Dyeatra Williams Interview, 2010

Dyeatra Williams grew up in Cleveland and attended Camp Mueller during the early 1950s. Dyeatra also attended Camp Hiram House. Her two younger brothers also attended camp with her after her first year. Dyeatra discusses the positive impact camp had on her life and the how she feels every child should have the same opportunity to go to camp as she had. Dyeatra's family owns a pest control business that has a long standing in the community. She recounts working at the family business on the weekends and during the summer when she wasn't at camp. Dyeatra also sent her son to camp and feels it had a positive impact on his life as well.

Participants: Williams, Dyeatra (interviewee) / Epps, Michelle (interviewer)
Collection: Phillis Wheatley Association
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Michelle Epps [00:00:03] My name is Michelle Epps and I'm here interviewing Dyeatra Williams. It is the 7th of May 2010. So Dyeatra, we're just going to start up with some warm-up questions just to get a little background on you. So can you tell me your full name, and when and where you were born?

Dyeatra Williams [00:00:18] My name is Dyeatra Ann Williams and I was born in Cleveland, Ohio.

Michelle Epps [00:00:23] Okay, and when did you attend Camp Mueller?

Dyeatra Williams [00:00:26] I would say in the early '60s from, say, '59 to maybe '58 to around '62.

Michelle Epps [00:00:37] And how did you come to know about the camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:00:40] Through my parents, and they were familiar with the Phillis Wheatley. And they got me interested in going to camp. So that's how I found out.

Michelle Epps [00:00:51] Okay, and how did you get to Camp Mueller? What did you take a bus or, or did they arrange?

Dyeatra Williams [00:00:58] My parents would take me to the Phillis Wheatley and it was a big yellow bus and we'd all line up on the side of the, that would be the west side of Phillis Wheatley with the bus. Say goodbye to our parents. Take all our stuff and get on a bus.

Michelle Epps [00:01:15] And do you remember having any anxiety or anything before you went to camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:01:20] I loved camp, so I don't remember. My brothers, they had anxiety, but I was ready to go. So no, I didn't have any anxiety.

Michelle Epps [00:01:29] What did you prepare the night before?

Dyeatra Williams [00:01:32] You know, we had to get sweaters, sheets, towels, underwear, you know, toiletries, a little duffel bag. They gave us a list, you know, a check list. And so we, my mother and I, at night, we would get all that and laid that aside.

Michelle Epps [00:01:49] And at the time you were going to camp was, I know, we had talked to some people earlier who were saying it was, the one woman actually didn't even know there was a boy, like boys at the camp, because the girls were separated. Did you ever intermingle with the boys in the camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:02:04] I think in the dining hall, that's when we'd kind of see the fellows. I don't really remember whether the the boys and the girls, I do, I know we ate together and somethings, we did socialize. So we did socialize with the fellows.

Michelle Epps [00:02:20] And what do you think your most memorable experience was at camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:02:26] I would say getting up in the morning and having to dress under the sheets because it was cold, worried about not drinking, not drinking too much at night; so you wouldn't have to get up and go to the bathroom. Also in the mornings, walking across the grass with the dew and the overcast. Apple butter, oatmeal, marshmallow, fires. Walking up to the swimming pool, which was outdoors, so getting adapted to that, to the cold water. So those are some of my memories.

Michelle Epps [00:03:07] What do you remember most about the pool? Some of the people we talked to said that there were synchronized swimming and pool shows. What do you remember about it?

Dyeatra Williams [00:03:15] I remember the water's cold. I love to swim, and I used to swim in a swim club outside of camp. So I just remember getting into that, you know, that first dip, that cold, getting past that. I remember the synchronized swimming. I remember us just huddled up there with our towels, you know, waiting to get in and really not wanting to leave. But, so that's what I remember.

Michelle Epps [00:03:42] Did you have chores at the camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:03:46] I'm trying to think. We had different, you know, of course, our bed. Make sure you had the hospital corners cleaning up the area. We had to take turns with the latrine. That type of situation. I think we took turns helping out in the kitchen, setting up the tables, getting ready for the meals. Then they rotated who would bring the flag out. So, you know, in the morning, you had to learn how to fold the flag and put the flag up. Those are the things that I remember.

Michelle Epps [00:04:17] And you mentioned the latrine like cleaning out the latrine was this a. We're not talking flush toilets.

Dyeatra Williams [00:04:23] No, we're not talking about flush toilets.

Michelle Epps [00:04:25] So tell me a little bit, tell me a little bit about that experience and like where you would have to get water and stuff like that.

Dyeatra Williams [00:04:30] Well, it was really like a what do I want to call? Like a hole in the floor, you know, and. You know, you had thoughts of what if snakes are coming up here, you know, all that kind of stuff. So, you know, and it had a certain odor that you had to get accustomed to. It was just like, like a wood, a wood bench, like a wood toilet that you would have to. We were taught, our parents taught us to climb up on the toilet, not to, you know. So you had to be very careful about that. So and the, a little creaky door. But it was not a pleasant experience. But you got used to it.

Michelle Epps [00:05:07] And while you were staying at camp, did you stay in tents or did they have cabins? How?

Dyeatra Williams [00:05:12] Well, you graduated. You know, first you were in the cabins and then after you got a certain age, you went to the tents. Of course, the cabins were a little more secure. The tents were a little more, more outdoors. So first you started with the cabins, then you graduated to the tents.

Michelle Epps [00:05:28] And what time of year are we? Is this like, early summer, mid-summer, late summer that you went?

Dyeatra Williams [00:05:32] I would say. Mid, mid-summer. I would say mid-summer.

Michelle Epps [00:05:38] And how long were the sessions?

Dyeatra Williams [00:05:40] I remember either a week or two weeks because I was so in love with camp. When I went to one camp, Camp Mueller, and then I go to Camp Hiram House. So I'd spend two weeks, come home, get my stuff together, and go to the other camp. So I'm kind of remembering a two-week situation. I may be wrong, but I think I'm remembering two weeks.

Michelle Epps [00:06:04] Did you have a best friend at camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:06:08] Yes. I met, you know, really met some, you know, nice, nice folks. Yeah.

Michelle Epps [00:06:13] Did you keep in contact with those people?

Dyeatra Williams [00:06:14] No.

Michelle Epps [00:06:16] Do you remember anything about the camp counselors that stand out?

Dyeatra Williams [00:06:21] No, I remember the, the camp song. I remember that, but not a counselor in particular.

Michelle Epps [00:06:30] And what were some of the activities that you guys did at camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:06:33] Well, then we'd swimming, hiking. We did those. I don't know if they still do them now. The plastic little lanyards where you learn how to, you know, you'd use them as a key chain. You'd use them at the necklace. You learn how to make them in a square. You know how to make them in a circle. Those type of activities, I remember.

Michelle Epps [00:06:55] And do you remember any of the campers going home because they were homesick or, or got sick, or anything like that?

Dyeatra Williams [00:07:02] No. I remember having to, my youngest brother was the only one I know that had to get sent home. He was not a camp person. But I don't remember. I remember getting stung by a hornet once, but I don't remember anyone having to kind of like go home for. Right.

Michelle Epps [00:07:20] Speaking of the hornet, you know, being stung by a hornet is, is that your worst memory of Camp Mueller or is there something else?

Dyeatra Williams [00:07:26] I think that'd be about it.

Michelle Epps [00:07:27] Okay.

Dyeatra Williams [00:07:31] That still stands out.

Michelle Epps [00:07:32] And what do you remember about the noises that you, you would hear at the camp that you wouldn't hear home?

Dyeatra Williams [00:07:38] Let's see, the crickets. Kind of the rustling. You know we'd go on nature trails or nature walks. You know, you'd hear that rustling in, in the, you know, grass, or at night you hear the different sounds, but mainly the, you know, the silence where you could hear the crickets, you know, and they'd get louder and louder and louder and louder. And the birds in the morning, I remember those kind of sounds.

Michelle Epps [00:08:07] So tell me a little bit about your neighborhood at home. How did, how do you think that? Was there a lot of green space around where you grew up or was it more of, the lady I talked to just the other day said that she remembers a lot of dirt in her neighborhood because there was construction going on. And so she said Camp Mueller was a nice, you know, it was nice because it was green. It was something so different from where she grew up.

Dyeatra Williams [00:08:28] Let's see, I grew up then it was on 82nd and Amos and we stayed above my grandparents. There was a little like postage stamp lawn and we had trees on the street, so we had a playground. So I guess I was really blessed in that capacity. So but we didn't have the, the space, and outdoors, and the interaction with the animals, the other kids, and that type of thing. So my I remember, you know, I grew up in a house per se and then we moved to an apartment building, which was less green space and all of that. So that was a good outdoors, to get out, to get outdoors from the apartment building. Yeah.

Michelle Epps [00:09:16] And tell me a little bit about the animals you remember? You mentioned seeing animals.

Dyeatra Williams [00:09:21] Skunks, skunks. What else did we see? What's them, little, I want to say they aren't moles, but they look like little bitty chip, maybe they're chipmunks. No, I don't know what the little, but they burrow down in, up under. Of course, the daddy long legs. I remember those lots of daddy long legs and the bees in the sun around the swimming pool, you know, they'd be circling around. Those are some of the things I remember.

Michelle Epps [00:09:54] And tell me about the food. What do you remember most about the food?

Dyeatra Williams [00:09:55] Oh, the food was delicious, I thought. Especially breakfast, you know, we had apple butter and toast. We had oatmeal. We had juice. I think sometime we'd have pancakes. We had, you know, the meals were really, you know, really good, healthy meals. Right now, if we had them, we'd probably be overweight, per se. But those were especially our, like I said, I especially remember the breakfast. The oatmeal was delicious. I remember the apple butter and the toast. Those things I remember.

Michelle Epps [00:10:25] How do you feel that your camp experience has affected your, your adult life?

Dyeatra Williams [00:10:33] I feel that I'm not afraid. I love the outdoors. I love to appreciate it. It's taught me how to appreciate and respect nature. And to not be afraid to be outdoors, to cook, you know, with the cookouts. And I think it helps to make you a more of a well-rounded person, because nature has that type of effect on you. You know, when you're out in in, you know, and you see the sky and the sun and you see all these things going on, it has it's a certain type of respect that you have with nature. And it's kind of like a calming effect, too. So I think it's a, it's a... What do I want to say? It's a dynamite, dynamite experience. And I think everyone should have that experience. I loved going to camp. I would love to go to camp now.

Michelle Epps [00:11:26] That's terrific. Do you remember what you remember most about the other campers? What were the backgrounds of some of the other campers?

Dyeatra Williams [00:11:35] I can't. I can't remember because I never was on the bus with someone that I knew previously. So it was just the first time relating to people. But nothing particularly stands out in my mind.

Michelle Epps [00:11:54] And tell me a little bit about the drive down to Camp Mueller, do you remember anything about that?

Dyeatra Williams [00:11:59] It seemed to take forever getting there. It took a quick time coming back. But, you know, the ride was, you know, bumpy, you know, cause the chairs were not the best of chairs. And they had us singing songs, teaching us songs. So it kind of went kind of fast.

Michelle Epps [00:12:18] Was there, do you remember there being like a religious or spiritual aspect to the camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:12:22] Only as it relates to the natural or nature type of situation. That's what I remember and you know, now it's so funny, it seemed like a long way, but really now that I'm older, it's like maybe a 25 minute, 30-minute drive. But then it seemed like, you know, forever.

Michelle Epps [00:12:43] And have you recently been back to the camp or maybe in your adult life, have you gone back to the site where the camp is?

Dyeatra Williams [00:12:49] I just recently went back to Cuyahoga Valley Park, National Park, and maybe about four or five years ago we went past there because I was still amazed because I said, wow, Camp Mueller is still here, you know? So, yeah.

Michelle Epps [00:13:06] And tell me a little, did you notice a difference between when you were a child, you know, with the valley and when you were a child and then going back as an adult? Did you notice any difference? Was there any commercial build-up or new construction?

Dyeatra Williams [00:13:18] No, it kind of looked a little, you know, needed to be a little more care to, you know. But it basically kind of, kind of looked the same.

Michelle Epps [00:13:33] We're only at 15 minutes, gosh. We went through all the questions.

Dyeatra Williams [00:13:35] Okay.

Michelle Epps [00:13:35] They wanted me to ask, so. I guess. Maybe we can talk a little more about your background?

Dyeatra Williams [00:13:44] What did. Oh, well, I know one thing we could say about. Did you, did anybody ever mention the song, the Camp Mueller song?

Michelle Epps [00:13:50] There were some people that remembered it, but incomplete.

Dyeatra Williams [00:13:52] Oh, okay.

Michelle Epps [00:13:53] Do you know it.

Dyeatra Williams [00:13:53] Yes, I do.

Michelle Epps [00:13:54] Would you like to sing it for us?

Dyeatra Williams [00:13:56] I can sing. I can. Let's see. Camp Mueller campers are the campers that are really cool. Camp Mueller campers. I want to say. Camp Mueller campers are the campers that are really cool. Camp Mueller. Dance campers. Dance. Do your best. Dance and sing you're better than the rest. La, le. La, le. La, le. La, le. La. Camp Mueller. [Note: Others sang the song with slightly different words.] Yeah. I mean, it's amazing I still remember that song, but that was, you know? You know, that was like the cheerleading song for Camp Mueller.

Michelle Epps [00:14:32] Did the girls have a separate song? Because there was, a person I talked to earlier that said the girls had their own, like song.

Dyeatra Williams [00:14:38] Well, probably so because we had dance and sing your better so we kind of added the little dramatic part to it. Yeah.

Michelle Epps [00:14:44] Did you, do the age groups interact with each other much or was it pretty much separated to like the?

Dyeatra Williams [00:14:48] I think mainly at the meal, mainly at mealtime or in the morning when you raised the flag. I think everybody kind of came out for that and for the meals.

Michelle Epps [00:15:02] Okay. So where did you go to elementary school then during this time?

Dyeatra Williams [00:15:04] I went to Bolton Elementary School, which was then on 89th and Carnegie and it's now, you know, they tore that down, and there it's like a senior high rise now. So that's the school I went to.

Michelle Epps [00:15:20] What was school like for you?

Dyeatra Williams [00:15:23] Schools was, school was good.

Dyeatra Williams [00:15:25] I don't have any unpleasant memory. I did get in a fight one Friday walking home from school. I remember that. But my parents, my grandparents had a their own business. So and it was on 82nd. So I would walk. So I was in walking distance, so I would walk to and from school and I would work there on the weekends in my family's business. So it was all like neighborhoods. And when I was growing up where the Museum of Contemporary Art was, was where Sears and Roebuck was. So you had Kresge's or Woolworth, and Sears and Roebuck. And that was like, you know, the big thing was my grandfather taking me to Sears and Roebuck and buying me penny loafers. You know, that was like the highlight of the, you know. And when I get paid on Saturday, go across the street to the drugstore and get the comic books and get a milkshake. To me, that was like the highlight of. So, yeah, that's what I remember.

Michelle Epps [00:16:22] What kind of business was your family in?

Dyeatra Williams [00:16:25] We were in the pest control. Still are. We are a pest control business. So we had J.H. Robinson Exterminating Company, which was on 83rd and between Cedar and Carnegie, and it's listed in the historic wall on the, in Fairfax at the Fairfax Community Development. They have like a memorial wall. And my family is listed on that wall. And the house that, that my grandparents grew up in. I mean had and where I early childhood is still standing.

Michelle Epps [00:16:59] Wow. So how do you feel? I mean, you obviously love nature and your family owns this pesticide business. How do you think? What do you think the relationship is there for you?

Dyeatra Williams [00:17:10] As far as with the, the business and with the community?

Michelle Epps [00:17:14] Yeah.

Dyeatra Williams [00:17:15] Well. Oh, well, I know we've gotten away from a type, the chemical use that we use. And we're more preventive maintenance. My older not my older, I am the oldest, but my brother runs the company per se. So we have gotten more conscious about affecting the environment and teaching companies that we go to or that we perform the service how to be proactive and not come in someone's home and just start randomly applying pesticides. So it really, you know, we've stepped it up a level and we are, we did do Cleveland Clinic for maybe 12 to 15 years. We're now with service Metropolitan General Hospital. So we're in hospitals and commercials. So it's been, our families has had that business for, like I would say, almost 75 years.

Michelle Epps [00:18:04] Wow. That's incredible.

Dyeatra Williams [00:18:06] Yeah, it is. This, this really, it really is incredible.

Michelle Epps [00:18:10] Mike, do you have any questions?

Michael Rotman [00:18:11] Yeah. What, what kind of things did you do not at camp, but in your neighborhood growing up for fun?

Dyeatra Williams [00:18:19] Well, right down the street was the Fairfax Recreation Center. So I was on the swim team and, you know, I would go there and we would swim. And then we had, you know, we'd play outside in or in the backyard. But I remember Fairfax Recreation Center and I remember swimming. I swam like, you know, like twice a week there.

Michael Rotman [00:18:42] That was an indoor pool or an outdoor pool?

Dyeatra Williams [00:18:44] It was an indoor pool. And then they had the sliding glass door to slid out, and you could go out and, you know, sit. But it was the indoor pool and they had like a swim team competition. So we swam against some of the other recreation centers.

Michael Rotman [00:18:58] Oh, wow. Now, what did your friends maybe who didn't go to camp when you would come back and tell them about camp, do you remember anything they might have said or, or how they might have felt?

Dyeatra Williams [00:19:11] Well, a lot of them sometimes thought it was icky, you know. And I guess, I would imagine that cost and the during that time, they couldn't afford to go. Although, at that time, money wasn't, you know, something that I related to because my parents were paying for it. But I imagine it was a cost. And, you know, both my parents were working. So I would imagine that's what separated me or made me able to go, whereas they couldn't go. But I would share the experiences with them. And I remember always coming back with that mud, you know, that mud that would be in your clothes. You know, you, you had to wash that stuff out. But yeah, there was a lot of kids in my neighborhood that couldn't afford to go to camp.

Michael Rotman [00:19:51] Okay. I didn't realize that. So it was, you were pretty fortunate to be able to do that.

Dyeatra Williams [00:19:54] . Yes, I was. Yes, I was.

Michael Rotman [00:19:59] Now, just. I guess the, the physical layout of the camp or, or what it looked like, what, what it felt like. I'm trying to picture it. You know, when you first got there, how, how, I mean, how did it look?

Dyeatra Williams [00:20:14] I think when you first rode up there. First you'd pass the swimming pool and then we rode into what was like the main like center with the flag. And then you had the where we would eat and the younger kids in the cabins would stay closer to the main center. And you would have to walk up the hill to the tents. You know, the girls were on one side, the fellows was on the other side. So this was walking. It was almost like a college campus, per se. You know, it involved walking, you know, and it were, you know, things were far distanced apart. So like when my brother, younger brothers would go, I wouldn't see them on a day to day basis or I'd probably see, you know, see them at meal time. But the main, the center, there was a center space where, you know, you'd raised the flag in the morning and you did that before you went into breakfast. And that's kind of where you saw everybody.

Michael Rotman [00:21:07] So on a typical, I mean, take me through a typical day. So, I know that you wake up, you have breakfast and, and.

Dyeatra Williams [00:21:12] No you wake up and it's cold outside. And you go up under your sheet and you have your underwear and stuff the day before and you stuff it up under there so it could be warm. And so then you dress up under and then you have to go out and the water is cold. There is no hot water. So you had to get your mind acclimated to I'm going to wash my face with cold water. So, yeah, you had to, you know, it was like a thought. For me, it was a thought process. I'm getting ready to get up. And then, you know, I think, was it a bell? Or some type of an alarm would ring as far as when breakfast was. So they gave you a little time to get yourself together to go to breakfast. And then after breakfast, you'd go back. Kind of get your clean up, get your bunk and stuff together. Make sure you did you chores. They had some kind of activity that we would do. Lunchtime, can't remember the rest of it.

Michael Rotman [00:22:12] Was it like, would you do arts and crafts?

Dyeatra Williams [00:22:14] Yeah, you have arts and crafts, do swimming. If you wanted to deal with some kind of sewing or that type, you did the nature walk, nature trails. Oh, I can't think, I don't remember having, somehow they kept the day for because I don't remember being bored, per se it's like, oh, there's nothing to do. I'm stuck here. I don't remember that part of it.

Michael Rotman [00:22:40] And your favorite part was, was the swimming. Is that right?

Dyeatra Williams [00:22:42] Swimming was my favorite part. Breakfast was my favorite part.

Michael Rotman [00:22:46] Sure.

Dyeatra Williams [00:22:46] And I liked the nature trails. Where they will point out the different leaves: maple leaf, oak leaf. You know, of course, poison ivy. How to avoid the poison ivy. So I liked the nature, nature walks, learning about some of the trees and, you know, the leaves and that type of thing. And when it got dark, when it got dark, there were no lights. So, you know, when it, it was pitch black.

Michelle Epps [00:23:15] Do you remember it raining any time when you were at camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:23:16] Oh, yes and when it rained, it was muddy. You know, rain, sometimes it's rain and we, you know, could read or we did different other type of activities. But I remember the rain. And I could say it, it was mud. It was muddy.

Michelle Epps [00:23:31] How, how was that when it was raining and you were in your tent?

Dyeatra Williams [00:23:33] The tent. You had the flaps, and you'd have to, you know, put your flap down and you could hear it, you know, on it. But it's not like it came through. But you had to make sure that you flap was down and probably you could look around the perimeter of the tent and you would see the water. So you knew once you stepped off that level down onto the ground, you know, you better had on some shoes or whatever have you because you were stepping into some mud or some gravel mixed with mud.

Michelle Epps [00:23:59] So the tents were raised?

Dyeatra Williams [00:24:00] Yeah, they was like a little platform. So you had to step up to the tent.

Michelle Epps [00:24:05] Okay. And who set the tents up?

Dyeatra Williams [00:24:06] Oh, we didn't have to do that one. No, no, no. We didn't have to do that one. No, thank goodness.

Michelle Epps [00:24:13] Was it one person per tent or?

Dyeatra Williams [00:24:15] No, it was. I would say maybe six people per tent, so no one. It was like either from four to six people in a tent. It may have been up to eight, but no, you no.

Michelle Epps [00:24:32] So these are larger tents, then?

Dyeatra Williams [00:24:33] Yes, large. Yeah, very large tents.

Michelle Epps [00:24:35] And did you have a curfew? Did they say, you know, everybody has to be quiet at a certain time or?

Dyeatra Williams [00:24:41] Not really. They'd come in and turn out the light at a certain time. And, you know, we would giggle and talk, you know, through the night. But, you know, you'd have to get up in the morning. So, I'm trying to think, did a counselor stay in one of the tents with us or if she was in a, next door to the tent, but it wasn't like a curfew. But you had so much activities during the day, you know, you giggle for a while and then you was, you know, sleeping was now a problem. You know, you went to sleep.

Michelle Epps [00:25:12] Do you remember telling any ghost story?

Dyeatra Williams [00:25:13] Oh, yeah. they would tell you know, they'd tell spooky stories or, you know, especially when, you know, you'll be saying I got to go to the bathroom. Ooh, you know? And you'll be trying to get somebody to go with you. But you go with me. You know, you got your flashlight and, you know? And so, you know, you'd be scared to you open slap and with your flashlight, you know, you'd be thinking something's going to jump out at you. But that was like really the traumatic time, you know, if you had to get up at night and go to the bathroom. That was.

Michael Rotman [00:25:44] Oh, I'm sorry.

Michelle Epps [00:25:44] Oh, no go ahead.

Michael Rotman [00:25:45] What, you mentioned, you went to another camp. Well, which camp was that?

Dyeatra Williams [00:25:49] Camp Hiram House.

Michael Rotman [00:25:51] Okay. I mean, could you describe that. What, what was that like?

Dyeatra Williams [00:25:55] Well, Camp Hiram House was, for lack of a better word, now. Camp Hiram House was a little more lower, upscale. Camp Mueller was like camp. Camp Hiram House, they had the horses. They had the, they brought in a different animal. So you get, got to hold a eagle or hawk, the snake. They had a person come in. They had a boat that was out in the water but really looked like a little ship, and you would go out there to spend the night. So that was more like the Mercedes-Benz of camps, you know, and Mueller was more like the Honda of camps. So and I would go to, I would go to both of them and they'd have. And that was right off of Miles. I didn't know that was that close too. But they just had a little more bells and whistles than Camp Mueller.

Michael Rotman [00:26:47] Was there one that you liked more than the other or think one was better than the other or?

Dyeatra Williams [00:26:52] No, I like both of them. They were two different experiences. Camp Mueller was, for the most part, predominantly black.

Michael Rotman [00:27:03] Okay.

Dyeatra Williams [00:27:03] Camp Hiram House for the most part was predominantly white. But I would say the ratio was like, say, 60 to 40. So it was, is, was, you know, it's, it's a different scenario. But the nature aspect, the camp, they had more like I said, bells and whistles, the animals, and that type of thing.

Michelle Epps [00:27:34] Do you have children?

Dyeatra Williams [00:27:35] Yes.

Michelle Epps [00:27:36] Did they go to camp as, as children?

Dyeatra Williams [00:27:38] Yes. My son. He is 27 now. But yes, he went to camp.

Michelle Epps [00:27:44] What was his experience with camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:27:46] He likes, liked camp, you know? We got. The only person that didn't like camp was my younger brother. I don't know why he just, you know? And he would spoil it for us cause, you know, the counselor would come and say, Deedee, Deedee we've got to call your mom. You know, your Kev, your brother Kevin he's not adjusting well and I'm like, oh, no. But every, my other brother John, he enjoyed camp. So, you know, we kind of, you know, we liked the camp thing.

Michelle Epps [00:28:11] So what would your younger brother do would he cry because he missed home?

Dyeatra Williams [00:28:13] He'd have tantrums. He would, he, you know, he'd fall out, you know, and start crying. He would you know, he didn't want to be there. He was like, shoo. Kevin, Kevin was, he was something else.

Michelle Epps [00:28:28] and how many years did your son go to camp do you think?

Dyeatra Williams [00:28:32] He went to camp maybe for about two or three summers and then we went into the basketball camp. You know, he was more into the sports. Getting into that type of camp.

Michelle Epps [00:28:43] And how old was he roughly when he went?

Dyeatra Williams [00:28:45] He was about, say, 14, say, from like 13, 14 to about. He was younger than that? No, because he went to a camp here and had they had like the Polar Bear Club. You know, those who get up early in the morning and jump in that cold water. I would think he was younger than that. So he must have been about 11 or 12.

Michelle Epps [00:29:10] And it was obviously a positive experience for him, correct?

Dyeatra Williams [00:29:14] Mm-hmm.

Michelle Epps [00:29:16] I just lost my train of thought.

Dyeatra Williams [00:29:17] It happens to us. I thought it was just because we were older, but no.

Michelle Epps [00:29:23] I was going somewhere with that but I completely lost it. Well, I guess. Yeah, If you want to pick up I'll regain my thoughts.

Michael Rotman [00:29:32] Sure. I mean, you're a parent now and, and your parents sent you to camp. So obviously, you know, it costs money. It's kind of an investment.

Dyeatra Williams [00:29:40] Yes, it is.

Michael Rotman [00:29:41] Why? Why do you think your parents decided to, to do that I guess?

Dyeatra Williams [00:29:47] Well, they probably wanted to take a break. Because I don't know how I found out. Well, the Phillis Wheatley was really very well known back then. And my mother worked for the Board of Education, so maybe that's how she found out about the Phillis Wheatley. And, you know, when she approached me with the idea, you know, like I said, I was gung-ho for the camp. And I think they needed maybe that was their opportunity to, you know, ship us, ship us off to camp so they could, you know, have a quality, more quality relationship. So, yeah. So that was their vacation, too.

Michael Rotman [00:30:25] What do you think about kids going to camp today? Do you think it's changed? I mean, do you think it's a good thing? Would you like to see more kids spending their summers like you did?

Dyeatra Williams [00:30:35] Oh, without a doubt. I think it's a, it's a dynamite experience. I think that every child should have, you know, this is something that they can adapt to, should have the opportunity to go to camp. It's something about being out in nature, you know, interacting with nature, learning how to, you know, the camp cook out the marshmallows, the hot dogs, the ham. Relating with other kids, swimming. It's something healthy about that? You know, from my perspective, and everyone should have, be afforded that opportunity to be able to do that.

Michael Rotman [00:31:10] And that's kind of something you can't get so much in, in the city, you have to get out of the city to, to kind of get that.

Dyeatra Williams [00:31:17] I think the education process is not in place. I don't know if the parents are aware of it. You know, what I think is number one is affordability. So I don't know what camp costs nowadays. So it's affordability and it's the idea of taking your child out outside of the normal circles. And now, you know, kids are raising kids. They don't even have that concept of camp. You know, I would imagine if you was talking to somebody and said camp, you know, whatever. So they don't even it's a, to me it has to be reintroduced or educated, and made available and, and affordable. Maybe something in school at the end of the school year, you know, kids who any of you know, whatever have you. We have certain scholarships or we have this available if you want to come to camp. And I don't know if that's, you know, that's being promoted in that manner. But I think that would reduce some of the inner reaction violence, you know, a lot of things, you know, because it is a certain respect value that you have when you go to camp. And somehow, I'll tell you, nature has a way of calming you down. So, I don't think it's promoted enough. And the values or, you know, today's culture with, you know, they might think, oh, camp, that's a geeky thing. And, you know, I think we have to do a reeducation type of thing as to what the values of camp, camp are. So.

Michael Rotman [00:32:46] Okay.

Michelle Epps [00:32:50] I've regained my train of thought. I was going to ask, what camp did you send your son to?

Dyeatra Williams [00:32:56] It was a camp. My mother found the camp. I can't think of the name because we were living in Chicago. So the fun thing was to send Micah to Cleveland. And part of it was my grandparents would, not my grandparents. My parents would send him to camp. And then I would come later. So I'm not sure which camp. It wasn't Mueller and it wasn't Hiram House, so I'm not sure which camp it was.

Michelle Epps [00:33:20] Do you remember his initial response when you told him you're sending him to camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:33:25] Yes. And he was like, well, what is it? I said, and then I explained to him how often I had been to camp. And then my mother and father was there and they would say well Deedee loved camp. And so on and so on, whatever, whatever. So he kind of accepted it, you know. And then I was just totally amazed when he came and he showed me this award he won for the polar bear camp. I said a polar bear. I said, what is that? He said you get up in the morning. I said, oh my God. So it's like. So yeah. He kind of, he kind of adapted. It's a good. And he's working with kids, now. He's a basketball coach volunteering his time. So he's, and he wants to, he, he in fact he'll be going to Cleveland State this summer into their accelerated master's program in art education. But he wants to teach in middle school and high school. So, maybe that carried over.

Michelle Epps [00:34:17] Yeah, I was about to ask, do you think his, his camp experience?

Dyeatra Williams [00:34:19] Maybe, maybe it carried over?

Michelle Epps [00:34:22] That's great.

Dyeatra Williams [00:34:22] Yep.

Michelle Epps [00:34:24] Now, taking you back to when you, when you first heard that you were going to camp. What did you have, like what was your experience like when your parents said, you know, we want you to go to camp? What do you remember your initial reaction was?

Dyeatra Williams [00:34:41] Let's see. There was a little apprehension, but, you know, they showed me the little fliers and what and they told me about swimming, you know. Deedee you're going to be able to swim and this, that, and the other. So I was a little apprehensive, but I was kind of, you know, gung-ho. I was ready for something different, you know, to, you know, kind of get away. And then I kind of got excited. You know, when you see the kids and the school bus and all of that interaction going and you know. So, yeah, I was a little apprehensive, but I was like ready to go.

Michelle Epps [00:35:15] So you mentioned you were the oldest?

Dyeatra Williams [00:35:16] Yes, I am.

Michelle Epps [00:35:18] When did your brother start going at the same time you did or did you go first, and then they had to, they came in after?

Dyeatra Williams [00:35:25] Right. We're all, we're all seven years apart. So.

Michelle Epps [00:35:29] Wow.

Dyeatra Williams [00:35:29] My brother's seven years and then my other brother's 13 years. So I was the pioneer. And then I would entice them and tell them explain to them about the camping experience. And then when Dwayne went with me, you know, if anything happened, you know, my brother was, you know, my mother said, you know, you've got to look out for your brother. And I knew where he was, and I would check on him cause he was staying in the cabins and I was staying in the tents. So I would kind of check on him.

Michelle Epps [00:35:55] And what do you remember of the conversation being like when you told him, like your experience in the camp? Was he, did he because you're the older sister, was he immediately wanted to do the same thing as you, or was, or did it take some convincing?

Dyeatra Williams [00:36:08] He, it didn't take too much convincing with Dwayne. Kevin was, Kevin was the one that it took convincing and it didn't work. But Dwayne was, you know, always you know, he was we kind of shared that same experience. Kevin and he didn't, you know, we were like, oh, cause they would call. I remember once at Hiram House, we were all three of us was there. We had to call they had to call my aunt to come get Kevin and they had to call us down into it. So, you know, we have to send your brother. You know, he's not, he's not feeling well and this, that, and the other. And we were like, do we have to go? You know, like, can we stay? So we ended up staying. But, you know, Kevin had to go back to my grandparent's house.

Michelle Epps [00:36:47] So what, how would you describe Kevin today, like has that experience, has that gone into adulthood? This, this aversion to nature?

Dyeatra Williams [00:36:56] Now, Kevin is, I must... He's been in the corporate world. He's the vice, he's been a vice president of diversity, diversity. And he is. But he's not a... I remember once we had a flat tire and I heard this noise and I said, Kevin, I think you have a flat tire. He said, no, we're not a [inaudible]. I said, Kevin, you have a flat tire. So then he gets out and then he says, well sis would you open up the manual? I said, you don't know how to change the flat. He said, well no, read it to me in the manual. I said, oh, my goodness. So he's not, you know, that kind. He's like, is it in a book somewhere, so I can digest it and read it? I said, he's not a hands-on person. He's like, well can we call somebody to fix it? I said Kevin, we can fix this flat tire. So, yeah. So he's a different. That's just, that wasn't his cup of tea. He, he doesn't like that. He doesn't like the outdoor type thing.

Michelle Epps [00:37:52] So talking a little bit about Hiram House. You had mentioned that there was it was 60/40 black to white. What do you remember about that experience? Were was there like what was that experience like for you?

Dyeatra Williams [00:38:09] It was, I don't remember anything negative about them. I don't remember being treated any differently. I just remember the just the accommodations were better and they had more of the bells and whistles. But I mean, you know, I don't remember any. I can't say that any bad or anything, anybody treated me any, any differently per se. They still had the apple butter and the oatmeal.

Michelle Epps [00:38:38] That's the one thing the kids that were saying, like when they were doing the interviewing. They were obsessed with the food.

Dyeatra Williams [00:38:40] Oh, it's interesting.

Michelle Epps [00:38:44] And apparently, it's still really good.

Dyeatra Williams [00:38:46] Right.

Michelle Epps [00:38:46] So they need to cook by our name.

Dyeatra Williams [00:38:47] Oh, okay. Something about I don't know what. Maybe outdoors and that type, it's just something about it. Breakfast seemed to be the, the highlight of the meal. So.

Michelle Epps [00:38:55] How was the food different between home and camp?

Dyeatra Williams [00:39:00] Well, let's see. Mom didn't have no apple butter and a lot of times we would have cereal. Although we did have an option, oh and they had Wheatena. That's what it was at Camp Mueller, they had Wheatena too. And they don't have Wheatena. People don't even know what you talk about when you talk about Wheatena. And the meals were regularly, you know, you got breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At home, we got breakfast. Sometimes, we'd have a sandwich for lunch and then we'd have the dinner. So the meals were, you know, I would say overly balanced in today's scale probably, you know, but we were burning it all off. So that was different. So the meals were a little more, say intense than they were at home.

Michelle Epps [00:39:44] And what do you remember about coming home? Were your parents excited to see you? Were they happy to hear about your stories or, or were you just, you know, wanting to go back to camp and?

Dyeatra Williams [00:39:54] Well they were, you know, they were happy to hear about, you know, about my experience. My mother would meet me there or my father would meet me there. And, you know, then the thing was, all of those dirty clothes. And, you know, like I said, that mud something about that red mud was in the clothes, but they were, you know, kind of happy. Well, you know, Deedee, I was doing this and mom we did this, and that, and that, you know, and then it was like, oh, what are we gonna do now? You know, it's a big bore. It's like a big, you know, okay, I'm back home. What's happening now? You know, there was not that type of. So you kind of like, what is that? You kind of whine down and come back to reality. So.

Michelle Epps [00:40:28] So, what was the rest of summer like then after having that experience?

Dyeatra Williams [00:40:33] I worked up at my grandfather's store and, you know, did the chores, watched the cartoons on the TV. That's about it. Just like it's, it was boring then at that time. It was like, oh, boy, you know?

Michelle Epps [00:40:51] That's great. Mike, do you have any more questions?

Michael Rotman [00:40:56] No, no.

Michelle Epps [00:40:56] Is there anything that you would like to add that maybe we didn't cover?

Dyeatra Williams [00:40:59] No, I think I covered a, sometimes I have a tendency to go on, but I think I covered a lot.

Michael Rotman [00:41:07] Thank you for coming out.

Dyeatra Williams [00:41:08] Thank you very much. I hope I didn't talk you too much.

Michelle Epps [00:41:10] Oh, no.

Phillis Wheatley Association

Interviews with staff and former campers at Camp Mueller, one of the nation's first African-American summer camps, located in what is now the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The camp is operated by the Phillis Wheatley Association in Cleveland, Ohio.