Oral history with Hattie Sandige

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Oral history with Hattie Sandige


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An oral history interview conducted with Hattie Sandige during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007.


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Hattie Sandige


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The interview was conducted between an interviewer and Mrs. Hattie Sandige, who lived in Lakeland. Mrs. Sandige’s daughter, Jean, was present at the interview and at several points, interjects to comment on her mother’s answers to questions posed. At the end of the interview, the interviewer asks some questions of Mrs. Sandige's daughter, related to her experience of growing up in Lakeland.

The interview begins with the interviewer asking Mrs. Sandige her birthdate. Mrs. Sandige responds by stating that her birthdate is May 1, 1922 and she was born in Louisa County, Virginia. When asked if she had any connections to Lakeland, prior to moving to the community, Mrs. Sandige states that she did not and that “we were just looking for a place to live” (at 52 seconds into the interview). Mrs. Sandige continues by saying that she didn’t like anything about Lakeland when she first saw it, but that her husband did. Mrs. Sandige, her husband and daughter moved to Lakeland in 1954. Mrs. Sandige states that she was married at the time of the move to Enoch Sandige. Mrs. Sandige’s daughter, Jean Sandige, interjects at this point, to state that her mother and father were married in 1946 and Mrs. Sandige says that they were married in Washington, D.C.

The interviewer then asks how Mrs. Sandige met her husband. Mrs. Sandige states that she met her husband when he was in the Army, and a friend of hers brought Enoch, her future husband, over to Mrs. Sandige’s house. She states that they had three daughters (one of whom, Jean Sandige, is sitting at the interview with her mother and occasionally interjects with memories of her own). Jean Sandige answers the interviewer’s question about the names and birthdates of Hattie Sandige’s daughters. The three daughters’ names are Gela Sandige (married name Brooks) born January 14, 1947, Connie Sandige born December 11, 1947 and Jean Sandige born December 4, 1948

The interviewer asks Mrs. Sandige about her parents, and she responds by saying that her mother’s name was Byrdella Smith and her father’s name was Obie Gooch. Mrs. Sandige says that her mother was born in Oakland, Virginia and her father was born in Virginia. Mrs. Sandige's parents met when Byrdella lived with a white family after her mother passed away, and Mrs. Sandige's father worked at the family’s house as a field hand. Mrs. Sandige doesn’t know much about their courtship, because she says that her mother didn’t discuss her early childhood, due to the pain that Byrdella experienced in losing her mother at a young age. Byrdella’s mother’s name was Harriet Smith and she passed away when Byrdella was 12 or 13 years of age and her father’s name was John Smith. Mrs. Sandige's father’s mother was Lucy Ann Gooch (nee Quarles) and his father’s name was Lanzy Gooch. Mrs. Sandige says that she believes Lucy Ann and Lanzy met because they were both raised in the same community in Louisa County, Virginia, and that Harriet and John met the same way.

The interviewer then asks what community organizations or social clubs Mrs. Sandige has belonged to. Mrs. Sandige says that she worked for the Lakeland Civic Association, which created projects to try and better the community. She states that they did lots of community work, including visiting the sick and helping anyone who needed assistance. Mrs. Sandige belongs to the First Baptist Church on Lakeland Road and has been attending since she first moved to Lakeland.

The interviewer tells Mrs. Sandige that she’s now going to begin asking questions about the Lakeland community and how living in the area affected her life. Mrs. Sandige says that almost all parts of living in Lakeland were happy, because she “liked the place and everybody was like family” (at 13 minutes into the recording). Mrs. Sandige said that they had a civic association and had social gatherings, and even though not everyone was related, everyone still treated each other like family. When asked about the most disappointing moment she experienced in Lakeland, she says that they occurred when the heavy rains would come and flood the streets (she says that they often had water flood into their basement of their house).

When asked about her proudest moment, Mrs. Sandige replies that she helped whomever’s children came to her house, that she loved children and still maintains connections with them (many through going to the same church). Mrs. Sandige is asked about her proudest community contribution and she says that she worked with the city of College Park (which was primarily all white) to help the Lakeland community. She was a community organizer, and worked on behalf of the community.

Mrs. Sandige's daughter interjects to say that Mrs. Sandige was also instrumental in school desegregation and that Gela and Connie Sandige were the first black students at Greenbelt Junior High. Mrs. Sandige said that time was difficult, but that she was pushing for desegregation. The school refused to send a bus to pick up the children, so Mr. and Mrs. Sandige had to provide transportation for their daughters (they typically walked down the streetcar track-a 20 or 25 minute walk, which would have been a 5 minute ride had a bus come for them). Mrs. Sandige believes that she helped with desegregating the schools, because while other families in the community wanted to send their children to all-white schools, they didn’t want to be the first to do so. Once Mrs. Sandige was willing to send her daughters to the school, other families followed suit.

Mrs. Sandige says that whenever she or her family faced discrimination, she would simply try to ignore it. She says that she would often be ignored, due to her race, when she would travel to the Mayor’s Office in College Park, typically to try and raise some type of monetary support for the Lakeland community. Mrs. Sandige said that she would simply refuse to leave until she was helped, whether that meant waiting 20 minutes or 2 hours.

Mrs. Sandige states that she was involved in the urban renewal project in Lakeland. She says that the community constantly flooded, and the houses were practically unlivable, due to this fact, so she was instrumental in getting the city of College Park to “do something about it” (at 21 minutes into the interview).

Mrs. Sandige also says that she helped with the PTA, with getting appropriate textbooks and equipment for the African-American schools within Lakeland.

Mrs. Sandige says that religion has played a large role in her life. She says that her mother and father sent her to Sunday School “whether we wanted to or not” (at 23 minutes into the history). She says that the Pastor of her church where she went as a child (Reverend Banks) always took the time to talk to the children and answer questions and that she learned a lot from him, including her moral values. Mrs. Sandige says that when she came to Lakeland she would work with people who were struggling and show them what was right and wrong. She said that she would sometimes give her children’s clothing or part of the family’s food to someone who needed it more than they did.

They discuss who has made the biggest impression upon Mrs. Sandige in her life, and she says it was her oldest sister, who had to care for Mrs. Sandige and her siblings, since her mother was often away from the family, working. Mrs. Sandige said she had a terrible temper when she was younger and that her sister was patient and sweet, and Mrs. Sandige wanted to be more like her. Mrs. Sandige said that getting married, moving away from home and moving into her in-laws house with her husband made a large impact on her. Mrs. Sandige said she was initially apprehensive about moving in with her in-laws, because she had heard stories about how terrible in-laws could be, but she said that her mother-in-law was one of the kindest people she’s ever known.

Asked about what has caused the most significant change in the Lakeland community, Mrs. Sandige replies that it was building relationships among the people in the community. Mrs. Sandige believes that she helped with that, through her actions in the civic association and working with College Park. When asked what moment in her life has been the most important, Mrs. Sandige responds “this might sound like bragging, but my life has been so good, that I don’t know which is the most important” (at 33 minutes into the interview).

Mrs. Sandige says that since Lakeland was such a small community its members were just like a family and that she has many fond memories of the place. When asked what she would want the community to remember about her, Mrs. Sandige says that she would like for the residents to remember how she helped the community.

At this point, the interviewer concludes with asking questions of Mrs. Sandige, and begins to interview Ms. Jean Sandige, to gain her perspective on Lakeland, since she moved to the community when she was 5. Ms. Jean Sandige states that she was born in Beckley, WV, December 4, 1948. She has never been married and has no children of her own, but raised her cousin’s daughter, Trina Thompson. Trina Thompson was born November 7, 1970.

Ms. Jean Sandige says her father was born in Harper, WV. Ms. Sandige's father’s mother went by Ollie and her last name was Williams, and her father’s father was Preston Filmore Sandige. Ms. Sandige said that most of her community activities have revolved around the church, and doing ministries. She says she worked on a Lakeland Day Committee several years ago. Ms. Sandige says Lakeland was a self-contained neighborhood (all of her friends were in the community). Ms. Sandige says that the flooding was the worst part of living in Lakeland and she can remember boats coming to take them out of the community. She says that they would spend the night in a local hotel, and that the flooding was only on one end of Lakeland.

She says her proudest personal accomplishment is finishing school and beginning her career, where she started out as a teacher, taking care of Trina and seeing her grow up and taking care of Trina’s son, Rashad (who is now 14). Her proudest community accomplishment was when she worked with Dervey Lomax and his campaign, when he was running for Mayor. Ms. Sandige says that religion has played a large role in her life, that it has helped her to maintain a peaceful, calm outlook and it has helped her to cope with anything that comes along in life.

The most significant influence in her life has been her parents. She says that her father was a very quiet and generous person, and that the values and high expectations her mother instilled in her have been profound influences on her. She says that there was never any question that she would go to college, that her parents expected that of her and supported her in that. Her father passed away in 1997, and at the time of his death he was a postal supervisor (he was retired at the time of his death). Ms. Sandige says that she also went to Greenbelt Junior High, after her sisters had gone, and that she still experienced prejudice from the students. She said it was a lonely experience, but that the teachers were relatively accepting by that time. Ms. Sandige says she faced hostility from the students, and also hostility from some in the Lakeland community who said she was trying to be white by going to an all-white school. She said she coped with it because her family was relatively “within themselves,” meaning that her closest friends were her sisters, so she could talk to them and depend on them.

The interviewer turns back to Mrs. Sandige briefly to ask if she ever worked outside the home. She responds that she worked outside the home as a receptionist at the Counseling Center at University of Maryland.

The interview concludes with the interviewer asking about the effects of the urban renewal, and Jean Sandige says that the urban renewal caused a change in Lakeland. Many families left the community and new people came in. She says that she doesn’t see the closeness that once existed in the community.

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