Ann Johnson Echoes

Ann Johnson Echoes

On February 23rd, 2016 Ann Johnson, Principal at Bright Water Montessori Elementary School, echoed north from within her administrative office.  


Chaun Webster:  So, I appreciate you agreeing to meet with me.  This interview is for the purposes of a project that I am working on called Echo North.  Echo North is a project that is looking at the way in which black residents of North Minneapolis, both current and former residents of North Minneapolis, have imagined their geography over time.  I’m tracing that back to the the 1930 census, and so, really just trying to connect with a variety of residents that have a
variety of different connections to North Minneapolis.  You and your coming to the shop that one day really sparked my interest especially around what you were talking about with your dad and his owning a shop.  You said, did I get it correct, that it was along West Broadway?

Ann Johnson:  No his first shop, the original shop was on what is now Plymouth, well from what I remember, because I was quite young but I remember it looking totally different but it was on the corner of Freemont and Plymouth.  And it was a store that sold African artifacts, this was in the ‘60s, so dashikis and things like that and books.  He had that for a couple of years, from the ‘60s till I think it was maybe the early ‘70s.

Chaun Webster:  This was when you were young?

Ann Johnson: Very young.

Chaun Webster: So you grew up over in North Minneapolis?

Ann Johnson:  That’s correct.  So I was born over in South Minneapolis and when my parents, my mom was a school teacher, and my dad ran the store as well as worked as a pharmaceutical sales person.  And so they determined that they were in the middle class and they wanted to buy a home that kind of went with that status and their friends, who were living in South Minneapolis at the time, suggested they buy a house in the Kenwood area.  And so they did and they purchased a house, which was actually used in a Mary Tyler Moore show back in the day, the front of it, they didn’t get any money from it, my dad always tells me that “we didn’t get any money for it” but they filmed the front of it.  And we lived there for probably three years.

Chaun Webster:  In the Kenwood neighborhood?

Ann Johnson: In the Kenwood, parkway, it was right on Kenwood Parkway which the homes now run -

Chaun Webster:  Quite up there.

Ann Johnson:  There in the millions, my dad said he wished he could have kept it.  But they purposely moved because they, we went to Kenwood, my brother and my sister and I, and each of us were the only blacks in our class and so my dad said that I need you all to grow up with people that look like you, so they purchased a home in North Minneapolis.  And it was at the time, this was in the ‘70, no, ‘69 1969, and they bought their house on Washburn from a Jewish family, because in that neighborhood on those two blocks it was only Jewish people that lived there, and they all went to the synagogue which was up on Plymouth, at the time, it’s a baptist church now.  And so we moved in to that community and I remember that specifically because we went from being the only black in the class to only having black peers in my class at John Hay, which is now torn down, it’s the playground for Lincoln.  I remember it so well, because I remember on the first day -

Chaun Webster: John Hay was the -

Ann Johnson:  Was the elementary school and Lincoln was the Junior High School and I was in the fourth grade in 1969.  And I went in and was, I mean, literally shell shocked cause I saw all these children and they looked like me but I had never been in a class like that.  And I remember crying and leaving the classroom and one of the students, his name was Leon, he came out and he, he touched my shoulder and he said “you know it’s going to be ok”, and he became my best friend from that point forward.  I’ll never forget him for that, that was one of those memory things.  

Chaun Webster: But you went from Kenwood to North Minneapolis, and I’m interested about, especially it being around the ‘60s that your saying that that’s that time period that ya’ll were living there.  Did your dad ever express any kind of experiences of hardship having purchased a home in Kenwood?  Or living in Kenwood?

Ann Johnson:  The only thing that I remember because we actually lived in Kenwood when Martin Luther King died.  And I remember going into my mom and dad’s room and not really knowing what was going on but my mom was crying, and I remember saying “what’s going on?” and she said she was scared because my dad was on Plymouth at The Way, which was on Plymouth Avenue and they were protesting.  And she was, just feared for his life, you know, and I look back later, many many years later and saw pictures of the actual rioting that took place and saw, you know the, they were throwing you know those what you call -

Chaun Webster: Molotov cocktails?

Ann Johnson:  Thank you.  Throwing those and I just remember thinking, oh my gosh my dad was actually in that you know and being fearful for him but also proud of the fact that he was a piece of that you know.  My parents were both from the South so this was nothing new to him and years later my dad talks about it, now is that how much he hated Minnesota.  And because of the things that he had to go through, you know living in Kenwood Parkway with us as kids, they shielded us from it.  One incident I remember is we were going to get ice cream in south Minneapolis and, and, you know, what kid doesn’t wanna get ice cream with their parent right?  And they did not wanna serve us and my dad was just, I just remember him being so so angry, and you know and just, I’m thinking, “why won’t they give us ice cream?”, not understanding what the reason was behind it and my dad never ever said it was because you’re black.  He never would say that to us, he just said, “that’s ok we’ll just go somewhere else” you know.  And then from that point on he kept on drilling in my brother and my sister and I, the importance of being the best that you can be because no one can take your education away.  And just drilling that in us, and drilling that in us, you know, until we went off to college.  

And when my dad...we use to go to Roller Gardens, so this is the business venture that my dad and his partner decided to do.  And we would go to Roller Gardens from the time I was 14 -

Chaun Webster:  Where was Roller Gardens?

Ann Johnson:  St. Louis Park.  And we would catch the bus, and we’d have to catch two buses, and we’d have to leave two hours before it started and we wouldn’t get home until two hours after it and my dad would say “why do you go all the way out to Roller Garden?”, and I’d say “that’s the place everyone hangs out.” So he and his partner decided they were going to do a roller skating rink in the community, cuz he wanted us to be in the community, he just felt like it was safer.  And so they raised all of this money, it was this huge endeavor that took many years and many people to agree to do it, you know, to get the building, the building was built from ground up.  I remember the ground breaking ceremony, and they built this on the corner of Plymouth and Emerson.  And it’s now the unemployment agency.

Chaun Webster:  Wow.

Ann Johnson:  So I remember that, I remember coming home from college and being a part of that, working there -

Chaun Webster:  Do you remember when that happened?

Ann Johnson:  Yes, I was in college, so that was in seventy - I think it opened in ‘79 cause I remember coming home my first year of college and working there.

Chaun Webster:  What was it called?

Ann Johnson:  Roller Gardens - no I’m sorry- roller rink, Northgate Roller Rink.  And it was the best DJs, the best music, we would have, which is now The Time, but we would have Flight Time come in and play - we always had bands, because there was a place just for bands.  And it, at the
beginning, it was, everybody wanted to be there.  

But then it started dwindling over a couple years, and I always used to ask my dad, “what do you think happened?”, and he said people were afraid to come to North Minneapolis.  

So they went back to Roller Gardens.

And so after awhile, they went bankrupt.  Took a second mortgage on our house and everything and I just remember, you know my dad getting very depressed, he became very depressed after that.  Because his whole, he felt like what he wanted to give the community was not backed by the people in the community.

Chaun Webster:   Where did ya’ll, when ya’ll moved to North Minneapolis, do you remember where you moved to?

Ann Johnson: Washburn.  12th and Washburn, up on the hill.  I recently went and visited the house.

Chaun Webster:  It’s still there?

Ann Johnson:  It’s still there, the people that bought the house, they’ve had two different owners since then, they’ve redone the whole house and I was up at a block party, because I actually moved to 9th and Washburn recently, and always wanted to be back on my block, and they said, “you want to come in and see the house?” And so I took a tour of it and it was, caught memories.  Cause we lived there until, they had the house for almost thirty years.  And it wasn’t until my mom got sick that they sold the house and moved into a townhouse.  But, yup, that was the neighborhood.

Chaun Webster:  And so he did a couple of different ventures?  So both the shop you mentioned earlier, you said it was like an African items -

Ann Johnson:  Yup.  He actually did three ventures, because the second one in between that was, he did a leather cleaning company, and it was called Leather New, and so he, because he was a chemist, and so he devised this product and did very well with it actually, which is what helped him to do the Roller Rink.  And he had a cleaning company, and he hired people from the community to go out and clean businesses.  So he and his partner had that for many years, and a lot of the people who are now, Johnny Hunter who is now a minister and different people in the community worked for him back then.

Chaun Webster:  Where did you go to high school?

Ann Johnson:  I went to high school at Marshall, in Marshall University, in the U, over by the U.  We went there because it was a new open program.  And so we were the first blacks in the school, and it was not 7th through 12th grade.  So yeah we were there and a lot of people from our community went, we all got on the bus every morning and took the city bus all the way the way over to the U and went to school there.  

Chaun Webster:  Where would you catch the bus?

Ann Johnson:  On Plymouth Avenue.  The number 20.  

And then we’d go downtown and take the number 6  to southeast, but yeah, and we played actually, we were the best, had the best basketball team.  Won state several years in a row.  And, yeah, that was fun.

Chaun Webster:  You said your dad liked you to hang around North Minneapolis, he was concerned about your safety.  Where else would you hang out in North?

Ann Johnson:  We used to go to The Capri Theater, cause that was the only theater that played the black movies.  So we would walk from my house to Broadway, every Sunday, that was the only night that they played, Saturday and Sunday’s, and we’d watch the movies, so Saturday was Roller Gardens and Sunday was The Capri.  And we’d see all the movies, Foxy Brown, and Superfly and The Mac, all those movies you know.  And then we’d go to, earlier in the day we’d go to Zion, Zion Baptist Church, because they’d have youth group so we would go there first.  But we never ventured off that was our little community we stayed right there and walked everywhere, you know.  It was safe.  It was nice actually.  It was really nice.  Which is why I think it’s so hard for me now to see the demise of the community.

Chaun Webster:  So ya’ll were at 12th and Washburn and we are here in Bright Water which is at 51st and Freemont.

Ann Johnson: That’s right.

Chaun Webster:  Now I always here this talk about how once you get north of Broadway, that for a period of time, you didn’t have folks that had homes or businesses that were north of Broadway.  That particularly black folks were not able to purchase homes north of Broadway.

Ann Johnson:  Right.  

Chaun Webster:  Weren’t able to have businesses north of Broadway.  Did you ever feel any of that tension?

Ann Johnson:  Actually, my husband and I did when we first got married we went to purchase a house and it was up in Folwell Park area.  Beautiful houses and they would not sell it to us, they said that we didn’t fit into the community.  I remember the realtor telling our realtor who happened to be our friend, and they didn’t know that they were going to tell us, and so we we start feeling that that’s when we actually moved because we left Minneapolis and moved to Georgia, and were gone for over 15 years and we said we didn’t want any parts in that, you know. I was teaching in the community, which is why I wanted to live in the community, you know, I was teaching at Bethune which is right in the - and they was all surrounded by projects when I first started teaching.  So we wanted to live somewhere in the North Minneapolis area and they put a halt to that.  So we didn’t buy our first house in Minneapolis until years later and we ended up buying in south Minneapolis, where they would sell it to us which is ridiculous but.  

Chaun Webster:  So then when you taught at Bethune, you said that there were projects -

Ann Johnson:  All projects.

Chaun Webster:   What does it look like now when you think about what it looked like when you were teaching there?

Ann Johnson:  Yeah it’s totally different, I mean we’ve got, and it’s pretty sad actually, because you’ve got this beautiful community but no one that lives in that community with these brand new houses and townhouses, none of them go to the school.  I was over there working a couple of years ago and no one in that community, I’d see the kids standing at the bus stop to catch the bus out of the community to go to a different school, and the school was right across the street.  I thought what?  You know, and that’s a whole other story but the stigma behind Bethune -

And Bethune was an amazing school it actually was the first Montessori school in North Minneapolis was at Bethune which is why I was working there.  And what’s crazy is that some of my families, the kids that I taught back then, now are parents here at this school, yeah so it’s like this whole full circle.

Chaun Webster:   You’ve been teaching for awhile, how long?

Ann Johnson:  I started teaching in ‘82.  So thirty four years.  Yup, been around a long time.

Chaun Webster:  What was it that made you want to be a teacher?

Ann Johnson:  My mom was a teacher and she was always so happy I just remember her being so joyful from the kids. 

And I had horrible teachers when I was at Kenwood.  You know teachers who said I would never learn how to read and teachers that told my parents I was slow, and my mom and dad would say, “no you’re not, you are and just keep on pushing”, and actually with my first grade teacher telling me I would never read I became the best reader in 5th and 6th grade.  I won the award every year, I just loved to read.  And I think it was that that made me say, I would never ever do that to a kid, and so I love education.  I love watching kids learn and so that’s kind of been my passion and now my daughter is a teacher, I have a daughter who’s a teacher. 

Chaun Webster:  So your mom, where did she teach at?

Ann Johnson: My mom was one of the first black teachers in Minneapolis Public Schools, and she taught at a school called Clinton, which is now where the Honeywell is in south Minneapolis, and she came here in 1957.

Chaun Webster:  Wow, from where?

Ann Johnson:  Arkansas.  And she was a fourth grade teacher, then she became a title one teacher, then title one coordinator, and then before she retired she was human resource director for the Minneapolis Public Schools.  So she would recruit African American teachers from the south to come up here and work so the majority of the teachers that are here now, most of them are retiring now, that are from the south, she hired them.  And I run into a lot of them now and they say, “oh I know your mom, she hired me”, so that’s kind of a good feeling.  

Chaun Webster:  Did both your mom and dad migrate from Arkansas?

Ann Johnson:  No, my dad was from Nashville, he actually went to Fisk University and was in the army and went over to Pinebluff Arkansas where he met my mom.  At a dance.  

So yeah, my dad was - they moved up here because he was accepted to the University of Minnesota to become a doctor and so he was in med school when my mom got pregnant and she had to quit teaching and back then if you quit teaching, I mean you can’t have this leave, you had to quit, and my dad couldn’t afford - they couldn’t afford just one salary and so my dad had to stop going to med school.  Yup.  

Chaun Webster:  Did he feel like he was missing something?  Did he want to continue in med school?

Ann Johnson:  You know, I don’t know we never really talked about it.  I always called him my doctor anyway, like I call him, just to in my opinion he’s the best doctor.  I mean for every one of my kids, my ailments, I always call him.  He knows everything.  

I think that he regrets not - I think he regrets having a hardship, he feels a hardship from a lot of the things that have happened to him over the years, you know.  Fighting against a lot of systems.  Racism is huge I mean he talks about it even now, he’s 84, and even now he’s just - and he gets so angry now, watching tv and the news and something - he’ll go “I just can’t believe this”, and he always tells my brother and my sister, “keep fighting for what you believe in, and don’t ever stop.” He even tells my kids, his grand kids that now too, but um - he’s sad you know, after my mom passed he moved back to the south and he said he would never come back here.  It’s like one of those places that - that’s why I have no relatives here.  None of my relatives, his relatives, have ever moved here.  

Chaun Webster:  Did he feel like his treatment here was worse than in the south?

Ann Johnson:  Oh yeah.  Oh yeah, he said because one thing about the south is, he said it wasn’t - they’ll tell you, I don’t want no parts of you - here it’s this hidden racism. You know this underlying - we’re gonna smile in your face but stab you in the back - type thing.  And he felt it and my mom felt it, even with the Minneapolis Public Schools - I felt it over the years, my brother felt it my sister that’s why they’re both moved.  And he said there the opportunities are there for you and for example if you step over to a place where you don’t belong, quote, they’ll tell you, get away.  And then you just move on to the next place.  He says the funny thing is - he says I let the young people fight - and then I’ll go over to that store if they say that you’re not welcome, he said I let the young people fight and then I’ll go in later, you know, he said I’m too old to fight.

Chaun Webster: When you were talking about when MLK was assassinated you said that your dad was down at The Way off Plymouth.  Was he involved in The Way, or were you involved in The Way?

Ann Johnson:  I was never involved in The Way, but he was always, what I would consider, an activist.  You know, he was always down there fighting for the rights - especially with education, and young folks he believed in - The Hospitality House and places like that - and so a lot of that started from conversations that they had at The Way.  

Chaun Webster: So there were a lot of meetings that took place there?

Ann Johnson:  A lot of meetings.  A lot of meetings, yup. 

And a lot of things that actually happened, when I think about how years ago we had the McDonalds on Plymouth and we had the grocery store on Plymouth and -

Chaun Webster:  You talking about Kings Grocery?

Ann Johnson:  Yup.  - of meetings and conversations that - my dad was really involved in that and the housing project that was down there - not a housing project but housing development that’s on Plymouth, he was a part of helping that getting past, you know so they could build that out. You know actually that was my first job, I worked down there in the office back when I was in high school.  But, yeah, he was a part of making sure that happened.  So he was always a part of the community and making the community better.   And that’s why if he saw what was going on right now he’d be really sad.  

Chaun Webster:  How would you describe what’s going on right now?

Ann Johnson:  I describe it as  - from what I’ve seen over the years is that once people made it from our community back in my day, they moved, they left and they moved out to the suburbs and North Minneapolis just became the place that they grew up but it was no longer a place that they participated in, you know, to make better.  And then when that happened - I remember when we started getting the large influx of people form out of state - you know cause back years ago, even when I was teaching I remember people coming from out of state and I’d say “why are you guys moving to Minnesota?”, and they’d say “because you guys have better benefits” you know.   And a couple hundred dollars extra per kid is a lot of money, you know, and I think that what ended up happening is we kept getting these - people moving here and not having any resources for them to change their lifestyles or make them wanna be, wanna be a part of a community to make the changes and to keep it a place where everybody wants to live.  

And I remember when we had the big tornado - someone - I never forget this and I can’t even remember -

Chaun Webster:  You talking about the recent one?

Ann Johnson: Yes, I was teaching at a school over there and it wiped out half of my families houses.  And one of these guys said to me that that was the devil saying that - he was mad at North Minneapolis, because of what was going on, because the drugs were heavy in that area right along Broadway right up through there, and it was like - whooooo - wipe it all out.  And a lot of people said, gosh if that’s the truth then we’re gonna clean it all up and we’re gonna make it a better place, and that’s what we’re hoping and we’re still waiting for that to happen you know, they’re starting slowly but it’s like, you know, we still don’t have I don’t think we have enough community support from everybody who lives in the community and even those coming back to the community and saying whatever it takes we’re gonna do this together.  

You know and that’s what I’ve been telling a lot of my friends is you know, come back, move back and I’ve got a couple that have come back and they’re teaching you know and by, even my own grown kids want to move in the community, and they want this to be a part of the community that they bring up their own kids.  I’m just hoping that we can do that.  

Chaun Webster: Ok so, maybe I’ll end it with, and I appreciate you do this and taking the time. Maybe, could you name some memorable streets or intersections and what do they make you think about? What are some memorable 

Ann Johnson: Broadway, the Y, that was another place that when they built that Y I think I was in my teens, and going swimming and having lock ins at the Y so Broadway, Irving and North Commons, James, and we used to have parties at North Commons, you know, and then the Capri on Broadway and then McDonalds on Plymouth and Penn.  Plymouth and Penn was always the place to be and it wasn’t - but it was the place to be in a positive way.  So when I think about the most memorable, those were the places, you know, and being able to walk through those communities and not worry about if something was going to happen to you.  And it would be night time, you know and we would walk.  You can’t get teenagers to walk now.  They wanna ride everywhere but we walked everywhere.  I think those would be the places, Plymouth, Penn, Broadway.




Corrine Wright Echoes

Corrine Wright Echoes

On Thursday, June 2nd 2016, the year of Le'Vonte King Jason Jones, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling & on & on; Corrine Wright echoed.  Corrine Wright, cultural worker & Master Barber at Wright Haircuts, a barbershop operating out of 1900 Penn Avenue N. from 1991 - 2011.  I sat down with Corrine to get a better since of the significance of this little shop where I got my own haircut, where you could see across the street black folks selling other black folks fresh fruits and vegetables.  This account is an attempt to reconstruct memory of a site which is now an empty lot, but which had a name.

CHAUN:  So when did you start, when did Wright Haircuts begin?

CORRINE: In 1991.

CHAUN:  ’91 ok, so maybe let me just start with, what made you want to start Wright Haircuts, and what made you want to start right where you did at 1900 Penn Avenue?

CORRINE:  Cuz it was a, it was mostly blacks in the area and I thought that I would be a resource to them, they didn’t have to go a long ways cuz at that time there wasn't that many barber shops.  I wanted to be right in the center of it, and I wanted to be able to, I just wanted to be able to service them and get to know them and stuff and I did, I did, it was a great experience, great experience.  It was a lot of back and forth.  Every year, almost every year, the neighborhood would change, but I stayed there, because the people were interesting.  

CHAUN:  How would it change?  What do you mean?

CORRINE:  I mean I saw a lot of people move out, and a lot of people move in, and a lot of people stayed, it was a very good experience for me, I got to know a lot of people, I did a lot of people’s hair, they come from all over Minneapolis, and in the suburbs and everything, so it was very interesting, and I loved my job, and I loved people and loved servicing them and so it was a good experience for me a good time in my life.  

CHAUN: How long did it operate for?

CORRINE: It was there for 20 years on that corner.  

CHAUN:  20 years?

CORRINE: Uh huh.

CHAUN:  So then…

CORRINE: From ’91 to 2011.

CHAUN:  2011 wow.  And I remember even when ya’ll were no longer at the corner, for at least a few years more the property was still there and the sign was still up.


CHAUN:  Prior to it being torn down.  Do you remember when it was torn down?

CORRINE:  Let me see, I moved out in 2011 It was torn down in 2012 I think.  2012 or ’13 when it was torn down.  

CHAUN: Did you know the owner of that property?

CORRINE:  I own that property.  

CHAUN:  You own that property?

CORRINE:  I own that property.

CHAUN:  Ok, and when did you, did you purchase it initially when you went in and you moved in or did…

CORRINE:  No I initially didn’t purchase it.  Later on, after I was there a few years I purchased it.  

CHAUN:  So then do you know, what was the need for it to be torn down?

CORRINE:  The storm, in 2011 that swept through Minneapolis, it knocked all the back off and all the top off and everything it destroyed it and I had to move.  

CHAUN:  Did you live out of that property?

CORRINE:  No I didn't live there.  

CHAUN:  Oh ok, you just operated out of there.  

CORRINE:  I just operated out of there.  

CHAUN: So, I don’t know maybe.  What do you remember about operating, that’s 20 years that’s a long time

CORRINE: A long time.

CHAUN: To be operating a business on the corner, what is it that stands out as memorable to you in that space?

CORRINE: Well I did, I did so many people’s hair, that come from all over, lawyers and pilots and teachers and principals and everybody from all walks of life and I like that.  I like that, I enjoyed that.  

CHAUN: You said there weren’t that many barber shops around when you first opened up.

CORRINE:  When I first started there were three.  Yeah it was Broadway Barbers, The Young Brothers, and myself when I opened up.

When did Dimensions and Hair open up?  Were they around at a similar time? Do you know Dimensions and Hair?

CORRINE:  Dimensions?  Yeah Dimensions right there off of Broadway, I know, I know Mike.  Yeah Mike open up, ah, maybe three or four years, maybe five years after me.  That Mike open up Dimensions, and I know Dimensions and Mike.  

CHAUN:  But you said Young Brothers and what were the other ones?

CORRINE:  Broadway Barbers, Young Brothers, and myself.

CHAUN:  Now Young Brothers, was that…

CORRINE:  Young Brothers was on Plymouth.

CHAUN: Ok, they’re no longer there?

CORRINE:  They’re no longer there, they’re all gone.  


CORRINE:  But, ah, they had a barbershop up down there on Plymouth, and it was brothers there was three of them.  Ok, and they were there a long time, and they left, also it was a guy cross Plymouth, I can’t think of his name.  He was cross Plymouth, he would work and, he had a little barbershop up out of the house in front of the house.  He was there for awhile but not too long because he got ill and he closed down.  Uh huh, I can’t think of his name.  

CHAUN: How many barbers did you have in your barbershop?

CORRINE:  Four.  Uh huh, four barbers.

CHAUN: But then you were one of the few master barber, operating here in North Minneapolis that were women master barbers, right?  Like as a master barber you were one of the few women that owned a shop.  

CORRINE:  Yeah, Lynn owned one, Broadway Barbers, she and Mac.  You heard of him, Mac?

CHAUN: No.  I don’t think I have.  

CORRINE:  They owned Broadway Barbers, ok.  Now it’s Clipper Cuts.  It’s still on Broadway, Clipper Cuts, but Mac not there anymore he moved to Alabama.  His home, back home.  But Lynn is still running it, Clipper Cuts.  So at one time, before I opened up Wright Haircuts, I was working in Broadway Barbers, ok.  Broadway Barbers used to be, down the street, this way, it’s a nail shop now, they moved out of there into the new building, The Clipper Cuts ok.  And so at that time it was six barbers, and so, it was six barbers there including myself, and ah, that was it.  Wasn’t no more barbershops around at that time.

CHAUN: You said you came here to Minnesota, I think you were saying in ’62?

CORRINE:  ’72.

CHAUN: ’72, ok.  And where did you come here from?

CORRINE:  Chicago, but I wasn’t born there, I was born in Arkansas.  

CHAUN:  Ah, ok.  

CORRINE:  But I moved here with my husband and five kids, and I lived on the southside, ok.

CHAUN: Where about in Arkansas?  

CORRINE:  Conway.  40 miles north of Little Rock.  

CHAUN:  And then you went to Chicago?

CORRINE:  I moved to Chicago, and then from Chicago here. 

CHAUN:  And you came in ’72?

CORRINE:  ’72.

CHAUN:  Lot of changes between ’72 and now.  

CORRINE:  A whole lot of changes, whole lot of changes.  When I first moved in this was the sweetest, this was the sweetest city.  Clean, quite, it was nice really nice.  Wasn’t that many blacks here, and most of the blacks that was here knew each other, because there weren’t that many you know.  It was nice

CHAUN:  And in ’72, that’s prior to when 94 was built over here also, that was before 94, 94 I think was around ’78.

CORRINE:  Yeah that was before 94.  

CHAUN:  So it looked a lot different.

CORRINE:  A lot different, everything has changed.  And it’s still changing.  

CHAUN: So then, I suppose some of my other questions about it, do you still own - do you own that lot?

CORRINE:  I own the lot.  

CHAUN:  Have you ever thought about - what have you though about -

CORRINE:  I been thinking about what I should do with it.  Should I just sell it or whatever.  I’m thinking about what to do with it.  

CHAUN:  Do you live over in North Minneapolis?

CORRINE:  I do.  

CHAUN:  When you moved over from Chicago did you move to the northside?  

CORRINE:  No I moved to the southside I lived south.  I lived south until, I lived south, I moved over here I think around ’93.  I moved over here around ’93 to the northside.  I been over  here ever since.  

CHAUN:  So shortly after you opened up Wright Haircuts.  

CORRINE:  Yeah, I moved over here, uh huh.  Cuz my husband used to have a, my husband used to have a little grocery store down the street on Golden Valley Rd and Sheridan.  

CHAUN:  Ok what was that? What was it called?

CORRINE:  Johnson’s Market.  You don’t remember that do you?

CHAUN:  No I don’t think I do.  

CORRINE:  It used to be right on the corner of Sheridan and Golden Valley Rd.  

CHAUN:  Yeah.

CORRINE:  So he was coming over here everyday, and I was working, at that time I was working at Broadway Barbers up there on Broadway, so I decided to move over here and we both would be closer to our jobs you know.  

CHAUN:  Was the process, a few years after when you were working out of that property, what was the process for you purchasing it like?  Was it a difficult process, were there any obstacles that were a part of the process, in purchasing the property?

CORRINE:  No, when I initially went into the property I was renting with an option to buy, so I was doing a - what you call that?

CHAUN: Contract for deed?

CORRINE:  Yes, yes, so the guy come to me and say, ‘you know, you know Corrine you can buy the property’, and so what I do?  ‘you don’t have to put any money down’ you just do the paper work and stuff like that and stuff.  Ok and so, and so I met with him and the bank and stuff, so the bank financed you know what I had to pay on it and stuff.  And I payed it off.  Yeah so, it was a pretty smooth process.  

CHAUN: Yeah.  

CORRINE:  Yeah wasn’t no hassle.

CHAUN: When you purchased the property, the owner of the property at the time, what was there background?

CORRINE:  He owned a lot of properties around here in Minneapolis, he owned the ah, you know the bar over south, Champion?  It used to be right over on the corner of First Avenue and Lake Street.  

CHAUN:  Yeah yeah yeah.  

CORRINE:  He owned that bar, ok, and he also owned that building that I was in.  

CHAUN:  And then, I suppose another thing I was interested in was, across the street cause I always - 

CORRINE:  Across the street?

CHAUN:  Where the farmers market was.

CORRINE:  Oh ok.  

CHAUN:  I just, I remember that as, I don’t know that was a really important memory for me, going and getting a haircut and then I would see across the street, like you know somebody would stop their car and while they were waiting at the light the would grab some vegetables and everything.

CORRINE:  Mr. Reuben.  

CHAUN:  So it was Mr. Reuben that -

CORRINE:  It was Reverend Reuben really he ah, no he's not there anymore, but he's around here, he still around here uh huh, he live north.  He live up on Thomas and Golden Valley Rd.  

CHAUN:  Do you remember their first name?


CHAUN:  Reverend Reuben.

CORRINE:  Sam, Sam Reuben.  

CHAUN:  And they would, and it looked like a kind of, it was like kind of make-shift you know like it seemed like people kind of just came together and they set up their tables and had their vegetables and folks would come by and they would buy them.  It didn’t seem like something where like people needed to go and get a permit from the city or the county in order to do it.  Or do you know if they did?

CORRINE:  I think he had to have a permit.  I think he had to have a permit to do it, but he did it and it was nice.  Cause people was just coming to get their vegetables you know.  

CHAUN:  How many years, do you know how many years he did that for?

CORRINE:  Oo, I don’t know.

CHAUN:  I’ll have to ask 

CORRINE:  Quite a few years, yeah he did that and it was nice, you know everybody looked forward to him coming and you know he would come on Friday, what was that, Saturday, Saturday morning.  

CHAUN:  Do you know where he would get the vegetables from?  Did people just farm them and then harvest and bring them to the market?

CORRINE:  He would go into the farm, to the farm.  There are some farms here in Minnesota where you can go and you can get as many vegetables as you want as long as you pick them yourself.  Ok, so that’s what he was doing.  He was going to the farm, picking them and stuff then bringing them back and selling them back to the neighborhood.  Which was nice.  You know, it wasn’t that much you know.  They were cheap so

CHAUN: Yeah it was real nice 

CORRINE:  And the fruits, the vegetables and the fruits were fresh so.

CHAUN: Yeah, I remember getting some, I remember you know cause me and my step dad 

CORRINE:  He’d have apples and oranges and bananas and stuff out there, along with you know, vegetables and that was good.  I, yeah, I hated when he left that corner, because it helped me to because a lot of times I would go over there and get different things you know.  

CHAUN: Who really stands out, when you were cutting hair?  Who were some of the regulars that would really stand out that you built relationships with as you were over there at the barbershop?

CORRINE:  I do, I built a lot of relationships with a lot of pastors, with the Urban League guy at that time it was um, Mr. Glover.  With the Urban League president.  A lot of teachers at North High School and Cooper.  Ooo, so many I can’t even, they're so many, so many I can’t even think of all of them they're so many.  But they all would come there and get their haircut you know, so, yeah.

CHAUN:  Did you want to retire when you had closed down in 2011?  Is that a part of the reason or..

CORRINE:  I didn’t, I didn’t retire, I moved to over on Glenwood.  My daughter was a, my daughter and I worked together too.  Tanya, and we, she had a shop over there, she moved to Baltimore and I took over her shop and I worked there until 2013.  In 2013 I fell and I had to have a operation on my knee and have some pens put in, that’s why I’m on my cane.  So 2013 was my last year of working.

CHAUN:  Yeah, for sure.  So then, you said that you daughter Tanya works as a, she was working as a 

CORRINE:  She works was working as a barber then, she doesn’t work, she’s not a, she don’t do barbering anymore she does, she works at Delta.  Delta Airlines.  

CHAUN: Yeah, yeah.  My stepdad works for Delta.  

CORRINE:  Ah ok, who is your dad?

CHAUN:  Jesse Gray.  

CORRINE:  Where’s he from?

CHAUN:  Yeah, he would be the one, he would be the one to take me over - ah, grew up in Wesson Mississippi and then came up here probably around the same time as you came up here. 

CORRINE:  Did he bring you to the barbershop when you was coming.  

CHAUN:  Uh huh.  Yeah he would bring me.  

CORRINE:  Did he get his hair cut?

CHAUN:  Yup, yup.  

CORRINE:  Who was cutting it?

CHAUN:  Um, I know you would cut my hair, I’m not sure, I can’t remember exactly who it is though.  

CORRINE:  Ok, it might have been Al or Angie, ok.  Anyway I, ah ok, but his home is Mississippi?

CHAUN:  Yup, Wesson, Mississippi, but came up here got a degree in education so he was a teacher up here for quite awhile.  

CORRINE:  Ok, is he still teaching?

CHAUN:  No he retired from teaching, and now is kind of working a lighter shift up on the airlines.

CORRINE:  Ah, ok, the Delta ok.  Yeah that’s where Tanya, well Tanya.  Barbering is a burnout job, what I mean by that is after so many years you get burnt out, you know, dealing with people and its a burnout so, she was tired.  

CHAUN:  Did you ever feel like you got tired of barbering?

CORRINE:  Who me?  

CHAUN:  Yeah. 

CORRINE:  No I didn’t really get tired but she said she was tired and she wanted to do something different.  But I didn’t get tired I’d probably would have still been barbering if I had not had my bad, you know, fell and, you know and hurt my leg.  I enjoyed it, I enjoyed talking with the people and servicing the people and meeting so many new people I enjoyed that.  So I was in the right mode, when I was barbering yeah.  

CHAUN:  Now when you went from Arkansas to Chicago, kind of switching gears, when did you leave Arkansas to move to Chicago?

CORRINE:  Oh my god I was about, when I left Arkansas, I guess I was about 16.  

CHAUN:  So you were like 16 moving there and then when you were in Arkansas did you have family that you left there in Arkansas?

CORRINE:  Ah yeah I left my mom and dad and I had a twin brother, my sister and brother, I’m the youngest of fourteen.  My twin brother died about five years ago, and out of that fourteen there’s only three of us living now.  One sister and one brother and myself that’s it.  Everybody else is gone.  But I’m the youngest of that, you know, of that other fourteen it was a big family of us.  

CHAUN:  Yeah, and you have five kids?

CORRINE:  I have five kids. Three boys and two girls.  

CHAUN: And they, do they have any children of their own?

CORRINE:  Yeah, ah, Cynthia has two, Gibbon has seven, ah, Clay has three and Tanya has one and my other son doesn't have any.

CHAUN:  Uh huh, now when your family came from Chicago to Minneapolis did you just have you and your kids or did you have other family that came here?

CORRINE:  No, just me and my kids and my husband when I moved here uh huh.  But I had a brother here who had been here since the ‘40s, and he encouraged me to come here but he’s dead now.  He encouraged me to come here and ah - 

CHAUN:  And he came here in the, he was here in the ‘40s?

CORRINE:  He was here in the ‘40s yeah.  Mhmm, one of my brothers mhmm.

CHAUN:  Did you say, where were you with your brothers, with your siblings, were you the youngest?

CORRINE:  The youngest, my twin brother and I was the youngest, out of 14 uh huh.  

CHAUN:  Wow so you had a brother that was here in the 1940’s, that was a different time also.

CORRINE:  Yeah it was, it was.  But it was a, he was in - 

CHAUN:  How did he like it?  What was his experience like here?

CORRINE:  Oh he liked it, he was a professor, ok.  He left Arkansas and finished high school in Kansas City and from Kansas City moved here. He got a degree and was teaching in Michigan, and then he came back here.  He was teaching in Canada, and he came back here he could speak nine languages.  He was a professor, he didn’t -

CHAUN:  What did he teach?

CORRINE:  You know what English and Black History.  I know those two he taught.  

CHAUN:  You remember his name?

CORRINE:  Yeah, my brother, Walter.

CHAUN:  What was his last name?

CORRINE:  Walter Brown.  

CHAUN:  Walter Brown.  Now did you marry into, Wright is a name that you, was your maiden name Brown?

CORRINE:  No, my maiden name was Wright.

CHAUN:  No that’s incredible, you know, it’s important family history.  So Walter Brown - 

CORRINE:  Yeah, he was a very smart man. 

CHAUN:  Do you know where he taught at here?

CORRINE:  He taught at Washburn High School, and over at the U and he taught at the Junior High School in Albert Lea Minnesota, Albert Lea Minnesota.  I used to drive him there, mhmm, when I first moved here.  I would drive him down there and he’d do his classes and then come bach uh huh.  Yeah so, mhmm.

CHAUN:  Now what about some of the changes that you saw over the twenty years that you were at 1900 Penn Avenue.  What are some of the changes that you remember over the course of the time that you came in?  I know you mentioned how some people, folks kind of move in and move out some people stay.  Did you see, what other kinds of changes and shifts did you see happen?

CORRINE:  You know what, as time progressed there was a lot more fighting and dope dealing, you know what I’m saying?

CHAUN:  Uh huh.  

CORRINE:  At that time, yeah, but you know what no one ever bothered me.  Never.  No one ever bothered me.  Well, outside, and you know I never allowed anyone to stand around, I knew what was going on, so you know.  But the people in the neighborhood really respected me, you know and so, that was a good thing.  They knew me I treated them like humans.  Treated them nice and they treated me nice.  I’m trying to think of something, cuz when I came there, when I left Broadway Barbers, they was doing that stuff then, yeah so.  That was the worst thing, dealing with that, but they never bothered me though, you know.  They always protected me, the guys, they always protected me, and if something was going on in the store they’d say, “no! you got to get away from here! you got to get away from Ms. Wright!” You know they always respected me, so I liked that, I didn’t have to worry about anything they came and looked out for me.  When I worked late at night there was always some of the guys who would wait until I get in my car or truck or whatever.  So they looked out after me, I liked that part, I could always depend on them.  The neighborhood did change over the years because, people was getting, people was getting more and more into all that other stuff that they shouldn’t have you know what I’m saying, and so it did change.  That will change people, it will change the neighborhood, you know what I’m saying?  That will change a neighborhood.  

But that was a nice corner though.

CHAUN:  Yeah it was.  

CORRINE:  For a barbershop. 

CHAUN:  Yeah it was.  Do you mind me asking you what you purchased it for back in the ‘90s when you bought it?

CORRINE:  Ooo, I done forgot.  I’ve forgotten Chaun, um.

CHAUN:  I’m interested in what the changes in the prices have been - 

CORRINE:  Yeah it wasn’t that much Chaun, it wasn’t that much.  It was something like twenty two thousand dollars or something like that, it was cheap.  

CHAUN:  Oh wow.  

CORRINE:  Yeah, it wasn’t that expensive, of course the building needed a lot of work done on it, but it was about twenty two thousand or something like that.  It wasn't that much.  Anyway I paid that off.  No that’s not, that’s not much at all.  I mean that’s a changing, you know.

CHAUN:  No that’s not that much at all, you know its a changing -

CORRINE:  When I moved here, the houses that cost two and three hundred thousand dollars right now right, you could get it for twenty some thousand dollars when I moved here.  

CHAUN:  Much different.  

CORRINE:  Much different. So a lot of the old houses over north and south that people been in a long time.  They’re really really nice sound houses and they didn’t pay that much for it and that’s why they not going to move ok.  They not going to move, cuz it was a steal.  You could get a house, at that time, when I moved here they had a lot of contract for deeds, ok, so anyone who wanted a house could get a house.  You understand what I’m saying?

CHAUN:  Yeah.

CORRINE:  Uh huh.  So, a lot of people got them some beautiful beautiful homes, big beautiful homes really cheap, really cheap at that time.  

CHAUN:  Yeah, no, they not doing that now.

CORRINE:  Oh no, them houses cost, oh they cost some money now.  But at that time, no.  

CHAUN:  And they not doing contract for deed now not really like that.  

CORRINE:  Every once and awhile.  But it depends, you can do a contract - if you own property, you can still do it but people would prefer not to do it, they’d rather you just get a loan from the bank or whatever you know, you know that.  It’s hard but ah, there are a few, there are a few people around who have property who is doing contract for deed.  But it’s not seen much its almost erased out of - you know.  But that was a good way for people to get a home.  Contract for deed, you know, with the intentions to buy.  And you could get it financed through the bank or through some kind of financial institution or whatever, if you had pretty good credit or whatever, you know what I’m saying.  

CHAUN:  Do you have any old photos from the barbershop?  I looked it up through the Star Tribune news clippings and was trying to see if there was any old photos of your shop.  

CORRINE:  Star Tribune, ah, you know who may have some, Al McFarlane.  

CHAUN:  Al McFarlane, yeah is that with Insight News?

CORRINE:  Insight News.  He have some pictures of us, talk to him about it.  

CHAUN:  I will.  

CORRINE:  Al McFarlane.  I had a, you know a in ’94, I think it was ’94 or ’95, the police was chasing some people and going this way on Penn, and a, the car turn around into my door and knock the front out, and a, through the baby up in the barbershop, anyway Al got all the pictures on that.

CHAUN:  Oh wow.  

CORRINE:  So you can see if you can get some pictures from Al.  And Al also was our customer long as we were there.

CHAUN:  Oh wow. 

CORRINE:  Al was there.  

CHAUN:  Yeah.

CORRINE:  Al McFarland, you .  You can get some pictures from him.

CHAUN:  Yeah, I’m gonna see his daughter Batala, um, tomorrow. 

CORRINE:  Batala came by too, Tanya, my daughter use to do her hair all the time too.  Yeah so you can get some from them.  

CHAUN:  For sure I will definitely ask about that.  

CORRINE:  Yeah that’s my friend, nice people.

CHAUN:  Yeah, well I appreciate you taking the time.