Marlene Burnett Interview

Dublin Core


Marlene Burnett Interview


Rosedale History Harvest


Marlene Burnett describes growing up in Rosedale and living there as an adult. She shares her memories about Spring Park, the Lee Community Center and the Montgomery's store. Marlene also describes her feelings regarding Homewood City Council meetings and issues of encroachment.


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March 24, 2019

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Jonathan Lawson


Marlene Burnett


Lee Community Center


JONATHAN LAWSON: So if you would tell me your name and uh how long you've been in Rosedale?

MARLENE BURNETT: My name is Marlena Burnette, uh I was born here in Rosedale I have moved around quite a bit but I am back permanently since I retired from the workforce, I beeline just straight back home and I love it because this is always and will be home.

JONATHAN LAWSON: So what is it about this area that you love?

MARLENE BURNETT: You know, I guess what I love most, is, is I can tell kids...being a child here I mean I can go back to that part it's because you can actually experience being a child back in the day when I lived here we played from sun up to sun down throughout the whole neighborhood, everybody knew everybody's child, there wasn't a whole lot of watching going on but if I mean it was just, we experienced something then that children can't experience now because there's too much danger. We knew where our boundaries were, where not to go, and we knew uh what it was like when your mama, when somebody said your mama calling you and you knew you better get home and you'd hear it somebody told you and you'd go home. That was it. We just had a real nice village. Of people that cared. Uh now coming back as a retired adult I just like it because it's laid back. My mom and I live together in our home, it's the same home house that my parents purchased back in the 20s.


MARLENE BURNETT: And uh my grandfather worked really, really hard on that house to make it what it is today, I believe when he bought it, it was like three rooms and now it's like eight. I mean, you know, it's a nice large house. He completely dug a basement out himself, by himself. And that is, after working he would come home and always put a little work into his home. He made a family house for us and that was his intentions. Because he was always family first, take care of your family. So he always wanted us to have a place to come, to come back to. So that's what I did as an adult, I came back home and its quiet here. Uh, I don't really worry about anything going on and I think that's just what drew me back. You know, it's just home here. Now it's just, what's going to happen is me getting to remember the people that which were children we, when I mean young adults when I left because I been gone so long. But I'm working on that, yes.


JONATHAN LAWSON: SO along those lines is there a restaurant or a location or somewhere that you remember from when you were younger that you really miss that may not be here anymore?

MARLENE BURNETT: Couple places, actually. That I can, that come off the top of my head is across from this community center, well now actually it's three because this center has evolved into a different center than what it was when I was a child. It's always been in this location but it definitely looked different on the inside.


MARLENE BURNETT: Oh, we used to, there were windows along this exterior wall that actually those windows that would push out and you'd pull them in and push it down to lock it those kind of things, it was a much smaller court area, that was flipped the other way. Every- I mean this place is definitely larger but I, I remember that center uh especially during the summer because there was always, there were activities for us to do. We did the uh we made potholders, key chains, and what is that stuff you do the molds? You pour the white stuff like the plaster?

JONATHAN LAWSON: Yeah, the plaster of Paris and all that?

MARLENE BURNETT: I think? Yes and you pour it in these little molds and you might have to wait until tomorrow or next day for it to harden up enough. Then you peel it off. I mean you had something you could actually sit out and play and paint, and when we did that along with, with some of these, like making the potholders and key chains was another place right across the street was the playground where they had actually a few picnic tables and a real sand bed that was used. It was awesome and a playground with a swing and a seesaw and your monkey bars and your slides. I remember and I miss that. Because it was, there was something for us to do and there was always activity there, kids laughing and playing and running and carrying on. But when I, that playground also has a memory for me because my great grandmother kept me when I was a child so she could, we could see the playground from our house and if there was someone at the playground that I wanted to go up there she wouldn't let me go, because she thought "oh I'm not going to send you, you might get in trouble". I don't know what it was about it but I would go grandma can I go to the playground and shed look out and oh okay you could go. But it was just like radar, as soon as another kid would come I had to leave, but mostly just good memories about this whole area and you know uh I do miss also the pool at spring park, that was, that was a real treat in the summer you'd go and swim every day and you know just hang out with your friends and it's gone. You know, I mean yeah there's a park you know but my god it's like now you've you got to travel to get to it, you got to pack up to get to it. While like Spring Park, we just had to take our towels our flip flops and be careful crossing that major highway there to go have some fun. You know, so and I miss the little store, there was a little store, the cooks, my neighbors had a little store there you could go and get your chips and your pickles if you wanted, your whole pickles and get little two for a penny candy, cookies, you know, you don't even know a thing about two for a penny cookies. But you go down there with a nickel you got ten cookies, right? And so, but hum, I don't mind change it's just that when you take away some of the things that negatively impact a community and cause kids now need somewhere to run and play safe, I mean all they do now is this with their fingers and by the time they're six or ten they're going to have arthritis in those thumbs. This gave them an outlet for them to do something outside.

JONATHAN LAWSON: I know it's difficult to see when you're that age but looking back what were some of the challenges that you may not have seen at the time that the community faced that you all made it through?

MARLENE BURNETT: Well, I mean the discussions in our household we could hear them. Some of the challenges were voting, just actual, to vote. I can remember being a kid I mean little child and I would go to the polls with my grandparents and my mom. I can remember then making sure everyone had their two dollar poll tax because you had to pay to vote. And so, you know, I'm glad that that's gone, I think that was more of a challenge to them but it instilled in me just what a privilege it is to vote if you had to pay-- two dollars back then was a lot of money hum I've seen, I saw my grandfather make sure everybody in his family had that two dollars, not just in his household but everybody in the family had to have that two dollars. So uh and the other challenges here was just watching how the community changed dynamically with the structure, structurally. You know, I miss some of the wooded areas. It was beautiful, it was nice to see the animals come out of the woods and kind of prance around. Actually, we still have a cat, cats, feral cats that come up and we feed them every day They know when the garage door comes up that it's time to eat but we also before they did all this building with that huge bank that's really sitting in our backyard we had foxes, raccoons, we had the cats of course and they all would eat together, it was the most amazing thing to see. How they would all just wait, that raccoon would just sit down right next to you and I'm not crazy I'm not going to put my hand down there but he would sit there and wait for the food and they all would eat and it was just, it just dawned on me one day that these animals came and sit and eat with each other and we as people can't do anything together without squabbling or trying to get more than your share and this that or the other. But that was, that just put something in my head that was amazing about the animal kingdom other than man. They smarter than us!


MARLENE BURNETT: You know, they try to survive and they know that they all have to eat and that's what they did so you know. And I know, I think I went off on a tangent. (Laughter)

JONATHAN LAWSON: You know it's funny how God puts things into perspective that way sometimes.


JONATHAN LAWSON: We were talking about some of the challenges and...


JONATHAN LAWSON: And how you know you feel like the change is tough but you have to adapt and...

MARLENE BURNETT: Yeah, you know like I said about the pool's gone and they did that before I was an adult or whatever but that highway when they made it bigger, that's just challenging to get across that darn thing, it's like you're risking your life cause you got so many things going on an one time to get across to the other side, there's no cross walk there's no nothing.

JONATHAN LAWSON: What was the community response to that? Was, do you remember, were there groups that formed that tried to fight that, how did that go down?

MARLENE BURNETT: Well, I wasn't here but I do remember the conversation around it within my family and some other people that actually. You know sometimes people don't actually contribute to the cause but they're willing to squabble because it happened. So, yeah, there was some resistance to it. I can remember at one point actually going to a council meeting and it kind of got emotional uh and ask them why, why do you keep disrupting this side of Homewood? Push back the other side a little bit sometimes. Go that way, but you know it's, it's a challenge now, you know, another big one is getting the community to come together, we are so diverse, now, Homewood, uh has changed, or Rosedale has changed dynamically it wasn't all black, African-American I don't know, I don't care what that Vulcan thing says about this nursery man, I've never heard that. First time I've ever heard it, not to say that's not true but a few of us read it and we go hmm don't remember that. Well, uh so just being that kind of dynamic and now the diversity is to include everybody but everybody doesn't think the same and we know we never will but you need to know that your neighbor we need to know what you feel how do you feel when you look around your surroundings don't look like what your used to so let's discuss that. You know and make it so that we can be a community that cares about each other, not just a few people trying to drag the whole load. Because it's only a few, I mean seriously let's just get everybody involved. You know one day you might have your home and the next day just because you aren't paying attention it's gone. Because of something that the city decided they needed to do, but you need to know that. I mean you know it's like pulling teeth, you can't do it if people don't want to participate. They're adults, you can't make me.

JONATHAN LAWSON: So I know you've touched on a little bit, but what is your dream for the next few years for this area what would you love to see happen in this community?

MARLENE BURNETT: Okay what I would love to see happen is for a massive, it's a lot of things, I don't want to call it clean up but we have a lot of vacant properties here, I would like to see it come back to--it'll never be like it was but come back to a community that I would love to just ride through and be like "Oh my God, that looks lovely" and "That looks gorgeous" and everybody is taking care of their properties and it looks good. You know to have some, some accountability of what your stuff is supposed to look like, that's what I would like to see you know it's a beautiful community, because it was it used to be roses everywhere, that's how it got its name. It's gorgeous and I like to see less commercial building, because these, these commercial buildings, they're taking over. And you stick these buildings in the middle of our neighborhood saying, and we're at the tail end of knowing that this is what's about to happen. By the time we know, typically, it's done. It's done. So I would like to see that changed where we-you're given a, a fair opportunity really, a fair opportunity not just say come to the meeting but listen to me if I have an objection to what you want to do. Don't just hear me, listen to what I'm saying. I don't think, I don't think, I think that's, that needs to change. We need somebody that really listens and cares.

JONATHAN LAWSON: Well this is, this has been great. I'll ask you one last question, what do you want the people of Birmingham in general as a whole, what do you want them to know about Rosedale? What is it about this place that is special?

MARLENE BURNETT: What's special is that because we're a small community that we can come together and, and make it, it's safe, make a safe environment for the generations to come. Let's, let's pull them from areas that don't give them the same opportunities to run and play, even though we don't have the playground anymore but just they can be outside and somebody's not going to come snatch them away. You know, come live in Homewood and see the diversity and just in this small area and there's no issues, and if there are issues I don't know about them because I've never heard about them. It's too quiet. It's quiet here, you know and I would have to support that it's quiet because there are certain people who do watch the community, the community watches people that, and they're silent about it but they watch and they know nothing really happens here. So I would say people of Birmingham, just come check it out. And, and see what Homewood or Rosedale has to offer.

(Child in Background)

JONATHAN LAWSON: Thank you so much.

MARLENE BURNETT: Thank you, Jonathan.



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“Marlene Burnett Interview,” The Rosedale Memory Project, accessed July 16, 2024,


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