A Transcribed Interview with Stella Brown McCall – Part 1

Margaret McCall Thomas Ward

This is partial transcription of a very long interview that my cousin Margaret McCall made with her Aunt Stella Brown McCall in 1986. Margaret was Mary McCall’s granddaughter. Mary McCall was Eliza Williams Allen and Milton Saffold’s daughter. Stella Brown McCall was married to Margaret’s father’s brother. Margaret’s father was James McCall and his brother was Roscoe McCall. Louise was Stella and Roscoe’s daughter. Joe was Margaret and Stella’s cousin.

Part 1

Margaret: I’m doing family history now and I’m on the McCall side. And I want to learn as much as I can because there are some gaps in things that I have been able to find.
Stella: Well, I don’t know too much about the…
Louise: She doesn’t know about the McCall side because she’s given me all the memories of her side. I have all those you know…
Margaret: On the Brown side?
Stella: Yes.
Louise: Oh yes.
Margaret: But it’s the McCall side I’m interested in.
Louise: Mother you can tell her one thing I remember you told me about the McCall side, you told me that Daddy, that Daddy’s father was a jailor
Stella: He worked at the jail, the Montgomery jail down in Montgomery.
Louise: and they used to have him…he was the whipper and, you know, he was supposed to whip the prisoners, you know the black prisoners. And he would pretend that he was whipping them and you know, make them yell and he would make the whip sound. Isn’t that interesting? I can just picture that.
Stella: Well he had to pose to keep from whipping the prisoners.
Louise: Oh and mother you can also tell her about how Daddy was getting that man out of Montgomery for looking at the white girl. And then they were going to hang him and Daddy had to take him out on that lonely road and get him out of town. And …
Stella: they got stopped on the road.
Louise: The police, the posse, don’t they call it a posse? Or whatever.
Stella: Yes.
Louise: came after him and then when they shined the light on Daddy. They were in a field and they saw that it was Mr., your grandfather McCall’s son and they said “Oh Rossie…”
Stella: Because his father, not cutting you off, Ross’s own, father had worked at the jail and had charge of the colored prisoners. They would have him punish the colored prisoners and he never punished not one. Because he could do it like he wanted to do it. He just posed… Had a whipping place and made the noise like he was whipping them but he didn’t touch a one of them.
Margaret: So this incident of Uncle Ross in the field, what happened?
Stella: They stopped him, right at that field.
Louise: No mother, start with how they were standing outside the drugstore… he and that other one, that Watkins boy and the white girl came by and she told her boyfriend that they had, that this Watkins fellow had winked at her and that started a riot in the city.
Stella: Winked at her.
Margaret: Is that right?
Stella: A riot.
Margaret: Well, how did Uncle Ross get him out of the city?
Stella: Out of the city?
Margaret: You said that they were in the field and the police came and said…
Stella: Now all before this started, Ross had a friend out in the country. This man was a good friend of his and they would go hunting out there. And that’s why he knew the man… his name… I can’t think of his name… what was his name…anyway, well he had a home down in the country and he would go down there every summer you know, just take a week off and hunt and…
Louise: A good place to hide out.
Stella: To hide out. Yes.
Margaret: That’s all?
Stella: And there was a railroad train coming out of Montgomery going on to Atlanta and Ross got this man out of Montgomery and had this porter on this train to stop at this little station down there in the country and nobody would ever think a train would stop there and he stopped just like he got him to do and he put this man on this train in the back and had a place for him to stay and stay shut up and he did that until he got to Atlanta and he was safe.
Margaret: And did he stay in Atlanta or did he leave Atlanta?
Stella: Oh he left Atlanta. We didn’t hear any more of him. But Ross saved his life! They were going to lynch him uh huh, oh yes. Ross had some narrow escapes in that time.
Margaret: He did?
Stella:Yes, because you see this one was taking him for that and that one was taking him for this and it was terrible.

*****
Stella McCall and Roscoe Jr.

Margaret: Now tell me, you and Uncle Roscoe married in Montgomery?
Stella: Montgomery, yes I married in Montgomery,
Margaret: Where did Uncle Roscoe go to school?
Stella: At State Normal School in Montgomery. And he went to the senior class and some girl got him in trouble and he had to jump out and go and that’s why he didn’t get his papers, you know.
Margaret: How did she get him in trouble?
Stella: Well she was… I guess something was wrong with her…. pregnant. That’s why he had to leave Montgomery. He left Montgomery.
Margaret: And where did he go?
Stella: Where did he go? New York.
Louise: Who are you talking about Daddy?
Stella: And then later he came on down.
Louise: Married you.
Stella: yes came back. Stayed away a long time though. I didn’t hardly…I was his little sister’s dearest friend and I didn’t know anything about him. Nothing. I’d heard of him because he was my brother, he was the age of my oldest brother Scott.
Joe: Was Jeanette your friend?
Louise: Um hum. Jeanette was your friend.
Stella: Jeanette was my best friend all the way from the first grade. And I didn’t know anything about him. I didn’t know there was a brother because he was away. Finished the senior class and everything and gone. Got in trouble and gone.
Margaret: Where did you go to school?
Stella: Same place he did – State.
Margaret: You went to State?
Stella: Yes, same thing. Same school but many years later, you know.
Margaret: Afterwards.
Stella: Now I was Jeanette, his sister’s age, his baby sister. And I didn’t know anything about him (laughs) he came on the scene later. And we were swept away (laughs again. He’d come to the house everyday..
Margaret: Uncle Ross would come to the house everyday, uh?
Stella: Everyday. Every evening. I can see him coming now.(laughs) Well, and that went on so far and we decided to marry.
Margaret: How did you happen to leave Montgomery?
Stella: Oh people were leaving Montgomery like mad at that time.
Margaret: Why?
Stella: There was kind of a thing going then, getting out of the South. That’s when all this uproar started down there. Started changing schools and everything and getting the different things in order for the blacks to go to one school and the whites to another school and they had to fight that and different things and it made an uproar in the city. And then many many of the… all the important families in the city just packed up and said they were going to leave the city and that’s what was happening.

Roscoe McCall holding Roscoe Jr & Louise. Detroit 1921.

Margaret: When you were going to school, where did you go before Normal?
Stella: One school for me. One school for him. Same school.
Margaret: What was that?
Stella: State.
Margaret: No, but before State Normal for your early education where did you go?
Stella: The only education they had from the cradle to the top floor.
Margaret: Oh, State went all the way.
Stella: Yes, they had buildings on the big grounds and the grammar school buildings were around on the circle ad then the juniors and then the seniors.
Margaret: Now was it integrated then or was it all black or…
Stella: All Black
Margaret:All Black

Stella: All black.
Margaret: Okay, what about the teachers. Who were the teachers?
Stella: White. They started off with all white. Now I remember when I was down in the grades there was one teacher that they had kept, teacher name of Mrs. Foster and she was an excellent first grade teacher. And they kept her. But then later on they started putting the white people in and they’d keep them in, then they’d kick about it and then had to give them recognition you know and finally they got the school like they wanted it and then they… it was a black school. Had it turned black, see, but in the beginning it had all white teachers. Yes because when Ross was there now he graduated, well I’d say, a good eight or ten years before I was in there and he had a teacher that I remember a Mrs. Stuart. She had been teaching there from the beginning and she was there until the end. She was from up North. They brought those teachers down from the north. That’s the way they did. The whole school was white but then finally turned right back because they were fighting it so. They wanted colored teachers in there.
Margaret: Who are they who were fighting?
Stella: The people.
Margaret: The black people?
Stella: Yes, that’s who fought. They had… I can remember the teachers, they were crazy about Ross. He was always such a good friend to them. (laugh) Getting in with everybody. He always was on the good side. Yes, Ross was a sight.
Joe: You remember…one day…he was the first one I ever did see ride a motorcycle.
Louise: That’s right. You know everything.
Stella: Nobody had a motorcycle in the city but Ross.
Louise: You remember that?
Joe: First time I ever remember seeing him.
Margaret: Where was this, Montgomery. He had a motorcycle?

Victor Tulane Building -Ripley St. Montgomery 1973

Stella: He used to ride that motorcycle out to my house everyday and ride it back downtown to the drugstore where he was working. They had opened up a drugstore.
Margaret: Who had opened up a drugstore?
Stella:Mr. Tulane, his uncle and they all were working in it It was a nice big, good business and everybody would be so congenial and everything when you would go in. You remember the drugstore? You used to hang out around the drugstore every Sunday. You could find anybody you wanted at the drugstore (laughs) when you’d court.

6 thoughts on “A Transcribed Interview with Stella Brown McCall – Part 1”

  1. Great interview. This is something that I'm trying to do. It's getting people to talk….how long did this interview take?

  2. This whole interview was a little over an hour long. I only put a small part up. Eventually I will post a part where she talks about her life growing up in Montgomery at the turn of the last century.

  3. What a find! I just read this…and thanks to you, I have learned more about my grandfather and grandmother. Is there a part II???

    1. Maria, you are Stella and Roscoe McCall’s granddaughter?? I’m delighted you found the blog. I have emailed you so that we may share more information.

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