Georgia C. Turner
Interviewed by Deborah M. George
26 February 2014
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Georgia C. Turner
Deborah M. George
26 February 2014
Copyright © 2014 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
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The New Zion Community Advocates worked with community members age 80 years and older to have
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Turner, Georgia C., an oral history by
Deborah M. George, 26 February 2014,
WSU Stewart Library Oral History Program,
Special Collections, Stewart Library, Weber
State University, Ogden, UT.
Georgia Turner and her great
grand-daughters, photo taken
February 26, 2014
Abstract: The following is an oral history interview with Georgia Turner and Cerie
Steward. It was conducted on February 26, 2014 by Deborah George.
GT: Everywhere I have gone, I have put myself to do work out there. I clean out the
gutters and the kids say Georgia why you do that? The city does all of that and
everything. I said that’s what’s wrong with the world today. People sit around
and don’t want to do nothing and want the city to do everything. I like to keep in
front of my house clean and everything. And I do. It’s just part of me, baby. I
can’t help it; it’s just part of me.
DG: Tell me your full name.
GT: Georgia Cottrell Turner. They’ll call me Georgia May, Georgie C, or Georgia
DG: And your birthdate.
GT: My birthday is February the 29th…
DG: Oh, you’re a leap year baby.
GT: But to get a job out here, I used the 28th. I can use the 28th or either the 29th.
DG: What year were you born?
GT: For the 28th, the year is 1919 and for the 29th, the year is 1922.
DG: Are we related?
DG: We always ask the question are we related because sometimes we have family
members interview their own family members and so we always ask that
question are we related.
GT: I’ve got relatives that I haven’t even met before and everything and the Cottrell’s
DG: But we’re not related.
GT: You never can tell about things nowadays. That’s right.
DG: So what are you doing now?
GT: Well right now I’m not doing anything but just here trying to get things squared
away. I got that little shack next door that used to be a chicken coop. I’ve got
some of my relatives there and all they do is wear the heck out of me. Nobody
else don’t want to be bothered with them but me. I feed them and clothe them
and everything. They cut my grass and everything and they have their girlfriends
which I don’t like because they wasn’t very nice girls. The boys be out on the
patio and takes that over. They just takes things over because they know I’m a
person that love to be with people and like to do things for them. When I first
came back here. I thought the Mormons were big birds. I tell them down at the
Union Station and they just laugh. I said where is that big bird now? I want to
see this big Mormon bird. They said, “Georgia, you looking at a bird.” and I said,
“Oh no, you can’t tell me that. She said, “Yes, didn’t you know that? I said, “No,
you mean to tell me you’re a bird? You don’t look like a bird.” They laughed. I
just say the first thing that comes into my mind. That’s what they like about me.
See, I’m from a mixed group. My father was a farmer and my grandfather was
white and they owned a plantation. See, I was born in Montgomery, Alabama.
Well, my mom was pregnant and then she got off the train in Montgomery and
that’s where I happened to be born there. So they put me in the hospital but I
was raised in Kansas City, Missouri. You’ll be surprised about me, baby. I have
traveled everywhere and I didn’t have nobody but look like everybody took me in
as their family you know. I didn’t know whether I was white or black until I go and
look in the glass and say oh. They all really loved me and treated me like I was
somebody. I’ve done some of everything. In Oakland, I have worked and know
how to operate an airplane. I have worked. Oh honey, I have done some of
everything – you name it. I’m a licensed practical nurse and worked in Obstetrics
for 15 years at Hill Field and then I did social work with professional people,
that’s how I knew about so much. I was one of the first blacks to work at S. H.
Kress & Co. five and dime store. Myrtle Williams work with me, too. Some of
them they’d get jealous of me you know because I deal with professional people.
I feel like we’re all related to each other you know. They treated me so beautiful. I
helped them build Marshall White; I dug and pulled out grass to put it where it is
today. I worked with mostly important people. That’s why I don’t know no other
way how to treat people but the best way in life. I have come a mighty long way. I
have traveled everywhere where there was nothing but the whites. They wasn’t
white to me, they were just people, a family affair. That just the way it is. Right
now they worried about me being home alone but I can’t help it, it’s just part of
me, baby. I don’t look at people as a races, I look at them as a family affair and
related to each other. I’ve done so much here in Utah, I really have.
DG: So what are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life on all your
GT: Yeah, I took up home interior decorating, nursing. Oh my gosh, you name it and I
have done it.
DG: In your life, what has made you the most proud?
GT: The most proud thing in life?
DG: Mm hmm.
GT: What I’m doing, helping people. I am an honorary member of the League of
Women Voters. That’s it I don’t know no other way. My race - they get jealous of
me. These kids next door to me they call me Aunt Georgia. That’s all they know
because I always keep candy and stuff for my kids. That’s the kind of live that I
have lived baby I really have. I don’t know no other way. I went horseback riding
and everything. I’ve just did it all, I really have. I really love it.
DG: How long have you lived in Ogden?
GT: Right out of high school I came out here in Ogden, my gosh. I was just 16 years
old when I came here. I graduated from Lincoln High School and came out here.
I was one of the first blacks to move on Lincoln Avenue. I’ve been here ever
since the streetcar used to run by here.
GT: That’s right.
LR: The Bamberger.
GT: Uh huh, I just go out there and get on the streetcar and go to Salt Lake and come
back. I’ve done some of everything, I really have. I was the first black person to
work downtown in those big stores and everything. Kress and all of them. I was
no flunky. They put me in the head of everything I did. I don’t do things for a front.
I like to do things from the depths of my heart and that’s part of me.
DG: So what brought you here to Ogden?
GT: What brought me here to Ogden? Oh my dad, my dad was a farmer. I’m going to
tell you my dad was a farmer out here and I would go on the train with him. When
he stopped out here at the Union Station, he jumps off the train and some of the
Mormon people they look and say I wonder where did that Negro learn how to
run a train and everything? It was funny but you look over those kind of things
you wouldn’t want people to say. My dad took off with the train. He jumped on
the side frame of the train and took off with the motorcar. When he came back,
he said alright now let me tell you Mormon people something. I want you to know
I’m a human just like you are and I want you to know my dad was white but I
don’t look at him as he is white. I looked at him as I am just like you are. They
said oh well where did you learn that? He said my Dad - they own the Cottrell
Plantation - nothing buried there, no graveyard. There’s a whole town just like
Ogden but that’s where I came from a wealthy family which I don’t think about
much. It’s just things you know. I don’t get upset about nothing. Oh, I have done
things with Weber College; I went up there and they took pictures of me.
Everywhere I went I was just Georgia Turner and I still am and that’s why I love
people. I really do baby.
DG: So what year did you move here?
GT: What year? Well that was 1960 when I came back here.
DG: And how old are you now?
GT: But it was one black family…
DG: How old are you now?
GT: Well 89.
DG: Alright 89 years young that’s great.
GT: I’m telling you and they always say Georgia you know you’re not that old. My
granddaughter Cerie, she had a surprise birthday party for me and I was really
surprised. Everybody say hi Georgia happy birthday I hadn’t even give myself a
thought you know. Being that old it don’t bother me. Yeah I’m in my 80’s soon be
90. My birthday is coming up now, this Friday. That’s right.
DG: So how has Ogden changed since you’ve been here?
GT: Has it changed? Oh my gosh!
DG: How was it changed over the years?
GT: I can’t remember but it has really been change. It’s so different now, all the
people that are here now these are people that just come in here. When I came
there was nobody here but the Mormon people that’s it. There wasn’t any blacks
here at all, just nothing but a Mormon town and everything when I came here.
They were so nice, they were. They were the nicest people they cooked them
great big biscuits. I’d never seen them cook before and they cooked bread in the
fireplace you know, all that kind of stuff. I’ve been out there and worked and dug
potatoes and I’ve done all that stuff. They treated me as one of them, they really
did. They’re the most beautiful people baby and they just have relationship with
each other you know.
DG: So what are some of the things you remember about Ogden? You know any
legends or stories that you may have recalled about Ogden you know?
GT: Well those are the only things that I can remember about Ogden. I was just into
DG: You volunteered a lot?
GT: Yes. That’s how I’ve got my life. You know the nurse and everything. Cerie and
the great-grandchildren weren’t even born. I would go up and sleep in the
mountains, hunting. I just got into all of that stuff and it doesn’t mean nothing to
me anymore. I feel like I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve been in the parades but
now they ask me about a month ago did I want to be in the parade I told them no
get somebody else and let them do it.
DG: They wanted you to be the marshal?
GT: Yes that’s right. I was so glad when the farmers when they start running the
trains from different states and everything. Well you know they, it was a funny
thing they didn’t have anybody out here hardly and the blacks and everything. So
that’s why my brother, my oldest brother he had a restaurant right across the
street from the Union Station.
DG: What was the name of it?
GT: Yeah, he had a restaurant that’s when I happened to come out here and stay. I
was supposed to come out here from Lincoln High School in Kansas City and
come out here and go up here to the college. It didn’t work out like that. My
brother said well I need you sis. They want me to open up a restaurant here and
will you come and work with me?
DG: What was the name of the restaurant?
GT: Let me see what the name of that restaurant is. Oh gosh, I just can’t remember.
LR: Was it the Porters and Waiters Club?
GT: Well just put the union restaurant. Yeah, put that down because it was right
across the street. The Union Station was just about the size of this little house
next door here, that’s how big it was. Boy I’m telling you…
DG: And what was your brother’s first name?
GT: Fletcher, my oldest brother Fletcher Cottrell.
GT: Then let’s see. Oh I have worked with the doctors and everything. I have trained
to run an airplane. I’ve done all of that stuff. I really have baby.
DG: Now did you have a nickname growing up?
GT: Well yeah they called me Bitty…
GT: Because I was so little you know. Yes and they’d call me that. Mostly because my
sisters and them called me Baby but they called me Bitty because I was so small
DG: So what were some of your…
GT: I’ve done so much in life, baby.
DG: Who were some of your best friends when you were growing up?
GT: My best friends? Well now I tell you when I came out here there was a family
named Slocum. They were the only black people that was out here at that
particular time. Like Bettie Moore, you’ve heard of her. But you see now, they
were out here but they all lived right there on Lincoln. When I came out here, I
stayed everywhere…all back up in the mountains and everything and they would
talk about me. They didn’t care too much for me. They said oh yeah, Fletcher
Cottrell got his little country sister out here. They did girl - I went through with so
much. They didn’t have anything hardly to do with me but when they find out that
the family, you know the white family and all of them, they took me in as one of
them; they really did. They treated me so nice, baby and they was jealous of me.
So finally they got in with me and then Bettie would start smoking her cigarettes.
I didn’t go into that kind of stuff. Bettie’s mother said Mr. Cottrell I want you to
keep your daughter away because she’s teaching my daughter how to smoke.
My daddy said well she was smoking trying to teach them how to smoke. You
know all that kind of stuff. I went through with so much, honey I really have.
DG: But you did just fine.
GT: That’s right.
DG: You rose above it.
GT: I’ve been all overseas and worked with the African people and oh my gosh, they
were so nice. I’ve got pictures of some of them. I’ve just been one of the first
blacks to be on so many committees and boards. I just got into everything and
did some of everything.
DG: What did you do for fun?
GT: Well that was fun just doing and going into different organizations. I start a social
civic club for blacks. We met in each other’s homes. Yeah and I went skating
and everything. Bicycle riding, horseback riding. They gave me the oldest and
biggest horse. Everybody would be waiting for me to come in. See, we’d take
trips and everything. They’d say well we got to wait on that little Cottrell gal to get
here. The Ogden river… girl, I could just tell you history about Ogden. All this
was nothing but the wilderness. The streetcar would run right by here. You
wouldn’t have want to live here at that particular time. The Mormons had kids and
they had families and would unite together and everything. It really has been a lot
for me to go through.
DG: So what are some of your best memories from high school, grade school when
you were going to school?
GT: I graduated from Lincoln High School that’s when I came out here with my
brother. He had opened up a place out here at that particular time. All this was
nothing but the wilderness really these were no homes. There just a streetcar
that would go straight from here to Salt Lake and everything. It was sad and they
were using cows for horses. Yeah they had them hitched up like you know
horses and everything from the Union Station. So finally, they started getting
things, people starting coming in, and building. Honey, everything seemed to be
just wonderful this town, Ogden and Salt Lake. Yes.
DG: You met your husband here?
GT: No, I met my husband in Kansas City. He was, yeah I think was graduated.
Anyway he went into service but that’s where I met him on the train. You know he
would stop in Kansas City and everything with my dad. My dad was a fireman,
too. That’s my mom and dad pictures right there.
DG: With the hat? The gentleman…
GT: Mom and dad. You see my mother she was mixed, too. She was half. Her family
was all in Alabama. Yes, that’s my dad and mom. My oldest sister’s right there
next to her. Behind that that’s me and husband right there, baby.
DG: Oh okay.
GT: Yeah I was beginning to be a little glamour girl then.
DG: Did you have any children?
GT: Brenda, I have one daughter and that’s my granddaughter. That’s my baby back
there and she keeps up with me, oh my gosh. She don’t let me out of her sight,
no kind of way.
DG: You said your husband was in the service. Was he involved in the war at all?
GT: Yeah he was in service well let’s see I think that’s how I met him when he was in
service. Jimmy Turner was a Chief in the Navy. He was a records keeper.
DG: Was he in the war?
GT: No. I met him in Kansas City. He was from Montgomery, Alabama. That’s it, on
the train back and forth I guess that’s how I met him and everything. Cerie
worries about me. Yeah honey, she calls me all the time - grandma how you
doing and everything? But she hasn’t been too well herself after she had the last
baby. Yeah but she been such a wonderful person so that’s all I really have now,
just she and my great grandkids. All I got now is her.
DG: That’s more than enough I think. Is there anything else you want to talk about?
GT: Cerie come in and sit down over there. Where are the kids?
DG: They’re right there. They can sit down right on the couch; it’s fine. Yeah, because
we’re about done unless there’s something that Lorrie wants to add.
LR: I do have a couple of questions.
GT: Bless her little heart. Now those are her kids and they love Grandma, oh yeah.
LR: That’s awesome. You mentioned that you helped build the Marshall White Center.
I’m sorry I guess you can’t hear me.
GT: What baby?
LR: The Marshall White Center.
GT: Oh about me working there?
LR: Yeah well you mentioned you said that you had helped build it.
GT: Oh Marshall White. I was here at that particular time but this over here. This
center over here oh yes. Oh I pulled grass and laid bricks and everything. I was
right in the middle of everything to get Marshall White Center built.
DG: So you helped clear the…
GT: That’s right, yes baby. I was right there digging. I tell you I was into everything.
You name it and I was there. There was so few of my race - they were jealous
because I was into everything. They didn’t want to have much to do with me
then and not too much now. Yet they call me their friend. That’s right. All these
buildings that are up now, they wasn’t here. I was right here to see them and 25th
street, the prostitute street. We would park on the street and see doctors and
everything. I would say oh look at that doctor; I thought he had a wife at home
and I didn’t know any better. It was a sad situation you know and those gals
they’d be waiting. Come on you want something good! Girl you don’t know what I
went through here in Utah that’s right. I love my people and those white people
really good to me baby honest to God they were. The Mormon people was good
to me. I can’t say not one bad word about them because they was wonderful
people. I didn’t have nobody to run around with but them.
LR: Her birthday, it all depends on what year?
CS: Yeah, when she turned 90 I had a surprise birthday for her with a roaring 20s
theme. I made a poster showing highlights from her life.
DG: We’ve got to get your name so we’ll know whose voice we are recording.
GT: Let’s see now what else am I telling you, baby?
LR: We’re going to go ahead and turn it off now.
LR: We’re all done.
GT: Oh are you?
LR: I’m going to go ahead and turn it off. You did fantastic, fantastic. Thank you.
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