Interview of Carrie “Kitty” Blakes by Louis F Logan, June 2, 1996

Born in Leeds, Alabama, and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Then to California, where graduated from HS, then to Washington. Lived in Seattle 20 years. Came to Moses Lake in 1970.

Logan: Why did you come to Moses Lake?

Blakes: My husband loved fishing and hunting, and he went to work for U & I Sugar over here, so that’s why I came. In fact, I loved it after I saw it….I’ve been in the city all my life so I loved that openness, fresh air, and after I learned how to fish, that was it. I was hooked just like everybody else….

Learned how to cook wild game what husband hunted.

Logan: Your husband worked for U& I and they closed…

Blakes: And he retired at that point.

Son attended ML schools.

Logan: We’re really mostly interested in the Columbia River and how it has affected our lives, and it would seem to me that one way is the fact that the ducks and wild game are here because of the water, which interested your husband in coming. Is there any way that you can think specifically that the lake, the Columbia River, the fact that we now have irrigation, do you think that has had an effect on your life?

Blakes: Why, yes, because I know one thing the electric bill is not as much as in Seattle. Also, I like the way they have the wildlife, because we used to always go to Soda Lake for the wildlife. But our electricity is much cheaper here, and that’s a big help….I have the greatest respect for water. I’m not a swimmer, but I like to look at it.

Logan: Another thing that occurs to me is that your husband worked at U& I , and of course sugar beets were grown once we had irrigation here. So probably by the time you came the irrigation was complete.

Blakes: Yes, that was already going on….My husband was in maintenance at U&I.

L: How did he feel about working there?

B: Oh, he liked it. He was sad when it went down.

L: Did he ever indicate why they shut down?

B: He never really discussed it with me, they just closed the plant….All I knew is that he liked working out there.

L: Another thing we’re interested in is Larson AFB….did it affect your life? [had closed]

B: ….Though my son lives in Seattle, they bought a house on the base and they were disappointed in that water…I suppose it is fixed by now [contamination of well system]…they bought a nice house, and I’ve got a few friends who live out there. One time I thought I might like living on the base, but I really like living over here, close to school and church.

L: Why don’t you tell us about your involvement in the Galilee Missionary Baptist.

B: Well, when I first came here there wasn’t any black Baptists or Methodists, just a black Pentecostal. So we attended that until they organized Galilee, which is the first black Baptist Church. Of course a lot of people who came over here, I knew them because of church. They weren’t just my personal friends, they were Christian friends. Then we started going to Galilee. Then due to some misunderstanding down there we left and organized New Bride. It was organized in our home, and my husband named it because that was the name of his church. My husband was from Selma, Ala. So we attended that church until we finally went back to Galilee.

So, I played [piano and organ] for them, it’s just a God-given talent that I have.

L: How important has the church been in keeping the black community going?

B: As a matter of fact, with progress being made and all the people moving in here, we’ve made lots of progress. In fact, there are three black Baptist churches, although we have all denominations of people that belong to our churches. There is still not a black Methodist church….I think the churches do pretty good. There going to have to even a little better, because of all the troubles happening now. When the town has all that drug stuff coming in, you have to get a head start on it. Our police dept ain’t doing too bad, but you know when a city starts progressing and growing, everything else comes in too. So the church, we really need to try and help the young people.

L: So one of the things the churches do…is something positive for the youth….

How did you get involved in ML King celebrations?

B: Mr and Mrs Lukas approached me, and I couldn’t say no, you know, me being black and here are some people they’re white and they’re interested. And when I saw that they were really sincere, I told them I’d be glad to. We tried to have it once, and it didn’t pan out. When they approached me again, I’ve been involved ever since, and it’s grown. [Has had to pull out because of poor health]

[Started giving black history presentations in the schools because of invitations by Lukas, as teachers]

With MLK day, always had trouble raising enough money to pay speakers….wanted scholarships for the kids, camps….have to spend time on projects to raise money for these projects….

Her speciality is singing “Precious Lord Take My Hand” for MLK day….

L: As an African American, have you experienced anything in the community that have made you feel welcome or uncomfortable?

B: No, not really. When I first came, I didn’t experience anything, the grocery stores didn’t mistreat me. But there were people who weren’t friendly—I won’t call them nasty, but they weren’t friendly either. After a couple years, that disappeared. On the contrary, everybody treats me nice. I don’t go out looking for them….

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