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Interview with: Hardy Anderson
Interviewed by: Nicolas Castellanos
Date: January, 13 2010
Number: OH GS 0004
Nicolas Castellanos (NC): Good afternoon we are the African American Library at the Gregory school. Today is the 13th of January 2010. I am joined here by Mr. Anderson, and Good Afternoon.
Mr. Hardy Anderson (HA): How are we doing today?
NC: Doing great and Mr. Anderson, would you please give us your full birth name, place you were born, and your birth date.
HA: Hardy Prince Anderson, I was born August 21st, 1935 in Marlin, Texas. We moved to Houston in 1939, when I was four-years-old at 905 Claiborne, two and a half blocks down the street.
NC: What are your earliest memories? Anything that you can remember about the Fourth Ward Community?
HA: Earliest memories was, actually the night that we moved to Houston. I was 4-years-old, but I was checking everything out. I noticed this weird smell, in the neighborhood. I was sitting on the front porch with my father, and my father’s brother was moving the furniture in, we moved at night from Marlin. I come to find out that, there is a lot of horses in the back of the house, well a few yards, a couple hundreds yards, in the rear of the house, down Arthur street, which was three houses from the corner. And that’s where the Phoenix dairy kept all it’s horse because they delivered milk by horse and wagon then. None of these streets was paved, you know, except for Andrew Street. That was very interesting because we used to hitch a ride on the back of those wagons, and many a day he never knew we were behind there, and just ride down the street.
HA: Gosh, I wouldn’t know where to start with you, talking about Gregory, here, when I started school, wow…some days we would come to school barefooted because you can do that then, right, that was a lot of fun.
NC: You mentioned Andrews street, do you remember the street car that ran down Andrews street?
HA: They stopped the street car, I guess, as I was told, in 1938 or 37. I got here in 1939, but I noticed there was a concrete strip in the middle, two concrete strips in the middle of the street, and that is where the tracks were. They were covered-up, they came down all the way from, Robin street, all the way down to Highland street, and those street cars turned left, and came down to Andrew, and turned right, came all the way down to Wilson, this is Wilson, right out here. And from Wilson it went straight to West Dallas and turned back and went back. It was very interesting.
NC: Now going back to the Gregory School in your memory, you went to school here, do you remember some of the teachers or principals and….
HA: Miss Boutte was the principal, was the principal here, and she was the only principal I knew here at Gregory at the time.
NC: Did you ever know a Mrs. Pinky Yates?
HA: I don’t think so, Miss Elliot was one of my teachers, of course Miss Terrel, Miss Gaines, and most of those folks that taught here at Gregory lived in the neighborhood. Now Miss Terrel did not. But Miss Gaines and, Miss Elliot, Miss Elliot stayed across the street, that was a time when all the teachers, mostly all the teachers was staying in the neighborhood, and like Booker T. Washington’s assistant principal [Booker T. Washington is a Houston high school] he stayed across the street here, a block down. My biology teacher was a block down from here, it was quite interesting neighborhood at that time, so we were are cluttered in one area, cause, as you know, we couldn’t even live where you wanted to live, per se.
NC: He said, now moving on to…the Rainbow Theater, you said you went to the Rainbow theater, and you have a pretty interesting story about that.
HA: It was a very interesting place, you know the sort of thing before I get into that story. During World War II, in order for us to go to the movies, if you did not have the money at that time. You could take 12…it got-up to about 18…metal coat-hangers you just tie them together and that was your ticket, because this country needed metal to make valuable …especially during the war. Weapons and all that…it was very interesting, so we could hustle some coat hangers and go to the movie anytime. That was quite interesting.
HA: Of course I was telling you before about how I met, and had a chance to talk to Jesse Owens, a famous track runner. He was in Houston at the time, he was touring around with this adult movie, only adults could go in Rainbow theater at this particular time, when they were showing this movie. But I stood outside and he walked up, he walked out of the movie, taking a break after the movie started, and that is why I got a chance to talk to him. As I was saying before he was, he kept referring to me as chump, he said “Hey chump, how you doing? You doing all right, chump? Chump this and Chump that.” And you know what, Jesse Owens rubbed me wrong, to the point that I thought that…when I got big enough, and worked hard enough, I could beat his record [smiles] that never happen.
HA: When I got into the service, and got to travel around on the East coast, and what have you. I come to find out that they called a lot of the young, little guys, “Chump,” you know, and it was not degrading at all. That lifted a few things off of me. That was quite interesting, he was quite a guy.
HA: I got a chance to watch Joe Lewis fight, he came here on an exhibition fight at the Coliseum here in Houston, yeah, that was interesting.
NC: Do you remember who the opponent was?
HA: No I don’t. I don’t remember that guy’s name, he was not nationally known, but he was a bad dude. They stopped the fight after the fourth round because he couldn’t come out of his corner. You could almost feel those blows, Lewis was fast as Grease Lighting. When he threw a jab, or a punch, he come back, and I am telling you, you could feel it. I had a good seat, me and my brother. I worked at Madden drug store, so we saved money and bought us a ticket. In fact, I bought it for me and my brother.
NC: And you say you worked at a drug store.
HA: Madden drug store. I would leave this school in the evening, before I even went to junior high school, I was eleven-years-old. Catch the bus en route to West University place, West University and Morningside drive, is Madden drug store number 12. And I still remember a manager named Mr. Vera, and he was a very nice fellow. Things were not…well it was kind of rough with me coming-up you know, father was away, and we had a family of six, so I had to get out and get it. I am not bragging, I am not complaining it’s just the way it was. But I stayed busy.
NC: You also said that you served in the U.S. Army.
HA: Oh yeah.
HA: I was eighteen years old when I first went in. I initially tried and thought about going into the air force, and then the Navy. Some how I did not go back down and get sworn in because it just…didn’t look tough enough, per se. So I finally made-up my mind…I tell you what happen, why I went Airborne, one of the key reasons. I was standing on the corner on Wilson and suddenly at Koles drugstore, a Black drugstore, right down the street. And here is this guy about two and a-half blocks away, walking my way with a military uniform on, this guy was sharp. And he kept getting closer, and closer to me, and he just stood out like a…his boots was like glass and his uniform was tailored, and he was cool, and he was a hard guy. And I come to find out that he was a paratrooper, and something on my mind went “Bing!” that’s it, the very next day I went down, and joined the Airborne. When I walked into the recruiting station. There was this big picture, as big as this wall, that they had blown up of guys jumping out of the aircraft, you know “Cho cho-cho-cho,” the same 119 type aircraft. And big sergeant met me at the door said “Can I help you son?” I said I want to go Airborne, he said “I know you do come on in, I can see it.”
HA: And that is what started it, I enjoyed it, pretty rough training, but I was in pretty good shape. Not everybody goes Airborne ok, you there because you want to be there, because the training is rough, but ….I liked it.
NC: And after your 21 years of service, you came back to Houston?
HA: Yep, a lot of guys you know, would stay that long in the military, and go back home where they were from, weather it was Jersey, Phillly, New York or California what ever.
HA: I was determined to come back home and be with the rest of the family. I was all ready married, my mother and family supported me very good, when I was in the military. In fact my mother and some sisters would visit me in Fort Camel Kentucky, the 101 Airborne area, twice, you know, so that was pretty good.
HA: I got a chance to, after I was in the military for maybe a year and a half, to do a demonstration jump in Texas, and Wow! We got here, we flew in, and I told my family now, you going to see me in the air. I said, I took a roll of toilet tissue, and I said when you see a whole roll of tissue I am going…to take the end and let it roll out. Because you not suppose to do that, and I said, that is going to be me. We got up in the air, and the plane made two passes, about forty guys jumped, and I was the last forty, Wow! The big jump master said, “No Go! The wind is too high.” That was terrible for me, I couldn’t jump. Family came from Houston, to San Antonio, at Randolph air Force Base, Gosh, and I couldn’t jump. And I missed them, I kept missing them when we landed, they came out from Houston, they looked all around for me, I didn’t coordinate what would happen if I did not jump, cause I knew once I hit the ground, I was going to go to the stands where they were, and give them a salute, and then turn in my chute. But that did not happen, so we did not jump that time, been pretty lucky.
HA: I had got injured a couple times, jumped one night, suspension line was under my arm, I did not see, the Army seen three, when I was coming down, when my feet hit the ground, that old…popped that shoulder, Pow! you know. Other than that, I had some close calls, but I’ve been pretty lucky.
NC: Thank you, we want to thank you today for giving some of your testimony and we plan on having you back.
HA: Yeah, I would like to talk a little bit about Fourth ward, and the surrounding areas. Gregory elementary, on Wilson, you know, on Wilson street, it’s right here, right, actually, on that end of the campus that is where the cafeteria, was a big building, a wooden building, I do not know if you knew that, or not and that is where the cafeteria was.
NC: Was the food good?
HA: very good, Yeah.
NC: Usually school lunches they…they do not have a great reputation
HA: I was on a program, Miss Elliot was a music teacher, and I was in this program, and I was the sun, the shining sun, right. But, I got so stage fright, I could hardly sing the song, she kept, and I couldn’t get it out…it was very low volume, she sure was trying, too, yeah buddy.
NC: What were some of your other lessons here at the Gregory School?
HA: The Basic lessons, that is about all you had, you had your math, and your reading…all those suckers there, good teachers.
NC: Did they teach you Black history?
HA: Very little, In fact, you would learn about folks like Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and folks of that nature, Marianne Anderson, but for the most part, you got a little bit about Joe Lewis, for the most part you didn’t get nothing in depth, per se.
NC: Well again thank you Mr. Anderson.
HA: Ok I enjoyed it.