LEEANN LANDS: You can introduce yourself, and tell me your history with Emmaus House.
MARGARET GRIGGS: Good morning. My name is Margaret R. Griggs.
I want [to] think and talk about a man that I met about 1968, which came into our neighborhood. And I met him [Father Austin Ford], and we got to be friends because I started going up to the building they had. He taught me a whole lot of things. I remember what he done, what he said to me, and I remember one thing good that he said to me. He said, “Margaret I want you to help me initiate our program now. And I looked at him. I said, “What we going to do?” [Laughs] He said, “Begin some programs and things and when I get them shaped up, I will let you know because I’m going to want you to run them for me.” “Ok. If you think you going to win.” That’s what I told him, because I didn’t know what he was talking about. But as time passed along he would tell me a few things.
For one thing, he came up and he wanted to have a baby-feeding program, because he was very concerned about the babies. He wanted them to be fed and to be well nourished, and he had raised some money to make a program that we could pass out to unwedded mother, mothers and mothers with little bitty babies already. He wanted them to be fed and a whole lot of them wasn’t getting enough vitamin and stuff. He said, “We going to have to take care of these babies.” I said, “Yes [laughs].” [I was] thinking to myself, “what we going to do?” But in the meantime, he got a budget from somewhere – don’t ask him where he got it from because that’s not the question [laughs].
LANDS: He wouldn’t tell you?
GRIGGS: No, he going to do what he want to do [laughs] and move on. But he remember to come and call me up. He told me, he said, “Margaret.” I said, “Yes?” He says, “I got some money here. You remember when I was talking to you about the baby feeding program?” And I said, “Yes.” He says, “Well, I got five thousand dollar. Now, we going [to] open [the] baby feeding program. We going to serve the mamas, so the mamas can come. So you are not going to have to take it to them. Tell the mamas [to] come to the Emmaus House – [the] upper part Emmaus House, [the] working room.” He said, “We going [to] take it up there, open it up there, and set it up. Now, you think you can do that?” And I was wild like him, I said, “What you think I am, a nut?” [Laughter] And so and he says, “I want you to run it for me. You think you can do that?” I said, “Yes.” Because he knew that I had a job, I said, “Just in the evening. I’m off at five o’clock.” And so I took it up. And I said, “Where [will we] get the food from? [The] baby food from?” He said, “I tell you what you can do. The van that we got – I think we had two van – you going to take one of them van and you go to buy the food. We bring it back and you stock it in that room where food going be. Just like people do in the grocery store, put it on the shelves and thing. So when you go in to get it, it’ll be all.” He’s particular, and he says, “Then you get food and give. You go break out how many jars you going to give the mama and then you put them in a bag and you give it to them.” We were very official, so we did that and it worked. I run up and down Jonesboro Road [laughs]. Oh, I’d be so tired sometime. I tell [Griggs’s son] Michael, “You got to go with me.” “Michael,” I said, “I need a little help here [laughs].” So we would go and we get the food then we would come back. And the mamas will come and we’ll give them their food and they will go, be on their way. It was a good program. We done it fast because I was back home not too long. But it was very good, and it was worth it. It was worth the while because I see some people have baby and they come, [and] they look a little better, you know. So that made me feel good knowing those babies was being helped. So we got that done.
LANDS: Now were you guys open every night?
LANDS: Did you do the weekends?
GRIGGS: I’m trying to think – it was one night a week. They had to pick up their food. [I] forgot what night it was.
LANDS: That’s ok.
GRIGGS: It was one night a week that they came and they picked up their food. If somebody was sick or somebody would put their stuff in a bag and get it to them. We made sure that they got it and it was one night a week.
LANDS: Was it just you and Michael or were some other women working with you?
GRIGGS: It was just Michael and me, and I think Ms. Crawford. She would come down. They would come down [to] help with the food.
LANDS: Now how many years did that last?
GRIGGS: I think that lasted one year, because when the money ran out, see that’s when we had to close. So, those [are the] things [we] did. That was our first project with baby feeding program. We done a lot of things before then, but that was a project that he wanted and he got done.
LANDS: Now how did you even meet him?
GRIGGS: Because when he moved up there—we hadn’t bought this house and moved in yet, we were living on Liman Avenue, and then we moved here in 1970, 1971, [or] 1972. We moved here, but then he was a person that was moving into the community. We had went visiting, and, you know, we go up to see him. He was just like family. Lord have mercy. We done all kind of bus riding and [unclear] time. He take the van, the bus, or something. We go all Alabama everywhere. That’s what he want to do, so that’s what we done. He was very pleased, you know, and he was happy because we thought we wanted to make him know that he was welcomed. You know, because he was just new in the community. So we greeted him with cheer, you know.
LANDS: Now did you go to chapel up at Emmaus House or did you go to church at one of the other churches?
GRIGGS: I went to chapel up there.
LANDS: I knew Silva [Griggs Britt] attended [Emmaus House], but I wasn’t sure if she just started going as a kid.
GRIGGS: She started going when [she] was a kid, you know. And that was her thing because, she went to school through there because he got some papers and she went to Galloway [School], which is out in Buckhead.
LANDS: So tell me about that, what did he do to persuade you to send the kids all the way, that far away to Galloway?
GRIGGS: Well, Silva had a scholarship at Galloway. He got Silva a scholarship. He got a scholarship for eight black children out here. He got them a scholarship because Mr. Galloway came out to visit him, because Mr. Galloway was one of his teachers. They went to class together and somewhere around there, somewhere down there, but they knew one another very well.
LANDS: I didn’t know that.
GRIGGS: Oh yes, and so he came out to see Father. He told Father, he says, “Austin, I do anything to help you and your program things because, you know, I know you probably need some help.” So Father back at him said, “Yes, I tell you what you can do. You give me some of that scholarship for some of my children out here. Some of them would never be able to go to your school because Galloway is expensive school [laughs].” And so Mr. Galloway tell him, “I’ll let you know.” He gave him eight scholarships, and, my Silva, she got one. And do you know out of those eight children, Silva was only one graduated.
GRIGGS: Yes ma’am. She’s the only one that graduate. But you had to be able to study. The rest of them didn’t study as hard. And so Silva graduated and I was so glad because, you know, when somebody tried to help you, you know, you ought to be able to help yourself. When I see Mr. Galloway, I thanked him. I said, “I thank for what you done.” He said, “Well I thank you that she turn out.” I say, “Yes me too [laughter].” Because I use to go out to the meetings and thing they have out there. I used to go out there and she enjoyed it.
She graduated there and she come on home and she wanted to go to college. She wanted to go too. I sent her, but she didn’t finish there because she dropped out. She got a little grown you know, gotten older, a little grown. But I was glad she turned out to be as well as she [did], cause she’s a good child. She’s my baby. She wanted to go to Spelman, so I sent her to Spelman for two years. Then she got out and I tell her all the time now, I said, “You know I ought to spank where you sit because girl you know you made me spend money.” Spelman is expensive [laughter] but I paid it because that’s where she wanted to go. But that didn’t turn out so well, and then she started to court and she got married. I said to myself, “now isn’t that something else?” But things turned out well.
LANDS: Going back to the children’s feeding program that lasted for a year. What did he talk you into next?
GRIGGS: Oh [laughter], let me see what did Father do to me next? Oh, we had that with the baby feeding program, and then we had the grocery store like thing. Then we had the little food store, you know, like you have stuff you could pass out to people.
LANDS: Then, did you sell the food or did you give it away?
GRIGGS: Just gave away free. There something else we got into—what in the world—I tell you. We got into to the thrift shop—that was before the year we got the thrift shop. We done that until people stop, you know, stop donating and so we closed it down. So we got rid of that.
Let me see what else he get me into. See I don’t know what Father gets me into, get me into something. And he the one got me into that running for the [Atlanta] School Board. I was sitting here tending to my own business, the phone rang, he on the other end and says, “Margaret.” [I said,] “Father, yes, what do you want?” Because I know there’s something up. He said, “Oh, don’t you want to run for the school board?” I said, “Do what?” [He said,] “Don’t you want to run for the school board?” I said, “Not necessarily.” I said, “In the first place, I don’t have money to run for the school board”—because it takes four hundred dollars to qualify. He said, “Oh we are not worried about that. I’m sitting here holding four hundred dollars. Somebody gave it me and told me to pay your qualify fee.” [Laughter] I said, “Do what?” Somebody—and I don’t know, see I know I forgetful because I forgot who that was gave him that four hundred dollar—because he told me who it was.
GRIGGS: Yes, he told me who it was. He said, “She gave me this money for you.” [He said], “If you want to go run that board you go, we haven’t got [to]. But, there was a closing date for qualifying and so we haven’t got but twenty minutes to get there before they close this evening.” I said, “Oh, what are we [to] do for that?” He said, “Now you going go?” I said, “Yes.” And he said,” Well, she’ll be by there to pick you up.” Oh Lord, I tell you truth, that man used to run me up a tree. And so she got here. She said, “Come on Margaret, let’s go.” Because I knew her. She’s white lady live near Emory out there.
GRIGGS: I’m going to have to find out because she the one that gave him that four hundred dollar. So she come by and pick me up and we went on down to the court house where, you know, you qualify. And I got qualified. Boy we partied that night [laughs]. He had my poor little husband out there [laughs]. We qualify, and they kid me now sometime about the mess that we had that night. Maibe’s brother was in town and he had a big old dog. He had that big old dog with him and, honey, we partied, me and the dog. I walk the dog back down the escalator—say you suppose be riding the escalator up the thing—I was on the way back going backwards. And they said, “You remember when you rode that dog [laughter].” I said, “Mmhmm [laughter].” It was fun, you know, because that was really fun then. And then I went on try to fight the school board.
LANDS: At the time, what’s the school board dealing with? Have they already started the bussing program out to the north side? Are the schools desegregated?
GRIGGS: Let me see, had they already started then? I remember, see because he went to north side. Michael, when did they start the busing students to the north side?
MICHAEL: About 1973, I think.
MICHAEL: 1972 or 1973.
LANDS: And you’re elected right around then.
GRIGGS: Yes, so that’s what we did then. We didn’t know [what] we was trying to get then. Trying to get schools, you know, where we get children in them schools. I remember because June Coffer—remember her?
GRIGGS: She was before your time then. June Coffer. She used to be Vice President of [Atlanta] School Board.
GRIGGS: She [was] Vice President of the School Board. That was my buddy gutty [laughs]. Me and her used to travel together back when school have meetings, you know, some things on other town and things. I bet I saw every place in there, think I would never get to, oh Lord. But we used to go, you know. That’s way you picked up a whole lot of stuff, when you go to those things because everybody got something different. They like a bunch of senators and things, [laughs], we used to go out there, I think I got out to California three times. God—to California. We went to New York, went to Washington DC because I got [a] letter in there a big picture there where I’m shaking that man’s hand, maybe remember him next time—Senator Talmadge [laughs]. Somebody by me said, “Isn’t that Senator Talmadge.” I says, “Hmmm.” I’m standing in the capitol shaking his hand [laughs] and they looked at me and shook their head and walked off and looked back at me and said, “You do anything [laughs] won’t you?” I got so tickled. I said, “You know that’s kind of funny tunny.” I can remember time when he would walk over a black person, and here I am up in state, up in the capitol in Washington shaking. He come by, “hey there!” [laughs].
LANDS: You had power then.
GRIGGS: Yes, that’s what it was, the power. because and he was introducing me to everybody around, “This is Ms. Margaret Griggs from Atlanta, she’s on the school board there, am I not right?” I said, “You right [laughs].” But I said they sure had bring about time, bring about change, which time no need to be [unclear] [laughs] but when I went I used to go all over places and when they started that, think when Boston, you know they bomb that bridge thing to keep the students f[rom going to integrated schools] and then they was trying to get it back together up there. And they was saying, “They didn’t know why that this South black children were getting along with the white children so well because our students here most they done pretty good, they got along.” They didn’t care what was going on, but they was getting along fine. They were, you know, getting it straight, then so Boston said they didn’t understand it, you know, and they sent a letter down to Dr. Crimm. Dr. Crimm was our superintendent then and they wanted to know what we doing down here that they weren’t doing up there, then somebody stepped in and sent a letter down to us and wanted to know. They would like to meet some of our students, so I got the letter and, by God, I’m the one wind up in Boston. See tell you how he used to do me and they wanted to know. So I took five students and board that plane and went to Boston [laughs].
LANDS: Do you remember who you took with you?
GRIGGS: One of them, let me see, yes, I remember one young man because—oh, Mike!
GRIGGS: Now see I forgot the boy’s name, you know that boy that died over at that nursing home? The one that I carried to Boston. Thrasher!
MICHAEL: Thrasher? Ivan Thrasher, no.
GRIGGS: Yes, it was Ivan Thrasher.
GRIGGS: Yes, so one of them was Ivan [but the] rest of them I don’t know the names. But, I know Ivan because he lived right over there on Tuskegee. And I remember Ms. Thrasher told me, when I board that plane, that night with the children, she said, “Margaret, bring my son back alive here.” I said, “I’m going to do my best [laughs].” Yes, because there were people still saying they might get bombed you know and so we board that bus, I’m mean that train, that plane and we went onto Boston, but I watched. I watched the five children like a hawk watching sheep because I wasn’t about to be out somewhere and let them five children get all banged up. So, you know what they did? Tell you what they did. They knew that we was coming. They gave us a special place to live, and they gave us a guard every day. A police would guard every day [laughs] and so, one day I asked, I says, “Why?” I knew what it was, I want to see what they was going answer me. I said, “Why would you all have a guy walk behind us every day? Do you all think we going do something?” They said, “No we don’t think you all going do nothing. We worried about what the nuts up here going do.” I got so tickled, the man called them a nut [laughs] then he said, “No, I’m not worried about what you all going do, but what we are worried about is what these nuts over here, up here might do to you all and we don’t want that.” And I says, “Thank you.” [Laughs.] But I tell you, I’d heard everything. I tell you sometime, I tell Father, I said, “Boy, you know you should, let me tell you what you done.” He had that big old dog you know and one of them died so he had to have another and have a name and then you know what he done? He named that dog Margaret.
LANDS: I think he still has that dog.
GRIGGS: He do?
LANDS: Yes, I met that dog.
GRIGGS: He named it Margaret; now ask him, why did you name that dog after me? He said, “Well I had to name that [dog] somebody and you was good as anybody else.” Yes, he still got Margaret, right? So when I talk [to the dog] sometime, I say, “Well hi Margaret.” He wagged his tail. [Laughter] You been through what I been through.
I remember when Silva got married, her color was silver and blue. I bought her hat for her. I still have the hat here. That hat was nice and it was so silver. Hats were her freaky thing. She had a blue dress and she was all dressed. Father, oh I know what he done, I know something that he done. Well honey, he was at the wedding reception with the hat on.
LANDS: [Laughs] That was some party.
GRIGGS: Honey, I said, “What in the world?” I looked up there, and he’s there with Silva’s hat on. He did tell me, “Aren’t I handsome?” I said, “If you don’t put on that hat you going—. Walking around with Silvia hat on!” [Laughs.] He is a trip when you get to know him because he just keeps up something all time. Something going all time with him. He walk way around here.
One day and brought me and brother some cookies. He is a mess. See because I have another daughter Brenda. Brenda’s my down syndrome and, so she goes to church mass every Sunday. That van would stop by then, stop by and blow, Brenda be going out the door. She was looking so bad one morning because she sneaked out, she dress, you know like ought to be, that horn blow, she went out that door, [but] her hair hadn’t been combed. [Laughs.] I come back in here, I call up May Helen [Johnson]. I say “May Helen, when Brenda get there, you take her off that van and fix her up, comb her hair because she hasn’t done that.” She said, “I’ll take care of it.” [Laughs.] I tell people, people just don’t know I been through some things. I just laugh and keep on going. Some of them might laugh and keep on going, someone might get mad and stay mad. I bet you he got them dates when all that stuff happened.
LANDS: He forgets some, too.
GRIGGS: Oh yes. What he tell me one night, we was coming back from Carolina, when that Kennedy brother was going, trying go be president. So he said, “We going go up there.” So we went up there. On our way back he want talking you know. So I says, “Father.” He says, “What?” I say, “Have you, when you going get married, have you ever thought about marry?” He look at me and [he] says, “Margaret when I think about marriage, I think about death.” [Laughs.] Have you ever heard a thing?. Have you ever heard a thing? He said, “When I think about marriage, I think about death.” I said, “Well bless your heart.” Uh, that man—
LANDS: What other kind of things did you deal with on school board?
GRIGGS: Let me see. I know one thing, I didn’t let nothing get by me. [They] say, “You want anything done you better call Margaret Griggs because she go see about it.” I didn’t care what time of night they call me, you know, didn’t make me no different. I tell them, I says, “I see you when the school opens.” I be leaving school on the next morning, I would be there if they called. I always felt like that if you was going do a job then, you know, you supposed to do it. See, that’s what made me mad when them [unclear], they never let them do nothing right, you know. But honey, when they call me and say, “Ms. Griggs, there’s something up, going on over there in the schools. I don’t know what, don’t seem right.” You know, I say, “What?” And they’d tell me what was happening. They were saying, “Well maybe you come here look, you come and look.” I said, “See you in the morning.” I would go there and I would be there on time.
LANDS: Now how did you manage all that? You were working still, right?
GRIGGS: I would tell them I had to go. I tell them, my job, that “I had to go see what was wrong with school.” [Laughs.] Yes, because see I was working for Southside Health Center—work there eighteen years. But I would tell them, I said, “I think I’m going go this morning I’m going run go to the school, I think they got a problem I need to go see about.” And then they had gotten used to it. So they said, “Ok Ms. Griggs, we’ll see you when you get back.” I says, “That’s right. I got a patient to see and see patient on your way back.” Because, you know, sometime I have to go see the patient because I doing home health care. So when I say, “I’ll see the patient, the patient going to get seen.” I didn’t doing nothing I was supposed to do because, I just thought that was right. And, like, one day I would run down the street over yonder somewhere—I don’t even know where I was now—but I would run down that street and I saw this board of education truck pull up in the wooded parts, you know, the wooded. Turned to a person, I said, “I wonder what that truck doing there? Well, maybe they having lunch.” You know, so I went over there. I pulled on off. I come back about an hour because I’d been to the grocery store. I come back about an hour then the thing was still sitting there and, I got out the car. I said, “Listen here, now, you all, I know board of education don’t give that long a lunch hour [laughs].” Somebody said, whispered about it, “Who is that, man you better get out, you better get to work because that Ms. Griggs.” He said, “Oh!” So I tell you what, he said, “Oh hell.” I just get tickled at them sometime because they knew I was fixing to get them. I’m not paying you to sit up in the bushes and drink beer. What’s wrong with you?
LANDS: So you got elected for a second term. Did you have to run?
GRIGGS: Yes, yes. I run, and somebody said, “Oh I don’t think you going make it this time.” I say, “You want a bet?” I won. People voted for me like nobody business because I would tell them. I say, “Now I’m going to do what’s right. You don’t want right then, I just stay at home sleep.” Hell because, like you, if I’m supposed to come and see you tomorrow [or] you need something done. I tell you I be there and I do it for you, you know. [Laughs.] That’s right. Then father said, “Well, I see you tomorrow.” Now Father, Father tell you that. He’d tell you that I’m a straight talking person. I believe in talking straight, telling you like it is, if it isn’t, leave it alone. I got that much from him [laughs].
LANDS: So what have you seen change at Emmaus House. You’ve been there since the beginning?
GRIGGS: Yes, it was the beginning and what changed is … see when Father came things got better because, you know, we had the welfare rights program in there. I used to go march every other day [laughs].
LANDS: So you protested with him?
LANDS: When you were working—you weren’t on welfare, so you weren’t one of the…?
GRIGGS: No and I protested with him. I said, “This is my deal too.” So I get in there. See in that time, I had, you know, less to do. But, let me tell you about that protest because [Silva] was little bitty, she was a little girl. I had her out there in the line [laughs].
LANDS: Were there other kids?
GRIGGS: Yes, folks were just so tied up and heated up by then. Know what they do, most folks had they schoolchildren out there. They put them out there up and down Peachtree. Be nothing but bunch a little black youngin’s and their moms out there. Silva was one and [Michael] was a little boy, he was out there too. We had children out there. Yes, I use to tell my husband [that] “I’ll be late I’m going to go march with the children today.”
LANDS: So was it mostly women? Were there any men out there besides Father Ford?
GRIGGS: Yes, just a few because most men go [to] their job working. They had a job, you know. See women, you know how a mom is. They’d call, “Well, I’m going be there because that my child. They got my child there.” You know, because I know that’s the way I use to feel about Silva going be there. I’d like to maybe keep an eye on [her] because she was a little girl see, and I say I want to be able to keep an eye on my daughter, and that’s the way it was done. We never took Brenda, see, because we couldn’t have Brenda caught up in that, you know. We would never take her, but I take Silva and Michael. Michael would go but it was sometime fun to me, [laughs] until somebody do something make me mad then it wasn’t fun anymore. I enjoy trying to help. I didn’t think I ought to be sitting in a corner somewhere and trying to do everything, you know, trying make things better for, you know, so you get out there and you help. I can remember back in the 1950s that I used to march when there was the cafeteria thing, you know. I use to march back then. I use to go to work and work a half a day and go march the other half. That’s when I was working out in Buckhead Cherokee Town and Country Club.
LANDS: Wow. That’s a long way away.
GRIGGS: Yes, I’d go out there and work. But see I was working night shift. I was working night, working evening, what was called a late shift. So I’ll go out there and I work. Then I’d get off, I go do some marching, I [am not] kidding.
LANDS: Did your employers know that you were marching?
GRIGGS: Uh-um. But see, I was one that my problem—was my problem. I was one of the plain speaking people. I tell them that “you [do not] got nothing to do with what I do as long as it [is not] on your time, that’s right if it [is not] on your time.” He could find somebody else to mess with because you [are not] making nothing here. Now I feel like that now, you know. People who do stuff, do it on your own time.
LANDS: But the members of that Country Club though are some of the biggest members of the power structure—
GRIGGS: I know, I know it.
LANDS: That’s pretty amazing.
GRIGGS: I know it [laughs]. I used to work out at Cherokee Town. I was a pastry worker and makes the salads part. Yes, I worked there, and I would done what I want to do. I do their job and then do what I want to do too. “You don’t tell me what to do or when to do it.” How do you tell me—say, well Margaret will you fix this. Well [then] gone leave me alone, because, if I don’t know how to fix it, I say well you better give me a recipe or something. This my problem, I’m plain spoken. This [unclear], he tells me, “You going to get in trouble.” But I’m just a plain speaker. I don’t believe in telling the wrong thing then try to eat it up, I am not that hungry [laughs].
LANDS: So you’re living up on Lineman when they are having the arguments over the first Fulton County stadium, and about taking housing down at Summer Hill. Do you remember that?
GRIGGS: I was living right here, see because I’ve been in this house forty years.
LANDS: Yeah, so you moved in here in the early 1970s?
GRIGGS: Uhm-uhm I moved.
LANDS: Now were you involved in any of those kinds of arguments over the neighborhood and the neighborhood change.
GRIGGS: Well yes, I got involved and so one time I got so involved then I thought I was going to whoop the lady, so I didn’t go no more [laughs].
LANDS: Which one was that? Which one was that when you were so angry?
GRIGGS: Because they told me they were knocking down folks’ house. Folk got to have somewhere to stay [laughs]. Mess around and get beat all up on a count of a house? Maggie get killed over a house? No.
I moved here in 1972 February. Lets see, I got to recall, I was looking at deeds the other day, February of 1972 since I’ve been here in this [house]. So yes, they just raise that, yes we going do that. I said, “You are not going do nothing, build me another house [laughs].” But they get wild too sometime, them all white folk [laughs]. Umhmm, they get wild, so when they get wild, you get wild with them. You get wild with them. But I don’t pick on folk, you know, I don’t believe in that. Don’t be picking on nobody but that’s why, if you do me right, I do you right because I don’t like mistreat people, you know.
LANDS: Yes because the most recent stadium building is coming pretty close [to the Grigg’s home]. I think they’re destroying houses only two blocks away from here, right?
GRIGGS: They might be—I don’t know.
LANDS: When they built a new stadium for the Olympics, so that would have been early 1990s.
GRIGGS: They doing pretty good, whatever they done. They put them houses back [referring to the new housing installed by investors in the early 2000s]. Look around some new houses go up every day, blump, blump, blump, blump, because we was talking the other day. That street, somebody said, “They house sure is looking good over here now [laughs]. Then somebody said, “Yes, they did put them up and boy they looking good and they do they look nice.” They put up new houses but them little houses [unclear] looking like shotgun houses. They look like canon houses now [laughs]. Just about everyone they putting up [are] big houses. I told them, I said because “I want to get me some money do a little work to mine, make it look a little bit better.” Since they putting all these new houses around me be down here trying to fool with my house. After awhile then you’ll see me on TV acting like a fool. You better get your hands off of my house [laughter].
LANDS: So we didn’t finish talking about the changes you’ve seen at Emmaus House.
GRIGGS: Well the changes. It, you know, have changed. Let me see, Father been gone.
LANDS: I don’t remember the year.
GRIGGS: I don’t either, let’s see. Silva come and told me he was gone. He in a house big in Grant Park [laughs]. He really was. He in a house big as Grant Park. Father must [have been] there for about almost ten years. I think he’s been gone for quite a spell.
So then, everybody was unhappy. So they got a new preacher, they got him, and they got unhappy. I said, “Oh my Lord, I guess they going to start a riot too [laughs].” Oh Lord, they got a new preacher then everybody said, “How you all like the new preacher?” I said, “How you all like the new preacher? Honey, I don’t know. I better move on because [laughs] they going start some growling.” You know I am not going to be against no preacher, but I went to see her one day. She talk pretty good you know she seemed to be a pretty nice lady. I saw her Sunday. No I didn’t see her Sunday, I saw her Saturday because [unclear] her and all them gave her [a] cookout Saturday. [I saw] barbeque chicken everywhere. May Helen called me up and said, “Mama, you all better come on up here and get your plate because I’m fixing a second helping now so there [is not] going to be none for the [unclear].” So I went there. Honey, they had banana pudding, barbeque chicken, what else did they [have]? Oh, [they had] black eye peas. That was what they had then. And I said, “Lord have mercy, how they going to feed me all that stuff?” But you know who May Helen is? May Helen is my daughter-in-law.
LANDS: I haven’t had her sit down for an interview yet. She works still, I think.
GRIGGS: Yes, she works out at there school out in DeKalb [County]. She been out there about twenty-five year. That’s, my daughter-in-law. My son died in 1996, so that’s his wife, that’s Bobby’s wife. May Helen is a good person. She’s crazy, but she’s a good person.
LANDS: And she’s been at Emmaus since the beginning too, hasn’t she?
GRIGGS: Yes, mmhmm.
LANDS: So is there anybody else that’s been around Emmaus House as long as you all have—that you think I should talk to besides Ms. Johnson?
GRIGGS: Let me see. Yes Ms. Johnson has been there. What that lady name lived up on [unclear] across street from me? She’s been over there because she was over there when I was over there, Ms. Barn. Ms. Barn because her husband was Carl Barn. I don’t know her house number, but I know she was on that side, and she was across the street about four houses up, yes. They say [unclear] she’s been there… let me see. Who else over there? My problem see I know all them folks but I don’t know her name [laughs]. What’s that woman name? She’s on my mind because she right over here, right over there on Tuskegee Street. She been over here since [laughs] forever because somebody ask me the other day, “How old is she?” I said, “I don’t know she been over here.”
LANDS: Yes, so you would’ve actually seen the neighborhood change going from the unpaved streets to the paved streets, and redoing the park.
GRIGGS: They redone a park over through them trees. They done park over there and they done a little park somewhere, oh they done Four Corners over there, you know. They done Four Corner, and so that’s been done. It’s got a nice place. Let me see what they sneak [unclear] because I go by them. [I] say, “What is that?” Somebody say, “That’s such and such place.” I thought, “oh it is [laughs] because…where out here is that park? “Oh up the street, you know.” There is a small place, because I know that most these folk around here they go walking over there. They walk just over there. Yes, lots of little places around here that’s been knock down.
I’m waiting to see what they going put over here on the corner [of] Hank Aaron Drive and Georgia Avenue where Kentucky Chicken—because they knock, tore down the Kentucky Chicken [laughs]. [I’m going to] wait to see what they going put, because somebody said, “[They] think they going make a park.”
LANDS: Turner Field?
GRIGGS: Hmm-hmm. Somebody said, “They probably going put a parking over there see then charge you ten dollars to park [laughs].” Yes so it’s been lots of change, lots of change, because like all up Hank Aaron Drive back up to you find houses, new houses went up all up, on up there. They just wild around here. I said, “They must be making [it] all cement.”
LANDS: Some of them are vacant, aren’t they?
GRIGGS: Yes, some [but] not that many. One thing, they building and they charge so much money for them. So I told them, “I’m going buy me a used house.” I am not going buy a new house [laughs], but they building them. And somebody said that “they were selling these houses four hundred thousand dollars.” I say, “Well they can keep them then.”
LANDS: That’s a lot of money.
GRIGGS: Hmm-hmm. I said, “Well they can keep them because—this will do me fine.” Have two three nails put here and two or three over there.
LANDS: So what do you think we’ve missed about Emmaus House that you think I should know about?
GRIGGS: Let me see what. Have you talked to Columbus [Ward]?
LANDS: I’m talking to him tomorrow.
GRIGGS: Oh Lord [laughs].
LANDS: And I’ve talked to Gene Ferguson. You knew Gene.
GRIGGS: Oh yes. Gene Ferguson was like my son.
LANDS: He’s delightful.
GRIGGS: He’s a trip. [When] Silva was a little girl, I let him carry her to New York with him. I tell you what, “I’m going let you take my baby to New York, but she better come here back here just like she left here, untouchable, un-anything because I will kill you.” He said, “I know you will, you fool [laughter].” Gene said, “I know anybody try that [is] nothing but a fool because you’d be on them.” I say, “That’s right. They don’t mess with my little girl. You leave my little girl alone because I will hang you up.” He is a trip that Gene. He [has not] been to see me. Somebody said [that] they saw him the other day. I’m going get him. I [have not] seen him. Now he was a good person for Emmaus House. He was a good person for Emmaus House. He took care of things, you know. Columbus was good too, but Gene in some ways was better than Columbus, and in some ways Columbus was better. Columbus was a good person. I don’t know what happened to him. Someone got the news he had quit [working at Emmaus House]. I don’t know what happened to him because I tell them I said, “I don’t want to see all you good people leave.” I think Columbus was hiding from me.
LANDS: I’ll tell him that [laughs]. I appreciate all your time today!
Interview with: Margaret Griggs
Interviewed by: LeeAnn Lands
Location: Margaret Griggs’s Home
Date: 31 August 2009
Transcribed by: Janet McGovern
Edited by: Dionne Blasingame/LeeAnn Lands