MICHEL: I was wondering if you could tell me a little history about yourself?
ROOSEVELT: How far back?
M: As far as you want to go.
R: Ohhh. That's a long way back.
M: Let's see, what was your trade?
R: After when I started to go on my own, I was on a farm. Then I left the state of Louisiana and I went to Texas. I lived 22 years in Texas. Worked over there on a used car lot. At the farm, it was a sugar farm...I worked along with them in 1939. They raised cane, cut it and took it to the sugar mill in Louisiana about 10 miles out of (Franklin?), Louisiana. I worked out there a few years till my Mom sent for me in Texas...I went along and worked at the used car lot.
M: To help your Mom?
R: Yeah, then I worked for K(CV?) news room in Austin, Texas.
M: What did you do there?
R: Cleaned the studio, you see...and picked up the news at the state capital - I'd go about 4 times a day. I'd get the morning news from the teletype from the state capital - during the war times - 4 times a day - they had a special room - I'd go and gather the news and roll it up and take it back to the news room. I'd have to catch it first thing in the morning. 10:00, 12:00, 2:00 and 3:00 and again at 4:30.
M: So this news was coming right out of the war.
R: Yeah, you weren't born yet.
M: No, I wasn't here yet.
R: Then, uh, I left there and worked for ROTC in Austin. Reserve Officer Training School. Well I was working along with them. It was a great big diner - I was working for the reserve officers. I didn't pass the examination to fight.
M: Well, that's kind of lucky in a way.
R: Yeah, in a way, because a lot were dying and I went along with that for awhile. And I worked for the student body there Delta (?) Delta - a fraternity. And I went from one job to another working: restaurants, a creamery where they pasteurize milk, I work there for 4 years.
M: What was making you change jobs?
R: Well, back in those days, the pay wasn't ever too big. Back in '41 up till then there was no minimum wage.
M: So they could pay you very very low.
R: Yeah, now they've got the minimum wage law but that doesn't do me much good now. I done stepped outta the working field in 1988. I had reached the age. I was 65. I didn't start at 62.
M: So now you get Social Security?
R: Yeah. You could go in at 62. Well I was full scale employed when I made the 65th birthday.
M: Where were you working?
R: I was working at Cohn Bros. and Redman - that was a shipping company. We delivered merchandise all over New Orleans, to Gulfport, Mississippi, Diamondhead, etc.
M: And you stopped at 65?
R: Well, what really happened, I didn't stop...the company closed out. See...so the boss asked me if I...and said I can carry on if they had a job - they moved. I fully believe they went somewhere else.
M: They never offered any compensation when they closed out here?
R: Well, I could have gone through the compesation act...but I didn't bother about it. I left, went to Texas over there...that was in 1988.
M: Was that where your family was?
R: Naw, my mother was deceased. I just got me.
M: Did you go to get more work?
R: No, I retired. No, I worked right on up to 65. Yeah, it's no use, I don't have no family, or no children or nothing...just go with the Social Security once a month.
M: Do you have a home?
R: Naw, I don't. I had a place at one time...they closed the place up. Right on the corner in the CBD. 900 South (?) on O'Keefe and Julia. Right across from the federal building, on O'Keefe and Julia. It runs straight on down the line from O'Keefe all the way to the river.
M: So what happened, why did they close it down?
R: They had a bunch of people living in it. Some people bought it and they never rented out that side I was on. They never opened it up again.
M: So then you had to find...
R: Yeah, I have to go around, wherever, you know...like the missions, Knightley, Ozanam Inn, the Brantley House, New Orleans Mission.
M: I heard the Mission's a rough place.
R: Yeah, I don't go at night. During the winter season they let you in early. Morning, it be dark, you be coming under the bridge. They don't mind jumpin' you if they think they can get somethin' outta ya. Yeah, you get hit in the head.
M: So you go to the Knightley and the Brantley Center?
R: Yeah, I pay by the week to stay at the Brantley Center. It was a Baptist Mission at one time. Rendon Inn.
M: Is that OK?
R: Yeah. It's not like having your privacy. They have bunk beds in there. But you have to go along with that. But I've gone along with that. I started at Ozanam Inn in 1963. I wasn't through working. I was looking for work. I was 40 years old then. I worked at whatever I could get until I made my 65th birthday. So that was it.
M: So how do you protect yourself? You told me in the past you've had your glasses stolen.
R: You gotta keep them under lock and key because if you turn around one time...boom...the thieves is out there now. I don't run into too many cause I pretty well know my way around...like back on the other side of Canal... they'll bother you for blocks.
M: That's another area with a lot of drug traffic.
R: Yeah, they're all around there. I go the other way...Lafayette, St. Charles, at night you have to watch around Euterpe. They'll follow you around there. You can tell when 2 - 3 are walking...when they follow you too close, then you know. You have to move around to throw them off of your trail. 'Cause that'll be what they're trailing you for.
M: Because they could take, for instance, your Social Security money.
R: Yeah...you could get hurt. I've seen 'em get hurt out there. Send 'em right there to Charity Hospital.
M: On an average day?
R: I just wander around, buy a cup of coffee. I can't read the paper because I don't have any glasses for reading.
M: I gotta get you some bifocals.
R: I had some bifocals and they got lost. Then I had another pair, they got stolen in the hospital...
M: It looks like the line (sandwich line) is starting, so I'm gonna get some food for you - thank you for this interview.