Interviewed by Joan Effiong
28 October 2013
Oral History Program
Weber State University
28 October 2013
Copyright © 2014 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
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The New Zion Community Advocates worked with community members age 80 years and older to have
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Daniels, Sylvester, an oral history by Joan
Effiong, 28 October 2013, WSU Stewart
Library Oral History Program, Special
Collections, Stewart Library, Weber State
University, Ogden, UT.
Sylvester Daniels, photo taken at
his home on October 28, 2013
Abstract: The following is an interview with Sylvester Daniels Sr., conducted on
October 28, 2013 by Joan Effiong. Also present is Sylvester’s nephew, Larry
JE: Okay Mr. Daniels again we’re happy that you allow us to come in and do an oral
history on you. So we are going to start by asking you to please tell us your
name, your birthdate, and how we’re related, and what we are doing now. So tell
us your name.
SD: My name is Sylvester Daniels Senior.
JE: And your date of birth?
SD: March 25, 1929.
JE: How are we related? We’re not related.
SD: Not that I know of
JE: Okay and what are you doing now? What are you doing now?
SD: I’m not doing anything, I’m retired.
JE: Okay good for you. What are the most important lessons you have learned in
SD: Well, just a normal life. I worked for 30 something years for the railroad and now
I’m not doing anything, I’m retired. That’s about the most important thing in my
life that I did. I worked for most of my life.
JE: What are you proudest of in your life, one of the most important things you’re
proud of in your life?
SD: My children. Some of them did real well and some of them did fairly. I’m more
proud of them than anything else.
JE: How long have you lived in Ogden, and what brought you to Ogden?
SD: I came to Ogden to visit my brother and I stayed after I got here. Coming to
Ogden, I didn’t like the city when I first got here, but it grew on me and I enjoyed
JE: How has it changed over the years? How has Ogden changed over the years?
SD: Well, when I first came in they were kind of afraid of the city. I don’t know, some
people said it was the Mormons and some say it was other things, but I always
got along well with both sides.
JE: What was it like when you grew up and then when you first move up here?
SD: Well it some different at that time. There weren’t very many blacks here at that
time. Then you have one area of the city downtown it grew on me and I got
normal. I moved from here to Los Angeles, stayed there for 20 years and when I
retired I moved back here. It was kind of quiet and I liked it.
JE: What do you miss most about how Ogden used to be?
SD: Well like I said when I first came here it seemed like they were prejudice people
here at that time. I don’t know if it was the Mormon people or the white folk
because there weren’t many blacks here at that time and they all stayed in one
area of the city. That’s about the only thing I noticed different then than now.
JE: Who are some of the great characters from here?
SD: When you said great characters what do you mean? The people that live here?
JE: The people, yeah.
SD: Back then, you know, like I say, there weren’t many blacks here and we had a
guy that ran a club down on 25th street named Billie Weekly. He more or less was
one of your top major black persons in the city that time of the ones that I knew.
JE: Do you remember any great stories or legends about our town?
SD: Great stories huh? The biggest thing I remember about Ogden. Like I said there
weren’t too many blacks here and most of them down there in the 12 block area
of 25th street down towards 22nd street most of them in that area. Like I say I
don’t know what you would call because that didn’t ever bother me, just wasn’t
enough blacks here for me at the time, but I managed through it and everything.
Got along pretty well with them and what few people I worked for then. They
treated me fairly.
JE: Did you have any nicknames?
SD: No more than Sylvester or some people just said Sil. The one’s that knew me
well said Sil, but other than that that’s my one nickname I ever had.
JE: Okay I was going to ask how did you get that Sil nickname?
SD: Well I don’t know they just started calling me Sil. I don’t know, they were saying
Sylvester and cut it short and said Sil, you know.
JE: Who were your best friends and what were they like?
SD: Well there were a few guys here then. Wasn’t too many guys here. You had
Walter Reeve and L.D. Stewart and few people who I run around with, some I
worked with you know. There was a guy named Hubert Reeves and we were
pretty close. Most other time were hosts who came along later, not the regular
pack. I got along well with all of them. If the guys had a squabble or a fight they
didn’t try to kill each other they would just fight and go on the next day, they’d
forgotten about it.
JE: After work what did you do for fun?
SD: Well I worked on the railroad, so that meant I was out of town quite a bit and I
was in town quite a bit. We’d go down to a place called The Club and a place
called Sloppy Joe. There were only a couple of places that blacks really could go
at that time, so we had drinks and things at those clubs and we had a lot of fun.
We started going fishing and hunting and things like that. I enjoyed that pretty
JE: Alright, what are your best memories of grade school of high school?
SD: Well, when I came to this town I had finished my schooling. I had finished
schooling and wasn’t going to school then. I went to school in Alabama. Most of
my schooling was in Alabama so I just enjoyed it then. I played ball, the sports
and stuff with the fellows you know. I played some sports after we came out here
you know, baseball and things like that.
JE: How you doing?
SD: I’m doing fine.
JE: Shall we go on or do you want to take a break?
SD: No I don’t want to take a break.
JE: Okay. How did you meet your wife?
SD: I met my wife in Alabama, my first wife I’ll say it that way. She now lives in
California, I think, or someplace out there. We met, I was in the service when I
first met her. She was a little girl so we met and we went together for a few years
then finally we got married. So we stayed together quite a few years then we
came to Utah. She came out here with me and we didn’t get along too well after
we got to Utah. I don’t know if something about the area or the atmosphere or
something. We both, I guess, just changed quite a bit so we couldn’t make it in
that marriage so we finally divorced.
JE: How has being a parent changed you?
SD: Well I don’t know. I didn’t change much after being a parent. I was kind of
ignorant to the parent facts that I should do or shouldn’t do. I was a little while
and I grew up behind the girls, what few girls there were here, but that didn’t
change me too much. I was just a regular guy.
JE: What do you do for a living?
SD: I worked on the railroad for years then I was a bartender for the rest of the years.
After I went to Los Angeles I worked down there as a bartender on the railroad.
Like I said when I retired from the railroad I moved back here. I had a brother
living here then and most of my kids lived here.
JE: What did you want to be when you grow up?
SD: That’s a good question. I wanted to be rich. I did a lot of work for a little money. I
never got rich so I just settled with what I had.
JE: Were you in the military?
SD: Yes that was before I came out here when I was in the navy. I was in the navy for
two and half or three years. After I got out of the Navy I went back to Alabama. I
stayed in Florida most of the time and then my brother was living out here so he
came down to visit and I visit him. That’s what got me stuck here.
JE: How did war change you?
SD: When I was a youngster, a kid during the war. First years they didn’t train me at
all. I lived the same life as if there was no war. When I went into service the war
was over more or less so it didn’t change me at all.
JE: What lesson did you learn from this time in your life?
SD: To try and leave other people’s business out of my business and take care of
yourself. Try to treat everybody the same equally and that was just about it. That
was about all I did.
JE: Anything else that you would like to talk about that we didn’t cover in this
SD: Well you could say when I first came here I didn’t like the city at all. I accepted it,
but I didn’t like it. My brother being here it made it a little bit easier. Then when
my job asked me to move a lot I was ready to go because I was glad to leave
JE: Okay that will conclude our interview.
LR: Well I have, would you mind if I asked a couple of questions? Would that be
LR: Okay I wasn’t sure. You talked about the community, the black community in
Ogden and you said it was a 12 block area.
SD: Yeah most of them lived on a 12 block area and that’s giving them a lot of space.
LR: So when you were working on the railroad where did you live?
SD: I first lived on 29th street in Ogden, then I moved down on 22nd street in Ogden, I
lived down there until I left and went to Los Angeles.
LR: I was curious how was Ogden different from where you had come from Alabama
and Florida? How was it different because you said you didn’t like Ogden very
SD: I didn’t care much for it when I came here. Like I said it was prejudice, course
Alabama was prejudice too but I didn’t mingle with too many races but the black
race when I was down there. Then I come out here and the whites was prejudice
to the blacks. To me at that time, maybe some of them might say differently, but
to me it was because you all could live in certain areas of the city.
LR: So I’ve heard rumors, they’re not rumors. I didn’t mean to say rumors. But 25th
Street was very segregated.
SD: 25th Street on one side of the street was blacks hung out and the other side of
the street whites hung out. Very few people would go over on that side of the
street because they knew they weren’t wanted over there so they stayed on the
south sides of the street.
LR: I think it’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. It’s hard for someone
in my generation to imagine that people could be so ignorant.
LD: Thing is he’s 30 years older than me and I grew up in Alabama too. 30 year span
and the same things were happening.
SD: When I said people didn’t mingle with each other the whites and the blacks didn’t
mingle too much. The white would come over to the black side if they wanted too,
but very few blacks would go on the white side you know. Not only here, you had
quite a few of the states have segregation. I even saw segregation in Los
Angeles. I saw segregation in a lot of cities. You may not think would happen.
I’ve seen segregation in St. Louis, Chicago all those places because I worked on
the railroad and went to those cities. That was places you didn’t go as same as
JE: How would you feel now in 2013? Do you feel like the crossing over has been a
little easier in this city? Do you think that blacks and whites are mingling or are
we still in pockets?
SD: Well there is certain pockets you can find them in, but now you can find blacks
living in most areas of the city that they can afford to live in.
JE: Do they have a relationship in terms of fellowship or what would you say?
SD: You might have a few more relationships now than you did then.
LD: Well one thing would be the church. You know the white and black church.
SD: You can go to black churches. You would probably have to live in order to
understand it. A lot of times you would go east of Washington Boulevard and
police would stop you and tell you to go back down below the boulevard.
LR: I’m sorry I shouldn’t interject.
SD: Oh no go ahead. Well in this city here like I say in most of the major cities. I was
in New York and all those cities back then, Washington. It was back there.
LR: I’m sorry I just cut you off. I apologize, I shouldn’t do that. Were you still in Ogden
when oh I just lost his name. Marshall, Marshall White.
SD: Marshall White, yes back then he was a policeman. Whether he arrested white
folks or not I don’t know because I never saw him arrest any of them. More or
less he arrested I guess was in my neighborhood the black if you know what I
mean because most blacks lived in certain neighborhoods. You had one or two
blacks here and there that would live above Washington Boulevard, but most of
them lived below Washington Boulevard.
LR: Did his becoming a police officer help do you think?
SD: No I don’t think it helped any. It was the same I guess because he was just a
black police officer in a black neighborhood, that’s what I would say. The whites
would go in any neighborhood they wanted too but I never saw him above
Washington Boulevard arresting no one.
JE: Again we thank you for…
SD: I hope I give you something that would help you. I don’t see what will.
JE: Gives us education, we love education.
LD: You guys only heard a part of it, he got a lot of stories. He didn’t know what you
were coming out here for, he knew an interview but he got a lot of stories you
didn’t talk about.
JE: Well that’s why we asked, “Is there anything you’d like to tell us that we didn’t
ask?” Is there any story you want to put on the record that is in your mind that
you want to leave for us, the next generation?
SD: Like I said, by me working on the railroad I traveled a lot in different cities and
different states. You found more prejudice here than you would find in Chicago,
but it was prejudice there also. You would find more here than in Los Angeles,
but it was prejudice there also because I ran into prejudice in most every city that
I’d ever been in. I would run into prejudice in Wimbledon, Delaware. Now who in
the world would think that I’d be in Wimbledon Delaware? I was in the navy and
we was traveling by train and we stopped there. I go in to get a soda and two
other guys with me they got up on the stools. I don’t know why I didn’t, but I didn’t
I guess because I was used to it by being in the south. The man told them he
couldn’t serve them on the stool and this is Wimbledon, Delaware. So they
refused to move until the man called the policeman then they ran. I didn’t do
either one, I stood right there. I guess the police wanted to hit me when he came
in there, but the guy told him he hadn’t done anything. I didn’t do anything
because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether to run. That had never
happened in the south, I wouldn’t have run. If you come up and said something
to me I’ll answer you know, but it was yes sir, no sir you know. They ran, I didn’t.
In the city you would go in and find that somewhere. I was in Los Angeles, we
were walking one day and the police pulled up beside us and asked us, “Where
you boys walking to?” “Oh we just walking.” “Well why don’t you turn your ass
around and walk the other way?” Those were white folks talking to black people,
so I’ve seen all of it. Some was fair and some was terrible.
LR: So was a waiter, I heard that on the railroad the blacks were only allowed to be a
waiter or a porter?
SD: Yeah you could say that. That’s all I ever saw, the waiter’s and porter’s were
blacks. So it wasn’t until years later basically that I saw whites be porter’s and
LR: Did you ever run into Joe McQueen?
SD: Joe McQueen?
SD: You mean the musician Joe McQueen?
LR: Yeah the musician.
SD: Yes I run into him I guess when I first came here. He was the musician in the
LD: Have you ever heard him?
LD: Yeah we know Joe McQueen
JE: So what story can you tell us when you were in the military? How was the
relationship with your cohorts that were white?
SD: It was pretty same now. If you was in the navy, if I was in the navy the only thing
I could be in the navy was a cook or a waiter. Same thing it was, waiter you
know? You were a waiter out there. I guess that’s why I followed it as a I come
out and move west and wait tables because I was a waiter. It was prejudice in
there, but we were segregated there. The white sailors over there and the black
sailors over here.
JE: Now how does it feel, how does it feel now for you to be able to live on this side?
Are you the only black in this neighborhood?
SD: I’m the only black I know of in this neighborhood yes.
JE: Yes, how does it feel?
SD: I never thought much about it really because when I left Ogden and went to Los
Angeles I lived downtown in the ghetto. Then when I come back I look for a
house anywhere I could find one that I could buy. So I could move anywhere I
wanted too. I don’t know about up on the east bench now over there in Ogden if
you could stay up there or not I never tried to go up there. I come in and find this
house it fared well to me and I accepted it. Before I went to Los Angeles I
couldn’t afford a house like this at that time. Naturally you couldn’t stay up here.
JE: So how long have you been on this side?
SD: Oh up here on the hill? I’ve been living up here about what 25 years I guess.
Close to 25 years.
JE: So there would be some neighbors that have come and met you here right?
SD: Oh I’ve met a lot of the white neighbors here. So I haven’t had no prejudice. They
might be, but I don’t know it. They don’t bother me and I don’t bother them. They
accept me as I am and I accept them as they are so I’ve never had no trouble
LR: So is that different than it used to be?
SD: I guess so. When I lived here before I went to Los Angeles I didn’t even come out
here. Like I said most of your blacks lived in the lower Ogden area. West Ogden
and that area. I don’t’ know anybody that lived out here, nobody came out here.
At least I didn’t because there was nothing for me to come out here for. I come
through here going to Salt Lake, but I didn’t have a reason to mingle. So I didn’t
know anyone out here.
JE: What I’m trying to find out is since you’ve been living here do you feel lonely or do
you feel open to your neighbors? Do they take care of you, when they see you do
they say hello? If you have got to travel you say I’m leaving, keep an eye.
SD: They speak to me. My neighbor to the right over here. When I first bought the
home I lived in Los Angeles for a couple years later. I had the home the whole
time. I let my daughter stay here for a while I was in Los Angeles and I met this
guy over here. He was you could tell he had prejudice in him. Anyone that is
prejudice, if they feel it in front of you you’ll feel it too. I know he’s slightly
prejudice but he’s never been nothing anger towards me. He’s always treated me
equally and I treated him equally. If he hadn’t I wouldn’t have said anything to
him. The people over here, there’s an old man living over there on that side of
the house. I knew he was prejudice. I could just tell the way he talked he was
prejudice, but he doesn’t show it much. So I accepted him as he was. I’ve never
let prejudice bother me not since the south. I was down there a while before I
moved out here. I didn’t let the prejudice bother me down there, I ignored it. I had
seen all of it. I had seen it all. Gosh I see it in Chicago, New York. I saw prejudice
everywhere. It wasn’t no special place, everywhere I went I saw prejudice. Me, I
don’t care. If he prejudice let him be prejudice as long as he didn’t bother me. If
he had bothered me we would have had a confrontation but that never
JE: So that is another story by itself? Some tips that you could leave when you
mention that you didn’t let prejudice bother you? What were some things you did
that you could pass on to us and some other folks to be able to not feel—keep on
SD: I’m sure there’s a lot of people who see prejudice now. Me I don’t see it because
I don’t pay no attention. I ignore it.
LR: How did you learn to just ignore it?
SD: By living in all of it. You going to find it. Some people say this that but you’re
going to find it anywhere you go. Well at least I did. I found it in the northern,
east, western states. Saw it everywhere. In some places you learned to ignore it
and you live with it.
LR: Would it be fair to say that you learned to be comfortable with you and not let
anything else bother you?
SD: I learned how to try and accept myself as I am and hope he do the same. I’ve
had confrontations with whites, but nothing real physical you know. As long as he
didn’t bother me I didn’t bother him. I don’t care what he do. I don’t care what he
say. I’ve heard people get called niggers. Me, if he wasn’t talking directly to me, I
ignored it. He was showing himself how stupid he was to call another human
being a name when you are all human beings. Sometimes I would get angry and
people would get out of line with me, nothing physical or bad. When I was living
in the south they said nigger and thought nothing about it. You wouldn’t think
nothing about it because that was a routine thing there. He was prejudice and
you know he was prejudice and you didn’t mingle. Sometimes you wouldn’t
mingle with anybody white or black. He didn’t want the other whites thinking he
mingled with blacks. He figured it made him look bad. Most of them look bad
anyway so it didn’t bother me.
JE: I went through the same thing he did 30 years later. Same town, but you know it
got better over the years. It’s still there though.
SD: Oh gosh yes it’s prejudice there. He don’t show it as much. He tries to shun from
confrontation with you and me I try to shun confrontation with him. I don’t care
what he say or what he do as long as he’s not doing it to me.
LR: Things are better though.
SD: I would say they’re different. It might be better for some people, but to me it’s
always been this way for me. When I was a kid my daddy didn’t allow nobody to
mess with his children whether they were white or black. My daddy had some big
boys then and it took us all keep him from grabbing his gun and going to see a
man about it. He wouldn’t see him anyway. This was in the deep south of
Alabama. He just didn’t bother nobody but didn’t let nobody bother his family. He
probably would’ve killed him you know, but I never ran into too much. As I was a
kid growing up I guess you could say we knew where our place was and they
knew where their place was. You didn’t have to run into them too much because
he was a label like you were. He didn’t show too much prejudice, you could sit
down and talk together, eat together. You know that they was prejudice and he
knew I knew it so it wasn’t no big thing.
JE: Alright thank you so much.
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