Johnny shares his thoughts about the neighborhood ; part 1
BROADCAST: 1968 | DURATION: 00:49:28
Content Warning: This conversation includes racially and/or culturally derogatory language and/or negative depictions of Black and Indigenous people of color, women, and LGBTQI+ individuals. Rather than remove this content, we present it in the context of twentieth-century social history to acknowledge and learn from its impact and to inspire awareness and discussion. Fourteen year-old Johnny attends Harrison High School. When asked if he were God & what changes he would make, Johnny replied he'd see to it that Black people remain on the their side of town. Johnny has strong feelings about the neighborhood pool and that Black people shouldn't be allowed there.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Studs Terkel I was sitting here. It's so, a nice pleasant night in August. I'm talking to Johnny. Johnny, I'm thinking, what's your day like, say when you, the first thing when you get up in the--can you sort of remember what you do during the day? Take a day like today.
Johnny Today was, at the park was, they had swimming, you know, for the boys, so, I figured I got up about 11:30, fooled around the house for a little while, went swimming about one o'clock, meet the guys at the pool and everything. Then usually play baseball. Nothing to do, just hang around. And my mother's working all day, so I'm, I--my, my grandmother usually, my grandmother lives right next door and I'm usually, she usually watches me. You know, if I ever want anything, I just go by her. And we usually play baseball all day, just hang around the neighborhood.
Studs Terkel And then what time is it when you come home, say?
Johnny Well I, my mother wants me to be home at five o'clock when she come home from work. So she, you know, she could make sure everything's all right and everything, then I could go back out. But at night we don't do nothing, just hang around. Fool around with the girls. I'd be in about ten-thirty. Curfew.
Studs Terkel And that's the day pretty much.
Studs Terkel When you say "hang around," what do you mean by you say, "hang around"? What is
Johnny Talk, what we're going to do the next day, like, tomorrow we won't--tomorrow night we're going to the football game, talk about what time we're going to meet, and stuff like that. What we're going to do tomorrow, like, say we're going to play baseball, say we're gonna -- we're going here, you're going there. You know. So all the guys could meet, so you don't have to go calling everybody.
Studs Terkel When you say we talk, Johnny, who are, who is we? Who's we?
Johnny My boyfriends. Me, my boyfriends or whoever, whoever I'm with. We just, we got nothing to do, we just sit on the stairs or something like that and talk.
Studs Terkel What about school? Where do you go to school?
Johnny Oh, school I go to Harrison. It'll be my second year. I don't, there's nothing wrong. I, most of my--most of the friends that I got go to St. Philip's, I might transfer there. I mean but there's nothing wrong with the school, it's all right. I was going to Crane before, but I didn't like it too much, and I transferred to Harrison.
Studs Terkel Do you like Harrison?
Studs Terkel What about the teachers? How do you feel about them?
Johnny Well, I don't see nothing wrong with the teachers, they're, they're all right to me. They don't bother me, I don't bother them.
Studs Terkel What do you mean by that? They don't bother you, you don't bother them. Do they pay attention, are you interes -- are they interested in you, what you do?
Johnny No, I, I don't think that they have much interest like they were, like, in grammar school, we had one teacher. And she, she was interested in what you do, you could tell if the teacher, you know, cares. Most of them don't, don't care, "You do it, you want to do it, if you don't want to do it, don't do it, doesn't make any difference to me." That's what they think.
Studs Terkel So how do you feel when they, "You do it, you don't, it's okay". So, what's your reaction? How do you feel?
Johnny Well, I don't think--well, they--that's, I mean, that's their job, the teachers, but I guess if we don't want to learn, kids don't want to learn, they fool around. Like, some of them, they, they just come in the room, they don't do no work at all. They bring no books, they just sit in the back of the room or they fool around all day, teacher hollers at them all day. Like some teacher, I gue -- I guess they got a right to--you know, not care 'cause they're, they got so many kids. In grammar school we only had, most of the time you only had one room, she only had to worry about, like, 30 kids, and now they change classes, you got to worry about over 100 kids a day. You don't care if they want to do it, they're going to do it. That's it.
Studs Terkel So a teacher doesn't have much time to worry about the individual guy like yourself, you, Johnny, say.
Johnny That's right. Lots of worry. Like, she sees that somebody's trying and they don't, you know, and they don't understand, they'll help them, but if he sees they're fooling around, they don't get it, he doesn't--they don't really care, him or her.
Studs Terkel Well, does the teacher get interested when you get in trouble? Say you get in trouble or some such.
Johnny I don't, I don't get in much trouble, 'cause I don't know that many people there, you know. I don't fool around that much.
Studs Terkel Did, do you ever get into trouble, Johnny? You yourself?
Johnny We don't do, we don't do nothing real bad. You know, sometimes we fool around, maybe we'll break windows by old houses or something like that. But, I mean, we don't do nothing real serious.
Studs Terkel But you yourself, Johnny, have you, have you been in difficulties with, you know, say authorities or stuff? We can do this, they're no names here, you know.
Johnny No, nothing I could think of.
Studs Terkel Tell me about the guys whom you know. Or you, about yourself. What would you like to be when you finish high school?
Johnny Well, I don't know. Baseball season, like to be a baseball player, football season I want to be a football player. I don't know what I want to do. The idea that maybe about this year when I go back to school, that's when I should start thinking serious about what I'm going to do.
Studs Terkel Any course interests you more than others?
Johnny No, not yet. I like sports. That's what I got on my mind, sports.
Studs Terkel So you've got a dream of being a, a, an athlete.
Studs Terkel You don't know which one,
Studs Terkel What about the guys, your friends? What about them? What
Johnny There are some that are, they are smart, they want to be technical engineers, most of them. They think they want to--if they're smart. The ones that, that aren't too smart, they don't know what they want to be, they want to fool around all the time.
Studs Terkel Johnny, you're how old now, you're
Johnny Fourteen. I'll be 15 in October.
Studs Terkel You're 15 in October, you're going to Harrison High School. What about your family? How many are there in your family?
Johnny There's me, my brother and my mother that live in the house. Then we got my grandmother, she lives right next door, next house. With my aunt.
Studs Terkel What's your mother do?
Johnny My mother, she works at Illinois Lock Company.
Studs Terkel So she works, do you, so you take care of yourself pretty much.
Johnny Well, no, my grandmother, if anything I want or anything, my grandmother--I have to stop by and say, you know, like, check in every, you know, before the day's--I can't stay out the whole day without doing anything, I have to go in every couple of hours, you know, tell her I'm all right and all that.
Studs Terkel You ever see your father?
Johnny No. We used to, he used to pick us up once a week, but no more. I don't see him. He got remarried.
Studs Terkel Well, what do you think, Johnny, how do you feel about girls?
Johnny Oh, ain't nothing wrong with girls.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking about yourself and the guys you live around here, do you have a lot of friends? Who are your friends? What kind of guys?
Johnny Oh, they're most, they're all right. I mean, we hang around and do the same things, think the same way almost and everything. Play the same games and all that. Baseball together.
Studs Terkel Do you know guys who are not of your group, you know, you're, that you're Italian, you know. Do you know guys who are not Italian?
Studs Terkel What do you, what do you think
Johnny Well their, there's nothing, I mean, they're just as good as us, I mean, we no better than them.
Studs Terkel Your friends feel this, too? I mean, friends of your
Johnny Yes, most of them. There's maybe one or two guys that don't feel, they really feel they're, they're special. But I don't think so, I think just as good as them, they're just as good as us.
Studs Terkel Johnny, what about a lot of colored kids in the neighborhood?
Johnny Well, see, they--if they stay with their group they're staying, if they walk down the street it's all right, but I don't like when they, when they start like they start walking down the street parading like they're real big shots and everything, with about five or six guys. See, I don't like, if they stay in their own neighborhood, I don't go bother them, though. If they come around here, you know, we just-- may sometimes we hit them or chase them away or something like that. We don't go looking for no trouble.
Studs Terkel But just they should be where they are, and you where you are. Do you know any, any, any colored guys?
Johnny Oh yeah, in school I know a lot. They're all right. They, if they like you and you like them, I mean, they could be a lot of fun. But you know, if they don't like you and they keep bothering you and everything, you get to hate them. And it only takes one to make you hate a lot, you know. A couple bother you, and you ain't got no friends, no Negro friends, and then it's, you hate them all. Can't like, you can't like some and, you know, hate some.
Studs Terkel Just thinking, Johnny, as, as, you know, you're talking. Do you ever--the subject ever come up at home, say with your mother?
Studs Terkel The subject of the Negroes, you
Johnny No. I mean, there was, like a couple of nights ago, they were fighting on Racine. They were fighting over there, you know, the Negroes and the whites, chasing each other around and everything. And I told my mother, she says, "Well, you stay out of it. You just stay over here. Mind your own business." But that's the only time that we ever talked about it.
Studs Terkel Ever run into--you say you have friends who are Negroes. I'm just thinking, on Harrison, you know. You know some guys who are Negro at Harrison?
Johnny Yeah I know, yeah I know a few. Like, like it's about half whites and half Negroes over there. I think I got more Negro friends than whites, you know.
Studs Terkel Well, that's kind of strange isn't it, then, if you got more Negro friends than whites wouldn't you feel that, you know, maybe that's--
Johnny See, that's at school. I mean, like in the summer it's different. And at school, you know, you don't, you don't think of, of anything, you see them all day. But then, like in the summertime you see them walking down the street, down Taylor Street, parading up and down, and you, you don't like them. But, like at school I see them every day and I don't, I know that you can't do nothing, you can't do nothing about it. So, leave them. Can't bother them. If they don't, if they bother me then that's different, but I mean, I don't go chasing them or anything like that.
Studs Terkel So, that's interesting, Johnny, I'm just thinking of something. The guy you know at school, you know. He's colored, you know. You know him. And you, you kind of like him, or you get along with him, is that it?
Studs Terkel But when these kids walk down the street, then they're kind of strangers, is that the idea?
Johnny Yeah that, I guess that's it. But the niggers--the Negroes at school, they don't, they live in their own neighborhood, I mean, they go to that school, but then after that they go home. But like now, they live on that--further down on, on Roosevelt and everything. They, I mean, they come walking up and down the street, I think they're looking for trouble. I mean I would, if I wanted a, if I was robbed, be afraid to go down, walking down in their neighborhood. I don't know what makes them want to walk down here.
Studs Terkel What do you think it is, Johnny? What's your
Johnny They want, they want to be just as good as us. They want to have everything that we have. I say if, if I was a, if I was a Negro, like this one that want, that's want a mind to to go to that university, if I was--
Studs Terkel Mississippi. That the guy you mean?
Johnny Yeah. If I was, if I was, like, say I'm white, if that, if that univer -- university was all, was all Negro, I, I don't think I would want to go there. I mean I wouldn't want to be the only white, I don't see why he wants to go. There is a lot of universities that have Negroes. He wants to start going and I guess--now see all the trouble that caused, 'cause it's just one. Just want to go to university. Couldn't go to another university where, you know, a lot of other Negroes are at. And I wouldn't want to go to a university that's all Negro if I was white.
Studs Terkel Most of your friends feel this way as you do? You know.
Studs Terkel Johnny, when you get--you spoke, you want to be an athlete when you get through--that's pretty much on your mind, huh? Either football or--
Studs Terkel You know, I was thinking of something. A crazy thought just occurred to me. How many of these, there's Willie Mayes, you know, or Willie Galimore who was killed, you know, in the auto crash. What'll happened then when you, say you become a pro athlete, and on your team are colored guys? You know, you work with them.
Johnny Well, you're going to have to learn to work with them. They're, I mean, if they play just as good as you, most of them, a lot of them, hear a lot of Negroes that are real good, but a lot better than the whites, like they're basketball players, most of them are real good. I mean, if you're on a team, they're on a team, you have to just work with them. I guess. Have to learn to play with them as a team.
Studs Terkel Let's come back to another thing--how long, you, you were born in this neighborhood?
Johnny Yeah, I was born right around this neighborhood. I think I was born in, on Ohio Street. I was living when I was born.
Studs Terkel It occurred to me. You're in this neighborhood. You go to Harrison, you know, you live around here. Do you ever see much of the rest of the Chicago? Like, you go to Loop much or
Johnny Oh, yeah, I went to the show about last month. Last couple of months went to the show twice or three times. Go downtown to the show, you know, look around. I like to go downtown a lot. Show, eat, go to Wimpy's or something. Lot of fun. Go with my boyfriend, one or two boyfriends.
Studs Terkel What shows do you like? What kind of shows?
Johnny Funny pictures, dramatic pictures. I don't know. Whatever one, like I hear they're good, I go see them. Whatever ones my boyfriend wants to go see, you know, whatever we agree on, go and see anything downtown. Like, last time, we went to see Bikini Beach. Went and see, time before that, Robin and the Seven Hoods, stuff playing at State and Lake or Oriental or something like that.
Studs Terkel You watch television much?
Johnny No, not, not lately I haven't been watching television at all. I turned it on last night, was the first time in about three weeks. I don't watch it much.
Johnny I'm busy playing outside. Or whatever I'm doing outside, I don't--I'm never, hardly ever in the house. I just stop by, check in and go back out and play with my boyfriend, or else I'm at my boyfriend's house or something.
Studs Terkel What time do you go to bed usually?
Johnny Oh, I'm in the house about ten-thirty. I go to bed whatever time, you know, if I fool around at the house. Like say I'm -- maybe I'll watch TV. I've haven't watch -- done that for a long time. Whatever time when a movie's over about 12 o'clock, or I just lay around and finally I take a shower and go to bed about 11, 11:30. On school days I go to bed earlier, but, cause -- or else I watch the movie, cause it's hard for me to get up, I don't like to get up early. I don't think nobody does.
Studs Terkel Johnny? What do you read, do you read something?
Johnny I don't care for reading too much. I mean now, in the summer, I don't read. I don't find no, no time to read, I'm always outside playing. I don't find no time to read. But I have to read in school. Book reports and all that.
Studs Terkel Seeing these headlines today, you know, the idea of, you know, airships and planes and trouble maybe. Is that--the, you guys ever talk about that? The bomb?
Johnny Well, me and my boyfriend talked about it today, wound up at my house, and he was reading the paper about, what is it, that place we're fighting with now.
Studs Terkel Vietnam?
Johnny Vietnam. He was reading the paper and they had, they had a map over there of South Vietnam and North Vietnam, and he goes, he goes to Lane Tech now, he's gonna be in his third year, and he's pretty smart and he was explaining to me and all what's going on. And, like, he's telling me that in North Vietnam they get, they gave them, China gave them the guns and everything, and they said, "If South Vietnam's attacks you, then you fight back," and here China went and attacked them and they thought it was to make them think that it was South Vietnam, and then they start fighting with South Vietnam, you know, and they, like, caused the war so they could take over. So that's, that's what's going on, I guess.
Studs Terkel How do you feel, you guys ever talk about that? How do you feel about the idea of, about war?
Johnny Well, if, if you have to, like, Johnson I, I don't think he really gives a care if there's a war or not, the way--from what I hear on television or on the radio or what my boyfriend says, he says "If they want to fight, let them fight," go fire back on them. I mean, if there's a war, I wouldn't want it to be over here, I'd rather it be in China or South Vietnam or whatever we're going to fight. I don't want it to be over here. I'm too young to be drafted or anything in a couple more years.
Studs Terkel I was thinking, you know what the bomb is, the H bomb, you ever talk about the H bomb?
Johnny There was talk about the atom bomb today.
Studs Terkel The atom bomb, yeah. What'd you talk about?
Johnny Oh, he says, I mean, he says that we were, we're fighting with South Vietnam, North Vietnam, wherever, China, wherever we're fighting with, I mean, but it's only a fight that -- we won't go throwing no A-bombs on them or atom bombs or H-bombs or anything like that, you know. Just blow them up, we fighting like that. That's
Studs Terkel Well, how do you feel about the H-bomb? You yourself. You ever worry about it, the guys?
Johnny No, we don't talk much about stuff like that.
Studs Terkel Johnny, I'm going to play a game with you and I'm ask you a question. Let's say you're God. You're God, you know what I mean? And you got all the power there is. And you can just wave a hand and you can change this world, make it--what kind of world, you're God, Johnny. What kind of world would you make it?
Johnny Well, if there had to be Negroes, there's Negroes you have to give them first, I'd have it so they had their own, own place, and where they had to stay on their side of the line, we had to stay on our side of the line, and everybody would, you don't have to worry about fighting or anything like that with the Negroes, because that's most, most of the trouble what's going on right now. And I wouldn't want any of this fighting, I guess. People killed and everything for no reason. Fighting just for their pride, for pride. I mean, I mean not just for their pride, because pride is a big thing. But fighting, being killed and everything. You know wars, and all that, I would have a, a line right down the middle I guess, or wherever there is more whites, give them more room. Negroes' [have a?] room. So there won't be no fighting with them. I guess that's it.
Studs Terkel Anything else the world you'd like to see? You go ahead. It's your world you made -- you, you can do whatever you want. You go ahead. What else? It's your, it's like a fantasy, you know? I mean you can make it, you're Aladdin, you've heard of Aladdin and the lamp? You, you rub that lamp, you know, and that'd say, "What do you want? Your wishes?" And that's the world. What are your wishes?
Johnny Well, I don't think I'd have any wishes, I would only be wishing for somebody else. If I was wishing for me I could wish a lot of things. But you know, like for all the, for somebody else, I don't know what they would want.
Studs Terkel But wish for you. I mean, what would you
Johnny Well, if I'm God I don't, I got everything, I guess.
Studs Terkel You got me. [laughing] Johnny, you dream, yourself. You've got a dream. You know, if a guy daydreams, you know, sometimes. What would you like to have for yourself when you grow up? You want to be an athlete, true, a top athlete. What else? You would like to get married?
Johnny Oh, I don't know. They're all troubles if I -- see, right now I say I'm not going to get married, but I don't know. My mom says, "You're going to get married." I says, "No," and she says, "All right. Wait and see." So I don't know, I don't want to get married I guess. Right now.
Studs Terkel Well, you're pretty young. I mean--
Johnny Yeah, I know. I mean, in the future, I don't think I want to get married. I don't think right now that I want to get married.
Johnny I don't--more troubles and bills, and everything I rather be a bachelor.
Studs Terkel Is that because of what you've seen yourself, is that it? Did you see marriages, that's the way you've seen marriages.
Johnny No, well there's--half are happy I guess, half are not happy. But I don't think I want to get married, I want to be by myself. Have worries by myself and have to worry about nothing else, like kids or my wife or anything like that.
Studs Terkel So you just, yourself is plenty to worry about, huh? Now you say you've got a, you got a Yeah. Dominick.
Johnny brother, Yeah. Dominick.
Studs Terkel Is he older or younger?
Johnny He's a year older than me.
Studs Terkel A year older. What about him? How do you feel about your brother?
Johnny Well, he's my brother. I don't know what you mean by how do I feel about him.
Studs Terkel I mean, do you talk much with him about things? You
Johnny No, well, he likes, he doesn't like no sports at all. He never plays with us or he never hangs around with us or anything, he doesn't like no sports, he, like, goes after all the girls and everything. So I don't, I talk with him, but I don't talk much, he comes home and tells me all things that he does every day. I tell if I went to the show, I tell him what I, what happened, what I saw, and what it was about.
Studs Terkel You, you don't talk much with him,
Studs Terkel What about your mother? You and your mother talk about things now and then?
Johnny Yeah we talk. She, she works all day and I see her when she comes home at night. I meet her at the store, she brings home all the groceries, I have to help her carry them.
Studs Terkel You mentioned your grandmother.
Johnny [Unintelligible]. That's where, we eat down there every night, she cooks every night for me, my aunt and everybody. And we eat down there every night, you know. She makes macaroni and all kinds of Italian food dishes. You know, you know I go by her all the time like, if I need something during the day, just go by her, if I'm hungry and I ain't got no money or anything, I just go by my grandmother. 'Til my mother comes home.
Studs Terkel You're kind of close with your grandmother, then.
Johnny Yeah. And my aunt that, she lives with
Studs Terkel Your grandmother ever tell you stories? Was your grandmother born here in America, or was she born in Europe?
Johnny She was born here in America.
Studs Terkel And your grandmother was. She has no, she ever talk to you about stories of the past or something, about this neighborhood, what it once was or something
Johnny No, she doesn't talk much about that now. Lot of times when I ask for, like if I got money or something, she says, "When I was a kid I didn't have that much money," all that, I heard about that a lot, you know. Like I have too much, I'm spoiled.
Studs Terkel Well, where do you get the dough, Johnny, when, when you go out? Just occurred to me.
Johnny Well, right now I'm painting, I'm helping the man downstairs paint. I get a couple of dollars from that, or I babysit for a lady downstairs sometimes. Then my uncle gives me a dollar or two dollars sometimes at the end of the week. Like if I'm going to the show, my mother knows I'm going downtown, she'll give me a dollar or two, you know. But I don't go downtown, I go about once a month or something like that, not even. But if I need money, most of the time my mother'll give it to me. Or my aunt. See, I got a lot of--my aunt, I got my aunt, my mother, my grandmother, my uncle. I can, you know, if I need money one time I'll go by my uncle, maybe he'll give it to me. Only sometimes I get it. Three-fourths of the time I get it, but not all the time. I don't think nobody gets it all the time.
Studs Terkel You're kind of the favorite, aren't you?
Johnny Well, my brother has been in some trouble. You know, he always, he wants a car right now and he's too young, he doesn't have a permit, a license or anything. So I guess that's why.
Studs Terkel I was thinking of something, about one or two more questions, Johnny. The police. They come down around here, cops. How do you feel about the police?
Johnny Well, what do you mean?
Studs Terkel The cops. You know.
Studs Terkel You have a feeling about them?
Johnny Well, some of them, they, they get, get on my nerves, like, there's a, a place that sells tortillas downstairs a couple of doors away from me. And we were standing out there last night. Not last night, about a few weeks ago, we were standing out there and the guy comes, a police--cop comes, you know, to check every day on the, every night on the place, about, what is it, about nine o'clock I think, and he puts a piece of paper in the door, you know, to show he was there and everything. So you know, we were fooling around, we says, "Hey, this guy, this guy tried to break in here." You know, he knew we were only fooling around, we were only kidding him and everything. He goes, "Shut up, you punk, I give you a [roop?]." He says, "What do you think, you're smart from your, 'cause you're from Taylor?" and all kinds of stuff like that, he starts getting real cocky, I mean, we didn't do nothing to him. See, like that, that's what, kinds of cops that make everybody, that they make, they make kids hate, hate them. You know, that's why a lot of times, kids do things bad because, just because somebody'll get cocky with them or push them around too much. They figure they owe it to somebody and they just do it. Most of the time, so. But then there's nice ones, like we were standing on the corner a few weeks ago, two, we're talking now. Some guy that's a cop a couple of blocks away, he says, "Well, so it's like," he says, "Yous guys got to be in by curfew, you know," he was talking to us and everything. Talking about the Negroes and all that, he says, "Yous guys got to be in by curfew," and all kinds of stuff. Talking [with
Studs Terkel What did the cop say about the Negroes?
Johnny Well, he says, we were talking, he says some, I don't know how we got on the subject or anything, but he says, like, some Negro, you could be walking down a Negro neighborhood, even a man will jump you, knife you or beat you or something like that, even men will do that, like if I see, a funny white man, like somebody's father was standing outside and they see Negroes go by, I mean, they wouldn't even think of saying anything to them. Like, the Negroes -- they walk down there, even a kid, man'll jump them, throw them in the alley or something like that.
Studs Terkel Johnny, I'm thinking, you, you enj -- you, you getting a kick out of life? You enjoying the day-to-day stuff, your feelings?
Johnny Yeah. Well, like when I go to bed at night, I figure another day's gone by, I never get nothing accomplished, but I guess I was playing all day and the day just slipped by, that's all. Like, say, I'm going on a picnic, and it'll be fun, you know, but I expect, I guess I want to do something every day that's important. Well, I don't do nothing, play, go swimming, play baseball, stuff like that.
Studs Terkel You mean, you actually think, "Gee, nothing was accomplished today" when you go to bed?
Johnny Yeah, you know, I feel like another day's gone by, another vaca --another day to vacation I guess, because I don't like to go--I, I hate to go back to school. You know, I figured a day went by and I didn't even think about hours going by or anything like that. So.
Studs Terkel What is it, you said that you like to do a different thing each day, is that it, something new,
Johnny Yeah, I like to fool around and do something, you know, do something out of the ordinary, something that I, that I couldn't do, like when I was going, like when we go back to school, something that I couldn't do, I could do it, you know, during vacation.
Studs Terkel This may be hard to answer. Is there a certain day you remember that's--you're 15 years old, a certain day in your life you remember best as the happiest day? You know, experience, is there one experience you remember as something [banging sound] more than others? I know that's a, that's a tough one to answer. Some event or something? Or some person you met and you remember best?
Johnny I remember when we went for about, ten guys we need but, met about another ten guys at the football game when we went. We had all kinds of fun walking around, you know, watching, after the football game, came home in a cab, fooling around, we went by Nate's and eat and everything. We used to always go to stock car races on Saturday nights. That--we used always have fun then all, every day. I mean, every night, that we used to go to the stock car races.
Studs Terkel It was a camp. Was
Johnny Yeah, where, when all the guys were there for the weekend with Fred.
Studs Terkel What kind of camp was
Johnny Well, it was a winter camp. We stayed out there, we played football. You know. Not too much football. We went--we had our tree, I mean, we were shooting a gun, tobogganing, everything. Most of the fun was that, that you know the guys that'd be with you, and they'd be with you all day. Like, like if, like I go outside tomorrow, I mean, the guys'll have to go in maybe three o'clock, one guy has to go to work, or two o'clock a guy'll have to go in and help his mother. Like at camp you know, the guys will be with you all day, he sleep, sleeps right next to you, and I think you have all kinds of fun 'cause you know your boyfriends there with you. All fun outside playing everything.
Studs Terkel Why do you remember that time the best? Why? What is it about that time?
Johnny Because I was with all my friends and I had a lot of fun. I like to be with, with people, I guess. Have fun.
Studs Terkel You mentioned your friends. You have close friends, huh? Some?
Johnny Well, most, I mean, they're all just about the same, but maybe I like one or two, you know, best because they don't talk behind your back or something like that.
Studs Terkel Since you mention that, are there guys you know whom you can trust, say with your life? You know anybody like that? One
Johnny There's actually about two, I guess. One or two. That I would trust.
Studs Terkel You mean you can tell them something very confi--they'd never let you down. Never rat
Johnny Yeah. I think there's about--I mean, like if I did something bad, then I wouldn't tell--I mean they wouldn't go telling nobody, except maybe another guy, you know, that they would tell, but, no, I mean none of them will go rat -- ratting out on you if you did something bad.
Studs Terkel Johnny, one last question, then maybe Fred'll want to ask you one. One last--how do you feel about yourself? You like yourself? You, you proud of yourself, you like yourself?
Johnny Most of the times I like myself, but sometimes I do something, some things that I don't--that I hate myself for doing it, and I wish, I wish I hadn't, hadn't did it and, you know, start all over and not do it. Couple, lot of times that happens to me. I mean, I don't--there's nothing.
Studs Terkel Well, for instance, you say, what is it you did or would do that would make you not like yourself or hate yourself? What?
Johnny When--I can't think of anything.
Studs Terkel But you see, you said it. That's why I asked it, you know.
Studs Terkel Something you did. Involving other guys, maybe?
Studs Terkel You can keep it general, you know, I mean, if you don't want to, you know, mention it, talk, it's okay. There's something you did you feel sorry for, is that it?
Johnny I, I feel that I wish I hadn't, I hadn't did. I hadn't done.
Studs Terkel You feel that this might have hurt some guys? Is that, is that what you mean?
Johnny Yeah well, you know, that I, I--it was wrong that I did it. I, I should -- I shouldn't have did it. Like, one guy like, say somebody told me not to tell somebody something, or and I went and told the guy, and then I went and told him that I, that I told that guy, you know, he tells me, "I'm never going to tell you anything again," and I ratted out on him, I guess.
Studs Terkel So you feel you betrayed -- so does this bother you, I mean, this stays, obviously it's on your mind, your, your conscience like, is that it? It disturbs you. Well, anything else Johnny, you feel like saying? It's a nice evening, we're talking here. Pet peeves or, or likes or something? Fred, you want to ask Johnny something?
Fred Christie Yeah, I've got one. No doubt John you've heard about the rumors of integrating the Sheridan Park, the Negroes coming over and going swimming.
Fred Christie Tell me, what do you think number one is, is going to happen when they, when they come over, and number two, if anything is going to happen, how can we stop it?
Johnny Well, I think, I think mostly everybody knows what's going to happen when they come, that they're not, they're not wanted, and I guess they know that and everybody else knows it. And I don't know why they want to come, why can't--why don't they mind their own business? They know it's an all-white swimming pool. And if you don't want anything to happen, best thing to do, I guess, is tell them not to come. 'Cause I don't think there's any way you're going to be stopping it. Maybe Jim DeVito could stop it once, or he'll have guards in there or something, but there's going to be trouble.
Fred Christie John, did you realize that the park is a public park and is open to anyone in the neighborhood?
Johnny Yes, yes I realize that, but--I mean, like at the Boys Club, you don't--I'm--I, I myself, I don't want to go there, Fred, because there's--it's all Negro, I wouldn't want to go. I want to feel comfortable. I don't know why they want to come and bother us at the swimming pool. I don't see no reason why they want to come.
Fred Christie Have you heard, have you heard what's going to happen? I mean--
Fred Christie Do you think there's going to be a lot of fighting and so forth?
Fred Christie You
Studs Terkel Johnny, Fred -- why do you think there's going to be fighting? You know, I guess the word's gotten around the neighborhood that it may be integrated, you know. Has there been talk about that is that it? Among the guys?
Johnny A coup -- one guy told me, I says, one guy says, "I hear there's going to be Negroes coming into the swimming pool." And I says, "I don't know why they want to come, but if they come, I know there's going to be trouble." There's going to be trouble, that's it, what could you do?
Fred Christie How would you stop it, John? How would you stop it? You know they're coming. There's no way to keep them from coming. How are we going to stop it?
Johnny You don't, I guess. I keep--I mean, there's going to be fights no matter what happens. Because they, they aren't wanted.
Fred Christie Do you, do you think that after there is a few fights, you know, a few heads get busted, it'll stop there and the guys will say, "Okay, we'll let them come and we'll just--they won't bother us, we won't bother them."
Studs Terkel Well Johnny, you mean, you mean they'll go on forever?
Johnny Well I don't think they'll come after a while, if like, if Fred said, after a couple of heads get busted, I don't know whose are going to get busted, or what's going to happen, but like they built that new Boys' Club for them, I mean, none--you don't even see no whites, maybe there's one or two that live with them that are, that are going there, but I mean they built that whole new Boys' Club, they got that whole thing over there, everything over there, dances and pool tables and games and big old gym, and now why do they want to come and bother us? I mean, we don't--we don't go over there and bust in on their gym or you don't see nobody going in there playing pool or anything. They got that whole Boys' Club for themselves, and now they want to go swimming.
Studs Terkel Johnny, I want to ask you something. You yourself. Why do you think you, you--how you--how would you feel? I'm asking you now. If these Negro kids do come to the Sheridan Park, you know. And let's say they keep coming, eventually. Would you take part in--?
Studs Terkel Huh?
Johnny Well, whatever. Whatever if they have to get--I guess they're going to use force or--whatever we're going to do, I mean, I ain't going to let my, my boyfriends fight and everything and stay there by myself and watch them. I mean I'm gonna get -- everybody's gonna be in on it, I guess. Big, little, small. Everybody's gonna be on it.
Studs Terkel You sure you don't want to be out of it, cause there's, there's a
Johnny Oh, it's not that I don't want, I don't want no fight to be--if there--I, be better for me if they didn't, if they didn't come, if they didn't have no intentions of coming, I rather they not come, but if they're going to come, I mean, if they're going to come, I mean you ain't going to stand back and watch them take over. Because if one or two comes, and they go swimming and everything, then four or five are going to come the next day, before you know it, it's going to--everything's going to be Negro.
Studs Terkel John, I'm trying to understand, at Harrison High School, you know, in your class there, have they taken over your class?
Johnny Well, yes, I, I guess so. You might say that. Most, mostly Negro.
Studs Terkel Well, what do you mean by "take over"? That's what I want to know. When you say "take over."
Johnny I mean, well you know, there's more -- they don't take over, I mean, they don't push--they--I guess the big ones tell me what to do, you know, and they push you around a little bit and everything, you know. Even if it was whites, I mean the big ones, they won't let you get cocky with them or nothing. But they more or less, you know, are the ones that are always fooling around.
Studs Terkel The thing I can't understand, how come some of your closest friends are Negro at Harrison? What is it, are they different, or?
Johnny Well, I, I guess they like me. You know, they don't fool around with me, and sometimes they hang with me, we play penny pool or something like that together. All day.
Fred Christie Johnny, this is a tough question and I want you to answer it. You don't have to answer it on the tape if you don't want to, but the tape is not going to be repeated anywhere else. Nobody's going to know it was you. But let's say you had to pick out two guys who, if they said, "Okay, let them come. We won't fight them." You know, if they agreed to it. I'm not, I'm not asking you to tell me two guys who are going to fight, the big fighters. Two guys who are, have enough influence in the park to sway a good many of the kids away from fighting, who would they be? Two guys who would be helpful?
Johnny I don't, I don't think, Fred, that any of them would want to.
Fred Christie That's not my question. My question is, who, who, who's big enough in that park? What two guys? Kids?
Johnny Well, I don't think, Fred, I don't think I would want to tell you, 'cause then you would go and find the kids and you would tell them, and you would probably persuade them to tell the other kids not to fight. I mean for that, I don't want them to take over the park. I don't want, I don't want them coming.
Fred Christie You want bloodshed?
Johnny No, I don't want bloodshed. I, I just
Fred Christie All right then, this is what we're trying to do is keep it from bloodshed.
Johnny Why do they have to come?
Fred Christie It's not going to be their blood it's -- only that's going to be spilled.
Fred Christie Maybe your brother's? Isn't it better to let them come in and have a period? Let them swim there. Leave them alone, they'll leave you alone.
Johnny I don't, I don't know which, which guys would. I couldn't think
Fred Christie Guess. Guess. I'm putting you on the spot, sure, but I'm doing it deliberately. Because you're not the type of guy that's over there busting heads. You've got a little bit more sense. You never been busted in your life. And you're not about to be, so I can ask someone like you because I know you're honest and you're gonna, you be straight with me, because I know you don't want to see a lot of bloodshed and people getting hurt in the city where you get, you know, a bad name for this section, worse than it already has. You want another Rochester or New Jersey here or Harlem? That's what's going to happen maybe. Chicago hasn't had any trouble all year, but they might over an incident on Sheridan Park. We can stop it now.
Johnny I like-- I mean I couldn't tell you anyway because I don't--
Studs Terkel What is it, Johnny? Obviously you don't want to answer Fred's question. I can turn the tape off, maybe later on he'll ask you, you can tell him. But while we're on tape, maybe Fred will ask you this later and you can tell him. What is it about the colored? This is an interesting thing. I'm curious, you know, why you feel and think they'll take over. I want to hear--what is it about them? Is it the Black skin? What do you think it is? You don't feel this way about the Mexican kids, do you?
Studs Terkel Hmm?
Studs Terkel You don't feel this way about other kids of other groups, do you? What is it about the Negro kid? Is it the Black color?
Studs Terkel You're bright, though, you're a very intelligent guy obviously, you talk about--but you see, when we ask you this, you say you don't--'cause you are, you know, you've got a reason for many things you do, but you don't want them--you know. What do you think it is? Is it them or you? I don't know, I'm asking, you know.
Johnny I, I couldn't explain. I don't know.
Studs Terkel Has this been all your life, Johnny? I mean, it's a feeling--that's the last question. Has it been--ever since you were a little kid, isn't that so? You had this feeling?
Studs Terkel No?
Johnny I don't think so. I mean, there wasn't, there wasn't no trouble or anything when I was a little kid. Not that I remember.
Studs Terkel So it came in recent years.
Studs Terkel You think it's there, it's the civil rights thing maybe, huh?
Studs Terkel Well, Fred, any last question of Johnny? Anything, you know, that he feels like talking about, naturally he won't talk about names of guys. All right. Johnny, thanks. It's a nice evening. What do you want to do for the rest of the night? What's your--what are you going to do now that we're through?
Studs Terkel What kind of kid is she? Honestly, this last thing.
Johnny She's all right. She's nice. I like her.
Studs Terkel What does she want to be?
Johnny I don't know. I didn't, I never asked her.
Studs Terkel Oh, you never asked what she wants to
Johnny Well, I only knew her for about two or three weeks now.
Studs Terkel I know this is very personal, you don't have to answer if you don't, if you don't want to talk. What do you talk about with her?
Johnny Oh, I call her on the telephone, ask her what she's doing. She's most of the time she's watching television, you know. Not much. You know, we don't talk that much you know about things because she, she doesn't live around this neighborhood.
Studs Terkel Johnny, thanks very much.
Studs Terkel Fred, here's a very, here is a vital, vibrant kid of 15. Italian-American Johnny. You know him for a while now. How do you see Johnny?
Fred Christie Well, Johnny is a real exception to the rule. He comes from a rather low-status family in the Italian community. His mother is divorced and runs around quite a bit. Drinks, goes out with a number of men. It doesn't seems to bother John too much. It has terribly bothered his, his older brother. And it has disturbed his older brother to a point where he's been in a lot of difficulty; running away from home, stealing cars, and doing a lot of things that he shouldn't be doing. His older brother is very, very bright, extremely bright. I took him to Allied Radio Company last summer over here on Ashland and they accepted him in their school with adults. He's, he's bright, and he's inclined toward mechanics and electric things like that. John is small for his age, he's well-built, good-looking boy. A pleasant personality. Does average in school, he, he spends all, all his energy on sports, and you notice in the interview he said he didn't want to get married, but he, he has a girl. You know, he has mixed feelings about it.
Studs Terkel Because of his mother, I suppose.
Fred Christie Well, no, I think it's pretty normal for a boy now to say, "Well, I'm not going to get married. You know, I ain't never getting married," but he's got a girl. "I, but I got a girl, well, because it's the thing to do." And he enjoys it.
Studs Terkel You think that thing to do may also explain the fact that his peers feel as he does, as they do, about the Negro, would make him feel that way, since he spoke of Negro friends at school, yet he spoke of the need for segregation?
Fred Christie Now, what is important to John? Ask yourself that question. Well, it's important to him in his own neighborhood where he lives to adhere to the traditions in his neighborhood, to what the adults feel is right. The adults feel this is right, therefore the kids sometimes will feel that they have this sort of, the tacit approval of the adults so they'll go ahead and raise all this hell, and out East the kids were doing all this, because they thought the adults condoned it. Well, what we're trying to do is get the adults to tell the kids this is not right. We may not be able to do it. In fact I, I doubt if we will be able to do it. But historically the neighborhood at one time was, was the Italians were in the majority. They were thought of, to be controlling most of the politics in the city, which they were, actually. And very important people. But in this area most of those people have moved out. With urban renewal coming in, with the University of Illinois being built, they feel pressured and squeezed. With the new Boys Club being built and servicing only Negroes, or 90 percent Negroes, they're envious. You could tell by John's remarks about the Boys' Club, "They have the big gym", you know, "and the pool room and, and the group rooms". Like "We don't have this, they have it so, why don't they keep it and leave--we got this little pool, why don't they just leave us alone in our little pool?", you know? But he, of course he's very envious of all the things at the Boys' Club, because they've gone over there with me and they've shot pool and they played basketball, and they've gotten a big bang out of it. But it's not the thing to do.
Studs Terkel What about this Boys' Club integration? Is that--
Studs Terkel Isn't there--is there an attempt at that, is that possible?
Studs Terkel The Boys' Club integration. You
Fred Christie Well, this, this is what they're trying to do, and it's the focus of, of the street workers to, to bring those boys who aren't related to the club if possible into the club. And in the past year and a half, I think we've done this to a great extent. A year ago, John's group, I got them in a basketball game at the Boys' Club. The day they were in that game, four or five mothers called me and several adults came over to see me about wondering how their kids were going to do, because they knew they were playing all Negro kids. But less than two months ago I had the same group at a softball league, and they were, and the parent didn't say a word to me. And this, I think, is some indication that there is change. My, I have, this group is called The Comets. I have a group called the Junior Comets, who are younger than these boys, they want to come to the Boys' Club. They enjoy it. You know. You can't keep them out when they come over for--they won't come over for a regular program, they'll come over to see me for a group meeting. And I always take them in the, in the games room or in the, in the gym for a few minutes. This gives them the feel of it. Ultimately they will come over to the Club, and it's a part of my job to see that they do, because there's enough facilities there for everyone. And it's a very slow way, but I think it's the best way. It's much better than just going over there and looking for trouble, and just so, just so you can say we weren't swimming there, and it's now it's integrated. We're consoled -- concerned with people's lives, you know, they don't get hurt.