“Jay Haines” (1930-c. 2020), Interviewed June 27, 1997

“Jay Haines” 27 June 1997, by Marc Stein. Copyright © Marc Stein 2021. All rights reserved.


I interviewed “Jay Haines” at his home in Southwest Philadelphia in June 1997. This was one of a set of interviews that I conducted after finishing my 1994 Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania but before publishing my book in 2000. I believe that Tyrone Smith, another of my oral history narrators, introduced me to “Haines” and encouraged me to interview him after finding out that I was interested in finding older African American narrators. “Haines” is not his real name; he asked me to use this name instead. Before the taped part of the interview began, “Haines” provided me with the following biographical information:


Date of Birth: 27 December 1930

Place of Birth: Philadelphia

Place of Mother's Birth: South Carolina

Mother's Occupation: Government Worker

Place of Father's Birth: North Carolina

Father's Occupation: Unknown

Race/Ethnicity: African American

Religious Background: Protestant

Class Background: Working Class


Residential History

1930-36: South Philadelphia, Philadelphia

1936-42: Vine St. and 59th St., West Philadelphia, Philadelphia

1942-49: Arch St. and 57th St., West Philadelphia, Philadelphia

1949-53: Thompson St. and 57th St., West Philadelphia, Philadelphia

1953-64: 49th St. North of Market St., West Philadelphia, Philadelphia

1964-68: 49th St. and Cedar Ave., West Philadelphia, Philadelphia

1968-74: Larchwood Ave. and 47th St., West Philadelphia, Philadelphia


In 2021 Tyrone Smith indicated that “Haines” had died some years earlier.


Marc Stein Interview with "Jay Haines," 27 June 1997


Transcribed by Lisa Williams and Marc Stein.


MS: This is Marc Stein interviewing Jay Haines on June 27, 1997. I thought we could start by talking a little bit about your family background, your childhood years, what you remember about growing up. I know you were born in 1930; is that right?


JH: Yes.


MS: In Philadelphia? In what section of the city did you grow up in?


JH: In West Philadelphia.


MS: And what do you remember about your family?


JH: Well my family was small, primarily my mother and me here. I had other relatives in the South, but I grew up in a working class neighborhood. I went to school not more than a block away from where I lived. Got to know all the kids in the elementary school. And was active in my church, which was again made up of neighbors, people from the neighborhood, so that it was a comfortable, close situation.


MS: Happy childhood, do you remember?


JH: As far as I was concerned.


MS: And you said before the tape went on that it was just you and your mother, right?


JH: Yes.


MS: And how did she find herself in Philadelphia? 'Cause she was born in the South, right?


JH: Well yeah, but she traveled. My mother taught school in North Carolina and in Virginia, married my father there, moved to Chicago with him, from Chicago to Buffalo, New York, with him. He died. She owned property here that she had bought. She owned some beauty salons and she bought property here. So when he died, she had a brother here and she moved here as she was about to give birth. And that's how we wound up here.


MS: And do you remember ever knowing any gay people when you were a kid growing up in West Philadelphia? Were there any? Was anyone in your neighborhood, anyone in your church, who you knew at the time or who you've looked back on as an adult?


JH: My oldest friend, who is no longer living, Bobby, we were friends from when he was five and I was six. He was overtly gay and we maintained our friendship through all of the years.


MS: Wow. Really? And he was in your neighborhood?


JH: Yes.


MS: And did you say his name?


JH: Bobby.


MS: And everyone knew he was gay when he was a kid?


JH: Yeah. Well he jumped rope. He played jacks. He did all the things the girls did. And he was a little fella'. Nobody ever said anything to him. Maybe we had the usual things that kids do, but nothing of major importance. And he never changed his demeanor. His family never changed. They accepted him as he was.


MS: Is that right?


JH: And accepted us as friends.


MS: And any girls who were tomboys?


JH: There were always tomboys, but that didn't mean anything.


MS: Not in the same way?


JH: No.


MS: So there was no little lesbians running around?


JH: No, no.


MS: And did people think the same way about you or it sounds like not really?


JH: Not really, because I was big for my age and I played football, baseball, all that sort of stuff, so I did what the boys do.


MS: But as far as you remember, Bobby wasn't picked on?


JH: No.


MS: Not in any serious way? And did he have boyfriends when he was a kid?


JH: No. He had sex partners, I think, from the time that he was maybe ten or eleven.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Other kids or older?


JH: No, older guys.


MS: Also from the neighborhood?


JH: I don't know where they were from. He had a wide range of people he knew.


MS: And he would tell you about it?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And what about you? Did you have a sense of yourself as being straight, gay, neither, in those years?


JH: We didn't put titles to it. I can't even tell you. My first contact was when I was like six years old in a movie. I used to go to the movies on Saturdays. And a guy was sitting upstairs. At that point, Blacks sat upstairs, whites sat downstairs. It was a white guy who was upstairs. And he gave me fifty cents to play with him. And I took the fifty cents and went and got some candy and went home.


MS: Where was the movie theater? Do you remember?


JH: Yeah. It was called the Cross Keys at 60th, actually Ludlow and Market Street.


MS: But around 60th, right?


JH: Yeah. And it scared me to death, but I did not tell my mother. As I grew older, I was in the Boy Scouts and we would take weekend trips and that sort of thing. And there was a guy in the Boy Scouts who had an affinity for me. And we managed to get together, but I can't say that I was putting a title on it. It was just sexual exploration.


MS: Did that guy live in West Philadelphia also?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Still all in the neighborhood?


JH: Yeah, yeah.


MS: But I imagine from what you told me before that you also were having girlfriends?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And when did that start? When you were pretty young?


JH: When I was young, yeah, yeah.


MS: Did you have a steady?


JH: No. Because we had all kinds of groupings, and then by the time I got to junior high school, which is when you first start the pairing off situation, I had a couple of girls who liked me and we would go places in a group. But there wasn't that much activity with boy and girl situations.


MS: And what other gay encounters did you have? You mentioned the movie house and you mentioned the Boy Scouts. Any others when you were growing up?


JH: No. Most of them were in that area and I had a couple contacts with other boys that I grew up with, but then that was part of playing around, I guess.


MS: And were they all other Black kids or were some of them white?


JH: Well the guy in the movie was white, but the rest of them were Black, because primarily my function was the Afro-American community gathering.


MS: Well then I guess we're into the high school years.


JH: Well by then I was in Jersey, 'cause I went to a boarding school in Jersey.


MS: Oh, is that right?


JH: Right.


MS: And we're talking about the mid-'40s, right? 'Cause if you were born in 1930, high school was in the ‘40s?


JH: Yeah, yeah.


MS: And what was boarding school like?


JH: Well we had the girls on one side of the campus, the boys on the other. All boys were feeling their oats at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. And I had friends. I had one guy who used to play around all the time. You know, pinching and this and that sort of stuff, but it was supposedly in fun. Then I had another guy who finagled me into coming to his room and it got to be more than fun. But I went through high school concealing what I was doing, but doing whatever I wanted to do, 'cause that was all part of the learning experience, if you will.


MS: And again, was the boarding school all Black or was it mixed?


JH: No, it was all Black.


MS: So that's the high school years, is that right?


JH: Right.


MS: Anything else of significance that you want to mention from those years?


JH: No, no, not really. Because not that much was really going on. Maybe sporadic contacts, but nothing to make me say yes I'm gay.


MS: Were there any places that you knew about in Philadelphia where gay people went? No, nothing like that?


JH: No, no. I was in college before I found that.


MS: Where did you go to college?


JH: Lincoln University.


MS: And you went there, let's see, around 1948? Is that right?


JH: '48, yeah.


MS: And that's in the suburbs, right, of Philadelphia?


JH: Well Chester County.


MS: Chester County?


JH: Yeah.


MS: So tell me about college years.


JH: Well it became more pronounced there. You sort of went with people who had your kind of personality. You developed relationships, had quote love affairs that didn't go anywhere. And changed every season or every year. But again, sex was more pronounced there. And you made relationships based on how you felt about people.


MS: Were you dating girls and boys when you were in college?


JH: Yes. Always kept a girl. Always had a date. Went to all the dances. It was part of college life.


MS: So that sounds like that was all out there? It was not Philadelphia? Is that right?


JH: No, that was all on campus, because I was on campus most of the year, except for summer months, when I was in town.


MS: Do you remember anything about those summer months in Philadelphia? Did you start making contacts in Philadelphia?


JH: No. I made contacts. I had one boy I was mad about, but he didn't seem to be aware of that side of me, so it never got beyond a certain point. But then is when I began to learn about places downtown and on Friday I would go out to bars in Center City where the kids got together. And that's where I began to meet kids, meet people. But I was still living at home, so I didn't bring them home.


MS: I'm very curious about some of those places. Can you remember the names of some of them or the locations?


JH: One of them was Carver Bar, which was at 15th and Catherine. There was a person called Michel who played the piano. And on Fridays, we would all meet down there, all who knew each other from campus or wherever. And he played the piano and all the familiar tunes and this sort of thing.


MS: Michel did?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And was this a gay place?


JH: No. It was gay in that there were gay people in it, but also straight.


MS: Gay men and women?


JH: No. Primarily fellas. Mixing with gay women came much later.


MS: O.K.


JH: S.K.'s, which was on Moll Street but doesn't exist anymore, was definitely a gay place, but it was predominantly males.


MS: Right. I've heard about that bar.


JH: There were a couple of real stomp down studs who might come in, but on a regular basis, during the week and on the weekends, it was gay fellas.


MS: And when you say stomp down studs, does that mean the butch lesbians?


JH: Yeah.


MS: 'Cause that's what you would have called them then?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: But the Carver Bar and S.K.'s were both primarily Black and primarily male?


JH: Well Carver was not, no. Carver was mixed.


MS: Mixed.


JH: Male and female. It was a straight bar. S.K.'s was Black. And there was the Cricket Bar, which was right up the street on Moll Street. And it was a mixed bar.


MS: Mixed gay and straight?


JH: Yeah. And so was across the street. They used to have entertainment. S.K.'s, Cricket, and there was one other bar there; it was across the street, but it was mixed.


MS: People have told me about Track Seven?


JH: Track Seven was on Filbert Street between 13th and 12th. We didn't get over there until they were getting ready to tear down the Broad Street Station at 15th and Market. And Moll Street was getting ready, too. And I think I was among the first to go over to 13th Street, to what we called the Ritz. And when we first went over there, they had spittoons on the floor. And it was not a gay bar. We turned that into a gay bar.


MS: Oh when? Do you remember when that was? In your college years?


JH: No, no, no, no. I was grown and working.


MS: So maybe the '50s?


JH: Mmhmm [dissent].


MS: '60s?


JH: It was in the late '60s, I guess.


MS: And how did you turn it gay?


JH: Well a few of us went in and we started going back and more started coming. And before you knew it, the regular drunks that used to be into the place just stopped coming. And the crowd changed. The owner of the bar hired a couple bartenders from the crowd. And it just got to be known as a gay bar. And kids from all over the city, and particularly young men when they wanted to stretch out from home, they always came to the Ritz, because they were told that's where they could meet somebody who was going to give them money and they could have sex.


MS: So it was a hustling bar, too?


JH: Yeah. Yeah. Now Track Seven was always in existence, but it was predominantly white. I had a friend, Calvin Davis, who used to sing over there or entertain there. And we started going over to see him. And it was a back and forth situation.


MS: And did that turn Black?


JH: Yeah, near the end, before they closed down.


MS: And some people have mentioned to me this place on Broad and Spruce, this Black gay bar on Broad and Spruce. Does that ring a bell?


JH: Mmhmm [dissent].


MS: I think it was called the African Room?


JH: That wasn't gay.


MS: That wasn't gay?


JH: No. They didn't care what you did when you went in there, but no, that was a mixed bar.


MS: And then Tyrone mentioned to me a couple places also in that neighborhood: Pep's and the Showboat.


JH: But they weren't gay. Now what was gay was--I'm trying to remember--on the corner. Pep's and Showboat were on the west side of Broad Street. Showboat was at Broad and Lombard. Pep's was at Broad and South, which was right down the street. Across the street, on the east side, was a gay bar. On Halloween particularly, and I've forgotten the name of it, all the kids would, when they dressed up, make their rounds of some of the white gay bars on 13th Street, 12th street, around there, and then they'd make their rounds around to this bar at Broad and South.


MS: Now I've heard a lot about this on Halloween night.


JH: Right.


MS: But people have trouble remembering when that was happening. Do you have any sense of that?


JH: Yeah, again that was in the late '50s to middle '60s.


MS: And some people have described black drag queens going in and out of the bars in that neighborhood near South?


JH: Yeah, yeah.


MS: Is that what you remember?


JH: Yeah. Well they were always in that particular one. And there were other bars. There was another bar at 13th and something, right around the corner, between South and Bainbridge, that gay kids, particularly from South Philadelphia, used to congregate in. They'd give parties, birthday parties and that sort of thing.


MS: Do you remember a bar called Jeanette Denbry's?


JH: No.


MS: Rubery Gertrude? No? I have this publication I told you about before we started by Michael Smith, Colorful People and Places. And I want to try out some of the names of the places he mentions for Philadelphia to see if they ring any bells. Let's see. Well the first one it says is Carver Bar.


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Men's, women's bar. Live entertainment, primarily Black, gay and non-gay, popular during the '50s.


JH: Yeah.


MS: Does that sound right?


JH: Well, late '50s, early '60s, yeah.


MS: Phase Three? That was later, I guess. Closed 1982.


JH: Where was it located?


MS: Doesn't say. You don't remember it.


JH: No.


MS: L'Amite? Black men's social group, 1948 to '52?


JH: No.


MS: Joe's, later the Ritz?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Remember when it was Joe's?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: The Inner Circle?


JH: I've heard of it, but I don't remember.


MS: How about Nick's?


JH: Nick’s! That's the bar at Broad and South that I was talking about.


MS: Ah.


JH: That was Nick's.


MS: And that you said was a gay bar?


JH: Yes.


MS: And Black?


JH: Well, you know....


MS: Tell me, tell me.


JH: In those days, particularly for Blacks, there wasn't any all gay bar. It might be gay at night and mixed during the day. And that's the way Nick's was. Neighborhood people were there. Some came back at night, but most of them were there from morning until early evening. Evening to late at night, it was gay. The gay kids came in and kind of took over.


MS: And what was your favorite of all of those? Which did you go to the most?


JH: I didn't have a favorite, because when I was doing the street and the bars, I went all over the city. There wasn't a bar in North, South, East, or West, or Germantown, that I didn't go to. And it didn't make any difference whether it was gay or straight. I had friends; we would go in. And it might start out as a straight bar and be a gay bar by the time we left. And if we enjoyed ourselves, we'd go back. If we didn't, we'd go on to another bar. And there were so many bars that there was always something to do. And of course later on, after I went to Puerto Rico a few times and became enmeshed in that scene, then I began to do the Spanish bars on the east side of Broad Street. So we had that in addition to everything else.


MS: And that was later though, right?


JH: Yeah, that was later. That was in the late '60s, '70s, and early '80s.


MS: Maybe I'll try some of the rest of these. There's just a few more.


JH: Oh sure.


MS: Olympia Ballroom?


JH: Oh. I've heard the name, yeah. The Ballroom, O.K.


MS: But you don't think you ever went?


JH: No, I didn't.


MS: Pete Hill's?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Do you remember that?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Do you remember where that was?


JH: That's on 13th Street, yeah.


MS: 13th and what?


JH: Filbert. North, between Market and Arch.


MS: And Black? Mixed? What do you remember about that?


JH: It was predominantly Black. There were some whites that came there because it was close to City Hall and Wanamaker's, so yeah.


MS: Speedie's?


JH: Mhmmm [assent]. 16th and Columbia.


MS: 'Cause it says here men's, women's bars. Two locations: the North Philadelphia bar was primarily Black, the Center City bar was Black and white.


JH: Right.


MS: Both were gay, non-gay.


JH: O.K. Now that's not true. They were not gay. Again it was a mixed crowd.


MS: Oh that's what this says, yeah. Both were gay and non-gay.


JH: Yeah.


MS: So the one that you mentioned on 16th and Columbia, that was...?


JH: That's the North Philadelphia one. The other one was on Market Street at 16th and Market.


MS: You have a great memory. And how far back do you think that goes?


JH: Again, that was in the late '50s, '60s, and probably early '70s.


MS: And the last one that I have here, a place called Wishes. Then they actually do mention some social groups and I know that you said that you were part of one.


JH: Yeah, the West Set.


MS: The West Set. And maybe before I ask you about that one, I'll see if you know some of the other ones. There was one called Mox Nix?


JH: Mox Nix, yeah.


MS: Do you know where that was based or who was in that?


JH: Yeah, Bobby was in that. Well we'd criss-cross these clubs, but that was a mixture of older fellas and women. And the president lived at 22nd and where the high rise is at 22nd and Vine or around that.


MS: 22nd and Vine?


JH: Yeah.


MS: So they met there at his...?


JH: No. They met at various members' homes.


MS: So the clubs would meet in people's homes then?


JH: Yeah, yeah.


MS: And were there any ones other than Mox Nix and West Set that you can remember?


JH: Well in the beginning, no. We were the only ones who were doing anything, giving affairs. There were other little clubs that tried to get started, but they didn't last very long.


MS: Now can you tell me about the West Set? It sounds like there's a lot you can tell about that.


JH: Well I have a tape here of some of the West Set. Do you want to see it?


MS: Sure. You mean a tape like this one?


JH: No, it's a videotape.


MS: A videotape?


JH; Yeah.


MS: So that was done pretty recently?


JH: No, it covers....


MS: Why don't we put this on pause.


JH: O.K.




MS: Well that was an amazing video that we just looked at of members of the West Set, right?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Going to Puerto Rico and going to Atlantic City in the '60s, you thought. Late '60s.


JH: Yeah.


MS: So I know you were married during these years and had two daughters. You said you were married in '53 and divorced in '64?


JH: Yeah right.


MS: So there was that part of your life, but then there was this part of your life and maybe we should talk a little bit more about the West Set.


JH: Well they were not conflicting, because I was always friendly with the fellas, but I didn't join the club until after I separated.


MS: And what would the club do? Where would it meet?


JH: Well it met once a month at various members' houses. And they discussed plans for any upcoming events or activities that the club planned to be involved in. And made plans how each member would be involved.


MS: And I see in that photo there's about ten people, ten men.


JH: There was eleven.


MS: Eleven altogether?


JH: Yeah. Well it was twelve, but once person got out, so just eleven there.


MS: I see.


JH: Of the eleven, only six are living.


MS: And what kinds of things would you do? You said you would plan functions, plan events.


JH: Well Atlantic City trips away in the summer. Other gay groups in New York and Washington and Baltimore had affairs that we would plan to attend. And it was that sort of thing.


MS: What kind of affairs would they have?


JH: Primarily dances.


MS: Did you ever have the dances here and invite New Yorkers and Washingtonians?


JH: No. Our dances here were always mixed. But when they came, if the dance was straight, they stayed at our houses. And we'd go from house to house. So that's where the gay parties were.


MS: And what neighborhoods in Philly?


JH: Well they lived in various parts. Some lived in Germantown. Some lived like I lived, out here or in West Philadelphia. Some lived in North Philadelphia. So it was all over the city.


MS: And not so much Center City?


JH: No.


MS: Because that was mostly white?


JH: No. We had some friends; generally they were mixed couples, Black and white. We had one friend who worked for this wealthy lawyer and he had the run of the house and he used to have cocktail parties on Sunday at the man's home, which was in Center City on Latimer Street. So it was all over.


MS: And can you tell me about some of the members? You're my contact for the whole group, so is there anything you can tell me about the different personalities?


JH: You had schoolteachers, you had government workers, you had business people. In those days, it was important that you be about trying to better your condition. And when we got together it was to let the guard down and just relax and be gay, if you will, without worrying about who saw you.


MS: Is that because the members thought that if you were too gay in public that that would reflect badly?


JH: Yes. Plus, in the Black community it was not accepted, gaity. Therefore, it had to be toned down if you were going to be a part of the bigger community.


MS: And would you say the Black community--did it seem more or less homophobic than the white community?


JH: I don't know.


MS: Hard to say?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And when you said that everyone was focused on bettering, you mean bettering conditions?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: Should I assume you mean bettering the condition of Black people in general?


JH: No, bettering their own individual condition.


MS: I see, so more individual advancement?


JH: Yeah,


MS: And were some effeminate and some masculine?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Evenly mixed?


JH: I don't know.


MS: Hard to say?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And was that an important part of it?


JH: It wasn't part of it at all.


MS: Really?


JH: No. Everybody who belonged to the club was aware of the personalities in the club and did not focus on who was what, O.K.? And accepted, for the most part, the gay theme. However, they didn't want to belong to a quote gay organization. So that's why we always did things, and we didn't, unless we went out of town to Baltimore or Washington, where it was wholly gay.


MS: But in the city you would do these things.


JH: Yeah.


MS: At it seemed like from the video of Atlantic City that there were a lot of straight women who would participate?


JH: Yes, because people from Philly were there. So that was just like being at home.


MS: Were there particular places in Atlantic City you remember?


JH: No, 'cause we went to most of the bars. We went to wherever the entertainment was. We knew a lot of the dancers. Oh we had one bar and one guest house that was gay. And they were like next door to each other. But as time went on, we branched out, so we were staying at the Howard Johnson's and some of the other hotels. We had a particular bar that we always congregated at, where we knew the owner. And it wasn't a gay bar, but we made it gay when we came in. And nobody worried about it.


MS: I realized I want to ask you something, to backtrack a little bit, about that Halloween drag scene.


JH: At Nick's.


MS: You said that was basically based at Nick's?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Some people have said there were crowds along South Street.


JH: Always.


MS: Watching the parade.


JH: Yeah.


MS: Hundreds of people, thousands of people? How big?


JH: Hundreds, hundreds.


MS: Hundreds?


JH: They were predominantly Black. But they'd stand in Nick's and out. You couldn't get in Nick's, 'cause it was like this. And they were all outside and they'd wait, because the limousines would pull over and people would come out in drag. And everybody wanted to see the outfits. And of course that was the only time that you really saw that. You didn't have people in drag 24-7.


MS: And you said some of those drags would come from more like 13th and Locust?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Because I know there was another drag scene happening there.


JH: Yeah, yeah.


MS: But the white drags wouldn't come over to South Street?


JH: Some did, but it was predominantly Black.


MS: Did you know Sarah Vaughan?


JH: Sure I know Sarah Vaughan. Sarah and I were very good friends when she worked at a club at 52nd and Spruce, upstairs.


MS: Was it Spruce? 52nd and Spruce?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Yeah? Was that for the 4-6 Club?


JH: 4-6, mhmmm [assent].


MS: And was that gay?


JH: It was upstairs.


MS: It was gay upstairs?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And was that women and men or just men?


JH: Anybody who was gay. And there were some straights who came, but predominantly the straights were downstairs. And of course that was open every night, seven nights a week.


MS: And what about Marvina? I've heard about someone named Marvina.


JH: By the time things really were happening in Philadelphia, Marvina was on the West Coast.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Yeah. Marvina was an unusual person who went in drag, had an illegal mind, and did things like pickpocketing, prostitution, the whole bit.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Where did you meet her, do you remember?


JH: On Moll Street.


MS: S.K.'s?


JH: Yeah.


MS: But Sarah Vaughan you met at the 4-6 Club, is that right?


JH: Yeah, I guess it was the 4-6, yeah probably. And I was there; she was there; we were there all the time, but we never hooked up.


MS: And you said before something about how the West Set used to have a big event around the Penn Relays?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And was that as far back as the '50s or '60s?


JH: That was the '60s.


MS: '60s?


JH: '60s, '70s, '80s.


MS: And what would you do? What was the event?


JH: Well the event was a dance. We sold tickets. We had chances. We had a Miss West Set competition. And people came and for the ticket they had open bar and food. And they enjoyed it because everybody just had fun.


MS: And where was it held?


JH: Different places. Wherever we could find a hall that would hold from 350 to 500 folks.


MS: It was that big?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Really?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: And would a lot of the athletes from the Penn Relays come?


JH: Some came, not a lot. If they did, they usually came with a girl.


MS: Do you remember any of the places specifically where it was held?


JH: Hmmmm.


MS: Was it in West Philadelphia?


JH: Well on 60th Street, we had several of the affairs held there. We had one held at the Academy of Music.


MS: Really? At the Academy of Music?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And 60th and Market? Down there?


JH: Not Market. 60th and Walnut. 'Cause there used to be a theater there that was turned over into a cabaret type situation. But we went wherever we could get the best deal. We had a formal in Cherry Hill at the Cherry Hill--I don't remember what it was called.


MS: Over in New Jersey?


JH: Yeah. So we've been all around.


MS: Wow. And you said sometimes you did mix with Mox Nix? Did things with them?


JH: No, no, no.


MS: You didn't?


JH: We never mixed with them. They did their things; we did ours.


MS: Was there a difference between the two groups, would you say?


JH: No, no.


MS: Pretty much the same types of people?


JH: Well, yeah, they covered the same bases, but theirs was made up of gay girls and gay fellas and ours was totally fellas.


MS: And you preferred it that way?


JH: Well we started out that way. I don't know if we preferred it that way, but we knew all of the women in the Mox Nix and we liked them all. So that wasn't really an issue. We just never considered a mixed club.


MS: You said before the tape started that later on Black lesbians and Black gay men started having more to do with one another?


JH: Yeah, over the years.


MS: When do you think that changed?


JH: From what I could see, I'd say it began to change in the middle '70s to the beginning of the '80s.


MS: I'm sorry I'm jumping around a lot, but to go back to the West Set, it sounds like the trips to Atlantic City and Puerto Rico were big events?


JH: Well they were, because people were working and they planned vacations around the time. They were big events for a lot of reasons. From a sexual standpoint particularly, because they got to meet the flowers of the island, if you will. And it was a break from the norm here.


MS: And that's how you would spend your vacation, it sounds like.


JH: Well that's how they would spend theirs. I went down there and fell in love. And we got married in the loose sense of the word, so that I was down there two, three, four, five times a year.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Yeah.


MS: When did that happen?


JH: Well I met Louie in '65. We hooked up and he came here in '68.


MS: Moved, came here to live?


JH: No, he came here to visit. And in '70, he came here to live.


MS: And did he live with you?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Really?


JH: We were together for eight years.


MS: Really?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And was he Puerto Rican?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And Black also?


JH: Yeah. He did not speak English when I met him, but he learned.


MS: And did you speak Spanish?


JH: A little bit. I taught him English, he taught me Spanish.


MS: So you communicated in other ways at first?


JH: Yeah. But it was an interesting escapade.


MS: And was that the one time you really fell in love? No? There were plenty of other times?


JH: Ah probably. You know love was a questionable thing, but that was the one time that I invested a lot of me in the relationship. When I met him, he had just finished high school and when we broke up he had his Masters from Temple and he was living here with me.


MS: So you were older than he was?


JH: Yeah. Twenty years older [inaudible]. He was twenty years younger than me.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And were you ever involved with someone else in the West Set?


JH: No.


MS: Did that ever happen with any of the others?


JH: No, no. We were all friends.


MS: You were friends and not...?


JH: Not lovers.


MS: Not lovers. And were most of the men single?


JH: All of them were. I was the only one in the West Set that was married.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Or had been married.


MS: But I mean also single in a gay sense? Were any of them in long-term relationships with other men?


JH: Ah yeah. Arnold, who is now dead, lived with Charles for like twenty-five years. Nobody else. Bobby had several lovers over the years. Bollis had a lover for about five years. But the rest of them weren't seriously engaged.


MS: Maybe I should ask you a little bit about your family life. I know you said you were married from '53 to '64 and you had two daughters. So a lot of your life must have been going into raising your daughters and being married, right?


JH: Yes, well at least a goodly portion of the eleven, twelve years we were married. But that didn't stop me from exercising the gay portion of my life. That probably was part of the reason for the breakdown.


MS: Did she know about that?


JH: Yeah, because we wound up going with the same man.


MS: Really?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: While you were still married?


JH: Yeah.


MS: So she was also indulging?


JH: No. When the marriage began to come apart at the seams, the man was very interested in her and I was just sort of a stepping stone. She eventually married him, so that's the way that went.


MS: And would she come on any of these trips with the West Set?


JH: No, no.


MS: She wasn't involved with it at all?


JH: No.


MS: Did she like your friends in the West Set or not really?


JH: I don't know. I mean it never came up as an issue. She knew some of them.


MS: I assume your daughters didn't know during those years?


JH: I don't know what they knew. You know kids talk. They're not completely ignorant. My daughters do know now, because I've made it a point as I got older not to be jumping and dodging and hiding. It's not a problem. But when they were young, they were more interested in what daddy's going to do for them as opposed to what daddy does when he's not around.


MS: And I assume that partly meant having a job, bringing home a good salary.


JH: Yeah.


MS: And was that the story for you? Did you have a good job?


JH: Always.


MS: Yeah?


JH: I have never been without a job.


MS: What kind of work did you do, if you don't mind saying?


JH: Social work.


MS: You were a social worker?


JH: I was, yeah. I worked for the state. And I went up through the ranks.


MS: And you did that all through your married years? And did you say on the phone to me that you were also in the military?


JH: Yeah, that was before marriage.


MS: That was before you were married?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And in the Army or the Navy?


JH: Army.


MS: And did you serve in a war?


JH: Yeah. I was in Korea, but it was during the truce.


MS: So the war was '50 to '53, so you were in when?


JH: Yeah, I was there from '53 to '55.


MS: I see. And any gay experiences in the military?


JH: Oh god yes.


MS: Yeah?


JH: I was free, single, and disengaged insofar as the Army was concerned. And there were twenty-one Puerto Ricans in my company. And I think I had nineteen of them. The only reason I didn't have the other two was that they were [inaudible]. And anything I wanted to do, I did. And I had a white lover from New York. In fact, when I approached him, it was for a white friend of mine who thought he was divine. And of course he told me that he wasn't interested in the white fella; he was interested in me. What was I supposed to do? So I said O.K. So we became close, and until they locked him up for something, we had a torrid romance. And we would be surrounded by nothing but hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of men and they are as far away from home as they were. I had plenty of opportunities. When I was somewhere in Korea, I met up with a Canadian and of course four drinks and I was into my sexual experiences. And they were very willing partners, so I just had a ball. I had a Black fellow who got angry with me because he kept hearing the rumors about all the things I was doing. And he knew I was married, 'cause I wore a wedding band. And he wanted to know what I was going to do when I got back home. I told him the same thing I did before I left. But what can I tell you?


MS: So those were the first two years of your marriage?


JH: Yeah, but it was when I was really stretching out in terms of feeling my wings and also being able to talk people into sexual alliances.


MS: It sounds like you were seducing?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And is that the role you played when you came back to Philadelphia?


JH: Pretty much.


MS: Yeah?


JH: Once you learn, you never forget how to ride a bike. And of course when you're dealing with young minds [inaudible].


MS: Because you mostly were with younger men, you said?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: That was your preference?


JH: Definitely.


MS: And Black, Puerto Rican, white--did it matter?


JH: No. I have a white friend that I seduced when he was twenty-three and single. And he must be sixty now. I prided myself on trying to be friends with my conquests. And most of them I maintained a friendship with.


MS: And can you tell me a little bit about your technique? How would you go about it?


JH: Well you find some people are curious. If I saw something that I liked, I'd speak to it or maybe buy him a drink. If I bought him a drink and we set down to talk, it didn't take long to find out what they were interested in and what they wanted. And you'd go on from there. And then some of them I'd bring home and they'd ask me a silly question like “how did you get involved in this?” And I developed a little spiel with them. I would say, “What's your favorite color?” “Well I don't know.” I said, “Well why do you like it?” “I don't know?” “Well see, things happen that you don't have an answer for.” “Well I can't give you an answer.” But it was good enough to keep [inaudible]. And youngsters, when they hook up with you, they have a need. And as long as you meet the need, they'll be around. When you cease to meet the need, then they like to move on to the next lover. And I was aware of that and I knew when to meet it and when not to meet it. So it was an interesting, interesting time. Of course we didn't have AIDS to worry about then. And to say I was promiscuous is an understatement. And if I felt like it, I did it.


MS: What is it that you did have to worry about? Did you worry about anything?


JH: Yeah, you had to worry about being robbed. You had to worry about being murdered. All of the things that you find in inner city situations, other than disease. And even the disease to a point, but then it was syphilis and gonorrhea and you could pretty well tell by the cleanliness of the person whether you needed to worry about the rest of that or not. And that came before you got involved.


MS: It sounds like you didn't worry about the police.


JH: No, because there was nothing for the police to see except two males together. There was no daintiness, nothing to raise a question in their mind about what's the relationship between these two. And of course I didn't do anything in the street. There was no such thing as get in my car, let's go somewhere and park.


MS: You were never in a bar that was raided?


JH: No.


MS: No?


JH: No. And I was perceptive enough, I could tell when things were getting sticky if I was in a bar. And if it was, then I left. I could not afford an arrest because I worked for a public agency. So it was important. And not only that, but because of my church, I couldn't wind up in [?].


MS: So you were careful and that worked?


JH: Yeah.


MS: So I interrupted you. You were saying that you were pretty promiscuous in those years, and it was while you were married?


JH: Yeah, some of it was, yeah. When I was in the service, yes. When I first came home, it was spotty, but then it got heavier and heavier because one of the fellows who seduced me when I was thirteen was gay and had been married three times. And I guess when I was in college, I felt that I could be gay and be married. And it wasn't until later that I realized that you can't serve two masters. You've got to make a choice. And that's when our marriage broke up. I made a choice. I didn't want another marriage. I wanted a divorce and I wanted to be gay. And I had all of that. And I had such close friendships that some of us were always around and we'd be doing things. And it was a security blanket, if you will, in terms of life and its adversities.


MS: That sounds like very good friendships.


JH: Definitely. We've been friends for some until they die, but as a club we were together for over forty years.


MS: Can you give me a sense of where each of the people lived? What section of the city? You said all over, but I'm wondering if you want to go down the list and tell me the section.


JH: Well Bobby lived in West Philadelphia. Herbie lived in North Philadelphia, on the west side of Broad Street. Joe lived North Philadelphia, east side of Broad Street. Bubba lived West Philadelphia, 63rd Street. T.K. lived West Philadelphia, south of Broad Street. Billy lived West Philadelphia, North 59th Street. Harry lives in Mount Airy. I live out here, of course. Arnold lived 63rd Street. Jerome lived West Philadelphia, 50th Street.


MS: It sounds like mostly West Philly?


JH: By and large, yeah. That's how we got the name West Set.


MS: Oh, is that right?


JH: Yeah. Except for Joe and Herbie, the rest of them lived in West Philadelphia.


MS: Now you just mentioned Mount Airy and you mentioned Germantown before. Do you know this bar called the Attic Bar on Germantown Ave.?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And was that a mixed place?


JH: No, it was predominantly Black. Oh when you say mixed, you mean male/female?


MS: I mean both.


JH: I think there were some girls who might have gone there, but most every time I went there, it was all male.


MS: And primarily Black?


JH: Yeah.


MS: What about a place called the Terminal Bar?


JH: Mhmmm [assent]. That was on Broad Street.


MS: Broad and?


JH: Broad and Olney. And that was mixed. More fellas than girls. And the Terminal at one point was a very active bar.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Mhmmm [assent].


MS: So let's say you were sitting around with the West Set and you wanted to do something with Black lesbians, would there have been a place to go?


JH: We never thought about it.


MS: Never thought about it?


JH: No.


MS: Did you think of yourself as the same kind of people or not really?


JH: I don't think that was the issue. What we found was that in Washington, the girls and the fellas were much more united than they were here. Here the girls separated themselves from the fellas. So you had the fellas on one side, the girls on the other, and never the twain shall meet. That changed in the '80s and girls began joining clubs with fellas here. But in Washington, first of all, after they had that drag on who was gay in the government, they never gave a party without having some women there. Now the women might all be gay, but you couldn't tell. And that's the way they grew up in a combined situation.


MS: As protection.


JH: Yeah. So by going down there to parties as often as we did, we began to become friendly with girls who were friendly with girls up here, so that sort of helped us.


MS: But you wouldn't do that here?


JH: They had no need to.


MS: No need?


JH: No. And it's like there's a place that my older daughter goes to called Sneakers, down on 2nd Street or somewhere around there. And of course they're not particular about fellas coming in. They want to be by themselves. And that's the way it's always been here, to my knowledge.


MS: Your daughter, you said, so is she a lesbian?


JH: I don't know what she is. She's got lesbian friends. We’ve been not to many, but a couple of affairs where she was there and I was there, picnics and stuff like that. But it's not anything that I asked her about.


MS: Maybe she'll tell you when she's ready if she wants to?


JH: I don't even know, because I don't discuss with her my affairs. I have a friend now. I think T and I have been together about fifteen years. She knows him. When she was here, if the phone rang and it was him, she would say “it's T.” She never asked me about him and I don't discuss it with her.


MS: I just thought of another place I'm going to ask you about, the Bridge Tavern? Do you remember that place?


JH: Mmhmm [dissent].


MS: 3rd and Race? No?


JH: Rarely did I even go in that section, except to go around to Market Street.


MS: O.K. [Pause.] You just said something about Philly.


JH: It doesn't lend itself to a gay neighborhood. There are gay kids--not as many as there used to be. See I've been out here twenty-five years. When I first moved out here, there were gay kids in various and sundry places in this complex. But you wouldn't call it a gay neighborhood. And I don't think there's any place in the city. I wouldn't want to live in a gay neighborhood.


MS: Why is that?


JH: Because you open yourself. If everybody in the neighborhood is the same and it becomes known that this is a gay neighborhood, you can expect either to get flak from the outside or gays are different just like everybody else. Some of them have scruples, some do not. Some of them are cautious, some are not. And of course when you start bringing any and everybody into your neighborhood and into your home, you've got a problem. Because when they cease with yours, then they want to gets to mine, which is not a good scene.


MS: What about the area around 13th and Locust, where a lot of the bars are now and where a lot of people live? Do you think of that as that kind of neighborhood, where it's too homogenous?


JH: No, no. That's always been like that, to my knowledge. And what's going on in a bar has nothing necessarily to do with the neighborhood or who lives there. People seem to live within their own confine, so that's a different type of thing.


MS: I have a completely different question. Did you ever experience racism in the gay scene in the '50s and '60s and '70s?


JH: What do you mean?


MS: Racism from white gays.


JH: Of course. When I used to go to Puerto Rico, there was a distinct separation. As time went on, white gays had to cover their racism because you were dealing with people who were Indian, Afro, and Hispanic. And of course they immediately took issue over that kind of thing. But it definitely existed and would show its ugly head at any given point. My friends and I used to be down there. We didn't care who was who. If you came and you wanted to join the party, you could join. It didn't work in the reverse.


MS: The other way? What about here in Philly? Did you have any things like that happen here in Philly?


JH: No, because I never went. I had a few friends who were involved with Blacks or friendly with Blacks. [Pause.]


MS: So we were talking about racism in the Philly scene. And you said that you had some friends who were dating Blacks or were friends with Blacks?


JH: Yeah. I never put myself in a position to experience it. One, I had a bad temper, and two, why be uncomfortable? And when you've experienced it all your life, you become sensitive to it. And you can tell when you get into a room whether this is going to be a good scene or not. If it's a bad scene, I'm leaving.


MS: So what were you avoiding?


JH: Any type of confrontation and any anger on my part or any slur on their part.


MS: And where might that happen? You never tried to get into a bar and they carded you or they wouldn't let you in?


JH: No.


MS: Did that ever happen?


JH: No, no.


MS: Or try to join a group?


JH: No, no.


MS: Or just have people stare at you?


JH: No. No.


MS: Nothing like that?


JH: Most of the time it might be if you got into a gay bar that was predominantly white and you were the only Black there and the bartender with attitude on as it related to certain....


MS: And did that happen to you?


JH: Not to me, no.


MS: Not to you, but you would hear?


JH: Yeah.


MS: You would hear about it from other people. Did any gay bars have a reputation? “Stay away from there because it's trouble?”


JH: I don't know. You just learned over a period of time. And I was never interested in venturing south of Market Street. And that's where most of the white bars were. And everything I was doing was on the north side, so that's where I stayed.


MS: In the downtown area?


JH: Yeah, in the downtown area.


MS: Right. Right.


JH: But if I wanted to go, I'd go.


MS: Were there other things that we haven't really touched on?


JH: I don't think so.


MS: Or talked about about gay life in that era?


JH: I think we might have.


MS: Sounds like some of the nightlife was pretty exciting.


JH: It was. It was exciting. It was different. We went everywhere from fights to--I don't think we had any murders on the spot, but came close to it. People with guns and that sort of thing.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Mmhmm [assent]. But then that's part of the young hotheadedness and the mixture of so-called straights and gays. And it was a learning experience.


MS: So there were some fights?


JH: Oh yeah, always in the bar, in the Ritz, all the time the cops were there. The fellows would come down and they'd fight each other. Or they'd fight the gays and the gays would fight back. There was always something.


MS: Did you ever get into fights yourself? No?


JH: No, no, no. I'll tell you, see I was employed and I had to stay employed.


MS: Right.


JH: So that was not.


MS: Any of your friends ever have trouble?


JH: Not really, because if they were down there, then we were together. And of course, cool heads prevail. And we always had to live to fight another day. And after a while we became the old heads and we got respect, so that if we said something they listened.


MS: How old were you when that happened? In your thirties?


JH: No, I guess I was in my forties.


MS: More like your forties?


JH: Yeah.


MS: And you got some respect then, huh?


JH: Oh yeah. That's how Ty and I became friends.


MS: Is that right?


JH: Mmhmm [assent].


MS: He's the guy you're seeing now?


JH: No, no, no, Ty. That's T. Tyrone, Tyrone.


MS: Oh, Tyrone. Because he's younger than you are?


JH: Yeah, much younger than me.


MS: I can't remember now. He told me when he was born, but I can't remember. Do you remember when you met him?


JH: He was friendly with another guy who used to go in drag and he used to be with him all the time. And that's how I met him. We talked. And that's generally how I would meet friends. We'd begin talking. And it was interesting [inaudible].


MS: Well anything else that we didn't touch on that you think's important? If someone was trying to create a picture of your gay life, the part of your life that was gay in the '50s and '60s, have we touched all the bases?


JH: I think you have.


MS: Yeah?


JH: For the most part, yeah. Because it was a split situation anyway, because, as I said, part of me was a father, part of me was a church-going person, and part of me was gay. And I had to serve all those parts.


MS: And part of you was a government worker.


JH: Right.


MS: Right. Sounds like you managed it all pretty well.


JH: Well, I managed to come through it and I'm not sorry about any of it. I am sorry my lover Louie died in '84. And of course his lover at that point called me the morning he died and I had to go and make arrangements with his mother, who knew me, and sister. They came up and we were together. So Louie--I was almost twenty years older than he was. And I would have hoped that he might have lived long enough to benefit from the effort he put out to get his bachelors and his masters. And he died at such an early age.


MS: Did he die of AIDS or was it something else?


JH: No, he didn't have AIDS. One of the things that broke us up was his need to snort and do drugs. And of course that's never been a part of my life. And his friends [inaudible]. He had a kidney problem. And before they could do anything about it, his whole interior just sprung a leak, so to speak. And some people, when they come from a different atmosphere than ours, have different body structures and this type of thing. And I think probably his problem was dealing with the drugs and letting them take over his body.


MS: You mentioned that so many of the people in the West Set have died. Do you want to say what they died of? Did they die of old age?


JH: All of them. Well not old age, but none of them were--I don't know. Burt was murdered by his friend.


MS: Really?


JH: Yeah.


MS: By his lover?


JH: Well yeah, I guess you would call it a lover. The guy went to jail for like five years for it. Arnold died and Arnold was in his sixties when he died. Bobby died of AIDS. He was just sixty-one. Bubba died of cancer. Joe died of emphysema.


MS: So a real mix?


JH: Yeah.


MS: Well anything else or should I turn the tape off?


JH: I guess you can turn it off. That's basically it.


MS: Well thank you so much.