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Hofstra University Library Special Collections

Diverse Suburbs Oral History Collection

Theme: Family

Clips from the Rita Lampkin Interview


RL: My name is Rita Lampkin. I live at 25 Westbrook Lane in Roosevelt, which is right off Brookside Avenue. Do you know that area?

DBT: Yes.

RL: Okay. I've been there for 43 years. I was there when they were moving out and I was moving in. And I thought something was going on. I thought a barricade or somebody was coming in to knock the houses down. I didn't know what was going on. Every house was for sale.

DBT: And what year was that, and who are the "they"?

RL: Well, they are the-I would say they were the Jewish residents.

DBT: So Roosevelt was mostly Jewish?

RL: Yes, in the area that I lived in, anyway.

DBT: And what year was that?

RL: 1968.

DBT: Elaborate on that. How did you feel when you noticed that-

RL: Well, I was-I looked around for houses. I lived in Queens for about nine years and I was looking to upgrade. And I belonged to Open Island. It was an organization to bring you into an area where it's good for your children, good for your, you know, a nice residential area. And when I came into the area, I was told not to buy in Roosevelt; that that was not the place to buy, you know. To buy in Baldwin or Freeport or one of the other areas. And I told them not to tell me where to buy. If I found a house that I wanted, that's where I would buy.

DBT: Wow

>> RL: Absolutely. They told me that the thing was not to buy in Roosevelt because it was a downing turn in 1968-The Jewish people were moving out. They buy schools, and we bought Long Island, buy a house that I wanted to live in. I lived on a boulevard. I lived on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Queens, across from Andrew Jackson High School. And all I had was the dirt and everything, from the children from the school, the loud noise, cars coming into your house, banging-Oh! I said if I found a house that I liked, my children and everything else would have to come here. They would get what they want.

DBT: Now, where are you from originally?

RL: Brooklyn.

DBT: You were born in Brooklyn?

RL: Born in Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. I was the only one of my siblings-four of us-I was the last one. I was born in Brooklyn. And I lived there for many years, of course, until I got married and moved out here.

DBT: And when did you get married?

RL: 1954.

DBT: And your husband's name?

RL: My husband is John Lampkin. And my son is Kendall Lampkin, who is the assistant to the county, of Nassau County. Kate Murray. He's Kate Murray's assistant, and he's been there for years also. Kendall Lampkin.

DBT: So moving to Long Island in 1968 and experiencing what you experienced, what did you think living here was going to be like? Because I would have been stunned.

RL: I had no idea. I was just looking for a place to live, and I found my dream house. And I love it. I wouldn't live anywhere else. Everyone comes here, they can't believe it's Roosevelt. They say, "This is Roosevelt?" I say, "Yes, this is Roosevelt. Where I pay my taxes is Roosevelt." They may call it Baldwin Woods. A lot of the upbeat people wanted to call it Baldwin Woods, you know. I said, "You can call it anything you want. But where I pay my taxes, that's where I live." You know, I'm not going to-And there was a fellow that lived on my block, he owned his cab. And they talked about "a cab driver in this area." But this guy had a Medallion cab. This cab costs $100,000. And people didn't realize that, you know. They just "cab driver," and looked down on him. But honey, it's incredible. It was incredible. But anyway, yeah, I loved it then and I love it more now. And everybody comes to my house, I look back to the woods, I have over an acre ofland, and they go back to the--

DBT: You know, the original zoning for Roosevelt was basically a half an acre for each house.

RL: Exactly. Exactly. And then I have more, because it goes back to the county. It goes all the way back. You don't see any-when you look out my back, all you see is greenery and trees. Which one of my trees just fell from Sandy. I had took down about 10 of them but I was-Oh! My backyard is awesome. It really is. People come from the North Shore. "Oh, I moved from here. Look at this now." But I fix it up, of course.

DBT: Have you made any substantial changes to your home since you've lived here?

RL: Oh, of course. Since I moved here? When I moved, I called my husband and I told him, "You know, I found a house." I said, "The front is in the sunlight, but we can fix that up," you know. The house itself was what I wanted. The big den goes all the way back. Oh! It's just incredible. I still love it. Everybody comes in, they-or they know that this is Roosevelt, they says, "This is Roosevelt?" "Yes, this is Roosevelt, believe me." And the homes are just beautiful in here. Anyone that moves here, they love it. I'm like on the second generation of houses of people that moved here. Some of them-most of them are gone, dead or what have you. But I'm still here. And my son says to me, "Mom, you're the only couple that I know that's still alive that's here." But I love it. It's really...

DBT: So when you first moved to Long Islaud, what were you doing? What was your employment? Were you employed? Were you-

RL: No, I was not employed. I was at home. I had-my children were young. My children were young aud I was a stay-at-home mom. And, of course, when I moved here, my oldest son, they had the transferring students to other areas, and he went to school here for about six months in Roosevelt. Then he transferred to, Tresper Clarke, which is in Westbury. They had the integrated [unintelligible].

DBT: So they were integrating schools. They were busing?

RL: They were busing. That's it. They were busing children.

DBT: What year was that? That was 1968 as well?

RL: Hmmm ... well, he went to Roosevelt School for about six months, I would say. It had to be then. Yeah, because I moved in July, June or July, something like that, aud he was bused-

DBT: So by the fall...

RL: Yes. He was bused to Tresper Clarke, which is in Westbury, and about seven or eight students from Roosevelt. So then I took a job, a part-time job, so that they could stay and go to the different activities at the school. I took all those seven boys. Most of them are lawyers or whatever now. I was so proud of them. They're all grown up. They all have wonderful jobs. They got a wonderful education from the Tresper Clarke High School. Went on to different colleges. Just wonderful. I can still talk now about how they had a wonderful bringing up.

DBT: I guess my question is, you know, in them commg from, I guess first coming to Roosevelt from Brooklyn, and then going to-

RL: Not from Brooklyn. Queens.

DBT: Yes, Queens. So them coming from Queens...

RL: ...here.

DBT: ...to Roosevelt, and then going to this new school, how did the students in Westbury respond to know-

RL: No, they were well received. And they were the only seven boys that were from Roosevelt. There were seven boys and I don't know if they'd just started that program of busing-No, because when I lived in Queens, my kids didn't go to-my oldest son didn't go to the regular school, he went to this-Well, he first went to prep school before he came here. He went to prep school when he was in Queens. And then we moved to Queens and he went to ... P.S.34. That's over in Queens Village. And then we moved here and he went to...

DBT: So overall, you think that your boys had a great experience?

RL: Oh, yes.

DBT: Even though they were being bused to another district?

RL: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, my youngest one said, "Mom, the only black child in my class is-. Are we integrated or are they integrated?" As a matter of fact, my oldest son called my youngest son-they're like six years apart-he called­ My youngest son calls my other one an Oreo, because he's with all whites. And that's all he knew. That's all he knew. And that's the way he was brought up. And, you know, when he went to college and he came back home-he went to...what college did he go to? The college past Buffalo. And he brought them all back home with him to spend the night. When I went to the graduation, I said, "I don't know their parents. They can't spend the night at my house." They all came with their sleeping bags. I have this big, big thing that goes from one side to the other. And they all slept on the floor, and they were wonderful. So, "I don't know their parents. I don't know where they came"-I went up to talk to the graduationists and they said, "Oh! You're the Mrs. Lampkin! All my kids told me how wonderful you were and what a time they had there. Such a great time." I said, "Oh, well, sure."

DBT: You were sort of surprised, huh?

RL: I was completely surprised. They had a wonderful, wonderful time, and consequently, you know...

DBT: What was the Roosevelt community like when you first arrived here? How would you describe downtown Hempstead versus downtown Hempstead now, or even in comparison to Queens? Was Long Island a lot different from Queens or from the city?

RL: Well, it was a little different, sure, because-You mean from Queens to Long Island? It was different. It was more like a suburb, you know, like the real coll it a suburbs. It really was. So it was quite different. Quite different, yeah. As a matter of fact, I met one of the ladies-she was living here in Baldwin-and she said to me, "Oh, they told me not to buy those." She says, "Listen, I bought in Baldwin." She says, "You know, the houses in Baldwin, they're spotted, right? They're a nice house here, a nice house"-But in our area where we are-you know where we are, where the [unintelligible] are?

DBT: Yeah.

RL: They're all the same. They were built the same way.

DBT: Yeah, they were built the same way. They're a certain status, too.

RL: Exactly. They were built in 1954. They were built in 1954, so-"I should say, they told me not to buy there, but my kids are having a difficult time. But the other children, you know, the Jewish or whatever others are there," she says, "I really do." She was more or less regretting it, you know.

DBT: And this is in Unionville?

RL: This was in Baldwin. She was in Baldwin. But I said, "Well, I haven't bought yet, but when I find the house that I want, that's going to be it. My children will just have to do their own thing what I want, you know. Come on. I can't live their lives and they can't live mine, so this is what I want."

DBT: But do you think that part of your resilience regarding getting the house that you want in the place that you want is that you probably had dealt with racism at some point before.

RL: Of course. Doors slammed in my face. They see me, they bring me to the door, to the house, to look at this house, and they see me and they close the door. They didn't even want us to come in and look at it. I said, "I didn't want this house anyway," looking at the--oh, those people, they were horrible.

DBT: And this was when you were looking for houses here in Long Island?

RL: Houses in Long Island. Yes, exactly. Oh, it was awful. Oh, it was terrible. It really was. And my son-and I always told my kids, you know, to be careful when they were going out, you know. Because I let them drive my cars, and my oldest son-I had a Cadillac at the time--I said, "You just be very careful and don't"-you know, because I don't want nothing to happen to it. So he said, "Mom, you know that you were right? They stopped me, the police. "What are you doing in this area?" You can't be black and be in Garden City or in certain areas around here. So it was quite difficult. He was walking down the street one time with his typewriter he had-I think it was a typewriter-and the police stopped him, wanting to know-they said there had just been a robbery and they just wanted to make sure that he wasn't the one that had-just because of the color of his skin, they...

DBT: And this was in Roosevelt?

RL: Oh, yes. In Roosevelt. They stopped him. Yes, they did. He was walking home. Yes, he was walking. He was coming from-I don't know where he was walking from, but no, they stopped him. Oh, sure. Oh, sure.

DBT: Wow. As far as, you know, the development of the community, what year did the community, I guess, reflect mostly an African-American, I guess affluent African­ American population?

RL: Ever since they came. Ever since the whites started moving out. The affluent blacks moved in and they made the houses much bigger than they were before.