May 20, 2004
Tape 1, Side 1
Diaz: My name is Davin Diaz, it's May 20, 2004. We're in the Social and Behavior Science Building at Cal State San Bernardino. I'm with Joanne Deyon and we'll be discussing the history of San Bernardino. My first question to you is could you just state your full name.
Deyon: My full name is Joanne Eugenia Deyon.
Diaz: And can you state your birth date.
Deyon: My birthday is January 15, 1942.
Diaz: Okay, and when did you first come to San Bernardino?
Deyon: We first came to San Bernardino to visit in the early 50's and we moved here from San Francisco in September 1959.
Diaz: When you say we, who's...
Deyon: My mom and I.
Diaz: Your mom and you?
Deyon: Yes, I'm a member of a single parent family.
Diaz: And why were you two coming to San Bernardino?
Deyon: My mother was the kind of person that loved traveling and we had family here. Coming from San Francisco she wanted a quieter lifestyle than the big city. So since other members of the family had moved to San Bernardino she figured she would come too.
Diaz: What was your first impression?
Deyon: I didn't like this place. Number one, the winds always blew, it was always hot and it was small, much smaller than San Francisco and much quieter than San Francisco.
Diaz: You were 17?
Deyon: No, I was 16.
Deyon: Yes, yes.
Deyon: Yes, yes.
Diaz: Where did you guys move to, which part?
Deyon: We were on the west side of San Bernardino. That would be considered, it would be bounded by Highland going north towards our campus here and south would be bound, it would be in the area of Fifth Street where we have numerous parks now, that area now. So it was a lovely little area.
Diaz: Did you guys move into a... was it a Black community?
Deyon: Oh yes. We lived on the sixteen-hundred block of Ninth Street, which was just off of Muscott, before Muscott became Medical Center Drive.
Diaz: So was it a large Black community?
Deyon: Yes, because the majority... well it was mixed, but the majority was still Black. Most all the families lived in what was considered the projects in that area on Ninth Street.
Diaz: And since you were 16, did you attend the high school?
Deyon: Oh yes, and that's the other reason why I didn't want to come. I was in my last year of high school and I attended San Bernardino High, before Rialto came into existence.
Diaz: What was your impression of the high school?
Deyon: I didn't like it either, because it didn't have no air conditioning. The summers down here in those days were hot. It could get to be 115 in the shade, that's literally, that's not figuratively. And coming from a climate like San Francisco to down here it took me awhile to get used to the climate.
Diaz: Did you fit in at Berdoo or?
Deyon: Yes, because I already had family and members of the church who had children and they would introduce me to their friends.
Diaz: Let's deal with the hard stuff first. What was the racial composition of Berdoo?
Deyon: Oh that was nice because the minorities were in the area that went to "E" Street, and "E" Street was like one of the dividing lines. Then on the other side of Waterman in what they called then the Valley _____________________ of the valley was the other dominant African-American community. The west side was more of an upscale community for the African-American community because when they left the Valley ___________________ of the valley area, when they came to the west side they were purchasing homes and really laying down solid roots. But from what I could understand from what they explained to me, it was as if the valley, which bordered around Waterman and that area was the first real area for African-Americans in San Bernardino. The base at Norton had a lot to do with bringing Black folks into this area.
Diaz: That's through employment?
Deyon: Uh huh. It was the predominant employer in those days. Everybody worked at the base. I mean there were other jobs in town, but from what we understood it was the primary source at the time for employment.
Diaz: What did your mother do for employment?
Deyon: My mom was more like domestic help.
Diaz: Would that just be working...Deyon: Working in homes. After she got sick, then she went on her social security benefits, but at first she was a domestic help.
Diaz: Was that a steady job or just...
Deyon: No, it was steady; it was steady work.
Diaz: What did you do after graduation?
Deyon: After graduation I went to Valley. By that time San Bernardino Valley College... by that time my mom had decided that she wanted to go back to San Francisco so we were here from the first time from 1959 'til about '60-'61. Old people get kind of fuzzy on the years, but it was early 60's.
Diaz: So you were only here for a couple years?
Deyon: Yes, the first time. That was the first time. The second time, after I was married, then we came back. There was an old saying in the community that once you drink the water in this place you will return; so I lived up to the legend. My husband and I came down in the early 60's and we were here until the late 60's. Unfortunately, I think wanderlust is a part of the family genes because we came here; my oldest son was born here in 1963 and by 1964 or 1965 we had moved to Texas because he was in construction. Construction work at certain times of the year would be non-existent down here due to the early weather patterns. There were times it could rain for weeks on end and then sometimes it wouldn't rain at all.
Diaz: I wanted to digress for a minute. You said you went to Valley right out of high school?
Diaz: I wanted to digress for a minute. You said you went to Valley right out of high school?
Deyon: Yes, Valley College.
Diaz: This is the early 60's. What was the idea of like a young Black woman going to college? Was there any...
Deyon: I found it to be very nice. When I say nice, what I am saying is there were no visible obstacles. If you wanted to go that was fine. As long as you did your class work that was fine. The camaraderie of the campus, everybody was in their own little group so everybody has always known where the boundary lines were, so nobody really crossed the boundary line. We just stayed in our own groups.
Diaz: You said everybody knew the boundary lines?
Deyon: Uh huh.
Diaz: What were they?
Deyon: Well I mean you know, it's like you developed a habit of eating in certain places and you just automatically ate in those places. You socialized in those places, so that's what I call knowing the boundary lines and staying within them.
Diaz: So was Valley like segregated or just?
Deyon: No, not visibly, and we didn't feel any pressure to do anything different. We just hung around with our own group.
Diaz: It didn't have a sign that said, "Whites only, Blacks only," but in respect to...
Diaz: ... staying in a corner of the cafeteria.
Deyon: Yes, everybody would just congregate in that corner. Now by being born in the 40's, leaving Louisiana about '43-'44 and going to San Francisco and returning, but being a small child you didn't pay that much attention to signs and stuff.
Diaz: The second time you returned to San Bernardino from San Francisco, what was your impression?
Deyon: It was the same. San Bernardino does not change itself. By then, the only change is I was older, I was married and we lived on Wilson Street in the projects here, and where we were was predominantly Blacks. We did have some Spanish neighbors, but it was predominantly Black.
Diaz: Were you still going to school?
Deyon: Uh uh.
Diaz: No. When you got married you stopped going to school?
Deyon: I stopped going to school and got ready to become mom, wife and all this other good stuff.
Diaz: Did you just... is that like the norm?
Deyon: Yes. Like I said, the idea of marriage in the community was almost a cornerstone of the community, especially if you married a minister then you had all the extra obligations that are surrounding your lifestyle.
Diaz: Did you meet your husband in San Francisco?
Deyon: Yes, I met him in San Francisco. Because when you came to San Francisco in the 40's, by my mom being a single parent and the church community really believed in taking under their wing those children that had single parents. The pastor would look after the kid and the mother and so would the rest of the membership. They would fill in like an extended family, like you would inherit aunts, uncles, cousins; the extended family would come into play. So yes, being married to a young minister and you are young yourself adds to the responsibility because then they look at you in a different light and then as well as they can they try to prepare you for what they consider will be your ultimate leadership role as youth minister, as pastor and someday according to the tradition you will pastor your own church. So they wanted you to be well prepared.
Diaz: What do you mean by "well prepared?"
Deyon: They would make sure you take certain classes and that you would know how to deal with the community. The only thing is in those days between the 60's and 70's we were still... ministers and minister's wives were looked at as the ultimate pillar of the community. So if you had any personal problems, like you would want to choke him, you would hang onto it until you got home and then you would discuss it or you would be too tired to discuss it. But anyway, you almost became this icon of society. The rest of the community would explain all their problems to you, but as ministers and minister's wives you really had no one except other ministers and minister's wives to talk to.
Diaz: Did this take place in San Bernardino?
Deyon: Yes, but by the time I had grown into the role we had meetings where minister's wives could attend their meetings and ministers would go to theirs and then in those meetings you could kind of do what the old folks say, "let your hair down," because there was more of a camaraderie and you could talk about your problems in those meetings, but you didn't say too much. Because I mean the group still was not... how do you say it in plain English? They could not handle all the problems and some of them were not trustworthy. Because to go into your deepest emotional push-pull of the church, of the membership of just the family relationship of how to deal with your children, how to deal with the congregation's children, you couldn't go into the ultimate details because they were having the same problems and they didn't know what to tell you except the old adages that whatever was going on God would give you strength to handle it. Sometimes that can be a cop out as well as something to stand behind to keep from really having to deal with the problem.
Diaz: These minister's wives meetings, this was taking place in San Bernardino?
Deyon: Yes, still now, still now, but I don't get to go because I'm divorced. I was one of the first to break the mold and upset the community. They were very nice because I still meet people that ask me how is the Reverend, and I give them all the bad news and tell them straight, "He's dead, but we were divorced," because for ministers and minister's wives to get a divorce between the 80's was unheard of. I mean it was done, but there was always a stigma attached to it. One of you had committed adultery. You just couldn't go with incompatibility, even as late as the 80's because we were divorced in the 80's and incompatibility to the community was not a nice word. See what happened to us, both of us got married like when we were 18-19 years old. Within three years we had the first son and two years after that, so that the kids are five years apart, we had the children in the spaces between. Being a pillar of society and constantly on the go, we were so busy taking care of everything else that we really didn't concentrate on ourselves. So then that means at a certain point in time that you will normally grow apart. By the time he had started pastoring, the boys then were in high school and in middle school. The kids were always active; they were in sports, they were in band and being a good mother I would always attend. Royal, my ex, he was involved in the church. We were almost in the process of building, so all the pressures were like meetings on top of meetings. I would leave notes, "Dear husband, your suit is on the door to the bedroom, banquet starts at 7:00; as soon as I get home I will join you at the banquet." So the further you pull yourselves apart, the quicker you are going downhill.
Diaz: You guys were living in San Bernardino?
Deyon: Uh huh.
Diaz: What was the reaction of the community?
Deyon: Oh, it was shock. The idea of separation between these two lovely people. Like Dr. Campbell would always say, "God fearing, loved the Lord type of people," was in shock. It was done very quietly because I'm not the type of person that's going to cry all over the place in public. I never was good at making scenes. I don't like to be around stuff that makes scenes. So we just, most of the folks had read it in the paper. That was strange.
Diaz: Was it an article or just...
Deyon: Just in the Redlands statistics column
Diaz: Was it in the Sun?
Deyon: Uh huh, and I saw no need to save it, but one of my buddies told me, yes I read it... so yes.
Diaz: Who asked who for like the...
Deyon: Oh he divorced me. Yes. Well I mean it was falling apart so... by then I was working as an instructional aide for the school district and this lovely gentleman... I had already notified the office that I would be receiving the papers. I was expecting them anytime anyway, but I notified the office so when the man comes just call me and tell me he's here. And they were trying to protect me and fortunately I had gone to the office to deliver something from the classroom and when I stepped out of the office the gentleman was coming through the door and he asked me what my name was and I told him, "I'm Joanne Deyon." He said, "You're Joanne Deyon?" I said, "Yes." He said, "I have something for you." So he laid them in my hand and I went, "cool." So that's how it started. The children are the only thing that... because they were like in their late teens, early 20's and they loved their dad; we all loved him our own ways. But it made them, it upset them and they're still, the youngest two are still going through tough times. Being that I was the only parent that was in the area that they could really vent their frustration on, I became the brunt of it until now. They're in their 40's, 30's and late 20's and they're coming to grips with the whole situation and they're beginning to understand that it takes two people to get married and it takes two people to end the thing, even badly.
Diaz: How many children do you have?
Deyon: I have three. I have two sons and one daughter. The daughter is the baby. Yes, because I mean you know her father worked her hard and when things went south she was like 11, 12, 13, so it left her very angry, very angry.
Diaz: I want to get to the heart of something real quick.
Diaz: What was the civil rights movement like in Berdoo, in San Bernardino? Of course you were involved with the church when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Was there...
Deyon: It was more... it's really kind of difficult to put it in words because we were sort of ... because we had desegregation here and it's funny but you had people like Francis Grice and others of her caliber that would fight so that we got the busses we need, the transportation to transport the kids back and forth. Because being that the predominantly two schools were San Bernardino High and Pacific, so then it like split San Bernardino into two separate areas; those that were on the west side of Waterman and the west side of "E" Street would automatically go to Berdoo. And those that were in the Waterman area, what we call the Valley area, they would all go to Pacific. The busses were provided for the children.
Diaz: This was done by, what was her name?
Deyon: Francis Grice and a few others I can't name because I can't remember them right off. But she fought very hard in the early 70's in that area to make sure that they were not walking longer distance than necessary to get to school. But in 1959 we had bus service. The busses would come to Muscott , Muscott and Ninth Street to be exact, and pick us up in the morning and bring us back. But if we had extra activities like the Girls' Athletic Association, GAA they used to call it. It would all be done on Saturdays and it would be done at Valley College. Then you could have a problem with transportation. Usually a mother would be placed in the driver's seat and all the girls that were going would get together and they would all go in one car or two cars or something like that to Valley College to participate in the sporting event.
Diaz: Did you participate?
Deyon: Because I was not a happy camper. I know I'm digressing, but when I came down from San Francisco it was just, it was just too complicated to do all that stuff where we had our sports and stuff was done on a daily basis. It would be done after school. We would catch the municipal transit and come home, go back to school or whatever. But to do all that stuff on Saturdays, I didn't even get involved. My senior year was very quiet.
Diaz: Since we're talking about school, where did you children go?
Deyon: Yes, all three of them started at Ramona Alexander, it's on Seventh and Medical Center now, but that was Seventh and Muscott. They went from first grade, no second grade. The oldest one, we got back here... this is going to sound funny, this is in the 70's now. When we came back to San Bernardino... [End of side 1]
Tape 1, Side 2:
Diaz: Okay we're back. I had to flip the tape.
Deyon: The boys went all the way through the San Bernardino school system and so did their sister. By the time the divorce had happened it caught the two youngest ones. The oldest one had already graduated from Pacific and he had already enrolled in Valley College, but by affecting the two youngest ones, the youngest son and the youngest daughter, they went through the school system and one went to San Andreas and the other one went to Sierra. But it was just for the simple reason in the continuation schools they were able to move as fast as they could and getting away from their friends helped them to do better. Because the style was that as fast as you could complete the work, that would be the sooner that you could graduate, so it worked for both of them. The daughter is now in Texas with her own three daughters, and she's in the medical field. The youngest son is in Texas also and he works onshore and offshore with the piping industry. He works to test the wells; he's like a well tester inspector. He uses a scope to look for cracks and stuff, and if he finds them then they will have to tear them out and put in new wells to pump the oil and all the good stuff, so they are growing up.
Diaz: You said the oldest graduated from Pacific?
Deyon: Yes, my oldest son graduated from Pacific. I can't even remember the year.
Diaz: From Pacific in the 70's right?
Deyon: Yes, 70's, 80's yes.
Diaz: So you guys moved from the west side?
Deyon: Uh uh, no we stayed on the west side, we moved around on the west side. We did cross Baseline temporarily and we lived in what they called then Magnolia Estates. It was right across Baseline before you get to Highland, that area right there became known as Magnolia Estates. We lived there for awhile.
Diaz: I asked the question because you said prior that west of Waterman, that was Berdoo?
Deyon: Well "E" Street was almost like a dividing line in the city and those that lived on the other side, it would be east of Waterman would, I think they still do in some areas consider that as dividing. But for our community "E" Street was the dividing line.
Diaz: But the school district didn't establish...
Deyon: No, no, no I don't know how they did their division because that would be a whole other ballgame.
Diaz: Yes, before I thought you meant that that was the dividing line and everybody west of that went to Berdoo and... We need to wrap it up real quick. Is there anything you would like to add?
Deyon: San Bernardino had this quality of being provincial. What I mean by that, the old ways die very hard here, but I have been here long enough to see certain changes slowly but surely take place in San Bernardino. Because coming down in the late 50's early 60's, well late 50's we were able to sleep outside, leave the doors unlocked. You didn't lock the cars either when we came down. I think that was one of the reasons that my mom decided to leave San Francisco, because anybody knows the atmosphere of a big city can be quite hectic. And here is a place you could come and, well it would remind the ancestors of the old country, of Louisiana and Texas or whatever, you know? It would be the camaraderie of the neighborhood. I like the idea that San Bernardino is growing up and developing a few of the city ways.
Diaz: You mean today?
Diaz: I thank you.
Deyon: I hope this helps you.
End of Tape