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Title: Oral History Interview with Leroy Beavers, August 8, 2002. Interview R-0170. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Beavers, Leroy, interviewee
Interview conducted by Taylor, Kieran
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 104 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-10-29, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Leroy Beavers, August 8, 2002. Interview R-0170. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0170)
Author: Kieran Taylor
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Leroy Beavers, August 8, 2002. Interview R-0170. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0170)
Author: Leroy Beavers
Description: 84.0 Mb
Description: 19 p.
Note: Interview conducted on August 8, 2002, by Kieran Taylor; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by T. Altizer.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series R. Special Research Projects, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Leroy Beavers, August 8, 2002.
Interview R-0170. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Beavers, Leroy, interviewee


Interview Participants

    LEROY BEAVERS, interviewee
    LEROY BEAVERS SR., interviewee
    KIERAN TAYLOR, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Tell me just for the tape, tell me your name and when and where you were born.
LEROY BEAVERS:
My name is Leroy Beavers Jr., born October 23rd, 1951 in Georgia Infirmary Hospital in Savannah, Georgia.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
At that time that was the black hospital in Savannah right.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Well, one of the, there were two, Charity and Georgia Infirmary, which was given to us by, I guess, the philanthropists of Savannah. Other than that, that's the hospital that I know of. Now I had a sister who was born at Charity Hospital. That was the black premier hospital where all the doctors there were graduated from Meharry Medical college in Tennessee, all the black doctors.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now was that a younger sister?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Older.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Older. What house were you born into? Where did you grow up?
LEROY BEAVERS:
My father told me I was born into a house on Bolden Lane. But the house that I remember being a part of anything was Thirty-seventh and Burroughs Street, sort of a half-affluent neighborhood of black folks. It was a popular thing to be from that neighborhood by being black.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Thirty-seventh down here—
LEROY BEAVERS:
That's one block west of West Broad Street between Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Street on Burroughs.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah, at that time your father's barbershop was where?
LEROY BEAVERS:
It was on the corner of Fortieth Lane and West Broad Street.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So just a block up from where we are right now.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah. It was the Mecca. West Broad Street was the Mecca. It was the most exciting place that I have ever known. I love it, I still love, I have a love for West Broad Street right now today because West Broad Street has meant a lot to me because I saw things on West Broad Street that I didn't think were possible. They had black doctors, black dentists, black druggists, black grocery store, black shoe stores. Everything was in kind. In other words Savannah was separate, but it was equal. The people in Savannah saw fit that we do have a black population too and we don't want, in some ways they didn't want us to be really downtrodden. So they said, "Well, look here. We'll give one half of Savannah to the whites and the

Page 2
other half to the blacks." We had our own black policemen. We had everything. It was really good in a sense not being racial, I liked it. I liked it being separate but equal. That didn't matter. I didn't mind going to Kress, but I liked going to Dave's Soda Shop even better because it was people that I connected with on West Broad Street. Now the part of West Broad Street that I was raised up basically almost like the red light district, the hustlers, the ladies of the night—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Where was that? That wasn't over on Burroughs.
LEROY BEAVERS:
No. That was on West Broad Street.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
And about Thirty-seventh?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right. From okay from Taylor Street and West Broad down to Victory Drive was more or less like the way all the parties were. All the party people would hang out.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So the liquor and the nightclubs.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Plenty of liquor. Plenty of clubs. But I was too young to go into them at the time. I didn't start going to clubs as a matter of fact until I was twenty-six. I was in the Army because I didn't, I really didn't have any chance—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You were gone as soon as you turned eighteen.
LEROY BEAVERS:
I turned eighteen I had to leave Savannah not because I didn't like it. Just some of the things then I didn't agree with. I mean, I was raised in an era where segregation was coming to an end, integration was coming in. I just figured like I'm just an equal to anybody else that's anyone. Prior to 1950 it was kind of rough for black people in Savannah. But after the '50s, which were the golden years of some people, who want to call the no wars, the good living, two-car garage and chicken in every pot, and then the '60s came along. The '60s was a terrible time for me on MLK on West Broad Street because I saw the decay start setting in. Businesses closing down; a different type of a social life started moving in; a lot of disrespectful things started going on. People just started looking at hating themselves, hate what was going on around them.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You can tell that? You could see that?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What do you think was going on? What was that about?

Page 3
LEROY BEAVERS:
Capitalism first and foremost. After they tore the Union Station down, the train station down, that would seem like the beginning of decay of MLK because the Union Station was more or less like the real, the central point at the central hub of what was going on. Up in that area you could get anything. That's where you got your clothes at, you travel to other cities from there and the debarkation and embarkation point of Savannah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
White or black.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right. Everybody—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Would come in.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Would come in there. Everybody, even all the funeral homes were around there. Whether you were coming or going, you would go one way or leave one way. But that was the beginning of it. Then it seemed to me like well, this is hard to say, but I hate to talk about white people in that sense. You know what I'm saying but it just seemed like the white folks said, "Okay, we'll capitalize on this. This is what we're going to do. We're going to get, black people've got money too. Let's destroy this. Let's buy up all their places." Let's destroy their business. They've got to come to us now because one time we didn't have to go to them. Matter of fact in a lot of cases, they had to come to us because we were the craftsmen, the master brick masons. We had a few architects. We had all the buildings, all the labor, all the skilled labor. They had to come to us.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
As a kid, can you remember, did you ever have to go to I mean would you ever have to go east or would you ever have to go down to Broughton for anything?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yes.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You would. What kind of things would you have to?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Well, my mother would take me up to Broughton when she would go pay her bills.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Pay the light bill or something.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah, that was it, telephone bill, gas bill. That's the only time. Now we would go up there, I'm trying to think at that age, I'm talking about the age of six and ten. Because after ten years old we started going up there, but we couldn't go into too many places. We had to stand outside while Mother go inside. They didn't like too many black kids in the store. So my mother had brought a child down there. Somebody, you had to curb your child, take care of your business. We had to sit down obedient like that a

Page 4
dog or something, an animal on the side to wait for mom to come out. We'd better not move either. Mom either, like purchase shoes from the shoe store. Mama had to already know my size, and she'd go in there, and she'd come back out and try them on outside, things like that.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Unbelievable.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah, well. That was the way of life then. Just sitting and think about it, it would run you crazy. You've got to just put that on the backburner and say that's the way it was. You have to think like this here. You know about caveman days. You know caveman started on the god damned [unclear] . We couldn't live like that now today. That's the way it was. That had to start out, like you think about when they didn't have any air conditioning. Can you imagine no air conditioning in the house? I can't. No. No.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
They did.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah, yeah. That's the way I think about you just, sometimes it just hurts so bad. It hurts. It just goes to the bone just to see West Broad Street just go down the way it did just oh man. Then they named it MLK a man of his stature.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You disagree with that decision.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yes.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
How come? Tell me about that.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Because—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I would think that Dr. King would be a real source of pride for the community.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Exactly it would be a great source of pride, but look. They take his name and put it in an impoverished area where there's a lot of plight, urban plight. You just can't go up to a street sign and say I live on MLK. I'm going to do good. That doesn't get it. What would've really been good if they would've taken Abercorn Expressway and named it MLK where always, where Mr. Brown had all the property where Oglethorpe Mall is located. A lot of black people owned a lot of property out in that area, and it was taken from them for little or nothing, ten thousand dollars for a big tract of land. That's no money, but we didn't have any money. So it was money to us. We didn't know anything about megabucks. What the hell is megabucks anyway? Ten thousand was megabucks to me. Naming a street like that. Name a street like Bull Street MLK where everybody can share in the name. Everybody wants to be able to say I live on MLK. In America the only street, all the streets that's named MLK that I've been—

Page 5
I've been around a lot of places. It's nothing but black people. That's more or less, that's more or less they're patronizing. Don't patronize me. Help me if you want to do anything. Let me leave the black neighborhood and go to Martin Luther King Boulevard in the white neighborhood. You know what I'm saying. You know where I'm coming from.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah.
LEROY BEAVERS:
But they say West Broad Street was a grand place, and West Broad Street had two sides, the white side and the black side.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
This side being the black side.
LEROY BEAVERS:
The west side was the black side, and the east side of West Broad was the white side.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That was the dividing line.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right. Yeah. That ended though in the early '60s. Then the dividing line became Bull Street. You couldn't go across Bull Street.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But you still remember when that was the dividing line.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah. The streetcars used to run up here.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Did you were there sort of back and forth between—I'd imagine—
LEROY BEAVERS:
No.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Young people.
LEROY BEAVERS:
No.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Not even.
LEROY BEAVERS:
No association.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You would never even.
LEROY BEAVERS:
I didn't even, the only thing I knew was that Mr. Adler house and that was it. Those were Mr. Adler's children and that was it. That was it. No more, no less.
The Porzios restaurant over there and his family. Let me tell you about this guy Porzios. Porzios is on Thirty-seventh and Montgomery. That's right behind West Broad Street. When integration came around, this man elected to close his restaurant instead of serving blacks, but he also elected to keep his liquor store open and sell alcohol to black people.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
There was nothing wrong with that, huh?

Page 6
LEROY BEAVERS:
No, pretty much. Look here. I can get them drunk, but I'm not going to feed them. So let's keep poisoning them. That's what it was. It was poison. It was selling us poison. If you go to some of these grocery stores around here now, it's nothing like it used to be. You could get prime cut meat one time around here now. Now you go it's a lot of smoked meat, lot of fat pig meat and nothing wrong with pig meat. I like it, but—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It'll kill you.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right. Exactly. Seems like no one's thinking about the social structure around. There's a lot of sick, old, elderly people around here. I can tell you right now, you cannot go to a grocery store within a block of this place. They've got two or three grocery stores around here, and you can't get any diet food. These people have to go to Kroger up town, not Kroger down on Ogeechee Road. These people have to travel to get their diet meat. Hell, they're catching hell with prescription.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That's another thing. These pharmacies.
LEROY BEAVERS:
We don't even have one. Savannah Pharmacy, they tell me it's back in business again, but look at the price. They've got to survive.
They're paying top dollar for their medicines also.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
As an independent pharmacy.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right. Exactly. He's catching hell as an independent pharmacy. He's catching pure hell. But he's trying to take care of the neighborhood and I commend him. I really do.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So what, tell me what, you were describing yesterday when we talked just about how in some ways this was your playground this street was—
LEROY BEAVERS:
Oh yeah, playground. The playground that was up here was called Wells Street Park Thirty-eighth Street Park, but we weren't allowed to go in it because I guess it was declared not for colored children at the time for lack of terms used colored.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That was on the other side.
LEROY BEAVERS:
That was on the east side of West Broad Street. So we had to basically play on the dirt street, the side street, Bird Street, Thirty-eighth Street, Florence Street. We had to play on those streets.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But you were in the barbershop a lot. Did you have freedom to be out playing?

Page 7
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah. My father let me do what I wanted to do. I was kind of a spoiled brat too. It was like, I came up in the family the man was in charge. My father was in charge. My mother had no control of me, only at night once I got back into the domain—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That was her—
LEROY BEAVERS:
I belonged to her. But as long as I'm at my father's barbershop I was under his custody, but yeah, I played all up and down the dirt street. The streets themselves were our ball fields. They were our football field. They were our baseball field. We didn't have basketball. So we had to put up a peach basket, nail that up to a tree, and they didn't have a basketball, we'd find some little old beach ball and play basketball with that. Softball, we had to get old toilet roll and wrap it with tape until we got it nice and tight, but after a couple of whacks at that then, we had to stop the game to tape it back up again.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You were talking about them tearing down the train station.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Train—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Further down the Yamacraw—
LEROY BEAVERS:
Down on Farm Street. Yeah. Yeah. I remember all that. All the row houses. They had a club down there one time my mother used to go to.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Oh yeah.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What kind of club?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Juke joint. Juke joint.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you know what they were playing in there more or less?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Old blues and the old beebop bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp a ran. The old songs, lot of Ray Charles and a lot of B.B. King and a lot of the old blues, down home blues the Mississippi Delta Blues and Gwinnett Street.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Was your mom from South Carolina?
LEROY BEAVERS:
My mother's from Georgia. She's from a place called Shellman Bluff, Georgia. It's in McIntosh County. It's about forty-five minute ride from here. It's near Sapelo Island. My mother's a true Geechie. Yes she is. She's a full-blooded, I was proud of that heritage too. All my grandparents were full

Page 8
Geechie. We still have a large family down there now, down in Shellman Bluff. I'm so proud of them. I've just been sitting and listening to them talk all day.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Stories and—
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah. Yeah. The accent is just magnificent.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You can pick up on it and—
LEROY BEAVERS:
Oh yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Can you talk it at all?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Oh yeah. When I go down there, I've got to be able to, they are quick to say well Leroy where are you going to do today? I say, "I'm going down to the river." See you've got to catch me some of them crabs down there. Something like that. But I love it down there. I love and that was good for my family. I take my daughters down there because see my daughters have traveled around the world and since my daughters have lost their identity—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That's what you were telling me growing up on the bases.
LEROY BEAVERS:
They didn't talk like southerners. They used to get, really when I brought them back to Savannah, they'd get ridiculed for the way they talked, the way they acted because I only ask for nothing but pure respect and discipline out of my kids. Nothing more, no less. So when I brought them back and for them to intermingle with the children in Savannah was a culture shock to them. They couldn't handle it. They were, we had some rough nights with my daughters. One of my daughters refused to stay in Savannah. She wanted to move back to Texas. My youngest daughter didn't believe the United States was her home. She was born in Germany. She lived in Germany for four or five years, four to six years. When it was time for her, when it was time for me to [unclear] back to the United States, we came back to Savannah, Georgia. My youngest daughter looked at me and said, "Daddy." I said, "Yes." She asked, "When are we going to go back home?" That hurt. That hurt. When I had to bring her out here and say, well you're already home. You've got to look at the landscape from where we lived there compared to—Europe is such a beautiful place. We brought her back here and she just couldn't get, right now they're the same child that I'm telling you about. When she turned eighteen and I'm not mad at her, she left home.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Did she? She's not back in Germany is she?

Page 9
LEROY BEAVERS:
No, she's in New York City with my sister, going to school up there. I talk to her once a month, and she vowed, she's straight up. She said, "Dad, I'm not going back there." I understand that.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Some day. Some day she's going to.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Oh quite naturally. When the older she gets, she'll come back. Maybe, but I don't see it no time in the future. But I'm not mad at her because I know I can jump in my car and drive up and go see her, fly up or whatever.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You did the same thing.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yes. That's why I can't say. Now my wife is head over heels about it. She's really pissed.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Is your wife from Savannah?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah. She's from Sand Fly.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Is she really?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah, she's from Sand Fly, from that community. Near Pinpoint with Clarence Thomas. Right there. There's a large black community.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The old—
LEROY BEAVERS:
One of the oldest. Two hundred, over two hundred years old.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
They had he old seafood factory.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right, the crab factory, yeah. Yeah. My mother used to work there.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Did she really?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah. When she was a young lady when she first moved to town.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Making the, what did they—
LEROY BEAVERS:
The crab patties—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The crab meat.
LEROY BEAVERS:
They cracked them and shucked the crabs and crab patties. My mother did that. But I don't know. West Broad Street still holds a lot of nostalgia for me. That's why I'm sort of stuck here where we're at now because I like it. When I was here as a young man prior to going into the military, I was part of the clown show.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Part of the what now?

Page 10
LEROY BEAVERS:
The clown show. We would call it a circus. It was like the circus up here, the circus atmosphere. It was so many things going on. You could see anything. You could see the man in the corner doing the three-card Monte act. Then you've got the young boy standing on the corner singing, doing their little doowop back there. You've got maybe another kid down the street tap dancing. I said, "Oh man this is a clown show up here." Now I came back as a spectator because there was a really, it wasn't the same.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
This was after you got out of the military.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
How old were you when you got back?
LEROY BEAVERS:
I was forty. I had just turned—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So you were gone twenty years.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right. The only time I visited Savannah, I only visited Savannah one or two days. I never stayed longer than two days.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Most of the time you were over at your father's on the east side—
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right. Right or at my mother in laws. What we would do, we would go on vacation. We would go to Florida, spend seven or eight days in Florida and maybe this was a stop off the way back, couple of days—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But what was the clown show?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Just like a circus atmosphere and I was part of it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Was it acrobatics—
LEROY BEAVERS:
No, no, no what I'm saying, more or less what I'm saying it was just like, there were all types of things like the red light district. You can see the pimp and be watching these guys and how they move and the lady of the moonlight and how they move and then you had the occasional alcoholic or a drunk or whatever you want to call them. Then in the midst of all of that, you'd see a very respectable person and you sometimes I mean, you can tell them because when they would walk down the street it was like the parting of the Red Sea. These people would move out of the way for him.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Who would they move out for? Like what kind of people?

Page 11
LEROY BEAVERS:
Doctors, Dr. Collier and Dr. Goushee. I remember them vividly. All the preachers, all the preachers. They'd command respect but some of the preachers were worse than everybody else. The women, the women. Guys on West Broad Street at the time, the utmost respect for female. A female would walk by and there could be a gang of guys on the corner, but there wouldn't be one profanity. They would stop and let the woman pass by. When the old people used to walk up the street and the young guys would be sitting like on the street or somewhere in front of a business, all these guys would stand up, take off their hats and let this old person pass.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Can you imagine?
LEROY BEAVERS:
No, but instinctively that's still in me now today when I'm sitting out there and an older person walks by, I get up and let them walk by and then do that little like bow. But that's still in me right now today, but I don't see kids do that anymore. That's the way it was up here.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you remember any particular individuals that stand out in your memory?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yes.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Some real characters. Tell me about some real characters.
LEROY BEAVERS:
I don't know if I want to talk about these people because some of their families are still around today.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You can even give initials or just describe them. You don't have to even name them.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Let's see. Let's see Georgie. Let's say George. George is a big one. He would do odd jobs, sweep the sidewalk but he drank a lot. But I didn't, I really, at the time I didn't know too much about him. But you can tell stories, he was a storyteller. He told me the story about Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox. He told me those stories. He told me Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and he told me at length word verbatim because I got older I read these books. I said man George had in his story there, how did he remember all this here.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Was he an older man?
LEROY BEAVERS:
He was a middle-aged man. Middle aged. He was an alcoholic.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
He was a storyteller.

Page 12
LEROY BEAVERS:
Oh yes, he was.
Then we had one man. I'm going to call him Chalk Eye. He was one of the first black men to go to University of Pennsylvania Law School and got a law degree but couldn't practice law.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Because of segregation.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Because of segregation and the only thing he could do was be like maybe I guess a paralegal, what you want to call it a paralegal, give legal advice to blacks around and did taxes, everybody taxes from whoever had taxes to be done, whoever had jobs had to get taxes done. I remember him, and he would sit and tell me about, I try to figure out how in the hell did he get to go to the University of Pennsylvania. He went to the University of Pennsylvania in the '40s, in the early '40s and graduated, and then he turned out to be just one of the biggest alcoholics of all times, that hurt. What made him go that, what did him like this here.
His brother is still living today, and I'm in love with his brother. His brother is about eighty years old though, but I'm in love with his brother. His brother comes into the barbershop and then we had all kinds of characters. We had the entrepreneurs, the so-called entrepreneurs. The guys that sell liquor in the shot houses. They were the money men. The bolito runners.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Someone was telling me about, you would've been pretty young, but Sloppy.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Oh yeah. I didn't know Sloppy personally, Sloppy. I didn't know Sloppy but from word of mouth. But where we stayed at was right across the street from where he lived at, but my father used to work for him, and I don't know if it's good to say it. They were gangsters. I don't know if it's good to say that, but to me and from the listen to what they say, they were gangsters. Count money all night long, and then you have to take, shifts to come and count money. Count money until he got sick. Sloppy had to lend the city of Savannah money. I do remember the Flamingo Club they had on Greenwich Street with the Flamingo Diner was. It was a night club, the Flamingo. A lot of these kids and guys people don't really know, but the ballrooms that they had on MLK and on Gwinnett Street, they rivaled any one the white folks had. They were very lavish.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I'm sure the entertainment was a whole lot better.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Much better. As a matter of fact, that's who came.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The white clientele.

Page 13
LEROY BEAVERS:
White, exactly. That's who came. They didn't go to, they had a white club called Bamboo Ranch. They didn't go there. Nobody but the rednecks went, the really diehard, not going to give up, hate you the rest of my damned life. That's who went there. But hell yeah. Then they had Gunnies. That's another club that they had here. Old black man, now he was the one I think one other than Mr. Sloppy, the other entrepreneur in Savannah, Georgia, because he had owned real estate, and he had owned a night club. His night club was very respectable. You did not come into his night club with a loud mouth. I hear these men talking don't go into Gunnie's like that. You might go out to Harris's name of the place, Derrick's Inn, Lincoln Inn, but these places were nice places though because they'd, I hear my father talking about the suits they used to wear and the ladies had the gowns on and men wore the wing-tipped alligator shoes. I would sit and just I had put that picture in my head, and at the time I would come up, there wasn't any place like that in Savannah. This is since before my time. This was during the time of when Duke and Count Basie were really doing their thing, yeah, yeah, doing their thing.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you remember the protests? I mean, it would've been a young teenager.
LEROY BEAVERS:
I was between thirteen and seventeen years old. I remember.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Would you have gone down to Broughton Street to be part of the protests?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah, my mother and father wouldn't let me. They were scared for me because they didn't want anything to—I was Viola Beaver's baby boy, her only one. A lot of young black men were getting killed and getting put in jail and getting misused, and my mother just, I sort of stay away from that. I don't want you to be a part of that. Don't do that because, I sort of obliged her to that. Basically I had to work.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Well, you were in the store.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Right, the barbershop.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You were telling me yesterday or the day before that you were—
LEROY BEAVERS:
With a Coca Cola crate.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You were kind of young cutting hair.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Nine or ten years old. My father, I'll tell you I cut the little guys' hair, and my father walked into the barbershop and caught me cutting hair, and I was getting ready to put the razor on him and my father, "Boy what you doing?" I dropped the razor, and he looked at the boy and said, "Who cut his hair?" I said, "I cut his hair." So I finished cutting his hair. You remember that daddy when cutting Danny boy's

Page 14
hair. Remember when I cut Danny boy's hair, and you walked in the barbershop on it. Yeah and then he said, "Finish cutting his hair." So I finished cutting his hair. He said, "Where did you learn that?" I said, "I've been sitting in the barbershop all my life watching you. The next day they got a little yellow Coca Cola crate and put it behind the chair and got me a white barber coat and that was it. Then everybody wanted to come see.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It was kind of a novelty.
LEROY BEAVERS:
And see that little young Beaver barber. Nobody couldn't believe I was down there cutting hair. Boy cutting hair and he could cut too. Then my father was good. My father was good. See I learned all of his techniques, cut hair in five minutes. I was giving people what they really wanted. They wanted to come in, get a hair cut, go about their business. I credit all of that to my father, all of that. I guess I'll come up in another barbershop where they had a bunch of slow barbers, I probably would've been a slow barber. But I was born to this right here, and I thank God for it every day. Yeah, it was novelty. At one time I was like the Afro king. I did all the young guys' Afros.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Is that right?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Blow them up and believe it or not it was good money, but boy I hated doing that. I hated the big Afro because it was too time consuming. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. You had to really pay attention to details to do that kind of work. I can still do it, but all that hair man, and just trying to, the effect that you want, you want this guy, give him a nice style, and he wants to go out looking like that, but he wants to wake up in the morning looking like that too. So you actually had to cut it like that where he lay his head on the pillow when he wakes up in the morning, it springs back. You just comb it out, and it's just like it was when he left the barbershop. That was kind of cool.
Then my father, I owe everything to my father, man. It isn't anything in this world because I've been in the Army, and I've learned a lot of things, but initially my mother and father they put what's in here now today, and I thank them so dearly for it, and West Broad Street now. I'm going to tell you right now, I learned a lot from the street here. Some things you can learn in school, but there are some things out here you can't learn in school. You can't learn that. The things I learn out here. What I learned out on West Broad Street prior to eighteen years old helped me when I left Savannah, Georgia, how to deal with people socially. The only thing I couldn't really, really deal with a lot my first time away was white people because I never dealt with white people before. See now white people

Page 15
are more or less unforgiving in a sense like what the hell he saying. What the hell you come from? What are you talking about? Seemed like everybody else and them understand why in the hell can't you understand what I'm saying. It's crazy, and then I had a couple of friends, one white guy, befriended me. His name was Jerry Gillespie from Pennsylvania, and he loved to play soccer. I didn't know anything about soccer. I haven't heard about soccer. We were roommates, and I just, I tell Jerry straight up now I said, "Jerry I was talking a white guy one day and something I said and the white guy said that guy looked kind of stupid and didn't understand why he called me stupid. I thought I was talking, I really wasn't talking that much, just a regular conversation." Jerry explained it to me. He said, "Leroy, it's not that you're stupid. It's just that they don't understand you because they haven't been around black guys." Then that's what really cracked it for me right there. I said, "Okay now I understand that." In other words we both have to feel each other out in order to be something together. But I learned it right here on West Broad Street, everything I learned. Everything that took me on my travels around the world, got it right here.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
If there were one business that you'd like to see come back to the street, what would you see come back?
LEROY BEAVERS:
The train. The train.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Are you serious?
LEROY BEAVERS:
The train station back there.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What is it that you miss about the train?
LEROY BEAVERS:
Just had all kinds of things, have you ever been to Central Station in New York?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The same.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah, just on a smaller scale. The train would back into the terminal get you some ice cream and the stores, and the train killed this damned place, man, because people from all around they met people, that you'd think you'd never meet met at the train station. You met New Yorkers. You met people from Oklahoma, California, Chicago, had a chance to talk to these people, and while the train station was up there, the black people that came from these areas came down here to get service to get their hair cut, stop off to a club. You got a chance to meet these people. When they put that highway out there, I-95 that was the other stab in the back because this is Highway Seventeen here. Everybody had to come down West Broad Street first.

Page 16
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That's right, sure.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Everybody had to come across that bridge, the old Talmadge Bridge, up Seventeen, and this was Seventeen here and then the junction was right here at Victory Drive for all points going south. I used to stand at the corner and look at the tags. Nebraska, Arkansas, California.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
To get from New York to Florida you had to go by the Beaver's barbershop.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Every time right, excuse me, every time. Every time, everybody had to come by here. Everything came by here. Baseball teams, entertainers, their buses came through here. Everything came through here. I was sitting with my father in front of my father's barbershop. They had a radio one time. I sure wish that barbershop was still here, and the radio had a speaker and the speaker was up in the door. Every October in the World Series they'd play the World Series on the street and everybody'd come up. Bus drivers stopped. What's the score? What's the score? It was just so much life on MLK. Integration came down and killed the life, killed it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Because?
LEROY BEAVERS:
They didn't put it to death. They just put it on such a low level that it could never rise again, but it's going to rise again. I know it's going to rise again. They put it on such a low level where people now, we're talking about esteem now. It was so much esteem on West Broad Street at one time. There were so many respectful men. Mr. Joe Young, I haven't ever seen that man without a suit on and a tie, elderly man. Never. Gold rings on his fingers, never. A nice little fedora that the men were wearing. Oh man. Then integration came along, and then for some reason this mentality came along that where everybody was—. I was going down to Woolworth's or I'm going down to Kress. I couldn't understand that. I couldn't understand why they wanted to go down there. You could go to Dave's Soda Shop for the same thing and even get even better treatment. They had restaurants they could go to, fine restaurants. My daddy had a restaurant. He ever tell you about that restaurant he had? He had a restaurant at Fortieth and West Broad. Back in the early '60s, right.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What kind of place?
LEROY BEAVERS:
I loved that place. I could get cookies and candy. It's not the first restaurant, business my father owned. We owned that business down there and it was a very nice restaurant. But now a days people are always on the go and they've got that fast food and a greasy spoon will suffice now for anybody

Page 17
now a days, just stop and go. You know what I'm saying. Let me get this here and I've got to go. But it was a remarkable thing what happened here on West Broad Street. It was murder. It was murder. It was actually, in a sense it was sort of a type of a genocide of a social life of life where people had just pure natural respect for each other. That is something that we are lacking here, now today. Don't have it at all. Not here any more. No telling what might happen to you now on West Broad Street now. Get robbed, killed or whatever, right now and because of that, because first and foremost we can't leave out technology. Technology did West Broad Street in too. The mall, when they took all those businesses and put it up under the roof, that was not only the death of West Broad Street, but it was the death of Broughton Street. I had loved Broughton Street too.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It killed that one too.
LEROY BEAVERS:
And at Christmas time, Mama would take me to Broughton Street, and we would always go there just as they put up all the Christmas decorations. My mother had a '56, I think it was a '56 Chevrolet, and I used to love to put my head in the back of the mirror as the car went down the street, and I could watch the light and it looked so beautiful. It was like Las Vegas. That was grand. That was grand.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It killed Broughton.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah, it killed it dead. It killed, the mall killed Broughton dead. Now but urban renewal is fixing Broughton Street up. But urban renewal is fixing up all of the, they call it downtown. So what do we call this here? America will fix up all of downtown. They never want to talk about the Auburn Street in Atlanta, the West Broad Street in Savannah, Georgia. They don't want to talk about them, and when they know they were Meccas for us. We had, we had it. Then we got this new social life now. We got to call a spade a spade now. We've got racism within racism within the black race. Not so much talking about white folks. We've got black folks the middle class black folks against the lower class black folks. You understand what I'm saying. That's a thing in itself right there that the young black guys have to deal with now. In other words, we have a caste system of our own that we've got to deal with right here. It's crazy man. It's wild.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
If you were—go ahead.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Integration got it like that. Integration was a terrible thing. Regardless of how you, integration was terrible. But who, what did, integration didn't help anything. It didn't help anything.

Page 18
White folks still just like black folks by the color of their skin. Black folks just still distrust white folks. It didn't change anything. Only thing it changed, the drug trade got big. Everybody's into it. The only thing that happened in America is the drug got big. One time marijuana, one time marijuana was a serious novelty. It was just something for somebody to try. Just to see what it's like. It's a way of life now. It's a way of life now for the young teenagers coming up now. Right up here, it's a way of life. You couldn't find any—if you find somebody on MLK on West Broad Street selling dope back in those days, he was an outcast. He was a lowlife. What are you trying to do, destroy your own people? That's what these people would tell him. They'll make him feel that he is not wanted. Then the guy who was using the drugs. You guys y'all go down the street and y'all take care of your business. Don't come down with this here. It's not like that any more. You look at what's going on around you especially if you're on MLK, and you ride up and down MLK.
I was riding up the other day and I was looking at something when I was up by Saint Phillips Church. I was trying to think now where was the hotel at. I know it was a hotel, and then it was a barber and beauty supply either downstairs in the hotel—am I right Daddy?
LEROY BEAVERS SR.:
What?
LEROY BEAVERS:
The Dunbar Hotel—I'm talking about barber supply store where they buy those black dolls and stuff. Who was downstairs?
LEROY BEAVERS SR.:
[unclear]
LEROY BEAVERS:
So they didn't sell, so Samuel Williams was across the street before they moved over by the Star.
LEROY BEAVERS SR.:
After he closed it down [unclear] .
LEROY BEAVERS:
Okay. All right then. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Then I was trying to think all the places that were, I know the funeral home was on the corner, right around the corner, Sidney A. Jones, there on the corner.
LEROY BEAVERS SR.:
[unclear] street.
LEROY BEAVERS:
Okay. All right. All right.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You were trying to reconstruct—

Page 19
LEROY BEAVERS:
Yeah, and I couldn't do it. Daddy heard it, and I used to know the place so vividly. Up by where the supermarket's at, the sidewalk was high. You had to walk up some steps. That's over by Alex's Super—
LEROY BEAVERS SR.:
[unclear]
LEROY BEAVERS:
Alex's Super Duper was located up there I think. Okay. You had to walk up some steps. Hey how y'all doing? [interruption] I'll be right with y'all in a second. I'm giving on interview right here. This is my friend. This is Mr. Ben Allen.
END OF INTERVIEW