African American Studies


Ronald’s parents moved north during the Great Migration in the 1930’s. His father got a job with the US Postal Service at a New York Post Office and heard that the Bronx was a nice place to live, so he decided to move the family to 3rd Avenue in the Bronx. From 3rd avenue, the family moved to Union Avenue between 166th and 167th. Gloria’s family moved from Manhattan to the Bronx in the early 1940’s to Franklin Avenue between 167th and 168th. Her family moved to the Bronx because her father got a job as a superintendent.

Both Ronald and Gloria grew up in the Morrisania area. Gloria describes the involvement of her entire neighborhood. Everyone did everything together. Gloria attended P.S 63 on Franklin Avenue for grade school. Her neighborhood was racially mixed but very friendly. Ronald went to Thessalonia Baptist Church while his friend Arthur Cryer went to Presbyterian churches. Ronald’s mother was one of the founding members of Thessalonia Baptist Church and helped to raise funds for a building for the church. One of the fundraisers she organized was “Marshall Day” in which Ronald and his siblings would perform spirituals.

When Ronald was 10 he started taking drum lessons from Sonny Payne. Meanwhile, his sister owned a bookstore on Prospect Avenue that also sold greeting cards and toys. He attended junior high at P.S 51 and Gloria attended PS 10. Ronald met Gloria’s brother in middle school and they became good friends. Ronald went to Samuel Gompers Vocational and Technical High School and played in the band and Drum and Bugle Core there. There were gangs on Union Avenue, but they were not black gangs, mostly white. When Ronald got done high school he joined the army and was tossed around from position to position for a little.

While Ronald was in the service, he and Gloria began dating. Before he went to Korea, the couple got engaged. When Ronald was in Korea, Gloria and her family got involved with Thessalonia Baptist Church. They discuss the involvement of Reverand Polite in the church and how he came to the church.

They also talk about the McKinley Ballroom and the other clubs in the Bronx. Their reception was at Hunts Point Place. Ronald describes the various clubs he played at and attended. Every ethnicity would go to these clubs. Ronald also discusses all the famous jazz and Latin musicians he saw play. Many of the musicians were involved with heroin. Gloria says she first became aware of the drug in the 50’s. Ronald was surrounded by it almost all of his life because of his involvement with musicians.

After Ronald got back from the service he worked as a technician. When they got married, their first apartment was on Washington Avenue. Housing Projects were going to be built there, and they were given money to relocate. They moved to a private house on 1028 Water Avenue. They then moved to the McKinley House Projects, which were composed of veteran families, and lived there from 1962-1989. They saw the transformation of the neighborhood and the rise of gangs, which he suspects was due to the prominence of drugs in the community. Ronald again discusses the prevalence of drugs in the music community and at the clubs. In the early 70’s tenants became more rowdy and disrespectful to the community in the McKinley projects. He heard about and saw many of the neighborhoods that had burnt down during the Bronx Fires in the late 70’s.

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Marshall, Ronald and Gloria.mp3 (128634 kB)