Hill Rag writer Peter Waldron interviewed her in June 2013 and published an article based on this interview in time for her 100th birthday. She attended Armstrong High School and Apex Beauty College, then worked for Vincent and Vincent in downtown DC. She also worked as an elevator operator for the Veterans Administration and provided daycare in her home. In the interview, she talks fondly of her dog Tosca who had just died, and describes her membership in Capitol Hill Village, which she says is the “greatest thing”.
[Note: Dawn Nelson, a caregiver to Pauline Bates, was also present during the interview
and participated to a limited extent. This interview was conducted at Pauline Bates’
current home in northwest Washington DC.]
WALDRON: Okay Pauline, let’s begin. Tell me about yourself. Where were you born?
BATES: I was born in Alexandria, Virginia, in Old Town.
WALDRON: Old Town. And when were you born?
BATES: October the 18th, 1913. In ’13.
WALDRON: So you will be how old this October?
BATES: I’ll be 100 in October.
WALDRON: You’ll be 100 years old. What are you going to do to celebrate your birthday? That’s quite
BATES: I don’t know. They’ve been talking around on what they’ll have. I don’t know what will
WALDRON: So you weren’t born in North Carolina?
BATES: No, I was born in Alexandria, Virginia.
WALDRON: Were you born in a house there or a hospital? I guess probably a house, right?
BATES: I was born in a house.
WALDRON: Do you know where it is?
BATES: Yeah, 602 Pitt Street in Alexandria, Virginia.
NELSON: I know where that is too.
BATES: Yeah, I was born there.
WALDRON: And did you grow up in Alexandria?
BATES: Both Alexandria and Washington. When my mother worked a lot I was over at my
grandmother’s and I’d come on the weekends to DC.
WALDRON: So you were—DC was where your grandmother was?
BATES: Not DC; in Alexandria. See my grandmother lived in Alexandria. And we went over to stay
with her on during the week because we went to school there in Alexandria.
WALDRON: You went to school in there? Do you remember what school you went to?
BATES: I think it was a Lyles-Crouch [Wilkes and South Pitt streets—however this school was only
built in the early 1930s so she probably went to Parker-Gray School, located at 900 Wythe Street which
opened in 1920 for children in grades one through eight.]
WALDRON: Which was what?
WALDRON: Lawrence? Is that what you’re saying, Lawrence?
BATES: I’m trying to think. It’s been so long. Lyles-Crouch.
WALDRON: You, I think you said you went to all the grammar school years to that school.
BATES: From the first to I think eighth or ninth.
WALDRON: And then did you go high school in Alexandria?
BATES: No, I went here in Washington. [there were no black schools beyond eight grade in Alexandria
at that time]
WALDRON: Where did you go to high school?
BATES: I went to Armstrong.
WALDRON: Now you graduated from Armstrong.
BATES: No, I didn’t graduate for Armstrong. I went from Armstrong. I started at Martha Washington.
Now wait a minute. Let me see. No I went to the Armstrong School.
WALDRON: Where was that located?
BATES: It was between North Capitol and—let me see, Armstrong. First and N [Street NW]. It was near
New Jersey [Avenue NW], somewhere in that area.
WALDRON: In Northwest was it?
WALDRON: Up around where Dunbar [High School] is now?
BATES: They both were in the same area.
WALDRON: Yeah, okay. And I think I remember Armstrong. I don’t think it’s there anymore.
BATES: I don’t think it is.
NELSON: But I don’t think it’s operating.
BATES: No. I don’t think it is operating.
WALDRON: So you were born in Alexandria, 1913. And you went to school in DC. So you moved over
in DC at some point.
BATES: Well, I was going to and from when I was from grade school. I came home, which was here in
DC. I was born in Alexandria but I came—we lived here. My mother did.
WALDRON: Where did you live in the early days?
BATES: In Southwest on K Street. I think it was 488 K Street SW.
WALDRON: Are you kidding me? You remember the address? Wow!
BATES: 488 K.
WALDRON: And your mother and father; did you have brothers and sisters?
BATES: I had one sister.
WALDRON: And her name was?
WALDRON: A L C I N E?
WALDRON: And was she older or younger?
BATES: She was younger.
WALDRON: Younger. Is she still alive?
BATES: No. She died in 2007.
WALDRON: And was she about two years younger? Close?
BATES: No. She was about three years.
WALDRON: So she was born maybe 1916.
BATES: She was born in 1917.
WALDRON: So she died when she was 90.
BATES: She died [in] 2007.
WALDRON: And your parents. What did they do for a living? How did you father—you had a father.
BATES: My father was a plumber. He did plumbing work.
WALDRON: What was his name?
BATES: Odie. O D I E, Odie. [Washington was Pauline’s maiden name]
WALDRON: And he was from?
BATES: Well he worked for different plumbers of companies. He did plumbing work.
WALDRON: The city of DC? Did he work in Washington?
WALDRON: And what part of the country—did he grow up in Washington or was he from …
BATES: In Virginia.
WALDRON: He was from Virginia.
BATES: He was born in Virginia.
WALDRON: And your mother, what was her name?
WALDRON: Did she work or did she stay home?
BATES: She worked. She did house work.
WALDRON: Did you say this? You didn’t graduate from Armstrong or you did?
BATES: No, I left. I went from Armstrong to Apex Beauty College.
WALDRON: Well when was that?
BATES: It was in the 30s.
WALDRON: And that was just to get a—find a way to make a living? Was that it?
BATES: I worked in the government. I operated an elevator. I was an elevator operator.
WALDRON: Where was that?
BATES: In 1940, in the 40s. I think it was ’42.
WALDRON: What government, the District government or the Federal government?
BATES: District government.
WALDRON: District government.
BATES: Yes I worked in Veterans Administration. I operated an elevator.
WALDRON: Do you remember where it was?
BATES: Tenth and H [Streets] NW. Vermont Avenue. Right there. Not far from the White House. You
could see the White House from there.
WALDRON: How did you get a job like that? Just applied for it, heard about it?
BATES: No. I can’t remember but I think they were looking for person, you know, or someone and I
think I just was there at the time.
WALDRON: This is the 40s, we’ve jumped ahead and I want to go back a little. But where did you live
in the 40s when you were working?
BATES: I lived in the 40. On New Hampshire Avenue [NW] not far from Dupont Circle, because I could
walk from Dupont. It was New Hampshire and M [Street] NW.
WALDRON: We’ve jumped a little ahead of ourselves. So you went to high school, Armstrong. And did
you live around in that area?
BATES: I wasn’t, no I lived with my mother here in DC but I went to Virginia every day. I went to
Virginia on weekends and stayed through the week for school. And on Fridays I come back to
WALDRON: Where did you live when you were doing that in DC?
BATES: My grandmother’s. We lived on Franklin Street, 105 Franklin Street in Alexandria, VA.
WALDRON: So you went to the Apex Beauty School?
BATES: Apex Beauty College.
WALDRON: So you left high school a little early?
BATES: I think it was just open. You could go and apply, go to there without going to—apply and go to
the Apex College and take the beautician from there. That was actually a school toward beauty.
WALDRON: When you got out of there did you start doing beauty work somewhere?
BATES: I worked at Vincent and Vincent, one of the biggest hair and beauty shops in the metropolitan
area. I worked there for—I worked there about 15 years. 15 to 20 years I think. And my sister worked
there. She was a beauty … hair colorist. She colored hair. She did all the hair coloring for the beauty
WALDRON: And where was Vincent and Vincent, downtown somewhere?
BATES: Yeah. Eleventh between E—wait a minute. It was a couple of blocks on 11th Street. And you
could see it there from Pennsylvania Avenue a couple of blocks.
WALDRON: So right on Pennsylvania [Avenue NW]. So you worked there about 20 years, 15 or 20
BATES: Yes. My sister worked about 25 years there. Nothing but coloring she did. They say she was one
of the best colorers in the metropolitan area.
WALDRON: So that’s pretty much through all the 20s and 30s, so you were working there during the
Depression too I would imagine, right?
BATES: Yes I was working when President Roosevelt was in office because he—I worked at 13th and G
in one of the buildings operator; elevator operator during that time. And that building housed what to do
with women. I forget what they were called.
WALDRON: Daughters of the American Revolution?
BATES: No, it was … I think they were—I can’t recall now, but they had—they dressed, you know, in
the uniforms and all this like. I think they were in Navy, in the Navy Department.
WALDRON: Did you ever—you mentioned President Roosevelt—did you ever see President Roosevelt?
BATES: No I didn’t. I haven’t seen him. I think I saw his wife in a parade or something.
WALDRON: Did you ever go to any of the inaugurals, parades or anything?
BATES: I always did. I lived up on the Hill where I could walk to—near the Capitol where I would
always go down in that area where I could see most all, most everything that happened. I would always
go down to the parade.
WALDRON: And when did you move to Capitol Hill?
BATES: Oh shucks. I used to know, but I can’t …
NELSON: Approximately, I mean, you know, how old were you or …
BATES: I was about 35 when, the year that I moved there.
WALDRON: 1948 or something?
BATES: I came in September there and I would—my birthday was, let’s see, September. I moved in
maybe then in September. I know it was Labor Day in September.
BATES: Yeah. It was 1948.
WALDRON: How did you end up—and you bought a house didn’t you?
BATES: Yes. I was working in Veterans Administration. There was a—gentleman there was a … he was
in real estate business and he heard me say I wanted a place. So he was in the business so he helped me to
get the place.
WALDRON: That’s the place on Seventh Street [SE].
BATES: Seventh Street.
WALDRON: What was the address of that?
BATES: 506 Seventh. [506 Seventh Street SE]
WALDRON: Why does it not surprise me you remember that? Very good. So you lived there from 1948
BATES: It was 63 years, 65 in all that I—but I lived like in that house actually 63 and all the time I was
when I came up here. It was 65 [years] in all.
WALDRON: Do you remember what you paid for that house?
BATES: I won’t tell you. You wouldn’t believe it.
WALDRON: You’ve got to tell us.
BATES: No I couldn’t say. It was—and I got about four or five times the amount that I paid for it. I paid
$8,700. And said to you, I said, “Lord, all those houses on the Hill were reasonable.” The highest I guess
you would pay was $17,000. There was a lady lived across the street had the great big house, and she got
WALDRON: Well Dawn bought her house for just a little more than you did. She’s like a millionaire
now. So, $8,700. Do you remember what your mortgage payment was then, a month?
BATES: I think it was seventy ( $70.00) something.
WALDRON: Amazing. And you sold it in 19 what?
BATES: Last about a year ago.
WALDRON: 2011, 2012? So you sold it a year ago?
BATES: Yes, it was sold about a year ago. I was paid for it in the last year.
WALDRON: What kind of a house was it? Just your typical Capitol Hill house?
BATES: Well, it was just a little frame house.
WALDRON: Little frame, living room, bedrooms, how many bedrooms?
BATES: Two bedrooms and a bath. Living room, dining room and kitchen.
WALDRON: Did you have a little yard out back.
BATES: Yeah it had a yard, but not a big one.
WALDRON: Now what was the neighborhood like when you bought that?
BATES: Great. Everybody was. At one time the Hill was … pleasant. The Capitol Hill was such a place
you just enjoy being outside. You never was afraid of the outside. People, even when it was real hot,
would go and spend nights in parks where it was really cool. Oh and I know that kids were lovely. You
never heard of any fighting or shooting, or anything like that during that time. It was just nice.
WALDRON: What was the racial makeup? Was it white, black, mixed?
BATES: It was blacks. Washington was called the Chocolate City. It was all, so much black.
WALDRON: So where in the street you lived in was all black in those days, African Americans?
BATES: Was what?
WALDRON: All African Americans, all black, the neighborhood?
BATES: Most of Southeast was … You saw more blacks than you did the whites, you know, because
there would be there dancing and going on having a good time everybody seemed to be having a good
WALDRON: Did you live there by yourself?
BATES: No, my husband.
WALDRON: You didn’t tell me about that. You were married?
BATES: Well, you didn’t ask that I don’t think. [laughter] That was remind, you know, I said that when
you said, “Am I forgetting something?” Well the questions and answers bring back some of the
WALDRON: That’s very good. You got me good on that one. When were you married?
WALDRON: When were you married?
WALDRON: And your husband’s name was?
BATES: Venton, V E N T O N.
WALDRON: How did you meet him?
BATES: Well I used to go … every summer when school closed my grandmother would take me to
Pittsburgh. That’s where he’s from. To visit my aunts that lived there. We would go—my grandmother
would take us every … after school closed, they’d go up to visit her.
WALDRON: How would you go, by car, bus, railroad?
BATES: Sometime we would drive. Sometime we would go on train. Then when I was married I could
go on train a lot because I could travel, had passes you know … because my husband worked for a
railroad. His people worked for a railroad.
WALDRON: What did he do for the railroad?
BATES: He worked at Union Station after he came back, came down here to live. He got a job at a barn
… working at the railroad. I think before he was at a yard or something, but he worked for—I could ride
the Pennsylvania or the B&O, they both where, because they came into the station and I rode there for
Waldron : You could ride those for free?
BATES: Yeah, well because my husband worked there that’s why I could ride … get passes to go.
WALDRON: And then you were married? When were you married, nineteen—you met him in 1939—
you were married in 1939.
BATES: In June. June the 18th.
WALDRON: 1939. Good grief. And that’s when you were married. That’s when you were married?
WALDRON: And you met him in Pittsburgh?
BATES: Well my—his mother and father, his family knew my aunts and so I guess they knew we’d meet
us sometime when I would go there during the—let’s see how was it—I was working and he came here to
get, to see if he could get a job here. And then he did so I didn’t, I stayed here in DC.
WALDRON: Did he come here because he liked you, was that it?
BATES: Well I guess so. [laughter] Something must have dawned … on his self.
WALDRON: I get the picture. I wanted to make sure. And then you bought that house on the Hill
together, then right?
WALDRON: You were together from 1939 to 48. Where did you live during those years between 1939
BATES: I lived, when I first got married, at my mother’s. She had a four-bedroom house and so there
was enough room there.
WALDRON: Did she own that house or did she rent it?
BATES: She rented it.
WALDRON: Where was that?
BATES: That was on New Hampshire and M Street NW, on the corner.
WALDRON: Four-bedroom house?
BATES: 1110. I think it was.
WALDRON: What a memory!
BATES: Not far from GW [George Washington] Hospital was a couple blocks up where we lived. Just a
couple blocks right in there. Not far from Dupont Circle.
WALDRON: Do you know what a good memory you have?
BATES: Well I want to tell you, like my sister told me, she said, “You have good memory. You
remember so much.” But then as I got older and now, then here lately I start, you know, not remembering.
Well I guess I remember a lot of things because my sister used to say to me, “You still remember a lot.”
WALDRON: So your husband was mentioned. Did you have children?
BATES: Yeah, I had daycare for 25 years of that time.
WALDRON: Did you have your own children?
BATES: No I didn’t have any of mine.
WALDRON: So, just you and your husband?
BATES: Yeah, just me and …
WALDRON: And he worked for the railroad. Because you didn’t have children, did you travel a lot
then? You had railroad passes.
BATES: He traveled because he could go, you know, whenever he—when they weren’t too busy and he
could take time off he did. He traveled. With his uncle. His aunt, uncles worked for the railroad. They
were railroad people worked for years, his uncle. His uncle was—I forget what his uncle was. But he
worked for years for the railroads. And I think that’s what made my husband want to because he had two
uncles that really worked and was on the railroads for years.
WALDRON: Go back to Seventh Street and the neighborhood. You said it was just a wonderful time.
BATES: Oh yeah.
WALDRON: You lit up when I asked you to talk about that. And the park you would sleep in. What park
was—not you, but people who would sleep in it on a hot summer night, what park would that be?
BATES: You know what, near the Number 5 [Police] Precinct. All out in there was a park.
WALDRON: Marion Park.
BATES: And all up in there they had benches for people too. But after everybody, you know, getting—
the area was changing and they changed it and took all the seats out of the park and all. There was a park
WALDRON: Now, Dawn was telling me—I used to have a German Shepard. Dawn said you had a
German Shepard for a real long time.
BATES: Now what did I have? I had Tosca, my last dog that just passed couple of weeks ago. She was
Huskie and Shepard. And then before this Tosca [note: there were two Tosca’s in all but Pauline is
planning on naming her next dog Tosca too], I had another thoroughbred Tosca that had the blue eyes,
you know, very pretty. She was beautiful. And that was, she was thoroughbred. But Tosca was mixed.
The second Tosca. I loved the name so much. When the first Tosca died—my nephew gave her the name
from the play, Tosca, the Italian play. My nephew named the … and gave the name the same in the play.
WALDRON: So the opera, Tosca.
BATES: Yeah, the opera Tosca. That’s where she got her name.
WALDRON: Dawn said she thought it was that. So you had two Toscas?
BATES: Yes, I had Tosca and then named another one Tosca but I won’t get a puppy. I always got
puppies. I got them from two months old. When I got this Tosca, had this other here, I—what did I do? I
dislocated my shoulder. I’d come from the Safeway that Sunday. I went and got some groceries because I
had the children [daycare] and I couldn’t do as much shopping, so I always went on Sunday. Well not
always, but I most of the time I’d go shopping on Sunday. And I just fell for some reason and dislocated
the shoulder. So that was—Tosca was two weeks, was two months old. We have a picture of Tosca,
movie. Angie had pictures made, 14 of them made. And I have a picture of her. I think she had about 14
of them. So many people. I never had a dog as nice as Tosca. Tosca loved people.
WALDRON: The one that just passed away?
BATES: Yes, she is.
NELSON: She was very gentle.
BATES: Oh, she was. Everybody loved her.
WALDRON: Didn’t she just follow you around the house like …
BATES: Anyone. When you come in, anyone that came in here. She loved going to men, because she
WALDRON: But she was big, right?
BATES: She was big, but not as big. There is some Shepard’s bigger that she. But she was heavy. She
weighed about—what did she weigh—70 something I think.
WALDRON: Seventy pounds? That’s a pretty big dog.
BATES: Well, she was not real tall, but she was thick. She was heavy.
WALDRON: When people came to the door was she protective?
BATES: Oh yeah. More so when we moved here. She get down the Hill she never fussed that much. But
she could see, now that we have more glass, she could see. And I think she’d seen more people now than
she did down there on the Hill. But she was such a gentle, oh she was. I liked her.
WALDRON: Sounds like you loved her.
BATES: Oh I did. I thought I was going. I worried but I knew that she was suffering. The doctor said.
“You can’t tell, because they don’t groan like we do.” But my cousin from Pittsburgh, Bernice [Warfield],
said she heard something and she thought it was somebody, but it was her. She was hurting. And so right
after that she was asleep out in the hall here. She had three places during the night. She would sleep, start
in the living room where her bed is until—you see we had moved them year, because we didn’t whether
we’d get a larger dog or, you know, what. But she would lie in front of this couch on this side and where
you see the pillows. And out here she comes. She come at night, I guess after we—everybody get quiet,
she’d lay here, for protection, I guess. She lay here. She was more protective since we lived in here. I
don’t know why. I know some fellow used to live here and he came to visit after my sister died. He lived
here with them. And Tosca would not cut up. Then one night, and that when I knew she was protective,
because she just didn’t let up for a while. She wouldn’t let him.
WALDRON: So your nephew named her Tosca and you just loved the name, what that it?
BATES: Oh I loved the name, Tosca. Now when I get another dog I’ll just name it Tosca because I say I
know this dog’s name, so I just go on with Tosca. Till he was so interested in, I said, “Well, I’ll keep that
name going for a while.” [laughs]
WALDRON: Now to change the subject a little, I bet you miss the dog, don’t you?
BATES: Oh Tosca, I have a picture over there; that’s her in front of me. When I was down at the house, I
was coming up here believing I was going to church.
WALDRON: Oh boy, beautiful!
BATES: That’s him and we have a Angie. She was Angie [Angela Scott]. Tosca won an award there on
WALDRON: She was your neighbor, right?
BATES: Yes. Once they had some—Tosca won an award there. The Hill Rag. They had something; I
don’t know whether it’s a cute dog or something like that. And Tosca, there was another one littler than
Tosca this time, my Tosca, and he came first and Tosca was second. I’m hoping that I’ll find it because I
had it there when they came here, but Angie packed everything and I have lots of things I haven’t
WALDRON: Now Dawn tells me how she does some shopping for you, right.
NELSON: Grocery store.
BATES: Yeah, I was living on the Hill and they started that—what did they call it?
NELSON: Capitol Hill Village.
BATES: Yeah, Capitol Hill Village and I think they had it opened about a year before Angie kept saying,
“Why don’t you.” You know, she wanted me to join. And so she kept talking. That’s how I got in. I knew
they were up on the next block from me. The 400 block. I lived the 500 block. And so I said, “Well, I
will.” I was glad, because I met so many nice people.
WALDRON: So you joined the Capitol Hill Village?
WALDRON: What do they do? When you join you get what?
BATES: Well, you get like, like I am now, you get where you don’t want to—you can’t do as well as you
once did. But like if you wanted someone to help you to do your shopping or riding for you. Anything
that you would do in your home and you find out that you’re getting where you can’t do but so much of
WALDRON: So they help pick up where things are getting harder for you?
WALDRON: Let me ask this. Is Dawn good at what she does?
BATES: Yes. [laughter] Yes indeed.
BATES: Yes indeed she is.
WALDRON: Why do you say that, because she’s pretty good, gets all the things you ask for?
BATES: Well, she knows how to shop. She knows where to buy things, get green peppers up. She go
there and look like they’re fresh or going bad or something. She knows not to get it. So that way she’s a
good shopper. [laughs] A good shopper.
WALDRON: Who makes the list up?
BATES: Who is who. Who makes …
WALDRON: Who makes the shopping list up?
Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project
Pauline Bates Interview, June 26, 2013
BATES: Well sometimes when they come in and do things and they see that you are, or lets you see
when you’re going through what you need. A lot of times I look in and I see, oh, I don’t have this. A lot
of times they come in and say, “I know you have such and such this. Do you have any here.” You know,
just like that and then we put down what isn’t there. The help say you need. And it really works out nice.
Capitol Hill [Village] was the greatest thing I think that you could open up for people that live and don’t
want to go and leave their home.
WALDRON: Capitol Hill Village, you think that’s a great thing?
BATES: Yeah, it’s a great thing.
WALDRON: What about favorite foods and snacks, like what do make sure that you like? You have a
BATES: Well I’m a sweet tooth. I love sweets. I tell you I eat cakes, ice cream and all that.
WALDRON: Does Dawn keep you from eating those things, or do you just put them on the list anyway?
BATES: She gets what I have on the list. She might think maybe she shouldn’t eat this, but she gets it. If
they have it in the store, she’ll get it.
NELSON: We have to stop getting Twinkies because it’s going out of business.
BATES: Oh, I heard they were coming back.
BATES: John called me. He mailed me a box of Twinkies and I bought the Twinkies and ice cream from
Ohio one time. He knew I liked, so he for one told me that he read or heard they were going to come
NELSON: Oh, okay.
WALDRON: So is Twinkies a snack of yours you like always?
BATES: Oh that’s some that do the marketing for me then. And me and Twinkies. They really come set
up. My nephew used to say, “Aunt Pauline, you got any cookies?” I said, “They’re not cookies,
Twinkies.” I said, “Yeah go on to the refrigerator. I just keep them up on.”
WALDRON: What supply do you have, a week’s supply, two weeks? How much? A lot? You keep a lot
BATES: If I just start running low I get on them to go and get them. That’s where I kept them. I said,
“Bring me, I got company, boxes, bring me a couple of more so I won’t run out.”
NELSON: Yeah, never run out.
WALDRON: Did you ever drink or smoke?
BATES: No. The doctor said that why I was so healthy. I don’t have anything Blood pressure probably is
WALDRON: Blood pressure is up a little?
BATES: Blood pressure. That’s why I go have the doctor. All I take medicine for is the pressure. I don’t
have arthritis. I might have it in the system because say we have carried.
WALDRON: Do you have any bad habits?
BATES: The habits I have, if they were bad I won’t tell you what they are.
WALDRON: The habits you had that were bad what?
BATES: I said I won’t tell you what they, if they were bad. I’d just go around and get to the good ones,
things I did instead of the bad. [laughs] Now I never was, as my mother said, I never was. She never had
too much trouble from me even as a child. Well both of us could—go on my grandmother, she raised us.
And believe me, grandmothers were old fashioned grandmothers. You had to do what they’d tell you to
do or you’d get chastised. But the younger generation they don’t do that. What my grandmother said, “If
you need a switch you gonna get it.” Better be good now because I didn’t want a switching. [laughs]
WALDRON: How about, you know, your—Dawn tells me that like someone helps you in the early part
of the day.
WALDRON: Mrs. Epps.
BATES: Miss Epps. She was here. Certainly today I had to go to the doctor for my feet and he said they
NELSON: Oh good.
BATES: Yeah I go to the doctor now there on 19th Street NW. And I used to go to Doctor [Deborah]
Edge down on the Hill. Yeah I went to [her] for years. I used to always go.
WALDRON: So you’re here in the afternoon and evening then by yourself, right?
WALDRON: How about dinner? How do you—do you make your own dinner or does someone …
BATES: Oh I used to. Lately, my cousin comes from Pittsburgh. She used to. If I need her or call her
she’d be on the first plane or train, or bus them in. They get the buses at one—what do you call them
cheaper buses that run now? She comes down—you can get dollar tickets and everything so she comes
down. She was down here last two weeks ago; two days. Two weeks tomorrow. She was just left. She’s
down quite often and now. She comes down and checks my bills and things like that.
WALDRON: She helps you with your finances and things like that?
BATES: Yes. She does. She keeps check on Dawn will write checks and things like that. She will show
her that, everything. And she transfers if I need anything. And if she can do it without coming, she does it
WALDRON: She does it online?
BATES: I think so. She does some online. But she said she can do a lot online without coming down
WALDRON: Do you use a computer?
BATES: No. I’m illiterate on computer.
WALDRON: Do you have an email account?
BATES: Have what?
WALDRON: Email? No, never mind. So you’re here in the afternoon by yourself and then do you help
yourself get to bed? No one helps you with all that. You manage all that yourself?
BATES: No I’m able to do pretty well for myself.
BATES: But Miss Epps, she’s here. She cooks breakfast and washes here, she fixes dinner, you know,
that I, all that I have to do is to eat it up at night.
WALDRON: Dawn says you get the newspaper every day too.
BATES: Get what?
WALDRON: The newspaper, the Washington Post?
BATES: Oh yeah, I get Washington Post. Been getting it for years when I lived on the Hill.
WALDRON: How long have you been a Post subscriber? I bet you’re the longest …
BATES: Oh so long. I can’t give—I guess before being married I would, because I wanted to know
what’s going on. So I would always get it, especially the obituary. Anybody that you know—if something
happened, most times it’s in the paper so you would know if you didn’t get a paper you probably
WALDRON: Is that your favorite section, the obituary?
WALDRON: Is that your favorite section of the Washington—do you read it every day?
BATES: Oh I have it every day.
WALDRON: You read it?
BATES: I glance some. Sometime I have time to read but for a couple of weeks or so I just glanced at the
obituary because a lot of times you won’t know unless you’re in the church where it lets you know.
WALDRON: I want to go back a little bit about your church. Do you belong to a church?
BATES: Oh yes, all my life. All my life.
WALDRON: What church is that?
BATES: Bethlehem Church of God. Let me see where it’s located. It closer to here than when I came
from Capitol Hill. If I want to go to church there I can call, the van will pick me or members. A lot of
times. All these years I’ve gone, I never rode the van. A couple of weeks ago they came here and had
services. We had the children and …
WALDRON: A few weeks ago?
BATES: I think it was Bernice here—I think it was, yes she was here for the Women’s Day. And all the
women in our church dressed in white. They said, “ Oh you have to be down for the church.” They train
you to sing in a … Children can talk. Once they talk in two years old they have—they go in, they sing.
That’s the way they come. Two years old and I sang in a choir and from two years on up. We in a church
and they teach you. Used to learn to play. They have people there that teach them to play and sing. Oh,
you’d be surprised. If you—if Angie was there or two. We have 33 churches all over the country. We
have in the islands, and we have them …
WALDRON: Islands? What islands? You said you have them in the island.
BATES: Jamaica and those islands. We have a lady that will—I guess she just—did she pass? But she
was here from Jamaica. And she sang … she worked for a rich woman and they’d take her wherever they
go. They have brought her here in the United States. And she worked for them, cooked and did for them
and they’d take her, used to take her anywhere they went they took her. She was a member of our church.
We’d go visiting from here and we go to New York and Chicago. Wherever we had a church, in Chicago
and New York City. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh—no not Pittsburgh. Philadelphia. We had churches all
WALDRON: Thirty three of them
BATES: No, I said 33. I think it’s 31, I think.
WALDRON: Who are the Jolly Eights?
BATES: Who are the Jolly Eights? I sang with a group, and they were the Jolly Eights. How did you
know that? How did you know that?
WALDRON: I did some research.
BATES: Oh, and you saw that?
WALDRON: Tell me about who the Jolly Eights were. Is it the Jolly Eights?
BATES: It was eight of us. I was one of the eight. And we used to—none of us was married. Just the
youngsters of our church. We would give—we would each … during the week sometime and crochet, you
know, and do things like that rather than being out drinking. We were in doing something. That’s what—
we have youngsters now that do all singing and go on. When I was at church the other Sunday. No. They
came to my house. They brought the van with some of the younger ones, you know, they go to see the
sick. And so they sang three hymns here and, what else they did.
NELSON: Did you sing with them?
BATES: No, no. I was sitting listening.
WALDRON: Do you have a good voice?
BATES: I don’t have a good voice now because, I used to drink—now let me tell you this. I used to drink
Coke a lot. And I used to drink those 32 ounce ones, two and three a day. And I got a terrible case of gas.
They say I had gotten gas in its worst stage. I went to the hospital. They fluoroscoped it ; they didn’t
know what my problem was. And that’s what it was. And the gas had pushed from the esophagus to
across my throat so I sang in the choir and I think I was calling myself singing and I heard nothing
coming. And I didn’t know what until I heard them say now certain people that sing a lot they get where
sometimes they lose their—I forget this girl’s name. That she was sang, she was the winner of the
American Idol. And she had—oh could she sing. When you heard her sing. People would oh, I tell you,
they would bring down the house when she would sing. And so, I learned that’s that what happened. I lost
my voice. It could have been where I wouldn’t—they told her that she’d never sing again, but she was
able to. Now she’s back singing. Oh, after ten years she was stopped singing. Well she stopped because
her voice was—she was losing her voice. The doctor says she would. But she didn’t.
WALDRON: Let’s go back to the Jolly Eights. How did the Jolly Eights come to be?
BATES: Well we were in the church. We were brought up in the church.
WALDRON: So you were all in the church?
BATES: I guess all my life; I was about three or four years old.
WALDRON: Were you jolly or were you just all happy people, was that it?
BATES: Aw, you’re toying. You’re not saying anything. That’s the thing of being—you don’t have all
those because did your own. In my church you can’t smoke. If you smoke, that’s a sin. If you’re caught
smoking or something you lose out. You either got to say I’m going to stop doing it or something, you
know. You’re supposed to be forgiven if anything you do, because you’re not supposed—you’re not
perfect like God. So make mistakes. But you have to commit to saying that you have to go before the
board or something and say you won’t do it again or you say you sigh or whatever. I don’t know because
I would never know trouble. And I was a person that said I didn’t want to bring disgrace to my mother
because my mother was very—they thought she was such a great person. I didn’t want to be …
WALDRON: So the Jolly Eights were just people, young girls your age that sang in the choir. Did you
travel and sing?
BATES: Oh yeah. We traveled a lot because the bishop of my church from Atlanta. Oh I didn’t tell you. I
was on the enrollment committee for five years. I would have been on until I just resigned. My mother
was sick. She had arthritis. She got where she couldn’t do much anymore. So I had to be home. When you
get in these positions in the church that lasts your lifetime unless you just want to give up or don’t want to
continue. We have some good singers, good men that talk. Oh boy, I mean, when the women—what was
that in the church we had? It was the first Sunday in June. We had … you tell most of them good old fried
WALDRON: The first of June this year?
WALDRON: This June? You said the first of June?
BATES: Yeah, this year, yeah. That’s when they came to my house.
WALDRON: Oh, okay. You had some fried chicken?
BATES: Fried chicken. Oh we had some good cooks.
WALDRON: You have a good appetite?
BATES: Oh yeah. I can eat. I tell you. I could be ever so sick but I don’t stop eating. I eat. That’s one
thing. I never stop eating. I guess I’d had to be very, very, very—couldn’t open my mouth. So I love food.
WALDRON: So the doctor told you today that your health is good?
BATES: Oh they rave over my—I have now—all of my doctors come from MedStar. I used to go—my
cousin and I anyway they found that there was a group that would come to the house. They just started a
lot of this. And my doctor comes here. I have a woman doctor. She comes here. The nurses come. I don’t
have to got there on the Hill as I used to anymore. They come right here. My cousin, she—anytime she
can read up on something where you can get connected, she would do it.
WALDRON: So what’s—everybody asks it—what’s the secret to your long life?
BATES: Know what I tell them? No smoking, no drugs, eat healthy. That’s all I did. Worked every day
and came home and relaxed. I didn’t run the street half the night. I got good—I really took care of myself
as much as I knew.
NELSON: You did.
WALDRON: How long are you going to live?
BATES: I got cousins [who] predict that I’ll live—did you ever meet my cousin Marilyn? I had a cousin
come today that I said, “This was my day.” She came before them, today. And they all ask me. They ask,
“Aunt Pauline.” Not, Pauline. Because I have more cousins. “Cousin Pauline, what keeps you around so
long?” I said. “Living good, eating healthy and taking care of yourself, and don’t go out there and use
drugs.” A man came here to deliver something that I had to have and he came and sit right here. He said,
“You know what, you should be able to go around and let people know how to take of themselves and
what not to do.” And he said, “Oh I wish you could.” He said they came in here and sit while he was
delivering, talking, said, “I’d like for you to go on.” I said, “All I can tell is to eat healthy, get your rest,
stay away from drugs and I never smoked.” My sister used to smoke.
WALDRON: What do your cousins say? How long do they think you’re going to live, forever?
BATES: Oh, I—no, I told them, I say “I don’t whether I’d see you make it.” The truth is God told me I’d
make it to 100.”
BATES: Sounds like you’re getting just a few months away.
BATES: Well I’ve got five more months then it’ll be time.
WALDRON: What was Capitol Hill like in the 40s and 50s and 60s when you first moved to the Hill?
What was the neighborhood like?
BATES: Great. And you’d hear the singing. You know, the children singing the late and people come
sitting out in the park and then I listened to love …
WALDRON: How did you get back and forth to work?
BATES: I drove. I had a car.
WALDRON: You drove?
BATES: Yes I used to drive. I had, I think I had about five cars in my time.
WALDRON: Where did you shop on the Hill? Where did you go shopping?
BATES: Oh, what for food or clothing or something?
BATES: Food, I went to the market. Sanitary—Safeway [Safeway used to be Sanitary Markets] at 14th
and Kentucky [SE]. Yeah, I went to that one. And there was one that two doors down.
NELSON: On Seventh.
BATES: Where they’re making the church.
WALDRON: Yeah. I used to go there. When I first moved to the Hill I used to go there. It had the little
parking lot next to it. Yes. That’s where you shopped, just the Safeway?
BATES: Yeah. I shopped down on 14th and Kentucky. And then they had two on Seventh Street. One
across from the market [Eastern Market] you remember that? And then they had on the same side of the
street, now, just had the cross. One of my church members worked there. He was a, what you call them?
NELSON: Clerk, cashier.
BATES: Clerk that you know, yeah. One of them was kin to him. He belonged to my church.
WALDRON: Did you ever go to the Eastern Market? Did you shop there?
BATES: Oh my goodness yes. I did everything there, flowers, plants and everything from there, they
used to have. And then I was—lady that used to come there that I’d buy eggs from all the time. Every
week she came I’d get the fresh eggs from her.
WALDRON: At the Eastern Market?
WALDRON: As opposed to the Safeway, right?
BATES: Yeah. Safeway was … We had the Safeway across the street from it.
WALDRON: It was. How about the other stores in the neighborhood? Did you use the other stores in the
BATES: Well, we had a store around Eighth and E [Streets SE] right down on the corner was a Jewish
store there. A grocery store there. They had pretty nice things. And back in that time it was good because
every two or three blocks away there was a store right in the neighborhood. And the Market [Eastern
WALDRON: Did you bank up on Capitol Hill?
BATES: Yes. I banked. I’ve been banking at—let me see where the first one was that I banked at. It was
the one at Eighth and Penn; Eighth and D right down on the corner where the …
BATES: Right there, there was—I’m trying to think, was there a store there? No, it was the bank there. I
forget what it was called but I belonged; I’ve a bank account there and I had one where the Citibank. Well
I was there for three changes were there. I was there when it was National Permanent—National
Permanent I think it was called. And the Citibank and the one that used to be at Fourth and Penn.
NELSON: Oh was it Chevy Chase?
WALDRON: Eastern Savings and Loan.
BATES: Yeah. I was there. And I think they said I was there, came to the one at Sixth and Penn. I guess
it was 30 years or so. But it was three banks that was there. At Citibank had three changes. First National
Permanent and sometime after, Eastern. And the one that’s there now. The Citi.
WALDRON: What about the old streetcars? Do you remember them?
BATES: Oh yes. I got them when I was going down to high school, we had streetcars. We had streetcars
and I remember once since my husband was and I were married … all time. They had streetcars then. One
time we had such a snow …
WALDRON: Didn’t they go right down Pennsylvania Avenue?
BATES: Yes, down Pennsylvania Avenue and down to the Navy Yard. They would make turn here. At
Eighth and Penn go down to the Navy Yard; the cars and buses and all. Then it went to Barney Circle.
You know, that I was there? Going across the bridge there. It was a terminal like. The cars would stop
there and buses.
WALDRON: What was the Navy Yard? Was the Navy Yard—was pretty busy in those days in the 30s
and 40s and 50s. People worked there. Did people in the neighborhood work at the Navy Yard?
BATES: I think so. But there was a lot of people worked in the Navy Yard. We had—my sister had a
youngster lives here that worked in the Navy Yard. He worked in the Navy Yard. He worked there. He
started building some new buildings down there. He’s in the new. Worked down there, but he’s in one of
the newer buildings there. He didn’t work for the Navy. But they had all the people in there, you know,
where people worked in the buildings but they weren’t from the Navy. They were from other—because
one person made awnings. And he had an office. And when I used to have awnings. You know I had
awnings on my house.
WALDRON: Awnings on your house?
BATES: I still left them there. There’s awnings on the house because I didn’t take them down.
WALDRON: What kind of cars did you drive?
BATES: The first one was a Pontiac. I had a Catalina Pontiac and I had, I guess it must have been two
kinds. I had two Pontiacs because one I got first I think that was when I—now I had an Oldsmobile when
I first started driving.
WALDRON: When did you start driving? How old were you?
BATES: Oh I could drive from a youngster when my father taught me when I was, you know, teenager
but I never, you know, got a license, but I knew how, because he should teach me when we lived in
WALDRON: How long did you drive?
BATES: I drived ’til 2006.
BATES: Yeah. I was 90 years old. They didn’t tell me I had to stop. You know, they put times limit to
you. When you get older now you can’t drive. I stopped myself because I got a new car. I got a new car
and I said. “I don’t want to be driving and somebody come and say give me your keys.”
WALDRON: Your eyes are still pretty good? Can you see pretty well?
BATES: Yeah, but I just learned that I had glaucoma.
NELSON: You do, now?
BATES: When I left here I was going to the doctor and they didn’t say it but just recently. Just now. But
I’m taking this—well I was still going to Dr. Boone that’s up here and he didn’t catch before the
glaucoma, but didn’t. It’s just lately. I go to a doctor. They had those new machines and all. I guess
different machines and these others I went to had. That’s in—I go out there. I’m taking—I have to use eye
drops. But I was so happy they weren’t going to do nothing. I didn’t even have to wear glasses, just for
reading. Just for reading. I could see pretty good. As you get older different things happen. That’s old
people disease, you know.
WALDRON: Then you’re just getting it now?
BATES: Yeah. [laughter]
WALDRON: Let me ask this. Here’s a tricky question. What’s your fondest memory of living on Capitol
BATES: The fondest?
WALDRON: The fondest memory. What makes you smile the most when you think about living on
BATES: Well the people were—the people, you look at them and they’re smiling and talking to you and
friendly. That’s what made me love Capitol Hill. Everybody was so nice. Everyone, mostly. Naturally
there were some bad kids or somebody other. Nobody bothered you. Everybody stopped that. My
husband he says, “Hey” to me sometime when I’d be outside picking up or sweeping or something. And
he said, “My goodness you, what’s keeping you out here a couple of hours … you not bothering to come
in the house?” I said, “Well neighbors come, you know, this one.” And people always were very friendly
with me. All the people and what not just made you feel welcome to the Hill. They made you. There was
a lady who used to walk a dog a lot. And she always would stop to talk and look at me. And sometimes
I’d see her at the door, the screen door. And I’d see her and I’d go out because know she was looking to
stop there to see and talk to me. People were just lovely.
WALDRON: Did you ever have a—were you ever robbed or have any crime?
WALDRON: That’s good.
BATES: Anywhere I went I didn’t do a whole lot of walking by myself. I had to go—things changed. My
husband used to come home on the bus. And he said to me, he said, “It’s getting rough out there.” He
said, “I might have to ask you to come and pick me up.” He didn’t drive. No he didn’t drive. His two
brothers drove but he didn’t. And so I had to—I had three dogs then. I had a poodle—and I had three. I
had a black poodle and then I had a little dog. And I think I was keeping a dog for someone. My sister had
given one of her dog’s puppies to a friend and she might have gone somewhere and asked me to keep
him. But I had the three, so I’d take them with me to the Union Station. I’d get all three of them and we’d
go in. I took them out of the car. We’d go in to meet my husband. And sometimes we’d get to the door,
he’d go in and he’s coming out. We got into the car and come home, but the three dogs was with me. The
poodle and I forget what the other one was of mine. And then I think I had the one that my sister had
given to the friend of hers. And I had—that’s what made me have the three. But they were protective. I’d
just go to get him. But I was—it was just when the times were changing on the Hill. There people that
were robbing. Because that’s why he asked me to come. He said they were coming to the bus stop and
saying,” Give me your wallet,” and all that. So he said, “I have to ask you to come and pick me up.” So
that’s what I did.
WALDRON: Tell me about him. You were married how long?
BATES: My husband died in—when did I say? I didn’t say.
NELSON: You got married in ’39.
NELSON: And so how long were you married?
BATES: He retired—after he retired I know. He retired—what am I trying to say, when he retired?
WALDRON: No. I was just asking when—you started to tell me when he died and then you …
BATES: He died in ’76.
WALDRON: What did he die of?
BATES: He had a heart problem. As he got older he had a heart problem.
WALDRON: Was he sick? Did he die in the hospital or …
BATES: He died when he was in—he’d gone on a trip, gone to Pittsburgh. His mother lived in Louisville
She lived in. It’s a little place where a lot of steel mills were outside of Pittsburgh. But just like you’d go
to—from Washington to the places where the stores—shopping, you know, they shop a lot there. He had
to come into Pittsburgh to go to shops for clothing, and like. It was a little small place where he lived.
Clairton, I think was one and then Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh. Just outside of Pittsburgh.
WALDRON: Let me ask you this. This is a little harder question. You grew up in the city. You lived
through a long period of time when there was discrimination, racial discrimination. Tell me about that.
BATES: Oh, when I came to Washington I know my grandmother used send me here when she didn’t
have time. Like pay a bill. I remember her having, buying … my aunt, younger aunt, bought a piano from
Arthur Jordan; it used to be at 13th and F [Streets NW], the store that sold pianos and things like that. And
she would pin money in my coat pocket, on the inside like in the lining in the pocket, and send me to
Arthur Jordan piano company to pay the bill on the piano. And she would pin it in there. That’s how I
would come. I knew to get on, but had to ride the streetcar, sit on the back, you know you couldn’t sit on
the front of the car, just like the Rose woman did.
NELSON: Rosa Parks.
BATES: Yeah. Rosa. We did the same as she did. Had to sit on the back. Most of the children were
trained and used to do it, so nobody had to ask them do it because they would go back, I remember. And
the cars used to stop at 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue [NW]. You remember where the streetcars used—
you probably don’t remember—but the streetcars used to come from Alexandria and run—where did they
go—used to come from Richmond. And that’s where they would stop when we come from Alexandria
they would stop off and be there a certain time at the station then they would go on back. But they’d run
just like the streetcars would run here.
WALDRON: So you had to sit in the back?
BATES: Yes. On the ride, I didn’t walk—I had to sit in the back, yes.
WALDRON: Did the people ever treat—and did people, strangers, ever treat you badly just because they
would treat you badly?
BATES: No, because your parents, my parents were Christian people. And they didn’t believe in
retaliating, fighting going on. They figured that wouldn’t help the situation that much. So my
grandmother would say, “You know you don’t go out there and do no fighting, whatnot, unless somebody
was trying to hurt you because you were trying to.” We knew those kinds of things you just have to go
and tell until change came, because it was rough. But you were taught.
WALDRON: When did change come?
BATES: In the 50s, I think when, you seen Martin Luther King them out there. That’s when it really,
really started, because then people wound up saying, “I’m tired of this, and I’m tired of what happened.”
It was a new way in the street.
NELSON: Did you ever get kicked out of a restaurant or anything?
BATES: No, no, because we were both taught. My grandmother—Christian people believed in the right
regardless of what’s going on. They said, “God will make them. It will be a change.” You hear people
around saying. Martin Luther King walked and talked. And they depended on God making the change.
And they knew that you had to get in the street to make the change. They knew that.
WALDRON: What was it like here in the 60s? President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. What was it
BATES: Well they were talking. They wanted to see a change. They really wanted. And you know who
lives up here on this block? You remember—he went with Martin Luther King all the time on the
different phases. Reverend [Walter E.] Fauntroy. He lives on the corner. Right here on this corner here. I
used to, I think, reading, But they went through a lot. Even when Martin Luther King—in Atlanta too.
The headquarters of our church is in Atlanta. Five years I was a—everybody that came from all the parts
we had to register and I was on that committee. We had to have where we came from, the name and
everything to be put in the book. I worked on that. I was five years. It could have been longer, but I had
to—my mother got sick. She was sick when we left but as she got older she was disabled where she
couldn’t do as much as she had been, so we decided, my sister and I, said we won’t go too far where we
can’t get back in an hour, maybe something like that. I cursed my mother. She would always want to have
company and be there at the house. I said, “It’s time for you to go.” And so I got her ready and took her to
Atlanta. And she had to have these walking things. I had to give her, get the bishop of our church to—tell
him when I was bringing her and to meet us at the station and all. I took her and for weeks we had
meetings going. She was able to go and she enjoyed, but she was the one who always wanted a fix for
some ideals and she say. And I said now, “It’s time for you to go.” So I did get her to Atlanta. She went
out to little places close by. But she didn’t ever go that far.
WALDRON: Did you go to Martin Luther King’s speech in 1963 down at the Lincoln Memorial?
BATES: I didn’t go in the crowd. I tell you that’s one thing, I wouldn’t go in the crowds because you
could get hurt. So I just didn’t. But I’d seen it on TV. But I didn’t go in it. And I wished I had, but it was
so many people. You can get crushed and all. I didn’t.
WALDRON: Was that exciting to you? Was it hopeful? Did it make you hopeful?
BATES: That main thing that got me was the one when they used the hose and the dogs. That got me. I
said, “Why would anybody, regards to what, would do such a thing to a human being?” That got me.
WALDRON: What about Barack Obama? Did you vote for him?
BATES: Yeah. I got pictures of him.
WALDRON: Do you?
BATES: On my wall right here. I’ve got pictures of him. Twelve right here. One of my church members
brought it to me. They were over here. And I put them there.
END OF FIRST RECORDING
WALDRON: Tell me a little bit about Barack Obama. Were you excited when he got elected?
BATES: Oh yes. And I knew he was going to get elected. The reason why I knew he was going to, God,
it’s in the Bible. But it said—what did it say? I can’t remember now. But I do know and I just said, “Oh
yeah. God, he was meant to be the president.” He was born to be a president. And I knew it. I knew God
he was going to win the election. I think it [the Bible] mentions the change that would come. It means that
somebody even with color or whatnot. It was going to be a change. And the way it’s written—I’m not a—
the Bible said—I was never able to do much going to it because I worked two jobs. I worked day and
night. I had to take them—especially when my father got sick and could, you know, when they both were
sickly. So my sister and I took care of them. And so I had to do it. I was an elevator operator. Then I was
in the government. I was picked to be on John Bradley’s car. When people come—all the people that
came business-like to see him. He didn’t ride with—because in the Veterans Administration I think they
had about four—they had elevators on H Street side, Vermont Avenue side, all around. They had so many
elevators. And I was the one that was picked for the Bradley. I had to go through the FBI. And then I was
one of the FBI buildings. You had to be checked and all. And then I enjoyed meeting people. I’ve always
been; I’ve liked being around people. People that were in the service, you know. I really enjoyed myself
being all and meets so many diplomats. Like that.
WALDRON: You said you didn’t drink or smoke.
BATES: Oh no.
WALDRON: Did you ever go out dancing?
BATES: I had been because with my church we didn’t go to too many.
WALDRON: Did you go out to listen to any music ever?
BATES: Oh yes. I listen to it. Listen to it in the house, but now at the church, you know, you could have
just like this thing here now. I have a lot of recording of the different: Mahalia Jackson, and all those
people, I could hear them.
WALDRON: Who are your favorite singers? Mahalia Jackson.
BATES: Mahalia. Yeah I had the recordings. I didn’t get to see her in person, but I had the recording. If
you didn’t get see people in person you’d get their recording if they were really singing is what they done.
I used to go—my parents didn’t know—if I wanted to see something like in—of course they didn’t say
you shouldn’t go here or there—I might but go and didn’t tell them. I couldn’t pull it off or something
like that. I’ve always been the one to never do something that would bring a shame to my parents.
WALDRON: Assuming Barack Obama is someone you like, what other presidents did you like?
Presidents of the United States.
BATES: The Kennedys. I guess that’s all in my time. The Roosevelts they were, I remember, because I
was working downtown in one of the buildings during that time.
NELSON: Who was the first president you voted for? Do you know that?
BATES: Well, you know, we couldn’t vote for a long time. Every since then when you could vote for
president, I did it.
WALDRON: ’68 then because ’68 was the first vote. [DC residents were able to vote for president in
1964, after the passage of the 23rd amendment to the Constitution.]
BATES: Yeah. But other than that we, you know, we didn’t vote that much.
WALDRON: What’s the best thing that happened to you ever in your life?
BATES: Well I tell you one. Living a clean, respectable life was one of the things I tried to do most of
my life. And I think that I met some great people.
WALDRON: What about the opposite of that? What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?
BATES: I’m trying to think. I don’t know.
WALDRON: Everybody has something bad happen to them in life.
BATES: I don’t know. For me, I had a pretty good time because I was always afraid—with my
grandmother, well my mother says something I’m going to try to do what I didn’t want to know. My
mother was so well-liked in the church and things. You can get where you can bring shame to them. So I
was always the one that didn’t want to be—make my mother shamed.
WALDRON: Did anybody ever do anything bad to you?
BATES: Not bad to me. But they did things that I disliked.
WALDRON: Like what?
BATES: Oh, I don’t know. Drinking, carrying on out in the street, acting crazy and all that kind of stuff
with liquor or whatever they had, drugs.
WALDRON: Any regrets about your life?
BATES: I only wish I had done more in my lifetime. I was always the one to try to help somebody. I
think that’s why I opened my childcare.
WALDRON: Tell me about that. How many people were in your childcare?
BATES: Five every day.
WALDRON: Five every day?
BATES: Toward my last I took children—Miss Spencer. I had all three of her children.
WALDRON: She’s your neighbor or people on the Hill?
BATES: She lived on the Hill. She lives on the Hill now. She wanted to continue to work and I took her
children. That way she didn’t have to go somewhere else. She brought them all three there because she
was walking distance. And I used to have—I said, “What’s the use of having you get to work on time like
you’re doing with three children.” And they were little. One, two and three. She had three children in the
three years, you know. She was such a lovely person, I tell you. Everybody that I had; I don’t know, I
guess I just liked people.
WALDRON: Do you get back to Capitol Hill? Do you ever go back there to your old house and
BATES: I was by this Sunday. I was on Eighth Street Sunday looking at the dogs. You know the girl
used to do my dogs that lived there. The black girl that had—I can’t think of her name because she—both
of them had—there were two shops that I went to.
WALDRON: H Street; there on H Street?
BATES: Yeah on Eighth.
WALDRON: Oh, Eighth.
BATES: Eighth. Right there near the Navy Yard.
WALDRON: A block from where you lived then on Seventh.
BATES: My nephew, he bought this house special for me and my mother—me and my sister. But he
bought it for his mother but he’d always said that he was the going to want the house with no stairs. And
my house down on the Hill had 17 steps. Tosca would go down those steps but he wouldn’t go down the
front steps where they have no back. He was afraid of falling, I guess, through there. And she’d go there.
You didn’t have to put nothing there. When you or anybody comes she’d go right to, when you opened
that door she’d be there peeking at you.
WALDRON: So how are you friends with Angela. She’s your friend, right?
BATES: Angie gets off and gets this and that up. She was just like my sister, but she does anything. She
hear me. I tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it.
WALDRON: She does what? Just anything?
BATES: Oh she does lots of things, she does. She sees to me going to the foot—you know just …
WALDRON: Takes great care of you?
BATES: Yeah. And her husband, they come up and we have cook outs. Oh we have nice a time here. We
have cook outs. He was here—when did he cook some? He says, “This was the first cook out.” We have a
good time here. Just with friends, right. Angie and Miss Epps. Now when I first came up here, Miss Epps
had neighbors to come. Most of these neighbors that live up in here came. Now on this corner house, the,
you know the black golfer that used to be here. He was—what was his name? [Golfer Lee Elder lived in
the neighborhood.] But he was the golfer. He lived in that corner house there. Then another fellow lived
next to him. He came from Anniston, South Carolina [Alabama?]. Went to school here and then [during]
his schooling he chauffeured for Woodward and Lothrops. They bought him this house here, right here;
the second house up from the corner. Then my sister and them bought this house. You could go out here
and you could see up there on that next block where he lived, you know. And the golfer on the corner.
God has opened up so many doors. So many doors.
NELSON: Yeah, you know a lot of people.
BATES: And then, I don’t know, people talk to me, you know, I wondered, I said, “Why.” Even though
on Capitol Hill when I went there the old little people. It was this lady that was mentioned that all the
ladies that came. She used to walk dogs a lot. That’s how I got to talk with her. And Angie said she met
more people walking my dog because you know you get in neighborhoods.
WALDRON: Sure, sure. Everybody knows their …
BATES: Yeah, yeah. And that’s how Angie and—let me see who was here, went with us the first time—
Dominique has a girlfriend, Dominique. Missy. They had their own business walking dogs on the Hill.
And that’s how Angie met them. And that’s how I met them. Dominique walked Tosca. Missy walked
Tosca. There was three, there was four people that they would come and volunteer and walk her.
WALDRON: Last question, okay? In all the years from 1948 when you moved to Capitol Hill, until you
left 63 years later, what was the biggest change that you saw?
BATES: The biggest change?
WALDRON: All the time you lived on Capitol Hill, the biggest change on the Hill.
BATES: When I met so many good people like Angie and you (Dawn) and all of them. It looked like it
was just a family like. It got to be where you know each other; you been around enough to know the
qualities of the person, you know. You wouldn’t want to go out and meet somebody and later on say,
“That person killed somebody.” You know. And everybody was just so—I don’t know, I say this house,
my nephew wanted something special for my sister and my mother. So I said, he’s passed now, but that’s
what his goal was. And I say, “I owe it to him.”
WALDRON: It was your nephew who did this, huh?
BATES: Yeah. So that’s the way I think, you know. And I love everybody. To me there is no color. God
made different colors because of the rainbow. If everybody looks alike, the same color you wouldn’t have
a bunch of flowers. To me, that’s the way I feel. And I’ve enjoyed life. I enjoyed life.
WALDRON: It appears you have. You look terrific. Well thank you so much for doing this.
BATES: I want you to come and be one of the family. Anytime we have something I’d like to see you
come and enjoy, because we have a good time when you come up here. Everybody, my church people.
The last three weeks they all were teenagers. The guy that drove the van. He belong to the church. We
have the younger group that was what you called, when I was that age where the girls would, they would
have the boys—the people in the church, you know. And they’d marry. That’s a group, that’s the group
that was around the age when you said the Jolly Eight. You said, “Where did you get the information, out
of the Hill Rag.”
WALDRON: I just asked some questions here and there.
BATES: Well it’s all the neighbors. Me and, let me see, I think only out of the eight, it’s me and another
girl that’s 90, let me see, she’s 93, I think. Something like that. Anyway she was at church.
WALDRON: The two of you still there?
NELSON: Two of the eight.
WALDRON: Two of the eight are still alive? You and this other girl?
BATES: No it was just our group.
BATES: We named …
WALDRON: No, you said of the eight. And then you said that two …
BATES: There’s two. Yeah, there’s me and a girl named Moss. But all of the family—the children that
they have. Most of them are in the church doing things and …
WALDRON: Did you sing church music or did you sing music that was like …
BATES: Church music because, you know, we were in—we had programs and things and so we were
singing there. Everybody that ever went to the church; my cousin Bernice, lives in Pittsburgh, and she
comes down here special. And she just loves the people.
WALDRON: The church is the Bethlehem …
BATES: Church. Yeah it’s called Bethlehem. We have two or three Bethlehems, but they in Asheville,
one called, I think is in Asheville. I think that one is Bethlehem too.
WALDRON: So where is that church in DC?
BATES: It’s Eastern Avenue and Riggs Road. Right on the corner. We bought the land first and had it
built. We had …
WALDRON: Up by Chillum, is that it? Near Chillum?
BATES: Yeah. Couple of blocks. We’re a couple of blocks out on Eastern and a couple of blocks up in
Hyattsville. I drove down just about two blocks from—didn’t seem like it was that long. We bought the
ground there and had the church built and paid the mortgage in six years. We had a trustee that was in the
Navy. Very smart person. When they paid the bills they paid two months instead of one. We paid for that
built it. Nobody’s ever had that—well we built and then one of the members of the church lived next
door. When we built the church and paint our church. And now the pastor told me, he said, “You know
what?” I said, “What?” We bought the house next door because she was a member and the daughter had it
and she decided to sell and sold it. And that’s our parking lot, part of it. I tell, we have some smart ones in
there. We really have.
NELSON: Pauline, can we do anything for you before we go? Do you want help with anything?
BATES: No, but do you want something to drink? Some cake or something else because they have stuff
in there in case you want it.
NELSON: Oh thank you, no. I think we need to get back to Capitol Hill.
BATES: Well I’m certainly glad. I was thinking maybe I wouldn’t remember.
WALDRON: You remembered everything. You have a remarkable memory.
BATES: My sister said that. She always said you have. I remember sometime I’d meet different ones I
went to school with. And hadn’t seen them in years. I never forget a face. If I’ve been up with you I can
NELSON: Angie said a woman might come over at 5:30.
BATES: Yeah, she’s coming back up. That Angie’s coming back up here.
NELSON: With a dog for you to look at.
WALDRON: Are you thinking of getting another dog?
BATES: I’m so lonesome without someone. I’m here alone, you know. And I didn’t know—I thought
about it and then I was saying maybe I’d get somebody, but you never know who you’re getting. And
maybe I’m better off to just be careful.
NELSON: Do you know what kind of dog they’re bringing today?
BATES: She mentioned some type, but she said it wasn’t quite as big. I wanted to show you—you’ve
never seen my dog. I want to show …
WALDRON: We saw a picture today.
BATES: Oh that. But I got one here of him alone.
NELSON: Oh where is it?
BATES: It’s in the back. I’ll go.
NELSON: Can I get it or do you want me to get it?
BATES: It’s on, let me see, on the—where I sit and eat most of the time where, you know, where when
you come and make your list and all that.
NELSON: Right there?
BATES: Okay. You want to see through the house?
BATES: You want to go through to see?
NELSON: Look at the house Peter?
BATES: And we got a big yard. My yard runs from here to here.
WALDRON: I got to take a picture of you. Can I do that before I go?
BATES: Yeah, yes, yes.
WALDRON: Let me do this right now.
NELSON: Ah, this is a really nice picture of Tosca.
BATES: Oh, I got some more. If you want one I think I got one. I stuffed them somewhere so that
nobody—Angie framed it and all. And that’s my sister. That’s my sister there. That’s her son. He’s an
attorney. He was an attorney. And that’s him at four months. Three up. I took him downtown. You see
him a little of my hair sticking up. And he was four months old got him photographed. That’s my mother
over there on the top. That’s my mother.
WALDRON: Can you give me a smile here?
WALDRON: I say, could you look at me and give me a smile?
NELSON: And smile. Pose for your picture.
WALDRON: All right now. Thank you.
NELSON: Is that your nephew too?
BATES: That’s him. He was an attorney; a criminal attorney.
WALDRON: Really? What was his name?
NELSON: Reginald. What was his name?
BATES: His name was Gerald.
WALDRON: My brother’s name is Gerald.
BATES: His name is Gerald. And that’s my mother there on the top.
END OF INTERVIEW