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James Arthur Reed Interview Clip


James Arthur Reed Interview Clip


James Arthur Reed talks about Gomas Auditorium, the bands that used to play there, and his first job at Albright and Wood's Drug Store.


James Arthur Reed
National African American Archives & Museum
Museum of Mobile


National African American Archives & Museum,
Museum of Mobile
Mobile Public Library, Local History & Genealogy






Oral history interview




Kern Jackson


James Arthur Reed


2151 Jewel Court
Mobile, Alabama 36617


Reed: Yeah but in the early, in the latter part of the 30’s yeah we had a recreation center up on Davis Avenue, people used to go in there and play you know, tennis, I mean basketball, table tennis, that’s where they used to have the basketball games at, and if its dancing, we used to go to a place called Gomas Auditorium up there on Davis Avenue.

Jackson: Now tell me about this Gomas Auditorium, was that, from what I could understand was that a upstairs place?

Reed: Right, upstairs on the…

Jackson: What was underneath of it?

Reed: They had a shoe store was under there, they had a bakery shop under there, Jim’s Bar-b-que, it was under there, no it wasn’t, yeah it was on the side of it, but that’s where all the bands used to come the big bands.

Jackson: Like who?

Reed: Oh, Carolina Cottonpickers, you don’t know, your dad probably remember that, the Carolina Cottonpickers. Coolie Williams, Erskine Hawkins, What's that other band that used to come through here, Clean Head Eddie Vincent.

Jackson: Clean Head Eddie Vincent?

Reed: Yeah he used to be terrible saxophone player.

Jackson: Yeah?

Reed: He lost his hair in a big fire in Mississippi. Jamos Shane, I can remember all of those, cause I used to slip in. You know I was a kid then you know, Chuck Web. Ella Fitzgerald. That’s the first time I heard her right there at the room called the Old Dunbar High School now.

Jackson: Ella Fitzgerald?

Reed: Yeah, came with Chuck Web. When she wasn’t nothing but a girl. A- Tisket, A-Tasket. Boy, you sho’ carried back some memories.

Jackson: But they would have dances up in there, now what would call the dances at that time, like, how would you dress for a dance?

Reed: What they call, a Zoot Suit, then you had about 18 or 16 in the bottom, they would come up large, then they have long coats, almost down to your knees. We used to call that the Zoot Suit, that was the thing to have you know.

Jackson: So this was all before World War Two broke out.

Reed: Right after World War Two. During World War Two, was ‘40 what, ‘41? Yeah ’41, during that ’42, 43 long in there. ‘41, ‘42, ‘43, yeah, yeah.

Jackson: So now can you tell me what your first job experience, the first time you got paid a little something for doing something, I guess that would have been your momma, work for your momma sort of.

Reed: Oh I didn’t get any money for that.

Jackson: Naw.

Reed: No, my first job was actually at Albright and Wood’s Drug store on Davis Avenue and Hospital, I was a soda jerker.

Jackson: What’s a soda jerker?

Reed: Serving ice cream, mixing just drinks which wasn’t nothing but milk shakes, vanilla and strawberry milk shakes. $15 a month. $7.15 every 1st or 15th. And believe it or not I dressed out of Besteda Brothers bought a tailor made suit. I paid for my graduation suit out of Besteda was tailor made. Black and I never will forget it, Black, chalk-black suit. Paid $2.00 a month, every month every week on it ‘til I finished paying for it. During that time you can get a pair of tailor-made pants for $6.00. We had 2 owned English factory tailors, there was 2 Syrian Brothers on Dauphin between Jackson and Claiborne called English Factory Tailor, ask your daddy about it, he’ll tell you about it. And the Besteda Brothers on Davis Avenue. Well we didn’t have no money, that’s why we had deposit,, measure it up, put it on lay-away, we pay 50 cents, $1.00 a week ‘til we finished paying for it and that’s the way I paid for my graduation suit.

Jackson: What you do, so that’s the job you got immediately out of high school?

Reed: Right, soon as I came out of high school. I was working at ??? long in high school.

Jackson: Oh I see.

Reed: But when I left there I went to a place down on Dauphin and Royal called Simon Hat Shop. I was the porter down there.

Jackson: What was your duties as porter?

Reed: Just cleaning up and running errands. That had to be ’40, yeah it had to be ’41, ‘40-‘41 yeah, then the war broke out in ’41 and I had a choice, either go to the army or join the merchant marine. So I joined the merchant marines. I went to sea for 16 years.

Jackson: All over the world.

Reed: Oh just about. You name it, I've been there.

Original Format



5 min 38 sec



James Arthur Reed, National African American Archives & Museum, and Museum of Mobile, “James Arthur Reed Interview Clip,” Mobile Public Library Digital Collections, accessed June 5, 2020,

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