Janet Nevilles, Alice Dickson, and Sherrai Landrum Interview, 2010

Two separate oral histories by three participants discuss their experiences at Camp Mueller as a way for the interviewers to practice their questions and tweak lines of discussion. Having attended or having had descendants who attend the camp throughout the decades, each of the interviewees recalls why they went to camp, their experiences while there, and how it impacted their lives after leaving.

Participants: Nevilles, Janet (interviewee) / Dickson, Alice (interviewee) / Landrum, Sherrai (interviewee) / Tebeau, Mark (interviewer)
Collection: Phillis Wheatley Association
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Mark Tebeau [00:00:05] Now, it's picking up. Alright, real quickly, I'm just going to ask you to introduce yourself and speak up and kind of lean forward in the mic, if you would, please. That would record it more clearly.

Janet Nevilles [00:00:20] Janet Nevilles.

Alice Dickson [00:00:27] You want me to go? Alice Dickson.

Mark Tebeau [00:00:27] Okay. You guys sound just fine. So, Jennie, one of the things that might be nice is if you told, you or Jackie, told the ladies about the project and what our goals were and why we are recording it.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:00:44] Okay. So I'm Jennie Vasarhelyi and I work at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Camp Mueller is in the boundaries of the park. And one of the things that happens in the park today is a lot of camping programs. We have Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center where Stacey works. And what we are trying to do is learn more about camping that happened before the park was established as a park in 1974. So we actually got a grant to come talk to people about Camp Mueller, especially people who were there, you know, in the '30s, and '40s, and '50s. And what we're doing today is a kind of a dry run where we're testing questions. So we're asking questions that have never been asked before. And one of the things we'll want from you is your suggestions on questions. You know, are we asking the right questions? Are there other questions we should be asking? But really what we mostly want to have happen today is for you to talk about your experience at Camp Mueller and your memories of later in life, how you've been thinking about Camp Mueller. What kind of place in your life it ended up having. I should introduce the other people here. Obviously, you can tell from Tina Vaughn Brady works with the park and we're going to host some events. We're going to train kids to do the oral histories and Brady is going to help with that. Stacey Heffernan is here with the Environmental Education Center. Again, since we run camp programs today, we like hearing about what's happened in the past and Phillis Wheatley Association has been really generous in helping us.

Alice Dickson [00:02:38] Okay.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:02:39] Do you have anything you want to add?

unknown speaker [00:02:39] No, I think I talked to them about it last Friday.

Alice Dickson [00:02:39] Yeah.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:02:43] Excellent. Excellent.

Mark Tebeau [00:02:47] And I'm Mark Tebeau. I'm a professor at Cleveland State and we collect oral history of the region, sort of people stories about the things we did growing up in the '30s, '40s, '50s and later, earlier. So, and you're part of those stories. Now, what we're going to do is this is a test interview. Later on, we'll probably interview you again. But when we do that interview, we'll do a really nice quality interview. That's why we use the recording equipment. And we will actually put it in an archive and we'll give you a CD-ROM of that, those memories that you can share with the family, with your family or friends. And it's, you know, how everybody always talks about, oh, I'd love to interview my grandparent, my aunt, my cousin, you know, who had some great experiences. Well, nobody ever does. And so it's kind of permanent family record as well. So, Tony, you're going to lead us.

Tony [00:03:48] Okay. Hello, Ms. Dickson. I wanted to start with some basic introductory questions just to give us sort of a biographical feel. Please give us your full name.

Janet Nevilles [00:04:04] Full name? Janet Marie Nevilles.

Alice Dickson [00:04:09] Alice Dickson.

Tony [00:04:12] Thank you and I apologize for asking these questions. I was always raised not to ask a woman these questions. But just for the purpose of the...

Janet Nevilles [00:04:18] [Laughs]

Tony [00:04:20] Please let us know how young you are.

Janet Nevilles [00:04:24] 79.

Alice Dickson [00:04:24] 87.

Tony [00:04:29] And are you both originally from Cleveland?

Janet Nevilles [00:04:33] I am.

Tony [00:04:35] Okay.

Alice Dickson [00:04:35] No, I'm not.

Tony [00:04:38] Where are you from, Ms. Dickson?

Alice Dickson [00:04:38] Georgia.

Tony [00:04:38] Georgia? What part?

Alice Dickson [00:04:41] Fitzgerald.

Tony [00:04:41] Oh, okay.

Alice Dickson [00:04:44] Ben Hil County.

Mark Tebeau [00:04:47] How'd you come to Cleveland?

Alice Dickson [00:04:48] Well, I was getting ready to go to New York. And my aunt here, she wanted me to come here instead of going to New York.

Mark Tebeau [00:04:57] And when? When was this?

Alice Dickson [00:05:00] '45.

Mark Tebeau [00:05:03] 1945. And you're, where were you born in Cleveland? Here in town?

Janet Nevilles [00:05:08] Yeah. Oh. I don't know what hospital. I guess Metro.

Mark Tebeau [00:05:16] But, where did you live, both of you? When you were in Cleveland in the '40s?

Alice Dickson [00:05:20] I wasn't here.

Janet Nevilles [00:05:22] I lived in the Phillis Wheatley.

Mark Tebeau [00:05:22] Okay.

Janet Nevilles [00:05:25] From 1945 to 1970. It was an all-women dormitory and they closed it and they made, converted it into apartments. In '72. And none of us were living there really. We didn't move back. I had a chance to move back, some of us, but we choose not to.

Alice Dickson [00:05:49] I lived several locations, but when I went to Camp Mueller, we were living on 29th.

Mark Tebeau [00:06:01] 29th and?

Alice Dickson [00:06:03] Between Scovill and Woodland.

Mark Tebeau [00:06:07] What are your memories of the neighborhood back then? And then I'll turn it. This is what I'm most interested then I'm going to turn the questions back to Tony.

Alice Dickson [00:06:19] Everybody. Well, kids get to know everybody and I was a kid then. It seemed like everybody knew everybody. They were friendly. It was a, it was mixed. It was white and black lived on our street.

Tony [00:06:52] So at what time did you attend Camp Mueller? Around what year?

Alice Dickson [00:06:52] About what?

Tony [00:06:54] I said, what year?

Alice Dickson [00:06:54] I don't know what year? But I was twelve. [laughs]

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:06:56] Let's at least get that right. How old were you when you went to Camp Mueller?

Janet Nevilles [00:07:02] It was '42.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:07:08] Okay.

Tony [00:07:08] '42. Yeah. That was around World War II, correct?

Janet Nevilles [00:07:09] Yeah.

Alice Dickson [00:07:09] Yeah.

Tony [00:07:09] Okay. Just out of curiosity, what was your feelings, you know, participating in the camp environment while our world is at war?

Janet Nevilles [00:07:20] Well, I didn't think about the war then. I was thinking about coming to Camp Mueller. [laughs]

Tony [00:07:24] Sorry. [laughs]

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:07:30] That's actually, you know, the night before do you remember how you felt...

Alice Dickson [00:07:33] Yeah.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:07:33] Right before you went to camp, what were you thinking?

Alice Dickson [00:07:37] Oh, oh, I was, I was excited and I really don't know what I was thinking, but getting ready. And I have a twin sister. We went together, so that wasn't too bad.

unknown speaker [00:08:03] At that time did Phillis Wheatley transport, put you on a bus? I know at one point they had a bus.

Alice Dickson [00:08:03] Yep. Yeah.

Tony [00:08:03] When did you attend Camp Mueller?

Alice Dickson [00:08:11] Pardon?

Tony [00:08:12] When did you attend Camp Mueller?

Alice Dickson [00:08:12] Back in the '40s.

Tony [00:08:16] Oh, okay.

Alice Dickson [00:08:16] About '47.

Tony [00:08:22] What were your experiences about the camp?

Alice Dickson [00:08:22] Well, we went out for outings and picnics and things like that. Sometimes we would go and spend the night. From the Phillis Wheatley and some of the people from the 'Y' up on 75th and Cedar.

Tony [00:08:50] Now, with Camp Mueller, was there any other programs around the time that afforded the opportunity for inner-city children to go to a camp like that?

Alice Dickson [00:08:50] Well, we had a lot of activity going on here in, in the main building for the residents and a lot of programs in the main building during that time. They called it the Ford House. That was downstairs where the business meeting, several business meetings, lotteries, reception parties going on over there. And so it was very active around here, very active, because during the time we had a lot of executives and lawyers and people donate a lot of money and you had to keep, keep the program going and that's why they... And this is why they had... All the board meetings were held here and so they didn't go outside and have no meetings. They had them here or either in the Ford House. They didn't wanna have a lot of expensive entertainment. They did it all in the park in this initial stage,.

[00:09:49] The difference is you have the experience of a young woman going to camp and a child that went to camp so that's...

Mark Tebeau [00:10:00] Different age group. You were... Oh, pardon me. You were shaking your head when you said were there other opportunities.

Alice Dickson [00:10:04] Yeah. There, there wasn't no opportunity like they had Camp Mueller. No.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:10:13] Can you just describe the experience at Camp Mueller? What did you do while you were there?

Alice Dickson [00:10:20] We went hiking. We had campfires, sit around and tell stories. We went swimming. They tried to teach me how to swim. My twin sister learned. She was able to learn, but not me. [laughs]

[00:10:47] Were you in cabins or tents or?

Janet Nevilles [00:10:47] Cabins.

Alice Dickson [00:10:47] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:10:47] Describe the cabin that you remember.

Alice Dickson [00:11:00] I think, I think they were tents. They were tents.

Mark Tebeau [00:11:04] Well, describe what's your memory of that tent?

Alice Dickson [00:11:09] Oh. It remind me of the Eskimo house. [laughs] They were built like the Eskimo. And we would lay up and tell stories to each other. You know, it was a group of girls. It was about maybe five or six in one tent. And we would. I... I don't know. I can't remember.

Tony [00:11:54] That's okay because basically what you are doing is just sharing with us or reminiscing about, you know, your experiences at camp. You know the fun things that occurred, you know?

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:12:05] Did you like it while you were there?

Alice Dickson [00:12:08] Yes.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:12:09] How were your, you know, what were you thinking and feeling while you were there?

Alice Dickson [00:12:15] Oh, I was. Well, we, we stayed there for two weeks. And each day we wanted to know what we going do for the next day.

Tony [00:12:41] Do you have any recollection of the staff? Do you remember, like, your favorite counselor or you know?

Alice Dickson [00:12:49] Yeah, I wouldn't remember their names, but they were really, really nice.

Tony [00:12:58] Let's see.

[00:12:59] Ms. Nevilles, while Tony is thinking of his question, is this what the tents looked like? You can see it?

Alice Dickson [00:13:13] Uh. Is that a tent? Can you?

Alice Dickson [00:13:26] I wish I knew... [crosstalk - inaudible]

Alice Dickson [00:13:30] Yeah.

[00:13:31] That's it?

Alice Dickson [00:13:32] Yeah. I've been there. I've been to camp.

Tony [00:13:39] So, would you like go with army tents?

Mark Tebeau [00:13:46] So, now as you went to camp as a 20 something or 20, 18?

Alice Dickson [00:13:54] I was 20, about 24, something like that, 23.

Mark Tebeau [00:13:56] How is your experience different as someone who wasn't an adolescent?

Alice Dickson [00:14:01] Well, let's say, you know, we went out, it was adult when we went. It was adult when we went out, went out there. We went out a few times for other activity. But mostly it was adults when we went out.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:14:18] Do you remember how you were selected to go to Camp Mueller? Like why? Why did you go when you went?

Janet Nevilles [00:14:30] Oh. I guess my mother made arrangements for me to go all I know is that I was going.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:14:46] And then you just went the one time. Is that?

Janet Nevilles [00:14:49] Yes.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:14:50] Okay.

Janet Nevilles [00:14:50] Yes.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:14:51] Do you know? Do you, can you imagine why your mom wanted you to go? What she was hoping would happen for you?

Janet Nevilles [00:15:00] Oh. Something to do because there wasn't nothing to do then in those days. We used to shoot marbles, play little baseball in the street. There really wasn't nothing to do. She wanted us to go and enjoy ourselves. We did.

Mark Tebeau [00:15:36] Did you go just the one time or did you go?

Janet Nevilles [00:15:39] Just the one time. Because they took them, they took them up to twelve. And I was twelve when I went.

Alice Dickson [00:15:50] I think with some kind of program set up, had something to do with the foundation set up the. I don't know how it was set up, but I will living in it at the time but I, it has something to do with the foundation that set up the camp for the summer with the [inaudible] program. And I don't know how it was set up but I know the camp had something... the foundation had something to do with it. Yeah, with the program.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:16:21] You know, one of the things that I'm wanting to know about is later in life, when you've thought back about your experience at Camp Mueller, what did, what did you think about it? Is it something you thought about a lot and, you know, have fond memories of?

Janet Nevilles [00:16:39] Yeah, yeah. I thought about it quite often later, later in life.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:16:46] And what, what do you think about when you think about it? What goes through your mind?

Janet Nevilles [00:16:51] I thought about the... I'm trying to think if we had horses or not. I'm not sure. And, and this stayed on my mind a lot. The swimming stayed on my... The pool stayed on my mind a lot.

Tony [00:17:19] So did you ever learn how to swim?

Alice Dickson [00:17:20] Nope. [laughs]

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:17:21] What about the pools stayed on your mind?

Janet Nevilles [00:17:25] Well, the counselor had a long stick trying to teach me to float. And she was at one end, I was at the other end. And that's all I can remember is she would tell me to put my head underwater and try to float. That's all I can remember.

Tony [00:17:52] Activities, other than swimming, did you guys, did you recall...

Janet Nevilles [00:17:54] Oh. We, we.

Tony [00:17:57] Any arts and crafts?

Janet Nevilles [00:17:57] Yeah, we did that, too.

Alice Dickson [00:17:58] We had a lot of that.

Janet Nevilles [00:17:59] Yeah.

Alice Dickson [00:17:59] In the main building.

Janet Nevilles [00:17:59] Yeah. Yeah.

Alice Dickson [00:18:01] Back in the '40s and '50s they had a cosmetology school here, sewing class, had all that. Of course that was in the Ford House, the sewing class. They had a big power machine. You go could go over and take them. Learn how to work the power machine. Wind up with a job or they had a lot of activities.

unknown speaker [00:18:24] Excuse me, Ms. Nevilles. When you were at Camp Mueller, was it co-ed? Were there boys and girls there?

Janet Nevilles [00:18:28] No.

unknown speaker [00:18:29] So all girls?

Janet Nevilles [00:18:29] Yeah. Yep.

unknown speaker [00:18:34] And Ms. Dickson, some of the activities you were just talking about, did you do those on the camp as well?

Alice Dickson [00:18:39] No, I didn't go because at the time I was working and going to school too, and on weekends. No all weekend. They sent there on a Friday, a Saturday. I would go out there some time. Most of my time was taken, was taken up.

Janet Nevilles [00:18:56] Sherrai just came in.

Alice Dickson [00:19:01] Most of my time was taken up because I was working six, five days a week and going to school three nights a week and so I really didn't have too much time on hand.

Mark Tebeau [00:19:12] Where were you going to school?

Alice Dickson [00:19:14] Down here. I get my high school diploma. [GED.] I was going to John Hay and I was working at Cleveland Clinic.

Tony [00:19:29] So other than your sister, did you have any other family or friends who attended Camp Mueller along with yourself?

Alice Dickson [00:19:34] No, just my sister.

Tony [00:19:40] Did you get an opportunity to make new acquaintances while you were at camp?

Janet Nevilles [00:19:41] Yeah. One, one friend stood out and I think of her a lot. She was an Indian, but she was really, really nice. That's the only one I remember.

Mark Tebeau [00:19:55] What was her name?

Janet Nevilles [00:19:55] I don't remember.

Mark Tebeau [00:19:57] Why did you like her?

Janet Nevilles [00:20:01] One thing. She was, she was sort of afraid. I guess it was first time being away from home. And I had my sister. So everything was alright with us. And she would always stay with us. So that's one reason I liked her.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:20:30] How long were you all there?

Janet Nevilles [00:20:30] Two weeks.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:20:31] Two weeks?

Janet Nevilles [00:20:31] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:20:31] Was that the first time you had been away from home?

Janet Nevilles [00:20:36] Yes. But my sister was with me, so I was, I was 15 minutes older than she was, but she was like an older sister to be.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:20:54] And what were your impressions of the environment of the camp? The, the nature of.

Janet Nevilles [00:21:00] Oh, it was beautiful. It was really nice.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:21:04] Did it seem familiar to you or did it seem like a place you'd never been to before?

Janet Nevilles [00:21:09] A place I had never been before.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:21:12] What kind of memories do you have of the way it looked?

Janet Nevilles [00:21:25] I can't remember.

unknown speaker [00:21:32] Oh, it got dark.

Janet Nevilles [00:21:32] Huh?

[00:21:32] It got dark outside.

Janet Nevilles [00:21:32] Oh, yeah. That's where we would build the campfires, sit around and talk.

Mark Tebeau [00:21:42] What...

Janet Nevilles [00:21:42] Laugh. Sing.

Mark Tebeau [00:21:43] What songs did you sing?

Janet Nevilles [00:21:47] I don't remember.

Mark Tebeau [00:21:50] Do you remember any of the stories you told? Were they ghost stories?

Janet Nevilles [00:21:57] No.

[00:22:02] What about the sounds in the environment. Did it seem noisy to you or did it seem really really quiet?

Janet Nevilles [00:22:09] Oh, it wasn't noisy. And it wasn't quiet. It was just natural.

Tony [00:22:22] Do you think your participation in Camp Mueller was positive?

Janet Nevilles [00:22:24] I think so. I think it was. My, my twin sister, she was here, she could remember everything better than I can.

unknown speaker [00:22:45] Did you guys, when you were girls, when you were at camp did you go to the state park or the.

Janet Nevilles [00:22:53] No.

unknown speaker [00:22:53] Stayed on the camp?

Janet Nevilles [00:22:53] Yeah. Stay right there.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:22:59] How would you say your experience there was important to you then or later in life?

Janet Nevilles [00:23:24] I don't know what you mean.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:23:28] [I] just am curious to know when you think back on it. Did it, did it? Mark, you might be able to help me here.

Mark Tebeau [00:23:40] So most, many people report... I never went to camp as a child and my wife did. Now my wife tells me that she's a better person for having gone to camp. So I think that's the thrust of the question, which is, is there something about the camp experience that changed you in a way that you were, that you can recall?

Tony [00:24:03] Did you enjoy the camaraderie with fellow, you know, campers? Establishing a bond with you and your sister stronger because you guys were supporting each other.

Janet Nevilles [00:24:17] Yes, I felt strong, stronger in that sense. And. Maybe, maybe I don't know whether it changed me or not.

Mark Tebeau [00:24:35] [Crosstalk] A great answer. Let me ask you both about a couple other questions about the neighborhood and growing up in this part of Cleveland in this era. Where did you go to church? Do you remember where?

Janet Nevilles [00:24:48] We went to several churches.

Mark Tebeau [00:24:49] Which ones?

Janet Nevilles [00:24:51] I can't remember. 'Cause my father was a preacher, and I don't know the name of the church.

Mark Tebeau [00:25:04] Were your parents from Cleveland?

Janet Nevilles [00:25:05] No.

Mark Tebeau [00:25:07] Where did they come from?

Janet Nevilles [00:25:09] My mother was from Memphis, Tennessee. My father was from Nashville.

Mark Tebeau [00:25:17] And did they meet here?

Janet Nevilles [00:25:24] Yes. Yeah. Because she was young when she got here.

Mark Tebeau [00:25:33] And then. Ms. Dickson, what... When you came, where did you attend church?

Alice Dickson [00:25:41] Right across the street.

Mark Tebeau [00:25:42] What was the name of that?

Alice Dickson [00:25:42] Lane Metropolitan.

Mark Tebeau [00:25:46] And what was it like living in this all-girl, all-female, all-women's [environment] dormitory?

Alice Dickson [00:25:52] It was nice.

Mark Tebeau [00:25:54] What was nice about it?

Alice Dickson [00:25:57] Well, we had rules and regulations. They were very restrictive. If a man was looking for a wife, he came here. A lot of 'em married very fine women out of here, only seventh, eighth and ninth floor. That was the professional floor. Nurses, doctors, and school teachers lived on those floors. And from the fifth floor down, I think the fifth floor down many people working a lot of different jobs like hospitals, restaurants, and places like that. And weirdly, it was very busy. We had dances downstairs on a Friday night. You can invite your friends. It started at seven and it closed at twelve. [It was] very active during that time. And we also had parties for the residents. Picnics and also, if you want a job, I wanted it. If you told them where you live, you could get it. You can get it. It wasn't no problem.

Mark Tebeau [00:27:20] Why was that?

Alice Dickson [00:27:21] Well because the Phillis Wheatley had a very, a very high standard back in that time. And you were well recognized around the city. All the department stores, they recognized you had you been living here. They gave you priority about a lot of thing. Where did they. You cannot, cannot get it. It had been a high priority. Recall majority board member was like doctors and lawyers? And people they, they, they had connections in here, and that's why if you told them in a way you live there. If you are looking for credit or a job. As long as you didn't have anything on your record. You could... Very highly spoken of.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:28:19] So what was the reputation of Camp Mueller in general?

Alice Dickson [00:28:24] Well, the camp, the camp was.... They didn't have all the activities out there they have now. It was a much smaller place than what it is. Quite smaller. And they kept in the, in the summer, but like not have not activities going on out there. We didn't have that back in that time. But it was, it was supported.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:28:50] Ms. Nevilles, what did you see as the reputation of Camp Mueller? Like how did the community see it?

Janet Nevilles [00:29:04] The community? What?

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:29:06] Do you have a sense of how people...

Mark Tebeau [00:29:10] Why did your mother choose Camp Mueller?

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:29:10] Yeah. A good way of putting it.

Janet Nevilles [00:29:14] Well, that was the only camp we could have went.

Mark Tebeau [00:29:17] Okay. So she wanted you to have a camp experience. Well, why do you think she sent you?

Janet Nevilles [00:29:28] Evidently it was advertised. She signed, signed me up to, us up to go.

Mark Tebeau [00:29:35] Did it cost her money?

Janet Nevilles [00:29:38] I don't... No. Didn't cost her anything.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:29:53] What other kinds of things did your mom sign you up for when you were young? What did she like you to do?

Janet Nevilles [00:29:56] I liked music. And she would pick out a music school for me to go to. It was one. What's the name of that place down on 22nd and Woodland? It's...

Tony [00:30:05] Let's see. 22nd and Woodland? That's over by...

Mark Tebeau [00:30:18] Cleveland State. [laughs]

Tony [00:30:18] Tri-C.

Janet Nevilles [00:30:23] Yeah, but this is further down.

Mark Tebeau [00:30:25] Like the Scouts?

Janet Nevilles [00:30:27] Yeah, it was it's Boy Scouts now. Yes. Boy and Girl Scouts whatever. But then it was called Hiram House. Yeah. That's where I first started taking music lessons there. And...

Tony [00:30:49] What instrument?

Janet Nevilles [00:30:49] Huh?

Tony [00:30:49] What instrument?

Janet Nevilles [00:30:50] No, piano.

Tony [00:30:50] Oh, okay.

Janet Nevilles [00:30:50] Yeah.

Alice Dickson [00:30:55] There used to be a building, a middle school back in there. They did over there.

Tony [00:30:58] Oh, okay.

Alice Dickson [00:30:58] You know, then they got to go out there and sell tickets because the lady. She's one of the board members. She had left, in a trust fund, she had left some money but for the music school to be built once they had enough money. Yeah and so when they got enough money, then they built that school. It was one of the board members had left in a trust fund.

Janet Nevilles [00:31:22] So my mother. She sent me to private lessons on 105th and Superior. I went there until her money ran out. Then, she had a, I had a teacher come to the house and teach me. And all of this. But at 16, I played on the remember Bert's amateur show. No, you wouldn't remember. But it was something like something like Gene Carroll. Remember Gene Carroll? Used to be on TV.

Alice Dickson [00:32:12] I remember.

Janet Nevilles [00:32:12] Okay. It was Bert's amateur was like that. Only it wasn't on TV. It was on the radio. And I went there and auditioned. And they called me and I played a little thing I made up. And my cousin, he, he helped me. He gave me the beginning and the end. And I went on the radio there and played it. And they called me back when I was 18 to do it again. Then I played at the, there was a theater on 55th and Euclid. They had an amateur night there. I played there. I came in fourth.

Mark Tebeau [00:33:06] Sounds like your piano lessons went better than your swimming lessons.

Janet Nevilles [00:33:11] Yeah! [laughs] It did.

Alice Dickson [00:33:13] Do you remember the Blue Grass Club that was built at 55th?

Janet Nevilles [00:33:18] Yep.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:33:21] The what?

Alice Dickson [00:33:21] The Blue Grass Club. It wasn't nothing go in there but dignitaries.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:33:21] Okay.

Janet Nevilles [00:33:21] Lincolns. Cadillacs. Chauffeurs.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:33:25] Were you over there, Ms. Dickson?

Alice Dickson [00:33:25] Pardon?

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:33:35] Did you go there?

Alice Dickson [00:33:36] No, no, because I couldn't afford it. You had to be of a nothing good but a professional. They had female impersonators. And they came in on Friday nights and Saturday nights.

Mark Tebeau [00:33:51] Was that against the Phillis Wheatley rules to go there?

Alice Dickson [00:33:54] No. You couldn't afford to go there because it was all private members. Big shots went up there. And they had all these out-of-town female impersonators. [inaudible] Yeah that's where the money was.

Tony [00:34:05] Going back to camp. Let me ask you this question. I don't know if I... But in my experiences. I was associated with the... [inaudible]

Alice Dickson [00:34:21] Oh, yes.

Tony [00:34:25] What was something that you ate at camp?

Tony [00:34:25] The food was good. It was really good. We couldn't wait when we got to.

Tony [00:34:34] So we used to have a very outstanding restaurant here. Remember?

unknown speaker [00:34:40] Was it a kitchen? Not a camp in. Did you guys go to the...

Tony [00:34:44] Yeah. No. Let me see. We went. I think we. Yeah, we went to the mess hall. Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:34:53] And what did you eat?

Tony [00:34:53] I know it's a big area, big area.

Mark Tebeau [00:34:57] So what did you eat? What was so good about the food?

Tony [00:35:08] It was just good. I believe it was. I don't even know what we ate. Might have been hamburgers, hot dogs.

Tony [00:35:26] Did you have any marshmallows?

Tony [00:35:27] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We'll.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:35:36] That's very familiar by the way people saying camp food is good.

Mark Tebeau [00:35:43] So you roasted marshmallows over the fire.

Tony [00:35:45] Yes.

Tony [00:35:47] Yes, we sure did.

Mark Tebeau [00:35:48] Now back then did you have s'mores or did you just have the marshmallows, you know, s'mores when you put them, the marshmallows, in the graham cracker with a chocolate bar.

Tony [00:35:58] No.

Tony [00:36:00] No. We did have s'mores.

Tony [00:36:11] Girl Scouts came up with that later on.

Mark Tebeau [00:36:12] Well, this has been very helpful to us. So last couple. Are there things that one of the goals today in talking to you was just to begin to think about the different kinds of experiences one might have at camp. Might have here in the Cleveland community. Are there things that you really think would be important to ask people? We're going to be interviewing your contemporaries over the next few months, including both of you again.

Tony [00:36:37] Okay.

Mark Tebeau [00:36:37] What might we ask people that we haven't asked you? Either about camp or the neighborhood.

Tony [00:36:54] I can't think of anything.

Tony [00:36:55] Well if something comes up, I'm sure you can just let us know.

Tony [00:36:55] Yeah.

Tony [00:36:55] And we can just drop this off.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:37:07] Or even. What do you think is the most important thing for us to know about the camp?

Tony [00:37:24] [Pause] The most.

Tony [00:37:24] [Pause] I can't remember anything.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:37:43] Did you, did either of you keep a journal or take pictures or draw, draw pictures or you know, google, you know.

Tony [00:37:49] Yeah.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:37:50] Did you keep any of that ever? Did you keep any of that?

Tony [00:37:52] No.

Jennie Vasarhelyi [00:37:53] No?

Mark Tebeau [00:37:54] But you did draw?

Tony [00:37:55] Yeah, we did draw.

Mark Tebeau [00:37:59] Did you see any bears?

Tony [00:38:01] No.

Mark Tebeau [00:38:12] Well, thank you very much ladies this has been very... [recording ends abruptly]

[00:38:15] [recording resumes with a second interview] ...18 months to two years old and then there's three to five-year-olds.

Jennifer Wagner [00:38:22] Okay.

[00:38:23] So.

Sherrai Landrum [00:38:23] Where are you from now?

Jennifer Wagner [00:38:24] Oh, I'm with Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Sherrai Landrum [00:38:26] Oh, okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:38:39] And what we're, what we're doing is we are trying, you know, we run camping programs today. Stacey is here and she is the director of Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center, which is a hiking program.

Sherrai Landrum [00:38:41] Oh, okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:38:41] So what we're trying to do is learn about camping programs that existed in the Valley before the park...

Sherrai Landrum [00:38:48] Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:38:50] Was established.

Sherrai Landrum [00:38:50] Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:38:54] So Camp Mueller was one. It wasn't the only one. And do we wanted to talk to people.

Sherrai Landrum [00:38:55] Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:38:56] Who had been to Camp Mueller and just, you know, we got, we have a grant. And we're planning on doing a series of interviews. And what we are doing today in some ways is testing our questions.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:06] Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:39:08] To see how they go. So.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:10] Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:39:10] Thank you for helping us out to, you know, learn the best approach for questions. So, you know.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:17] You're welcome.

Jennifer Wagner [00:39:18] Yeah, one of the questions we'll ask you at the end is what, what else we should have been asking?

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:22] Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:39:24] And, you know there's no right or wrong answers. We are just really interested in hearing your memories of Camp Mueller.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:31] Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:39:35] And because I didn't introduce Brady. Brady.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:37] Brady, hi Brady.

Brady [00:39:38] Morning. Nice to meet you.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:39] Nice to meet you too.

Jennifer Wagner [00:39:39] He's helping with some of the program logistics, and Mark's with Cleveland State University.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:45] Oh, okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:39:49] So he is helping to record, first of all.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:49] Okay.

Mark Tebeau [00:39:49] And so what we are going to do is for this whole project is we are not only going to record the interviews really nicely which is why you see a microphone right in front of your face.

Sherrai Landrum [00:39:58] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:39:59] We're, we're going to save them in a collection of several hundred that we've gathered. There will be a collection for Phillis Wheatley, the national park, and Camp Mueller.

Sherrai Landrum [00:40:05] Okay.

Mark Tebeau [00:40:05] So we remember these stories.

Sherrai Landrum [00:40:09] Okay.

Mark Tebeau [00:40:10] That otherwise we would never have any inkling about.

Sherrai Landrum [00:40:11] Alright.

Mark Tebeau [00:40:13] And so this is really kind of a test interview. Later on, we will probably interview you. We will certainly interview you more formally. We will have you sign a permission form so that we can put it in the archive and we will also produce a CD, a little CD so that you can share it with your family.

Sherrai Landrum [00:40:26] Oh good.

Mark Tebeau [00:40:28] Those memories right?

Sherrai Landrum [00:40:28] Okay, yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:40:28] Because often families, they know we share some of these stories. But we record them.

Sherrai Landrum [00:40:34] Right. Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:40:37] So Jen, why don't you start with some questions?

Jennifer Wagner [00:40:43] Sure. Just, just to go back around, so we know who you are.

Sherrai Landrum [00:40:43] Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:40:48] If you could tell us your full name and what year you were born.

Sherrai Landrum [00:40:48] My name is Sherrai Elaine Landrum. Then it was Vaughn. V-A-U-G-H-N. And I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and I am 64 years old.

Mark Tebeau [00:41:03] When were you born in Cleveland?

Jennifer Wagner [00:41:03] Right here in Cleveland, Ohio, at Metropolitan Hospital. And I was raised in the Metropolitan Housing Projects here on 49th and Case Court.

Mark Tebeau [00:41:14] Tell us about growing up in those in Metropolitan Housing Projects. What were they like? What did they look like? What were your memories?

Sherrai Landrum [00:41:21] Okay, well, my memories. We lived in a four room apartment. It was two bedrooms, front room, and a kitchen. And I had three, two sisters. It was three with myself. We all slept in the same room, in the same bed. My mom had her own room. And during the time when we had our doing at that time, they put a set of rugs on the floor. They put the linoleum on the floor. So we would have to scrub and wash the linoleum. And my mom used to have us clean the windows. It was pane windows. We had to clean them with vinegar, water, and paper. Then we had a little porch on the side of our house and we used to go play out on the porch. I was born there, came there straight from the hospital. I stayed there in the projects for 16 years. And till I was married and my mom. I remember us, time people was hungry. One day they came to our door and my mom fixed a sandwich, but she always put the chain on the door and would hand them the food out the door. So my mom was a giving mother and then we would feed the birds. And then we will play in the yard. I think we had a swings and stuff in the backyard. We would go around the corner, play in the backyard. Then in front of our apartment, we had a bench out there in the summertime. We would have to be on that bench before the sunset. That was a must. And we wasn't allowed to walk on the grass. It was a real nice area. And they kept it clean. People have flowers and everything. And all the neighbors, they were all like our moms. And the children were friendly. And I was, I was real friendly because I was one of them children. My teacher told me I was exuberant. And then when people, new people will come in the neighborhood, of course, I will knock on door and tell him who I was. And ask their Mom, could your children come out and play with me? You know? So I knew everybody in the projects because I had a outgoing personality. Okay.

Jennifer Wagner [00:43:20] When did you go to Camp Mueller?

Sherrai Landrum [00:43:21] I went to Camp Mueller when I was twelve years old so so they had to be like in maybe 1956 something somewhere in there. And we came here to Camp Mueller my mother brought us here. And how we went to Camp Mueller. We sold soap. They had soap in bars and we sold peanut brittle candy and that was to help the cost of us going. It was free for us to go, but to help the cost. It was like a fundraiser. So of course, I knocked on everybody's door selling my little candy and soap because I wanted to go and my sister. Me and my sister wanted to go. My sister wasn't outgoing like me. She was sort of laidback and quiet. So I did all the selling.

Jennifer Wagner [00:44:07] Do you remember how you felt the night before you left for Camp Mueller?

Sherrai Landrum [00:44:07] Yes, we were all excited and my mother had to pick our clothes in a suitcase. We had them old type suitcases and, and we had the we had a list of all the clothes that we were supposed to bring. And so she wrote down everything like our jeans, towels, swimsuit, t-shirts, you know, bath items. And we had to bring our own soap and toiletries and everything. And I was so excited to go to that camp. I couldn't even sleep that night. And then when we was at the camp I. That's a question you might want to ask.

Jennifer Wagner [00:44:44] Oh, no go.

Sherrai Landrum [00:44:44] When we were at the camp, when we got to the camp the next morning, they took us in a bus there. And I thought we was miles and miles away because they're seeing so far when you were a kid so. And when I get there, I, we never will forget. We pulled up in the, this driveway and they had this real flag pole that is still there today. And down from the flag, before the flag pole, was the place where we ate at the mess hall they called it. And so we ate. We ate at the mess hall and then from the flag a little bit upfront of the flag it was a dispensary there. I know about the dispensary because I got bit by a spider matter of fact the little marks still on my lip and my lips swelled up. So I had to go to dispensary. And then in the camp, my sister was in the tents because the older girls were in the tents and the younger girls, which was me, was in the cabins. So we get to stay in a camp. So they had it was boys and girls there at the camp. And then they had this real long basin. It was a water basin. And you had to wash up in the basin. It was cold water, no hot water, anything. And then they had outhouses. We ain't have no bathroom. Where you go flush the toilet or anything. It was outhouses. They were a mess. Me and my sister, we hated them outhouses. And then we would go out and pick up twigs and come back and have a campfire roast marshmallows. And that was fun. Then we would go hiking and we always had to be careful for the poison ivy. They always said be careful for the poison ivy because we don't want to get poison ivy there.

Mark Tebeau [00:46:21] How did you know it was poison oak?

Sherrai Landrum [00:46:21] I didn't know. We, they just told us be careful for poison ivy. I didn't know what the poison ivy looked like. And then the, the camp counselors' names; they had Indian name: Minnehaha, Geronimo. They had all, all of the camp counselors was Indian names. And so I liked the camp counselors. And then when we went to the, to the mess hall to eat, what I really liked there. I'll never forget. I don't know what it was until now that I got older. We had carrots, apples, and raisin in a salad like in a little bowl. I loved that. Later on in my life, I learned it was a Waldorf salad. And I always told my kids when they grew up, I always made them some because I'd liked it so well. And then we learned how to do crafts. I'm a craft person. Even to this day, I like to do crafts. We made beaded necklaces and we'd make little cards, you know. And then when we got there, my mother gave us postcards. That was for us to send my mother a letter. Let her know how we's doing. So we had the little three-cent postcards that we sent back home to tell our mother how we's doing. I went two years, but my sister, she only went one year because I liked it so well. And then I liked it so well. When my children get big enough to go to camp, I have four children, they all went. Now my first three kids went first because I still had the youngest one is home. He couldn't go. So when you go to Camp Mueller, you are supposed to be six years old. So I'm going to tell you, this because it's okay now because he's for 20 years old now. I mean, 30 some years old and he's gone the rest. I said that when you get to camp, you make sure you tell him, you fat. I mean, you six because he was fat. I said, Derek, don't forget you're six years old. Because I wanted all my kids to go to share it with 'em. And he was, the first year my other son went, he didn't bring all his clothes back, right. He left some things at the camp. But Derek, well, he was only fat, but then he bought every single thing back that was on that list. Now, he was a smart little boy because he remembered to say he was six years old. Well, I enjoyed Camp Mueller. That was the most wonderful experience in my life.

Jennifer Wagner [00:48:30] Why do you say that?

Sherrai Landrum [00:48:31] Because I, because I got to learn to be around other children, people that lived in different neighborhoods, not only to the projects, but they rich people came too. Well, rich kids came too. So I got a chance to mingle with them. And I met one girl who was a friend of mine for a long time. But I lost touch with her. Her name was Mary Story. So I don't know if they could look her name up in a computer or something. But she was at, one of the members at Camp Mueller too. And then I'd learned about the hiking. And I used to like to go on field trips because when we came back from school, the field trips, I knew what I was talking about then. Because I've been on field trips with Camp Mueller, you know. So I told some kids things that I knew. So. And then I learned and I, they helped me would do the craft, which I'd like to do crafts. So that was something good. Even when my children got grown, I mean. Yeah. What children age. I taught them about crafts. Everything I did, I told them, you know, about in life, like they go take their children to restaurants now. Because I took my children to restaurants that was coming up. We went to church and they go to church. I mean, you know, everything I did when I was a kid, I instilled it in my children. So I'm very happy about Camp Mueller. That was the best, most memorable experience of my life. And I was so excited when my nephew lived here in the projects about maybe 15 years ago day. They, they took a trip to Camp Mueller. And of course, I came on the bus and rode out there with them. And I was remembering all the things that happened to me when I was a little girl. Oh, one thing I did learn how to do. They had the swimming there. I could never swim. I could float. But I never knew how to swim. But luckily, when my children went to the camp, all four of them, they know how to swim to this day. They all swam.

Jennifer Wagner [00:50:22] Did they learn to swim?

Sherrai Landrum [00:50:22] At Camp Mueller. They learned to swim at Camp Mueller.

Mark Tebeau [00:50:24] Just a point of information, when did your children go to camp? In the late-60s?

Sherrai Landrum [00:50:28] Yeah, they, they went in the '60s. No. I take that back in the '70s because my son was sick, so it must have been like '75. Was five rather '75 or '76. Their name were Flemings. They were all Flemings. Sherrai Fleming. That was my daughter. She's named after me. My oldest son name was James Fleming and had another same name, Anthony Fleming. And then my younger son name was Derek Fleming. Unfortunately, he's deceased now. He was murdered in Cleveland in 1991.

Jennifer Wagner [00:50:57] Oh, I'm sorry.

Sherrai Landrum [00:50:59] Yeah. So I'm just I don't know, I just love people and I like to be around people and camp was something to make me, make me feel good about myself. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [00:51:19] Do you remember what you thought of the environment of camp? You know, what was your impression of how camp looked? How the Valley looked?

Sherrai Landrum [00:51:19] Yeah. It looked like it was just like as if we were going like on a field trip. Everything was beautiful there. Because I'm the type of person who liked the country. Everybody, because I went down south one year, had never been there before. Everyone would say, how do you like down south? You know, I said I loved it because it was outdoors. I liked outdoors. I like outdoor living and things like that. And it, everything was nice, it was clean. It was, you know, it was just so nice. And the people who, who cooked the food, the ladies in the mess hall cooked the food. It was nice. Just everything was so nice and it was, was beautiful. The cabins and we would go by my sister's place where they were at, they had our tents. And I never seen a tent before in my life or the cabins. None of this... I had never seen because we lived in Brick City. That's called the projects.

Jennifer Wagner [00:52:13] Do you remember seeing any animals that you hadn't seen before?

Sherrai Landrum [00:52:13] I just saw like some rabbits and things like that and deers. I had never seen them before. Yeah.

Brady [00:52:31] What was, what came to mind the first time you saw a deer in your area, having not seen one before?

Sherrai Landrum [00:52:31] You know, when I saw you saw a deer, I had never seen a deer before I said ooh look at that. You know, all the kids, we were all excited because they probably never seen anything like that before either. And the first time I really saw one that it was really they weren't close to us. But when I saw one real close to us. My sister lived, I had a sister live on Oakwood Village. And one came right to her window. It was about three or four of them at the window. And I was looking, my sister, what's the matter with you? I was out there. I said I'm seeing them, they real close. You know, I was all excited about it because she lives down there by the park, down there before Broadway in there? And then she took me down there to see someone of those deers. But I love the outdoor life.

Mark Tebeau [00:53:13] So that, that first time you went and you mentioned that very story. Did she become a friend at camp?

Sherrai Landrum [00:53:19] Yes, she.

Mark Tebeau [00:53:23] What do you remember about her?

Sherrai Landrum [00:53:23] Okay. She was sort of, she was light-skinned. She had real pretty good hair. You know, she had good hair a lot like ours. Her hair was pretty. And a.

Mark Tebeau [00:53:34] What's good hair?

Sherrai Landrum [00:53:35] Good hair means that you don't have to take a either just brush it, you know, it's not nappy. She, her hair. So anyway, we got to be friends even after camp. You know, like she will call us and we would call her on the phone. We would, I never went to visit her. I didn't know where she lived or anything. But we still got to be friends through the phone and everything. Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [00:53:55] So what sort of activities did you do at camp?

Sherrai Landrum [00:53:58] Okay. Well, we did like camping like going on a field trips. We did craft activities and we did games. We played a lot of games like jump rope and hopscotch and, you know, things like that. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [00:54:15] What were nights like?

Sherrai Landrum [00:54:18] Oh, it was dark out there. It was real dark. No lights or anything. And they made us go to bed at a, I guess by eight and nine o'clock something like that. It was early. Anyway, went to bed. Oh, I know what they got to do what we had to get up real early in the morning, like six o'clock in the morning. Go to the flagpole. Say a pledge of allegiance to the flag, I remember. And it was cold when you were in the, when we got up in the morning, it was kind of cold out there and cool at night. Yeah. But it was hot, like hot during the day. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [00:54:54] Did you go to other places near Camp Mueller when you were?

Sherrai Landrum [00:54:59] No. We was all, we all stayed into the campgrounds. We never went outside of the campgrounds.

Jennifer Wagner [00:55:07] And did you on your own later, did you ever go back to the valley and go other places?

Sherrai Landrum [00:55:12] Thank you. Just that one time. When I went out there to visit, but I have we'd like we go out to Euclid Creek and we go out to Metropolitan Park out there. It's out there off I want to say 77. Like going towards Seven Hills is a park in there. We went to them parks but we always went to parks, have picnics. Like, I always used to take a blanket with us and we put the blanket out and my kids would go play. And then we went to the beach out there at Mentor Headlands and things like that. So I took my kids to a lot of things, SeaWorld, you know. I let them experience life. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [00:55:54] And how, what is their interest in nature? Like.

Sherrai Landrum [00:55:59] None. They don't. My daughter said she hated out there because she was a prissy girl. You know, she's like everything real nice and thing. But that was sort of like tomboyish that's why I, I adjusted to the park, you know, as being tomboyish. You can do everything. You know, I'd like to ride a bike. I had a boy's bike. I didn't want a girl's bike. When I was growing up and everything, but it was they, they don't have good memories about the Camp Mueller like I did.

Mark Tebeau [00:56:32] Why, why do you think that is?

Sherrai Landrum [00:56:34] Because they were city kids. They lived in a city we lived off 133rd and Union. We grew up in the housing part like real homes and things. They weren't in the projects so they don't really know about the inner city life because everything they already they had their own bedrooms. I had a four-bedroom house. They had a backyard to play in. Their own backyard. We had a garage with a car, which I didn't have when I grew up. They all had TVs in their rooms. You know, things like that. So they, they were mostly city children. They didn't really enjoy. Right. You saw my son Anthony you see how. Well he wasn't really dressed real nice last week, but he dress real nice. He works at Saks Fifth Avenue and he be like swamped all the time. And my daughter, they be swamped. Me, I'm just a regular person.

Jennifer Wagner [00:57:28] So why do you think your mom sent you to Camp Mueller? Why did she want you to go?

Sherrai Landrum [00:57:30] She wanted us to go because it was a camp that they had for two weeks at the time. I forgot to tell you it was two weeks for the Camp Mueller then. And she wanted us to have the experience of going to camp. Now like I said, I enjoyed it. My sister she didn't like it that much. So and she was all. My mother was excited to because she said, well you help sell this candy, and, and soap and you could you kids can go to camp, you know. So that was good. And then, I forgot to tell you, when I get home from camp, mom, Uncle lived with us, and my auntie lived in Chicago. My mother's sister and my uncle came here every year. And when I got home from camp on the bus and went to my house, my mother had to wash all my clothes. And I was back in the car going to Chicago. They didn't have no freeways then. So I got the chance to see all the horses and cows. So I was always gone. Anybody says, Sherrai you want to go, I'm ready. So every year I would go to Chicago to visit with my aunt. My aunt would keep me all the way. She kept me all the way to till it's time for me to come back to school. And when I, it was, I was about 13 then when I was coming back and she had me on this little prissy blue dress. I never will forget it. I had a little bonnet hat on and little white socks turned over with some patent leather shoes and she had bought all my clothes for school, return for school. My, she didn't give my sister nothing because I'm the one that came. I had all my clothes and I was looking like that little girl like Shirley Temple on the train coming home. That's what it reminded me of later on in life when I used to see those Shirley Temple movies. I said that's me coming home on the train. So I had the experience. I had a lot of good experiences in my life.

Jennifer Wagner [00:59:15] And what were other things that your mom arranged for you to do as a child?

Sherrai Landrum [00:59:15] We, well, I had a teacher who was. I went to Outhwaite Elementary School. It's torn down now, but we had a teacher there. His name was Mr. Dwight. I mean, Richard Eisenhauer. He was named just like the president. But his name was H-A-U-E-R.

Jennifer Wagner [00:59:30] Okay.

Sherrai Landrum [00:59:30] Okay. And so he was a Caucasian and he lived in Cleveland Heights. And [he] was, the students that were good he would send a permission slip for us to go to Karamu House. He was an actor there. So we got a chance to go to Karamu House and see the play. So that was some culture I had in my life. And there were my children got to be, when I had children, I had children, I kept up with this teacher all through my life. He came and took my children to the music carnival. Do you know what the music carnival?

Jennifer Wagner [01:00:01] No.

Sherrai Landrum [01:00:02] It was on Warrensville. And right off of Warrensville and Harvard. It was a music carnival. They had shows there and everything. So he took them to Karamu and everything. So that's another thing that I did it too.

Jennifer Wagner [01:00:15] So what were some of your favorite memories of Camp Mueller?

Sherrai Landrum [01:00:19] Oh, my favorite memories was going to, out into the woods and picking up those twigs and coming back, sitting by the campfire, and sing: Camp Mueller campers are the campers that are really gone. I can't, I can't remember all of it.

Mark Tebeau [01:00:32] What. Is it a song?

Sherrai Landrum [01:00:32] Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [01:00:32] Do the song for us.

Sherrai Landrum [01:00:38] I can't remember the whole song but then we would say Camp Mueller campers are the campers that are really cool. And then say Camp Mueller, yay, you know, do a holler like that. I can't remember all the songs. We were sitting down and sing songs. You know, they had a lot of songs that we would sing so. But I knew about the Camp Mueller campers are the campers that are really cool.

Mark Tebeau [01:00:58] So what did you do around the campfire just sang songs?

Sherrai Landrum [01:01:00] Yeah, we sang songs around the campfire.

Mark Tebeau [01:01:05] Did you eat anything?

Sherrai Landrum [01:01:06] Snacks. We had some snacks like fruit or things like that. [When] we came back in the evening, we was over here by the mess hall right there where that flag podium is. That's what we would all meet.

Mark Tebeau [01:01:17] So no marshmallows?

Sherrai Landrum [01:01:17] No, not there. When we just, we had a campfire in back in the woods where, where the tents and things were. We had a campfires there. And we did marshmallows on a stick. Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [01:01:26] How do you like your marshmallows prepared? How do you do it?

Sherrai Landrum [01:01:27] At home now?

Mark Tebeau [01:01:33] No. No. When you're at the campfire. [Cross Talk] Are you one of those people who burns it?

Sherrai Landrum [01:01:33] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [01:01:33] Or do you like it brown?

Sherrai Landrum [01:01:35] I like them [burnt].

Mark Tebeau [01:01:37] Tell us about that.

Sherrai Landrum [01:01:37] Yeah, we, we've get the long twigs and I always try to get the twig in twos because I wanted two. And we would twist it, twist it around, and let it get roasted. And I liked it when it get like scorched. Yeah. We have so much fun. I mean, I just can't tell you all the fun I had from going to camp.

Jennifer Wagner [01:02:01] Did you tell stories around the campfire too?

Sherrai Landrum [01:02:01] No, I didn't.

Jennifer Wagner [01:02:02] Just singing?

Sherrai Landrum [01:02:03] Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [01:02:03] Well did anyone tell stories around the campfire?

Sherrai Landrum [01:02:03] Well maybe the counselors might have told some stories, but I didn't. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [01:02:12] And then, what was night like there?

Sherrai Landrum [01:02:12] Like I said, it was real dark there and you would hear the crickets here. All the sounds because everything was all quiet, you know. No people, there are just us. But the counselors, they were really nice. All the counselors were nice.

Jennifer Wagner [01:02:29] What do you remember about them?

Sherrai Landrum [01:02:30] Well, they were real friendly with us. They took time and patience with us and they helped us like if some kids were crying because they didn't want to be there and they were comfort hold, you know, hold them, cradle them. You know, let them know that everything was okay. You know, even though mom not here. We here. But, I wasn't that one. I was, I was all excited and I was, I was ready for camp.

Jennifer Wagner [01:02:53] Did the counselors seem old to you?

Sherrai Landrum [01:02:56] Yes, they did. And, and ironically, they were like maybe in the early 20s, but they seemed older, you know, to me at the time. Because even at the time, I think my mom could have been to in her early 40s. She seemed like she old but I'm 64 and I still think I feel young now, but then people in their 40s seemed like they were real old then, but now I don't anymore. Because I done got up there.

Mark Tebeau [01:03:20] [inaudible]

Sherrai Landrum [01:03:26] What'd you say miss?

unknown speaker [01:03:27] I said I'm feeling kind of old.

Sherrai Landrum [01:03:30] I told her my son is her age, he was born in '61 or '62.

unknown speaker [01:03:38] Now that would have been Tony. He was '65.

Sherrai Landrum [01:03:38] Okay. My other son, he's born in '66. He's 43 now. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [01:03:43] Do you think that your children will send their children to camp?

Sherrai Landrum [01:03:44] No, they have children. All my, let me tell you. Well, my children doing sending their children. They sending their children to musical schools. They're actors. They are singers and they going to college. I got one grandson who's in Wright State College. He's graduating on June the 12th. He's an actor. He does musicals. And I have one granddaughter who's in. Two granddaughters graduate, they all graduate from Euclid High School. One of them is at Ohio State. She's in the medical field. She's going be a pharmacist. And then I have another granddaughter who's. Let me see. I get them mixed up. John Carroll. What's that other school John? [Inaudible]

Jennifer Wagner [01:04:33] There is John Carroll.

Sherrai Landrum [01:04:37] John Carroll is.

unknown speaker [01:04:38] Do you mean Baldwin Wallace?

Sherrai Landrum [01:04:38] No the one out there in Cleveland Heights. It's just John Carroll, right? That's the school she's at John Carroll because it's off, it's off of Green Road out there somewhere. She's at John Carroll. This is her third year. Both for the two granddaughters, it's their third year. Then I have another grandson who's graduating. He's going to Myron College. He's a football player. He's graduating for Solon. So all my children. They basically educationally inclined with their children. That's what they've straping for their children. So I'm, I'm pretty good grandmother that's instilled that in my children the, you know, want to be somebody in life. And they sending their kids to college.

Mark Tebeau [01:05:18] Did Camp Mueller play a role in thinking that way for you?

Sherrai Landrum [01:05:25] Oh, yeah. It made me be more responsible because, you know, when you're responsible, you had to take care of your clothes when you were there and do follow the rules of the camp. And to my, you know, to be mindful and don't talk back to the counselors or things like that. You supposed to treat them with respect. We learned that when I was there and I instilled that in my children. Because I had one girlfriend, my son works at this Saks Fifth Avenue in Beachwood, she said no matter when I come by there or something. She says he always come over to speak to me and give me a hug. And I said, well, I tell my kids to respect seniors even when they were small. I brought them up to just respect everybody, personal properties, you know, other neighbor's properties and things like that. And that's what needs to be done now. And I should have been an activist for that. I advocate for that. Just start going to schools and talking to children and tell them how more important it is to be responsible because they're not getting that at home no more. So, maybe it's not too late, but I always thought you had to have a college education and do stuff like that.

Jennifer Wagner [01:06:43] Did you ever talk about Camp Mueller to other people?

Sherrai Landrum [01:06:43] Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [01:06:45] What do you tell people?

Sherrai Landrum [01:06:45] Yeah. I tell them about how I learned how to do the crafts and how we learn how. Mostly about my Waldorf salad there. And I shared that with other, with my older friends, the friends that I met afterlife. And I always tell them that I went to Camp Mueller and I stayed for two weeks. Yeah.

unknown speaker [01:07:02] How did they keep the guys and the girls separate?

Sherrai Landrum [01:07:06] We had they had different camps for the girls our age and the boys. Tents for the girls and they age. They were separate. Yeah.

unknown speaker [01:07:13] But for the activities, you guys came together?

Sherrai Landrum [01:07:16] Yeah, we came together for activities. Yeah, and lunch and dinner. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner there and a snack. We would have a snack too to eat.

Jennifer Wagner [01:07:27] What would happen if kids were misbehaving?

Sherrai Landrum [01:07:27] Well, I guess they probably took them somewhere to discipline. They didn't discipline them in front of us or nothing. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [01:07:38] So what other ways do you think your experience at Camp Mueller was important to you later in life?

Sherrai Landrum [01:07:46] Okay. Well, like I was saying, it helped me, you know, learn how to do like my craft activities. I still do craft activities. I crochet and now go to a craft class at Mount Sinai. I make jewelry and make little animals out of beads and things. And that's what we made at camp was beading things. We made that. And then I get a chance to communicate. Know how to talk to people. Know how to treat people. And like to be on the go. Because sometimes seniors, it's a lot of seniors in this neighborhood, they just sit at home all day and watch TV. At least we get out and do something, you know? And that's important because one day I must live downstairs on the over my stepmother and I even brought her down here one day, but she didn't like to come knock on us because it's cold. But I do try to get her involved in things, you know. So.

Mark Tebeau [01:08:41] When you were growing up, what other sorts of you went to Chicago. You went to Camp Mueller. Did you do other kinds of activities?

Sherrai Landrum [01:08:47] Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [01:08:47] Within the neighborhood?

Sherrai Landrum [01:08:49] In the neighborhood. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. We played basketball at P.O.C. Portland-Outhwaite Center. I was on a basketball team and then they had a crafts there at that center too. We went there and they had a project hall which is on 46th and we went skating, roller skating. And I even went roller skating, they had another roller rink on 107th and Cedar. I used to roller skate. I did a lot of stuff when I was coming up.

Mark Tebeau [01:09:15] Now, when you were doing that, did you go with an adult or did you just go with your sister?

Sherrai Landrum [01:09:20] We went, I went with my sister. We did go to [those] activities. They was just neighborhood. It was just like, right from here. The corner of that street there, we walked through the projects. Yeah. We always went by ourselves. Yeah, we didn't have to, the family didn't have to go. Anything they had to do like if it was a permission slip. If they took us somewhere or something, we had to bring a permission slip and then they had a swimming pool there too. Of course, I would go there and float. I never knew how to swim. We still. We still.

Jennifer Wagner [01:09:52] What was the pool like at Camp Mueller?

Sherrai Landrum [01:09:52] Oh, it was big. And I didn't go past the three feet because I thought I was going to drown. Yeah, it was nice. A nice pool. It was clean. Everything was nice and clean. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [01:10:03] But if you could float. Right, you could float?

Sherrai Landrum [01:10:06] Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [01:10:10] Without being on anything?

Sherrai Landrum [01:10:10] Right. I can do a lot of floating and kick my feet up. But, I could never.

Jennifer Wagner [01:10:14] It seems like swimming to me.

Sherrai Landrum [01:10:14] Oh, no. Or even do like this float, but I never knew how. You know as a kid, I never could get that for some reason. I never could get that. So I stayed close to the three feet.

Jennifer Wagner [01:10:24] So besides Mary Story who was a friend that you made there. Did you, did any other kids that you were at camp with have you know a big impact on you or do you remember?

Sherrai Landrum [01:10:37] Yeah. No, I don't remember any.

Jennifer Wagner [01:10:40] Okay.

Sherrai Landrum [01:10:40] Only Mary Story. Even, and Minnehaha, the camp counselor. She was kind of a heavy-set lady and she was real nice and friendly. I remember her, but we didn't never knew their real names. We just called them by the Indian names.

Jennifer Wagner [01:11:02] So what else do you think we should be knowing about Camp Mueller or asking about Camp Mueller?

Sherrai Landrum [01:11:02] Well, I think what you should know about Camp Mueller that it was a very good place for young children to go, especially the children who was in an inner-city who wasn't able to enjoy things like this if they because they parents, they didn't have money to take them places. So that was a good community thing for them to do. They have inner-city children come and go to these places where otherwise they would never be able to go. If it wasn't for like United Way or things like that.

Jennifer Wagner [01:11:39] Are there other questions you think we should be asking about Camp Mueller?

Sherrai Landrum [01:11:40] No, not really you've covered it all. But the eating in that mess hall was a good experience, you know, because we got three meals a day, because at home we always didn't get three meals. We will probably eat. They were like nutritional meals, like toast, maybe eggs, and bacon or something like that. Maybe we'd get a bowl of cereal at home and that was it or something. And lunchtime or maybe we'd get a sandwich. They would give us a sandwich or soup with something. And then have a dessert. That's how I knew you were supposed to have desserts after every meal. No, really. Because when we, when we were at home, we didn't. My mother couldn't afford to have a dessert all the time. We would just have a meal. But then I knew to give my children when I grew up that they could have dessert, too, after the meal, like ice cream or little peaches out of the can or something like that, you know? Yeah, and then I knew to buy fruit for my children. You know, nutritional wise and things like that. Because we had raisins, we'd have fruits, bananas, and things like that. That was a luxury in our house when we were coming up. Yeah.

Jennifer Wagner [01:12:42] How old were you when you got married?

Sherrai Landrum [01:12:44] I was 16 when I got married. That's why I don't keep grandchildren because I told my children I'm not taking care of their children. I took care of them. So they know [my] daughter always tell people. My mother's in the ninth from the '90s. That's when her kids were born in '90s. My mom was for the '90s. She don't keep no children. Well, I go to all their activities like football games and things like that. And my, my children, they played basketball. [My] children were musically inclined. My son played the guitar. Had one son play the drums and they took piano. I had my younger son play piano. They took piano lessons. My, once, oldest son did a guitar lesson and he was in a singing group that was in the community where we lived in Cleveland Heights. And they went different places. They went to California. They went to the Bahamas. And they sang nationally, you know, all around. And my daughter was a dancer and she liked to send her to dance school when she was about three years old because I used to dance at the Cleveland Public Library. They had a dance class there and I used to dance up there myself. So I wanted my daughter to be a dancer, too. So she does she teach praise dancing now she's a dancer at Lakeshore Memorial. They have a dance class there now every year at Collinwood High School. Once a year, they have a recital, and it's their eighth year. This will be their ninth year this year coming up. So she still dances and she's forty-six. Yeah. And so her, she'd take her children to all their activities. I was a strict mom when I was coming up. Anything my children do, did, I knew about it. And now they thought, they'd take their kids and like the kids at school, they know who Ms. Flemming was. My name was Flemming at the time. They know who Ms. Flemming was because I always be up at the school. We go to the Apple Fest and it was going to Fairfax. My kids went to Fairfax, Roxboro, and Cleveland Heights. Everybody knew me. So my kids doing their kids the same way. They part of their lives. So that's important. That's. So that's what the families are disconnected now because the parents don't know how to be parents. They know how to have children, how to make a baby, but they don't know how to be a family person. And family is stricken with mine because, well, I don't want put this on tape, but I'll tell you later, what just happened to me was really sad.

Mark Tebeau [01:15:22] Are there other questions we want to ask?

Jennifer Wagner [01:15:22] Would you want to go back to Camp Mueller?

Sherrai Landrum [01:15:22] Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah. We've, we've been, we've been twice. She took us out there twice. I was ready to go. When I, was when you was ready, I was ready. Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Tebeau [01:15:34] Well, thank you very much. And we'll turn the recording off.

Sherrai Landrum [01:15:37] Okay.

Mark Tebeau [01:15:37] And be finished today.

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.