John Young was born and raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward and has lived there all his life. He recalls that in his youth, the neighborhood was peaceful, with good teachers and no fighting. Hurricane Carla in 1961 is the the first storm Young remembers. He heard about Hurricane Harvey three days before impacts began, and he and his family made sure that they had enough food and supplies to weather the storm. He says that the amount of water in his neighborhood was likely traumatic for the children that live there and that his house was flooded. Young explains that the scariest part of the storm was the possibility of drowning. Some of the challenges in Young’s neighborhood after the storm included access to food and medical supplies. A neighbor was low on oxygen and had to get a new tank brought by high water vehicle since they could not leave. The clean-up was simple for Young, but he acknowledges that some people were worse off than he was. When FEMA came to inspect the damage to Young’s house, they claimed that the damage was unrelated to Harvey. Young knew this was not true but did not press the issue and completed the repairs to his house himself. In his neighborhood, Young explains, they help each other, and were able to make up for the lack of assistance from the government. This act of helping one’s neighbors is something that Young remembers from his youth. In the aftermath of the storm, residents would sometimes pay contractors for repairs to their homes that were never completed. Repairs that still need to be made in the Fifth Ward mainly involve roads, Young explains. At the end of the conversation, Young talks about how technology, from satellite forecasting to cell phones, has helped in disaster situations.
Transcription of Mr. John Young, Sr. Oral History
Notes for reader: The interview is transcribed with colloquialisms included to reflect the speech of the interview. Words appear as they were spoken by the interviewer and the interviewee. Emotions and relevant pauses of both interviewer and interviewee are included in parenthesis, or alternatively, italics are used to add emphasis on words to represent spoken tone. Hyphens are used to show breaks in thought, or an exchange between narrator and interviewer. Name abbreviations are as follows: TR (Todd Romero), DG (David Guzman), JY (John Young).
Start of transcript
TR: Yeah, now it’s going. (setting up recorder)
TR: And you don’t have to put the headphones on all the time. Just sit it there and you’re good.
DG: Great. And it is April 11. (Mr. Young, Senior signing consent forms) Okay. Thank you.
JY: All right. (handing consent form to interviewer) Oh, I’m sorry.
DG: No, you’re good. Um, alright. So I guess we’ll get started, uh, we’ve already talked a little bit, uh, but I’ll just kind of ask you some guiding questions and we can have a very simple conversation.
JY: Right, okay.
DG: Um, okay. So today is April 11, 2019. My name is David Guzman. I am interviewing Mr. Joseph – Mr. Young, sorry. We are here at the Lyons Unity Baptist Missionary Church.
JY: It’s the Lyons Union Missionary Baptist Church, yeah. (laughs)
DG: Thank you, yeah. And so we’re conducting this interview for the Public History Center at the University of Houston. Um, Mr. Young has agreed to share his experiences during Hurricane Harvey. Uh, so I guess we’ll start out with something fairly simple. Can you state your name and your birthday?
JY: First name John, last name Young. May 14, 1950, birthday.
DG: Great. Um, so how long have you lived in Houston, or been around, you know, Houston?
JY: Fifty – fifty – (both laugh) Be sixty nine years this month – next month. Next month, I’ll be sixty-nine years, so – I’ve been in Houston all my life.
DG: Where are you from originally, here in Houston?
JY: Right here in Houston. Fifth Ward. Born and raised in Fifth Ward.
DG: And how was, uh, your childhood like here growing up in Houston?
JY: Oh, it was lovely. We enjoyed it. Uh, it wasn’t nothing like how it is today. No fighting. We didn’t have all of that. No gangs. We didn’t have all of that. We had Jack cookies, two for a penny. And you could tell how it is today so – it was lovely man. We enjoyed – we enjoyed everything about it. Fifth Ward was our home. We ain’t try to mess it up, we tried to keep it up. Our schools were nice, we enjoyed the teachers. And the teachers were like our mothers, fathers. Not like today. It’s a little different today so – I pity the kids going to school today, and how they act. You got to have some kind of – you got to have some kind of moral about yourself in order for you to really have something at school, put it like that.
DG: What do you think, um, is different from then compared to today?
JY: Well, from then up until now, I will have to say the connection between the neighbors, parents, and teachers. It just seem like your teachers know your parents, and you didn’t even know that. You get in trouble, they gonna get you just like that. These days, kids, teachers, don’t know the parents. Or they job is just to teach and that’s it. Our teachers were different. Our teachers were looking out for our welfare as much as our education. They were concerned about us. Today, it’s not like that. And not only that our teachers were way older than us. (laughs) Back then we had no teachers there. If you seventeen still in school, and you got a teacher twenty-two years old, no, we didn’t have that. It’s a difference, it’s a big difference. Food was different too – cafeteria-wise. We didn’t have machines. We eat what they fixed for us. If you don’t eat, you just don’t eat. But you – most of the time you gonna eat, though. You will eat so they don’t have no problem with that. Principal said ok, they knowing how to correct you. Oh yeah, we had the board – yeah, they put the paddle on us, you know, but it wasn’t in a way where they had to beat you. So it was – it was a big difference man. It was totally different. Night and day. Uh, I would like for them kids to go back to our days. They would probably be better off today than they is now. No gangs. They would probably be wearing bowties like you. (laughs) That’s how it was though, now. It was totally different man. Totally different.
DG: It sounds different. Being here in Houston for – I think you said fifty plus years, sixty years –
JY: Sixty-nine, yeah.
DG: Yeah. Um, how has your experience been with weather events?
JY: The weather?
JY: You know that’s – that’s something too. Our summer wasn’t as hot as it is today. We – very few of us had air conditioning in our house, but we weren’t suffocating, now. You don’t have air conditioning today in your house, you can’t make it. I don’t care what kind of house you have – windows open all around. If you don’t have no air conditioning in your house, you going to suffocate. In those days, the heat wasn’t as bad as it is today. My worst storm I seen, up until storms we having now, is uh, Hurricane Karla. I don’t think you were born then. (laughs) But, uh, that was the worst storm we had had. It was pretty bad. It had taken a lot of places out and, uh, Garrison, Port Arthur, a whole lot of places was taken out so – but the weather – our weather was totally different right now than it is then. We go to school – going back after the summer – it’s cold, it’s cool. You gonna have your sweater on, but you come home in the evening, the sweater is over your shoulder. You see what I’m saying? Now, you go to school, it’s still hot. Them kids sweating. (laughs) You know? It’s totally different man, different. It’s totally different.
DG: And roughly, do you remember when Hurricane Karla came through?
JY: That was in, uh, six – fifty-seven, fifty-eight – something like that. Maybe less than that.
DG: And, uh, what was your experience like in that storm? Sounds pretty bad. So what was your experience (unintelligible)?
JY: In Karla?
JY: Oh man, it was scary. It was scary. To hear that wind blowing and all you did was huddle up together. The wind was blowing like it was picking up the roof. At the same time you didn’t know – if you make it – you didn’t know how the outside was going to look. Because all we heard was a bunch of limbs and stuff, you know, hitting our house, you know. And in fact, when you – you too afraid to even holler, you know, so it was – it was devastating. It really was.
DG: When did you know that Hurricane Karla was going to be such a huge storm like that or –
JY: Well we – the technology they have today, we didn’t have that then. Um, you might have a TV, but the news reporters – they couldn’t, they didn’t give you that fair warning of what’s happening. So all you could do is, you know, just hey, the older folks walk around and say, there gonna be a storm. That’s it. And we young, we don’t know – what’s a storm? Well we found out what a storm was with Karla. Because that was my first one. Never seen one before. As far as a warning – no warning, uh-uh. It’s very good now. (laughs)
JY: It’s way better. (laughs)
DG: So fast forward to two years ago when you did hear about Hurricane Harvey, how did you hear about it?
JY: Well through the media – through the media. Uh, they – you keep up with the news most of not days than it was in my days. Um, anybody who doesn’t keep up with the news right now, they are gonna be lost. For one thing, everything comes to the TV now. The media – they gonna bring it to you. They train you for that nowadays. They train going out there and getting that information. So you need to stay tuned to TV, with the news. And that’s how you find out how bad that storm can be, and you brace yourself for that. Some people said, oh it ain’t going to be that bad, but you don’t know. So you have to prepare yourself for it. If they would have – in Hurricane Karla they – it really would have told us how bad that would have been, it would have been alright. But we didn’t know. We didn’t know. So, that made a big difference from then to now. We know.
DG: At what point did you know that Hurricane Harvey was going to be a pretty damaging storm?
JY: Uh, I think that was – they start talking about like, three days most, okay – when they found out it was sitting in the Gulf, and then when they pinpoint it’s details where it was going to hit at, and the tailwind, that’s when they let us know, that we gonna get something out it. So, that’s how we picked it up. We had to brace ourselves then.
DG: And so can you talk a little bit about what you did, or your family did, to prepare for that storm?
JY: For which one?
DG: For Hurricane Harvey.
JY: Mhm. Well mostly we got enough grub in the house. (laughs) Canned goods and, uh, water – stacked up on a lot of water. Uh, we made sure candles were at hand, flashlights, batteries, uh, anything that can, you know, help you because you didn’t know how long – like if the lights went out – how long they gonna be out. So you had to protect, you know, you had to prepare yourself in all ways. That’s what was so good about the media now that we didn’t have back then. They’ve came a long ways. If we didn’t have them then we wouldn’t be prepared. Prepared ourselves like that. A lot of them didn’t though. A lot of them said, oh it ain’t gonna be all that bad, but you know, you don’t know. You always keep them canned good. (laughs) You don’t prepare when you don’t have it though. So yeah, we got them. Water and all. Bread. (laughs) All that we could get, yeah.
DG: And so, can you talk a little about your actual experience during Hurricane Harvey? How was that like?
JY: Okay. Harvey came and dumped a lot of water on us. Flooded us out mostly. In some areas you couldn’t go – you couldn’t leave the house. And some had to be boated out. Uh, myself I was concerned about my family, my kids, you know, if they was alright. Uh, the phones were down – the home phones were down so we had – the cell phones had to be kept up. If they go out, that’s it. You lose battery power on that, you know, lost out, so we stayed connected with them. Because my family is mostly close by us, you know, so one of them – two of them – had to be boated out. So – they made it though. They made it. Did alright. Uh, the young kids, they seen all that water, they didn’t know what was going on. It was about like, what they seen when they was a kid, I seen when I was a kid, so you can imagine, you know, we had a lot of winds with Karla – lots of it. We had a lot of water for Harvey. So what we seen in Karla was a whole lot of limbs and houses blew down and stuff like that, but what they seen was water in they house. You know, that’s – that could blow your mind right there. Seeing that much water come into your house. Seeing how much water laying out there on the – where you know there was a playground at one time, and now it’s a river (laughs), with a boat out there, you know, so, yeah. It should affect some kids minds. It should have, yeah.
DG: So, you mentioned that you had children in the surrounding area. Where are they in Houston? I mean, were they affected pretty severely or outskirts or?
JY: No, just the houses were messed up, you know. Um, mine got flooded. Both my sons house got flooded. Uh, my niece – she had upstairs – all of them had upstairs houses so only the bottom got flooded out. Mine is a flat. So you can imagine having water, uh, knee deep (laughs) in your house like you in the beach somewhere, you know, so. It wasn’t a good site for anybody. I think my grandson were the one who told me, he said, “Grandad I think I seen a fish”, right there in my yard – in our yard. Said, “You probably did”, because behind him is the (unintelligible) pond, and like, a little bit past that, is a bayou coming across so that much water made that water in that bayou flip over into the (unintelligible) pond, so he probably did see a fish. I didn’t tell him no. I didn’t say – I didn’t say he didn’t, so. (laughs)
DG: And so, during that experience, what was, I guess, the most significant or scary moment during Hurricane Harvey for you?
JY: Well – pretty hard for me to be scared. Long about now I’ve seen such – a lot of things that can scare me. So right now it’s hard to scare me. But the scariest part was people, uh, can’t make it and they drowning. That was – that was the most scariest part I could, I could probably have felt for the people. Like one individual had just got the job, and he wanted to get to work. He ain’t make it to work. He got drowned out. It’s very scary. Water is a scary thing. I mean, I tell anybody, I don’t care how good you can swim, you out there in that ocean, you fall over, that’s a different story – that’s an ocean. When you hit that water, you don’t know what’s gonna happen after that. You gotta have your mind intact for your next move. If not, you gonna drown. Like I said, I don’t care how good you can swim, you might not make it. So that was about the scariest thing I could see that, you know, that scared me. (unintelligible) through water and stuff like that, nah. It was just people’s lives. That’s, you know, finding people still in they cars and stuff like that. Whole family was taken out, in the car. Flooded out. That is – that’s something.
DG: And how did Hurricane Harvey, I guess, impact your family aside from their belongings, but maybe like work-wise or?
JY: Work-wise it did. It affected them a little bit, yeah, about a week. About a week. Hardest part was being out they house, have to be somewhere else, they clothes wasn’t there with them. They had to make arrangements, you know, to go to work, and go to school, stuff like that, you know. And put food on the table at the same time. Some of you couldn’t do because you still couldn’t get around. Some of them was in shelters, place from here to there, you know. Me, myself, I was alrighty in my house because my house was up. The water came in from the side of my house – it came in because it’s higher on that side, and the water drifted on in. But, uh, it was just my wife and I in there, so we made it. We made it. We just thank God that we could sit down and look at the TV. Our lights never did go out. And that’s how we seen a lot of what was going on out there, and the fear came on us, you know, that the scariest part of the people drowning, you know, things like that – thanking God that our immediate family made it, and we know where they was at, but we still couldn’t get to them. That’s the problem, now. Still couldn’t get to them. But we stayed in contact with one another though. It was alright.
DG: So, um, during Hurricane Harvey, did you need any assistance?
JY: No, no. I didn’t need no assistance. You know, of course there were a whole lot of other people that needed it. Um, but I didn’t need none. I mean I called FEMA to check my house out, you know. But they claimed that it wasn’t due to the storm so I say well okay, don’t worry about it then. I ain’t worry about it. I ain’t worry no more about it and I just went on and fixed it by myself. Other than having assistance – medical assistance, something like that, no. We was okay. My wife and I. So I mean, of course, you know, there was a lot of other people out there that needed it, you know, needed oxygen tanks and stuff like that. My neighbor across the street from me, he needs oxygen and his went low. So – now that was a scare for me too because how am I supposed to get some for him? But next thing we know, there was a big old truck – like an army truck – had came down the street just to give him a tank. You know, his wife called somebody and that’s what happened, he got a tank. And he made it – yeah, he made it so. (chuckles) That was scary too. Very scary man.
DG: And what kind of – you mentioned the oxygen tank – what kind of other assistance was – maybe the local people, or the state, or even the federal government – what kind of assistance did they give you or the people around you? You mentioned FEMA as well.
JY: Well FEMA. They was one of the ones that I know of, you know, I didn’t – if I had anything else I probably could have (unintelligible) people, but like I said I didn’t need nothing. So I couldn’t – I couldn’t say what the state did, or what the local people did, nothing like that. Because like I said, they came out – FEMA came out, checked mine out and that was it. I didn’t go any further. We didn’t have all that. How other people carried on, I don’t know. I don’t know. But I know, my kids, they insurance did most of their stuff. That was it. That was it.
DG: What do you – or, I guess, did you notice that any maybe charities or, maybe churches, helped in that relief effort?
JY: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah, it was – matter of fact it was this charity people, some kind of way – I don’t know how they got in touch with me. I guess I was so close to that area that got flooded out real bad, and uh, they had set up a fund that I think – I think it was, uh, man I can’t recall the damn people, how they were – but they set it up in our neighborhood zip code, right there in our neighborhood. And they were issuing out vouchers, uh, yeah, $500 vouchers. And so my wife said, “I’m gonna go see what they saying.” Okay. She made it up there. Our water had went down and everything, everything was down – it was just, it was just all this stuff outside, you know, streets was clear. So she went on down there to this church and that’s what it was. She showed them, you know, proof of her zip code – her driver license mostly. And they gave her a $500 voucher. And, uh, they had another one my wife went to – I think I was in Pasadena – where they helped us with food and stuff like that. It was an ongoing thing of help. I don’t know if it was – who was sponsoring it or nothing like that, but they did pretty good helping people. They really did. I hate to say this (unintelligible) because some people were getting it when, you know, and misusing it. Uh, a whole lot of them did that. You know, but they – the people were still trying to help them, help them. That’s it. Just help.
DG: And so how was the aftermath? The days and the weeks following Hurricane Harvey for you?
JY: (chuckles) Well, for me, my cleanup was simple. But it was – devastating in some of the parts for people, piles and piles of trash. You could see it just mounting up on the streets. There wasn’t enough – it wasn’t enough, uh, people picking it up. The city didn’t have enough crew to pick that, to pick it up off the streets. They had to put it out. And then when they did put it out, they pick it up today, the next day there gonna be some more right there in that same spot because they hadn’t finished cleaning it up out they houses and stuff like that. I, you know, I helped several of them in – it took like about close to two weeks or three weeks, you know, to clean up like about five houses, you know. Stack all that stuff up and hope somebody will come and get it where you can put some more out – sheetrock, carpet, appliances – a whole lot of stuff, you know, just ruined. Couldn’t do nothing. Couldn’t do nothing with it. None of it. All of it was junk. So, that was the problem.
DG: And so you talked a little about helping others. How did your own cleanup process –
JY: That what now? Come back with that.
DG: How did your own cleanup process go after Hurricane Harvey was through, in the weeks afterward?
JY: Me, myself, I did well. I did well. I seen struggles though but I did well. The Lord spared me on that. (unintelligible) one or two other storms like Leesha. (laughs) It just devastated me. It just cleaned me out. I had to go to the government assistance for help then; it helped us out. But this particular time, no. I was all right. It was just the neighbors, some of the neighbors, they got messed up pretty bad. That was all. But myself, I recuperated in about a week. I mean, when FEMA came out, I expected – when they said what they were gonna say, that was it, I just started working. It took me like about, off and on work, I want to say – I give it like about three weeks on and off work – I got it did though, so.
DG: Can you describe some of the work that you’ve done around your house?
JY: Well mostly it was on the flooring, pulling carpet up, uh, I had three – two rooms on that side of my house that was damaged – carpet had to come up, the bathroom had to be remodeled, the tile and all that had to be ripped up. Had to cut up the sheetrock, had to go up – I went on and take it up four feet up high all the way around, cut all the sheetrock out. Uh, my house is sitting up on – on like on stilts, beams – they were sitting up on beams. So that’s how the water got into my house, because it’s not no flat concrete. Sitting on beams so the water on that side came in on that side and damaged them two rooms and my bathroom on that side. Because it’s up higher on that side. I don’t know why FEMA didn’t see it, you know. They claimed it was – it wasn’t storm-related, but it was so. (laughs) I don’t argue with people. I really don’t. Nope I didn’t go through no chain agents, no. Some companies, they came and said they was part of FEMA and they were gonna do something, help form or something like that, but I’ve never heard from them. They didn’t come back so. Like I said I had to do my own.
DG: What, or why did you decide not to, maybe, appeal to FEMA?
JY: Well, I do – I do construction work. I do home repairs. And the reason why I didn’t go further off in it is because I was gonna do it anyway, put it like that. And I’m the type of person I don’t like to take something from someone. If I had that in mind anyway, to remodel them two rooms on that side, because the water had came prior, that might have been what FEMA seen – the water been coming in and had been coming in all the time, you know, and (unintelligible) that just started right now. So I let it alone. I let it alone. I seen – well he probably seen that anyway so, anyway, I went and remodeled it myself, got it out my way. So that was it.
DG: Did you have any challenges during the cleanup? Or anything afterwards, after Hurricane Harvey?
JY: No, no – no challenges at all.
DG: Pretty easygoing?
JY: Yeah, it was easygoing. Once, you know, what you gonna do and everything, you, you know, put that blueprint in your mind and go with it, and it’s become pretty easy.
DG: So, uh, what do you think the impact was of relief efforts like FEMA and charities – what do you think the impacts were in your community? For your neighbors and –
JY: Oh, it was all right. It was very good. They – my neighbors were getting help that they needed, some of them I know that they needed it. They got back in they houses and stuff like that, you know. They had food – they got food from, uh, from the shelters and places like that. Oh yeah, yeah, they did well. They did well. I have – I have to say it wasn’t no one that was turned down, whatever, on, uh, food, and shelter, something like that. They went all out their way. Went out their way to help them. So it was – it was a good thing. It was a good thing.
DG: And so, you mentioned that you routinely keep up with the news. I’m sure you must have seen broadcasts showing supplies coming in from all across the country.
JY: Now that I didn’t see. I seen supplies leaving to go to other places, but I didn’t see on the news where they were bringing in supplies, you know, stuff like that for Harvey victims here. But when you – you notice when everybody else have a catastrophe somewhere in they country, something like that, truckloads be leaving from here to go that way. But it was nothing like I see. If it was, I didn’t see it on the news. So that was it. I didn’t see that.
DG: Do you feel like that, maybe, the country should have aided the victims of Hurricane Harvey a bit more than they did? Maybe of done a little bit more.
JY: They could have. Our government could have did better. Um, and versus – they just relied just on FEMA, that was it. I guess FEMA was what – so I guess the government said hey, they got FEMA – but they could have did better. Now they had some – they had people, you know, set up like charity people – setting up spots to feed them, hot meals and things like that. Uh, but, like I said, they didn’t do it like they did like in – what that, Panama – whatever, you know, where they set up a restaurant for these – for the people. We didn’t see that here. I mean, we seen charity people – good-hearted people doing that for one another – but far as the government just coming out and setting up like cafeterias such and something like that, you know, no, uh-uh. Because I know they could of did it. I know they could of did it. People in Meyerland, they – they had the worst – because it was just bad for them period, because they didn’t think that was ever gonna happen to them, but I didn’t see the government going over, there setting up nothing for them, telling them, y’all come on out y’all houses and y’all go to such-and-such place, y’all sit down and get y’all a hot meal, then you go back to work. No, they didn’t do that for the Houston area. But like I say, we’ll do it for everybody else, but we don’t do it for us. And that’s pretty bad on our account. We need to get better than that. Take care of our own.
DG: You were describing how it was back in the fifties and the sixties, with uh – seems a bit more community – the community was very big on keeping on each other and everything. And you talked a lot about some neighbors were helping other neighbors and what not.
DG: Do you kind of see similarities between when you grew up, and sort of, communities helping communities after Harvey?
JY: Uh, yeah. In my community, we help one another. Uh, I imagine – imagine there was other communities doing something like that. Uh, well it was totally different what my community when I was coming up when things like that happened. Because it was – people didn’t have what we have today. Harvey – it did come in as – it struck us. But there was people that had them houses messed up, they had they card. (laughs) You see what I’m saying? That card made a difference. You go put that card in a bank or something and get some money, go eat. Versus in my coming up, we didn’t have that. Nobody had that. Everybody was hardworking people, and they pulled together like that, oh yeah, they – they stuck together in my days, but these days, its different. It’s totally different. You don’t even know your neighbor (laughs), in some cases. You might know they face, but you don’t know they name. So – in our neighborhood when we was coming up, we know the names, we know our neighbor, our neighbor know us. Uh, one hurt, all hurt. One hungry, we gone – we gone feed it. So that’s how it was then. It’s different now. Totally different.
DG: Do you think that community interaction – if that were present today, or more present, do you think the relief effort would have been a bit speedier – more people would have been helped quicker?
JY: Well, in those days, we didn’t have a relief effort like we have today. The relief effort was the neighborhood, one another. Compared to now, the relief effort is like the government officials, something like that. We didn’t have that then, so I mean, if we would have had it then, it would have been lovely. It would have been nice. We didn’t have that. We had one another. And that’s it. (chuckles) That’s it. If we had a relief effort, yeah, that would have been nice. (laughs)
DG: So what were some of the lasting impacts and effects of Hurricane Harvey on you or your family?
JY: Uh, I can’t really say, because we all mounted back up real well. Um, we mounted up pretty good. I mean the kids still talk about the water. They saying, you know, stuff like that. Um, but uh, the effect of it, no, we made it pretty well. Made it pretty well, yeah.
DG: How do you think other areas of Houston – how do you think the effects are playing out there from Hurricane Harvey?
JY: Some of them – some of them still have effects. Some of them still out they house trying to get their house repaired. It’s been a good little while. And they still – they still having problems. I don’t know how the funds went with them or whatever – did they talk to the right person or whatever – but some of them – some of them still have some effect to them, you know, to a certain degree. Or they house not fixed or whatever, you know, but yeah, some of them still have to have some effects done to them.
DG: So, presently, or present-day today, do you still see, maybe read or watch, anything related to Hurricane Harvey, or has that kind of died out since then?
JY: Every now and then something will pop up. Somebody gave somebody X amount of money – they never showed back up to fix the house. And then they lost, or you see something like that on TV or the news every now and then. I guess you could call that human error. You should never – you should never give up your resources until something did, I mean, if you gonna give somebody – if your job costs like about four thousand dollars, you gonna give like about three thousand dollars up front, you just lost. I would say each time (unintelligible) I do some work for someone, and I tell them, listen I’ll buy the material and everything. I show you the receipts and you give me the money then. But, uh, no, (unintelligible) give some extra money up front. We humans. Anything can happen. I could get half of the money, be headed to get the material, have an accident, can’t work no more. (laughs) I probably use up some of that money so I can get back home or whatever, be out the hospital or whatever, I don’t – they done lost two thousand dollars, you know, we humans man. Things happen. Gotta have a good heart with that one, man. If your heart ain’t right man, you gonna mess up a whole lot of peoples’ lives, and which it did. A whole lot of people got messed up because of the peoples’ hearts wasn’t right.
DG: Do you think a lot of that went on after Hurricane Harvey for other communities in Houston?
JY: Oh sure. Oh sure. A whole lot of the areas, yes. People, you know, pay people too quick, you know, and they lose – they get them and go. I mean they still got one right now. Think the lady paid so much money for, uh, what was it, a pool or whatever. Haven’t see him yet. And several of them – several of them have lost contact with these people, they houses haven’t even been touched yet. Things like that. It’s still going on. It’s still going on. So, I mean, it going to be a while before all that dies. It’s going to be a while, man. It will be a while. Our society is, like I said, it’s totally different from what I came through. (unintelligible). It’s not like that no more.
DG: And so, what do you think still needs to be done, or needs to be completed, in your community?
JY: Well the roads need to be repaired better. They still got them potholes. The neighborhood committee people – they working pretty well to keep people from having such a whole lot of stuff in they yards and stuff like that, you know. They working on that part – they working pretty good. Mostly it’s the streets. They need to be repaired, potholes and stuff like that. When potholes come up in your neighborhood on your main (unintelligible) street that you stay on, and it gets to start growing and growing, and they haven’t came and did it yet, there’s something wrong with that picture, you know. They need to hold up their end and it needs to be repaired, you know, so, yeah, that’s mostly what we need. Those streets to be repaired.
DG: Do you think there are any lessons from Hurricane Harvey that people would probably do well to consider?
JY: Oh sure. Preparation. (chuckles) (unintelligible). Be prepared. (phone rings) I need to answer. Is it okay if I answer the phone?
DG: Yeah, go ahead.
JY: (talking on phone)
JY: That was my wife. She was concerned about (unintelligible). (chuckles)
DG: Technology has its limits.
JY: Really, really. And that’s – that is something different that we got now that we didn’t have then. You see what I’m saying? We have came a long ways. Technology – telephones, oh man – I don’t know what I would do if I lose my cell phone because my wife just called me and I can’t tell you her phone number. I mean, I got it logged in here – I can go to it, that’s it. And, uh, it handicapped us, so not only did it handicap us, it might handicap you too. I mean, you – will you get a pencil and start doing some figuring, you know (laughs), do you think kids doing it now in school? No. They using this thing here. I mean, no. I mean, add, subtract, something like that. (to-to-to noises) Okay. Before the – a number two pencil, fine lead, yeah, no one uses that no more. Its handicap. Handicap ourselves. Give our kids phones. They go to school with them, they mess up in the classroom playing a game on it. You gave them the phone. You didn’t make – you didn’t put no instructions in. If they get caught playing a game, then you gonna take the phone from them, that’s your fault. No instructions.
DG: I agree. It does seem to have handicapped, especially kids nowadays, it seems that maybe during Hurricane Harvey that that technology actually came in, you know –
DG: (laughs) Handy. I’m trying to tell you. Me and my wife – we was thanking God that our power didn’t go off because if our power went off, we wouldn’t have no way of charging up our phones because we couldn’t leave. You see what I’m saying? Home phones would be out too. So technology, ay man, I give that a thumbs up man.
JY: It got it’s downfalls, but I guarantee you, it got it’s ups. You know, so, we can’t say nothing about technology. (unintelligible).
DG: So, I don’t want to take too much more of your time, so we’re getting here to the end. Um, but do you think that anything can be done by the city of Houston to prepare for future storms that may be as catastrophic as Hurricane Harvey?
JY: Well, it actually – actually, actually probably they came to the peak of what they could do – other than have better satellite vision where they detect a little head of time. Other than – other than (unintelligible) and stuff like that, they peak with that already. If they can – if they can detect to give people a head – well they been doing that too. Evacuation and stuff like that. Yes, they doing great. You know, like I said, I think they at the top of their game. They doing good. They doing well. You can sit down at your house and they can tell you how far that storm is from us, they can tell you the size of it, how much territory it’s gonna be covering – I mean, they at the top of their game, man. Technology – man, that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing.
DG: Definitely. Have – I’m curious. Have you, uh, traveled southwards to say like Rockport, or maybe Galveston, and seen the damage there or?
JY: Oh yeah. I seen the damage in Galveston. Yeah, it was pretty devastating down there. Because a horde of people left, and when they came back man, they didn’t have nothing. Um, the ones that the house (unintelligible), and that’s why the mayor or the governor or whatever, put that in for them to raise their houses up higher. They are the ones that loss out big time, didn’t have nothing. Beluva, all that was (unintelligible). The beach houses and things like that, you know, oh yeah, that was pretty bad on they part, yeah.
DG: So, I guess, final question. What do you want people to understand about Hurricane Harvey’s impact, especially on the Fifth Ward and in Houston in general?
JY: In Houston in general, take time and be aware of what the media tell you. A whole lot of people – they didn’t take time with that, they didn’t get serious with it, put it like that. The media was giving it to us, day-by-day. But we wouldn’t look for it to be like that. I think, you know, ain’t nothing we could of did, really, to be frank with you, because it was coming down. Only thing I see we could of did, people know there was gonna be a lot of water, you could pack up and leave, but when you come back you got a problem. So, they stayed there with it. We’ll work it out when it’s over with. So, I mean, I think we did all we could do. All we could do. There wasn’t – there wasn’t nothing we could have did to hold that storm off, keep it from coming. Not a thing. Storms gonna come, on the water, or in your life. So, you could look for that. A storm gonna come. Thing about a storm, you gotta know whether you anchored or not. And a whole lot of people in they houses – they houses weren’t fit – weren’t fit for a storm. And it got taken. Same way in lifetime, in your life, you get a storm, if you not anchored, you’ll be taken away. You know, so, that’s what a lot of storm – a storm mean you gotta hash down. Be prepared. Be prepared to, you know, get the stuff right. You can ride it out. You can ride it out, yeah.
DG: So, and I’m curious again, you talked about getting food and canned goods and water – are there any physical preparations that you did? Like maybe sandbags or?
JY: No, I didn’t sandbag because like I told you, my house is up higher, but the other – the other people, they didn’t sandbag. Nobody sandbagged. I mean, really, if you would have sandbagged, I don’t think you would have made it anyway. Because the water came up too high for sandbags. In some areas, like in Meyerland area, man you had to have enough sandbags, man, to cover up your window, you know, so. (chuckles) It wouldn’t have worked. It wouldn’t have worked. No, uh-uh. No, you wouldn’t have had – you wouldn’t be able to get enough sandbags unless you had them stacked up for years and months and saved them for an emergency. You ain’t gonna get enough of it, no, sandbag wouldn’t have worked. Nope.
DG: Well, Mr. Young. Thank you for everything you have told me in the interview – your experience, your family’s experience. It’s really great to hear that you guys sort of had a better experience than most and recovered.
JY: Yeah. Yeah. Right.
DG: But – but, still I mean, your experience is just as valuable as others because it gives us a very full view of Hurricane Harvey’s impact.
JY: Yeah. Yeah.
DG: So we really appreciate your time and your willingness to participate.
JY: Oh yeah, I was willing to do it. (laughs) I hate I got here late but –
DG: You’re here and that’s what counts.
JY: I’m about to get James Joseph to get us a crew over here – we gone start working on these rooms for prayer in these chairs and stuff like that. But uh, we thank you man, for y’all coming out.
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