Ralph Moon, Jr. Interview
Montgomery: Okay, today is October 26th, 2019. I'm Alexandria Montgomery and I'm sitting here with –
Moon: --Ralph Moon, Jr.
Montgomery: Mr. Moon, can you tell be about the artifacts that you bought in, or your memories of the West End Neighborhood?
Moon: Well, I was born in the West End for one thing. I was originally born in the 800 block of York Street, and then my folks moved in the 900 block of York Street, and then around 1950 we moved in with my paternal grandparents at 115 Dayton Street. So my life began as a native of the West End.
Montgomery: Can you tell me about what you bought in as an artifact?
Moon: Yes, I bought in some photos of some stuff I haven't had archived [yet]. Here is a picture, in the mid-1950s taken of the original Cincinnati Baptist Minister's Association, and here is the grandfather I knew most of my life until I met my biological grandfather. This was Reverend Arthur L. Collins, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church. He came to Cincinnati in 1941 and he pastored New Prospect from 1941 to 1961. Dad became ill with respiratory disorders and he wound up passing away in '63. When he had to retire from the pulpit, he was replaced by Reverend Lane.
Second picture I have -- this is a picture of Boy Scout Troupe #550. This was taken in the basement of the old Findlay Street Neighborhood House, located on the corner of Findlay and Bay Miller Street. Today, there's still a neighborhood hose there -- it's under the auspices of Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses. These are the members of the original troupe. Our scout master was Mr. Ruben Golsen and, unfortunately, some of the people in the picture have passed on. But, we had a very, very cohesive troupe. Mr. Golsen was a serious scout master. If we hade a hike, we always hiked at least 10 miles. We thought he was eccentric. However, he knew something that we didn't: which was most of us was going to wind up in military service. So, in his own way, he was preparing us for what he knew was to come.
Here is a picture of New Prospect Baptist Church. This was taken in 1945. This building was at 422 Clinton Street. Now, Clinton was a street that originally ran from Central Avenue down to either Freeman or Bay Miller Street. Geographically, it was two parallel streets to the north of what is now Ezzard Charles Drive. At that time, it was called Lincoln Park Drive. So, the next street going north would have been Betts -- B E T T S -- and then there was Clinton. So, this church was on Clinton street between Central and John. The only remnant of Clinton Street that you can visually see that once was a street is on the south side of Old Washburn Elementary School, which is now CCPA Charter School. When the city invoked eminent domain, this is how New Prospect got from 422 Clinton Street up to the corner of Findlay and Elm street. Interestingly enough, right down the street in the same block was New Saint Paul Baptist Church. So they had to relocate, and that's how they got over on Freeman Avenue. Okay, there's a lot of rich history here.
And the final picture I have is an example of what a photo of an elementary school group used to look like. Now, this was Heberle Elementary. The building is still there, however it's closed and has been sold to private investors. Heberle is located on Freeman Avenue between Dayton Street and Bank Street in the 2100 block of Freeman Avenue. This is a picture of the teacher, and here are all of the children that were in that class. I actually know and I remember everybody's name that's here. I don't remember some of the white kids, but I know all of the black kids. And the only person right here that I don't know whether they're living or not is the young man right here -- Clarence Walker. Otherwise, i know everybody else on this picture. Now, if you notice, the picture is segregated. All of the white kids are together, and then all of the black kids together. But we're not integrated in the picture so it's definitely not a matter of alphabetical order or anything else. Interestingly enough, we never had any racial problems. We just all went to school, and I'm probably sure some of that was the fact that the white kids that some of the white kids were in the same socioeconomic class that we were in. We never had that tension, and I went to Heberle from kindergarten to this sixth grade. It was the only elementary school I attended. So when I look back, that's kind of marvelous. There were never any racial slurs, we all played together on the playground and everything else. It's almost phenomenal to think that -- but that's true.
So, those are four pictures that I bought that I thought might be thought provoking and historical. And, so, there they are.
Montgomery: Thank you. I do have a quick question? When you lectured in our class, you made a really wonderful point about the order of life at that time. How there was, you know, there was this educational aspect. There was social, there was family, there was religious. And how that order in the community was disrupted by the construction of I-75.
Moon: Well, not only was that disrupted, here is the total problem: This was replicated across the total United States. So, if you went to every major metropolitan city, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, Dayton, OH or whatever, all of these interstates were never ran through affluent neighborhoods. And then to make matters worse, and this is not something that is widely spoken about, these were never meant intentionally at the beginning, for domestic transportation. All of this spun out of this thinking coming out of the 40s into the 50s into all of that about 'communist insurgency' and all that kind of stuff. So, if you look at the interstates, they actually are military because every so often you have to have a straightaway -- and that's designed to land fixed-wing aircraft. That's one thing. Number two, in the event that military intervention is exercised, you are trapped in your neighborhood. So, I mean, there's a lot of other dynamics that go on other than traveling from one place to another. The second thing is, the infrastructure of all these neighborhoods was totally decimated. And our business structure was decimated forever. Here's what I mean -- all of our service industries -- our restaurants, our beauty parlours, our barber shops -- they were all gone. And with businesses like that, you just can't pick up, move on the other side of town, and think that you can be able to duplicate the clientele, revenue, and everything else. So, many of our business people, not only were they out of business, the other thing is they in fact wound up having to go find a job. So to go from [being] an entrepreneur back to an hourly wage doing something, these are things that are never spoken about. And if you want to know the truth about it, we've never recovered from that. And we're talking about 60 years ago -- in the transition and in the development of this kind of thing. So, that was very disruptive and has had long lasting consequences. Okay. Yes.
Montgomery: Thank you.