African American Studies
Interviewee: Ron Carson
Interviewer: Dr. Mark Naison
Summarized by Alice Stryker
Ron Carson’s early child hood was spent on Tinton Avenue near 1163rd Street. His father moved to there from Virginia after his military career ended. The neighborhood was very diverse and he remembers experiencing a strong sense of community.
In 1953 the family was forced to move to the Patterson Houses because their neighborhood was being demolished to make way for the Forest Houses. Although the Patterson Houses did not have a bad reputation, the family was scared of the move. He was scared of changing schools as well. When living on Tinton Ave. he attended P.S 23, where his two older sisters attended. He knew no one at P.S 18 nor anyone who had gone through it. In spite the fears, however, he quickly made friends at the Patterson houses and at school. In school, he was very involved with sports.
When he initially moved into the Patterson Houses, there was a very family oriented atmosphere. People would say hi to one another constantly and everyone cared about the cleanliness of the building. Many of the African-Americans in his building were from the south. All of the adults in the buildings had steady jobs. There were also many activities for the children living in the Patterson Houses. Kids could go to the Patterson Center, P.S. 18, or a church and find plenty of other kids to play with. He was very fond of the Parkees that over saw the activities at the P.S 18 playground. In the winter, P.S 18 opened an after school center that had supervised recreational activity. He attended Congregational Church on 143rd Street and Willis Avenue.
After P.S 18, he attended Clark Junior High School. He had to get initiated by the older guys in the school, but that aside he had an overall positive experience there. Although there were many clicks in the school, there was very little hostility between the groups. There were grind ‘em up parties going on at the time, but he did not attend. He was much more interested in playing sports.
He attended Clinton for high school. It was an all boys school that had many athletes. The school was located in a Jewish neighborhood that was pretty far away from the Patterson Houses. It was hard for Ron and his friends to join the varsity sports teams because they were very political. Because of this, he played on teams run by the department of parks.
His family left the Patterson Houses in the mid-1960’s. His father died when he was in middle school and his mother wanted a change of scenery. They moved to the Evergreen Gardens in the Lafayette Houses. At that same time, the Patterson houses were starting to decline. Families moving in were not screened as closely as they formerly had been and there was an increase in vandalism.
He believes his experience growing up in the Bronx has impacted his life in a number of ways. He is a pastoral counselor and draws on many of his own experiences to help the children who come to him. He credits the adults in his childhood and the advice they gave him for the success he has had as an adult.
He then talks about how his environment facilitated his identity as African-American, though he is part Cherokee as well. Through his associations and environment he sees himself as black, though he is part of Native American Organizations.
Carson, Ron. June 30, 2004. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
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