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0:02 - Hometown of Snow Hill, Maryland: Life on the farm

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Partial Transcript: Okay. All set?

Segment Synopsis: Beulah Collins speaks fondly about growing up in the country, raising chickens and growing vegetables.

Keywords: Philadelphia (Pa.); Widows; Wilmington, Delaware

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Housing.; Childhood

GPS: Snow Hill, Maryland
Map Coordinates: 38.1750, 75.3908

Hyperlink: Portrait of Beulah Collins, circa 1984. Courtesy of

5:43 - Moving to Philadelphia, circa 1919

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Partial Transcript: When did you come up to Philadelphia? When did you come north?

Segment Synopsis: Collins discusses her decision to move north after her husband died during the 1918 influenza epidemic and her parents passed away, taking her siblings' advice to seek opportunities for better wages and an education for her son.

Keywords: Domestic work; First great migration; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

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9:16 - Domestic service: Living with the Richard family in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: So when you came up here, then, did you go to work?

Segment Synopsis: Collins explains how she began working as a domestic worker for the wealthy Richard family on Chestnut Hill.

Keywords: Domestic work; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

GPS: Coordinates to the Richard's home on Chestnut Hill
Map Coordinates: 40.065846, -75.202665

Hyperlink: The Richard family lived on 7810 Lincoln Drive, in a house built in 1906. This photograph captures the house as it stands over a century later, in 2014.

11:32 - On boarding her son with "Mom" Taylor

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Partial Transcript: But ahead of my story before then. I did work for another lady out, way out in Ardmore somewhere.

Segment Synopsis: Collins recounts spending a portion of her earnings paying “Mom" Taylor to look after her only son, as he could not live with her at the Richard residence. She shares her happiness and contentment that "Mom" Taylor treated her son like one of her own children.

Keywords: Childcare; Domestic work; Low wages; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

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17:46 - Domestic service in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Now, um, you know, I'm very interested in finding out more about domestic service.

Segment Synopsis: Collins describes how she was "pretty well satisfied" doing domestic work to ensure her son had a good education. She shares how she used to go up and look at the brides during weddings at a church on Saint Martins Lane.

Keywords: Domestic service; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Recreation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

GPS: The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill
Map Coordinates: 40.065567, -75.206903

Hyperlink: Drawing of the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, c. 1889. Courtesy of

20:59 - Domestic service: Low wages

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Partial Transcript: What were your wages like?

Segment Synopsis: Collins shares how she made $13 a week and how she had to stretch it to provide for her son. She talks about how she always had enough to eat during the Great Depression because she lived with the Richards family. She also shares her feelings about wearing a uniform, which the family bought for her.

Keywords: Domestic work; Low wages; Wearing a uniform

Subjects: African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Housing.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Depressions--1929; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; United States--Race relations.

Map Coordinates:

Hyperlink: Edgar W. Roster, "$5 Weekly Is Average For Domestic Aide," Philadelphia Tribune, May 9, 1935. Used by permission of the Philadelphia Tribune Company, Inc. All rights reserved. The Philadelphia Tribune, with 130 years of continuous publication, is the oldest newspaper in the United States serving the African-American community.

27:11 - Domestic service: Long hours

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Partial Transcript: What were your hours like?

Segment Synopsis: Collins recounts her daily routine and duties as a domestic worker, including squeezing fresh orange juice for breakfast, sweeping the porch, making the beds, getting the boys off to school, serving the meals, washing the dishes, and tidying the house. Once a week, she polished the silver. Mrs. Richard hired another woman to do the heavy washing and ironing. She shares that her days began at 7:00am and ended at 8:00pm, thirteen hours hours later. She says that she had Sundays and Thursday afternoons off. Still, she rarely complained. She also shares that one of the Richard's sons married a granddaughter of Washington Atlee Burpee, the founder of Burpee Seed Company.

Keywords: Daily routines; Domestic work

Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; United States--Race relations.

Map Coordinates:

Hyperlink: "Domestic Service," Philadelphia Tribune, May 17, 1924. Used by permission of the Philadelphia Tribune Company, Inc. All rights reserved. The Philadelphia Tribune, with 130 years of continuous publication, is the oldest newspaper in the United States serving the African-American community.

33:18 - Work options as a Black woman in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Now when you came up you were a young woman up from the South--

Segment Synopsis: Collins describes learning to be a good live-in domestic, and discusses her distaste for laundry and factory work.

Keywords: Domestic work; Factory work; Laundry work

Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Discrimination in employment.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

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36:07 - Memories of the South and her husband's death in 1918

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Partial Transcript: How, how do you think, uh--how did Philadelphia compare to, uh, to--when you, when you arrived in the city, when you were first living here, I guess after you moved in from Ardmore.

Segment Synopsis: Collins reminisces about life on the farm as a young woman and shares the reasons why she never had a desire to return to Maryland. She explains why she never remarried for fear that a new husband might not be good to her son. She shares how she heard about her husband's death at Fort Meade in 1918 and how she intends to be buried beside him when she dies.

Keywords: Influenza Epidemic of 1918; Maryland

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Marriage.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919.

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Hyperlink: Camp Meade Draft Board, 1918. Many African-American men who entered the army during World War I were inducted into the military at Camp Meade in Maryland. Courtesy of

41:49 - Memories of her childhood as a tenant farmer's daughter

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Partial Transcript: Now, did your family, uh--you grew up on the farm, right?

Segment Synopsis: Collins recalls the crops her father grew as a tenant farmer: wheat, corn, potatoes, and "most everything," She speculates about the course her life may have taken had she stayed in the South.

Keywords: Corn; Maryland; Potatoes; Tenant farmers; Wheat

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Social conditions.

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44:21 - Final thoughts: Religious leaders and the Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: Did you, uh, did you pay any attention to Marcus Garvey back in the '20s?

Segment Synopsis: Collins briefly discusses religious leaders as well as hardships she faced during the Great Depression.

Keywords: Father Diving; Great Depression; Marcus Garvey; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African American leadership; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Religion.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Depressions--1929.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

Map Coordinates:


 CHARLES HARDY: Ok. All set? Your name is Beulah Collins? And how old are you?

BEULAH COLLINS: Yes. I'll be 91 on the 28th of this August, this month.

HARDY: Congratulations on making it this far. Aiming for 100? Where were you born?

COLLINS: Um hm, on the Eastern Shore, Snow Hill, Maryland. You ever down on the East Shore?

HARDY: No, but I have family from Glencoe, Maryland, but I know very little about the East Shore. Can you tell me a little bit about your youth, growing up down there?

COLLINS: Yes, um hm. Well, I was raised in the country, down on the farm where they raised cattle and vegetables and things like that. My mother used to have a garden and my father used to tend-- worked on the farm. And they raised horses 1:00and cattle and things like that. I remember when I was a little child, my mother used to plant gardens and we raised our own vegetables. And my father, as I said we were raised on the farm, we used to get up early and go over and milk the cows and feed the horses and bring the milk home the old fashioned way. Put it in big pans and let it stand for a certain time, take the cream off it-- the top off-- you know the top where the cream-- skimmed it off and churned it in an old fashioned churn that made our butter. Momma used to raise chickens. You ever seen a farm?


HARDY: Oh yeah, my Aunt lives on a farm in the Delaware Water Gap.

COLLINS: We raised the chickens. And-- ah-- it's a .. I find that since I've come to the North that a lot of people like to hear me talk about the southern parts of the states-- down there where I were raised. Where we raised our chickens that laid the eggs and sat on them for three weeks. It's so funny. They sat on those eggs for three weeks. And little babies would pip out of their shell. They would come out of that shell -- they'd pip out of it and at a certain time it would come out. The little biddies out of those shells.. And you'd raise--take those biddies and that mother, which was a hen would take care 3:00of those chickens. It was so funny. When I think of it and tell some of the people since I'd been to the North about how this one hen would look after her biddies you know. And ah, she would take care of those biddies after they got so they could run around. Seems as if she knew her biddies. And while she was picking up and find something, she wanted them to eat, she would make a noise just like our mothers will call us to the table so that we could have something to eat.

And those little biddies knew their mothers voice and they'd run and get some thing to eat. Nature is just funny, isn't it when you think of it. We'd take… she'd call them like cu-cu-cu-k.. Here they come! And she'd give them some of 4:00it. And when it come night or rainy weather, she would take care of those biddies and she would get back in the corner somewhere, just like we mothers would in a house. And she'd get back in the corner and them little biddies would come to her and get under her wings for shelter. (laughter) It was so funny! And when I tell it to people up here, they are so amused about it.

HARDY: I guess most Philadelphians don't have much experience with chickens.

COLLINS: No! And it was the same thing with horses and cattle. They were out in the field during the day, and when night come, getting late, you could see them getting up towards the barn for shelter. Just natural! And when I tell it to 5:00some people, they just can't believe it. And I go back and I think of it how wonderful it was. It was such a change in nature how the hen would take of her chickens. And how the horses and cattle when they saw it was coming in night. You wouldn't have to call them up. If they were out in the field, they would come up. And they'd stand there to the gate waiting for you to let them in so they can get their supper. Oh, it was funny. So, that's about all I believe I can think about.

HARDY: When did you come up to Philadelphia? When did you come North?

COLLINS: Well, I was married in 19 and 17. I lived down there until after I was 6:00married and had my baby. And I lost my husband real early. He died before the baby was born. And of course, my health got bad. I had older brothers and sisters and they said, "Beulah, why don't you come to Philadelphy? You can go to hospitals and get treatments and maybe that would help you." Well, that was encouraging to me. That's how come I had to come up here. My boy was young. And then after I came up here, and I saw people had better chance for education up here than what we did down there, and I wanted my boy to have an education. Then I decided to come up here where I thought he could have a better education. That was one of my main reasons, I had my child in view.

HARDY: So you say you had brothers and sisters who had already come up?


COLLINS: They had. They were half brother and sisters. They were older than me, and they had interest in me. And they knew my health was bad and I lost my husband and had this baby. And my health was bad and they thought --They were up here and they knew about clinics and things. And they thought if I'd come up here that I could go to the clinics and get treatments and then work some too, you know, and help to take care of the baby. So that's the really of my coming up.

HARDY: What brought your half brothers and sisters up to Philadelphia?

COLLINS: Well, they're all gone now. They're passed.

HARDY: Do you remember what brought them up to city?

COLLINS: Well, they were older than me. No, I can't tell what would bring them up because they were older than I.


HARDY: So when you came up, did you know anything about Philadelphia before you came?


HARDY: Anybody give you any advice on what you should do or look out for?

Be: No, but my main object was, like I said at first, my brothers and sisters thought that if I come up since my health was bad, I could come up and get work and go do the treatments and go to hospital and get treatments and then take care of my child, too. And then I thought again, well, that it better happened that people in the city, in Philadelphia has better education, and then we'd be down here-- and I just made up my mind that we would stay up here because my child could get a better education than I had. I don't have much education-- not now, even now. I see things I'd like to read and I can't even read. I was looking down there in the dining room today and saw some different signs up 9:00there. And uh, I can't read all of them. I had poor education. And I wanted my child to have better. That was one of my main reasons to stay here, because I had interest in him.

HARDY: So when you came up, then, did you go to work?

COLLINS: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

HARDY: What did you work as?

COLLINS: I worked in Chestnut Hill for a private family up there on Lincoln Drive for 13 years. Worked in a private family. A Mrs. Richard. And ah, in a private family-- I used to cook and serve the table.

HARDY: Can you tell me how you got that job? Do you remember?

COLLINS: Yes! Let me see. How did I get that job? (pause) I was working-- now 10:00how did I get that job?

HARDY: Do you remember, maybe it was word of mouth, or through one of the employment offices, or an ad in the paper?

COLLINS: No, it was through some friends. They were working with the sister of Mrs. Richard. And I was in there to my brothers one day. And we were all friends and we have certain days off. Those employers used to have certain days off, Thursdays or something where we all get off. My brother married their cousin and they worked up there in Chestnut Hill not far from Mrs. Richard, for the sister. And ah, I was thinking that I wanted to raise my boy and I thought I would like 11:00to work. And they said, "Beulah,"-- that's my name--"I know a woman that needs help and she is a sister of the lady I live with." Said, "Maybe you could go with her and work." She says "I'll speak to her about it."

But I'm ahead of my story before then. I did work for another lady out, way out in Ardmore somewhere. I didn't stay there very long. I'm ahead of my story. I was there with my baby, with my little boy. That was before he was old enough to go to school. And they were all white people there. The tenants down there was 12:00white and all that. Well, my boy was colored. I married a dark man like myself and of course my baby was dark. Well, all the children there, around there was white. Children are children. They played with him and like that. But when it was time to go meet the train or go somewhere, the people, the owner of the people, they left him out. And of course I felt kind of bad about that. So later on, I got--they were going to give me a vacation and I was going home to get this vacation. And they told me that when the vacation was over they would like 13:00for me to come back. So I thought it over to myself and thought, "Well, I'm not very happy here although you're nice to my baby. But when it come to go to places, you didn't make him feel so welcome." So that's when I went to see about going to this other place, uh um.

And then when I went to this other place, I didn't take my baby with me, but I put him in a nursing home where some other children were with a colored family and she took care of children and took care of babies. And she would send him to school. And that's where I was when I went with for Mrs. Richard. He was in a nursing home and where they took care of children, she had a lot of them. They called her Mom Taylor. And she raised them just like her children-- She had four 14:00or five children, maybe six, I don't know, several of them, just like they was brothers and sisters. And that was her job to take care of people with children.

HARDY: Was she just a woman who had her own house? Mom Taylor?

COLLINS: Yeah, she lived in her own house and had a husband. He had a job and she lived in her own home in Philadelphia. And it was-- you might know the location, of course they built it up now. It was around right near a school-- and my child went to that school. And the children were… it was on-- I'm so forgetful! On Spruce? Was it Spruce? Lombard? Wait, the church is 15th-- 15th 15:00and Oxford. Do you know of that neighborhood?

HARDY: Yes, I think that's North Philadelphia.

COLLINS: Yes. Yes. That's where it was.

HARDY: That's right up near Temple.

COLLINS: Yes. And uh, she used to have these children and was very nice. A woman, a woman I met, she said, "Beulah, I know a woman that would take care of your child and she takes care of children. And if you want to go into this private family, well, she'll take care of your children and she has a lot of children she kept 'em just like at home. She washed and ironed and cleaned them." My boy is clean today. He likes to wash dishes and do things. He's a grown man and got children and grand children now. But he believes in having things real nice and clean. And this Mom Taylor was very nice to him and I worked for Mrs. Richard all these years. And she knew I had this child and 16:00certain days she would come out there and let him stay with me, stay over night, over the weekends. Then he would go back to Mom Taylor. Mrs. Richard was very nice. She had money. And when her children had some clothes that they outgrew, she would turn 'em over to me and give 'em to me. Sure I guess that's about as much as I know.

HARDY: Let me ask you a couple more questions. How did you feel about leaving your son while you worked for Mrs. Richard?

COLLINS: Well, as I said at first, oh, this woman told me, this friend I met, told me about this place, Mom Taylor who would take care of other children. And other mothers had their children there. Um hm, and I felt perfectly contented 17:00with Mom Taylor. Because she had other people's children there and she took 'em just like her own. Taught 'em how to get up and wash themselves and how to have little jobs and do little jobs. Some of them would have a day to wash the dishes and others would have a day to clean the room, that stuff. Just like if she were your mother. And I felt pretty well satisfied because he was there with those boys and girls. I felt pretty good. I felt like it was the place for me. And then I got this job with Mrs. Richard and I stayed there she was nice and went back and forth. I felt pretty happy and contented.

HARDY: Now, I am very interested in finding out more about domestic service. Because I really know very little about it. I know, once, many years ago, a great number of people did it. Now there's very, very few people who do that 18:00sort of work. What can you tell me about that sort of work?

COLLINS: What you mean? Washing and ironing?

HARDY: Yeah, you say you lived in the house, right?

COLLINS: Yeah, with Mrs. Richards, yeah.

HARDY: Did you like that sort of work? How did you feel about that sort of work?

COLLINS: Well, I felt pretty well satisfied because that's what they were doing in those days, um hm. The most of them around there-- Mrs. Richard lived in a small house. Do you know anything about Chestnut Hill?

HARDY: Oh, yeah a little bit.

COLLINS: Do you?

HARDY: Not much, but you know major streets--

COLLINS: Um hm, well, they lived, most of them, and I forgot about where they lived, but it wasn't very far. It was walking distance from me. Because when I got through work, we used to visit each other when we got through. And Mrs. 19:00Richard lived on Lincoln Drive. And we-- Westmoreland-- I don't know where that is, the name of the street. But anyhow, I know we didn't live far from St. Martin's Lane. You know anything about that? Well, that's up in Chestnut Hill, that wasn't very far from Lincoln Drive. And their main church was up there, it was called-- it was up there on St. Martin's Lane and St. Martin's Lane is not very far from Lincoln Drive. And their main churches where they used to have brides and weddings and things is up there on St. Martin's Lane. But I've forgotten how far up it was. We used to go up there sometime when we weren't busy and look at the bride and the grooms when they were going, um hm. I felt pretty well satisfied having my boy there and I had a job with Mrs. Richard. And 20:00we had friends up in there and when we would get through at night and sometimes they would take me in the car and ride it and go and see my baby.

HARDY: So they let you go out when you were through work? I talked to some people, when they were at work, they were expected to stay in the house except on their days off. Sounds like that was rough. What did you dislike about doing that sort of work? Anything that you found disagreeable or objected to?

COLLINS: No, I can't say I did. I felt pretty well contented. So I could see my boy and work and so that he was in good care.

HARDY: What were your wages like?


COLLINS: Oh, my land. They were nothin'. I think when I first went there, Mrs. Richard paid me $13.00 and that was big money, $13.00 a week. And that was big money-- a week! (HARDY: Not much now days!) A week! No wonder they had money! Her husband, her father, was an Italian, Italian descent and they had money. They were Prisanos. He has a firm, in the Pennsylvania Railroad and they had money. And she associated with the rich people. Bellevue Stratford Hotel and places like that. Wanamaker's was where she got her clothes. She had the money, 22:00they were up there, but they know'd how to keep it.

HARDY: How far did $13.00 a week go back then?

COLLINS: Oh boy! Well we had to stretch it and make it go.

HARDY: So um, can you give me a break down of how you'd spend that money?

COLLINS: Well I paid the woman for taking care of my boy. I don't remember what I paid Mom Taylor though. But I paid her something out of it. And so did the other mothers that had their children there. That's how she got her money. But things was cheap then. And she had cheap food. And she had cabbage, she had a 23:00lot of cabbage and sweet potatoes and put a little piece of ham in it and cooked and they all went the table and set down and eat it. I had different from that because I lived with a rich family.

HARDY: Did you eat with them?

COLLINS: I eat what they had because they bought enough for me. And of course I never was a big eater. And I, the only one in the family… I mean help. And all these, I never was a big eater and I always got a plate. I had a lot, my relatives and people, I used to feel sorry for them. During the depression when they didn't have this and that or the other. I felt I was blessed because I lived with rich people and always had enough to eat. But that's how I had it. 24:00'Cause I cooked and I not being a big eater, I had what they had.

COLLINS: But I had a lot of people that didn't have it. My brothers and sisters didn't have it. And I felt sorry for them. I know one time that my brother said he was going home to his people down in Maryland. And he had to borrow, his brother's, a friend's shoes to put on to wear home. I'm living with them same children now--his children now. But I didn't have to do that because I lived with these people and they helped with the clothes-- in fact, they bought me, they bought my uniforms. We had to have uniforms, a certain color dress in the morning and then at dinner you had to dress. I put on my white apron and bonnet 25:00on my head-- all dressed up. But I felt pretty well satisfied to have this job and you know, my boy was all right.

HARDY: All right. That sounded like it was the most important thing. How did you feel about wearing livery--dressing in uniform?

COLLINS: How did I feel about it? I felt all right.

HARDY: No objections to that?

COLLINS: No objections. I was getting paid and I was with my friends around in that section who was doing the same thing.

HARDY: Did most women who were doing this wear uniforms?

COLLINS: Um hm, they did. They did.

HARDY: I never even thought about it, how many people would be wearing uniforms there-- So it was the rule that more women wore uniforms than would be not wearing them?

COLLINS: Yeah, they did. If you worked for the rich they did it. They have 26:00colored dresses, most of them was blue for the morning until you got the dirty work done. Then you got the work done, you'd get washed and get dressed. You had your quarters where you could get dressed, had your own bathroom and everything and then you go get dressed right. Because they wanted you to be clean. And-- you, with most of them, you wore black in the aft-, in the evening. Doesn't that sound funny? That we would wear black.

HARDY: That's more formal I guess, then.

COLLINS: White apron, tied in the back. Sometimes I would see them in the movies, you know, the way we used to dress. White color, white cuffs on black. Some of them used to wear a little cap on their heads but Mrs. Richard didn't 27:00compel me to wear a little cap.

HARDY: What were your hours like?

COLLINS: Hours were pretty, pretty long, because the children-- most of them had children-- and the children had to get up and go to school. They went to private school. I know that the train come right out there by us on Martin's Lane. Oh, um, no. What was the name of that station? I forget now, I forget so much. Our boys, it was 2 boys. Mrs. Richard had 2 boys. They didn't walk very far. Just 28:00right across the street to get this train. They get off right there at the station and go forward to the school. And this school-- what was it called? I even forgot that now, what it was called.

HARDY: Well there are a group of private schools…

COLLINS: Yes, it was a private school.

HARDY: So you get them up, you have to get up early in the morning then, to get the kids to school?

COLLINS: So I had to get them up early so they would get there at nine o'clock-- I think that's been the hours all along to get the children in about nine o'clock.

HARDY: So what time would you have to get up in the morning to start?

COLLINS: Oh, not so much because the breakfast wasn't so much. We had to squeeze the orange juice though. It had to be fresh oranges. Not this bought orange juice. The oranges would come in there and we had to strain them, had to squeeze 29:00them and strain them and put them on the table. I haven't had… well it was four in our family… Mr. and Mrs. Richard and the two boys. Mrs. Richard never even- she wants to stay thin, you know. I guess I got downstairs maybe about half past seven. The walk had to be swept first though, and sweep off the porch and come in and get the breakfast. Then from that-- the washing and ironing went out. I didn't have to do that. All the beds made and everything. But I had to do the housework. I think colored people's all living up there now. Mrs. Richard and all of them are dead now except one. I went to see the youngest one about two years ago. He's married again -- he's married. He was Mrs. Richard's 30:00eyeballs. The oldest one, he died. Do you know anything about the Burpees? You know, the Burpees, the seed people? Well, Mrs. Richard's oldest son married his daughter, this Jean Burpee. You know they have that, you see that great big sign up there for Burpee seeds-- I even forget that street where you can see that sign, but I used to see it when I used to go back and forth on Huntingdon Park, I think it is, and 2700. And they had that that great big sign, I think it is, seed man. Mrs. Richard's oldest son married her, Miss Jean. He's passed. She's a widow unless she married again. I don't know.

HARDY: What was involved in the housework? What did you do for the housework?


COLLINS: Oh, I made the beds-- and when I first went there, she used to have someone come in once a week to do the thorough cleaning. Once a week. And then the other part, I would make the beds. It was only four beds that I had to make. And when time come to change them, I did that. But I didn't do no washing and no ironing.

HARDY: Alright, so then what did you do? Did you clean the downstairs or did you have a regular weekly routine that you'd go through?

COLLINS: She had somebody come in to do that once a week. I just straightened up, maybe run the sweeper over if there was crumbs in there and dust up a little bit. But I did have to keep the silver cleaned once a week myself. But she had 32:00somebody to come in once a week to give the house a thorough cleaning.

HARDY: So what time did you get through with your workday?

COLLINS: In the evening? Oh, I guess we were through about half past 8:00. Because when we got through we were through sometimes, and my friends, we would get together and go into town. Eight or nine o'clock-- we had a long evening to ourselves.

HARDY: So you worked from about 7:30 in the morning to maybe half past 8:00 at night?

COLLINS: Yes, um hm.

HARDY: And what would that be, I'm thinking you had Thursday afternoons off or Sundays off or just Sunday afternoons?

COLLINS: We had Thursdays off. No, we got off after breakfast and then had the rest of the day off. Then on Sundays, I think I had every other Sunday. But 33:00before we went, um hm, before we went, we got everything straight before we went so we wouldn't have to do nothin'. And when we come back, those dishes would be there for us to do. We would be doing the work anyhow but they just let us off.

HARDY: Right. Now when you came up you were a young woman up from the South, from the farm, right Eastern shore, and you didn't have any experience in this sort of work, did you? So, did, how did you learn? Did the head of the, the woman of the house take you around and show you how things were to be done, or? How did that work?

COLLINS: Well, when I, I think I told you that my sister had asked me to come up, my brother, didn't I?

HARDY: Right

COLLINS: Because my health was bad, um hm. Well, I didn't go to Mrs. Richard at first. I think I told you that I was with another woman that took me and the 34:00children, my little boy, and she kind of told me what to do. She didn't have as much money as Mrs. Richard. She was um, I guess, middle class or something. She didn't have as much money. She lived on a farm and she teached me how to do. And I caught on.

HARDY: Was she a good teacher?

COLLINS: Yes, she was very nice, very nice. I think she was glad to have me willing to, uh, stay there and learn. Because she was on the farm and a lot of them didn't want to stay on the farm but I be used to the farm and I stayed there. I think she was willing to teach me.

HARDY: Right. Did you ever think of trying to get work in a factory or doing laundry work or anything like that?

COLLINS: No. Never tried that. Never thought I'd like that. I always liked-- 35:00Never worked in a factory in my life. Only a long time ago, I think before I was ever married. We used to have tomato factories down there and we would go ahead and work a little bit during tomato season. But I never cared for that. Um hm, never cared for a factory. Always liked private family where I could have my time and fix something.

HARDY: And you never thought of doing laundry work? I heard that a good number of women preferred the laundry work because when you got done with it, your time was your own, you had those free hours afterward and you could live wherever you wanted to live.

COLLINS: But, I never cared for that laundry work. I guess I would be a poor launderer. Standing up there ironing.

HARDY: Yeah, it's gotta be pretty grueling.

COLLINS: I get enough with my clothes now! Never much of an ironer.


HARDY: How do you think, uh-- how did Philadelphia compare to, uh --when you arrived in the city, when you were first living here, I guess after you moved in from Ardmore. How did life in Philadelphia compare to your life in Maryland?

COLLINS: Oh, a big change, a big change.

HARDY: How so?

COLLINS: Well, I thought in some ways it was an advantage that I didn't have to do that hard work-- of getting up early and going out and feeding the chickens 37:00and things like that. That was kind of dirty work, you know. And I just felt like I was bettering myself coming up. But the reason I came up, is I told you at first, was because my health was bad. But after I came up, I didn't care to go back to that.

HARDY: No, I guess that's the case with most of the people who came up.

COLLINS: Um hm, I didn't want to go back and live down on the farm and raise chickens and cows and things now. Of course, I'm older, but I never did after I come up and got up here and got working, I never went back there. I never cared to go back there. We had, uh, people down there and widows down there. I could 38:00have gone down there and stayed, but I didn't want to. I wanted to stay up here where my baby could have a better education. I was living for him. That was my idea because he had no father, his father was dead. And his father and I was the cause of him being here and I felt it was my duty to take care of him.

I never married any more, I didn't want to. I felt that some people wondered of me, "Why didn't you marry again, you were a young woman?" I was afraid I would get somebody who wouldn't be good to my boy. And uh, if his father could turn over in his grave, it would have hurted him to think that I'd laid, turned my baby down to somebody who wasn't good to him. And then my, uh, see my, I told 39:00you he died in the Army Service, didn't I?

HARDY: No, no, you didn't

COLLINS: Didn't I? Yes. He died in the First World War. I have his body right down in the cemetery where I expect to be carried-- all these 60 years he's been dead. I've seen that someone takes care of that cemetery where I expect to be carried myself.

HARDY: Had you and he ever discussed coming North?

COLLINS: He and I? No, because we weren't married long enough.

HARDY: Hm. I have another question for you, do you remember anything about the influenza epidemic of 1918?

Be: Is that the same flu?

HARDY: Yeah the flu.

COLLINS: That's what he died with!

HARDY: He died with the flu?

COLLINS: You know when, I guess you weren't born then.


HARDY: No, no, no, no.

COLLINS: Nope. That's what he died with. He was in the service at Camp Meade and when it was going around so thick, people were burying people and burying people. And he was in Camp Meade in the service. He didn't get overseas, He never made it overseas. He was there in the service and had the flu and it went into pneumonia and he died. I got the telegram. Some of my people went to the post office after he died. I was working in a hotel there. And they brought me the mail. The post office brought me the mail. In this mail it said that Andrew had passed. Honey, I was gone! My baby was born about six weeks after his father 41:00died. So, this telegram had said, that if I wanted the body buried at their expense? I said I wanted it. I didn't know what I was going to do with it other than put it down under the ground. But God has taken care of me and I have paid somebody to take care of that grave. His mother died, my husband's mother died since he did. She's down there with him in the cemetery. He and her, I got my mom…

HARDY: Down on the Eastern Shore?

COLLINS: Um hm, Eastern Shore.

HARDY: Now, did you family, you grew up on the farm, right? Did your father, did he work someone else's land, did he own his own farm?

COLLINS: No, he worked on someone else's land.


HARDY: So was he a sharecropper, a tenant cropper?

COLLINS: Tenant. He got paid. That's what you meant wasn't it?


COLLINS: Yeah, they paid him. He used to get up and go feed these cows and horses and things and they paid him.

HARDY: And, what was the principle crop then? What did he grow then?

COLLINS: Wheat, which made flour. And corn, which made the meal. Potatoes. Most everything!

HARDY: What did your parents think of that sort of life?

COLLINS: Well, they loved it because that's all they knew. And I loved it and would have been there, I guess would continued to been there, if I hadn't gotten 43:00in such bad health after my husband died. And my people wanted me to come here where I could get better treatment. And, you know, take care of my baby. I guess I would have stayed there too with my husband if he had lived, I guess we would have been there.

HARDY: What, did you get the flu too?

COLLINS: I had it slightly, but it didn't bother me so much.

HARDY: Yeah?

COLLINS: And then after my husband died and I had the flu and I had to go back home to live with my mother and father, there was other brothers and sisters down in the house and they had it and I didn't have it. I got well, and had the baby and come on out and worked. God made me strong, didn't he?

HARDY: Yeah, I know that a lot of women, in fact one of the groups hit hardest by that flu were young women who were having children.

COLLINS: Yeah, um hm, and I'm here today 90 years old. I got something to thank 44:00the Lord for.

HARDY: Hey, do you have another couple of minutes?

COLLINS: Yeah, I have all the time, oh I guess I got all the time. Well the van driver-- He'd call me, he'd find me if he wanted to find me, the van driver. The van drives me home.

HARDY: Did you pay any attention to Marcus Garvey back in the 20s? Know anything about him when he was active?


HARDY: Ok. How about Father Divine?

COLLINS: Oh I used to hear about Father Divine. Let me see, can I remember anything about him? Father Divine-- He, he was a churchman wasn't he?

HARDY: Yeah he was a, I guess some people could say he ran a cult of people, he was a preacher--

COLLINS: He's the one that called all them people to get killed wasn't he?

HARDY: No, that was Reverend Jim Jones.


COLLINS: Yeah, yeah, um hm.

HARDY: Well Father Divine I guess was back in the early years of the Depression.

COLLINS: I can't place him then.

HARDY: Can you tell me anything about the Depression? The Depression?

COLLINS: Well I guess the depression struck right after the flu.

HARDY: Well, it was ten years later.

COLLINS: It's fuzzy. Because it was mighty hard, just getting better down there.

HARDY: When Roosevelt came in, you said earlier that during the Depression one of 46:00your brothers went back down South he had to borrow shoes. But I guess people were really up against it, and uh, what happened? You know, what, how did your, I guess you had that good steady position with the Richard's. But how about your-

COLLINS: My other people? They didn't have it very good.

HARDY: Did they lose their jobs?

COLLINS: I don't remember, that they lost their jobs or not. But I know they didn't have much money, I guess they lost their jobs.

HARDY: What did they work as? What did your sister do in the service, right?

COLLINS: Well my sisters was the one that caused me to come up here. She was 47:00working for a very rich family. She was working--

[End of interview.]