“I hate to bring up race,” he says of the way he and other African-Americans were treated, “but it bothered me. It was very hurtful.”
On November 21, 2014 we met Harold at the newly established Connellsville Canteen on West Crawford Avenue. The Canteen—part coffee shop, history museum, model train display, and performance space—is a remarkable place in Connellsville. The current building is remade after the by-gone historic WW II-era train depot that offered hospitality to service men and women travelling through Youghiogheny River Valley to and from the war.
This was our second oral history recording session at the Canteen. In December 2013 we met there in the Canteen’s Stage Door area to preserve the stories of three notable local veterans: Virginia Eberharter, Guy Tressler, and Florence Shutsy Reynolds.
We also recorded Mr. Betters in the Stage Door room, using as a backdrop an impressive wall of memorabilia dedicated to his life and jazz career. His daughter, Cheryl Betters-Kelly, sat in the wings and encouraged he father’s remembrances of his family, musical career, and military service. “Let’s start at the beginning,” we said as we started recording. “Just tell us your story in your own words.” Unsure of how to fill that tall request Mr. Betters looked at his daughter apprehensively, took a deep breath, and then took us on an amazing personal journey.
The Social Voice Project is dedicated to understanding the voices and stories of our lives–those first-hand, authentic accounts of lived experiences we call oral histories. Sharing these experiences reveals our social, economic, and political lives, and they help forge important understandings of public histories.
The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative is a veteran-run, award-winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to capture, preserve, and share the voices, images, and experiences of veterans of all eras and branches of service with a Western Pennsylvania connection.
The mission of the Veterans Breakfast Club is to create communities of listening around veterans and their stories to ensure that this living history will never be forgotten. We believe that through our work, people will be educated, healed, and inspired. The Veterans Breakfast Club is a non-religious, non-political 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.