My aunt came
to San Francisco in 1943. She moved about three times from 1943
to 1950 before they purchased the property on Ellis Street. The
Western Addition was the African American center of all the people
coming there. There was the church, the Third Baptist Church. It
was a time of community building. The house itself was a gorgeous
Victorian on Ellis Street. When I first came to visit, I had not
seen anything like it. The ceilings were very high and there were
ornaments around them and on the doors and the post as you entered
the building. The hardwood floors were absolutely gorgeous.
On Living in the Fillmore Neighborhood
If someone needed
to patch a roof, they'd get their ladder and they'd go patch a roof.
If someone needed to put a pane in a window, they could do that.
They could also paint inside or outside. One tenant was a mechanic.
They would come down to a central place and they would fix whatever
was wrong with each other's cars. For a long time, my aunt and uncle
didn't need a car because everything that they needed was within
walking distance. They had the grocery store and the furniture place
on Ellis and Fillmore. It was amazing the resources they had. It
was a social place, a gathering place. After church, people came
to visit, to see what was going on there.
thing about food in the Fillmore was that we brought that food culture
with us from Northeast Texas. We had to educate the merchants in
the Fillmore District because we spoke another language. We had
to translate: dry salt bacon meant salt pork in San Francisco. Black
eyed peas were beans at that time. The two most important types
of fish were catfish and perch; shrimp was not one of our regular
feasts. And then we had pork, chitlins, pig's feet, and the jowl,
which was the head of the hog. We taught the merchants about things
that we were commonly cooking.
On the Effects
with the Redevelopment Agency was this: you either became involved
in the design of the project, or you sold your property outright.
After much deliberation, my aunt decided to sell her home outright.
It was a very hard decision for her, of course, and she also realized
how it would be for her husband. After they moved out, there was
a long period of time before the property was actually demolished.
Every morning until the property was actually leveled, my uncle
would drive and park in front of the house and read the newspaper.