Anna Marie Smith Interview

Dublin Core


Anna Marie Smith Interview


History Harvest Interview


Anna Marie Smith recalls her childhood in Rosedale, attending the Rosedale School and the process of integration in 1969; additionally, she describes the various influential figures of the neighborhood. She speaks of the churches, the culture of the community and the changes she has seen within her hometown.


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March 24, 2019

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Shae Corey


Anna Marie Smith


Lee Community Center


SHAE COREY: Okay, so first if you could just tell us your full name.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Anna Marie Smith.

SHAE COREY: And uhm did you grow up in Rosedale?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Born here 1962.

SHAE COREY: Wow so what do you remember growing up here?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Uh, my goodness. Like I said, born here 1962 lived here 'til 1980. So, I remember living in three different houses, here. Uh...


ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yeah, one down on 25th place up on the car line--it's now next to where golden nugget used to sit, golden nugget restaurant. My father, Johnny Smith, served as head chef at golden nugget.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: So, I had free reign on golden nugget. Walk in the back and see all the cooks and the waitress, and I got to wash the dishes, uh the owners of golden nugget were Harry Alexius and Johnny Alexius. My father served as chef there from 19, late 50's, I'd say '58, '59.

SHAE COREY: Wow, so golden nugget was segregated?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Let's put it this way, as a restaurant during that time, there were very, very few blacks that went to eat there as patrons. It was just, not done. Uh, again, I know it from the worker side, my father was the chef, my mama worked there as well.

SHAE COREY: Yeah. Yeah.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: And all the people used to work there. And Mr. Harry and Mr. Johnny. Uh, I went to Rosedale school, first grade.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: Which was 68, 69. My first-grade teacher was Miss Kennedy. Uh, spent second grade, second grade it started, integration started. So, they closed Rosedale, and I started going to Shades Cahaba. My father went to Rosedale and graduated from Rosedale, so he went there for his elementary and high school years.

SHAE COREY: How did he feel about you, or how did he feel about the school shutting down?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Oh, he was very sad. This school was such a tremendous part of his community, everyone lived here. You have to understand for the blacks that lived here at that time, it was Rosedale and Parker. That was it. That's where we went to school. And for the high school, a lot of the people that lived in the Shannon Oxmoor area, some of those guys were bused into Rosedale, so they went to Rosedale as well. But for the most part it was those that live here in this community that went to Rosedale. It was grades 1-12, so, but uh yeah, so like I said, I went there first grade. So, I did have one year there. Uh, remembering all the people that lived here within the neighborhood, the Montgomery’s, the Lees, my great aunt and uncle, they lived right up the street here this is uh Elberta Wortham and G.W. Wortham, uh the Grangers lived up on the hill, Mr. Jeff Granger, Reverend Henry Granger. The Bensons who lived up on the hill, Mr. Morris Benson. Then all of us that lived down Central Avenue. Uh, the churches. I'm a member of Union Baptist Church, born and raised. I have a uh, thing, I don't know if you want to get a picture.

SHAE COREY: Oh wow, yeah that's wonderful.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: That is a picture of their fiftieth anniversary. My great aunt, Miss Wortham served as church secretary for 55 years.

SHAE COREY: So, it's been around since 1887?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yes, it's 132 years. It's the oldest church in Birmingham.

SHAE COREY: I'm just going to move this a little closer, so this sounds better.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Okay, it's the oldest church here in Homewood.

SHAE COREY: Wow, so has your, have generations of your family gone to this church?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Uh, yes. My father was a member there, as I said my great aunt was a member there, I was born there, and still attend. Uh...

SHAE COREY: How do you feel that the churches, like, so we've listened to a bunch of different interviews from other Rosedale members of the Rosedale community, do you feel that the churches are such a big part of the community?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: They were, at my time.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: At my time, they were very important. Because you have to remember, people lived in the community, they went to the churches in the community. So, you walked to church, you walked to choir rehearsal, you walked to vacation bible school.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: You had friendship, Union and Bethel. So, and the pastors of those churches all worked together. Vacation Bible School was all three churches. Vacation Bible School was at Union, Vacation Bible School was 9-12. So, they had the general session was at Union, classes were held at friendship, classes were held at Bethel and everyone came back together at 12 at union and dismissed. So, the churches were a big part of the community because everyone who lived in the community went to one of the three. You went to one of those three churches, so yes, they were a big part of the community. And the sense of the community. And the people that lived in the community were very proud of the community, took care of it, pride in what it looked like, pride in the way it was kept. Pride in, everyone's actions. As adults, and as children, adults looked after children, they, they could speak to any child, anyone's child--tell them to sit down and stop and you sat down and stopped. (Laughter)

SHAE COREY: Yeah! (Laughter)

ANNA MARIE SMITH: And when you got home, you got another whooping because Miss so and so had called your mama and told your mama what she had done. So yes.

SHAE COREY: Yeah! That's so funny, so I know uhm Mr. Bush's interview, he talks about how this man on the street told him like, "Hey you need to tie up your shoes," and he kind of like gave him some lip, he kind of talked back and that man told his dad, and then he got in trouble twice for it.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: I tell people this constantly, I have seen grown men in my lifetime, behave and show more respect than I see in a six-year old today. The guys in the neighborhood, dependent on who it was, if it was one of the deacons, or one of the pastors, I've seen those men literally stand still and would not move until that person walked by--because they knew they were, had drunk a little bit, they would be stumbling a little bit, and they did not want Mr. Benson to see them stumble, did not want Mr. Granger to see them stumble, they would stand right there and not move until they got out the way and then they would start moving. So that shows you, they knew what they were doing but they had been taught you respect your elders and that's what they did. And even when we were playing as kids, the different houses that were the houses, everyone knew who they were, where they were, if it got a little bit rowdy, we were out in the street playing, the guys would come out and they start to get rowdy, they would say “Kids outside playing, take it in the house.” And they would literally stop and go back in the house.

SHAE COREY: Wow. (Laughter)

ANNA MARIE SMITH: But that was the culture. That was just the culture of the neighborhood. And it was a vibrant, working community. All of our parents worked. But everyone looked out for each other. No one locked the door. I mean that was just psh! In fact that wasn’t even thought of. Siting on the porch watching everybody go by. Sitting on the porch until one or two o’clock in the morning.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: And you know, didn’t think a thing about it.

SHAE COREY: Yeah. Wow. So talking about that culture of community and culture of respect, what was your favorite part about growing up in Rosedale? Was it that community or?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Uh, the community. And I think I said the oddest thing I think you don’t realize, you think, you don’t realize that you didn’t have what you didn’t know that you didn’t have. We thought nothing of it because as far as I was concerned, we were wealthy. We had a house, we had food, we had clothes, you had people that you knew, we had a community. So, it wasn’t like “Oh, I’m missing this or missing that” you didn’t get that feeling at all and I look back upon it now as being very grateful because in an odd way, my generation we actually had one foot in this community and the other foot in the white community because as I said, we started Shades Cahaba in second grade, we were that first class to integrate Homewood schools. So we went to school but you came back home. You came back home to Rosedale, you lived in Rosedale, you went to church in Rosedale, you still had that community and yet you were being educated in that world.

SHAE COREY: Mhm. What was that experience like for you?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: I talk about it today, it was wonderful. I don’t know whether it was just because of where we are, our parents both black and white, but there was never this (points at skin), there was never color. I still have people I went to school with in second grade I still talk with, we still meet, we still have dinner. There was never this. There was just “Oh that’s just somebody I play with, because I know him from school.” So I don’t know what it was if it was just Homewood, if it was our parents, I don’t know but it was never an issue it was just never an issue.
SHAE COREY: Did any of the teachers from the Rosedale school, what, where did they go or what did they do after the school closed?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: That’s sad, because I don’t know. Miss Kennedy, which was the first grade teacher at Rosedale, I don’t know where she went. Now, I remember Miss Almetia Simmons, she went to Edgewood.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: So, she when they closed Rosedale, she went to Edgewood and she stayed at Edgewood until she retired which was the late ‘70s. She was probably one of the first black teachers at Edgewood.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: But as far as the other teachers, I don’t know. I don’t know whether they were, because Rosedale was considered a county school so I don’t know if they were transferred to other Jefferson County schools. I don’t know. But that was just a tremendous talent that was gone because as I said I only went there first grade but my father went there his entire education so he remembered all the old teachers and I remember him speaking of all the old principals and how they ran the school and what you did but I don’t know whether they got transferred to other Jefferson county schools or not, I don’t know.

SHAE COREY: Yeah, yeah. I just found it interesting because I know that that school was such a big part of the community and those teachers and those principals lived like within that community—


SHAE COREY: And so I was just wondering where they went because I feel like that would be just a loss to the community because they were so talented…

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yes, yes. And because you had educators and quite a few famous folks to come through Rosedale. Shelley Stewart. Fred Shuttlesworth. They attended Rosedale, so that’s where they went to school. Mrs. Farris, her brother is now like a district judge in Seattle, or something.

SHAE COREY: I think I've seen his name on little posters and stuff in yards!


ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yes, yes. And the Jacksons. So all of those people that I knew as, as adults they attended Rosedale, so that's where they went.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: Uh, so. Tremendous amount of talent to come through this community. Uh, “Buckle” Montgomery is the uncle to William of the Commodores, William "Butch" King.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: So Butch would come home, my age group would be so enamored in seeing him, because in the '70s the Commodores were huge!


ANNA MARIE SMITH: My dad was like "Oh, yeah Butch in town, oh hey."


ANNA MARIE SMITH: But I was like, “What?!” and he was like, “Oh ok.” But you know he knew him as “Butch,” that's what he knew him as, he knew him as “Buck,” he knew E.P. Montgomery, he knew his granddaddy, he knew Miss King so he was like, “Oh yeah, that's Butch,” so he just went, “Oh ok,” so tremendous talent has been through this school and through this neighborhood. Miss (unclear) King is Butch's grandmother.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: The Alabama Book Smith Store? That was her house.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: That was her house. That was Miss King's house.

SHAE COREY: Yeah, so kind of going off of that how do you, so you don't live in Rosedale anymore?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: I do not we moved in 1980.

SHAE COREY: And so, do you come back here often?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: I still attend church at Union.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: So I'm here once a week.

SHAE COREY: How do you think that it's changed or the church community has changed?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: The church community has changed but the neighborhood itself has changed, because number one the same people are not here. Those people have long since died. Uh, those of us in my age group we've moved and gone. Uhm, the houses are no longer here. The places and the lots that we see in the past, in my mind, that was miss and so and so's house or that was mister's so and so house, that's not here. And you don't see that. So that has changed. Uh, the people that live here now, their connection, their bond is not what my bond was to this community, not what my father's bond was to this community. So, not that there's anything wrong with that, but their bond is just not as strong. So those memories and those connections are not there for them.

SHAE COREY: Yeah, yeah.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: They didn't grow up here, they didn't live here. They just moved here so they just have a very different sense of what this neighborhood is compared to what I have of what it is, what Mrs. Mary Edwards has of it, she grew up and there's very few of the older members that are left. Here. That live in the neighborhood, uhm, in an odd way, my generation sometime I feel we failed, but there are reasons for that. Number one, it was etched into us, you will get your education. You will go to college or you'll go into the military. You're doing one of the two. And for 90 percent of us, we did not own our houses. Everyone rented from Mr. Lee. You could count on your hands the number of people that actually owned their property. So, when we say we're going to go off to school and come back to home, it was home but it wasn't what we owned. So as we went off to college, we moved, we went other places and we didn't have a piece of property to come back to and say this is my house. So we didn't have that, so it kind of balances out but that I find the hardest. To like, you know our parents did it but our parents lived there they didn't go to college they didn't go to the military, this was home this is where they stayed. Uh, but those of us that rented from Mr. Lee during that time, I think most people that live outside of Rosedale probably thought everyone owned their houses, because everyone kept it clean, they kept it neat, everyone was proud of where we lived, but no. Majority of the people did not own their houses, they were renting.

SHAE COREY: Yeah, yeah. Do you know, do you know who they were renting from? Was it somebody...?



ANNA MARIE SMITH: Afton Lee. He owned most of the houses in this neighborhood.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: Mr. Lee uh was wonderful he was great. Accept the house, do whatever you want to do with it, paint in it, fix it up, but he wouldn't go up on your rent. He couldn't do it but you could do it that was fine, but again everyone took pride of what they had and they kept it that way.

SHAE COREY: Mhm, yeah and I think that's a little different when someone in the community is the one that owns it.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yes, yes and as I said you could just name the number of people whoa actually owned their property.

SHAE COREY: It's Afton Lee, right?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yes, I'm sorry, Afton Lee Junior, Senior. His father was Damion Lee.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: So after Damion Lee was his father.

SHAE COREY: Damion or Dan?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Damion, D-A-M-I-O-N. So, yes.

SHAE COREY: Perfect.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Let's see, other memories, the pool, Spring Park, I remember when the pool opened it was a huge hit.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: Everyone went to the pool.

SHAE COREY: It gets hot here in the summer.



SHAE COREY: Woo! Alabama.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Oh yeah! Yeah, everyone, everyone went to the pool. Because again, we're talking '69, '71, we were not allowed to go to Homewood Central Park. We didn't go there, so we had Spring Park, we had the pool it was always full. We played baseball in the middle of the street. And that was a big thing to do in front of Mrs. Barbara Tubb's house. Uh, but also just wait through we got done hitting the ball we would take their turns and we'd walk to the store, to Bruno's, the grocery store, down where the dance studio is now.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yes, well that was Bruno's, the Bruno's store.

SHAE COREY: Was Bruno's a grocery store?



ANNA MARIE SMITH: Huge. (Laughter) So that's where we went to the grocery store. Go to the grocery store. Take it back home. You could walk there, bring the buggy home, and take the buggy back. Yeah, many a day done that. Bring the buggy back, take the buggy back down to the store. Just what you did.



ANNA MARIE SMITH: Uh, local stores. The local stores, I said Bruno's. The local community stores was E.P. Montgomery's store.

SHAE COREY: Mhm, what was that?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: E.P Montgomery's little store was where you went in and then bought cookies and dill pickles and little sandwiches and yeah that was run by Mr. E.P. Montgomery and in front of Union Baptist Church there was his brother's grocery store, Charlie Montgomery, again where on the point of where that S. A. Walton building is, turn the corner in front of Union Baptist Church and all of that was houses.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: All of that was houses. There was houses facing Union, the other houses faced the pool and there was a little community store there and it was Mr. Charlie Montgomery's store, again you go in and you buy cookies, pickles.

SHAE COREY: Were they related to B.M. Montgomery?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yes, they were all brothers.

SHAE COREY: Brothers? Okay.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yes, B.M Montgomery, Charlie Montgomery, E.P. Montgomery, they were all brothers. And on Loveless Street was Charlie Montgomery he had a barber shop and a house. So, underneath was the barber shop he lived above. So those were all brothers. “Fess” Montgomery, well Professor Montgomery, we called him “Fess,” they were all brothers and their sister was Miss Montgomery, she lived, used to be a white house in front of Union which is now gone but that was their sister. That was all the Montgomery's.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: And uh Mr. Benson lived up on the hill, the Grangers lived up on the hill. I would say if you just walk, Miss Julia Finley, she ran the kindergarten, which really wasn't kindergarten I think it was just more like a daycare.

SHAE COREY: Like a pre-school kind of?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: I would say like pre-school, it was just where you went and stayed there during the day...

SHAE COREY: While your parents worked?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: While your parents worked and they came and got you from. So, Miss Julia Finley was a big part of the neighborhood she was always active in the Homewood City Council. She was always advocating for Rosedale. Uh, so Miss Finley, we had kindergarten at Miss Finley's or at Miss King's. So, there were two. Miss (unclear) King, the people who lived on this side of the street they went to Miss (unclear) King, the people who lived on the side of the street where Union is they went to Miss Finley. So that's kind of.

SHAE COREY: Just because it's closer?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: It's closer, yeah.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: That's just what you did.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: And let's see, uh, as I said the churches, Union Missionary Baptist Church, Bethel A.M.E., Friendship Baptist Church, the Church of God, yeah those are the four.

SHAE COREY: I know we were walking around the neighborhood passing out flyers the other day and we saw a Coptic Church, did that used to be there or?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: No, that building has been there but that used to be the Church of God and Christ's Holiness Church.

SHAE COREY: Okay, okay.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Which was a black church. But that Coptic Church now, maybe, within the past five to ten years.

SHAE COREY: I was just curious because it seemed a little out of place, in the neighborhood.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yeah, yeah so now when you're there if you go continue up that street along the car line, we used to live at the end of that street. And that's called a car line, because they said that was the end of the line for the streetcar trolley that used to run through here. So that—

SHAE COREY: Wow. There used to be a streetcar that ran through Rosedale?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: It came all the way down, went all the way down to Edgewood, from around the mountain because that's the way you got around from downtown around the mountain to this side of town, it's considered over the mountain. So—

SHAE COREY: Wait, what happened to it?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Oh they just stopped it.

SHAE COREY: They just shut it down?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yeah, they just stopped it So, I know my great-aunt told me that the streetcar would run, that was the end of the line for the streetcar. It would run all the way down through Central Avenue, downtown what I consider downtown Homewood now, Edgewood, down the hill.

SHAE COREY: Wow. I didn't know that. That's super cool.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Yeah, let's see. Cemetery. I have often heard that's there's a cemetery here in this neighborhood, I don't know where it is.

SHAE COREY: Yeah, I don't know where it would go. Do you know where it would fit into the?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Uh, I, the couple of guys I went to school with used to Mr. Cheryl, Mr. Sheerer now passed, I think it was kind of behind Loveless, oh I'm sorry, B.M. Montgomery Street, uh that way. But I've always heard that there was a cemetery in this neighborhood I just never knew where it was.

SHAE COREY: Hmm. That's super interesting.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Uh, the ball diamond I do not remember the ball diamond, I remember my father speaking about the ball diamond and the ball diamond was where Red Mountain Express is now. That was the ball diamond.

SHAE COREY: Mhm, and they'd play a bunch of different sports there, right?

ANNA MARIE SMITH: Well it was just where guys went and played baseball.


ANNA MARIE SMITH: The Golden Nugget Restaurant, as I said my father was a chef there, and uh it closed down when Mr. Harry died, say mid-80s, 80, probably 84 85. Was there anything else that, I don't know who I turn that in to.

SHAE COREY: Oh, yeah perfect.

ANNA MARIE SMITH: It was just a wonderful neighborhood, it was a wonderful, wonderful place to grow up. A lot of memories. And because it was such an old neighborhood and also one of the few neighborhoods for blacks in this area, we always considered it ours. And always very protective of it and very strong minded about it.

SHAE COREY: Yeah, well that's great thank you so much for letting us talk to you.



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“Anna Marie Smith Interview,” The Rosedale Memory Project, accessed July 16, 2024,


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