEAKER 1: How did you feel, knowing that you was about to be a dad?
  • [01:05:52.00] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, [LAUGHS] for the first son, I-- you know, I was a young guy, like I said. And it didn't have any impact on me. His mother-- she ended up marrying an older guy, even, and moved out of Detroit. And she chose to keep me out of my son's life.
  • [01:06:12.91] My attitude then was, it's all right with me. I didn't have any problems [INAUDIBLE]. I really didn't connect with him until he was in his 30s. He's 48 now. So only in the last 15 to 20 years has he and I been in contact with one another.
  • [01:06:29.54] But he has two kids. And I regret the fact that I wasn't in his life earlier, but that's how life is. We moved on and tried to get around that.
  • [01:06:47.65] SPEAKER 1: Tell me about your working years.
  • [01:06:50.05] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, when I got out of the service, I started working in the post office, which was a great job here in Detroit, Michigan. I enjoyed that because you had a lot of freedom as a mail man during the '60s. I started working in 1961. And I worked from 1961 to '67.
  • [01:07:11.58] And I really enjoyed that as a job, like I say, because in 1960, Detroit was a different community than what it is now. The streets were a lot safer. We didn't have the kind of social problems that you got out in the streets now. We didn't have the kind of dogs that are such a problem with mail men and letter carriers now. We didn't have pit bulls, rottweilers, and those kind of dogs running loose in the community.
  • [01:07:39.13] But it was a great job. Like I said, I loved it. I worked there until 1967, right after the riots in Detroit. After the riots, a lot of opportunities opened up in Detroit for blacks that didn't exist prior to that riot. And I quit working at the post office in '67.
  • [01:07:56.64] I resigned and went to work at one of the automobile factories here in Detroit. I think it was was Fleetwood. I worked there for less than a month. I injured my arm. I ended up suing them.
  • [01:08:13.11] I went to school, took a broadcasting class, here in Detroit. And I thought I wanted to be a disc jockey. But I found out they weren't making any money, the kind of money I thought that they were making. Anyway, I decided to pursue another career choice, and that was to work in Motown.
  • [01:08:32.94] I started working at Motown. A friend mine who had worked in the post office with me, he was a singer/songwriter at Motown. So I started hanging with him while we were in the post office. And his group started recording. And they started traveling. And he asked me to come work for the group, with the group. And I eventually did.
  • [01:08:52.99] I started working with their recording group as a road manager, which was great, and opened me up to areas and some things that I didn't know existed. We traveled, did a lot of shows traveling during that period of time. And I worked with them from probably '68 to, I think, '73.
  • [01:09:18.72] Then my son was born in '72. My second son was born in '72. I stopped working with those guys, because that was the son that I wanted to be around. That was the relationship that I developed with him that I didn't with my first son. So I stopped working with the guys at Motown and went to school here.
  • [01:09:39.07] I came off the road, moved back to Detroit. His mother and I resumed our living together. Started attending school, went to college-- Wayne County Community College. I graduated from Wayne County Community College.
  • [01:09:53.85] While I was in school there at Wayne County Community College, I was in the multimedia-- I was into television production classes. We developed some good projects. And I did that for, I think, a year and a half.
  • [01:10:11.49] Then my friends at Motown, they were getting ready to move to California, and they asked me to come out there and resume working with them again. I thought about it for a while, and I decided, yes, I would go back with the guys. And I went back with the group and moved out to California.
  • [01:10:33.84] And I stayed out in California from '73 to '77, working with this group and another artist. And I did that until, like I said, '77. Then I came back to Detroit. And I went back to school and started working in some training programs here in Detroit, and doing some other things, and got involved in television production.
  • [01:11:07.24] And then I went back to the post office in 1982. And I retired from the post office in '94. I worked for the next 12 years there, so I was able to come out of the post office. And after that, a friend and I, we started a company.
  • [01:11:27.96] We started a company here in Detroit. He had been working for the Union, the UAW, down in Detroit. So he and I put a company together, and we started marketing classes for Chrysler workers. And we had a chance to become successful, but it didn't happen.
  • [01:11:46.81] But again, I enjoyed that, being the vice president of my own company. And we did that for three years. And then the politics changed that we were involved in. And we had to just stop our business activities. And we disbanded our company. And that's kind of what it was for me.
  • [01:12:11.04] SPEAKER 1: OK. What were some stars that you knew while working at Motown?
  • [01:12:15.55] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh, wow. Well, I met them all, really-- Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Martha Reid, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye. I was very close with Marvin Gaye. The Four Tops, The Temptations-- I mean, all of them, because I was in the company of them during that period of time when I was at the post office from '61 to '67.
  • [01:12:43.21] Before they really got popular, I would spend a lot of time at the studio with this friend of mine. And I went to school with a lot of these folks, too. I went to school with some of The Supremes, with The Miracles, with some of the Four Tops. So I knew these guys before they became successful.
  • [01:13:05.41] So it was just some friends of mine. I mean, they weren't the superstars that they became. Just guys that-- and I was a singer, too. I used to sing growing up, so we had that in common. So I didn't see them in awe.
  • [01:13:19.98] I wasn't awestruck. I wasn't overwhelmed by them. Marvin Gaye was just a great friend of mine. I mean, he became a superstar, but he was just Marvin. We used to call him Gates.
  • [01:13:33.86] SPEAKER 1: What was the name of the group that you was on the road with?
  • [01:13:37.24] GEORGE RAMSEY: The group called The Originals. Yeah, they had a song. Well, they had two songs that, as a matter of fact, Marvin Gaye wrote and produced. Their biggest hits was called, Baby I'm for Real and The Bells.
  • [01:13:51.67] And the fellow-- this friend of mine-- that sung with the group, his name was Freddie Gorman. And Freddie was a pretty good songwriter. He and I, while we were letter carriers, he was one of the writers on this popular song called, Please Mr. Postman. And he was more successful as a writer than he was as a singer.
  • [01:14:15.10] SPEAKER 1: OK. We got it. What was a typical day like during the working years of your adult life?
  • [01:14:22.96] GEORGE RAMSEY: It was good, because I've never had a job that I didn't like. And I think that's the key to having a successful working day, is to enjoy the work that you're doing. And that's the way it was.
  • [01:14:32.60] And like I said, when I was a mail man, I enjoyed being a mail man. And strange as it might seem, the best days-- I mean, obviously, no one liked to work in snow and sleet. But the winter months was better in the sense that you didn't have the dogs in the streets. You didn't have people in the street stopping you, wanting their mail. But in the summer months, it's just very pleasant to be walking the streets.
  • [01:14:57.20] We'd have to start early. We'd have to be at work at 6:00 o'clock, and we'd be out in the streets delivering mail by 8:00. So by 11:00 or so, you were through delivering mail. We had a lot of time, at that point. We would go do things that we weren't supposed to do.
  • [01:15:14.05] We got through with our routes, and we might have an hour, two hours. We spent it out in the streets. We might go out to Belle Isle. There was a lot of beer plants here in Detroit. It was over the east side of Detroit, not too far from the station, the area that I carried mail in.
  • [01:15:33.82] And what we could do as mail men-- we'd have on our mail man's uniform. We could go to these breweries, strolls of the plants that made beer. So we could go in there in our uniform. We drank all the beer we wanted for free.
  • [01:15:47.81] So again, there was a lot of perks like that. [LAUGHS] And guys, a lot of times-- even real serious beer drinkers-- even on their off days, they'd put on their uniforms and go into the plant to sit there and drink beer and [INAUDIBLE]. So it was a great job.
  • [01:16:06.49] SPEAKER 1: OK. OK. What did your family enjoy doing together when your kids were still at home?
  • [01:16:15.18] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, we kind of did things that most families did. Well, one thing, obviously, was watching television, of course. We had the board games. We might play dominoes, Uno, or one of the board games that was developed along at that time. And we did a lot of outdoor activities-- going to the parks, visiting friends, and just being a family.
  • [01:16:50.48] SPEAKER 1: What were your personal favorite things to do with your family?
  • [01:16:54.16] GEORGE RAMSEY: I always enjoyed music so, for me, it was just-- during the earlier years, my school years, we sung a lot. We were always singing on street corners somewhere, had a lot of amateur shows-- cabarets, if you will. We didn't have things like American Idol, or those kind of events. So we had theaters that would have amateur nights.
  • [01:17:19.24] And people would come and perform. And you could get lucky enough to win $10 or $15, or whatever it was. But it was just being able to perform for your friends, that was the joy, being able to sing. It wasn't about the-- I mean, the money was there, but it was the opportunity to do some things with your friends. That's what we all did it for.
  • [01:17:39.55] SPEAKER 1: OK. So did you write any songs that got any radio play?
  • [01:17:51.73] GEORGE RAMSEY: I wrote one song, but it didn't do anything. As a matter of fact, it was on with this group, The Originals. They recorded it. And at that time, they were selling 45s.
  • [01:18:02.87] I don't know if you're familiar with the 45 records. And the 45 record would have, on one side, what they considered the A side. And other side would be the B side. The A side was the song that everybody was playing and everybody promoted.
  • [01:18:18.70] And the song that I was write on, it was on the B side. And I don't even know what songs was it released in. I'm trying to get a copy of it, as a matter of fact. So that was the only song that I have written that was published and that was recorded and released.
  • [01:18:38.53] SPEAKER 1: OK. OK. Are there any special days, events, or family traditions you practice that differ from your childhood traditions?
  • [01:18:48.46] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, now, the only thing that I practice that might be different is Kwanzaa. I celebrate Kwanzaa as much as I do Christmas-- not as much as Christmas. I mean, it's part of extending the Christmas festivities for me.
  • [01:19:05.65] I think that the holiday, Christmas, has gotten to be so commercial. If you're not spending $500, $600 on someone, it's like they don't appreciate that holiday. So I think Kwanzaa, to me, is the only thing that I'm doing different as a celebratory existence.
  • [01:19:26.37] SPEAKER 1: So Kwanzaa-- is it a spiritual thing or a [INAUDIBLE]?
  • [01:19:31.63] GEORGE RAMSEY: It has a spiritual connotation. But ethnically speaking, it is something that I think derived out of-- Maulana Karenga, I think-- it was out in California-- instituted that to get away from the commercializing of Christmas that has become. I mean, rather than spending money on gifts, I encourage people to just be more family oriented, to give books and historical information to your kids. So this is what I do with Kwanzaa. For my grandkids, I make sure that I'm giving them books to celebrate the Kwanzaa that speaks to the history of us as a people.
  • [01:20:11.73] SPEAKER 1: OK. So is there any people around you that celebrates it? Is there a lot of people around you?
  • [01:20:16.45] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, not really. I tend to go to various churches or events that are celebrating it. I mean, it's not a big thing. Most all of my friends know all of my family members. But for me, it is. I think it's important. I'm trying to encourage my grandkids and my son to celebrate it, in that sense.
  • [01:20:37.87] SPEAKER 1: OK. Can you describe the popular music at this time? At the time of--
  • [01:20:44.97] GEORGE RAMSEY: When I was coming up?
  • [01:20:45.76] SPEAKER 1: Yes, during the workforce days.
  • [01:20:48.38] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, again, music has evolved to where it is now, obviously. But when I was coming along-- I think I spoke just yesterday about the fact that rap is so popular now. But we had a version of rap music.
  • [01:21:06.08] But we didn't consider it rap, as such. Back during my generation, it was just songs that was spoken. It was almost like the spoken word, which is what rap is. It's just a spoken word with rhythms.
  • [01:21:19.40] But I just enjoyed music. All the music that was a part of my life begins with spirituals, because this was where I first got my real introduction to music, was in church, other than the school years. I was introduced to music in elementary school, but it evolved and it grew out of the church experiences, which I think happened with most of us.
  • [01:21:45.17] Music came out of the churches, out of the experience that the churches allowed us to have. That was the vineyard. That was the place where we could sing every week. We would have a stage. You would have a performance there.
  • [01:22:00.47] And for me, that's how I think it developed. That's how the blues came, out of the church. The music came out of the church-- out of the fields, to the church, and then from the church, into the streets. And this is what has happened now.
  • [01:22:15.83] Even the music of this current generation, the rap, there is some-- I can't say I'm a fan. I can't speak of any particular rappers that I like. But there is rap music that I've heard that is very rhythmic, that's very creative. And you can't get around the fact that it's popular, because they're rapping in all languages, all cultures, all customs.
  • [01:22:41.30] It's not going to go away. It's only going to get better, and more deeper, more involved. This is what has been my observation. And a lot of the serious musicians that I have spoken with in the past, or I've read about, they've all felt the same way. We thought that it was a fad.
  • [01:23:00.23] But that was the music of my generation, which they called rock and roll or rhythm and blues. I mean, coming along as a kid, the older folks called it the devil music because then, music that wasn't played in the church, it was played in the streets, it was considered the devil's music. And that's not necessarily so, but that's how it was viewed.
  • [01:23:21.44] And I think each generation has that feeling. They felt that their music was the best of all time. I felt that the generation that I came out of-- the music of my generation I, personally, feel was better than this music that's happening now. But those who are enjoying this music right now have that opportunity in the next 20, 30 years to make that decision for themself. It's their music.
  • [01:23:44.53] Their music might be better than my music, but at least I understood the music that predated me. I understood the gospel music. I understood jazz. I understood just the commercial, standard music that was the popular music of that time.
  • [01:24:02.07] SPEAKER 1: What do you think about the popular music today, the popular genres, like R&B and rap?
  • [01:24:07.37] GEORGE RAMSEY: It's good. It's creative. I mean, there are some very creative-- some very creative things is happening musically now.
  • [01:24:16.97] One of the things that I think is very creative-- and there was a lot of resistance when they first started doing it. A lot of the rappers was doing what they call a sampling, which was taking music from other songs and putting their lyrics, or putting their rhythms, and mixing it into it. Some of the best music has been recycled, in that sense. Marvin Gaye, James Brown-- some of the legends of my generation's music has been sampled and incorporated into some current rappers' presentation.
  • [01:24:51.38] And some folks in my generation thought that they shouldn't have been doing that, but not understanding that, if I write the song, and I produce it, and it's in my publishing, and you turn around and record it, then that's going to give me money anyway. So as a songwriter, that's the best thing that can happen-- is for me to write a song and someone else to come along and re-record it and get it back out there again, recycle it again, because your version might sell more than mine, which is what's happening in a lot of this current music.
  • [01:25:28.38] SPEAKER 1: Do you have a favorite genre today?
  • [01:25:31.31] GEORGE RAMSEY: I'm old school. I mean, I only listen to the old stuff. Like I said, occasionally, I hear something that's by a current artist that I'll like. But I don't-- any music that I buy is usually of a past generation of stuff.
  • [01:25:48.56] SPEAKER 1: OK. Did the music have a popular dance associated with it. The music back in your day-- was there a popular--
  • [01:25:57.25] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah. Well, we had a lot of dance songs. We had songs. We used to dance, used to call it the chicken, the run-around, the Madison.
  • [01:26:11.21] But in my generation of guys, we thought we were cool. So what we would like to do is slow dance. We wanted to get a woman close to us. We weren't into that, it was over here. We wanted--
  • [01:26:22.57] And so in ballrooming, Detroit had a very distinct style of dance. And there's a lot of other communities-- you go to Chicago, guys dance differently there in New York. And Detroit had a style of dancing that was uniquely Detroit.
  • [01:26:38.69] And when I was in the service, we'd go to a dance on the base. And if you saw a guy from Detroit dancing, you would know. If you saw it, you would be able to tell that that guy was from Detroit, or he had lived in Detroit, or he had-- because, again, we danced differently than guys from Chicago, and New York, down south.
  • [01:27:00.97] So I don't know if it's true now, but I think even right now, you've got Chicago steppers. They've got something called step dancing coming out of Chicago. You got some time some style of dancing that's coming out of New York and, most certainly, here in Detroit.
  • [01:27:20.03] SPEAKER 1: What was some popular clothes and hairstyles at the time?
  • [01:27:25.10] GEORGE RAMSEY: Guys used to process their hair, get their hair processed. in a hairstyle called a quo vadis, which was--
  • [01:27:35.30] SPEAKER 1: Oh, describe that basic style.
  • [01:27:38.47] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, it's kind of hard to describe it. But a process-- you've seen it in some of the movies. It's the older guy. You see the guy with the waves, the hair's slicked down.
  • [01:27:52.25] And what they do-- it was a solution that they would put on the guy's hair to straighten their hair out. And then they would put finger waves in. It was a whole process they'd have to go through.
  • [01:28:03.83] And a lot of times, the stuff to straighten their hair was made out of lye. And they would have to put it on their hair, and it would cook their hair. It would straighten it out, because they would refer to our hair as being bad hair, because it's straightening out.
  • [01:28:21.08] But the tightness-- those are curls. So in order to straighten the curls out, and as strong as our hair was, it would have to have something strength, and that would be that lye. And like I said, it would be cooking their hair. And you could sit there, and you could see it bubbling.
  • [01:28:35.32] And we'd go to the-- I didn't have that as a problem. But a lot of my friends wanted that style. I'd go to the barbershop with them. And they'd be sitting in the chair while the stuff was cooking on their head. And then the barber would have to get them out of the chair. And then they washed the stuff out of their hair.
  • [01:28:51.95] And there have been instances of guys who be doing this at home, and the water might be cut off. And so they're sitting around there-- [LAUGHS] I mean, I've seen a guy that had to stick his head in the toilet and try to put some water on it. So it was a funny situation. But it was a popular style of--
  • [01:29:09.11] SPEAKER 2: Speaking of styles during the '70s-- like I was saying, I was speaking of the '70s, during that Black Panther movement, Black Power thing-- did you have on an afro black [INAUDIBLE]?
  • [01:29:22.21] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, yeah, I did for a while, because it was popular, the dashiki thing. As a matter of fact, when I was in school here in Detroit, I was involved with the television shows called For My People. It was one of the first black shows that came out of the community. And we would had to dress up in dashikis. It was a pan-African theme. And I would open up the show-- [SWAHILI], brothers and sisters. And we'd get into the interviews.
  • [01:29:52.78] But yeah, it was popular, because it was coming out of the riots of '67. I lived through two so-called riots, one in 1948, which I was a kid, five years old. And that was a race riot.
  • [01:30:07.58] But the one in '67 was not a race riot. People refer to it as a race riot, but it was not a race riot, because it wasn't blacks against whites, whites against blacks. It wasn't that kind of a thing. It got bad.
  • [01:30:21.40] It jumped off-- it happened in Detroit, I think, on a Saturday night. And that Sunday morning was when it really exploded. That's when the stores was vandalized, looted. They started torching the buildings.
  • [01:30:34.55] And the problems didn't happen until that Monday when they sent National Guards into Detroit. And within that National Guard, you had a lot of soldiers that was from up north somewhere. They had no contact with blacks-- had no feelings for blacks, certainly-- in the city of Detroit. And they came in. And that's when it became racial.
  • [01:30:58.81] And they started attacking the black community. But it wasn't blacks going out there, beating white folks up, and trying to-- uh-uh. It wasn't that kind of thing. The riot came from the National Guards that attacked black citizens in Detroit.
  • [01:31:16.99] And then it led us to want to defend ourselves as a people, cause you had a lot of guys that had been in the military, had fought. We were willing to fight for the country. We wasn't going to allow these people to just come in and do what was happening.
  • [01:31:30.40] So yeah, it was getting ready to get bad in America, out of Detroit because, again, Detroit-- there was something unique about being a Detroiter. As a community of blacks in America, blacks in Detroit had-- I don't know. It was because of the fact that we had the kind of jobs that we had here in the automobile factory.
  • [01:31:55.79] We had a level of comfort. We had more blacks own homes in Detroit than anywhere in the United States. I think that's one of the statistics that came out. And we just weren't going to allow so much to be mistreated back during that period of time.
  • [01:32:14.91] And yeah, it was very popular. Black Power was very popular. It was very popular. It was very necessary. I mean, it stabilized. But I think had the ruling class not changed the way that they was dealing with us in the city of Detroit, it would have escalated and gotten pretty bad.
  • [01:32:38.59] But Black Power was necessary. And it ran its course. And now, we see a whole lot of things that are better now because of that thrust for Black Power.
  • [01:32:51.71] SPEAKER 1: OK. How did the whole thing start? What set things off? Not when the National Guard came, but before that.
  • [01:33:02.39] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, again, we had a situation in Detroit because you had, predominantly, a white police force controlling us. And they could be very disrespectful, very abusive, uncaring. And I think-- what happened? They supposedly raided a after-hour joint on the 12th Street where it had happened at.
  • [01:33:25.81] As a matter of fact, a friend of mine who was a police officer at that time-- a black guy-- he said that he was there when it happened. And he had to stop a couple of police officers from abusing some citizens for no reason at all. And it happened in, I think-- I forgot how many.
  • [01:33:45.32] They said they only had-- the number of police officers supposedly that was on duty that day was ridiculously low, because it was the summer time, and they was all taking vacations, going up north. And so when it jumped off, they didn't have enough police officers to control it. And it just got out of hand.
  • [01:34:02.59] It jumped off on 12th Street. As a matter of fact, I lived over there on the 12th Street where it happened at. And that Sunday morning-- that Saturday night, I had been out somewhere. And I had a flat tire, so I had to catch the bus to come home. And that Sunday morning, when I went to go get my car, that's when the police had started cordoning off, blocking off, the streets.
  • [01:34:27.46] But I was sitting up there in front of the church on 12th Street, right off the boulevard, St. Agnes Church. And I was watching. And they had a lot of stores on 12th Street-- furniture stores, liquor stores, pawn shops, and things of this nature. And I was sitting there, watching this crowd-- blacks and whites, walking down, carrying items that they had broken into your stores.
  • [01:34:49.85] I mean, you saw black and whites carrying furniture together. Like I said, it was not a race riot. It was not. It was just a rebellion, if you will. People just got tired and just was taking stuff back. And so it was just a combination of factors.
  • [01:35:08.84] It wasn't, like I said-- if ever you hear people talking about the '67 riot, it was not a riot. It was not a citizen's riot. It was the ruling class riot that attacked us. It was not the citizens attacking people.
  • [01:35:22.87] SPEAKER 1: OK. How do you see unity, compared to the unity of people back then, around the times that you said that event happened today? How do you feel about that riot and the unity of people?
  • [01:35:35.02] GEORGE RAMSEY: I think it's unfortunate that young blacks don't have the same kinds of relationships with each other-- and with people, for that matter-- that we seem to have during my generation. We didn't have the kind of black-on-black crime that happen now. We didn't have a black guy killing a young black kid for looking at him a particular way. We didn't have guys running through a community, just shooting. We didn't have people throwing fire bombs in houses, burning people out.
  • [01:36:06.86] If I had a problem with you, I had a problem with you. I didn't have a problem with your mother, and your father, your sister, your brother. That's how we did it in our generation. It wasn't long-range guns. We had to fight with fist to fist. So the guy might have a knife, the dude may have-- but again, that's hand-to-hand combat. That's as a man would do.
  • [01:36:24.67] But it's very cowardly to take a gun and shoot another person. Ain't nothing big about that. But that seems to be what's happening now. It's big to take a gun and go and shoot somebody 15 times.
  • [01:36:39.83] But like I said, our thing was we would meet, passing each other on the street-- hey, brother. How you doing, brother? Hey, cuz.
  • [01:36:46.64] Now it's, what's happening? Then they have, dog. I mean, there's something disrespectful about referring to me as a dog, but that seems to be so popular now amongst this generation-- hey, dog, my dog.
  • [01:37:06.03] SPEAKER 1: Can you describe-- well, [SIGHS] where are we? That's right. Were there any slang terms, phrases, or words used that aren't in common use today?
  • [01:37:17.64] GEORGE RAMSEY: Mm-hmm. Like I said, cuz. We used to call it, cuz-- hey, cuz, my man. A lot of those things are still interchanged. But again, now, the scene right now, the biggest thing that identifies people are dogs. And a female dog is a bitch. This is why men, young guys, seem to refer to their women in that manner. When we was coming along, we couldn't think of calling a girl nothing like that.
  • [01:37:47.18] SPEAKER 1: OK. How do you feel about these dudes today-- or did y'all do this back in the day? You have dudes calling each other the N word like it's their first name.
  • [01:37:59.25] GEORGE RAMSEY: No. Again, I think it's-- cause I'm involved in a relationship with some men that I've known since I was in elementary school. We are all in our 70s years old. And we've called each other names in the company of each other, but not just-- I might call a partner, and I might call him something that I wouldn't call you, because I don't know you that well. And so I understand how people react to that.
  • [01:38:32.41] I understand that you can use the N word and have a different meaning to you. I use it and have a different meaning to me. I don't think that it should cause all the problem to people that it seems to cause.
  • [01:38:49.85] I think that-- as a matter of fact, the first time I heard nigger used out in the open like it is seen now is when I went to see a Richard Pryor concert here in Detroit at the Fisher Theatre back during the '70s, I think. And he had an album. And that album was titled, That Nigger's Crazy. I was very offended at that.
  • [01:39:13.83] But I went to see his show. And when I left out of the theater, I said, that nigger crazy. [LAUGHS] So that's how it was in regards to me.
  • [01:39:24.71] Now, does that mean that I had carte blanche use of that word? No. I've been in the company of white people-- a white guy referred to himself as a nigger. Wow. Is that something that would offend me? No. There are white guys who refer to themselves in that manner.
  • [01:39:42.45] Now, he might refer to you that way. You may refer to him that way. That's between you and him. That ain't got nothing to do with me.
  • [01:39:47.52] SPEAKER 1: OK. So would you consider the N word as a verb, like how somebody act, or an actual person, like a actual race or something?
  • [01:39:58.89] GEORGE RAMSEY: No, it doesn't define me because, again, I think that it's used as-- and I just saw something a couple days ago, I think it was. Dick Gregory had a book out about that same theme. And Dick Gregory was very political. And some of the logic seems to be that, if it's used in the common sense, it takes the sting out of it. It doesn't cause the problem.
  • [01:40:27.13] And like I said, the first time I heard the white guy use it, the friend and I, we were over his house. And he was married to a black woman. And his kids-- you know.
  • [01:40:36.29] And I just happened to ask him. I said, well, man-- he was living out in Mount Clemens at a nice housing complex. And we was out there, and we were talking.
  • [01:40:44.12] And while we were in the course of talking to him, we was asking him, were there any other black folks living out here? He said, no, man, I'm the only niggers out there. We don't-- [GASPS] but that's how he viewed himself, because he grew up in the black community.
  • [01:40:55.47] He boxed down at Brewster Center. As a matter of fact, he trained Tommy Hearns. But he was strictly into blackness. That's how he viewed himself. He viewed himself as how the blacks referred to themself.
  • [01:41:07.43] So personally, when we left out of there, my friend, he said, man, what did you think what [INAUDIBLE] said? I said that it shocked me, first of all. But I said, he said that that's what he was. [LAUGHS] I'm like, if that's who you are, then who am I to say that you can't be it? If that's what you want to be, that's your right.
  • [01:41:25.32] SPEAKER 1: OK. OK. When thinking back on your work and adult life, what important social or-- oh. Oh, never mind. That looks like a repeat question. Sorry about that.
  • [01:41:38.00] Did your family engage in any activities involving water during your working years? Hold on. Oh, these questions are ridiculous. Sorry about that. That's [INAUDIBLE].
  • [01:41:49.84] OK. What was their main field of employment? How did you get started with this tradition, skill, or job? Who got you interested?
  • [01:42:00.98] GEORGE RAMSEY: What was my main--
  • [01:42:02.69] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, what was your main field of employment? And who got you interested in it?
  • [01:42:08.67] GEORGE RAMSEY: Like I said, I've had a variety of jobs. I think I touched on that earlier. I enjoyed the work that I performed. I never had a job that I didn't like. I've never had a job that didn't like.
  • [01:42:26.47] I'm working right now part time, although I retired in '94. But I'm working right now part time with the Census Bureau. And I like that job, because I know the importance of the census.
  • [01:42:40.53] So what I do, I try to do it because it has some relevance to me. I mean, it is, of course, the money. But I'll take a job making less money if it's something that I enjoy doing rather than, say, I've got to have $40 an hour versus $8 an hour.
  • [01:42:59.65] SPEAKER 1: OK. Good. Describe the steps and processes involved in your job, from start to finish. What raw materials are used? What do you get for your materials, or supplies, or ingredients? Are they prepared? How they change over time. I don't know why. OK, let's skip that one. Well, these questions are-- pause.
  • [01:43:27.76] GEORGE RAMSEY: --then his philosophy up to that point, because he was being rebuffed. In every turn, it was, hey, nonviolence ain't happening for everybody. I mean, some dudes you got to do something about, man. You just can't keep turning the other cheek. They be kicking you.
  • [01:43:43.33] So some issues was coming out of that, because Malcolm wasn't a racist. They try to portray him as being this or that, because that whole struggle-- we had the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, who was probably biggest racist in any community. He had a lot to do with trying to discredit Malcolm, trying to discredit King, because he want to keep them at each other's throat.
  • [01:44:09.46] When they were getting ready-- they was supposed to have a meeting, as a matter of fact, shortly after King left for Memphis. That was one thing he and Malcolm was planning, supposedly-- to get down, sit down, and discuss some things. They had to kill Malcolm.
  • [01:44:22.30] So he came out of, supposedly, out of the FBI-- click. So there was some things that was happening that they don't write about it, but it's there. It's common knowledge. It's knowledge within the black community what was happening, being orchestrated, out of that whole struggle.
  • [01:44:39.64] SPEAKER 1: You heard about that they just released who killed Malcolm?
  • [01:44:42.52] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah, right. Mm-hmm.
  • [01:44:44.41] SPEAKER 1: It was crazy. OK, let me see. OK. What specific training or skills were needed for the job? What tools are involved? I don't know-- when are they used?
  • [01:44:58.17] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, my jobs in the past, the current job-- again, like I said, I'd go back to particular work jobs that I've had as a mail man. And I would think that you had to be taught how to do certain things, which was you had to understand how to case mail. You had to understand how to figure out how to deliver the mail. I mean, there are ways that they would teach us, show us, how to do certain things. But those are the only kind of jobs I think that I had to be taught how to do some things, other than just understand basic intelligence to perform work.
  • [01:45:45.53] SPEAKER 1: So what technological changes changed over the years in your work?
  • [01:45:53.58] GEORGE RAMSEY: Like I said, I retired in '94. So I've been out of the labor market for a while, other than the part-time job that I'm involved in now. Because again, when I retired in '94, we started our own company. And what we did at the company that we started was-- I got to say, we were marketing classes to the UAW employees. So it was Chrysler, specifically.
  • [01:46:21.02] We had classes in Huntsville, Alabama, Newark, Delaware, Toledo, Twinsburg. And what we would do is marketing classes. The factory workers, they had what they call a tuition-refund plan there that the union would allow them to take certain classes. And what we would do, they would have educational fairs. And we, as vendors-- we were a vendor, my company. And so what we would have to do-- go into these particular plants and market our classes.
  • [01:46:56.68] So what we would do, as a company, we would-- say, as an example, here in Detroit-- we would go to Wayne County Community College and get the book of classes that they were offering. And we would look and see what we might think was an interesting class. And we would contact one of the instructors and find out if they would teach this particular class at the plant level.
  • [01:47:21.32] One of the classes, as an example, that was running here in Detroit was called a financial planning class. So we would have this financial planer to come and talk to these workers-- say, hey, educate them on how to plan their funds.
  • [01:47:41.48] In Alabama, as an example, we had a class. There was a lot of women working in this plant, so we went around the plant. And on the bulletin board, they had a woman that was teaching these women how to make t-shirts. So what we did was we contacted her, and we hired her to come offer these classes to these women. So that was a technique that we had to use as a company-- finding people that would be to train these folks for us.
  • [01:48:13.26] SPEAKER 1: OK. So let's talk about-- I want to talk about your music career and stuff. What would make somebody respected in that field? What stuff did they have to make to be-- yeah, in what you were doing, as a songwriter, what would make somebody respected in that field?
  • [01:48:37.39] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, again, it's like-- see, that was years ago when I was out there. Now it has changed so much. One thing that I will say about how music has changed-- when I came out in California, when I moved back to Detroit, rap was just making its move in the community, back during the late '70s. Rappers-- I forgot the group out of New York that had that first rap record.
  • [01:49:07.16] Well, when I was with Lamont Dozier-- I used to work with Lamont Dozier out in California. Lamont was a singer/songwriter producer. He was a part of Holland-Dozier-Holland. He wrote and produced a lot of the stuff at Motown-- The Supremes. And they did very big names.
  • [01:49:22.61] Lamont was very big. And he was working for Warner Brothers Records. And Bootsy Collins was with Warner Brothers at that time. And so what we found out was a lot of the record companies didn't want to deal with them rap artists.
  • [01:49:41.45] That's how them rappers got rich quick, because Warner Brothers, the major record labels, didn't want to deal with them because the generation that I was a part of-- them singers, and Motown, and them stand-up singers-- when they had a beef with the record company, the thing was, take me to court. You go to court, you'd be in court for 5, 6, 7, 10 years. But them rappers didn't work like that.
  • [01:50:08.42] They came in. They would sit down at them tables and put pistols on the table. See, it's about, if I've got this kind of money coming, that's what I want. It was very street in that sense, and it's very cold. But that's how business is-- cold blooded.
  • [01:50:24.74] If you think that what them rappers was doing-- they would just blatantly open with how they would deal with you. Them cats out of Suge Knight, them were out of California-- the Def Jam, I think. It's coming. These guys [LAUGHS] would [INAUDIBLE] whatever. These cats-- well, that's what they were. And they understood that.
  • [01:50:47.60] I mean, them executives and the record companies didn't want to deal with them. Said, no, we're going to have to pay these cats their money. That's how they got so successful. The artists of my generation, they struggled. They had all kind of legal issues that they had to go to court with.
  • [01:51:01.95] But them rappers said, no, it ain't this way, man. We want our money. We're coming to your house. We're coming to your family. We're coming to your offices.
  • [01:51:08.63] So they changed the dynamics in the record business. They changed the dynamics of it. They started getting their money like they were supposed to be getting. And they had a profound effect with the successful growth of artists.
  • [01:51:27.07] SPEAKER 1: What do value most about your work, your jobs?
  • [01:51:32.72] GEORGE RAMSEY: Again, I guess the kind of people that I've worked around, the friends that I made, the memories that I have of the work, and the things that I did. I just been blessed. I've been blessed because, like I say, I've done what I enjoy doing.
  • [01:51:50.11] SPEAKER 1: OK. Tell me about any moves you made during your working years and retirement for your decision to move to your current residence.
  • [01:52:02.46] GEORGE RAMSEY: What? What was that?
  • [01:52:05.07] SPEAKER 1: I said, tell me about any moves you made during your working years and retirement for your decision to move to your current residence.
  • [01:52:15.36] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, again, I guess I have to go back to when I was out in California, I guess, really. That was probably one of the highlights of my-- where I was living at because, again, I loved living out in California. While I was out there, I was living with Lamont Dozier. And this is, again, during the '70s, '80s.
  • [01:52:39.60] He had a big swimming pool, and I'm not a swimmer, but it was always cool. I'd be out there. We'd have the pool parties, and always a lot of women out there, babes. It was cool to be able to just lay out there, and chill out, and be a part of that activity, that atmosphere. That was very unique, my experience out in California.
  • [01:53:06.84] As a matter of fact, I think I wasn't out there-- within the first week, it was. I was asked to do a movie-- if I wanted to be in a movie with Pam Grier. She was just getting her career started at that time. And I regret that I told the cat, no, I don't want to be in it.
  • [01:53:25.21] I eventually saw the movie. It was called Friday Foster. I saw it on television one day. And I made the right decision. It was a lousy movie. But I think that had I opted to do that, it might have made a difference in my life. If I had that opportunity to see myself on the big screen, it might have made me want to do that.
  • [01:53:48.66] But during those years, the black movies was very, very poorly done. They called them blaxploitation movies. They were very one dimensional. The wanted the cats in the pimp look-- the big platform shoes, the big old hat, the pimp thing. And I wasn't into that, cause I was into the black music scene.
  • [01:54:11.22] And the black recording artists were bigger than the black movie stars at that time. You didn't have Denzel. You didn't have these cats. You had Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. These were the biggest black stars at that time. Lamont Dozier was as big as those guys were in Hollywood.
  • [01:54:30.43] I went to all the Hollywood parties. Hugh Hefner-- I was at his Playboy Mansion. I mean, just things that I experienced, being with Lamont, was as big as it got. It didn't get no bigger than that.
  • [01:54:45.55] SPEAKER 1: How did you come to live where you currently live?
  • [01:54:50.00] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, I got married, and my wife was from Ohio. She didn't want to live in Detroit. Me, I was very content living in Detroit. When I met her, I was living in Detroit. And when we got married, we moved to Southfield.
  • [01:55:05.39] SPEAKER 1: OK. So how did your family life change when you and your spouse got retired, or she got retired? Your children are grown. So how is life, pretty much, right now?
  • [01:55:22.73] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, it's good. It's good. It's good. Again, it's just she and I. I have a lot of freedom to do what I want to do. She has it the same way. She's back and forth for her home in Ohio. And it's just good. It's good. Life is good.
  • [01:55:40.64] SPEAKER 1: OK. So about your children right now, is there any special things that y'all do to have a good time?
  • [01:55:51.00] GEORGE RAMSEY: No. The special thing for me is going visiting with my granddaughters and grandson, which is-- I try to do that every Sunday after church. So Sunday evening, I go back there. I spend a couple hours with them. But that's the special thing for me, just being around my grandkids.
  • [01:56:09.56] SPEAKER 1: That was [INAUDIBLE]. So they don't live in east Michigan?
  • [01:56:13.22] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh, yeah, they still here in Detroit, yeah.
  • [01:56:15.15] SPEAKER 1: Oh, [INAUDIBLE], that's what. Oh, OK. Thinking about your entire life, what are you most proud of?
  • [01:56:23.73] GEORGE RAMSEY: What I'm most proud of? I guess I'm just proud of-- I think my son, I think my son. I'm proud to see him as the young man he is, the loving and devoted father that he is.
  • [01:56:41.99] He's a good worker. The guy has his own business. He's never been a burden. He's been a blessing, and I let him know that this is how it's been.
  • [01:56:57.67] SPEAKER 1: OK. Did you push him to go to college or did he go?
  • [01:57:00.51] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, yeah, he went for a couple of years down in Georgia. He went to Morris Brown, I think. Yeah, I wasn't pushing it, because I suggested years ago that he become a police officer, school teacher. I even suggested that he join the military. I told him those options that he should look at.
  • [01:57:25.92] But he was going to make his own decision. And he has. He worked in the factory for a while, and then he just took that buyout just recently and started his own company. So he's doing some good things for himself. So like I say, I'm proud of him. Yeah.
  • [01:57:39.59] SPEAKER 1: OK. Well, kind of related to that, based on how your son's life was being and your life was being, what kind of advice would you give, you could say, my generation? What kind of advice would you tell?
  • [01:57:56.07] GEORGE RAMSEY: Hit them books. Let education be your goal. I mean, don't get caught up in that peer pressure. And be a leader, rather than a follower.
  • [01:58:07.75] Again, don't let the what's happening thing right now decide what your future is going to be like. And try to get you a goal. Find something that you like to do and pursue it. But the main thing is, don't give up on education.
  • [01:58:25.91] SPEAKER 1: OK. [INAUDIBLE] OK. OK. Well, I will say, is there anything else you'd like to say that I didn't ask you?
  • [01:58:44.37] GEORGE RAMSEY: No, other than the fact that I think that this is a worthwhile project, what you're doing. I think that it's important that we, as seniors, have an opportunity to share with you and the community in large our experiences and how we got to where we are, because it will make a difference. Sometimes, you can learn from other folks' experiences and mistakes in life. And I don't know if there's anything that I've said that you can possibly benefit by, other than the fact that-- have a goal to [AUDIO OUT]
  • [01:59:26.35] SPEAKER 2: You already you told us about Clare de Lune.
  • [01:59:29.22] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh, yeah.
  • [01:59:30.10] SPEAKER 2: The teacher that--
  • [01:59:31.04] GEORGE RAMSEY: Right.
  • [01:59:31.40] SPEAKER 2: --that played it for you and [INAUDIBLE] on me, as well as the other stories that you told of your involvement with musicians in the music business, or [INAUDIBLE] music in your life. Could you [INAUDIBLE] about this a little bit more about the music?
  • [01:59:53.19] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh, yeah. Right, right.
  • [01:59:54.26] SPEAKER 2: Was she your mistress?
  • [01:59:55.45] GEORGE RAMSEY: Right. [LAUGHS] Yeah, right. Yes. In any direction. You're going to give me a lead in question, of course. We'll go from there.
  • [02:00:01.56] SPEAKER 2: Yeah, I think so. So I guess the question is, could you talk a little bit about music in your life, maybe in general? And we'll get more specific.
  • [02:00:30.13] GEORGE RAMSEY: OK, mm-hmm. It's on. [CLAPS]. The leading-- [LAUGHS]
  • [02:00:38.26] SPEAKER 2: I shouldn't be asking these questions today.
  • [02:00:41.21] SPEAKER 1: OK. So what really inspired you to get into the whole music business, the factor of teachers' influences on you?
  • [02:01:01.47] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, in the community that I grew up in, there was a lot of musicians living on the block that I lived on. And it was very popular during my generation for guys to be singing. We all pursued singing in some shape, form, or fashion.
  • [02:01:14.79] There were a lot of talent shows that was happening around the city of Detroit then. There were amateur shows. A lot of the theaters had amateur night so, consequently, guys in different neighborhoods where those particular theaters were, they all would be participating in the talent shows. And I was one of those, because in this neighborhood in which we are currently sitting in is where I was born and lived.
  • [02:01:36.90] There was a theater called the Warfield Theater. It was on a street called Hastings Street. And they had probably one of the more famous amateur nights. This was a show where all of the artists at that time would be trying to appear.
  • [02:01:54.99] There was venues on Woodward Avenue, like the Paradise Theatre, Greystone Ballroom. This is where your major artists would appear to-- well, Sammy Davis' family is a group that appeared a lot of times in Detroit. And so it was just something that developed from the environment that I was in.
  • [02:02:17.97] And as I continued to grow while I was in school, I was around a lot of talented people in junior high school-- and high school, even. So for me, it was just a natural progression. It was a continuation of what I enjoyed doing. We didn't have television then, so folks gathered around the radio. This is how most of the entertainment came-- from the radios, or theaters, the movies.
  • [02:02:47.70] But it was a situation whereas we just developed those desires. Certainly, I did. Like I say, the radio stations played a lot of music. Music was just getting to become a popular item in the community, I think. So I just listened to a lot of music growing up and always desired to do those things that would enable me to get on radio because, like I said, there was no television, so that wasn't the goal. It was just to be on radio for someone to hear you sing.
  • [02:03:21.81] And we had an opportunity, I guess, when I'm about 15, 16 years old. We sung, and we had a-- we sung at this talent show. And the girl group that we beat out to win that particular event was Aretha Franklin's older sister, named Erma Franklin.
  • [02:03:40.44] Erma was the premier singer in her family before Aretha. Aretha was the-- well, no, she had a younger sister, Carolyn. But anyway, it was Erma who ended up marrying a friend of mine.
  • [02:03:53.82] Again, I grew up in this community where there was a lot of talent. We just expected our friends to be talented. It wasn't unusual to have the kind of friends that I had, because this is what we pursued. But anyway, we sung against Erma, the group, that particular contest. And we won it, and we had an opportunity to sing on the radio station.
  • [02:04:15.47] It was right around Christmas so, of course, we didn't get a chance to hear, because they weren't taping in the [INAUDIBLE]. So I got a chance, at that early age, to sing on the radio. And it just led me to continue to want to pursue music. And this is what I did.
  • [02:04:30.82] Like I say, I had been in the band, and then in the choirs, all through junior high school and high school. So music was just something that I gravitated toward. Then, when I got out of high school, I went into the military and ended up in Madison, Wisconsin for the last-- I was in the Air Force. I did four years.
  • [02:04:51.25] So one of the things that I did while I was in the Air Force, I formed a recording group-- I mean, a singing group. Me and three other airmen, we started singing around in Wisconsin. We sung at the University of Wisconsin and places like that. There was a couple of hospitals around at the time. But we sang more on the base for the other airmen.
  • [02:05:15.64] And my last year, at 19-- I got to serve 1960, 1959, early '60s. And we would participate in a talent contest. And on our base in Wisconsin, we won there, and we came to Michigan. Up in Battle Creek, Michigan, we sung at a base up there, and we won up there. And then the next contest was held down here in Mount Clemens, at Selfridge Air Force Base.
  • [02:05:45.93] We came and participated at that level, but we lost out to a group that had been the runners up for the last previous years' talent contest. It was what they called Tops in Blues. That was the name of the contest. It was held throughout the Air Force.
  • [02:06:01.38] So all of these different acts from different bases would compete. And we lost out to this group that was from Selfridge Air Force Base. It happened to be a friend whom I grew up with. It was his group.
  • [02:06:14.98] So the judges were impressed with our sound. So rather than send us back to our base, they had us to go on to the finals, which was held in Cheyenne, Wyoming. So they flew us all down, and we sung for the judges before the contest began.
  • [02:06:31.53] And it just so happened that one of the judges was a songwriter/producer from Hollywood named Elmer Bernstein. And at that point, during that year, he had written a movie score for a movie called The Man with the Golden Arm. I think it was about Frank Sinatra. It was a very popular movie.
  • [02:06:50.54] Anyway, he was a very talented producer. Well, he liked what we were doing. He liked our sound. And we all were supposed to have been getting out of the service within nine months of each other. So after we had sung, he came backstage, and gave us his card, and told us that when we got out of service, he want us to contact him out in Hollywood, and he would try to see if he can do some things for us. And we were very excited about it.
  • [02:07:15.54] And a couple of the participants in that talent contest that went on to have a lot of fame was a fellow named Angel Pablo. He was from the Philippines. And when he got discharged, he ended up moving back to Hawaii. And he ended up singing with a very popular Hawaiian guy named Don Ho. And Angel had a long career. As a matter of fact, I just happened to look on the internet just recently and saw that he's still actively singing.
  • [02:07:45.09] And another fellow that came out of that particular talent contest was a fellow named Johnny Bristol. And Johnny ended up-- but they lost, also, up in Wyoming. And we were all disappointed, because we knew that they were a very talented group.
  • [02:07:59.91] Johnny came back to Detroit. He moved to Detroit from Battle Creek when he got out of the service. And he ended up going to work at Motown. He became a very successful writer and producer at Motown. He ended up writing some hit songs for-- among them with Junior Walker.
  • [02:08:17.70] So I've just been around music all of my life, and I'm still doing some things, trying to write a play, currently writing some songs. I've written some songs. So music is what I intend to be doing for the rest of my life, as long as I can do something on that order. So it's my mistress. I'm married to it.
  • [02:08:40.37] SPEAKER 2: When you played a song, or when you write a song, [INAUDIBLE] when you first heard it?
  • [02:08:45.23] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah, there's songs, again. But me, I haven't been a bass singer. There were guys like-- I mean, these are artists that I don't-- none of them are in existence now. But I always gravitated toward the bass singers.
  • [02:08:59.15] And there was a singer named Jimmy Ricks. And he was a very popular bass singer. And he sang with a group called-- I think it would be The Orioles. No, no, no. Anyway, I'm not sure what group he sang with. But that was my favorite singer-- he, along with another guy named Sonny Til.
  • [02:09:21.50] Sonny Til sang with The Orioles. And these were very unique-sounding singers at that time. So for me, those were names that triggered some other desires of mine.
  • [02:09:44.48] SPEAKER 1: While growing up in Detroit, did you ever have any white friends or neighbors?
  • [02:09:49.76] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah, Detroit wasn't a segre-- well, it was segregated. I mean, America was. But I lived in a community. I had white neighbors, went to school with-- when I was in elementary and junior high school, there weren't as many white kids attending those schools. But when I got in high school, it was a cross-section of all kinds of races.
  • [02:10:14.99] In my block, I remember there was-- in each block, you shared an alley with each street behind you. So the alley that we shared, we played in with kids from the other block. There was one particular family-- this guy, he was a police officer, a white guy, a white policeman. And his mother-- the kids would be out in the alleys playing, and his mother would always bring cookies or something.
  • [02:10:42.18] Or like I said, there was a lot of fruit trees. So people had different fruit. I mean, it was a very, very respectful community that I grew up in.
  • [02:10:51.19] In high school is when, I guess, I met the first white guy that I considered to be a friend at that point. He and I attended high school together. And we shared different classes. And the girl that he was going with was a friend of the girl that I was going with. So his name was Joe Suchik, I think-- Joe Suchik, yeah. So we became good friends.
  • [02:11:14.70] But yeah, it wasn't unusual to go-- even in the neighborhood dances, there was one particular white guy. He was a Polish guy. His folks owned the bakery in the neighborhood. And we'd go to the house parties. And he'd be the only white guy.
  • [02:11:29.74] And he'd be dancing with the girls, because everybody knew him. He was just one of the guys in the neighborhood. We'd go to the dances, the skating rink. He was always there, and everyone knew him. So it wasn't unusual to be somewhere, and you might see one or two white guys there, or a white girl, or whatever. So yeah, it wasn't unusual.
  • [02:12:04.58] SPEAKER 1: How do you explain racism to your family and grandchildren?
  • [02:12:10.46] GEORGE RAMSEY: How do I explain it to them? Well, that, in my opinion, was never an excuse for us not to achieve. It wasn't, years ago. It won't be, in the future, if it's still there. It's going to be existing in some form.
  • [02:12:29.12] But I just let my son-- I haven't had that discussion, certainly, with my grandkids at this point. But my son, when he was growing up-- my son grew up in Southfield, and he had white friends. He went to school with white kids and whatnot, and white associates and what not. But I always let him know that it really wasn't up to someone else as to whether or not he was going to make it. It didn't matter.
  • [02:12:52.68] My father left Mississippi in the '20s running from the lynch mob. There was always stories of whites attacking blacks, and not caring for blacks, or whatever. But there's always stories of a lot of whites that helped blacks in the struggle that we had. So racism might exist, but you empower the racist. So that's why I let him say, don't let it stop him. Racism shouldn't stop you.
  • [02:13:25.35] SPEAKER 1: Do you feel that racial issues have gotten better or worse than they were in the '40s and '50s?
  • [02:13:34.06] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah, definitely. It definitely has gotten better. But in the sense that you look at the election of Obama-- Obama never could have been elected president without white voters, and others, of course. But black folks couldn't put him in [LAUGHS] the office.
  • [02:13:51.52] So yeah, it's-- and I was somewhat reluctant to think that he could win when he did run. I was a supporter of Hillary Clinton. And what convinced me was a friend of mine-- my wife, as a matter of fact-- my friend. My wife, she volunteered on his campaign, and I went to one of the meetings.
  • [02:14:15.03] And I was surprised at how many young white folks was in charge. I mean, they weren't just there volunteering. They were actually organizing it. And so that made me think there was something was happening in America that folks was not aware of.
  • [02:14:29.47] And this was young, white folks-- young, white voters-- seeing it was time for a change. And I think that some of the change is in place now. But it's going to take blacks and whites to make this change become permanent. So yeah, it's far greater, far better, now than it's probably ever been.
  • [02:14:56.50] SPEAKER 1: OK. You mentioned that you were in the Air Force. Where did you go over seas? What was the best thing that you experienced while in the Air Force?
  • [02:15:07.25] GEORGE RAMSEY: I didn't go overseas. I wasn't fortunate enough to go, unfortunately. That's why I joined, too, cause I just-- all of friends left. And they went other places.
  • [02:15:16.44] I went for the four years. I was just assuming that I was going to go somewhere. I spent most of my years, all of my life, in the states. Got a chance to go to Texas, Illinois, California, and Wisconsin. I was stationed in those particular places, which was great.
  • [02:15:37.35] I guess one of the greatest experiences I had while I was in the Air Force was when I went to California. I was in Riverside, California. And I took the train out to California. And it was very revealing. I mean, I had never been on a train before, and certainly had never seen California.
  • [02:15:56.70] And when we pulled into the station in Riverside, California, I looked out the window and I saw these kids walking down on the street. And what was so surprising to me was I saw a mixture. I saw the white kids, the black kids, Oriental, and I guess it was a Mexican girl. And I saw them walking together, talking.
  • [02:16:21.24] And I had never seen that in Detroit. I saw black and white interacting. But I had never had no contact with Orientals, nor with any Mexicans, growing up. And it was very-- I guess it was not surprising, but it was just something that I had never seen. I had never seen the essence of America-- cause that's what it is. It's all the races and colors that make up the country.
  • [02:16:44.37] And I guess, when I was there, we went to a dance one day, me and some of these friends of mine. We had heard about this dance. We had heard, on radio-- I can't think of the artist's name. But anyway, we wanted to go see this particular show. So we caught the bus and went to this dance.
  • [02:17:02.32] And we was sitting there, enjoying the show, dancing. And I noticed this guy. He was dancing with this girl. And it was a black chick. And there was another Mexican girl that they were talking to, a very attractive girl.
  • [02:17:19.78] And I was looking at the girl. I said, I ought to go out there and dance with her. And I said, no. And then I finally went and danced with this girl. And then I looked over her shoulder and saw another black guy that looked really familiar to me.
  • [02:17:32.07] And I couldn't understand who it was, because I didn't know anyone-- the first time I'd been to California. And the longer I looked at him, the more I realized that I knew him, that it was a fellow that I had grew up with in Detroit. And he had moved to California. His mother moved out there, and he and his mother-- he moved out there with his mom.
  • [02:17:49.74] But anyway, so when he got through dancing with this girl, I went up and asked the girl, what was his name? And she told me that his name was Roland. That was the guy's name. And it confirmed the fact that that's who he was.
  • [02:18:03.03] And so she went on her way, and I went. And as I was walking toward him, he saw me walking towards him, and he got a defensive punch because he didn't recognize me. I guess he didn't know who I was, what I was getting ready to say. And I walked up to him.
  • [02:18:17.86] And irony of the thing was that he's a very dark skinned guy, as I am. And when he was growing up, we used to call him Crow. And I walked up to him. I said, hey, Crow. And of course, it shocked him. So he immediately saw who I was. And we embraced and hugged.
  • [02:18:35.95] And we sat down and talked for the rest of the dance. And he got on the phone call with his mom. And I talked with his mother, because his mother had been a very popular lady with us as kids growing up.
  • [02:18:45.72] He was the only child. And we played basketball in the alley by their house. And his mother would be out there playing with him. She was just a wonderful lady.
  • [02:18:53.47] And I never got a chance to see him after that, because he was going away, because he was a football player then at some school in-- he was attending in El Monte, California. He was going up north to California to go to school. And I never got a chance to see him after that, again. But that was, I guess, one of the greatest experiences that I had, yeah, other than singing.
  • [02:19:16.02] When I got to Wisconsin, we started singing. But the military-- it was great. I was a clerk, which meant that-- at that time, we didn't have computers, so everything was by type. We type written, or hand wrote, the records. Being a clerk was a good job. Other than being a cook, I think that I had a lot of power, a lot of juice, because I took everybody's records.
  • [02:19:43.26] So if there was information in records that people didn't want, I was the guy that could take it out. I could sell leave time. I could-- mean, a lot of guys didn't want to get their shots. We had to take shots every three or four months. If you didn't want to get your shots, you give me-- I'd take care of your shot records for you. So I was a very popular guy, very-- [LAUGHS] I got a lot of rewards from a lot of guys. Whatever they could do for me, they would do, because I was in that position to do things for them.
  • [02:20:15.10] So the Air Force was a great learning experience for me. And I loved it, really. I should have made a career out of it. That's how much I enjoyed it.
  • [02:20:25.52] SPEAKER 1: Did it prepare you for a civilian job when you were discharged?
  • [02:20:31.57] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah, well, it did because, again, being a clerk enabled me to understand how the system works because, in order to deal with the system, you got to know how the system work. And that's what being a clerk allowed me-- understanding the paper trail. And when I got out of the service, I started working in the post office as a letter carrier. And again, it all led from some of the training that I got in the military.
  • [02:21:00.05] Even right now, I've just recently stopped working. Well, my tenure's up. I work in the census for the Census Bureau. So I've continued to benefit from the experience that I had working in post-- I mean, working in the military in the capacity that I did.
  • [02:21:20.03] SPEAKER 1: What's the best memory that you have with the Air Force?
  • [02:21:26.81] GEORGE RAMSEY: Like can said, it's the memory that I shared about meeting my friend out in California, seeing my childhood friend again. That was great. It was something that I was so totally unprepared to see. And it's been a cherished memory of mine.
  • [02:21:48.42] SPEAKER 1: OK. What are some of the things about this current generation that make you feel that there is hope for youth in Detroit? How do you feel about, as mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick? Do you think he should have to be in jail?
  • [02:22:09.21] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, going to jail-- yes and no. Yes, in the sense that he did some ridiculous things. Power-- he got intoxicated with the power, obviously. But all the money that he supposedly owes the city, they'll never recoup now. So I don't know. So I think that there's been a loss there in the fact that I don't see how he's going to be able to pay that fine if he doesn't have a job.
  • [02:22:35.58] And he probably won't have a job when he get out of jail, if he ever goes-- I'm sure he's going on the [INAUDIBLE] somewhere, based on what they say they're still getting ready to try him for some other offenses. So I don't know if he should or should not have been. But whatever happens, he brought it on himself.
  • [02:22:56.40] I was disappointed in how he ended up, because I knew his father. I used to work with his father years ago. And yeah, I met his mother. And I think that it's unfortunate. The guy had a lot of potential there waiting on him.
  • [02:23:11.29] But the fact is that power intoxicates, and he got drunk with the power that he had. He wasn't the first politician that was dishonest, that stole things that he shouldn't have done. But the problem that he had, in my opinion, was most politicians wait until they are coming out of office before they start stealing. He started stealing coming in the door. And this is what, I think, led his downfall so quick.
  • [02:23:47.62] But the future-- yeah, the future is great. I think that the city of Detroit has reached the bottom, hopefully. And it has to have a turnaround, because Detroit's going to always be an important city. It's going to always be valued here, because there's so much water around Detroit.
  • [02:24:11.55] As long as the Detroit River is there, Detroit's going to be a very popular spot for some folks. Now, I don't know how many of these young blacks would be qualified to lead in the future if they don't pursue their educational opportunities that exist. But again, that's the key to it all-- education, education.
  • [02:24:39.97] SPEAKER 2: Possibly won't say it.
  • [02:24:43.96] SPEAKER 3: Do you know anything about New Orleans?
  • [02:24:46.46] GEORGE RAMSEY: About New Orleans? I've only been to New Orleans once. And I liked it. It's a very exciting city. I mean, that was before Katrina. And I was very impressed with it.
  • [02:24:59.25] I've always wanted to go to New Orleans, because I had a friend, a very dear friend of mine, who was from New Orleans, growing up as a kid. And every summer when school was out, he would always be going to New Orleans, going back home. And he always talked about Lake Pontchartrain.
  • [02:25:15.74] And one year, he came back. He had gotten bitten. He said it was a water moccasin, bit him on his toe. And so we couldn't wait to see the toe bite.
  • [02:25:27.22] But no, like I said, I only went to New Orleans once. And I liked it. I liked the-- what's that? I forgot that-- the community that they talk about, the parades. But I thought that New Orleans was a very unique city. It's all out.
  • [02:25:43.50] SPEAKER 3: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [02:25:46.49] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The history of New Orleans-- New Orleans has a very rich history. I remember I took a music class, and he talked about Congo Square. I think that's what he used to call it. He'd say, that was the black section of New Orleans where a lot of the black musicians-- Louis Armstrong-- and the history of those black musicians.
  • [02:26:12.65] Not just black, because New Orleans-- that's one thing about the music that came out of New Orleans. There was a lot of black and white musicians, as that's true of music. And they shared that culture together there.
  • [02:26:22.70] And New Orleans still-- I mean, if you see the parades, the Mardi Gras I guess it is, you often see the blacks and whites. They be dancing and doing-- you know, they almost look the same, some of the moves that they be making, because it's such a rich culture, which was always strange. New Orleans stood out. It was different. It was very close to Mississippi, which I have never been.
  • [02:26:41.63] But New Orleans had a lot of Creoles there. And somebody told me years ago about the history of New Orleans was that, in some quarters in New Orleans, the blacks and the whites talked alike, walked alike, and almost looked alike, because there was so much interracial relationships going on within New Orleans. You got a lot of the Creole.
  • [02:27:08.06] And there, he's always talking about how beautiful the women were in New Orleans, because they were Creole, which was supposedly the mixture-- the red, white, and blacks, or blacks and whites, or something. So New Orleans, from my understanding, is a very unique city. Yes.
  • [02:27:21.63] SPEAKER 3: Are there any people [INAUDIBLE] are raised in New Orleans or families?
  • [02:27:28.56] GEORGE RAMSEY: Do what?
  • [02:27:29.41] SPEAKER 3: Are there any families and people from [INAUDIBLE]?
  • [02:27:35.37] GEORGE RAMSEY: Again, I don't know that much about New Orleans or the folks that might have participated in anything there. But other than the fact that, like I said, one of the most renowned persons that came out of New Orleans was Louis Armstrong. But I had a friend a mine. He moved out in New Orleans. He died a few years ago.
  • [02:27:57.35] As a matter of fact, if you saw the movie Ray, Jimmy-- Jamie Foxx-- played Ray Charles. The old guy who taught him how to play music was the guy who came out of Detroit. His name was Willie Metcalf. Willie Metcalf, I think-- Willie, yeah. Anyway, he lived in New Orleans.
  • [02:28:19.49] When he left Detroit, he went to Flint. And then he moved down to New Orleans, and I had lost track of him until I saw that movie. And then I saw. I said, god, that guy look familiar. And then I ran into his brother years later. And he told me that it was his brother that was playing the pianist that supposedly taught Ray Charles how to play piano.
  • [02:28:44.45] Again, when I did visit-- the one time I visited-- I went with a friend of mine. He had a company. We were selling costume jewelry. And we went there. I went down there. Me and this lady friend of mine, she was working with him. So we went there to help him marketing his stuff.
  • [02:29:04.39] And he also had some friends from New Orleans. Among them was a fellow named-- this guy was Sonny and Cher's band conductor when they were on television. I can't think of his name now. But anyway, he took us to this club.
  • [02:29:21.34] And I don't know if you're familiar with the Marsalis brothers, Wynton and Branford Marsalis. Anyway, their father-- Ellis Bradford, I believe it is. Anyway, he was playing at a club. So we went and got a chance to meet him and visit with him.
  • [02:29:37.65] So I knew some personalities from New Orleans but there were no great, big names. But these were some people that I did meet and knew that lived in New Orleans.
  • [02:29:48.80] SPEAKER 3: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [02:29:51.78] SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [02:29:55.77] SPEAKER 1: Mr. Ramsey?
  • [02:29:57.76] GEORGE RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.
  • [02:29:59.31] SPEAKER 1: So high school-- what high school did you go to?
  • [02:30:02.27] GEORGE RAMSEY: I went to Northeastern.
  • [02:30:08.07] SPEAKER 1: How did it feel in high school?
  • [02:30:09.98] GEORGE RAMSEY: How did what? How did what?
  • [02:30:12.35] SPEAKER 1: How did it feel?
  • [02:30:13.84] GEORGE RAMSEY: How did you feel?
  • [02:30:16.53] SPEAKER 1: OK. How was it? How was it in high school?
  • [02:30:20.36] GEORGE RAMSEY: How was it?
  • [02:30:22.22] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE] everything?
  • [02:30:24.08] GEORGE RAMSEY: Oh, it was great. I mean, I enjoyed school. Like I said, it wasn't popular to skip school during my generation, because everything was happening in school.
  • [02:30:35.02] First of all, you had truant officers. If they see cats whom they thought should have been in school, that you weren't in school, they'd come to the house and want to know why you weren't there, because my mother was very conscious of the need for me to get an education. So there wasn't no thing where I could lay around the house and sleep.
  • [02:30:54.08] I had a job, as a matter of act, when I was in high school. I was working in a hotel, a black hotel. And sometimes, I wouldn't get off work till 8:00 in the morning. And I still had to go on to school. There wasn't no coming home and going, ooh. And not because so much as I had to, but because I wanted to, because this is where all of my friends were.
  • [02:31:15.85] Like I said, all of my friends were pursuing their education. We wanted to get out of high school and go into the military, those who went to college, or go get a job. But it was always-- it wasn't about the streets.
  • [02:31:28.85] I mean, we did things in the streets, but that wasn't where we wanted to live. We didn't aspire to be no gangsters, and no thugs, and no dope men. That wasn't even an issue.
  • [02:31:40.34] I mean, we had guys that sold drugs. We had dudes that committed crimes, certainly. But it wasn't anything. It wasn't a popular thing. The girls weren't interested in guys that was non-achievers.
  • [02:31:56.96] So school was very, very important. I really enjoyed it-- the best years of my life, as a matter of fact. When I got to my senior year, and I started slacking off, because I knew that I was going to go into the military when I graduated from high school.
  • [02:32:14.03] And I had an English teacher-- a very, very stern guy, very serious. He was a black guy. And he used to always talk to us as men, in terms of how ridiculous and silly we were, and stop acting foolish. He was very, very aggressive in trying to get us to be positive.
  • [02:32:33.21] And I was slacking, and I hadn't completed a term paper. And he had told me that, if I didn't complete my term paper, that he was going to fail me, and I wouldn't be able to graduate with my friends. Well, that wasn't going to happen, because this is why I hung for the three years I was in high school, was to graduate. So it wasn't an option to drop out.
  • [02:32:54.74] So I got serious, and went on, and wrote a term paper. And it was the best thing that happened to me, because it showed me how to complete that process. I went to the library.
  • [02:33:05.51] We used to-- I grew up in this area. It was the cultural center-- the library, the Art Institute. The Art Institute was where me and my friends would go to, because it was free. We didn't have any money, so we'd go to the library and sit there and read books, or go to the Children's Museum, or the Art Institute and walk through there.
  • [02:33:22.46] But anyway, I started using the library to complete this term paper, and I wrote a term paper on drugs. And it educated me to what was really happening, what was beginning to happen, within the drug that was being introduced to the community.
  • [02:33:35.20] Cause again, we had marijuana, of course alcohol, tobacco. And cocaine wasn't a very popular item in the community, because usually the cocaine was primarily consumed by the professionals and entertainers. Just the people in the street-- you didn't have too many people in the streets dealing. They smoked weed and whatnot.
  • [02:33:59.37] So the paper that I did-- I did a great job with the paper, because I got interested in the subject. At that point, I started seeing my friends that was dealing and dabbling. So I got very serious with my pursuits to do this paper.
  • [02:34:17.37] I got the paper, and the guy gave me a D minus minus. But he allowed me to graduate. And after, he gave me my final card mark. And he told me that he passed.
  • [02:34:32.54] And I asked him, why did he give me a D minus minus on the paper, as good as it was? And he said, because he just wanted to let me know that-- he knew that it was a good paper. He said it was a great paper. He said, had you been doing anything all during the course, I would have given you an A plus on the paper. But I wanted to show you how your lack of effort could have cost you, in a negative sense.
  • [02:34:53.94] So education-- but again, if you're not receptive to being educated, there's nothing a teacher can do. There's nothing you're going to get out of books. So I think you have to open up your mind. And this is what we did during my generation at school. We strived to get all we could get.
  • [02:35:11.73] SPEAKER 1: Is that one of your favorite teachers?
  • [02:35:15.74] GEORGE RAMSEY: Yeah. Yeah. Again, I guess my favorite teacher-- well, in a different school, different levels. When I was in elementary school, my favorite teacher was a music teacher that played the piano and played the song Clare de Lune. That really engaged me musically.
  • [02:35:39.79] And then, when I got into junior high school, I had a teacher named Paul Glover. He was a social studies teacher. And he was very, very stern guy. But he told the class about Egypt, about Africa. And he told me about the Pharaoh Ramses.
  • [02:36:01.39] And he was just very adamant about us as men and young fellows, getting our act together. He stayed on us. He told us about being respectful to the young girls, about grown men, how important it was for us to put deodorant on. I mean, he was a very, very necessary male teacher, because there was always a shortage of black male teachers, even right now. He was a great influence on me.
  • [02:36:33.95] Then, when I got in high school, my music teachers-- I had a choir teacher, a music vocal teacher, named Abe Silvers. He was very, very helpful in me formulating my singing, the importance of-- I mean, I just got a lot from those particular teachers, for personal growth. Not musical, but from the personal standpoint.
  • [02:37:07.99] I think that that's where it connects with a student. You find someone that will connect with you on a personal level, that'll make you want opened up and be receptive to what they might be explaining or trying to facilitate in your life. So I had great teachers.
  • [02:37:25.83] Again, when I look back over it, really, I don't think I had-- well, I had one teacher that had a negative impact in my life. It's when I started junior high school. This was the only teacher that-- and I can't think of her name, but I can see her face now. But she had-- ooh, I was in the seventh grade-- sixth or seventh grade, I guess, sixth or seventh, whatever it was.
  • [02:37:52.76] Anyway, so she gave us an assignment to write a story. That was the assignment she gave to that class. So I went home, and I wrote this story about this kid that went with his mother to a resale store-- you know, where you sell old furniture, and things of this nature. They had a lot of those during that period in Detroit.
  • [02:38:14.50] So I wrote about this kid went to this store with his mom. And while his mother was talking to someone, he went into this old-- it was a desk. And it was real ancient desk. And he went into it. And he found a pencil. And he took the pencil.
  • [02:38:30.20] And so when he and his mother left the store, when he went home, he started writing. And this is the story that I wrote about this kid. And he started drawing. And when he started drawing, the pictures would come to life, and he would become a part of the pictures.
  • [02:38:44.21] And I created some particular scenes that he found himself in. And whenever the danger would appear, he would erase it. And that would break the picture, and then he would get away from it.
  • [02:38:53.94] So I had created this last scene where he was in Africa. And he's going through the jungle. He was looking. He's seeing the various animals. And he saw the lion, or a tiger, or something. And this started chasing him.
  • [02:39:05.72] And he was running, and he was running. And he was reaching for the pencil, and the lion-- and it was coming down on him. Boom. Then he woke up. He fell out of the bed. He had been dreaming.
  • [02:39:16.98] So I turned that story in. And the only thing she said about the story was-- well, back then, we didn't have ballpoints. We had pencils. We did our assignments in pencils. And being such, the situation my household was, you erased.
  • [02:39:37.10] You kept repeating. You'd write over the paper. You didn't ball the paper and throw it away. You just-- and so she complained about my grammar, the punctuations, how dirty my paper might have been. She said nothing about the content of the story. And I thought that was a great story. And it's still a good story.
  • [02:40:00.32] As a matter of fact, years later, someone wrote a-- I saw a show on television, back during the '70s. And it had almost the same theme that I had. I think it was called, My World and Welcome to It. It was the same principle of this kid who was writing the story.
  • [02:40:15.95] So that was the worst teacher that I had, because at that stage in my life, had she encouraged me and said some things that would have been encouraging to me, maybe I would have found out the appeal of writing sooner in life. But she stifled me. She shouldn't have, but she stopped me in my tracks. So I had good teachers, and one bad teacher.
  • [02:40:39.22] SPEAKER 1: OK. Also, what teachers [INAUDIBLE] with the job you do?
  • [02:40:46.15] GEORGE RAMSEY: Do what?
  • [02:40:47.91] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE] gave you the confidence to do the job you do.
  • [02:40:56.39] GEORGE RAMSEY: Exactly, right. Yeah, because in life, there's too much life. If you find one person that believe in you, you can build on that. It doesn't take every-- I mean, the more folks you got that are supportive of you, obviously, it can help a person. But all you really need is one person, because you build from that. And that's the way it was in my life.
  • [02:41:17.52] Like I said, I had a very strong mother. My mother was very, very positive. So I wouldn't allow too many external forces to have a positive impact in my life. I was always conscious of pleasing my mother. I wanted her to be proud of me. And so it was a situation where I was prepared to be a good student, because that's what my mother expected, and that's what she demanded.
  • [02:41:53.59] SPEAKER 2: Why did you agree to do a Legacy Project?
  • [02:41:57.08] GEORGE RAMSEY: Well, I just think it's important to share our experiences. And I guess I'm vain enough to think that I'd like for someone to know about me long after I'm gone because, again, this is a personal project that I'm involved in for my grandkids. I want them to know.
  • [02:42:17.27] I've done family research for my niece. And I'm pulling together all the facts about my family's background as I can. And I just think that it's important for the future.
  • [02:42:31.31] My youngest granddaughter, my younger son's kids, his two daughters and son, their grandmother is Korean. And my granddaughter, the oldest one, she's 10. She's been to Korea twice already. So I'm trying to encourage them to be not bilingual, but trilingual. I'm hoping that language would be something that she pursues.
  • [02:42:55.64] We're trying to get involved with a project asking host families in the United States to host these kids from Korea, from Germany, and somewhere in South America. So I'm trying to encourage my daughter-in-law to get involved in that project so that they can possibly host a student from Korea, cause they want them to stay for a year with their host families. And I'm hoping that if--
  • [02:43:23.70] And she seems to be interested. I just mentioned it to them on Sunday. She seemed to have some interest in it, because I think that its important, especially if they'll host a young girl. And maybe they can become a tutor for my grandchildren and export that whole process of learning the Korean language.
  • [02:43:43.25] So I just want them to understand the significance of my life. I don't think that I was here by accident. I think that we all have a purpose, and we have to find our purpose. And so I just choose to think that mine is to do what I'm trying to do-- preserve my family's history.
  • [02:44:01.74] I'm trying to research as much as I can about my mother's family. I don't know that much about my father's family, because he died when I was two. And then my mother was very-- she wasn't as open as I wish that she had been. But then I didn't start asking questions about her family until after "Roots." Then I started realizing the significance, the importance, of us understanding where we came from.
  • [02:44:27.42] [INAUDIBLE] something's true in life, but if you don't know where you've been, you might not ever find out where you're going in life. So I'm just trying to make sure that they understand where I've been, the kinds of things that I've done, the road that I've traveled down, so that they can build on that. I just think this is just another piece of the puzzle that I'm trying to put together so that they can look at this quilt. They can say that this is a part of what my granddad did.
  • [02:44:56.27] SPEAKER 2: This is not on the script or anything. If there were one gift-- this is a great gift that you're giving. If there were one gift that you could give to the world-- or, say, to the younger generation-- if there's one thing that you could will that all them would have, is there any-- you know what I mean?
  • [02:45:19.68] GEORGE RAMSEY: A love for self. I think that, again, if you as an individual have enough love for yourself, it won't matter to you how someone else feels about you. I mean, it's important. We would like for everyone to love us. But sometimes, it's not going to happen like that. So I think that it's important that we love ourselves, because selfishness is not all bad, because I can't love you if I don't love myself.
  • [02:45:50.42] It was difficult for me to think that you have to love me. I would like for you to love me, respect me. You're going to respect me, or we won't-- but I'm going to love myself. And if you don't love me, then that's your loss.
  • [02:46:05.97] So I try to impress upon-- again-- my grandkids, because I think that my son is off. He's 39 or 40 years old almost. So he's set in his ways. I just want to make sure that my grandkids have that as the genesis of what they're about-- love.
  • [02:46:24.87] Love-- when you love yourself, then it's easy to love others. But you should love yourself. So I think that this is-- like I said, love. That's what makes the world go around.
  • [02:46:36.62] SPEAKER 2: Any parting words you'd like to give us? Anything we didn't cover that you'd like to impress?
  • [02:46:43.46] GEORGE RAMSEY: Nah, I'd just like to thank you for the opportunity, and hope that you continue with this. I think that it's the start of something that can be bigger than big. Just continue with what you're doing. And I hope the young folks that's involved in it understand the significance of this, and embrace it, and do all they can to make this project work to the extent that you folks are trying. And again, I just thank you for the opportunity that you're sharing with these young folks.