Interview with Ellenor Moore
Civil rights movements
A National Park Service funded project to document the history of African American contributions to Hanford and the surrounding communities. This project was conducted through the Pacific Northwest Cooperative Ecosystems Unit, Task Agreement P17AC01288
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Robert Franklin: My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Ellenor Moore on March 21st, 2018. The interview is being conducted at Ellenor Moore’s home in Pasco. I will be talking with Ellenor about her experiences living in the Tri-Cities. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?
Ellenor Moore: Yes. My name is Ellenor Louise Moore. It’s spelled E-L-L-E-N-O-R, middle initial, L, Moore, M-O-O-R-E.
Franklin: Great, thank you so much. Where and when were you born?
Moore; I was born in Louisiana.
Moore: In 1932. I’m 85 years old. So.
Franklin: I’d like to talk about your life before coming to the Tri-Cities, so I’m wondering if you could kind of—what type of environment was it to grow up in Louisiana in the ‘30s and ‘40s?
Moore: Well, you know, I was in the late teens when I came, when my father got work here and came from Louisiana here to work. Growing up in Louisiana, it was really—well, we went through part of the Depression, the big depression and everything. But you know, everyone was kind of in the same conditions. So, as a child, I didn’t realize how bad it was. But it really was. It was bad. At that time, we lived in the country. My father worked—he wasn’t a farmer. He just didn’t like it; he never—he wasn’t one. And he had grown up partly in St. Louis, where his mother had lived. He came back to Louisiana.
The story is that he met my mother and then he was there and he stayed there, but he didn’t like it at all. He always had the idea he was going to get away and he was going to go wherever he could go. During World War II, he was thinking he wanted to go back to St. Louis. But housing and everything was so hard to get, he never did really do that. He wound up—he went out and worked in the defense, when they were building the army camps and stuff like that, back in 19—what would that have been? ’41, ’42? So that was the kind of work, he did that.
And then when he came back, of course he couldn’t find anything to do except worked at a sawmill. We lived in the housing that was there, which was very poor. There was no indoor plumbing or anything like that. You grew up—I remember at like eight, nine years old, ten years old, it was really, really bad. So that was the only thing that kind—that kept us there. After the sawmill, we moved into the little town, which was Jonesville and that’s where I went to school there. Then my dad got a job at a car—automobile franchise, I guess you’d call it. He worked there until he was able to leave and come here to work.
Franklin: What year did your father come here?
Moore: In 19—the early part of 1950.
Franklin: And what did he come here to do?
Moore: He came here to do whatever kind of work he could get. I mean, he wanted to get away. From my understanding, most of the people that came here, a lot of them, they just—they were looking for work. We heard about it from—well, my uncle had been in the service, and when he came back he was stationed in Bremerton. That’s how we knew about, you know, the Northwest. I had never even heard about it. Here I was, I don’t know how old I was; I was probably eight years old, and he came, he was stationed there, and then he was discharged and he came back home to Louisiana, but he stayed for a very short time, because he did not want to be there. He’d gotten—he had been overseas and stuff like that. And he came back and settled in Seattle.
Then my aunt came. I remember when he came back up here and he was saying that he was going to live up here. I remember my aunt saying to him, well, as soon as you can, send for me, because I don’t want to be here either. And she came. Then my grandmother, they sent for my grandmother, my mother’s mother. And they were in Seattle.
But it took a while before my father was able to get away from there. The way he got away is that my grandmother had met this man, Mr. Jones, that had worked at Hanford. He was talking about how they were hiring people and they wanted people to work and that’s how my dad found out about it. As soon as he could leave there, he did. He came here to live. It took him two years to save enough money to send for the family.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Moore: What I remember about it is the living conditions and housing was just horrible.
Franklin: Here or in Louisiana?
Moore: Here! Here. Because there was no housing for black people. You had to live in east Pasco. The housing wasn’t adequate at all. We moved into—I remember when we came—I didn’t come with—at that time, my grandmother had moved back to Louisiana, so when the rest of the family came, when my mother and the other two children came, I stayed with my grandmother, and they sent for me later on. But in the same year. My mother actually cried because of where they had to live when they first came here.
Franklin: Really? Could you describe it? What kind of—
Moore: Well, I can remember, it was like a little encampment over on, what, Idaho Street, I believe it was. It was owned by a family called the Haneys, and you probably—because they were here for many, many years and they still are here. They have grandchildren, all of them still here. And they owned some property and they’d put up some little shacks that people could rent. That’s what I’d call them, they were little shacks. They were—no inside plumbing; they had like a public bathhouse on the property. All of that was just so foreign to us.
So my mother spent most of her time trying to find a place for us to move. I think we lived in that place about three months. And then she found a house over on—what was that? On Douglas Street. And so it was—that was just—we were all so glad to get out of that place where we were. So that’s what I remember about it.
There was not very much—now, I never worked out at Hanford. My dad did. But that was the conditions. And by that time, I finished high school and my first real job, I got it at Our Lady of Lourdes. Sister Anthony Marie was my supervisor. I never will forget her, because when I applied for the job, I was just going to take any job. It wasn’t any special job; I just wanted to work. I had finished high school, and I’d started to go to business college in Kennewick. It was very difficult, because I didn’t have very much money or anything like that. But I needed to work, and I thought, well, I have to get a job.
I applied at Our Lady of Lourdes and I was hired. I was prepared to work wherever if it was cleaning up in the kitchen or whatever. Sister Anthony Marie hired me and trained me as a hospital aide. That was—at that time, the aides had to wear the white uniform, the white stockings and everything except the cap, as a nursing aide. So that was my first real job here. The pay was $120 a month. And I was glad to get it.
Franklin: How would that have compared to the job back in the—to the similar type of job back in the South?
Moore: Well, before we’d moved, my mother—it was two doctors in the little town where we lived. My mother got a job where she worked at that doctor’s office. I think she was getting paid, maybe, $15 a week.
Franklin: Oh, okay, so, $120 a month was quite a bit more.
Moore: Yeah. And my first real job. Oh, I was very happy to get it. I worked a year-and-a-half. Things had started to improve a little bit. That’s when they started building some other housing in east Pasco. But I worked 15 months at Our Lady of Lourdes and then I moved on to Seattle, because my aunt and uncle and all lived in Seattle. I got a job as a hospital aide at the veterans’ hospital, the new one that they opened that year. And so that’s where I worked until I’d gotten married. You know, so it was a real journey.
But I also kind of wanted to go to school and it just seemed like I never did get a chance to do it. I had to work. And then I got married, and of course, three children, just one right after the other. And I worked a lot, but it was at home, taking care of kids. I married Thomas Moore.
Now he had been here since, I guess, 1949. He was a divorcé; he had two girls. So I had a family right away. And then, as I said, three children. It was five children. The girls were—when Tom and I got married, the girls were ten and five. So that was a nice experience for me. But I had helped raise—actually, at home, I was the oldest one. So my three brothers and—my three siblings, I’d always helped with them. So I knew how to take care of kids. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Did you meet Thomas in Seattle, or—Thomas was from here? Or he had moved here?
Moore: He had moved here. When he came here from what I’ve heard, from some of the things he said, he always wanted to be a businessman. He had a restaurant downtown near the overpass, you know that street that—what is that? The main street that comes through Pasco there. Lewis Street.
Franklin: Lewis Street.
Moore: Lewis Street. So he had—and, you know, at that time, it was kind of segregated in the sense that—but he went out of business with that. I don’t know how long he had it. At the time I married him, he had a pool hall over in east Pasco. That was when he had the other restaurant, I think, that was when he was married to his first wife. And then when they were divorced, he still had that pool hall. But that—at that time, things had opened up. There was some housing where people of color could get housing—rent places near the railroad track on the east side. But that’s about as far as they got. Took a while for people to be able to get decent housing.
Franklin: Right, because Pasco was divided into—
Moore: It was divided into east Pasco and north Pasco. The railroad track actually divided the community and—I have to get—I have hay fever here.
Franklin: Oh, no problem.
Moore: So I got to get my tissue.
I remember when working at Our Lady of Lourdes, I had to walk to work because I didn’t have any transportation. And at that time, there was not—it was a lot of empty spaces over there in east Pasco. It wasn’t that much housing, a lot of tumbleweeds, which I’d never seen in my life. I didn’t even know what a tumbleweed was. [LAUGHTER] I can remember, one of the things that I remember, walking to work—and the wind blew a lot then—those tumbleweeds would just come rolling down the street, well the roads, mostly. You didn’t want to get caught in that bunch, because they’d gather up as they’d come, and you don’t want to get caught in that. [LAUGHTER] So I can remember, walking, trying to dodge tumbleweeds on my way walking.
And coming under that underpass, that always frightened me. I never wanted to do it, but I had to. You either did that or you walked across the railroad track. I was afraid to walk across the railroad track, because of trains. So, you know, going under that underpass was not easy for me. So anyway, that’s some of the things that I remember about that.
It’s just the hardships. Dad would come home from work sometime and he would say things like, oh, well, they had to hose us down today. What is that? Well, you know, they wash you off, because they could read that we had been in a hot place. Now, here’s the thing. I don’t think anyone, pretty much, that was working out there understood what that really meant. They didn’t really understand. I mean, they didn’t know how dangerous it was.
Moore: And so—we didn’t. I was the oldest one in my family, but I didn’t really understand anything about that. I didn’t know that it was really dangerous and it was something that he could’ve still had on him, on his clothing or whatever, when he came home, and I’m sure he did. But that happened a lot, where he was working, he said, we got into a hot area. They didn’t really explain that to workers. They told them, but, you know? Who knew? I mean, most of the people, a lot of the people were just like my dad. They’d come from an area that nothing like that had ever happened. They didn’t really know what it was all about.
Franklin: What kind of education level did your dad have?
Moore: My dad, I think he went to—let me see—he finished the eighth grade.
Franklin: Okay. And when he got a job out at Hanford, did he ever talk about what he did? Was he like construction, or--?
Moore: It was construction. He belonged to the labor union. And it was construction, and a lot of it, I guess, was clean-up stuff that they did. Cleaning up what, I have no idea. You know, we didn’t know, and they didn’t either. They just did whatever they were told to do.
Franklin: Was he happy with the compensation of the job, like the pay, was it a good job for him, or was he still kind of looking unsatisfied, kind of looking for—
Moore: Well, it was a good job for him. I mean, he had never been able to get a job that paid as much as it did. Yeah. I don’t remember him complaining about the work; he was just glad to be working.
Franklin: How long did he work out at Hanford for?
Moore: Oh, let’s see. Oh, he worked there until—in the ‘70s.
Franklin: Oh, okay. So quite a while then.
Moore: Yeah, so from 1950 until—I don’t remember exactly in the ‘70s. Mother finally convinced him that she didn’t want to live here, and they moved to Seattle. Mother—my mother never was satisfied here. She also got a job at Our Lady of Lourdes, the same year that I did. Because my oldest—my youngest brother was like two years old or something, three years old. So I worked the swing shift, and she worked days. So we kind of worked out the remaining—and in between us going, she coming from work and me going to work, there was a lady that we knew that my father had actually helped that family to come to Pasco, too. They were from Louisiana. The Wilkins. I don’t know if you—
Franklin: Was it a family that he knew personally?
Franklin: Is that how a lot of—
Moore: Oh, yes.
Franklin: Seems to me that’s how a lot of migration into this area happened, was people tell family and friends and is that—
Moore: Right, that’s what happened, because from where we came from in Louisiana, I don’t think there was anyone there that even had heard of Hanford. Didn’t even know that much about Washington state. The thing of it is, you know, I remember the first time I noticed Washington state on something, during the ‘40s, we would get boxes of apples that they gave—I think they called it commodity or something, that the government—it was surplus fruit and stuff that was sent to help the people. Dad helped to distribute that stuff to families. We got a box of apples, and on the apple box it said Washington State. So that was pretty much what I knew about Washington state until I got into school and got to learn more about geography and everything. But yeah, that was my first knowledge of Washington state. We got a box of apples with what the government gave. And they gave things like—I don’t remember getting any other fruit, but I remember the apples, we did get apples.
Franklin: In Louisiana where you lived before you came here, where you lived was—was where you lived segregated?
Moore: Oh, it was definitely segregated.
Franklin: How deep did segregation go there? Did it go all the way to—
Moore: [LAUGHTER] About as deep as it could get. We had separate schools. My first school that I went to, the very first I can remember, we lived about probably three miles from—well, it seemed like to me it was a very long way, being a young child. But I would imagine it was about three miles.
That’s when we lived in the country. Daddy was working, at that time, he worked at the gin—gin cotton where they baled the cotton. We lived in the country in this little area. We had a house that they built on the plantation. It was a plantation. There was a plot of land just adjacent to the house that my mother would work in that. I remember her out there hoeing and stuff when I was very little.
I went to school. It was a church, a one-room church house. And one of our cousins was the teacher. And all the kids were in this one room. The big—she trained the kids that were in the fourth, fifth grade to help the young ones. So that was my first of going to school. I went to school. And believe it or not, we had a horse. His name was Shorty. Mother would put me on the horse and my brother was a baby at that time. She would hold the baby, and I’m sitting behind her on the horse and drive me to school.
Moore: And then come pick me up. That was—the part I remember about that was, I was so afraid the first day that I went to school because—the only thing that made me not so afraid, one of our cousins was the teacher. So I did know her, but I didn’t know any of the other children. And we didn’t live close, as I said, children—they were at least three miles away from me. So I didn’t know any of them. And I was so afraid. I just did not want to be there. [LAUGHTER] I was so glad when Mother came and picked me up. But that was the beginning.
Then we moved—going back now, I’m kind of going back and forth, because we moved to another area that was close to the sawmill where Daddy worked. Because he’d work at the sawmill and then during the season when they were doing the cotton, he worked at the gin, baled the cotton. And it was other people did live closer to us then, because they had a house that there were several houses in the area where the sawmill was. The people that worked there lived in those houses. And then the school I went to was still another church house thing. So from the first through third grade, I went to a one-room church house school.
Franklin: And these were segregated schools?
Moore: Oh, of course it was segregated. The teachers were all black. When we moved to town, that’s when I actually got to go to a real school building. Because there was a settlement of black people in that area. There were white people that lived across the highway. The highway ran through. They lived, they had different schools and everything. But in that—that’s when I went to school in a real school and we had several teachers. It was, the high school was there, too.
So those were—that part was really good experience, and I remember feeling good about it. I was a very good student and the teachers liked me. I had friends and there were other kids there and everything. When I got in high school, I played basketball. That was nice; we’d go to the little towns to play the other teams and that type of thing.
So that, I enjoyed, even though it was segregated, but that’s all we knew of, being segregated. I mean, when you went to the movies, we had to sit upstairs in the balcony. You had to buy your ticket from another window on the side of the building, and then you couldn’t go into the front of the building in the lobby and buy the ticket. You had to—they had a window on the side and you went upstairs to the movie. But we would go, we’d go to the movies every week. [LAUGHTER] You know, every weekend, we went to see—I remember the only thing they played was Western movies. It was like Gene Autry—you probably don’t even know who I’m talking about. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: No, believe it or not—believe it or not, I do. Yeah. I grew up with my grandmother and she was really into old Westerns.
Moore: Yeah. So that was a real treat for us. The tickets cost $0.12 for children. So you should see me trying to save up my pennies during the week so I could go to the movies.
Franklin: What about other elements of life in—like the store and restaurants and things? Were those also segregated establishments as well?
Moore: Oh, yes. They were segregated here, too, when people first—when my husband first came here, as I said, the restaurant he had down there on Lewis Street, it was sort of segregated. I mean, it was segregated to the point to where black people couldn’t go to other restaurant—they had their own little restaurants and stuff, even over there in east Pasco.
Franklin: Were there—
Moore: There were a couple restaurants, and they were—
Franklin: Were there signs here? Was it as formal as it had been in Louisiana? Or--?
Moore: No. No, it was just subtle in the sense that you weren’t going to get served or you just knew that you—you know. There’s certain places you didn’t go. There was no one—no black people living in Kennewick. You couldn’t—even when it got to the point here in Pasco when more and more black people came in, and it sort of opened up, you could rent a house in some parts, as I said, the parts near the railroad track, on this side of the railroad track. But there was no black people living in Kennewick. They wouldn’t rent you a place.
Moore: So that was completely—
Franklin: I wanted to ask, we talked a little bit about your coming here, but I wanted to ask, what were your—how did you—did you take a train here?
Moore: I took a train. It took five days to come from Louisiana to Pasco.
Franklin: What were your first impressions of Pasco when you got here?
Moore: Oh, I was upset! Just kind of like my mother. My mother, as I said, she was still in tears. She just hated the place. [LAUGHTER] I didn’t like it. I knew that—well, my dad was working, so we did have a roof over our head, and he was feeding the family and stuff.
So it was not that we didn’t have that; we had—in Louisiana, after we moved out of the country, things weren’t too bad. It was segregated, of course, but every—the black part of town had their own restaurants and a couple stores, and they did have a big grocery store there in that part of the town where people go. Only one that I remember, one big sort of big grocery store. But you know, I kind of lost my thought now. Because I’m going back and forth. Is that okay to do that?
Franklin: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Moore: Because I’m remembering—
Franklin: That’s just the way our memories work and how life is.
Moore: And when you compare some things.
Moore: But you were asking about—you said if there was signs here?
Franklin: Yeah. If the segregation was as formal, or—if formal’s the right word. Because Louisiana’s segregation, the South, there were signs, it was in the law. Here it seems to have existed but kind of outside the law or informally, and I kind of wanted to just get your memories of that.
Moore: Yes. It was here. It was here, you felt it if you were a person of color, you definitely felt it, and you knew that—there were no black people working at any of the restaurants or anything. There may have been some in the kitchen, but I don’t remember because I didn’t go to them anyway. But in my young adulthood, you just didn’t, you didn’t go. When you went to a restaurant—as I said, I don’t remember ever seeing any signs, but there were only certain ones that you could go to. There were no black people working in any of the restaurants where you could see them. As I said, there may have been some in the kitchen, working. But I don’t know. When I got the job at Our Lady of Lourdes, as I recall, there were only three people of color working there, including myself.
Franklin: And your mother?
Moore: And my mother. But there was two—one lady worked in the kitchen at Our Lady of Lourdes, and then there was one that was—I don’t know if she was an aide or not. She worked there for years and years and years.
Franklin: How were you treated by your coworkers there?
Moore: Very nice. I never had any problem with anyone. And it was a Catholic hospital, and I was Catholic, and the sisters, as I said, I remember sister Anthony Marie. She was just such a lovely, nice person. Because when she hired me, I didn’t know what she was going to hire me for. I said I was ready for any kind of work. When she hired me, I really knew nothing about working in a hospital. So she taught me pretty much everything.
I didn’t even know how to read a thermometer. I remember the first week that she gave me a thermometer and she taught me how to read it, and you know, the first few days, I could not even see the line in it. I would turn it and turn it, and I couldn’t see the line. But once you learned how to do it, it’s so easy. The minute you hold it up, you see the line. But she had a lot of patience and she taught me the terminology and everything that we did. I was soon on the floor, following the other aides at first for about a month, and the nurses. And I learned quickly, so within two months, I knew how to do the different things that they needed me to do.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Moore: So it was nice.
Franklin: Did you finish high school in Louisiana, or did you finish high school here?
Moore: I finished in Louisiana. That was the year we moved, that Mother moved.
Moore: So when Mother and the other kids moved, then I came. But I had finished high school there.
Franklin: What was the hardest aspect of life in this area to adjust to, moving from Louisiana?
Moore: [LAUGHTER] As I said, the housing, the places where we had to live when we first came here. Because we had a nice little house in Louisiana, once we had moved to town. Yeah. And so, it was just—and the conditions. It was dirty, the wind blew all the time, sand was everywhere. During those days—and sand would get in; I don’t care how you—everyday, you had to dust, you had to clean in the places where we were living, because sand would get through any little crack. And there were some cracks! [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Yeah, that’s a common story, all around. Yeah, wow.
Moore: Yeah, that was the worst part of it. And when I—after I’d started work, actually, within six—well, within six months, I had bought myself a little car, and I didn’t have to walk in the wind blowing the sand. So that was—I was actually pretty satisfied until—I knew I didn’t want to live here, though, and that’s why I moved to Seattle.
Franklin: When did you come back to the area from Seattle?
Moore: I came back in ’54—moved back in ’54.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Moore: So I worked 15 months here and then I went to Seattle and I worked almost two years.
Franklin: What was it that brought you back, was it your husband?
Moore: Mm-hm. I got married, and as I said, then I was stuck here, because—you know. He lived—he always wanted to have his own business. So the restaurant business and the other—a pool hall, I think he had, it didn’t work out too well. So actually when we got married, he was a laborer, which he had never really done. And he had joined the labor union. He got a job working on Ice Harbor Dam when they were building it. We had one of the houses over there on California Street, which is facing the park over there, now. That park, they actually—that was all—that park was just all open field when we got married. But there was a row of houses. They dismantled and moved all those houses and then set that up as an industrial area, you know, from the area on over to the railroad tracks, I think, is all industrial.
Franklin: That was part of the redevelopment? How did you feel about coming back to Pasco? Were you—
Moore: Well, when you’re young and you get married, and you’re in love—it was okay. Because my husband was here and so it was okay. Evidently, it had to be okay because I lived here then thirty-something years, raised my kids here, anyway. But when they had divided that area and was redeveloping that area, see, my husband built a fourplex over there on Douglas and—I don’t know if that’s Wehe; I can’t remember if that’s Wehe or not. I don’t even go over there anymore. I mean, I hated east Pasco so bad. [LAUGHTER] Since I’ve been back here, I’ve only been over that way about three times.
Franklin: Oh, wow. Why is that? Just—
Moore: it was because it was just such a horrible beginning over there, you know? I just didn’t—I didn’t like it. Now, there’s nothing there, really. Now, my husband, see, he developed a business there. He finally went into build a wrecking yard, which is one of the biggest wrecking yards, I guess—it was at that time—right there on Wehe and A Street, on the other side of the railroad track. So that was the business that stuck with him, and the one that he was able to develop, and made it successful, and that’s what we were able to raise our kids with, with that business.
Franklin: How would you describe life in east Pasco and the community and what did you do in your spare time?
Moore: I didn’t do anything. There was no social life. As I said, I was lucky enough to get a job pretty soon after—within three months, I had a job. So I worked and I came back home. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Any community events that stick out to you?
Moore: There was a church that—I’m Catholic, so I’d come to church, but you know it was over here, Saint Patrick’s. Once in a while, I’d visit some of those other churches over there. There was only a couple at that time. But there was really no social life.
Franklin: What kind of role did church play in the community?
Moore: Oh, it played a big role. It still plays a pretty big role for the people that belong to those churches. They play a pretty big role. The churches, always in the black community, play a large role. Because the churches were there when there was nothing else. It’s not only for their spiritual satisfaction; it’s the social thing, too.
Franklin: Do you recall any family or community activities or traditions or events that people brought with them from the places that they migrated from?
Moore: I wasn’t really involved too much—the church, as I say, was the—oh, well, now, you mean back then, or now? Over the years, yes, they brought some things with them. Like they celebrate Juneteenth which came from a Southern celebration.
Franklin: Mm-hmm, the end of slavery, right?
Moore: Well, when they found out about it was the end. It was June, it took until June, yes. So, yes, that’s one of the celebrations that they have here.
Franklin: Because that’s now a pretty big pageant and community event all around the United States.
Moore: Right. And it’s because of black people coming from the South and they brought that with them. That would be something, a celebration that they would have every year. And it has caught on. So, yeah, they do have it. And they celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday and stuff like that. And that’s something, of course—it was people from the South really pushed that to happen. In the small communities.
Franklin: Right, right.
Moore: You see, when I came here, I had—there was nothing for me to do, except work and I would go to mass on Sundays, and then I worked and I’d go home. And I wasn’t here that long, then. When I came back, and once my children got up, I didn’t work until—I didn’t go back to work until my youngest child was old enough to go to school. So, from the time my first child was born until then, I just took care of home and the children. I got a job at Safeway, which was the second black person to ever work at Safeway. They had a little store downtown Pasco on 4th—or was it on 5th? And I worked there—I got that job in 1963, and I worked there—and I worked part-time; I didn’t work full-time because my children were still young and I didn’t want to be away from them that long. So they were very, very accommodating to me—
Franklin: Safeway was?
Moore: Safeway. Because I made arrangements with them that during the summer, they would hire a student to work in my place so I could stay home with my children. I didn’t want them all summer without having me there. So, Safeway did that, and I worked with Safeway for 12 years.
Franklin: Ah. You said you were the second—
Moore: I was the second black person to work there. The first black woman, she’s still here, Doris—I can’t remember Doris’ last name now. But they moved her to one of the stores, I think it was either Kennewick or Richland, that she went to work over there and they hired me in Pasco.
Franklin: Where was the Safeway located in Pasco, was it in east Pasco, or was it—
Moore: It was on 5th—no, it was on 5th and Clark, I think. Yeah. It’s where that—it’s a bank there now, used to be a bank. I haven’t been over there since I’ve been back now.
Franklin: Hmm, I don’t know if I’ve been over there either.
Moore: Yeah. But it was on 5th and Clark.
Franklin: Were you treated fairly by the management and the patrons? Or—
Moore: Well, the management was fine. The patrons, when I first, I would say the first week or the first two weeks I was in there, they would line up in the other checkstand. We had three—did we have three checkstands or two? We only had two checkstands, I think. It was a small store. And they would line up in the other stand and I’m just standing there at my checkstand, because—and pretty soon, they realized that, oh, yeah, if I can go through that checkstand, I can check out real quick and I’m gone. [LAUGHTER] So it took people about three weeks or two weeks to realize that, okay, it doesn’t make sense for me to stand over here in this line when I can go on through the checkstand. And they did.
And I was a good checker. I learned to be a very good checker. At that time, it wasn’t like scanning now, you scan through; we had to memorize the prices, and you keyed everything in, you subtotaled, you put the tax in and totaled, and you had to count out their change to them, because there was no automatic telling you how much change that was coming back and everything. Well, I’ve always been a real fast learner, so, as I said, within a month, I was a real good checker. I worked twelve years there.
A couple times, I went out—they sent me out to Richland, but after that—my kids were teenagers then, and I worked in the Richland store, out there. But I had no problems with people, because I treated everyone the same, I was courteous. At that time, we had to be nice and courteous when you worked in a store or something. Now people will check you out and won’t even speak to you. You know, they scan the groceries across the thing and never even say a word to you sometimes. I was just very nice and courteous to people; I treated everyone the same. So, it worked out fine.
I actually enjoyed working at that store. I did, I had no problems. And I never did—at that time, the employment office was next-door to Safeway downtown. There was an employment office down there. That’s when they had really started to hire people of color, minorities and blacks, out at Hanford. I mean, other than just doing the labor work and stuff like that. So I was asked to take a test and go out to Hanford to work, and I refused, because I didn’t want to be away from my children that much.
See, that was my thing. I worked. My family was more important to me than my job, really. And so I just—I didn’t want to put in full-time work and having to travel out there and everything to work. So I never—that was one of the reasons I never did go. Several of my friends did, and they were trained to do clerical work and different things like that. So they’d opened up to where they were actually training people to—
Franklin: Around what time was that?
Moore: That must have been, let me see, I have to think back here. Oh, gosh. That had to be like in the late ‘70s?
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Moore: I think it was like in the middle to late ‘70s and early ‘80s when quite a few people that I knew went out to work. During the time my kids were growing up, I did volunteer work. My kids all went to St. Patrick’s through to the ninth grade. I did volunteer work there and of course a cub scout leader and PTA and all that stuff. So I was involved in that type thing. Then my children, when they got into high school, I was appointed my Governor Evans to serve on the Washington State Women’s Council. I did that for about almost three years. That was during the time when we worked for the equal rights amendment and different things like that.
I had always wanted to go back to school. I went to college, CBC, and at that time, I quit work for two years and I went to CBC. And then I got my two-year degree and I decided I wanted to go ahead and get my bachelor’s. I did that through programs that were brought down from Eastern Washington. And I went back—oh, after that time—I’m trying to keep this in the right way, now. I was still working for—oh, when we had the big problem in the school district where they reassigned the high school principal which had been there for years and years and the town just went crazy and recalled the school board that was the school board at that time. And they recalled the whole school board.
Franklin: What was that over?
Moore: It was over not treating minority kids right at the high school. And all the schools, really. But the high school is where they had the biggest problem. That was during the time when the civil rights movement was everywhere and going on. So that year, they had recruited a black music teacher that taught at the junior high school, and his wife was appointed—there was an opening on the school board, and she was appointed to serve on the school board. So, she actually saw what was happening, how the black students were treated at the high school, and how if there was a disagreement between a white student and a black student, the black student wound up getting suspended; the white student didn’t. Regardless of who started it and what it was about. And different things like that; it was just stuff going on. She and the other school board members started trying to do something about that, and bring about some equal treatments, wanting—
And the community—and so they thought the best thing to do was to reassign the principal that had been there for years and that was his little kingdom and he could do whatever he wanted to do. When they reassigned him to another job, he refused it, and said he was treated unfairly and that type of thing. He had his group of people that sided with him, and then the group of people that wanted to change things in the community. So the school board was recalled. I mean, they just recalled that whole school board.
They had also hired—while that school board was in together, and after they had started trying to make some changes—at that time, I really wasn’t following it too much until they appointed—a new superintendent came in, a young man from—I don’t remember where he was from—and he had brought in a group of people that was progressive, that wanted to make changes and stuff like that. So anyway the school board was recalled and the principal decided he wasn’t going to take the job that they had offered him. He thought he could make them change and get his way.
I was one of the people that was appointed to be on the temporary—on the school board until—it was three of us, three people appointed to serve on the school board. One was a farmer from out in the blocks, and another one was a guy that worked at Hanford. So the three of us had to come in and serve on the school board and it was a learning experience for all three of us. I mean, we had not had that kind of experience. It was really some trying times going on.
They wanted to force us to hire the principal back at high school. And we said, no, we weren’t going to do that. Our job was to appoint two other people; it was a five-member board, and our job was to appoint two other people to make up the board, and we did. We appointed a minister that was a minister in this part of Pasco, and then a businessman, too. So I was the only minority person on the board. I had to really be on my mark. I mean, I had to really learn as fast as I could about what was going—all three of us did—I mean, all of us did, really. To appoint the two other people, we had to be really careful who we appointed, because we had to be people that were open-minded and wanted to carry the school district forward instead of falling back into that same type of mentality that was before. So, it was very, very difficult.
We would have—when we’d have the first six months or the first year, the levy failed, because people were all upset and everything. So the levy would fail and they cut out a lot of the good programs, I mean enhancement-type programs, because they levy failed. My son was in high school. At that time, he was in the tenth grade, coming out of St. Pat’s. He was on the debate team. That was canceled. And he was so upset, he lost interest in school. So that was a personal problem for me. [LAUGHTER] Trying to get him, you know, so he wasn’t so upset about something that he really enjoyed doing. He was a very good debater, and that didn’t work.
But getting back to the big problem, the school board problem, we had to really make up our mind what way we were really going to go with this. Three of us, we had to appoint two other people, which we did, the people that we picked, we thought they were people that would be open-minded. And at that time, also, they had very few, I think maybe there were three black teachers in the whole district. So it was a real big problem.
I remember, our school board meetings would be so full, we had to move them to the auditorium at the grade school, McGee. No, was McGee over there? I think it was. In order to have room for everybody. And they were rowdy, and they brought cameras, and they brought recorders and everything, so they could record every word that we said in the meeting. How long—excuse me, I’m going to ask you a question. How long have you been around? Were you around during that time? You were there, so you know what happened.
Tom Hungate: I was over in Kennewick.
Moore: You were in Kennewick. I know you were, but I mean, the Tri-City Herald, every day there was a big article in the paper about everything, and people were making threats. I mean, I had phone calls where they’d threaten me that I’d better vote to hire back the principal that had been there, or either—whatever. So we had to make up our mind what we were going to do.
I had to really be on top of them when it came to choosing the other two people that was going to be on that board. Because the two guys that were on the board, as I said, they were both very good—they were good people, I liked them. The three of us kind of clicked. But we had to be careful who we appointed. Several times, I had to really just speak up and say, no, that person is not going to work, because of research I had done. I had to do research! The other two guys, they weren’t thinking so—they had never been exposed to segregation or anything. I mean, these are two people who didn’t know where I was coming from. I had to speak up and let them know what was really happening.
It worked out, and we had the other two people appointed, and we decided that we would offer this principal that had refused to—he started driving a potato truck to make people feel sorry for him, you know, the ones who were on his side. So they’d march around, we’d have people marching in front of the school district office and everything when we were in there having meetings. That was really something.
Franklin: Sounds like a real circus.
Moore: But within a year, we also had to hire—we had to hire a new superintendent, because he—that was all going on, so he decided it was best for him to leave and go somewhere else. So that was another big problem of hiring the right person. We had to interview all these people for superintendent, and we had to interview for people to fill in the place as the principal. We went through two people we hired, and one of them stayed for a year, and he was gone. He just couldn’t take it. [LAUGHTER]
Because the high school was just—many of the teachers had been there for years, too. And they were used to what had been going on before. So that was difficult. We finally, within a year-and-a-half, the levy—we got the next levy passed. That was the beginning of people trying, really getting together and doing what they needed to do. And it worked out. That was a real learning experience for me. I learned more in—I served on the board for three years. That was worth a college degree.
Franklin: The experience?
Moore: The experience was, it really was.
Franklin: Do you remember the name of the first—the principal that had been reassigned, and what happened to him?
Moore: You know, I don’t.
Moore: I’m 85, okay? [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: I understand.
Moore: I really don’t remember his name.
Franklin: Does the name, last name Ferrari, does that ring a bell?
Moore: No, that wasn’t it.
Moore: No, it wasn’t.
Franklin: In preparation for this project, I went and did some research and looked through some of the records from the Congress of Racial Equality branch that was here in the Tri-Cities, the CORE movement, and they had mentioned this—the records were from the ‘60s to the early ‘70s. They mentioned this—what was going on in Pasco, at Pasco High School, and that there had been issues with the principal, that there had been issues with some students, that there was a fight between some white girls and black girls.
Moore: Well, that—yeah, that had started happening quite often, when everyone was all upset and everything like that. You know how teenagers act out? So there was quite a bit of that that would go on. You know, to bring order to all of that, it was really—it was something.
Franklin: I bet, I bet.
Moore: It really was. Thank goodness we did—we got things in pretty good shape.
Franklin: Yeah. Thank you. I had taken a lot of notes about that, but I want to go back through that material when I get back. That should be a—it seems a good part of my research.
Moore: Well, I’m going to tell you, I have to say this about the Tri-City Herald. They were really biased in some of the stuff they printed.
Franklin: Okay, I’ll look for that. Biased against who, or for who?
Moore: They were biased against—well, I felt they like they were biased against the new school board in a sense, for what we were trying to do. Because it was overwhelmingly on that other side for a while. I mean, we had to work really hard to turn things around. We really did. And we had to do it in a way where we were trying to make everyone feel good about what was happening, you know?
Moore: So it was a very difficult job.
Franklin: Right, you needed that community buy-in.
Moore: Yes, you definitely did.
Franklin: And community support.
Moore: But it didn’t take—as I said, within two years, we had it so that the community was behind us—the majority of the community. There’s still those holdouts that were there. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Right, there will always be a few. How long did you serve on the school board?
Moore: I served on it three years.
Franklin: Okay, so you passed the reins when things had—
Moore: Well, I was appointed, at first, for one year. Because they’re staggered, so when we were appointed, I was appointed for one year. And then I was elected and served the next two years. And I would have gone on, but my husband started complaining I was away from home a lot. He was used to me being at home taking care of things. [LAUGHTER] But my kids were in high school and everything, and they were old enough to where I felt like I could go ahead. And it was such an important thing, I felt so obligated. I had to follow through with it. I had to try to help things to be better than what they were.
Franklin: Do you feel like things did end up being better? Do you feel like you made progress there?
Moore: I think we made progress, yes. I think we made a lot of progress. We also recruited a lot of black teachers, smart people, some of them wound up being—at least three or four of them wound up being principals of schools here and then went on to other places.
Carl Peterson was one that we recruited. He was one of the assistant superintendents that had been here, the group that had resigned and went on at the beginning of—after that first year of going through all that turmoil. He was recruited to the Tacoma area, and he—I mean, he’s retired now, but he went on to build two schools there. So when he was recruited to first go over there, he was principal of the school for one year, and then they assigned him to build a school. And then after he was there two years, they wanted him to build another school, be in charge of building and setting it up.
So when we recruited—but that was only because we were on that—I was on that schoolboard. I was on that schoolboard—I was the cause of them celebrating Black History Month. Okay, I have to say this. After I was on the schoolboard, I was also then hired to work in the school district. So I worked as a community liaison person in the school district until I left here and moved to Seattle. But I helped to organize, and all the time trying to recruit very good black people to fill in some of the teaching positions, to have some black aides in the school district, which they didn’t have any before. So I did a lot of that type of thing. Which helped, because then you had people that could come in with some other ideas.
Here’s the thing I find about—a lot of people do things out of ignorance, just because they don’t know, and they haven’t been exposed to minorities. And once they’re exposed to minority people that’s educated and interesting, they change their mind about a lot of their feelings. It opens them up. So, anyway, I thought recruiting and having black teachers in the district and stuff like that really helped a lot of people. And it helped to make things different.
Franklin: And it helped to reflect the population, too.
Moore: Right, yes, it did. Of course the black population anymore is very, very small. Because I think most—many of the people just moved away. Their children did. Their children didn’t stay here. At one time, I think we had about, what, 5% of the population in the school district was black. Now, I think it’s about three. I’m not sure, but I think it’s about three.
But at that time, see, when I first came here, there were no minorities hardly at all. Now we have a lot of Mexicans, too, in the school district. At that time, there wasn’t. So all of that has helped to just—helped the area grow and the school districts to change their mind about the way they were doing certain things. So, I think it’s better.
I’m not—I’ve been away from here, though, like I said, I moved. So I just came back, and I haven’t been involved. I’m too old now to be involved with stuff. And then, plus, I’m sick. But I think we did a lot of good.
And I worked a lot on the different charitable organizations that were here. I served on the boards of probably seven of them and brought in some awareness. That helped, too, because all the charitable—many of the charitable organizations had no minority representation. And so, that was one of the things that I did. I helped them to realize how important it was to have that type of input. When I was gone, they would still have the input. So that was my idea of trying to do that. And I think that helped a lot. I served on the United Way board for years. Anyway, I tried to do my share of working in the community.
Franklin: It sounds like you really did. I mean, that’s wonderful.
Moore: I actually enjoyed it. You know, I enjoyed meeting people, I enjoyed bringing about some awareness. And you know what I would say is, I can’t speak for everybody. I can’t—well, it finally got so I had to turn down different things that I was asked to do because it was too much. People were acting as if I was a spokesman for the whole black community, and I had to just let that—that couldn’t be. I’m not a spokesman for them.
So it was—I enjoyed that part of my life, because I was involved with community, and we got some really good things done. I didn’t have anything to do, much, with employment-type things that happened. I served on the planning board for the skills center that opened in Kennewick. I don’t know what it’s called now.
Franklin: Is it Tri-Tech?
Moore: Probably that is, the skills center?
Franklin: Tri-Tech Skills Center?
Franklin: They have like a radio station, and—
Moore: Well, they opened up with a lot of different beginning skill things that went on there. Training for carpentry, auto mechanics, what, I think they had a beauty school, radio-type thing, a lot of different things that the high school kids could be exposed to.
Moore: So, you know, those were things that I thought, I was glad to serve on those commissions and things, to try to help them plan that.
Franklin: Great. I wanted to ask you, were there opportunities available here in the Tri-Cities that were not available where you or your parents came from?
Moore: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it came to be, as more people came in. I think maybe, back in the late ‘40s and stuff like that, that’s when minorities started coming here to work. But Hanford was the thing that opened it up to get more people in. As that happened, then things grew to where people—there were opportunities.
Franklin: In what ways were opportunities limited because of segregation or racism?
Moore: Oh, I think so. You said where was it? Here, in this area, yes, they were.
Franklin: In what ways were they?
Moore: It was just very subtle. I think a lot of it was very subtle. I mean, I went to—oh, I tried out a lot of things. I went to put my application in at a lot of different places. And I knew it was just thrown in the wastebasket when I left. [LAUGHTER] You know, I mean, but that’s the way it was. They didn’t turn you down.
Franklin: Yeah, you can laugh at it now, but—
Moore: Yeah, they didn’t turn you down and say, we’re not going to take your application. That’s what they would have done where I came from. They’d say, well, you’re not—you can’t be hired here, you’re not going to work, we’re not taking your application. They would take the applications, but nothing ever happened with it.
Franklin: Right, they’d smile and take it and then probably—
Moore: Yeah, right. I don’t ever remember anyone being rude or anything like that. The only rudeness, and that wasn’t really in this area, that must have been in 19—let me see, what year was that, maybe ’78? We never got a chance to do any vacation or anything, but we did decide that year we were going to go camping, when the kids were big enough to where they could enjoy going camping. My husband and I, we had a trailer that we hooked up onto our car and we were going camping, we were going to go up into Montana.
And so the only trouble, the only rudeness we ran into, we stopped in Ritzville. I think it’s Ritzville, between here and—yeah. We stopped there and we went in the restaurant, and we had food, and when we came out, my daughter, which was four, about four years old, she said, Mom, I need to go to the restroom. I said, okay, so there was a service station right there, and I said, we can go here, then. Because my husband and the boys were still in the restaurant. And I went, and it was locked. I asked if I could have the key, and he said, no. It’s broken. It’s out of order.
So as we were standing there waiting for my husband to come out, because there was another service one across the street, and I thought, well, we’ll just go across the street over there and go. And we were standing there waiting, and I saw other people come and go in the restroom. So when my husband came out, I said, you know, we asked to use that restroom, and he said it was out of order. But other people are going there.
And my husband went over and said to him, oh, I see your restroom, you got it fixed, huh? And the—oh, that man just went all to pieces, started yelling at Tom and stuff like that. And then the ones across the street said, hey, man, are you having any trouble over there, you need help? And I caught my husband’s arm, I said, don’t argue with him, let’s just go. Just go. But, you know, if he had continued, in my mind, I thought, they’d probably beat him up, throw him in jail. And so that was the only thing I’d ever had that kind of trouble with.
So when I came back, I just couldn’t let it go. I had to write a letter about it. I wrote a letter to the Tri-City Herald saying how we’d been treated there. I didn’t think any more about it. It was printed. And then in a few weeks—I was working at Safeway then. That’s right, it was in the ‘60s, must have been in the late ‘60s. I had just started working at Safeway, and there was—people contacted me that worked for, what, the civil rights or something. But it was a white woman that came and interviewed me, and she asked me about it, and I told her what happened.
She said, well—at that time, we lived over there near the highway on Lewis Street. We had bought a house over there. It was right on Lewis Street. She said to me, be careful. You know, someone may decide that they may do something—hurt you or something about this. I hadn’t really thought of it in that manner. But that was disconcerting, to have someone come and say that to me. But she came to find out, to see what they could do, if they could bring charges or something against them.
Then, about a week later, it was—was it Texaco? I think it was a Texaco station, representatives from the Texaco station came to my work at the Safeway to interview me. And I just told them what had happened, and I said they were so rude, and all I wanted to do was take my daughter to the bathroom, and I told them what happened. I did get a letter of apology from the company after that.
See, but that’s the kind of things that happened, the kind of things that people go through that went through and may still go through in some places, I don’t know. But I mean, it wasn’t anything that we were doing wrong, it’s just that, I guess Ritzville was one of those places they didn’t see very many black people. And they thought the restroom at the service station, you couldn’t use it. That was the idea.
Moore: So when you ask about that type of thing, it was sometime very real.
Franklin: Yeah, yeah.
Moore: You know?
Franklin: That’s an important story to tell, because I think it’s—for folks that don’t experience that, it’s hard to imagine and I think people need to hear about things like that, because it happens.
Moore: It happens. And as I said, something bad could have happened back there. And I just knew it, and I just—I just said, come on, let’s go. Let’s just go! Because the man that was talking to him had one of those big wrenches—I don’t know what you call it—in his hand. I imagine, if my husband had kept arguing with him, he may have decided to hit him.
Moore: You know? And if that had’ve happened, no telling what would have happened.
Franklin: Yeah, that would’ve been bad.
Moore: That would’ve been bad.
Franklin: I wanted to—your father participated in Hanford’s early Cold War history. I wanted to ask, what did you learn or know about the prior history of African Americans at Hanford during the Manhattan Project, and from your perspective, what were their most important contributions in the areas of work, community life, and civil rights?
Moore: Well, I think at the beginning, they did most of the dirty work. They were put into areas—and as I said, no one understood; it wasn’t explained to people what they were really getting into. I think the people that were in charge didn’t really understand themselves. They didn’t know the ramifications of what it could turn out to be. So, yeah. But I think most of the black people—it was later on that I think blacks were hired in more—that they recruited people with more education, people that had other skills and stuff. But I think, my feeling is that most of the black people were hired at first, they did the labor work, the cleanups, the things like that.
You know, it’s a lot of cancer in this area. I’ve been diagnosed with myeloma since I’ve been back here. I probably had it for—I remember about 30 years ago, actually a doctor when I went in for my regular checkup, and I was a very healthy person; I never was ill—but just doing my annual checkup, and he said to me, your white cells are kind of out of whack. And so, of course, I didn’t know what that meant, and he did several tests. I went to him three times. Right here in Pasco. And I went to him three different times, and he finally told me, well, I’ve done everything. I’ve done run all these tests and I don’t see anything wrong with you. White cells is to help combat any kind of infection or anything, but you don’t have any. He said, you’re healthy. I don’t see anything wrong with you and the test doesn’t prove that there is. So, I don’t know anything to do about it, except just occasionally have a checkup. So it went on for years, and I never had any problems, so when I’d have my annual, no one else ever said anything about it, and it kind of just slipped my mind.
Okay, I got sick in California and I was having all this pain, all this pain, and I didn’t know what it was. My primary doctor was a very good doctor. She sent me to all these specialists, and they did tests, and they did all these things, and they kept saying, well, we don’t see anything wrong with you! You’re in good health. I was just, I mean, before then, I was such an active person. I’ve always been active. I was going to exercise classes three times a week, I took up ballroom dancing, I was dancing twice a week. No sickness except the blood pressure. I had high blood pressure and taking medication for that. But I wasn’t having any pain or anything. And I went to all these doctors; they all did every test you could think of, and they would say to me, well, I don’t see anything wrong with you. There’s not anything we can do for you.
So, then, when I started to getting so weak—and that’s when I said—my son just kind of insisted that he didn’t like me being there by myself. It took 12 different doctors before I got a diagnosis. I just got a diagnosis last year, here. My primary doctor here really paid attention to when I had my blood work done, paid attention to what was going on with my white cells and sent me to an oncologist. He went through my medical records and everything and there he said, I think I know what’s wrong, but I’m going to have to do two more tests to be able to diagnose it. So, he did a bone marrow exam and did complete skeletal scan. And so it’s multiple myeloma. So, see, it’s something that could be in your body for years and years and years and then finally show up.
Franklin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Moore: But then that made me think about my dad coming home saying, well, they had to hose us down today. Yeah.
Franklin: Yeah. We talked quite a bit about civil rights activities in Hanford and Tri-Cities and you mentioned your work on the school board. Were there any other major civil rights issues for African Americans at Hanford and in the Tri-Cities during your time here?
Moore: Well, let’s see. I don’t know about Hanford, because I never worked there, you see. I never did work out there.
Moore: I just knew it from my friends that worked out there and my dad that worked out there. But—
Franklin: What about here in the Tri-Cities?
Moore: Oh, in the Tri-Cities, major—well, as I said, it was just kind of subtle. You knew it was there and there were things that happened that you didn’t feel you could get hired by certain things because—Hanford actually opened it up for people to be hired, for minorities to be hired, because otherwise there wasn’t—my stepdaughter was the first person of color to be hired at a bank here. It just hadn’t—it wasn’t happening. They weren’t hiring people there. But she was hired. So I think the work, it just evolved after everything else surrounding we were doing—things had opened up in other places and stuff, and bringing in new people, people from all over the world have come here. I think that has helped a lot.
Franklin: What action was being taken to address these issues in unemployment and in living, and African Americans being able to live outside east Pasco? How did that situation—
Moore: Well, you know, different laws and stuff were passed, too. I’ve always thought that Washington State was—actually, when you think about it, I think it’s a very good state that tried to be fair. As more and more minorities came in here, I think—there was other people coming, too, so it was people with—more progressive-type people.
Franklin: How did the larger national civil rights movement influence civil rights effort here at Hanford and the Tri-Cities?
Moore: Well, I don’t know, I’m sure it had a big influence. It had a big influence. It was kind of slow catching on, but it had a big influence.
Franklin: From your perspective and experience, what was different about civil rights efforts here?
Moore: Well, oh, let’s see. They started hiring more people and recruiting minority people to come in and work—
Franklin: I think, and then we’ll wrap up, because, yeah, it’s been a long interview. It’s been a great interview. A long interview is always a good interview.
Moore: Well, when you edit it and everything, it’ll be okay.
Franklin: Yeah. Okay. So, I wanted to ask, and these—Tom gave me a couple great questions here. I wanted to ask, why were you appointed to be on the school board? Who reached out to you and why? Because you would’ve been a stay-at-home mom at the time, right?
Moore: Well, no. Well, I think it was because there weren’t very many black people in the community that was—well, I wasn’t—see, even when I was a mom, I still did things with the schools.
Franklin: Oh, okay, yeah.
Moore: So I was active in that. And I was outspoken. [LAUGHTER] That’s kind of one of the things. I was always—I wasn’t afraid to give my opinion about anything, so I think that’s probably what happened. But I’m trying to think of who—it was this other black lady that had—oh, it was Virgie Robinson, that’s who it was. She worked for the school district--
Moore: --at that time. She said to me, they’re looking for someone to have minority representation on the Washington State Women’s Council, from this area. And she said, I was telling them about you. So she told somebody that was connected; I don’t know. They called me and asked me if I would be interested in serving on it, and I said, yes, I would. So that was a good experience. That was for the—you know. That was before we had equal rights here in Washington State. So I served on that for, what, two years, I believe it was. Governor Evans was the one that appointed me, and then after then, I guess I might have served on it more than two years, yeah.
Franklin: That’s great.
Moore: You know, I was being—I’d have to go to like Seattle and Olympia sometimes when they’d have meetings over there and that type of thing.
Franklin: Another question, earlier on you mentioned that your grandma, who had come out here, went back to Louisiana. And why? Why’d she do that?
Moore: Well—oh. Oh, I told you about—I think I said that she had met this man, Mr. Jones, she married him. And they split up. And she just decided she didn’t want to be here, out here. So she moved back to Louisiana. Now, that was before my father moved out here. See, that was a couple years before he moved out here.
Franklin: Gotcha, okay.
Moore: Then after I was here, and married and everything, I sent for her. So I had her here with me.
Franklin: Oh, so she came back out.
Moore: She came back with me for—and she stayed with me for—I fixed her a little place, and she stayed with us for about three years. And then her daughter, my aunt, in Tacoma, she went over to live with them, and she passed over there.
Franklin: Gotcha, okay. That makes sense.
Moore: My grandmother was a very—I think she was kind of my hero. Because she was not afraid to just get out and do new things. She’s a very independent woman. Yeah. I learned a lot from her. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: That’s really wonderful. How were opportunities different for your children here in Tri-Cities than had been for you in Louisiana?
Moore: Oh, my goodness. It was a lot of difference. Oh, yes. I mean, it’s so different. By the time my children graduated, things had changed a lot. They had the opportunities were there. You just had to take advantage of it. Yeah, oh, yes. Just like daylight and dark. When I went—when I graduated from high school in Louisiana, I wanted to go to college, but of course we had no money to go to college. The only way I could’ve gone, I would’ve had to—they had 4-H. I belonged to the 4-H club. I don’t know if you know what that is.
Franklin: I was also in 4-H.
Moore: Oh, you were in 4-H?
Franklin: I grew up in a farm, yeah.
Moore: Oh, okay, 4-H Club. So, they had those clubs and they had scholarships. You could get a scholarship, but you had to go into farming stuff. Agricultural-type thing. And that was not for me. I had no—I was in the club in high school, but it was just a social for me. I just wanted to be with the other kids. I had no idea about staying on a farm and doing—so I passed that up. I didn’t want to do it.
The only other opportunity was to go into the service, which some kids did. I just thought, no, that’s not for me, either. You know, they’d go into service and then you’d have to go off to college. Most of the only opportunities was what they trained for. I know a lot of the boys, they actually went and they took agricultural as their—that was their major, that’s what they majored in. And then there was teaching, you could either get to be a teacher, you know, and I didn’t really want to be a teacher.
So, I actually had no opportunity—I was so glad when my dad left and came and I had a chance to leave there. What I wanted to do was go into business. I did actually start business school here, but I had to work, so that kind of went out the window. But I always wanted to go to college. And I did it. My kids, my youngest child was a senior the year I went back to school.
Franklin: Oh, wow. And did all your kids go to college as well?
Moore: No, they didn’t. My son that lives here, he worked with his dad and he still runs the business, Tommy’s Steel and Salvage in east Pasco. He started working with his dad when he was like 12 years old down there. So he went to CBC for one year, and then he was still—he worked with his dad everyday.
Franklin: That’s Leonard, right?
Moore: Leonard, yeah!
Franklin: You’re talking about Leonard?
Moore: Yeah, Leonard. So that’s what he went into. My other son went to Western for one year, and it was just—he couldn’t get a job, and we just didn’t have—it hadn’t been long—my husband had just started the business; we just didn’t have the money, and he didn’t. So then he came back home and he got into the Electricians’ apprentice program. So he went through that. He worked out at Hanford for a little bit, but he said, Mom, I don’t like it out there. I just don’t want to work out at Hanford. Because he realized the dangers of them crawling around in these places. So he went to—where did he go next? He went to Colorado and he worked there for a while, and then he wound up in California. He got a job at the University of California there, as an electrician. He worked his way up to management and he took classes the whole time he was there so he could get his certificates and everything for management. So that’s what he does now, and he does, as I said, now he’s working at San Jose State, and he’s the building—I can’t remember exactly what it’s called, but what he does is he’s in charge of the building and remodeling at the school, whatever they do there. So that’s what he went into. And my daughter was a model and she actually was the first black Miss Tri-Cities.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Moore: She wound up in Chicago and she married an attorney and she had modeled for several years, she traveled to Europe and places like that. And then she came back, as I said, and she lived in Chicago. And she got married and they have twin boys that will be 16 years old this year. And she’s been a stay-at-home mom. [LAUGHTER] She decided she didn’t want to—she stayed at home and raised her kids.
Franklin: Yeah. So my last question is, is there anything else you’d like to mention related to migration, work experiences, segregation and civil rights, and how they impacted your life in the Tri-Cities?
Moore: No. Well, I’ve always wanted to take advantage of opportunities, and I tried to get my kids to do that, too, look for opportunities that’s out there. After they opened up, well, you had some opportunities. We didn’t have that much at first. But I felt like my kids had opportunities, and they didn’t always take advantage of what I wanted them to do, but they did okay. They all doing fine. I actually enjoyed working with the school district, because I was able to be in contact with young people, to try to encourage them, and that’s not an easy job sometimes.
Franklin: No, it’s not.
Moore: I mean, they’ll look at you, and it just goes in one ear and out the other. But that always has been my goal, to try to encourage people of color that I was around—or anybody, actually—because I’ve worked where there are no minorities at all. Many of my jobs have been that way. It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter to me about that, because I just love to see young people try to do the best they can do, and take advantage of the things that are there for them. It really hurts when you see many of them don’t do that, or don’t even try. I just—it’s upsetting.
Franklin: Well, great, Ellenor, thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us today. It was a wonderful interview.
Moore: Well, I thank you for coming.