Catherine Bowman, the fifth child of six, at 86 years old is a third-generation Georgetowner. Born in 1924 to a mother and grandfather that both lived in Georgetown all of their lives, she has seen many changes occur, particularly in regards to race. She loves correcting anyone that says that Georgetown was once “all-black”. In her words, “Georgetown was never ‘all-black’. They had their section and we had ours.” That section was a tight-knit community at the eastern edge of Georgetown, just before Rock Creek and the bridges to Dupont Circle and the West End/Foggy Bottom. This community centered around five churches and Rose Park. Catherine, who has lived in her P Street house since 1927 when her parents purchased it, provides a glimpse into life in “Black Georgetown” by sharing stories about growing up here, former residents, community amenities and the socioeconomic changes she has witnessed.
Ronda Bernstein: OK, it is Friday, February 12th at 11:25 AM, I am at the home of Catherine Bowman, at 2727 P Street Northwest, and we are about to start our interview. So, thank you, Ms. Bowman, I appreciate you letting me come into your home today.
Catherine Bowman: Oh, I am delighted. I was so happy to find out where you were, and that you lived in Georgetown. I was really surprised, I was really shocked. But, I have been living here since 1927. This home was bought in 1927 and my family, my mother — it was six of us — we all resided here, and I am the only one living here at the present time. I have a brother. He’s a historian, as we say, of the “Black Georgetown.”
Oh, things have changed in Georgetown. It has really, really changed. The school system, my neighborhood, when integration came along everything changed. Mainly people used to, who brought up here, said that black people were trying to live the whole section of Georgetown, but that is not true.
Certain sections of Georgetown were black, because we still had schools in here. We had two white schools here and two black schools. But then mainly, let’s say that black school was named Philips, the elementary school, and Wormley Elementary School. And the white schools were Jackson Elementary and Corcoran School. Jackson’s up on R street, they still have Jackson School. That is a, I want to say some kind of gallery, I think now.
But mainly on my section of P Street we were mostly black and on the other side of street were black, and on this side of the street were integrated. We had a playground on 27th and P, no 26 and P, there was a playground called Rose Park. That was all black, but now it’s integrated. Mostly white. [laughs]
Ronda: Mostly dogs.
Catherine: [laughs] Mostly dogs. They have really taken it over. They have actually taken it over. But I am amazed at what’s happening there now. And Dr. Marshall was here. He was very influential here in Georgetown. He was the one that had integrated the tennis courts down there because mostly black people used the tennis courts and then gradually we had the white people tennis courts.
And with the churches we still have, [sighs] Let me see — we still had one, two, three, four black churches around. Three, no, was it four? Let me see, three – one, two, three – Baptist churches and one Methodist church and we had the Epiphany, which was a Catholic church. That was all black, but mostly, now that one is a black church, but I understand now, they only have about three families there. Because most of the people move out of town, move out of the section, and they have to come back. Which they say is a hardship coming back and find a parking space. But my theory is, if you want to come some place you can find a place to park.
Ronda: Now what were the other three black churches?
Catherine: Are they still here? Yes. They’re still here. And they’re still functioning. One is at 26th and P, the other is at 27th and Dumbarton Avenue. And the other one is on N street in the 2700 block of N street. And the Epiphany’s around – that’s a black church – and that’s on the 2700 block of Dumbarton Avenue. We’re all still functioning. But we don’t know how, but we’re still functioning. And in my neighborhood, let me see, on 27th and, let me see, in the 1500 block and 1400 block of 26th street there were nothing but black families.
But, mainly why the black people moved, there were a lot of rentals. And they didn’t have the proper jobs to have the money to buy the homes. And when the desegregation came the realtors wanted their places. So, they had to get up and move, which was a hardship for a lot of them.
Now, some of them could afford to stay here. But they didn’t, because they didn’t think Georgetown was an up-and-coming place. They moved further, in different neighborhoods. Now, a lot of them would like to come back but can’t afford it. [laughs]
And we had a good time. I had my friends. As I said, most of them have moved out. I don’t see too many of them now. But in the back — we have an alley back there. We used to have all our neighbors over here, we used to have a club called the Jolly Juniors. And every summer we would have a little carnival in the back yard.
Ronda: Now, is this when you were growing up?
Catherine: Yeah, that’s when we were growing up. Because I come from a family of six of us. And my neighbors, we would all come around, we’d put our little presents and you know, just have a good time. And I didn’t say children don’t play. We used to go around and play with each other. We’d play hopscotch.
And then, around on 29th Street where black people lived. I’ll tell you, we lived from here up to this block, 28th and P. And then, before or after that, it became white all the way up to 32nd Street. And then, black people lived all up on 32nd Street. And then we went further up, and they went to something called Herring Hills, I think. Holy Hills, up there by Trinity, by Georgetown University, black people lived up there.
And the streets – Dumbarton Avenue, they called that Dumbarton Street. That was Dumbarton Avenue when we grew up. It was always “Avenue.” And there was Prospect Street. They called that Prospect Street. That was Prospect Avenue. And the little street back here, it was nothing but an alley. [laughs] They call that Poplar Street now. And as I said, black people lived all back there. Black, this was a whole area of black.
Ronda: So, from basically 28th Street to Rose Park.
Catherine: All over that area was black. Yes. Because, further up here on Q Street, that was always white. And all up there, in that block was white, because I never remember white people living all back there.
But we got along with them. I did, because — I guess we played together, you know, as kids do play together. And we had a doctor over there, Dr. C. Herbert Marshall. His father was a doctor. And he was like the mayor of Georgetown for the black people. If we had any problems, we would go to him.
Ronda: What was his name again?
Catherine: Dr. C. Herbert Marshall. His grandson still is over here. As I said originally, right now there’s only five old-Georgetowners who still live here. Let me see. That would be the Jacksons, the Waterses, the Bowmans, the Marshalls, the Hughes, and the Peoples. And the little girl around the corner, the 1400 block of 28th Street. Her name? Mildred Burnett.
Now, those are the only five that I remember that still live here. As I said, there might be some more, but I haven’t met them. And we wondered, how can we get in touch with — like you. [laughs] Now, how long have you been here?
Ronda: A year and a half. June, 2008 that we bought our house.
Catherine: Oh, and you’ve been living up here since then?
Ronda: I walk by here all the time.
Catherine: Do you?
Ronda: I do.
Catherine: And you’ve never seen me, out front?
Ronda: No. I never see anybody.
Catherine: Is that right? Well, I am happy. And let me see what else I can tell you …
Ronda: Well, let me ask you. You said your mom bought this house.
Catherine: My mom and dad bought this house, in 1927.
Ronda: Where did they live before?
Catherine: Here, right in Georgetown. My mother was born here in Georgetown. In fact, she got married across the street as I understand. Yes, she lived here all the time. My father lived right up in Bethesda, Maryland. He was from Maryland.
Ronda: Do you know what year your mom was born?
Catherine: Oh, in there, where was my mom, eighteen, eighteen — I can go upstairs and get it real fast for you. 1895? No 1895, how old would that have been? 1895 how old would that make her?
Ronda: That would make her 22 when she bought the house, when they bought, no a little bit older than that.
Catherine: All I know is she bought the house in 1927. We moved here in January — was it January 1927? They bought the house in 1927 and my younger sister was born in July of 1927.
Ronda: So where were you all living before then?
Catherine: Oh all of them were born over here in Georgetown. I was the only one who was born across the bridge. I lived on 24th Street and the rest of them, I think we just lived over there for about two or three years but all the rest of us was born right here in this vicinity.
Ronda: OK, so what year were you born?
Ronda: OK, so not long before you all moved here.
Catherine: No, no.
Ronda: So you’re the oldest of six?
Catherine: No, no. There they all are lined up there. [points to photos on the mantle] I’m not the oldest, no, I am next to the youngest.
Catherine: And my younger sister is seven or eight years — I’m next to the youngest. It was a big family. Let me see what else. And we all went to church here. When we were growing up, we would participate. The children would all go together in the neighborhoods. We weren’t really scattered, we were all one happy family over here. In our block, we were one happy family.
We would go around every Christmas time, we would go visiting each other, like they used to do but they don’t do that anymore. And we would go to church and have numerous things, but it was just a happy neighborhood. And Georgetown, the black people lived up off of Wisconsin Avenue, over there in Georgetown there were all these little shacks and things up on, let’s see Georgetown, up on South Street. You know where South Street is?
Catherine: Black people used to live all up in there. Bells Court, a place called it Bell’s Court. Black people used to live up there but their houses were nothing. Just outside, just little shacks. And then as I said, they rented them. But what happened, they had to get out when times changed.
And people used to say, “People in Georgetown do nothing,” you know, nobody put anything into other people, black people didn’t think anything of Georgetown, “Oh, you’re from Georgetown.”
And to the day, they will tell you Georgetown was all black. But that was never true. And I was at the precinct recently and I told a girl that. She said, “Oh really, Georgetown. You’re still there? It was all black.” I said, “No, you all have the wrong perception. It was partlyblack. We had a certain section. It was like anything else. We were part of a section and they had their little section.”
Ronda: So which of the churches did you go to when you were growing up?
Catherine: Mt. Zion, all my life, Mt. Zion United Methodist Church. We used to have all kinds of activities for the children. We had all kinds of activities. We had a bible school in the summertime. And well, let’s say, the churches around here, we were always, all the black churches, the Catholic churches, we were all interwoven. We would go from one church to the other. They would have bible class down there [points south] and we would go there. If they [points east] had something in the evening, we would just all join together. One happy family.
Ronda: Was the church a big part of the community?
Catherine: Yeah. Our church was a big part of the community because we had Mt. Zion, and my brother will speak about it. We had a little house around the corner. We called it a Community House, around from the church, and it’s the oldest cottage in Washington, DC. We cannot tear it down.
And my brother works out of there. We have records and things in there. He will discuss that with you when you see him about it. And we have a cemetery up here. You’ve heard of the Mt. Zion cemetery. That’s where the slaves were, some of the Underground slaves. And our place was where the Underground slaves stayed.
Ronda: Which place?
Catherine: Our church.
Ronda: The church was…?
Catherine: The church was a place where they came. And then, they have a vault up in the cemetery.
Ronda: Oh okay, interesting.
Catherine: There’s a vault up there. We had the streetcars, used to roll up and down here. We used to have streetcar tracks up here. And we used to sit out there and wait for the streetcars to come by. And we used to skate in the street and we used to play ball. It was just a lovely neighborhood.
And I say, as time changed you could see the white neighborhood coming in, taking over. Over in that section, those houses down there was nothing but black people. All on that side was black. Now, mostly white on that side now, they are. Let me see: one, two, three? Yeah, on the other side.
Ronda: On the south side of P?
Catherine: Um-hmm. And all down the 2400 block of P was black. 27th Street – all of the street, practically black.
Ronda: When would you say the transformation started to happen?
Catherine: I guess … was it 1955 when integration really started? Well, I think it really started when the Kennedys came in. That was really the transformation. That’s when the Kennedys came in.
Ronda: Because he lived here as a Senator.
Catherine: Yes, he lived here as a Senator. And that’s when the Democrats came in. That’s when the big change came, and you could just see the neighborhood changing.
Ronda: OK. So, what about things like services? Stores and things like that. What was that like when you were growing up?
Catherine: Oh, good. On the corner down there, we had a black drugstore. On the corner, it’s down there with…
Ronda: Down there? What’s that, 26th?
Catherine: 27th and P Street. We had druggist. Her name was Mrs. Smith, named, Dr. Carlotta Smith. She had a drugstore. And she had a (soda) fountain down there. We would go into the fountain, and sit down and see a regular pharmacist. So we a had druggist.
And we had black shoemakers in Georgetown. And on M Street, we had a fellow named Cy — Cy the tailor. He made beautiful clothes. And he used to make clothes for the guys at Georgetown University.
Plenty beauticians. We had lots of beauticians in Georgetown. And we had another fellow. He was an older man named Mr. Martin. He had a gasoline station at 24th and M. He had a great big Gulf gasoline station.
Let me see. And I think at 26th, a shoemaker. And at 26th and P Street, we had a bakery. A fellow used to have a bakery there. A Mr. Merritt, he had a barbershop on M Street. Let me see, that’s above Wisconsin Avenue. That must have been the 3300 block of M Street. He was a black barber.
And we had a black movie theater.
Ronda: Oh, which theater was that?
Catherine: [laughs] Once, it was called the Blue Mouse Theatre. Then we changed it to the Mott Theatre. That was over here on 26th and M Street. Right across from where the bridge — you know, where the M Street Bridge — right on that little street, there was a theater. That’s what we used to do on Saturdays, go to the movies. [laughs]
Ronda: Is that where the embassy is now?
Catherine: Yes. What embassy? I don’t know what embassy that…
Ronda: I don’t know the name of it.
Catherine: In that block, there was a lady named Miss Mattie. She had a little delicatessen there. But, black people had lots of…
Now, I’m trying to think of what was around on 28th Street. Now, the shoe shop was around here. We had the shoe shop around here, and what else around here? Maybe somebody else can think. But I know that much, we had Cy the tailor, barbershops. We had two barber shops. One was down at 28th and Penn. And then the other one was up at 33rd and M Street. And Cy the Tailor, yes. And down here we had a tailor shop down in the next block. His name was Burt the Tailor. We had Mr. Clarence Warren. He had a moving company. He had a hauling company. We had quite a few black people that were here that did lots of things.
Ronda: And then you said that the Marshalls were the doctor?
Catherine: Yeah, Dr. C Herbert Marshall.
Ronda: And I know, that building is also in the 2600 block, the house where he is, where his son is.
Catherine: No. That’s it right across the street. His son’s right there. Right there. That gray…, yeah.
Ronda: Oh, Oh. Right there at the corner? Oh.
Catherine: Yeah, right there. That gray house right there. With the front on it right. Yeah, that’s where his son, his grandson lives there now. Yeah.
Ronda: Oh, OK. Oh, OK. I was thinking it was down.
Catherine: No, no, no, no.
Well the playground was our main place of business. Because, ok, we has this couple called the Peter sisters. They were well known in the tennis field. They won all kinds of medals. But it wasn’t like it was years …, you know? The last one died about last year, the Peter sisters. And they lived around in the 2700 block. 2700 block O Street. Yeah they went to Tuskegee. They were twins. They were sisters. They came back here and taught school. They had another fellow named Jabbo Kenner. He used to box. Yeah, yeah, we had quite a few. Lots and lots of teachers that lived over here.
Ronda: Now the Park which starts at P Street now and goes all the way down to M, has it always been that big?
Catherine: No, no. They never put in a Rose Park. We never went that far. They have increased the Rose Park playground. No. We had before then, no. It was smaller than that. And we had a little house. And first we had a little house. And then a little lady that used to handle it, name of Mrs. McKinney. She used to be the director of it. But in the last 10 or 15 years, they had expanded it.
Ronda: OK. Where did it used to stop?
Catherine: Right by the tennis courts. Right there. It was stopped, right by the tennis courts. It was a house right next to the tennis court. When you’d come up those steps, it would stop there. And then they had expanded it to go all the way down to M street.
Ronda: Well what in the area where they expanded it what used to be there? Was it trees? Or where there houses?
Catherine: It was just open territory. Just open land. Was the church there beside it but, right back of it, there was nothing but open land. We went to Rose Park playground and we just stopped there. And you could hear. It wasn’t nothing like that. And you could hear, the guys would play basketball and things down there. But see now they have a, beautiful basketball court and everything else. Oh, and then we had a Francis pool. That’s a costly pool. That was a black pool too.
Catherine: Francis Pool was nothing but black people at times. It belonged to Francis Junior High School. But that came under the recreation. We had Charlie Drew. He used to work at the pool when he was growing up. He lived in Virginia, but he came here and worked at the pool.
Rose Park didn’t extend that far. And the lady, the last lady that worked at Rose Park, she died this year too. She was amazed when she came. She said, “It never used to stop right there, Catherine.” I said, “I know it didn’t.” Then they started having like a daycare center. And she would be in charge of the daycare center. And then she knew a lot of the white kids around here because their parents would come down there. And then we’d have a knitting club, and lots and lots of activities.
Ronda: Now when was this? With the day care and the knitting club? When did all that start?
Catherine: 20 years ago? Let me — how old is…? I’m trying to see how old — let me see. I’m trying to figure. I have to think about the kids now. [mumbles under breath] Let me see. How old is my niece? I have to think how old my niece is. [mumbles] She’s 44. That must have been about 40 years ago. Yeah.
Ronda: So 40?
Catherine: 40 years, because, yeah, because. Yeah, it would have to be that, because… Yeah, but let’s say it just stopped about 10 or 15 years ago. It just stopped because the house closed and I think they couldn’t get anybody else to… I think the Recreation Department — I don’t know how it runs now — the Recreation Department, because they have a house there that’s not open any more, but they used to have someone come over.
The ladies used to come over, and the parents used to go down there and knit and everything. When did it stop? I don’t know. It must have stopped about 20 years ago. I don’t know.
Ronda: Now my understanding is that the playground at Rose Park was always integrated; that the park wasn’t segregated. No?
Catherine: [chuckles] OK. When I was coming up, wasn’t nothing but black people at the playground. [laughs] And then, the tennis court was the first thing that got integrated and Dr. Marshall was — saw that that. We had Gene Kelly, the movie star, he used to come there and play on the playground, play tennis down there. [laughs]
But no, no, [chuckles] no, it has not always been integrated. No. In the later years, no way. When I was coming up, Rose Park was a black playground.
Ronda: OK, and the rest? Even like the park grounds, basically it was all segregated?
Catherine: Yes. Yes Indeed. Yes. [laughs] I’d like to see that. No, no, black people — no white people came down, no. Until they started having the playschool down there and I guess that was about 40 years ago.
I guess it must have been about 40 years ago when they started that. I’m trying to think how old, because a girl used to always ask me about Simon, the fellow down on the corner, he’s married now.
Ronda: Jacobson. Simon Jacobson.
Catherine: You know Simon Jacobson?
Ronda: I used to tutor him. In architecture school, yeah.
Catherine: Did you? Is that right?
Ronda: Small world.
Catherine: OK, they used to live in this first house here. This first house like these up here. This first house. That’s where his father started his business.
Ronda: Oh, OK.
Catherine: OK. His father started his business right there, and he had this fellow — this black fellow — that worked for him. Do you know the guy that used to work for him?
Ronda: No. So Hugh Jacobsen’s house, the one right at the corner, across from Griffin Market?
Catherine: No. It’s a house that’s made just like this. Like at the first house. That’s 27…
Ronda: Oh, the first row house.
Catherine: The first row house – 273…
Ronda: 35. OK.
Catherine: That’s where Hugh Jacobsen started. Yes, I knew it. See, that’s what I said. I’d see him [laughs and imitates dignified accent] “Is that so?”
Ronda: Because he lives on O Street now.
Catherine: No. He lives on P — on 28th Street.
Ronda: Oh 28th, right.
Catherine: Yeah, right down on P. His father lives on one side of the house and he lives on the other side of the street. His office is down in the 2600 block. His office is down there. I knew all of them. I knew all of them when they were young.
Ronda: Oh, OK.
Catherine: Yeah, because Mr. Jacobsen, because he’d always stop and I’d ask him how his wife is doing and he’d say, “She’s not well. No.” Because the house he lives in, Mr. Hugh Jacobsen, he had built — he had fixed and remodeled that house for somebody else.
Black people used to live in that house a long time ago. Black people used to live all down there. That was all black. All black.
Ronda: So, now the places –so basically, north of Q Street there weren’t black people.
Catherine: Not until you hit 32nd Street.
Catherine: That’s right. Basically Q street was those big houses where white people — black people worked for those people.
Ronda: Right, except for the school. Jackson School was up there by Montrose Park.
Catherine: That was white at one time. That was a white school.
Ronda: Oh, that was a white school.
Catherine: And my niece went to that school because, when she went there, let me see, I tell you when she went there — she went there for the third through the sixth grade, I think.
Ronda: So they were all elementary schools.
Catherine: That was elementary school, and yes she went. And they didn’t have many children at that school then because, OK, they had the white schools over here. But most of these people – white people – send their children to private schools, and that’s why the white schools closed before the black schools – because the white people always send their children to private school. [laughs]
That’s why there were no blacks over here, no whites over here, but they all went to private school. Because as my sister, my older sister – she would have been 90 I guess – she used to babysit and she said the kids she used to babysit for, their parents used to send them to white schools.
Ronda: So, when things — you weren’t actually here – you weren’t born yet. And I was trying to figure out when Montrose Park was…
Catherine: Oh, well see, that’s where the white people went to – Montrose Park – and we went to Rose Park. See, there it is, Montrose Park, that’s where the white people went to, Montrose Park.
Ronda: OK. Was there a playground there as well?
Catherine: Yeah, they had a playground there. But we never went up there. No, we didn’t go there. No. It was like segregation. We went to Rose Park.
Ronda: So it was just sort of an understanding?
Catherine: An understanding. You grow up that way, you know, so you understand it — this is ours and that’s theirs. You know.
Ronda: Right. So, what about doing things like, when you would ride the trolley to other parts of the city? What was the city like when you were…
Catherine: We didn’t have any trouble riding the trolley. Unless, one time when we went over to Virginia you had to change, get on the back, and OK, we had a park up called Glen Echo. We could not go to Glen Echo because that was in Maryland. That was segregated.
Catherine: Glen Echo was segregated. We had an open air streetcar that would go to Glen Echo, but we couldn’t go in. We couldn’t go to Glen Echo.
Ronda: You could ride on the trolley, but you couldn’t…, but then you’d have to come back home.
Catherine: That’s right. We had something for the black people. We had something called Suburban Gardens. That was way out in Northeast. They had a park out there, but it was nothing like Glen Echo. Now, I know some people right now say they will not go to Glen Echo. Who just recently told me that? I think it’s my niece. I have a niece that, she says no way she goes Glen Echo. No way. I think it was her said she didn’t go. I don’t know.
Ronda: That’s interesting.
Catherine: That’s what I’m trying to say, it was all black down there, because down there across from Rose Park playground they were all-black apartment buildings. That’s apartments down there, and they were all black. That whole section was black. So why would they say that was black playground. 1500 block of 26th Street, all down there was black, so why would Rose Park be integrated? [laughs]
Catherine: And because my aunt lived in one of those apartment building down there, and her husband kind of used to look after Rose Park – had the keys to the tennis courts and everything. No, it was…
Ronda: What was her name?
Catherine: Maude. But she died. I just got finished talking to her granddaughter. Was that her granddaughter? Yeah. Her aunt and her yeah, Maude, Her name was Aunt Margaret. I used to call Margaret. But no, no that was, no. I don’t know where they got that from. People come up with a lot of things, but I don’t know where they get it from. [laughs] Probably try to make themselves look good because, for me, the CAG has changed quite a bit since I used to go there. To me, they have.
Ronda: When — I don’t know when they started — when did you start going to the meetings or become involved?
Catherine: Let me see. When did I start becoming involved? I guess it was along to about six or seven, maybe longer than that. 10 years. I belonged to the CAG a long time ago, because the blacks used to have their own. [laughs]
Catherine: We used to have a — we used to call it Rock Creek Civic Association. And my mother — was my mother secretary? I think my mother was the secretary or the treasurer and Dr. C. Herbert Marshall was president.
In fact, Oh Lord, I could show — Oh, did I give it to my brother? I think I gave my brother — I had a book that my mother used to keep the minutes or the dues in. Rock Creek Civic Association. And right now, right downstairs I think I have the seal right downstairs. The Civic Association. It was called Rock Creek Civic Association. I think I have the seal downstairs. Do I have it downstairs? I think I have that seal.
Ronda: OK, well we’ll look for that. So the doctor, who you said was the “unofficial black mayor”, so he was the head of the Civic Association?
Catherine: Yeah, he was president of it.
Ronda: And what types of things did the Civic Association take care of? What types of things did they do?
Catherine: Took care of any problems that came up in Georgetown. [laughs] There was fights, I guess. They would just talk about what the black people needed to do and I guess if they had any problems they would come and discuss it and everything.
Ronda: I was just curious. What types of things happened back then, compared to the types of things that they discuss now in the Civic Association? [laughs]
Catherine: Well, they probably discussed about the housing and everything that was happening around here. I think they would discuss anything that would happen in DC among the black race, yes. You know, anything that was happening among the black race.
Ronda: So, now Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, has that always been here as you remember?
Catherine: Going down to the park?
Ronda: The Parkway.
Catherine: The Parkway? No. OK, let me tell you. When you say Rock Creek — the playground. You know where the playground is now? Houses used to be all on that side, down in that block. Houses used to be all over there. Black people used to live all down in that area. [chuckles]
Yeah. I knew people that lived in along that area, right across from Mr. Jacobson’s office, that was the first part of that. Then you had a small park — that was Rose Park.
Ronda: So on the south side of P Street, in that block, from the church to the Parkway entrance, that all, up to the bridge, basically — that all used to have houses?
Catherine: Yeah, just until you get down to the driveway — the Parkway, the first Parkway. Houses used to be, not all the way down, but four or five houses used to be down there.
Ronda: And then the park was behind that so you couldn’t see the park from P Street?
Catherine: No. They built the park. No — the creek — they had to change the creek. There used to be a wooden bridge and a car barn; Down there used to be a car barn down there where the train — where the tracks used to come. Trolleys used to run up and down there. It was a car barn down there where the apartment building was. And there was an apartment building. An old wooden bridge.
Ronda: So let’s see. The P Street Bridge was a wooden bridge across the creek. But there wasn’t really a Parkway down below.
Catherine: I guess it was likely a Parkway down there. Oh, it was different.
Ronda: It wasn’t as big as it…
Catherine: It wasn’t as big as it… No, and I guess it might have been a Parkway and because, and I guess it wasn’t as big because when I was small, we used to go and sleigh ride down the hill. Right there was where we’d start. We used to go sleigh ride down there. [laughs]
Catherine: We did. But you know, they cut us out when traffic got in.
Ronda: Right, so, you are coming from DuPont Circle, you cross the wooden bridge and right when you get there, there was the trolley car barn on the north side of the street and then houses on the south side of the street. And then the park behind.
Catherine: And, in fact, they can tell you, neighbors used to send billy goats and everything else used to be down there. These people up the street cause she could remember her father and I think they had papers like that.
Catherine: It was really, really, really quaint. Really quaint. Outdoors, right there on the 28th and O, they used to have a pump. They used to pump water. One of those pumps used to work for the horse troughs. And a guy with the mare, when I was young, used to come and light the lights up and down P street, the lamp lights and everything.
Ronda: Oh wow.
Catherine: So I’d been here.
Ronda: Alright, and then they changed out the, they took all the gas lights down.
Catherine: That’s right. Yeah. But I was just telling him, I think I can name everybody, the whites and blacks that used to live on this block when I was growing up. I can name them all. Oh, the Magruders, living where Jacobsons lives. I think the Magruders lived there. And there was a lawyer that lived in the next house. And Ms. O’Connor lived in the third house where Cynthia live at. And then the Watersons and the Turners. And the Fishers, the Clarks, the Watersons. I could go all the way down the neighborhood.
Ronda: Oh, wow.
Catherine: But we had a good time. But as I said, you could see the blacks and whites come in. And real estate was terrible when they were changing over. They would nag us to death to sell. I still get calls. They’d still-not as much as I used to, but I get cards. Now who sends me a card all the time isTaylor. You know who…?
Catherine: You know Nancy?
Ronda: I’ve never met her. She works right down the street.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah, Nancy. Well, why I know Nancy, at our church we had a playschool. And that place, I guess, we had a playschool there for 30 years. And her children used to go to the playschool. And that was supposed to be integrated. But, well, the black people said they couldn’t afford it. And then, you know, it just goes until 12:00 in the day. And the rest of them had money where they could afford it and could have nurses and nannies to take care of the children.
But there, I think, we used to have, when I was a secretary of the church, I think, we had three or four. But I don’t think in the last seven or eight years, they don’t have any black kids. But one girl’s mother was a doctor. Another one, she was a lawyer. So I guess the rest of them said, “We can’t afford it.” So I don’t know.
Things have changed. Georgetown has changed. I have seen it come two-fold. I saw it when it was all black and then I saw it when there was a better class of white people. Now, I think the white people are nice. They’re classy, as they used to be. For those that think they are so much. As far as I’m concerned. Is that on there? So you can take some of that off.
Ronda: You said your mom was born across the street.
Catherine: No, she got married across the street.
Ronda: Got married across the street. Now what type of work did they do?
Catherine: My dad worked in the government. And my dad always worked two jobs. He was an orphan at 13, and he’s always worked two jobs. And he worked at the Cathedral one time. But he worked in the government. And my mom, she was a home momma and she did domestic work at times, you know. They raised six of us. Three went to college, and three didn’t.
Ronda: Now, when your brothers and sisters moved out, did any of them stay in Georgetown, at least at first? Or did they all move away?
Catherine: They all got married and moved away. My brothers, all of them got married and moved away. None of them stayed here, but they all call this home. They all call this home. My nieces, they all have to come back at Thanksgiving. We’ve got to come back to Grandmother’s house.
Ronda: In order, what are the names of your brothers and sisters?
Catherine: My oldest sister’s name is Marjorie. They are all up there. That’s Marjorie, the oldest one, there’s Evelyn, there’s Doris, Carter, me, and Connie. Six of us.
Ronda: And what was your mother’s name?
Catherine: Eudora. E-U-Dora. Her name was Eudora McDaniel.
Evelyn, the second oldest, and I’m next to the youngest. We never married. So, Evelyn stayed here, until she passed. Evelyn died in 1983. 83, that’s a long time, isn’t it. That’s 30 years ago.
Ronda: What was your father’s name?
Catherine: Carter. Carter Bowman. His son is named after him. My grandfather was born here in Georgetown. I have a picture up here. My grandfather was born here in Georgetown.
Ronda: So, what’s his name?
Catherine: Cleon McDaniel.
Ronda: So, he would have been born a slave, or during the slavery period. If your mom was born in 1895…
Catherine: 1895. Yes, it might have been. It might have been. Carter can tell you.
Ronda: It might have been right after, I guess. It was probably right after the Civil War that your grandfather was born.
Catherine: My brother has all that dates.
Ronda: Oh, really?
Catherine: Oh, yes. He loves to do this type of work.
Ronda: Do you know where your grandfather lived when he was in Georgetown?
Catherine: He lived on P Street. He lived with Ma on 27th Street, no, it was 26th Street when he died. He lived on 26th Street with Ma in an apartment there. One time they lived right there, and my grandfather and grandmother lived right there, on 27th. I never get the address right. 2719 P Street, right down the street from me when I was young. My grandfather lived longer, because I know my grandmother died when I was five years old. My grandfather lived for many years.
Ronda: So, when you all were living here, he was at 2719 P Street.
Catherine: Yeah. 2719.
Ronda: And what type of work did he do?
Catherine: I don’t remember what my granddaddy did. I really can’t remember what he did. My father, he worked at the Cathedral in the kitchen for a while when he was young. Then he got into the government. He worked for the GPO.
Ronda: For the Government Printing Office?
Catherine: He was a laborer. It’s nothing. He wasn’t no printer or anything, because you couldn’t make Printer at that time. It was very, very hard to be a printer. My father died in ’66. Does that make it ’66? Or is it ’65. My father died in ’66.
Ronda: And when did your mother die?
Catherine: ’83. Evelyn died in ’83. My mother must have died in ’73.
Ronda: So, she lived in Georgetown all her life?
Catherine: She lived in Georgetown all her life. She was nothing but Georgetown. We are old Georgetown.
Ronda: I was going to say, so if your grandfather… so you’re third generation Georgetown.
Catherine: We are.
Ronda: Wow, that’s exciting, so you really have seen…
Catherine: Yeah, yeah, well I went to Phillips school, then I went to Francis, then I went to Cardozo, then I got sick and had to stay out of school a year, but then I went on back to school. Then I went to work in the government. I retired as administrative assistant in the government. All my sisters and brothers too. Three of them went to college.
Ronda: OK, good.
Catherine: Yeah, Connie, where did Connie go to school? Connie went to DC Teachers and Doris went to DC Teachers and my brother graduated from Tuskegee Institute.
Ronda: OK, wow, so is there any other major change about Georgetown that….
Catherine: Yeah, M Street used to be, on Saturday nights, there used to be five and tens, five and ten stores all up and down Wisconsin Avenue. Those stores, Saturday night, that’s where we would go. [laughs]
On Saturday evening, we would go, we would go and walk up and down Georgetown. Not like Georgetown used to be. Oh we had a store called Stollman’s with a delicious ice cream parlor. And they have their things down to the museum now. They did not sell their name so they took all their materials down there. And we had a Foster’s store, Foster’s ice cream place at Wisconsin and N. We had a bakery. We had Connecticut Pie Company, all that was there.
And on 26th and P, 26th and M, Chester’s Farm Dairy, we had a dairy over there. And a milk cart. The milkman would come around and bring milk to the house when we were young. And we’d get the milk at the house.
Ronda: In the bottles, with the horses.
Catherine: In the bottle. And the horses, that’s right [laughs]. Yes, indeed. We used to have carnivals, and churches used to have bazaars, and everybody would go from one house, one church to the other. And everybody knew everybody, I guess. Well like I said, as some people say, you better than other people, but you know how that was. [laughs]
Catherine: But as I say, I’ve been here, I know lots of people, I did know lots them. Do you know Miss Burling. You know Miss Burling?
Ronda: Yes. I met her at Christ, at Grace Episcopal Church actually, a long time ago.
Catherine: Oh, do you go to Grace?
Ronda: Well, I used to work across the street from there.
Catherine: Oh you did.
Ronda: In one of the office buildings, so I met her at a service.
Catherine: OK. OK. Because, yeah, I know Miss Burling because she’s cross from church. I’ve been knowing her for years.
Ronda: That’s another long-time Georgetowner.
Catherine: Another Georgetowner. Yeah, she participates in everything, she does. She’s very good about it. And she’s right across from my church so she knows just about everybody at the church.
Ronda: Well, it’s really been interesting hearing all of these changes that have taken place and the beginning.
Catherine: Yes, it’s changes. I’ve got to ask Daisy People, she’s around on 27th Street, she’s the only one around there, she’s the only Black one around there. And I know Mildred, I think she would be very well to get yourself in, but she has some mental problems, so I rather not get her involved because she’d probably say, “What you mean telling that lady to come and visit me,” even if you called her.
So I’m going to call Daisy and ask her if she’d like to be interviewed. Because you need more black people, don’t you? People that used to live in Georgetown. Because one thing I found out about the “Georgetown Remembered,” book, they did it, but it seems that quite a few people were upset because they went further in to Georgetown, they went to the Bottom. And the Bottom, that wasn’t part of Georgetown. And the man was talking about how they used to sell liquor and all that, and that didn’t need to be in the book.
Ronda: Oh, OK. So, it was all very distinct neighborhoods, kind of like it is now, but when you cross the Creek, you weren’t in Georgetown anymore.
Catherine: You weren’t in Georgetown, that’s right. That’s what people said. When we were growing up people would say, “Oh, they’re 22nd Street, they live in Georgetown”, but they didn’t. You had to cross the bridge before you get in Georgetown.
And people said, “We live in Georgetown, ” I said, “You don’t live in no Georgetown.” Because I knew if you just said you lived on 37th Street or 36th Street, anyway, but I might not know it but when they gave me their address if they live somewhere. I’d say, “That’s not Georgetown.”
But you know, they say they’ve been here for a long time. If they say Georgetown, if they tell you — I wish people not say Georgetown is all black, because it has never been all black. That’s when I get upset, they say, “Georgetown was all black.” I say, “It was never all black, where do you get that?”
Ronda: Well, that’s what’s useful about these historic accounts from people who lived here, is that it gives a chance to sort of straighten out all these misconceptions about Georgetown and life in Georgetown. And you know people don’t, people think it’s always been like this, and we’re trying to make sure that people know it hasn’t always been.
Catherine: No, and they always think that Georgetown people didn’t have anything, but if you listed the teachers… Where was I? I saw it the other day. Somebody said, “Georgetown had all these black teachers that lived in Georgetown and went to… ” Well if they had some, that’s what you could do, teach school and that’s what they did and they went to become principals and everything else.
I’m going to go upstairs and see if I can show you my “Georgetown Remembered” book.
Ronda: OK and we’ll also look for the…
Catherine: I think I have it downstairs. I asked for my brother. I told him – my brother asked me about it one day and then just recently I gave him something, I said, “Here Carter, take this thing”. It was a book. He likes to keep a lot of stuff too.
Ronda: And he’s the historian for…
Catherine: Mt. Zion.
Ronda: Mt. Zion.
Catherine: A historian and he does tours. He does tours of Georgetown. Just recently he had a tour, when was it, this Christmas? He must’ve, I think last week he said something, some people were here and he said somehow people don’t know the real, real Georgetown that’s really on the map. He has people come from all over to tour the church.
And just recently between six or seven years ago, some kids came over and they went to the cemetery and they had to do something up in Georgetown, and they remembered him trying and teaching them a lot of things. He taught them a lot of things and they honored him on Martin Luther King’s birthday. They gave him a plaque and they put his name on the website.
Ronda: OK, well I’ll have to be sure to ask him about that when I talk to him. Thank you so much for doing this.
Catherine: I’m going to give you Cynthia Jackson. “Cynthia Jackson, come on”, I said, “Please give her my name,” [laughs] When I call Monica today she’s going to be really surprised. I got to get your name and address. They’re going to really be surprised by this.
Ronda: OK. Well, we’ll take whoever else we can get.
Catherine: Yeah. I need you to come around and come to my church one Sunday.
Ronda: Well, whoever we can do.
Catherine: Come visit church on Sunday.
Ronda: Oh, OK.
Catherine: What are you, Methodist, Baptist, nothing?
Catherine: You’re Episcopalian. You go to Christ? You go up to Christ?
Catherine: Oh you go to Christ, OK. I guess you might have seen them at Christ Church. OK, Episcopalian. This lady I’m trying to tell you, Daisy, you might like to meet Daisy. There’s a small Episcopalian church around on 23rd Street. Have you heard of that one? What’s the name of Daisy’s church? It’s very small. And she’s been a member there, down by George Washington University.
Ronda: Oh, St. Mary’s or St. Margaret’s.
Catherine: St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s. You’ve been there?
Ronda: I’ve seen it. But I know where it is.
Catherine: If you’ve seen it, you know it’s very small. And she’s a trustee or deacon around there.
Ronda: Oh, OK.
Ronda: Well, definitely, you know, if you can give me her information, I’d love to meet her as well.
Catherine: OK, I’ll do that. Daisy, she’s around — see we’re all senior citizens. She’s around in a house by herself in a little house around on 27th Street. Well, good.
Ronda: Well, thank you.
Catherine: OK. No problem…