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Interview with: Georgia Lee Woods
Interviewed by: Patricia Smith Prather
Date: December 28th, 2010
Archive Number: OH GS 0026
PP: Okay, this is Tuesday, uh, December 28th 2010. And my name is Patricia Smith Prather and I’m interviewing Ms. Georgia Lee Woods. Thank you for coming, Mrs. Woods. Uh, what I want to start off the interview with is asking you who were your parents, where were you born, the year you were born if you don’t mind telling us, so you can start off by giving us your personal information.
GW: Well, my parents uh uh- I was born in Huntsville, Texas.
(PP: Huntsville? Okay.) Uh-huh. I’m from a little community in Huntsville, Texas called Dido.
( PP: Okay.) And my father’s name Gust Stewart and my mother’s Vio [?] Stewart.
PP: Okay). And I, uh, my birth is uh February 23rd, 1927.
PP: ’27, okay.) And uh…
PP: And when did you come to Houston?
GW: My mother and father brought me to Houston when I was two
(2) two years old.
PP: Oh, so you’ve been here.
GW: I’ve been here.
PP: And where did you all live when you came to Houston?
GW: We lived on a street called Howe Street.
PP: Howe Street.
GW: Howe. H-O-W-E. Howe.
PP: Howe Street. Is it in this community? Fourth Ward?
GW: Well, no. They done did away with that street. They got the- where the street was, they got the highway going across that.
PP: Okay, what part of town was it in?
GW: It’s in Fourth Ward. They call that Fourth Ward. But it’s, you know, now-now what you call it runs through there now. That- that…
PP: Allen Parkway?
GW: …highway. The highway.
PP: Oh, hi-the highway came through.
GW: The highway came through.
PP: But it was in this community?
GW: It was in this community, the Fourth Ward.
PP: The Fourth Ward. And you went to- you started your education in the first grade or the kindergarten?
GW: I started my first grade in Gregory School.
PP: In Gregory School. And do you remember what year that was?
GW: I think that was in- that was in, let’s see…uh, oh- I think that was in 35, I think that.
PP: About 1935. And what do you remember? What’s your earliest memory of…well first of all, what’s the or your earliest memory of this community?
GW: Oh, well going to school I had my teachers and uh, my first grade teacher was Ms. Fisher.
(PP: Ms. Fisher, okay.) And my second- third grade was Ms. Thelma Johnson.
PP: Mrs. What Johnson?
GW: Thelma Johnson.
PP: Thelma Johnson, okay.)
GW: Okay then my, uh Ms. Foster. Ms. Foster was my second grade teacher and Ms. Franklin was my fifth grade teacher. That was my last class before I went to Booker T. Washington.
( PP: Booker T. Washington). Then I went on to Booker T. and Professor Davis was my principal here at Gregory.
PP: Professor W. L. Davis.) W.L. Davis he was my principal.
PP: Do you remember anything about him?
GW: Well, no. He’s- he’s a heavy-size. I can just tell you how he looks, he was a heavy-sized guy. Built up ahead of me like, you know?
PP: That’s right, you were a little girl. You wouldn’t remember too much about the principal unless you knew the family that well.
GW: And then I went on to Booker T. Washington where Professor Miller was my principal.
PP: Okay.) Uh-huh. And Ms… uh…[inaudible] my principal.
PP: I think Mr. Miller was here. And then he…
GW: Yeah, he was here.
( PP: He was here.) And they moved him to Booker T. Washington.
PP: Booker T. Washington. Okay. And uh, uh, tell me a little bit more about what you remember. Uh, someone told me that before school you all would gather out in the courtyard or in the front or the back of the school and then actually march into school?
GW: Oh yes. We- we would have recess and we had to march out for recess and march back in after recess.
( PP: Now when you say..) And Ms. Thelma Johnson would play the piano.
( PP: Ms. Johnson.) Yeah, she would play the piano in the hall, they had the piano in the hall-
( PP: Okay.) way and we would march- it look like it was on Cleveland Street
PP: Okay.) on this side of the street.
PP: And her name was Thelma Johnson?
GW: Thelma Johnson, she would play the piano.
PP: But she was also a teacher?
GW: She was also a teacher; third grade teacher.
PP: Okay.) But she would just come and play the piano.
PP: Hmm. Do you remember any of the songs?
GW: Oh Lord! [???] she just played, uh you know- wasn’t no songs, it’s just a march
PP: A marching…marching beat.) Yeah, marching song.
PP: Now, did you all march in in any particular order?
( PP: Okay.) And then we went our direction. After we got- marched up the steps go to the hall, I marched over to Ms. Foster’s room and some would go that way and some would go upstairs.
PP: So each grade would march together.
GW: March to- yeah, march together. Behind one another but they would go they, in their own class set.
PP: That’s interesting.
PP: Alright. What did you bring for lunch?
GW: And then they had a cafeteria…
PP: Oh, I was gonna say- okay.) and on Friday nights they would have a dance- get together for the kids and that’s where all- because that was the only place they had in Fourth Ward where the high sch- the kids get together, you know, and have fun, you know. And, it would just be crowded and we had a lovely time.
PP: And where was, what was the source of the music?
GW: Well, they uh, I done forgot. They had something like a- where they would do a- at that time they were doing the “jitterbug”,
PP: Oh, the “jitterbug”) and I didn’t do that ‘cause I know
(laughs) but they were down there, and they had that kind of music, that fast music…
PP: Oh okay, that music that you couldn’t hear in church.
GW: …where they swing out. It wasn’t no church music.
(laughs) And then I was a musician for Mount Carmel Church
PP: Okay.) well for, for uh thirty-five
PP: Okay, and who was the minister at Mount Carmel when you were the musician?
GW: Well, I been under about five
(5) different ones. Now the one that built Mount Carmel Church was Rev. R. T. Bingham.
PP: Okay.) And then we had Reverend Brown,
PP: Okay.) he came along and then we had Reverend uh-uh, uh, Reverend uh, it’s so many we’ve had
PP: Yes, it’s so many.) I done forgot.
PP: Well, that’s okay. But you were there under five
GW: [???] of those other ministers.
PP: Okay, ‘cause we’re going to try to get the history of all the churches in this area for our archives here. Um, do you remember the movie theater?
GW: Yes, I remember it. Rainbow, and I used to go to it and I used to- I didn’t have a babysitter and I would put him in there and he stay there while I was working ‘cause he loved the uh, theater that’s why he’s an actor, you know, ‘cause he stayed at the picture show all day long.
PP: And what was the name of the show?
PP: The Rainbow. Right, right.
GW: Rainbow, because it was on the 900 block of West Dallas.
PP: Not that she remembers the 9—the block that it was in!
(laughs) Were the any other businesses that you remember on West Dallas?
GW: Well, let’s see. They had uh…No, uh… no, I don’t.
PP: You don’t remember. I know there was some…
GW: They had caf- some little
PP: Little cafes?) cafes and little places like that. Then they had the… they had the supermarket.
PP: Oh did they?
GW: Supermarket on uh…
PP: Do you remember the name of it?
GW: No, I don’t remember, but uh, one of my student’s father was working there. And uh I think she’s the chief [???] over at that other library. I don’t know. There’s another library down, that they put her over. They said she had come over here first though. But anyway, uh, her daddy was uh you know he was the head of the store.
PP: The store. I’d like to know that, that’s not a story…) They was Davis….
PP: The Davis family?) The Davis family.
PP: Right. And there was also a funeral home or two
(2) on West Dallas.
GW: Yes, it was. And I done forgot the name of that funeral home that was…
PP: I’ve forgotten, too.) It was one on uh, Buc- uh, right on West Dallas right there near Valentine.
( PP: Right.) But I can’t…
( PP: I can’t think of the name of it.) …think of the name of it, it’s been so long.
PP: That’s alright, we’ll get it. Did you know the Yates family growing up?
GW: Yes, I knew the Yates family. I- uh …
PP: Olee?) Not Olee. Let’s see, what was the girl that went to school with you, Jacqueline?
PP: Oh, Jackie Bostic.
MAN: Jacqueline Whiting, Samuel Whiting.
PP: Yeah, I knew them very well.
GW: We’d take music together, I knew them very well.
PP: Okay. Took music where?
GW: We took music from Mrs. Smith, she was a pioneer of uh Fourth Ward’s- they run a café downtown in Fourth Ward and she had a daughter named Viola Smith…
PP: Mmm-hmm.) And uh that’s where- she was the only music teacher out in Fourth Ward.
PP: I’m sure she was. Her name was Viola Smith?
GW: Her name was uh, she had a daughter name Viola, so her name was Mercy Smith.
PP: Oh, okay.) And she run it, she gave up the school- I’d taken over the school. I was assistant teacher.
PP: At the music school?
GW: She taught music- she quit teaching music starting over at the kindergarten. Her daughter was the kindergarten teacher and she died. She had had a heart attack and after she died, her mother had taken over the school and then the she gave it up when she got seventy-two
(72) years old ‘cause she said she a lil’ bit too old, and I take the school and put it in my name.
PP: Now that was the school you were telling me about? Woods?
GW: Woods Kindergarten.
PP: Woods Kindergarten? Okay. Now where did Ms. Smith teach music?
GW: She taught music in the 900 block on Andrews Street.
PP: Okay.) And-and and then she well known, she’d entertain- in that time, the people the entertainers that’d come like “[???] Spotts” and all them, they’d stayed over there with her. They didn’t get to hotels. Well at that time they wouldn’t go to hotels they would go to houses and stay at the house.
PP: And she stayed on Andrews Street?
GW: Yes, she stayed on Andrews Street. I stayed over there…
PP: But she was teaching in her home?
GW: She was teaching in her home.
GW: And she also had a, her the kindergarten in her home too. A great big room with the- set up with the chairs and everything.
PP: And her first name was Mercer?
GW: Mercy Smith.
PP: Can you spell it?
GW: I think M-E-R-C-Y, I believe.
PP: Oh, Mercy. Okay. I just wanted to make sure.
GW: I tried to find the picture of her where they- me and her [had] taken a picture when they first gave up the school, but I couldn’t find it.
PP: That would be wonderful!
(laughs) If I get it, I’ll send it. I’ll send it over here.
PP: That would be wonder. ‘Cause this is the first I’ve heard of a music school, you know, a teacher here. I know there was one in Third Ward and I know there was one in Fifth Ward.
GW: Yeah, she taught me for years.
PP: Wow. Okay.) She got seventy-two
(72) and her eyes got down [???] She couldn’t teach anymore.
PP: That’s a fascinating story.
GW: And then Viola Smith, her daughter, uh- she had a son to uh- he got killed Buffalo Bayou, they had the Buffalo Bayou, you know. And he fell, uh drowned in the Buffalo Bayou. Used to be on Howe Street.
PP: Okay.) Howe and West Dallas.
PP: Hmmm. Wow. That’s interesting. Did you know, uh- oh what was his name, don’t worry- Don Roby?
GW: Yes, I know Don Roby. They hung out a lot in Fourth Ward. I know them very well.
PP: Mmm-hmmm. Good. Okay, so when did- you went to Gregory, the you went to
(unison: ) Booker T. Washington, then where did you go to coll- to school?
GW: I didn’t go to college. I didn’t go to college.
PP: So you were able to teach school with a high school diploma?
GW: Well, no I-I I, by being an assistant teacher with her, she taught me a whole lot…
PP: And what school were you the assistant teacher?
GW: It was called Smith Kindergarten. Smith Kindergarten.
PP: Okay. Oh! The same one we’re talking about.
GW: Same one we’re talking about.
PP: Okay. So you weren’t in the school system, per se, you were in the kindergarten.
GW: I was in the kindergarten, I wasn’t in the public school.
PP: Okay, alright. Um, and you and, and your husband were active in the Masonic Institutions?
GW: My husband was active. Yes, I’m an Eastern Star. We both belong to that.
PP: And he was a Mason?
GW: Mason, uh-huh. And he was a Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge.
PP: Okay, he was one of the Worshipful Masters, okay.
GW: And he ser- I didn’t bring that book, you know. He got the book; he belonged to so many organizations as a Noble and all like that.
PP: Yeah, we’d like to have him not only for you all’s collection, but also we have a collection of biographies which we’re beginning to put people who, like your husband and like yourself, who made a difference in the communities, and- so that someone could look at biographies, too. That’s one of the areas that in the past nobody’s been collecting. So now we want to rectify that problem.
GW: Well, I said I- I tried to get my daughter to come but she had to go to some other place there. She was a [???] in the pageants. And she’s the only black girl in the Miss Houston pageant.
PP: And when was that?
GW: She grew up in Fourth Ward, too. She went to Gregory and she’ll be coming over here, she’ll tell you all about it.
PP: Oh, okay. Okay.
GW: And she also was in Miss Texas [???] pageant, she was sponsored in that. Her name is Linda Joyce. She was Linda Joyce Woods then. Her name is Linda Joyce Wilson.
PP: Linda Joyce Woods Wilson. And what’s your son’s name?
GW: Allie Woods, Jr.
PP: Allie. Okay.
(laughs) And do you have any more children?
’s the only two
(2) I’ve got there. And my daughter’s she a supervisor for HISD.
PP: Okay. Now where do you live now?
GW: I live on Nathaniel Brown and South Union.
PP: Okay. And where is that?
GW: That’s off of Scott’s Street.
PP: Okay, so you don’t live in this community anymore.
’t live here now. But I lived here up until- uh, in the ‘70s. Then I moved from Fourth Ward, I was staying on Arthur Street.
PP: Okay.) Same where- you know, where that trolley went.
PP: Now was your husband an educator too?
GW: No, no he was not.
PP: What kind of work did he do?
PP: Oh, okay. And what was his first n-, oh Allie.
GW: His name was Allie Woods, Sr.
PP: Exactly. Okay. Well very good. We’d be very interested in getting more information on the lodges because that’s something we don’t have a lot of information on.
GW: [inaudible conversation between GW and Allie, Jr.]
(directed toward Vince Lee) Any other questions? Basically that’s it, we learned about the schools
(VL: Right.), education, church, her children… Are there any other things that you would like to tell us about your life?
GW: Well that’s about- that’s about it.
PP: Well that’s a good life.
(both laugh) That’s a very good life.
GW: He’s got the activities that I’ve taken, and you know I had my graduation everything… I had about over two thousand
(2,000) kids to pass through me.
PP: Oh, 2,000 children over- and how many, oh- from the, from the time you started as an assistant.
GW: All around, probably had around about fifty
(50) a week, you know like that.
PP: And then when she- Ms. Smith- let it go, it was called Woods?
GW: Well she let it go, the parents asked me would I take over. I didn’t want to take over the school, but they begged me to take it over and after I’d taken over I had to move to a greater, greater Mount Carmel Church to have my school, I didn’t stay there. My school was setup at the great Mount... That’s the school you’ll see on- he has the pictures of the school.
PP: He has the pictures. And it’s called Woods? It was called The Woods?
GW: Kindergarten. And Reverend Johnson, you know, he made it into a bigger school about putting the sign on it.
PP: Oh, good.
GW: From my home church. I mean from Rose of Sharon’s church, Reverend Johnson ‘cause I helped him out a lot of time and he gave that to me. And I forgot the home, he got the home in October for homeless women.
PP: Okay, and what did you do with them?
GW: Well, they just built the building for the homeless women and they stayed there, you know, in that home. But they had to put the name Georgia Lee Woods Homeless Center.
PP: Oh, so you had two schools…
GW: They, they, they named it after me.
PP: Two schools were named after you: one for homeless women and one for the children.
GW: He’s got the picture of it.
PP: Well good! Well I’m sure that, I’m pretty sure we haven’t gotten the sign yet, so we’ll be looking for that.
GW: And I- I’ll give you the number that you call ‘cause he said he wanted to come- I don’t know what the reason is but I have the phone number.
PP: Okay, you have it up here?
GW: Yeah I have it up here…
(PP: Okay, we’ll write it down) The phone number is uh, 832-922-1303.
PP: 03, and his name is Reverend Johnson?
GW: Reverend Elroy Johnson.
PP: Oh yeah. We know him.
GW: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
PP: He probably just forgot or got busy.
GW: He wanted to put it in my daughter’s car the other Sunday but it wouldn’t fit in there, you know. So he said he was gonna bring it over here Monday morning.
PP: He probably just hadn’t- he’s a busy, busy man.
GW: Uh-huh he sure is a busy man.
PP: He’s a good friend of ours.
PP: Okay.) And uh but Reverend Johnson said I was an adopted member so I work for this church sometimes when I- a musician.
PP: Oh wow. That’s a, that’s a whole story within itself, the church musicians!
(GW laughs). That’s a real story! Well this has been a great interview. We thank you so much for coming. And uh, any papers and photographs and things like that that you have that you would like to give us copies of, if you don’t want to give us the originals, well take a copy of it. We have a young lady downstairs that just scans and she’ll be glad to scan and we’ll have a picture in our collection. What we’re trying to do now is build as large [of] a collection as possible.
GW: Well he’s got the pictures there, and you can have that…
PP: Good.) He done made copies of them…[something???]
PP: Well good. Well that’s going to be for Vince. Well thank you so much for your time, and uh we look forward to interviewing both your son and your daughter.
GW: And I forgot, I used to go up to the Pilgrim Temple, you know it was on West Dallas. The Pilgrim Temple…
PP: Oh tell us about that! Tell us about your experience at the Pilgrim.
GW: They uh, that where all the graduations used to be at the Pilgrim Temple. And the first graduators went to the West End Baseball Park. It was located when the freeway is. The freeway runs through where the West End Baseball Park…
PP: Oh, the West End Baseball Park. Yeah.
GW: That’s where all the graduations used to happen.
PP: So it was outside?
GW: No it was inside, but they had it locked around you know to go in. It was a great big place. Take about three blocks.
PP: Okay.) They would have all the graduations there. Now to that, they moved that park to Buffalo Stadium.
PP: Mmm-hmm. I heard that. So when- you’re talking about graduating from Booker T. Washington?
GW: They graduated from Booker T. Washington. That’s were all the graduations would have they baccalaureate and commencement. They would have it at the West Inn Baseball Park. And that was Howe Street. H-O-W-E.
PP: Okay, Howe. And that’s no longer there.
GW: And I stayed right- I stayed in front of there and all the ball games would be there.
PP: Oh, yeah. I’ve heard about it. Gladys House told me about it.
GW: All the ball games. And we- I used to have, we used to watch the cars. They would give us ten and fifteen cents to watch the cars. We would make a dollar and something and that was a lot in those days.
PP: That was a lot of money back in those days.
PP: Well this has been very delightful. So we thank you again.
GW: Nice to be here.
PP: And we’ll try to locate that sign.
GW: Okay, I sure hope you will because I’d love for everybody to see that.
PP: Oh absolutely!