Ronald Kimber

Ronald Kimber

Ronald Kimber

Heather White

Tuesdauy, December 27, 2016
East Carolina University

[This text is machine generated and may contain errors.]

Heather White (00:00)
Okay, today is Tuesday, December 27. And I'm here with Mr., I'll let you say your name

Ronald Kimber (00:06)
Ronald Kimber.

Heather White (00:07)
And we're talking about the sycamore Hill area and the neighborhood that was just adjacent to that. Is it okay that I'm recording you?

Ronald Kimber (00:14)

Heather White (00:15)
All right. So if you, we can just start with kind of a basic question. Did you grow up in this area?

Ronald Kimber (00:22)
Yes, I did.

Heather White (00:23)

Ronald Kimber (00:24)
I grew up we call it the downtown neighborhood, downtown.

Heather White (00:27)

Ronald Kimber (00:28)
I grew up at 104 West First Street.

Heather White (00:31)

Ronald Kimber (00:32)
Stand on my front porch and be right directly look at the clock.

Heather White (00:36)
Okay, that's great

Ronald Kimber (00:37)
In my household. So my grandmother, Estella, har Goodwin. Her husband, Eli Goodwin, my mother, Mary D. Kimber. My oldest sister, Terry, Kimber, from the middle child Ronlad Kimber, my younger sister, Sharon Kimber.

Heather White (01:00)
It's great. So do you have fond memories of growing up in this area?

Ronald Kimber (01:04)
I do have fond memories, many fond memories. I kept to today. That's great. In fact, I've documented a lot of those memories. And some very simple poems that I've written,

Heather White (01:18)

Ronald Kimber (01:18)
And I call that collection. Diary of a downtown cat is a collection of poems.

Heather White (01:25)
Would you like to read one of them for us?

Ronald Kimber (01:28)
I will

Heather White (01:30)
Not to put you on the spot.

Ronald Kimber (01:32)
I'm kind of a shy person. I guess you know that by now. Okay, sure. This one This poem is entitled downtown kids. Downtown kids. Having fun is what we did. Rode stick ponies fed no pigs. skated funky. Dream real big. explored the intricate canyons of alleyways. Bum rush dieners bakery for day old dough nuts and cream puffs. wrestled and box till we became tough rode tricked out bicycles crazy till we resemble some motorcycle gang. got the most out of childhood through every season change. Waited for the marching Bulldog band. Not Santa at the Christmas parade. looked on with HAR as some kid fell into the river, not saved, invaded plum trees till they were bare. Exchange cold leftovers till we learn how to share. Mingle with country folks in town who came to shop and hang around. Said Yes, ma'am. To neighbors who tell our parents if we were bad. I won't swear. But I honestly don't remember ever being sad. I was a downtown kid. Having fun is what we did.

Heather White (03:02)
That's great. Thank you for sharing that with us. So when you lived in this area? Did you also go to the church that was here?

Ronald Kimber (03:12)

Heather White (03:13)
We heard stories that the children sometimes didn't have any choice of whether they got to sit in or not

Ronald Kimber (03:20)
Yeah, my mother belonged there was a member here,

Heather White (03:23)

Ronald Kimber (03:24)
And my grandfather was a member here,

Heather White (03:26)

Ronald Kimber (03:27)
But I went to Catholic school St. Gabriel's.

Heather White (03:29)

Ronald Kimber (03:30)
So, most of the times I went to St. Gabriel's,

Heather White (03:33)

Ronald Kimber (03:34)
But the church was certainly prominent. In the neighborhood, it was a centerpiece, more or less.

Heather White (03:43)
Anything else you'd like to share about the neighborhood?

Ronald Kimber (03:48)
It was a warm neighborhood. People were friendly. everyone seemed to know each other. Most people most of us were poor. Or maybe at the time we didn't know we were poor. But we were happy. It was you know was it was a happy just a happy existence. Hard sometimes but happy I don't know if you understand that dichotomy or whatever. I remember summers you thought this was this These little three or four blocks was a big city it seemed like so much activity. Right? Because right on Evans street. That block was I guess we would call it commerce because there was a little mom and pop store. They call store Lowe's. You get by meat candy and sodas, you know, vegetables, whatever. There was a barber shop there in that block and attorney's office. Attorney Richard Powell his offices there. A couple of hotdog stands, two joints where they played music. And people from the surrounding areas like we call country folks or people who live out in the rural areas, they will come to Greenville on the weekends, right. And shop. Of course, they would eventually come down this way. Yeah, you know, so it was it was a lively neighborhood.

Heather White (05:28)
So do you remember about how long you lived here? What the year range was?

Ronald Kimber (05:33)
I was born in 1950. I think we moved. I was here. Through redevelopment. Okay. In other words, when they tore the neighborhood down, he were here. Okay. I believe that was 65/66. Yeah.

Heather White (05:47)
So I was gonna ask if you had any memories of when that happened?

Ronald Kimber (05:50)
Yes. Yes. Yeah.

Heather White (05:53)
Anything you'd like to share

Ronald Kimber (05:55)
About that? When my folks actually moved, I spent the summer in the country at my aunts house. I love to go out there in the summertime. You know, and when I came back home, to go to school, my folks that are had already to move, move that Currie and Currie Park there was a new new projects, right.

Heather White (06:18)

Ronald Kimber (06:19)
So I got on my bike, and I rode down here. And it was like a ghost town. It was weird. But that was my recollection. I came down on my bike after everybody had moved out. The houses were still here. They were boarded up. So is it looked like a ghost town I never forgot my upbringing. It was it was. It was great.

Heather White (06:50)
We just appreciate you sharing your story with us. Thank you. Anything else you'd like to add before I turn the recorder off?

Ronald Kimber (06:58)
I remember Christmas parades.

Heather White (07:00)
I've heard lots of people say that.

Ronald Kimber (07:03)
Christmas parades were I don't know magical. And

Heather White (07:09)
So do you remember the route the Christmas parade?

Ronald Kimber (07:11)
Yes, yes, I do. Through what they call five points. Okay. And all straight down through Evans St right? I don't know just magical decorations. Sunday afternoons during Christmas time I remember my mother walked me and my two sisters on Sunday evenings after dark just walked downtown to window shop. You know that was a different time when you weren't worried about anybody bothering you or harming. Just Kids looking in stores, you know and just dreaming. So that was special.

Heather White (07:57)
Well, we just appreciate it and I'll turn up get you off the spotlight. Now we'll get ready and put you another spotlight. Take your photo. Okay. Bye

Ronald Kimber
Photographs of Ronald Kimber taken at the Town Common, Greenville, N.C., accompanied by an oral history interview, for the Beyond Bricks and Mortar project. Mr. Kimber is a former resident of the Shore Drive neighborhood, that was destroyed in the 1960's to make room for the Town Common Park. He is holding a photo of a house, possibly the house of his grandmother, Estella R. Goodwin, which stood at 104 W. 1st Street. He has written a book of poetry about his childhood, entitled Diary of a Downtown Cat, and reads one of the poems. In his interview, Mr. Kimber says that his mother and grandfather were members of the Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church, which was the centerpiece of the neighborhood. He reminisces about the neighborhood he describes as warm, friendly, and safe, and all the activity that used to exist downtown, with stores, offices, and juke joints. Shortly after redevelopment, he says, he visited and the houses were all boarded up and the place looked like a ghost town. Interviewer: Heather White.
December 27, 2016
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oral histories
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CHERYL SMITH Mar 03 2020

This brings back memories that help all communities to know and do better.

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