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Interview with: Theda Lamb
Interviewed by: Veronica Perry
Dates: January 15, 1975
Archive Number: OH 097
VP: 00:04 Today is January 15, 1975. I am Veronica Perry (??), and I am beginning an interview with Mrs. Theda Lamb. Mrs. Lamb is one of the persons being interviewed in the social services sector of the oral history project. First of all, Mrs. Lamb, we’d like to thank you for inviting us to your home and being willing to share some of your ideas with us. A little of Mrs. Lamb’s background: Mrs. Lamb was one of three children, three girls. She has a seventh grade education, which she received in public schools. Mrs. Lamb was married once, at an early age, and divorced several years later. She has two children. Mrs. Lamb’s reasons for going on welfare were several. First of all, Mrs. Lamb became ill. Second, due to her illness, she was unable to work. Third, she received little or no support from her former husband and had to receive welfare in order to take care of her children.
VP: Mrs. Lamb, would you be kind enough to share with us some of your experiences with the welfare agencies, some of your reactions to the welfare agencies?
TL: You have a case number and you have to fill out an application every six months, an application saying if everything is—if anything’s changed or if you obtain some kind of land or something— The welfare community is there for times of emergencies, to relieve you ------ (unintelligible)
VP: Do you think they are fair as far as you not being able to make so much money? Or do they really give you enough?
TL: No, they don’t! And it’s—it’s really not fair. If a woman can go out and find a job, then with the little money that they give her, that she has to make ends meet.
VP: What about—did the workers explain your rights as a person on welfare and your responsibilities and all the benefits you could get from being on welfare when you first applied?
TL: No, they don’t explain that to you. You really don’t have any rights on welfare. It’s just something like, in a manner of speaking, like a concentration camp. You’re just not locked in. But, what makes it feel like a concentration camp—you can only do so much because you have just so little to do it with. And then, if you don’t have no 03:25 skills or no knowledge of getting a job that would clear you more than what welfare could, it’s hard. So you’re really caught in a bad position, but you can’t help yourself. You just accept what they give you.
VP: Have you gotten any other benefits besides the check itself, like medical services, for your kids?
TL: Oh yeah, we have a good medical service. This is one of the good things. We have a good—we have good medical service. They pay for all the services and some medicines. They pay for a certain amount of medicines. You can only get three prescriptions a month, but if you’ve been hospitalized—or coming out of the hospital—it’s hard because most time the doctor give you more than three prescriptions a month. And then if you have to pay, you don’t have any money, really, to pay for other things—for the other prescriptions that you need. ’Cause then you have to kind of balance your medication, in a manner of speaking.
VP: Had you had to go into the hospital for any surgery and things—
TL: Well, I’ve been in the—I had a miscarriage about a couple years ago, and that’s the only surgery that I’ve ever really had, but I go and I get checkups every three months. But the only thing, with certain kind examinations they— It’s like, I went last month, and I had to get a Pap smear, and the doctor called it a germ—some bug germ—that you get from your rectum, and they didn’t pay for that! It was nothing but $6, but when I went to the doctor last week, the receptionist told me that I had to pay for it because welfare sent a statement back saying that they wouldn’t pay for it.
VP: What about your children—do they pay for them to go to the dentist and—
TL: Yep, they have—they have dentists and they have eye doctors. And we only pay so much.
VP: And then, do you have to pay for this kind of—
TL: 06:01 Yeah, we get a cut—I don’t know how much the cut is. I haven’t taken my kids, but— It’s just—it’s just the hassle. Where some doctors’ll take Medicaid and some doctors won’t.
VP: How do they treat you when they find out you’re on welfare? Do they—
TL: Well, they look at you like you’re some type of freak, in a manner of speaking. Where they’re— You don’t—you don’t deserve a whole lot of respect because you’re begging. This is the way they look at you where that you just don’t have no rights. You know, they—they feel—they make you feel as though they’re taking care of you. And if they want you to wait, you wait—if you want to be served or waited on. But, the medical treatments are fine because you can go to any doctor or a special doctor. But they only pay for so much—for your treatments.
VP: Oh—so you don’t have to go to Ben Taub or Jeff Davis?
TL: Uh-Hunh. (Affirmative) You can go to any doctor that you would like to go to. I’ve never been to Ben Taub. My son—he got his arm—he got his wrist cracked about a couple years ago, and I went to Herndon. Ben Taub—and Herndon—is a good hospital but they’re overcrowded, in a manner of speaking, and time. You can’t get something out of nothing that’s overcrowded, in a manner of speaking. So I’ve always tried to take my kids to a neighborhood clinic around here. But my son—when he—last summer—was circumcised, and his bill come up to six hundred—blast, seven hundred—dollars. And he was just in there a week cause they had all kind of tests and stuff run on him, and I had to deal for that for a couple of days. Welfare—I don’t know—they just—they just— Seems to me that it could be better than what it is if the people would just get interested in it (??) 8:22 and stop looking at it as a paycheck
VP: I know, when we talked before, you said your worker sent you to see a—to a psychiatrist one time. How did—how did he treat you? Did he treat you like—I imagine, like his other patients? Or like you were somebody “special”?
TL: No. He treated me like that he really didn’t want to be bothered with me. But this was his job, and he didn’t want to take the time to try to help me rehabilitate myself. So he just shoved me off on somebody else. And I talked to a psychiatrist—I talked to him about an hour and a half. And he says that— I found out that I had a confidence that gets a little lower. They can find out a whole lotta things. I enjoyed the interview, because it helped me in seeing myself, really. But—you just can’t call nobody crazy—and they know they’re not crazy. And this is the way that he looked at me. And I went on to— He’s supposing to put me in a course for taking up floral arrangements, because he told me that I would have to prepare myself to work with my hands for the rest of my life—like I was some kind of invalid or I was retarded. And it really made me feel bad. And when I try—I already trying to help myself—I don’t need anybody knocking me down. I can knock myself down. And so I told him—I said I had a meeting with Dr. Bell (??) Dr. Bell told me there wasn’t anything wrong with me. He said I had just dropped out of reality with books and things. And said that a little time and some studying would help bring back— I came back with wanting to better my condition. And I went down 10:24 Point Event Planning (??)— that’s a Texas Employment Commission—the last part of ’74. And they told me that they couldn’t do anything for me because I didn’t have enough education to get a G.E.D., and I didn’t have enough education to get training. So my counselor turned me over to WIN (??). Well, WIN is a program where that they just find you a job. Well, you don’t really need to go to nobody for them to find you no job! They want to do a two-weeks’ course, fill in my application. Well, if anybody had been hungry, you would know how to find them a job. But if you not prepared for that job— People, nowadays, only—they give you a try. And if you don’t come up to their—what they think you should come up to—well, you just lost! And if you—if I get something—it would be better if they would pay me for it, whatever kind of job it is. But they should look at a welfare mother where that just because they might need $116 a month, that don’t mean that she gotta get a job. Maybe $116 is enough because she’s supposed to be bettering herself instead of lowering herself.
TL: ’Cause if you get cut off of welfare, well your food stamps are cut off. How can she buy food and pay rent out of $116? And then, people nowadays are not willing to help and take time in understanding people. Everybody is not the same! And people should want to be—feel as though—“I want to treat this person the way I want to be treated”—‘cause everybody needs help.
VP: You’re right.
TL: People just don’t want to take the time. And them caseworkers down there – they look at you like you’re just a number. They call you every now and then. Or they may come by once or twice a year and look over the place and see if anything has changed. And they’ll just stick your file back in the cabinet and keep on going (??) if you don’t call for no more assistance. They got all these friends. And they complain about welfare mothers don’t wanna do this, welfare mothers don’t wanna do that. They should make some kind of arrangements for welfare mothers. They says that when a child get—when your youngest child gets over six years old, that you have to go to this 13:01 WIN (??) program where that they give you—the first week you go—they give you $10. They send you a ten-dollar check. The second week, they send you a six-dollar check. It may be two or three weeks’ difference. Everything’s weeks.
VP: Every week you get your check?
TL: Yeah! And then the third week, a seven-dollar check. Well, what can you do with that kind of a money? And then, when you go out there, they give you a ------ (unintelligible) 13:33 as you need fifty cents for transportation.
VP: Fifty cents?
TL: Fifty cents. There and back.
VP: There and back?
TL: And now they give you—this year, they started giving you $1.20. And they explain to you where that they give you a dollar for lunch and a dollar for bus fare a day while you’re coming to this training. But my counselor knew that I didn’t need that type of training. I wanted some reading, writing, and arithmetic so that I would be able to go in anybody’s place. If I’m not qualified for the job, maybe fill out the application—
VP: Yeah, right, because that’s the first thing you have to do—
TL: Because when you go in a place of business and you can’t fill out an application, they’re gonna look at you like, “Well, look at that freak! You know—she can’t even fill out a application.” Well, this is what I’m here for. And if you send me over there—cause Miss Davis told me that if I didn’t intend to pay in the program, then she’ll have my check cut down to $47—I’m gonna have my stamps cut off. But, see, when people got that much 14:37 ------ (unintelligible) over somebody, they need to have some kind of consideration. ’Cause when you can take that much time and bag with somebody else’s life like that, you’re supposed to be knowing what you’re doing.
VP: Have they ever talked about how much money you got? You know—saying that you were getting more than you deserved, trying to— How you can appeal the amount of money you get? Have you ever been involved with that?
TL: 15:11 No, because I didn’t know that they had where that you can go and appeal for it. Now, I’ve talked to my case worker before, when I was getting $129 and $86 worth of food stamps. And she told me—said they go by people that you have in your house. Well, I have two kids and myself. Well, they cut down the checks, is what I don’t understand. Where there I was getting $129, well they cut me down to $116. And I was getting $86 where I’d get $122. Well, I think it’s about every time a congressman—every time somebody get a raise, we get a extra $4 in our food stamps. But this is like four—this is like three and four months apart. When milk’ll cost you $5.
TL: And, I mean it’s just so many things that— They give you— with your firstborn—well, they give you pamphlets and stuff about how to plan a meal, what to feed them, like fruits and fresh vegetables and stuff like that. Welfare is nice, to a degree, but they make you feel as though—that—well, you’re not supposed to live on no more than sixteen—$116 a month. And my rent is $100. And my stamps are $7.
VP: Do the case—do the black and white case workers treat you differently? Does one treat you better than the other?
TL: Yes, they do. I’ve had a—a white case worker and I’ve had —she was a lady—and I had a man. And I’ve gotten more assistance and more information out of them than I did my own kind. Because there’s so many programs out there. And if a white is working in the same building that the black is working in, how do—does—the white know about the best schools and the skills that they can get, when a black woman don’t even bring it up to another black woman?
VP: So, yeah. You said the white case workers give you more information…
TL: They give you more information. They could tell you—oh, about if you have problems with your children—where you can get counseling for your kids. Where that, like the Negroes’ association—I got that through a white counselor. Where that the black counselor—all he just wants to know is—if every six months, has anything changed?!
VP: Do they really change?
TL: 18:02 No. They really don’t. And when you come over with a problem, well, they just say, “Mrs. Lamb, I’ll see what I could do. Mrs. Lamb it’s—it’s nothing I could do about it.” Well, I feel like she—she shouldn’t be on my case if there’s nothing she could do about it. If she’s not qualified for her job—
VP: That’s right. That’s what I’m trying to perceive. Do they make visits to your home?
TL: Well, they don’t make as many as they used to, but I think they come about once or twice a month. And they just come to see if anything has changed. And they feel—welfare people have the feeling that instead of them looking into your matter or trying to find out if you have any problems—if they feel as though you should be cut out, they’ll cut you out. They’ll send you a notice saying this is your last check.
VP: Well what—what kind of basis do they have for cutting you off? How do they determine whether or not you should continue getting your check or whether they should cut you out?
TL: Well, I’ll give you an example about my stamps. When I was getting $129 and $84 for my food stamps, this white lady—she says that—she was outstanding utilities then—she says that she don’t see how I make it, and she would like to know how I get paid $97.50 a week. Lights and gas. And I buy my stamps. Well, my stamps was—what, how much was it then? I think it was a couple a dollars then. And, just because she felt like that I was living over $129, she had my stamps— My stamps was costing me more. And they just have to hand (??) you some excuse. They don’t come around and say, “Well, Mrs, Lamb is there anything I can help you with?” or “Is there assistance I can give you?” They just make up their own mind without looking at your matter.
VP: What do—you know— do they come and see what kind of furniture you have and stuff like that? Or do they just come and look and leave?
TL: They just come and look and leave. Where that— They have these, like, Salvation Armies. They have places so well-kept for welfare people to go to and buy furniture and stuff. Because you can’t get no account, being on welfare.
TL: Because when you go to try to open an account any—anywhere—and tell them that you on welfare, well they’re gonna look at you as if to say you can’t take care of yourself, no less nobody else’s account. And it feels like living below the surface. And that’s being on welfare. ’Cause it’s more to life than having a roof over your head and some little crumbs to eat.
VP: Right. Right.
TL: A woman don’t have no pride in herself. And she can’t. I mean, they don’t too much care about you having a man, but there’s nothing like they could do about it because the woman knew (??). And then— Everybody need a little help, some kind of way. Because them not—they’re not—giving the welfare mothers—they’re only giving them so much. And then they make you feel as though you should be gratified, on principle, for what they give you.
VP: Right—which is not enough.
TL: Which is just not enough. 21:48
VP: How do you feel about being on wel— How does it make you feel, inside, being on welfare?
TL: It makes me feel pretty low because—just knowing that I can’t take care of myself and that I can’t better my condition. And I have three kids that I have to raise. I can’t stop but I don’t see no way where I’m gonna—going—because nobody’s giving me no assistance. I can go to work and I can get me a job—that’s no problem to find that. But just by me raising my kids by myself. All the years I that I’ve had to raise them, I have a ulcer. And I got bad nerves and— my nerves just can’t take a whole lot. And I talked to my counselor about me keeping kids—maybe three or four kids a day—where that there would be more than I make. And then you have to have—they’re always giving you some type of an excuse instead of saying, “Well, let me see what I could do.”
VP: Until you know what you’re getting into.
TL: Uh-hunh, Uh-hunh. (Affirmative) Even if you feel like—that you want to just feel like that you can do this or you can do that. They don’t give you no backbone to what they’re really supposed to. In order for you to make somebody feel good, you gotta respect them—
TL: First. And then you gotta make them feel, “Well, I really want you to get on your feet. And I really wanna help”—
VP: So it’s—you don’t want them to make you feel like you’re on welfare of the state.
TL: Yeah, but they have this 23:27 little gilly girl (??) where that they only serve you so many years. And then after your kid is six years old they put you out—it’s—it’s just like a old cow. They put you out in a pasture and say “go for what you know.” What if you don’t know nothing—
VP: And that’s what you’ve been asking for all this time.
TL: Uh-hunh (Affirmative)—because you don’t know nothing— but, I mean, you just gotta dance by their rules and keep hoping that they send you the little bit of money that they send you. But if you don’t take a child or a person and better their condition, they are always being in a rough neighborhood, always have welfare. Because welfare— They got some women that take advantage of welfare. They sit up on their behinds all day long, they neglect their children, they sell their own stamps, and they stay out in these low-rent government apartments. And a whole lotta women are staying in government apartments don’t need to be staying in government apartments, because they could do better. Now, I’ve never been able to get a government apartment. They told me one time that I don’t need one because I wasn’t deformed, and I wasn’t blind. And they have women that stay in those government apartments and work!
VP: And that’s the reason they told you you couldn’t get one?
TL: Uh-hunh, uh-hunh. (Affirmative) I went last year over there behind Wilmington House.
VP: King’s Road. (??)
TL: Uh-hunh. (Affirmative) And I told them that I was staying at my grandfather’s house, and the taxes were eating me up, and the place was falling down. And I went over and explained it to him. And he told me that wasn’t a big problem, told me I wasn’t qualified to get on welfare. And then I called my counselor, and I told my counselor. And one of them white counselors— If I ever have any kind of trouble, she would—always—calls and figure out how to do something about it. Where that when I called my counselor—my black counselor—and tell her about it, “Well, Ms. Lamb, there’s just nothing I can do.”
VP: Before she even asks.
TL: Just dropped like that. You know—she didn’t call me and ask me, “Well, Ms. Lamb—how did your two weeks’ training go? Did you learn anything from it? Did you get anything out of it?” Well, they just—like—keep you down, in a way. And then they’re talking about cutting it off. And then, when they get to cutting you off, people will survive. But there’s a whole lotta people that really can’t make it.
VP: Do your— you know—your friends know that you’re on welfare?
TL: Well, most of them—some of them do. But some of them don’t. Because it’s a thing where that I really can’t better my condition—you know—so I’m really caught and I’m wrong for dishing them. And it just feels as though I’m just gonna have to go out and take one of these everyday jobs that they got cause the cost of living is going up, my check’s going up, stamps is going up, but the food is going 26:38 there.(??) And you can’t see yourself getting anywhere. A welfare mother can’t do no shopping. See, after a while she’s paid her rent. But the food stamps, you have to order by what you can get.
TL: You can’t buy no toilet paper. You can’t buy soap. You can’t buy dishwashing detergent—you just can’t buy anything. So all welfare do is just give you enough money to get to your rent. And they give you enough food to last you for about two weeks at the most. Because nowadays people are spending over $116 less than a month’s time—before a month’s time.
VP: Right—food has gone up so much and what they were giving you last month is not enough to make it through this month.
TL: I know—I know ’cause sugar is $5 a package and we just got a two—a $4 raise this month.
VP: And so where are you gonna find another dollar?
TL: Oh—they don’t be worried about it. This is the way it is. Don’t nobody care about nobody.
VP: You say some of your friends know you’re on welfare. So do people treat you differently when they find out that you’re on welfare? And have you ever run into anybody that maybe started treating you any differently when they found out that you were on welfare?
TL: No—not really. Men have a tendency to look at a woman on welfare that—well—she’s a charity case and she need help. And most men look at a woman and if she on welfare she needs a good thing or either she’s looking for something. And they have welfare mothers that—they got their kids on account of their friends (??) because they wanna live big on the little bit of money that they give them. And then they take them stamps and buy— Oh, I guess about four or five months ago, they started where that we used to be able to go in the store and be able to get necessity things like soap and toilet paper. And welfare mothers started to be greedy. And so where that they would get whiskey and wine and change the booze into food stamps into money, they were taking food out of their kids’ mouths.
VP: Oh—so they would change to where you could get other stuff besides food, and then they changed it back?
TL: Well, they weren’t supposed to be getting it. But in certain neighborhood stores now—where that the man— He didn’t mind it because he just looked at it like well, it wasn’t up to him. But we have to have it, you know. So now we can’t do nothing but go in the store and buy only what we can eat. If we don’t borrow it from a neighbor, you just have to hope that somebody comes along and give you a couple a dollars for you can get these things.
VP: 29:45 Do—you know, do they—people—treat your children any differently when they—you know— Like their friends—do they treat them any differently because they’re on welfare? That they know about? Do they tease them or anything like that?
TL: No, they don’t tease them because if a mother— A welfare mother has to teach her child more than just a normal mother. Because first thing they look at, well, “She can’t dress like I can,” and “She can’t have money in her pocket like I can.” The welfare mother just has to make ends meet where that she can’t pay her rent a couple a months ahead of time, where she has a clear check next month.
TL: Because they only give you so much a month and it’s just not enough to even save a dollar out of ’cause you really need more to put with that. And then, if you live in a place where you have utilities, and your rent is like $100 a month, it’s just like throwing the bills up in a hat and first one hit the floor—that’s the one you pay. But it feels as though, to me, that— by it being such a big business as it is, that if you can’t get into a government project—wherever that you move in to—that the government should pay at least a second or a third of the rent.
TL: Where that, if you can have just one third of it, it would give her a little more money in her pocket to make her feel as though that she’s human instead of just somebody just giving her something. It’s— I mean they’ve been nice, and they keep you off the street. If you got any kind of ladylike in you and have respect for your kids, they being on welfare. You don’t have to be humiliated and go through a bunch a changes with men and stuff. But it’s a hell of a life to know that all you gonna get is $116 a month. And you don’t 32:06 live (??) as much.
VP: You say you don’t have to go through so much with men. So really, welfare is— It’s stopped you from having to put up with so much stuff with men—and you don’t have to look—
TL: It keeps a roof over your head, and it keeps a loaf of bread in your icebox, and you have milk. But— I only have two kids. My oldest son stays with my mother, so I just have two kids on welfare. But the mothers have four and five and six kids— Where that, up in Chicago—up there, they give you—I don’t know whether somebody lies about this but— Up in Chicago, if a woman has three kids, she gets $400 a month. They get $300 in stamps.
VP: I see. I know that—
TL: Where that, down here, they never want to— Over $150 just for one child up there! Where that down here, three people have to live off $116.
VP: That’s a big difference—
TL: Uh-hunh. (Affirmative) And no one understand it. And they complain about the welfare system down here. The welfare down here—the welfare down here is fine to—compared to other states because some women get five and six hundred dollars a month. And then, what I’m so caring about—they can work little jobs.
VP: As long as they—
TL: You know—so many hours a day. And still, they get that kind of money.
VP: So they—their welfare—like in Chicago, for instance, is a whole lot 33:41 better than what it is—
TL: It gives a woman to feel as though that she got some kind of respect.
TL: And she can get out and help herself instead of just sitting down just looking for that check everyday—I mean, every month—because there’s nothing really to look forward to.
VP: Right, ’cause it’s spent before you get it.
TL: Yeah. Now, if you was one of these type of a people that didn’t care—oh, I live on welfare too—didn’t care, and just wanted some free money—that’s not even enough free money to feel as though that you’re accomplishing anything. A woman like to feel as though that—that she have the reign of the house. It’s not just running a house by herself. It’s so many things that she would like to do, like have a little—little blueby (??) things, like pictures or—
VP: Right, decorations—
TL: A welfare mother can’t do that (voice starts to waver) ’cause you don’t have money.
VP: Do you—do they ever ask you if a man has given you any money or helped you to s—
TL: Oh yeah, they ask you, do— (talking simultaneously)
VP: Or try to find out if you have any money—
TL: They ask you, “Do you have any help?” Why, they want to know if you have any outside help, if you have any kind of land, or if you got any kind of property. The questions that they ask you are really sim—silly. Because if you had all these things, or if you had some kind of way to get these things, you wouldn’t be there! For the aggravation that you have to go through 35:04 with it. Because welfare wants a woman to feel as though—well, you a saint. You’re not supposed to have no man, and you’re supposed to accept what we give you. Well, people don’t feel that way. They just don’t feel that way. And then, long time ago, they tell me they used to have women that come in and search your closets, house, and all around. Well, they say it’s a whole lot better now but, golly me—they not giving you enough—not for nothing—to make too much better. And if— They kinda really have me at a standstill.
VP: You know—you were talking about your food stamps a while ago. When you go through a store to spend your food stamps—do they treat you any differently when they find out you’re gonna pay with food stamps? I know, at some stores now, they have little signs up that if you’re gonna pay with food stamps, tell the cashier before she rings it up.
TL: Uh-hunh. (Affirmative)
VP: Do they treat you any differently because you paid with food stamps or—
TL: Well, they have— They got those little signs up because, like, if you go to the store and you just buy a hundred, two hundred dollars’ worth of food, and anything come through that line that you can’t eat…
VP: Right— (speaking at the same time)
TL: You know, they have to take all that stuff back and then rerun it. Where that—speaking simultaneously)
VP: Separate— (speaking at the same time) like the soap and wash— (speaking simultaneously)
TL: See, on stamps—you don’t pay no tax.
VP: Oh! I see…
TL: Where that—this is why everything have to be food. Where like, soap powders and detergent and stuff like that—you have to pay tax on those darn things. So, if you don’t have no help, you in BAD shape. ’Cause you don’t have no soap powders, you don’t have no soap, you don’t have no—
TL: You don’t have ANY thing! You know—like kids have to take vitamins. Well, okay, you got the Medicaid for other—for to take to the doctor. But what happens if you’ve used all your 37:15 three (??) prescriptions up—
VP: Your prescriptions you might need for a cold or something— (speaking simultaneously)
TL: —in that month’s time? You don’t have no money to buy your kids a bottle of castor oil. You know, it’s—it’s—it’s just no extra money and, I don’t know—I don’t think that my statement is gonna make it no better. I don’t think nobody’s statement’s gonna make it no better. They have to make it better their selves. Now, if they don’t take these women—and take these women, and give them some kind of skill, they will ALWAYS have welfare. Now, welfare can be eliminated ’cause if a person don’t want to—I feel like that if a person don’t wanna work, he’s supposed to starve. If he don’t make some kind of provisions for his self—he’s supposed to starve.
VP: But when you’re asking for help there, you can get help so you— (speaking simultaneously)
TL: They—they should. They should give you help because people don’t realize—it takes a whole lot out of anybody to walk up and say, “I need help.” And then, for somebody to say, “Well, I can’t help you,” and don’t give you no kind of excuse or transfer you to somebody that can help you. That’s like having black people who gotta always be down. Because a white person don’t wanna be bothered with ’em, really. And then, their own kind don’t wanna be bothered with ’em, and then if they don’t know that much about the securities of having a job and all that, they can’t do nothing about it.
VP: Yeah, like when you go get your food stamps—do you still have to stand in those long lines (speaking simultaneously) and wait outside?
TL: Un-hunh. (Affirmative) You have to stand out in long lines. Then, I got there one day about 15 minutes before 3:00—they close at 3:00. And the man made me get up to the front desk and he told me then—the lady getting ready to stamp my card—and he told me they was closed! And it wasn’t even closed—it had 10 more minutes—but after I stood up there for about 5 minutes, back to the front of the line, he told me they was closed. And I couldn’t do nothing but just walk on out the door, ’cause I couldn’t act a fool with the man because I would have been cutting my nose off (speaking at the same time) to spite my face. And it’s just so many humiliation things that a welfare mother has to go through when she’s trying to get help for her kids. 39:29 ------ (inaudible) They got all kinda welfare mothers. They got slick, conniving welfare mothers. They got welfare mothers that take care of men or their kids’ stuff. And mothers like that don’t never get caught. But a woman that’s trying to make a life better for herself—they don’t have time.
VP: Would—you know, you were saying they could eliminate welfare—they could make it better—
TL: They could.
VP: Yeah, what do you think they could—really—just from the things you went through – what could they do for you to make it really better?
TL: Well, I feel like—what they could do for me to really make it better is that they can send me to some type of a school—where that somebody in this school had time to sit down and show me and teach me how to read and write well enough where that I can take care of myself. Now, when I went to this—this two weeks’ program—all you do is just—just fill out applications, and people are not interested in you. You know, they—they took you through a two weeks’ program. Well, any job that they send you on—these people don’t have to hire you even if the job is open. But if you don’t have the skills to work on this job, these people don’t have to hire you because they can hire somebody that’s already qualified for the job. Well, they—if welfare would qualify their mothers and make their mothers know that—well you got a backbone—it’s time for you to get up and help yourself, I’ve helped you as long as I can—it wouldn’t be so many people on welfare.
VP: After being on welfare for so long, what’s the thing—I guess I can say—the thing that impressed you most about welfare? You know, how does—when you just look back on it—how does it make you feel, the thing that makes you feel the strongest about welfare?
TL: It makes me feel degraded, in a manner of speaking, because for me to be on something all that time and really don’t have anything to show for it, where that they have you in a scared thing where that, “I can cut you off anytime I want to, so it’s best you do what I say do.” But if they have those kind of feelings, and they have that much willpower, they should make some arrangements for our welfare mothers to benefit—I mean, to make their selves better because as long as the welfare mother feels as 42:19 though, well she can get a check—she’s drawing a check every month—she don’t have to worry about it. “Well I’m gonna have another baby.” They have some welfare mothers just to have babies to get increases in their check! Where that welfare that you’d be on there—be on that welfare for about seven or eight years, and if you haven’t had no more kids during that time, they send you out into a pasture. It’s just like a pasture.
VP: Just thinking of—about what you were saying before—you know—this is just me—they kind of put you in a position where it might benefit you to have more kids. Like, if you had a child now, and then you could go to school for your basic education—because they say if your child is under six years old then you can go to school. Do you think that’s—
TL: But you can’t—
VP: —the reason that some mothers have more children? To try to take some of those benefits that they couldn’t have, you know, when your children are older, like yours or—?
TL: No, I don’t—I don’t use that as an excuse. Those welfare mothers have babies because they don’t have nothing else to d—they feel like they don’t have nothing else to do but just misuse their bodies and bring another child in here that’s going to be hungry. He’s going to be hungry on welfare, and he going to be hungry off of welfare. But he have a better chance on welfare because they will give you a little bit to survive off of just to keep you beat—keep your heart beating, but they don’t give you no kind of respect. Well, welfare makes you feel as though you don’t need no respect cause they’re doing for you. Well, they’re NOT doing for you! They’d be doing for you if they was giving you some type of a trade or some type of a skill and telling you, “Well, I brought you this far, now let me see you do something different.” They don’t put their feet down on nothing—the only time they put their feet down is when they just cut you off, and you just in hot hell water cause you don’t know where your next bill coming from. You don’t know if you gonna make it. But it could be better than what it is. Now, they got some—in some cases, they have cut women off that had babies deliberately. They call that a deliberate—they don’t call it—but to me it look like a deliberate pregnancy. That’s what they made me feel like. Well, here you is already on welfare, and then you come up with some more kids.
VP: And they put you up ’cause you had more kids so you have another 45:02 (Unintelligible, speaking simultaneously) time.
TL: It’s a—it’s a thing where that a woman don’t have to be pregnant because she can get free medical assistance, she can get free medication, but she feel as though—like—“Well, I’m just gonna go out tonight and just have a good time.” And then, by her not caring about herself and protecting her body, well, next thing she come up and get pregnant. Well, when I got pregnant—I can’t complain cause when I got pregnant—I guess I went for about three months because I was threatening a miscarriage all the time. But it was no deliberately pregnant. It was a thing where I just got pregnant. And I lost my baby. But they feel as though a welfare mother ain’t got no business having sex. Period. You know, and they feel like if they’re giving you your money and your food, you ain’t supposed be having no outside—any kind of outside—attention because they feel like that if you have a man, you don’t need them. So you’re really caught in a bad position, in a manner of speaking.
VP: Now, I don’t think I have any other specific questions. But are there any other things about welfare or the ways it’s made you feel that you’d like to talk about?
TL: It makes me feel as though I wouldn’t advise any— (a single, loud clapping sound)
MS: At this point, the interview was terminated due to a machine malfunction. The gist of Mrs. Lamb’s answer was that she would not advise anyone to go on welfare.
48:25.4 [Recording ends]