Anne Guerrero discussing urban renewal ; part 1
BROADCAST: 1968 | DURATION: 00:50:04
Anne Guerrero discusses urban renewal and the difference between her neighborhood in a conservation area and a suburban neighborhood. She discusses how the area is changing and how the University of Illinois has affected her neighborhood. This recording ends abruptly and is part 1 of 3
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Studs Terkel Don't think about this thing. This means nothing. I'm going change the name later, you know, for the book, if we have to. That's up to you. It depends, you know. Florence, of course, is known. They know it's Florence when [unintelligible] we can change, if you want to. We'll talk about that later. We're seated in the kitchen of the apartment of Anne Guerrero and her children - some are asleep, some are out, it's a warm day. We're not too far away from that grand project. Something to our east, the University of Illinois, more of this later. The streets are hard to recognize coming here. I forgot where Taylor was, lost it entirely. It didn't seem, seem so different. We'll talk with Anne, who's lived in Chicago - where do we begin, Anne? How long have you lived in Chicago?
Anne Guerrero I've lived in Chicago all of my life, and in this neighborhood all of my life, from Vernon Park to Sangamon to Aberdeen, and here the last 11 years at this--
Studs Terkel Did you want to take that phone?
Studs Terkel Oh, it isn't your phone. The walls are thin. That's interesting, as as as you're talking you've lived in this area, almost in this neighborhood. It's a neighborhood of what about three square miles or so?
Anne Guerrero Yes, it's about three square miles. You really consider your area from Ashland, used to be to Halsted. Now, of course, it's up to Miller Street and Harrison to Taylor Street here. And that was really considered your area. On the other side of Ashland was foreign territory. Now, of course, it's even more foreign because it's a medical center there. Before there were just people on the west side of of Ashland that were considered people on the other side of Ashland. You know, they weren't they weren't of our area, so really our--
Studs Terkel When you say your area, what do you mean? Who are the people of your area?
Anne Guerrero Well, there's a mixture of people here, predominantly Italian, Mexican people who have lived here and have become accepted by the Italian people. But usually those are people who have been here for years and years and years, and everybody knows them - the butcher and the baker, the park district, the children. I mean everybody knows everybody else. I had an opportunity to move 3100 North last, two weeks ago. Beautiful apartment and beautiful neighborhood - trees, grass, the whole bit. And I was really on the verge of moving. And then all of a sudden I got this frightening feeling. I work, you know, and I take care of my six children by myself and all of a sudden it dawned on me, if I'm going to move and something happens to one of my children, what neighbor am I going to call to help me? Or, if the washing machine goes on the blink or the ringer pops up or something, who am I going to call the run over and fix the ringer for my daughter, you know, while I'm at work? Or if one of the kids get cut or something, who's going to bandage them, who's going to take - Who who will assume the responsibility in a in a strange neighborhood? They won't do that. Over here I have my next-door neighbor Angie, I got the lady across the street upstairs from me, downstairs to my right. I mean I've got everybody on this block that would do something for me, if one of my children were in need or we had to have aid or help. I wouldn't feel any compunction about running across the street and waking up the man to take me to the hospital two o'clock in the morning, 'cause his wife. He would expect it. He would expect me to do this for him. This is the type of neighborhood we live in.
Studs Terkel This is then a very tightly knit nei- which everybody knows, you can bank on people. You know your next-door neighbor.
Anne Guerrero That's right. That's right. This may not be the suburbs, but I think we've got a lot more than the suburban type of people have. We've got friendliness, true friendliness, here. Not the - not this put-on, once a week, come over to my patio and have a barbecue thing. This is, this is every day, every day living. My kids go with your kids to the park. Our children attend the same school. We all belong to the same PTA or the same church groups, and if we don't, we still help and aid each other. I'm not too good in speaking.
Studs Terkel [Unintelligible] very well.
Anne Guerrero And I hope that I can put across to you what this neighborhood, and what the people in it, mean to me. I don't say that we get along fine all the time, because we do have our quarrels. And usually when it comes down to me, it's usually the neighbor that's justified in yelling at me for something. But we have our differences and - but they all seem to work out. They all seem to iron out, and nobody stays mad at anybody for any length of time or nobody's really truly vindictive. There's also another quality about this neighborhood is that everybody knows everybody else's business. I mean nothing happens around here that doesn't spread like wildfire and it might happen this evening at nine o'clock, and when I get up to go to work tomorrow morning I meet 15 different people on the street and they'll all know about it. If one night I took my daughter to the hospital 11:30 at night, the next morning at least eight people on my way to work ask me how my daughter was. When I came home it was worse than that. It took me an hour to get home from Racine and Taylor to here to Carpenter because everybody wanted to know about Christine. Did the doctors do anything for her? Did I need anything? Was she all right? This is friendship. This is--
Studs Terkel This sounds like an old-time neighborhood, doesn't it? I mean--
Studs Terkel This is a the strange kind of neighbor in the middle of this century.
Anne Guerrero It is. Well, it may be strange.
Anne Guerrero Of course, I've never known any other type of neighborhood. I've, I know friends of ours who have moved away from here who bitterly lament their their predicament now. They've got beautiful homes. Most of them, I guess, according to the city planners and the city fathers would say that they have done better for themselves. They've moved. Their plumbing works. The electricity's good. Their environment's better, supposedly.
Studs Terkel I spoke to Angela Parisi--
Studs Terkel Diane, her daughter, and her aunt, Maria Meroni.
Anne Guerrero Beautiful people.
Studs Terkel And now they're unhappy. I'm gonna come to this matter. This neighborhood materially speaking, that is, it seems a little run down, you know, that is, physically. But you're talking about something else.
Anne Guerrero Yes, well, that - see there, too, you go on to something else. It depends on what you consider a true value. If you're a mani- materialistic type of person who considers the mink stole and the fountain in your living room and big bay windows and front lawn beautifully kept and what have you. All these things mean something to you, well, if they mean that much to you - to me, and I imagine to my children because my concern about moving involved them, too - we were more concerned about people, safety, friendliness, companionship. And again I guess I have to say safety. My boy is going to be 17. He's a young man, very good looking, and he's interested in girls as most boys of 17 are. And it seems that the girls he pals around with they all seem to be girls from the suburbs, girls from away from here. But this is I think basically true of all groups. They want to get out and see what girls or boys from other areas are like. I think eventually he'll probably marry somebody from this area, somebody that he's known all his life. At least I hope so. But my son and I have a very good relationship. He confides in me, and I doubt very much if he keeps anything from me. And some of the things that he tells me shocks me. These are supposed to be girls from good communities, girls from the suburbs, girls from better environments, better backgrounds, upper middle class. But believe me I think the girls around here, parents are stricter with them. The boys know that the parents are stricter with them. Then, of course, their buddy-buddy pals. I don't think any boy around here would take advantage of any girl. And I think the girls around here have as much respect for the boys in their own way.
Studs Terkel Would you object if your son married a girl from the suburbs?
Anne Guerrero Of course not, of course not. That doesn't really mean anything. I was just trying to make a comparison there. Everybody's always talking about what do you want to live in that dumpy neighborhood for, that - Why don't you move away? Why don't you get some, why don't you give these kids a decent place to live? Well, I don't know how much more decent it could be around here. The crime rate around here is the lowest in the city. We don't have any great crime. The boys had their little fights and spats but they take care of that themselves. That's not police work. We have our park here is beautifully run. We've got the boys club, if anybody wants take advantage of it. You can walk down the street here at night, you don't have to worry about getting hit on the head. We can come home from doings, in the summertime everybody's outside. There's no fear around here. I have friends who live in the suburbs that wouldn't dare be out after dark. They say it's dangerous to walk on the streets.
Studs Terkel This is the suburbs you're talking about?
Anne Guerrero The suburbs, yes.
Studs Terkel You said safety twice now, you mentioned safety. What is it that frightens you about Chicago?
Anne Guerrero Ah. What frightens me.
Studs Terkel Who are these people outside your neighborhood? Now, the people outside - you said there was a line, you said there was a line, wasn't there? Ashland--
Anne Guerrero Yeah.
Studs Terkel You named some streets. Who are they?
Anne Guerrero Well, maybe it's just like being in a family. You're in your family and you feel safe with your family. I guess that's the way I feel about this neighborhood. As long as I'm in the neighborhood I feel safe. When I get out of the neighborhood everybody else is foreign. I don't mean that I don't get along well with other people, because I believe I do. It's just safety for me and for mine, for my children. I'm preoccupied with my children, I'm afraid. As long as I know the kids are in the area someplace I don't worry about 'em. And when I know they're away from the area even if they go over here - the closest theater other than downtown is around Thirty-First and Halsted, and I believe that's the mayor's area - I don't feel safe then. One of our, one of our friends who own the bakery down here on Taylor Street on the east side of Halsted, lives right next door to the to the show on Thirty-First and Halsted someplace there. Whenever my girl goes to the theater and she's a little late or something, I always call her at the bakery, and then she goes next door to the theater and checks the theater and sees if Kathy's in there or not and sends her home or something.
Studs Terkel How old are your children now? Your oldest, your boy is 17.
Anne Guerrero And then there's Kathy, she's 15. Karen is 13. Christine is 11. Richard, little Richard is 10, and Carla is my baby, she'll be 9.
Studs Terkel And you have 6. You've got a scuffle.
Anne Guerrero Yes, I've got four girls and two boys.
Studs Terkel Before I ask you about yourself, this neighborhood, I'm gonna come back to this - this area, what is it, what is, what's happening to this neighborhood, your your area?
Anne Guerrero I think at the moment it's at a standstill. Home-wise people are afraid to move. There's so many rumors and there's so much speculation going on around, and you hear these so-called authorities on things that go around telling everybody not to do anything to their homes. That it's a waste of money. You're going to lose your home. I think, I think in another 10 or 15 years the area could be something, could really be something even with the same people here. But I don't I don't have too much faith either that any buildings are going to be put up that are going to be able to be rented by people like me or the lady next door. And--
Studs Terkel You mean not upper middle income bracket.
Anne Guerrero Well, I don't even think I'm upper middle income.
Studs Terkel No, that's what I mean. You mean you mean it'd be more more expensive than you can afford.
Studs Terkel Is that what you mean? The new buildings. In the name of urban renewal.
Anne Guerrero I have an idea. Yes.
Studs Terkel I think we should explain this just a bit. We've talking about the neighborhood since each interview is independent, you know. We're in the area that was part of the Harrison/Halsted area. This is the one that was--
Anne Guerrero This is a so-called conservation area, conservation area. People are supposed to have some guarantee, the mayor's word that they fix up their homes and do the necessary repairs and bring the - their homes up to the housing codes, existing housing codes, that the ar- neighborhood will stay. But the only thing that will really give the people any confidence in this area is for them to see a couple of buildings go up: apartment building or a couple of homes to be built. This would give them an incentive. They'd say, "well, there's a building going up, somebody's moving in there or somebody's living there. Okay. Well, that means this is going to be residential. It's not going to be a football field", you know, which is the biggest story going around now.
Studs Terkel Oh, is that this might be the football field--
Anne Guerrero That this is supposed--
Studs Terkel At the University of Illinois.
Anne Guerrero Oh yeah, that this will be the football field.
Studs Terkel We should point out that this area that Anne Guerrero calls, or the mayor has called the conservation area, is the remainder, is what remains of the Harrison/Halsted area from which people were made to move to make the University of Illinois be a downtown spot, when urban renewal was the word.
Anne Guerrero You see we're, we are surrounded here. On one side to the north of us we have the expressway. To the west of us Ashland Avenue, we have the medical center. East of us is Roosevelt Road and that Sixteenth Street project - the businessmen over there are supposed to be doing something or they're going to do something. So that, too, is a dividing line. And now on the east of us is the University of Illinois.
Studs Terkel So you're like, so in other words, this area is like an island?
Studs Terkel This is an island surrounded by institutions and highway.
Studs Terkel Expressway. So that's what this is.
Anne Guerrero Expressway on one side, high rise on the other, medical center on one side and University of Illinois on the other.
Studs Terkel So, if I follow this right that we draw the picture now, that you've drawn a picture of this area of your home, which you live. This one remaining area that once was part of a larger area - Harrison is what I mean - is now an island in which people live surrounded by institutions and automobile highways.
Anne Guerrero Right.
Anne Guerrero we have a picture. And you see in a way it does, it protects us. It's like a little fence around us, you know, surrounding us. And this I imagine would be fine, except that the people are afraid they're going to be erased from here, that they're going to be, they're going to be knocked down and dragged out, sent someplace else. And of course this is just the fear that the people to the east of us felt and the people to the east put up such a rousing good battle.
Anne Guerrero And lost. Oh I don't know. We may have lost. I feel a lot of us won.
Studs Terkel What is it you won?
Anne Guerrero I think a feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of being able to do something. They say you can't fight city hall. Well, we fought him. Him! We fought it, we fought it, so you can fight it. Okay, so we didn't win, we didn't win that battle. But there are thousands of other little battles that we won. There were a million concessions that they made that a lot of people don't know about. And I won't go into it all right now, but I believe when it all started they figured it was just a bunch of irate housewives going down to sit in the mayor's office. Now I know for one, Florence Scala's looked up to with much respect. And she is a leader of the community. And this is a winning.
Studs Terkel You yourself, Anne, have grown, too.
Anne Guerrero Yes, I feel I have too. When I first started out with this Harrison/Halsted thing I happened to be sitting at a meeting because somebody asked me to go. I heard Florence speak, and I thought "Well, gee, this is this is a woman I'd like to aid, I'd like to help." And I sent my name up to her on a little slip of paper and told her if there was anything I could do, just to call on me. Well, she did, became a two-and-a-half-year association. [laughter]
Studs Terkel Let's stay with this for a minute. So something happened to you, to Florence, to you, to other friends. Something happened to you. You realized that you as individuals could do something against a force that everybody thought is invincible, right?
Anne Guerrero Right.
Studs Terkel So this does something to you as a person, doesn't it?
Anne Guerrero Yes. And it was a victory. It was a victory for me. Prior to this, who would have ever thought that me, mother of 6 kids, housewife, would ever have gotten up to speak at the City Council or to speak before the State of Illinois board, and I did. I made three speeches that I remember. I went down to the to the polling place at five o'clock in the morning and was there to, to challenge Mr. Fiorito and due to the challenge he was throwed out of the box because had nobody challenged him he might have been alderman now.
Studs Terkel This is the man who ran against, when Florence ran as an independent candidate.
Anne Guerrero But he he, well, how would you put it? He took himself out of the race.
Anne Guerrero He withdrew, yeah.
Anne Guerrero Well, I did that, and it was a spur of the moment thing. We were at Hull House. It was two o'clock in the morning, and all of a sudden, I think it was Hank Janeiro that said, somebody ought to, don't you think somebody ought to go down there, I mean, just technically or something? And everybody turned and looked at me and I says, well, all right, I'll go. So I came home and got two hours sleep and was up and Angela came and picked me up, took me down there. I walked in, and I don't really think the people, the powers that be in that place, were much afraid of me. They were looking at a rather tall man I believe was from the IVI. Anyway, they sort of eased him out and around and away and they let me be. They didn't say much to me. I was, maybe they thought I was just an observer or something. But when Fiorito came in, I plumped myself up right next to him and I know their mouths dropped open because they expected the man to do this. You know, they didn't expect--
Studs Terkel Were you were you ever scared during this time?
Anne Guerrero No. For some reason or other, I might have been shaky inside, but I always felt my cause is just and I know I'm on the right and I know God's with me. Lose, win or draw, it's going to be because God wants it that way for His reasons He he wants it that way. But I always knew I was right. I would never have done anything had I thought it was wrong.
Studs Terkel Are you religious, Anne?
Anne Guerrero Yes, I am, yes. But I never felt any fear. I mean, a physical, you know, nervousness, shakiness a little bit, but my voice I was always surprised was so strong when I spoke up and I spoke out. You know, I always thought, well, it has to be a little spirit inside that's doing that talking because I'm not that - really I'm not a very verbal type of person. I enjoy talking, but I don't seem to be able to get my thoughts out. I I'm thinking them and they're right up in my head, but they don't come across right for some reason.
Studs Terkel You're coming across beautifully now. Let's let's go back to beginning with Anne Guerrero. You were - so Chicago all your life. Anne, I might describe her as very, very beautiful, young and much, much younger than her age, which I would guess, this is just for the sake of the book, very early 30s, very young mother. And, Anne, all your life, so you've lived in Chicago your life. What would you say is the big change in this city?
Anne Guerrero Well, I think there's two things. One, is the building. The - there's so much building you you you just don't recognize parts of the city anymore. You go from one - you don't recognize a city anymore. This morning I went down the street and went to work and there's a red building on the side, on the east, the south side of Taylor Street. When I came home today the building wasn't there. It was flattened. Now, downtown, the old, what is it? Post office, that old post office always has been, to me it's always been a beautiful building. I really loved looking at it. I used to the gawk at it like I was some kind of a country girl, you know, first time in the city. And now it's knocked down, and it was so beautiful. That change, there's an awful lot of change going on, and I can't decide whether it's all for the good or not. I don't know. I'm I'm not - I don't know if it's all for the good. All I know is there's a feeling of loss. A lot of things going down, a lot of things leaving us. Another thing is I feel in the city, I feel too many people are being led around by their noses. How can so many people not think? How can so many people believe what what the man tells them to believe? How can they just take it as gospel truth and swallow it down? You mean that people are not thinking anymore, that they're all been led? Nobody thinks? Everybody's complaining about taxes and the administration and urban renewal and politics and what have you, but nobody does anything. When they go to the polls it always works out the same way - the powers that be are the powers that are.
Studs Terkel What do you think it is?
Anne Guerrero I think they've got a good system. They've got, they've got a perfect system. Predominantly the big vote is the Negro vote. And they're the ones that have been keeping the powers in, and really those are the powers that have been hurting them as far as I can see. Those are the powers that are hurting them and yet those are the powers that they keep putting in.
Studs Terkel How do you feel about the civil rights revolution?
Anne Guerrero Oh, I'm all for them and I've marched with them and I'm in sympathy with them. The only thing is now I feel that the marches are too often and too petty. They're marching for every little thing. And I think they're losing their effect by marching like that. If they're going to go down and picket and and march for something big, I'll go. I'll march, too. But all these little dopey things that they're marching for. The other day I'm going to meet a girl - the young Negro girl, her and I are great friends - I'm going to go meet her in front of the Art Institute, and I'm late. I was supposed to meet her at five o'clock. Here it is five minutes to five and I just got off the bus and I want to get across the street and I can't get across State Street because there are people marching. And I'm in sympathy with the marchers, but all of a sudden, doggone it, what are they marching for now! Now I'm I'm a sympathizer, and if I feel that way, I can imagine the people who've been sitting on the fence. Maybe in their heart they wanted to aid in some way or assist in some way these civil righters. But all of a sudden they're feeling like I'm feeling and they're falling off on the other side of the fence: "Well, the heck with these people. Why should they annoy me? Why should they be allowed to bother me?"
Studs Terkel I'll come back to you, Anne Guerrero, your feelings. Here are you. You've marched with the Negroes, yet in this area which you live, how did you get this way? Don't most of your neighbors oppose this? Your feeling?
Studs Terkel Yes, I think they do. And I don't know how I've become this way. I have a problem here in the house. I don't use the term "nigger," and I don't allow it to be used in the house. And yet I don't know if it's my oldest boy's independence exerting itself or his testing me, - authority - or if he really feels this way. And I can't understand why he feels this way. I know that to a young- youngster in the teenage years, it's very important that they conform with the rest of their group. They have to be the same as the rest of the group. And I know that the boys he goes around with, their parents are, I guess, not really anti-negro. They're not really that way. I doubt very much if you'd find anybody from this area going to help the mayor out in Bridgeport picketing. We love our mayor, boo. [laughter] I don't think, they're sort of middle of the roader, too. They just don't want to be bothered with anybody, just don't bother us. You know, we're not bothering you and don't bother us. I doubt very much of anybody around here would deliberately hurt anybody or in any way - Negro or anything else - hurt anybody. It's just a matter of leave us alone and we'll leave you alone. And we have Negroes in the area. Of course, they're not here now. They've knocked down all of Eleventh Street and they're not here.
Studs Terkel So, I want to come back. So, your boy used the word then, the word "nigger", your boy used it.
Studs Terkel But you think his friends might have used it, is that it?
Anne Guerrero He's not allowed to use it in the house, and either are the rest of the children. Well, that's the same as swearing though. We don't swear in the house and we don't - there are certain things that you just don't say in the house, and I don't allow any, even my friends when they come to the house. And it's quite difficult to tell adults don't use those words, or don't use that term. And, but they've gotten the picture now, and they don't do it here.
Studs Terkel Of course, we want to come to Anne Guerrero, how she got this way. You. But before that, you say there are Negroes in this area?
Anne Guerrero Sure, the projects on the on the south of us is all Negro, and the projects right up here on Racine, which is smack dab in the middle of our area and we don't have any problem with those people.
Studs Terkel What do you think would happen if a Negro family rented a flat on this street?
Anne Guerrero Well, I think there would be trouble. I really think there would be trouble. I think, yes, definitely trouble. The projects is one thing. In the home, in the house, an apartment is something else.
Studs Terkel You describe this area. In other words it's like a family and it sort of has a fear of the outsider, is that it, generally, in the area? Is that the idea?
Anne Guerrero Yes. Yes, the unknown, you don't know these people.
Studs Terkel Fear of the unknown.
Anne Guerrero But I think if the new housing went up and it was an integrated thing, I think that would be accepted. I I really think it would be accepted because it's something new. So in itself, it's going to be a little alien, you know. And whatever's done, it would be sort of similar to the project that's city-owned, it's not owned by Mrs. Cabrini or Mrs. Palumbo or anything. It's owned by the city and whoever they put in there they put in there, that's their business. I think the same thing will hold true with the new apartment buildings. They will be an integrated thing or I imagine they almost have to be, if they use any of the federal funds. And I think this will be the same thing, it'll be--
Studs Terkel So people get to know one another as individuals. This fear, whatever it is, this wall breaks down. Do you ever dis- by the way, I know you're known in this neighborhood and all your close friends and all. Do they how you feel about this matter? Do you ever discuss that?
Anne Guerrero We had a meeting, our school, the old part of the building became Crane Junior High School. Crane High School is 99 percent Negroes. So, of course, all of the first and second grade students are going to be Negro, too. I knew if I went to the meeting, I would have to speak up and speak for the school. And I had my arguments all ready. After all, the school is there. The children need the school. They'll be here during school hours and by 3:30 they'll be out of the neighborhood, so the residents really don't have any real complaint to make. There were three meetings, and I didn't attend any of them. And I'm sorry to say that I didn't attend any of them because I was a coward. I knew if I went to the meeting, I would have to speak up, and I felt that if I didn't attend the meeting, then I didn't have to say anything to anybody. And that's just - was a cowardly way to do it, but that's the way I did it. I didn't attend. I had two ladies come here to the house to get me because they wanted me to speak. But they thought that I would speak on their behalf.
Studs Terkel Oh, these were the ladies on the half against the school.
Studs Terkel Because this might be negro-attended, against the school. These ladies didn't know your feelings.
Anne Guerrero I don't think they did because when they asked me to go to the meeting I says, well, I'm busy up until eight o'clock and by that time the meeting will probably be over. But if I can make it, I will. Well, Anne, you've got to come because you've gotta tell them how we feel. You've gotta let them know how we feel around here, that we're not going to tolerate any gangs over here beating up on our children and what have you. And I thought to myself, gee, I don't feel that way about it. What I'm afraid of is that our boys will beat up on their boys, on the little colored boys or something or do something like that. That's what I feared, you know, I feared just the opposite of what they were talking about. That was the first meeting, and I came back in plenty of time to make that meeting, but I didn't go.
Studs Terkel Because if you spoke, Anne, then you were faced, weren't you, with a real dilemma of your life in a way, weren't you?
Studs Terkel Because these are close friends of yours--
Anne Guerrero Yes.
Studs Terkel Who like you and you like them. You perhaps that you might even have lost them as friends, possibly?
Anne Guerrero I think, I I really don't know, and I didn't want to put it to the test. Maybe that was it, that I didn't want to put it to the test. I figured if I can weasel out of it, I'll weasel out of it. I've talked to the people out on the street, though, and when they're alone singly they speak in these cliches, you know, some Negroes are nice, you know, I - some of my best friends are, you know, this here bit. And, you know, it's a lot of bull. But when they get in a group that's when they're scary, and I think that's when you need all the courage you can muster to speak up. And I find that I - my voice is like the voice in the wilderness, you know. I don't know if anybody hears it or not.
Studs Terkel And yet these two women called on you because they know you're good on the floor. They remember you apparently from when you spoke out at City Hall, too. Isn't that it?
Anne Guerrero W ell, maybe. They know that I have been PTA president and they know that I attend meetings concerning the community. And really the last - after Harrison/Halsted, after, you know, it - after, rather the last aldermanic election really, it seemed that I was just fatigued, that I was just too tired. I felt like I'd neglected my children and my home, and I felt that I'm just not going to get into anything community-wise or anything-wise. I was just going to devote myself to the house for a couple of years.
Studs Terkel Anne, I'm thinking of you, this is a very powerful, dramatic case, of a beautiful case. Here are you are living in this area, your area, an island really. And yet you, unlike your neighbors are also aware of a certain world outside. So this kind of creates a little conflict in you, doesn't it?
Anne Guerrero Yes, it does, it does. I'm, I know how I feel. I have very definite views about certain things. But I also know that I can't foist my views upon other people. And I also know that I can't hurt other people. And I also know that other people are afraid of new ideas and new things. I'm not really afraid of anything new. I'm not afraid of the new university. I'm not afraid of the new buildings going up. When I mentioned them before I meant that they're they're new, they're strange, they're taking away the old, something that was pretty. But I'm not afraid of the new. And I think the people around here are satisfied with the status quo. They don't want, they don't want anything new in any way of their living, in any form. I don't think they'd like to see new neighbors move in. I don't think they'd like to move away. I think they're well satisfied with their pattern. And I'm satisfied, too, with my pattern, but I know that change is coming. And I know we've got to accept it, and I know that it's not all bad and it's not painted bad. And I know that all we need really is a hell of a lot of instruction, a lot of instruction because I feel just as sorry for the white people who are so fearful of the colored people as I am for the poor colored people who don't have much of a chance in this city. And they don't have much of a chance here.
Studs Terkel Anne, how did you get this- Now I gotta to come to it. First of all, you said you went to meet a friend of yours, a Negro girl, at the Art Institute there.
Anne Guerrero Yeah. Bobbie Jo King.
Studs Terkel What would happen if she were a guest at your house?
Anne Guerrero Bobbie Jo, though, is, she's a - I guess maybe she's just as dingy as I am. We laugh and joke, but I've invited her to the house four or five times. Definite dates, not why don't you come over sometime. But a definite, I'll expect you Sunday at three o'clock in the afternoon and you come over and have dinner with me. And she's married, she's married two weeks now, but this was before she was married. And she always said the same thing to me. See, she was concerned with me, she was concerned with my welfare. Anne, I'm not that familiar with your area, but I do know something about it. Now what do you want me to do? Come up the front stairs and stay in your house a half an hour and have the windows busted out before I leave? She says, I wouldn't do that to you.
Studs Terkel What do you think Angie, or your friends would say? Your good friends, I mean, ones who you like or like you very much? If this happened, they'd worry.
Anne Guerrero I don't know. I really don't know, and now Bobbie's married, and if I invite her now, I have to invite her husband, too. But I want my children to see that these people are no different than any other people, you know, that that they talk and they have manners and they eat like we eat. And they think and they've got feelings and they're sensitive and they're artistic. And some of them are strange and some of them are dumb. They're just like we are. There's nothing different about them. I want them to feel this, and I am definitely going to have Bobbie Jo and her husband come over. I am definitely going to do it, and I think I'll do it before the summer is out so that everybody'll be sitting outside when these people come in. This is a step that's got to be taken. Somebody's got to take it.
Studs Terkel It's a pretty big step for you, do you feel?
Anne Guerrero Maybe I feel too that my--
Studs Terkel And then again, maybe not.
Anne Guerrero Relationship in the community is strong enough to take it. Maybe mine is where my neighbor across the street who might have a friend just as nice as mine, maybe she's afraid to take it. Maybe I have to take it.
Studs Terkel That's probably so, isn't it, Anne? The fact that you are so respected in this neighborhood, you know, that maybe you can swing it.
Anne Guerrero Well, that's what I was thinking. I wouldn't say people call me a little odd. I doubt that, they probably don't call me odd, but the majority of women, if they attend anything, they just sit there and listen and they moan about things when they get outside. And I'm not the type. If I have anything to moan about, I'll moan about it during the course of the meeting. I figure, speak up where it'll do the most good.
Studs Terkel What's led you to the Art Institute?
Anne Guerrero Oh, I take the children down there once a month whenever there's a new exhibit on or something to - I have exposed my children to the finer things in life [laughter].
Studs Terkel Anne, you're great. I want to get back to, now I want to get back to beginnings. So, you're born here, beginnings, your family.
Anne Guerrero Well, my mother and father were divorced when I was 11 months old, so I was raised by a working mother with the aid of a great-aunt who was a very strict person. I might say, too, that at this time we lived south of Roosevelt Road right on the corner there, Sangamon and Roosevelt, which is all Negro. There were only 3 white families on the block. The Rus--
Studs Terkel At the time you lived there?
Anne Guerrero Yeah. The Russian butcher, my family, and my Great-Aunt Grace, who lived downstairs from us. Of course, we were right on the edge, you might say. And so I had a number of Negro friends. I mean practically all my playmates were Negro, and I've never had any fear of them. As a matter of fact I liked them. I've cried with them and eaten in their houses with them and I guess this has got a lot to do with the way I feel. How can you feel strange or fear from people that you've known all your life? When I became 11 years old, we moved over here on Vernon Park, and of course, I noticed then there's a big difference, there's a big change. But it didn't make too much difference to me because there weren't any Negro children to associate with over here. The only time you ever heard anything about a Negro was if, well, really I never even thought about it at that time. But as I got older, of course, I noticed that there were the gangs from Roosevelt Road came over into this area or something and everybody'd act very excited and call names and what have you. And even at that time I always felt a little guilt that, well gee whiz, I wonder who they're fighting with, you know. Or if it's anybody I know, you know. I always thought that way. I guess my background has got a lot to do with the way I feel and--
Studs Terkel Let's continue with this, stick with the background. So your great-aunt [unintelligible], how many were they in your family?
Anne Guerrero Well, just my brother and myself and my mother.
Studs Terkel Just the two of you, your mother and your great-aunt.
Anne Guerrero Well, my great-aunt lived downstairs with her husband, and she was really the boss of the family.
Studs Terkel What sort of woman did sh- certain, she influenced you in certain ways.
Anne Guerrero Yeah, she was an old witch. That's what she was. She died two years ago, about 89 years old, and she really was the leader of the family. See, the majority of our people don't live here. We are sort of spread out in Iowa, Missouri, and a couple of us in Wyoming. My mother and my great-aunt are the only two people here in the city of Chicago, and now it's just my mother and myself here. My brother's in service. He's in Hawaii.
Studs Terkel And your mother was a working woman most of her life?
Anne Guerrero My mother has always been a working woman. She took care of the two of us.
Studs Terkel So you've kind of been sort of on your own? Now schooling, you went to school around here?
Anne Guerrero Yes, I went to St. Francis for 5 years, and I graduated from the school across the street here, Andrew Jackson, which is the school all of my children have -- three of them have graduated from and three are attending. As a matter of fact, they still have the same teacher I had.
Studs Terkel Andrew Jackson Elementary School.
Anne Guerrero Elementary school.
Studs Terkel And St. Francis was the high school? Elementary?
Anne Guerrero No. St. Francis was the grammar.
Studs Terkel The grammar school. So you went half public school and half parochial school.
Studs Terkel Did you go to high school, too?
Anne Guerrero Yes. Not very long, though.
Studs Terkel Where did you go?
Anne Guerrero I went to Cregier over here.
Studs Terkel You went to Cregier?
Anne Guerrero Yeah, to Cregier.
Studs Terkel Not very long, you say?
Studs Terkel And yet, and yet you have this way of speaking.
Anne Guerrero Mine is a sad story, and I don't think you'd be very interested in it.
Anne Guerrero Well, it's it's really a sad story. My mother remarried when I was 12 years old, and we never got along. I think a lot due to my mother that we never got along, my stepfather and myself. So, I was kind of pushed out of the nest quite early, and I married quite early. And I've tacked 3 years on my age a long, long time ago, and now I'm dying to get rid of it, and I don't know how to do it [laughter]. Practically every record I've got has got me 3 years older than I am.
Studs Terkel So you married very young--
Studs Terkel To break away and thus you dropped out of school as a result.
Anne Guerrero Yes, and I'm out of school. I haven't sat back, though. I've tried to educate myself. I knew that education is something I'm going to need, not for myself only, although that's very important, but for my children I knew I'd have to have some type of education. And I've tried. I've done an awful lot of reading, and I think Harrison/Halsted was an education in itself.
Studs Terkel You mean the experience of--
Anne Guerrero The experience, yes.
Studs Terkel Of fighting on the side of Florence Scala against the authorities.
Anne Guerrero Yes, yes, sir! I mean learning who the commissioner of streets is and who your alderman is. I didn't know who my alderman was. I could have cared less who the alderman was and who the precinct captain was, and how many precinct captains there were. I didn't even know what precinct I lived in. I didn't know anything. I was flabbergasted at how stupid I was.
Studs Terkel But something happened here. See, throughout - what is it that made you speak out? What is it that, here you had little schooling. You were a mother a very early age, housewife early age. Yet something inside you here that is quite marvelous. Now what is it that, something in you. So, you, when did you sort of want to read on your own? When did this happened?
Anne Guerrero Well, for one thing, I think I've already said that I heard Florence speak. She's a very intense person. And I, too, am a very intense person. And I felt that she kindled something in me. She started so- she started the motor going inside of me. And I thought to myself, well, what am I just sitting here doing nothing? You know, this is my city, and this is my community, too. How can I sit back and moan and cry, if something happens to the community if I don't get up and do something, too? Course, when I started I didn't really realize the extent of involvement. But, of course, when I first started it was nothing but marching and running around getting people coffee, doing everybody's bidding. Which is what I figured was about all I was really good for, but it was helping, you know. It wasn't easy. I had to get my breakfast, dinner, supper, and everything made early in the morning to be at the march at ten o'clock, so that I wasn't neglecting the family or anything except my presence. And they were very proud of me, my children.
Studs Terkel Your children were, they were.
Anne Guerrero Oh, they were very proud. They stuck by the television set, and they watched everything, and they pointed to people. I never saw myself on TV. The children saw me, and when I'd come home, they'd be so excited. Mama, we saw you on television. They cut out pictures out of the papers and what have you that I would be in, you know. And I thought this brought myself up in their eyes, stature-wise, you know. We don't have a man image in the house here, and I try to tone down mama a little bit and let my older boy kind of take the masculine part in the house because I feel he needs this and they all need it, the girls, too. But I would keep telling them, well, this is really a man's job, but most of the men can't do it anyway, which is, was one of our biggest problems. We could never get the men down to do anything because they were either working, or most of them. That was the whole problem. They were working or for some reason or other they couldn't make it. Where the women had to carry and wage the battle because they could. And the men suffered by not having any supper or their clothes weren't ironed or something, but most of them took it so beautifully. It was a wonder. But my children were very proud of me. And I felt very proud of myself, too, when I did something that the kids could really look up to me for, you know. It's--
Studs Terkel What, what makes you aware of things like, say, no man in the house, the image, you know? This is a very, very profound observations on your part, you know. The fact that you're deemphasizing the mother part for the sake of your boy.
Anne Guerrero Well, I don't know what it is except that I'm, of course, deeply concerned with my family, deeply concerned with them. And I know that the masculine image is something they should--