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Interview with Walter Welsh, January 23, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Walter Welsh, January 23, 2004
January 23, 2004
Recalling Syracuse University Interracial Social Action events. Now 92 years old, ordained in both the United Church of Christ and the Episcopalian Church, Walter Welsch has always been in the front row of social action.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Welsh, Walter Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  1/23/2004 Series:  Military Length  150 minutes


Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock. I’m a staff person assigned to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Randall Library. Today’s is the 23rd of January 2004 and we’re at the home of Mr. Walter Welsh who lives on Oak Island, North Carolina. This is a contribution to the non-print of the _____ division of the University.

Zarbock: Good afternoon, how are you?

Welsh: I’m very well, thank you.

Zarbock: I guess the place to begin, if you’ll pardon the cliché, where were you born?

Welsh: I was born in York, Pennsylvania in the year 1911, the 26th day of November.

Zarbock: Is that what they call the Pennsylvania Dutch area?

Welsh: Well… (inaudible)

Zarbock: Tell me about your early youth, pre-school, early school years. What was the family constellation and how did your dad earn his bread and butter?

Welsh: Well my school years didn't start until I left York, Pennsylvania because my dad lost his shirt there investing in a place in Virginia. He was holding the bag so to speak because other men who had invested with him put their money in the hands of the wives and he was paying everything.

Zarbock: It was a furniture concern?

Welsh: He was at that time part of a furniture factory, York Furniture Company in York, Pennsylvania. He lost all that so he had to move from York, Pennsylvania to a town called Shippensburg, not too far away, but far enough that you had to get there by train. I know that because I had to get there later on. So he went there. He got a job there as a foreman of a furniture factory which was his business. He was a hardwood furniture finisher, an expert in furniture and wood and finishing the woods.

So then my life really began there because I was one year old when that happened. My real story of remembering anything begins in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

Zarbock: Off camera you were saying that on Sundays you would attend two church services.

Welsh: Well my father and his father were responsible for the development of Heidelberg Reform Church in York which became a large downtown church. I think there were 1100 in the Sunday school, fantastic. The whole balcony was filled with people. It was filled downstairs, in the middle, they were on all sides with children, 1100 and they had an orchestra there. They played every Sunday morning. You could see the fellow directing.

Zarbock: An orchestra, not…

Welsh: An orchestra, that’s right. They had their own orchestra. I was in a class in that center part as a little boy. After Sunday school because my older brothers had done this, I went down…the road behind the church to St. John’s Episcopal Church where I began in singing. I was in the boys’ choir there and I stayed there until I went to college.

Zarbock: Was the first church service, was that in German?

Welsh: Not in my time but sometime before then it was all in German, yes because it was a German reform church. Later on the name of it became the Evangelic Reform because the Evangelic was a mid-United States congregation of the same background, but they were evangelical, this was reform. Later on Evangelic Reform was changed into the present name of the church which is the United Church of Christ. Anyhow that’s part of my background.

Zarbock: How did you get recruited into the Episcopal church? Somebody must have come and said come join us.

Welsh: Well that’s a long story. I was given permission by the Reform church to go to school which was the Ursinus College which is now a remarkable school. It was a church college then.

Zarbock: I’m sorry, what was the name of the school?

Welsh: Ursinus. It was named for Zacharias Ursinus who was the generator of the place in the first place. It was a Reform college. The Reform church gave me $150 a year toward my costs. The rest I had to work for as a waiter in the school for all the meals. During the summer I also had all kinds of jobs to maintain it. Their jobs were quite varied, but I won’t go into that now.

Zarbock: Give us a little sample, just a little tease. What sort of jobs did you do?

Welsh: Well fortunately in 1929, that’s when I went to college. That’s when everybody was looking for a place to eat. A few people were selling apples on the street, but there was a farmer in York County who had a wonderful idea. He turned a butter churn on its side and made ice cream out of it. It ran with motors and you drove that thing around and then eventually ice cream would come out there and he could sell it.

It was called Coor’s Frozen Custard. So he had places on the shore. He had placed among others in Atlantic City. So I had a chance…my brother before had worked for him so I had a chance to go there and start work. When everybody was eating apples, I was getting $25 a week for breaking 300 pound kegs of ice and pulling them up on a dumb waiter so they could take the ice and put it in the tubs where it would freeze the mix inside. So that’s what I did.

Zarbock: But for the purpose of this tape, $100 a month in 1929 was virtually a fortune, wasn’t it?

Welsh: That’s right.

Zarbock: Where did you live?

Welsh: I got a house there with people who had a room. I paid $5.00 a week.

Zarbock: (Laughter) You’re rolling in wealth, aren’t you?

Welsh: Well I’m saving every penny because I didn't have anything to go with.

Zarbock: And that was 1929.

Welsh: 1929, that’s when I started.

Zarbock: You were a freshman then.

Welsh: I was a freshman, that’s right.

Zarbock: What were your educational goals?

Welsh: My goals were to be a minister.

Zarbock: Now what led you to that decision?

Welsh: Just my family and the way I was raised, that’s all. Decided it was something I could do and wanted to do. I didn't have any great discovery of Jesus. I just knew He was part of my life. I can remember when I was a baby, my mother…well the first thing I remember seeing as a baby was color. Lots of color, I didn't remember anything, where, how, but I’m conscious that the first thing I ever saw with my eyes was just color.

I could only deduce that this was a Christmas tree. It had to be a Christmas tree because that’s the only way I would ever see anything like that. Another thing my mother would always read the bible to me when I was going to sleep. In the bible there were little spots where I could say something. Whatever these spots were diagrams or shapes, they weren’t just letters which enabled me to say something about it. Well that’s the way I grew up.

Also there was a book there which had some pictures of missionary work. The thing that stuck in my mind was an alligator eating a black man. A black man had been caught by an alligator and I could see the alligator up like this and the man with his leg up and that stuck in my head. Funny things happened. Two times I’d seen an alligator in my dreams. One time I was sitting on the potty, a little white potty, and I looked and here was this alligator coming in the room see.

That’s all I remember. He didn't come anywhere, and hurt me. The next time I was a little older. I was sitting in a chair looking out the front window of the house on Main Street in Shippensburg. There was my grandmother who was 80 years old in a black taffeta dress and Mr. I forget his name playing a violin and somebody else and the song was “And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am his own…”. Well I heard that in Sunday school, the tune.

I was filled with this kind of life growing up. My other brother, Gus, who was eight years older than I, and I had a brother who was 11 years older and eventually a sister who was eight years younger. So I was kind of alone in the middle there carrying my own load. But anyhow a lot of experiences go into this. The idea of ministry was there. My older brother had become a Reform minister and he spent most of his life in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Mine took an all together different turn. I went to the same seminary, graduated from the same seminary, but he and I saw things differently. We loved each other, but he did things different than I did. Anyhow that’s how…I asked the minister at Heidelberg whether I could become a minister. He said hooray you’ve got a brother in ministry, your going into ministry, and he said it was an honor to the church to have us so that was it. That’s how I got into it.

Zarbock: What was the name of the seminary?

Welsh: Lancaster Theological Seminary, it’s still there, very busy, still working, just as up to date as possible.

Zarbock: And what year did you graduate from college and what year did you graduate from the seminary?

Welsh: I graduated from college in 1933. Then I went to the seminary for three years and graduated there in 1936.

Zarbock: How could you afford to go to seminary?

Welsh: The same way, I kept working and the church gave me $150 a year. They held me accountable for it. A lot of money in those days.

Zarbock: But you had to maintain a log of where you spent that $150. What was the reporting mechanism? How did you show the church how you spent the money? Did you have to show the receipts?

Welsh: They sent the money directly to the school. I didn't handle that at all. The only money I handled was what I earned and the fact that I worked every day, not in seminary, but in college serving tables from 8:00 onto supper. So that took a lot out. Anything else I had to earn myself. My brother gave me maybe $100 once in a while, but it was not a standard thing.

My father didn't have anything, he couldn’t help me at all because he was just paying the bills at home. He gave me a watch when I graduated from college. Later on I went into the ocean with that watch and I still have it, a gold watch. Anyhow that’s how you got through in those days.

Zarbock: What kind of jobs did you have in seminary?

Welsh: In the seminary I only worked in the summers. I had the opportunity to go. I was then managing the stores, Long Beach, Long Island down to the end of New Jersey each summer. Finally I got fired at one place because there was nobody in the area buying or selling anything but this place was a dead end. I was supposed to make it go and I couldn’t make it go.

So then I began to make candy. I pulled taffy, you know the machines that went around. I did that for a summer. The next summer, this was when I was in college, I learned how to make candy. An old German was there and we made 30 pounds at a time, all kinds of things. We had ladies working there. You know how that candy is with a center of cherries.

Zarbock: Yes.

Welsh: You know how it’s made?

Zarbock: No.

Welsh: Well we would make the insides. The ladies would coat that with chocolate and the cherry and everything else would be fluid because the white stuff would melt. Anyhow we made everything, all kinds of things. I still have the recipes. At one of my early churches, I used to make it. I cut it down in sizes so they could sell it. This goes on endlessly, tell me when you want me to stop.

Zarbock: What year did you say you finished seminary?

Welsh: I finished in 1936. Now that was another story. In the seminary you write a dissertation in order to graduate. I specialized in seminary in education of young people. My specialty was young people. I had a German professor. Anyhow by that time you could get beer and he being a good German, he would invite me down to the place where you could sip beer.

Zarbock: I’m going to interrupt again for the purpose of this tape. When you said you could get beer, there was a period of history when we had a law called prohibition and alcoholic beverages were forbidden.

Welsh: This is after that.

Zarbock: So prohibition has now been reversed and it is now possible to get alcoholic beverages legally. Is that correct?

Welsh: It was reversed while I was in college. I can remember the first trucks with beer coming up the day it was all over. But in seminary it was three years later. Anyhow he said he knew a man who had a church in Reading and they kicked him out of town because he was a Democrat who was going to vote, what was his name, for Al Smith, a died in the wool Democrat New Yorker.

Zarbock: And a Catholic to boot.

Welsh: That’s right. The congregation didn't want him anymore. Well he got kicked upstairs. He got a job in Brooklyn, New York where he was not only a minister of that church which was a huge place. It was a combination of Congregational and Methodist. Anyhow he also was a national preacher and he’d go into New York City every Sunday and preach to the whole country, Dr. Stam. He’d take in four, he had a quartet, women, and they would sing and occasionally I’d go in there with him.

Anyhow he said he needed somebody for his young people. He said I should go and interview for it. So going from the farm country where I was destined to go out and start in a little country church, I’m in Brooklyn because I had all the things that he wanted and of course I was another member of the Reform church and he was still an ordained member of that so he got me there and off we went. We hit it off very well.

He said while you’re here why don’t you continue my studies. He said I didn't have to go back to the Reform church. I said ok, so I went to Union Seminary in New York which was its own place, but it also was Presbyterian oriented. All the big people were there at the time, people who everybody knows. I spent a year there studying. I was still taking care of 40 young people.

They had a bowling alley there in that church. They had a place for presenting plays. I was doing that, I was directing plays and so forth, lecturing there on other things to other churches and going to school. The next year I decided, I was reading a book, I can’t remember the name of it any longer, a woman author who was a member of the Church of England. I thought I would spend a year at General Seminary which was the Episcopal seminary.

Zarbock: Brooklyn?

Welsh: All these were in New York City.

I did that. The man who was preaching was a former dean of the St. John Cathedral in New York City. It’s huge. He said he would like to introduce me to the bishop of Newark because he liked my preaching. I didn't think I was a very good preacher. I said fine so I got introduced to the bishop in Newark who was in New York at the time.

Zarbock: Now how old were you?

Welsh: At that time, let’s see, I guess I was 25 or 26. I talked to him and he said right next to the office there was a very large Episcopal church and they needed someone to take care of their young people and why don’t you go there and see the reverend there. I went over and talked to him and he said okay. He hired me. I wasn’t an Episcopalian, but he hired me. While I was there I took, well I spent the year in an Episcopalian seminary, but I had to get accredited by the diocese itself, the Diocese of Newark so I took an exam from them.

After I took the exam, they okayed my ordination. Then the assistant bishop ordained me and I stayed there for another two years.

Zarbock: So you had been ordained twice?

Welsh: That’s right.

Zarbock: In two different churches, faith groups.

Welsh: That’s that. I stayed there for two years with these young people and then the war came. The young men were going into the Second World War. They thought I was an assistant and I needed to get more information. So the bishop sent me along with another man to be in charge of five churches in Passaic _____, two in Patterson, to in other places. We would go around.

My basis was Passaic so I stayed there for several years. Then I was called to a church further up called the Church of the Resurrection. You know I’m 92 and it’s very hard to remember all this. It was in Oradell, New Jersey. So I stayed there until 1949 and I became the first rector of that church because we fortunately got more and more people, everything was going fine.

Zarbock: Were you married at this time?

Welsh: Well that’s another story. I have to go back…I had gone with a girl in college for five years I guess, four years in college and then one while I was at the seminary. She decided she wanted to marry a lawyer that she had met. I think being a minister’s wife scared her to death. I think I told her maybe when she was a minister’s wife she wouldn’t be able to drink beer, these are all dumb things.

Anyway that was over so I didn't have anybody. I tried to find somebody but I wasn’t having any luck meeting the right person. After I’d been in Orange, New Jersey, the Episcopal church there for a year, the first year I went with two classmates up the _____. The next summer we decided we’d go out to the west coast. So we did. We had a good time. The next summer they were married so I didn't have anywhere to go.

The organist at the church were I was there in Orange said why didn't I take a cruise. I could go down to Bermuda for 12 days for $150 (laughter). I was getting $2000 a year then. So I went on a cruise and on the cruise I saw two fine ladies and I couldn’t take my eyes off one of them. I thought oh, if I could only speak to her. I’m shy basically. I just didn't have the techniques to do that. So there was a dance and I didn't ask her to dance. I danced with somebody else.

I don’t know whether she was dancing or not. I was just scared. I watched her all the time. There was the big dining room. We arrived at Hamilton and we were going to disembark at breakfast. We all got up and I watched these two young ladies leave their table and go toward the stairs up to the next level. I sauntered over and said, “Did you girls have a nice trip” (laughter). I had a Bell and Howell camera and I was taking movies to go back to my 30 people class and show them.

So Marie stayed with me while I was taking pictures. After we got off and got on land I said, “Well you’re probably going to have a busy time with all your friends. I’d like to come over and see you”. I didn't wait, I went to my place, Sherwood Manor, she went to another place. I went over and got a pair of Bermuda shorts, a bicycle and went right over to where they were.

So I spent nine days, she was there for nine days, really getting to know somebody who was a year older than I was, but who was competent who had the same politics, who had the same yearnings for the same things, good music, classical music, you name it. We just had a wonderful time. When she left I gave her a good hug and when she got on ship, she waved to me and threw a kiss. I said, and this was another fortunate thing, she lived in Newark and I was in Orange which is only a stone’s throw so I could immediately get in touch with her when I got back.

I did and she invited me over. She was living with her parents still and she was then working in New York for a book concern. I went over and the family had a cottage on a lake up in upper Jersey. The church where I was had its own camp somewhere in that area and I was in charge of the camp. So one day Marie had her parents come over in the car to take a look at me. In retrospect she said, “When my mother saw you, she said ‘He’s so dark’”. I had black hair and a moustache.

They invited me over for a weekend. I said to Marie who was sitting on my left on the porch with everybody else around, I said, “You are going to marry me, aren’t you”. Boy I was going fast and her reply was, “Well I have an appointment with the dentist next week” (laughter). So we spent a year communicating and testing this out. That’s why I was married. It was a wonderful gift. Thank God is all I can say. I had a wonderful gift.

She was perfect. She was not a pious person, but she was real, for real. When she said something, you knew where it was coming from, no bologna. She was wonderful. She wasn’t a good cook (laughter), but she didn't care about that. She bought I Hate to Cookbook (laughter). We lived very well, frugally, and that also makes a lot of difference and raised four daughters.

We said we were going to have four children and we just had time, we were just in the beginning 30’s. She was 28 and I was 27. We planned four children. She wanted four boys, we had four girls (laughter). It was wonderful. It was just so wonderful. Eventually in the diocese, I was very effective. I did a lot of things to make changes.

At that time young people would go to summer camp. The women would go one place and the men would go someplace else, the young men. Everything was separated. There were no relationships between black and white people at all and I knew the minister of the one black church in the diocese very well. He eventually became bishop of Liberia where he got killed.

He and I and about four other men established a cell of what was the Episcopal church…we made particular efforts to take over a yearly gathering of the church, a regular official time for the church to get together. We would try to point out what the church was not doing in relation to black people in the whole diocese, everything.

Zarbock: Now what year was this?

Welsh: We’d hold them responsible to take some action. This was back in 19…before anybody was talking about this stuff. I’ll have to count a little bit, it was the middle 40’s.

Zarbock: This was a very daring thing that you were doing.

Welsh: Oh yes, this was certainly daring.

Zarbock: How was it received and how were you received?

Welsh: They couldn’t say yes or no, we weren’t breaking any laws. We were just putting pressure. We’d stay until the end of time in order to be heard.

Zarbock: So this is a conference.

Welsh: This is a yearly conference of the Episcopal church in that diocese. I can remember a bishop who was also the president. I can remember addressing him coming up the middle of the aisle saying, “Mr. President, (laughter)” and then starting off and all the other people were scattered around so they could interject their part.

Zarbock: So there was a group of you young fire brains that were…

Welsh: That’s right. That’s what it was. But we were only one of the cell. There were cells in Canada. In other words, we were almost you could call us not Communists, but we had a role in which we used techniques to be heard.

Zarbock: Where did you learn these techniques?

Welsh: Well just be reading and by listening, by watching and knowing what the Communists could do.

Zarbock: My point being that this was not a casual thing, this was a very focused skill increase on your part.

Welsh: That’s right. We read history, we read Episcopal history, church history to back up what we were talking about.

Zarbock: I’m going to be the devil’s advocate, what difference did it make to you whether the blacks and the whites were together?

Welsh: Well I’ll take you way back to my boyhood. York is about 18 miles from the Mason-Dixon Line. When I was in 3rd grade it was in Franklin School. Franklin School was the only place where you could go from my area. That was the school. Three blocks from where I lived across the main street down on the other side was Bullfrog Alley, all black, solid black.

Nobody ever saw this people except incidentally. That’s where they lived except that all the children came to Franklin School. It was before its time integrated and nobody said anything. Well Harvey Williams became my earliest best friend, black as coal. He wasn’t an attractive boy at all, his teeth were all screwed up and everything else, but I brought him home. My parents didn't say a word, didn't say a word, everything was perfectly normal.

We talked, he ate with us and so on. Everybody else on the street were up in arms. They let my parents know. This was way beyond what was happening. Well it went on. I kept my friendship with Harvey Williams until 8th grade. He didn't go to high school. There wasn’t a black person in the high school.

Zarbock: Why not?

Welsh: Because they didn't go.

Zarbock: Wouldn’t or couldn’t?

Welsh: They probably weren’t welcome, I don’t this. I know it now because just about one or two, three years ago, the present mayor of York, Pennsylvania was in court because he had been one of the KKK people years ago. This is all undercover see, things that I didn't know anything about. My father didn't think about it. In fact, he was a singer also, a base singer and he had a quartet and they would put black face on and not… just because they sang good black songs.

Anyhow this is way beside the fact when I didn't see Harvey Williams anymore, I never lost my consciousness. I never saw a black boy in high school, didn't see a black boy in college, didn't see a black boy in the seminary, but it never left my consciousness.

Zarbock: Tape number two, 23 January 2004, Walter Welsh tape. Well Mr. Welsh, you were….

Welsh: We were talking about work in the diocese with the young people and one thing I was very happy to do was to have the first conference, summer conference where both young women and young men were together in the same building with a program that was distinct I thought from what they were normally getting in their individual places. I had of course the black minister and other ministers that I knew who were qualified and interested in the same thing, to come and lecture and be part of the program.

Part of it was outdoors. The idea I had was to make everybody so tired that at nighttime all they could think of was going to sleep so they didn't raise Cain. They all slept on the same floor but they had a curtain between them. There were a few little complaints in the diocese, but nothing, I had too many ministers that were affirming what I was doing. Thereby I came a little well known. I was also on the board of one of the then popular church magazines, The Witness.

Zarbock: Let me understand this. The putting together of young men and young women in the same place at the same time was considered to be a very daring activity?

Welsh: It had never been done before.

Zarbock: Why not?

Welsh: Because the women went to the building where we eventually coalesced and the boys went to a camp which was down the hill and far away. They didn't come together. This place also had a swimming pool where they liked to duck the ministers.

Zarbock: Were these like teenage boys and girls?

Welsh: Yes, they were all high school kids.

Zarbock: But their parents must have been pretty daring to let them go to a camp like this.

Welsh: Well they had to believe in it. They had to have confidence that we were doing the right thing. We tried to convey that and as far as I know nobody raised any issues in saying you can’t do it. But everybody was sort of on edge. It continued. It then became a policy. It wasn’t something new anymore. It happened and we had very intelligent people working there.

Zarbock: But you’re beginning in my mind to build the reputation of being an icebreaker. Here you are the first time putting together young boys and girls.

Welsh: Nobody ever said it.

Zarbock: And then you were approaching the President of the Senate on the issue of racial tolerance if not equality.

Welsh: The bishop.

Zarbock: I mean you’re heading in a life direction here sir.

Welsh: Well it wasn’t threatening. We just used the power of reason, that’s all. Every body’s sort of guilty. You take risks, but you’re also gracious, you’re not holding a gun. Anyhow there came a time when somebody got my reputation and gave it to Bishop Peabody who was then the bishop from central New York. He was looking for a person that would take over the church near the campus and also be the chaplain for the students there.

Zarbock: What campus?

Welsh: Syracuse University. So I pleased Bishop Peabody so that’s where we moved next with three little children and one on the way. That was another thing because I was going there to establish cells. This is the time when the war was over and people were coming back to school. All they were thinking of really was getting educated and getting money. We wanted to get a hold of a bunch of young people, male and female. I didn't get that done, but I had an awful lot of other things happen while I was there which I will tell you about.

I was called there and that was that. I also had an assistant. They paid for an assistant. This church was a beautiful old English style. They weren’t bricks, it was a stone church. Also it was very well equipped, but not very well taken care of because again the clergy who were there had no imagination. They were still trying to maintain this little English congregation in a style.

So the people that came and met me in Oradell carried the word back that they wanted me to come to the bishop. He told me they were interested in getting somebody there who could compete with the downtown church (laughter). That’s all they were thinking of. I was looking at the neighborhood which was black for the most part and untouched. So I came and to make a long story short in about two years I had 30 teachers. When I got there, there were just little children who were in a play box on the second floor. So it prospered and everything was growing along.

Zarbock: Were black neighbors beginning to come to the church?

Welsh: I was inviting them. There were a few black young people, about 10 people. They didn't mind. This progressed steadily into the 60’s and I was very active throughout the whole problem of the racial situation. The city there was moving children from one place to the other. They had this cross town bussing.

It was perfectly obvious that it didn't work because no teacher was prepared. They were never adequately prepared. They couldn’t do the same thing with the different colors there. They weren’t prepared so the thing kept falling apart. What we did, the school system had something that children could be called after school to go to church and talk about Jesus I guess.

We were in line with the university so that the facilities of the Department of Social Studies could contribute leadership so that our programs after school were geared to bringing all the black and white kids there and making something happen. At the same time, the blacks were knocking different parts of the city apart. I became a member of CORE which is the Congress of Racial Equality. I was also made a brother of the Black Brothers.

Zarbock: Who were the Black Brothers?

Welsh: They were black people in the city that called themselves the Black Brothers. I was a black brother. CORE was meeting in one of the black churches and they got too big. Remember at the same time we are training in our basement, we had a whole setup of woodworking, tools, everything so that we could prepare people to go to VISTA which was one of the operations around the country and do this work.

Zarbock: VISTA was a volunteer group, young people primarily.

Welsh: That’s right and the other thing was that we had from Chicago a man who had made a great difference in the poor in Chicago. He helped us form a group in the city with a whole setup in which I was chairman of the board to do things for black people which the existing structure was not doing, social structures, YMCA’s, other things.

This existed also along with my work in the church and nobody complained until one of the young men who was a Harvard student from my parish, black, said he wanted to stay home instead of going back to Harvard that year. He wanted to stay there and work with CORE. He was working with them and he asked me if I thought they could use the church for a meeting of CORE. Well CORE was black, white, green, everybody. They poured in for the meeting.

Of course the city suddenly became interested. They sent out cameras to show it on television. Unfortunately there were so many people there; some of the people had to sit up in the choir pews. Well the word for this is “The shit hit the fan”. That’s the simple explanation. Believe me I got phone calls, oh God. My best friends saying if any of these black people came to the church they were leaving.

No one ever participated anything reasonable and never got the point of this whole thing. Anyhow we suffered through that. I had a lot of loyal men though especially from the university apart of the university.

Zarbock: Just a practical question. Of the CORE membership, roughly what percentage were white?

Welsh: In town, about half and half. The men had collected. They were chaining themselves to the gates and so forth like everybody else. I never got chained to a gate.

Zarbock: Tell me what you’re talking about again for the sake of this record. What do you mean chaining yourself to a gate?

Welsh: You chained yourself to a gate because you wanted to make it impossible for the company, whatever it was, to operate because you were chained there. The cops couldn’t take you away because you were chained.

Zarbock: What were you angry at the company about?

Welsh: Because of their policies in hiring people.

Zarbock: Discrimination against blacks.

Welsh: Discrimination and that could touch any of the places in Syracuse for example. Now all these things didn't really change anything, but it developed a consciousness which is all you have to go on. It’s like at least having a vote (laughter). That’s the only way anybody hears.

All these things aren’t abstract. They come from Jesus in my mind. I’m doing Jesus’ work. I’m out here not just floating, I’m doing Jesus’ work. Anybody that reads the bible and gets what Jesus was doing as a human being understands where spiritual comes from. You can’t make an abstract religion which is out of touch with reality of being a human being because that’s where it all is and that’s where He was.

This is a human being and this is why I’m doing this. I made this promise to myself when I left seminary that I would do these things because I felt secure. I was living as Jesus lived in another form, that is I was doing the will of God in a structure which is so hard, so controlled by money that they won’t hear anything else.

You have to do these things to make people think. Look at Jesus. He went to all the people that nobody wanted to talk to, people that were not even in the consciousness, people who were sick, people who were oppressed, people from other countries. He didn't shoot them, He didn't form a battle. He loved them and He made a difference.

He changed their lives. That’s the only purpose Christians have in the world, for each other, to love each other, to give yourself to other people, take chances. You may not have anybody talking back to you but sooner or later you do. Anyhow without laboring all these things in detail, that was my life in Syracuse. Of course time passed and we still continued to maintain a complete integrated church.

Zarbock: But did the demographics of the church change? Did the white people begin to leave?

Welsh: No, they left but not all of them. The white people who called me on the phone, they left. All the other people, for instance, after this the church is crowded. I’m preaching, just about ready to start preaching. The Sunday School superintendent comes up to me, I’m in the pulpit. He said, “Walter, somebody has threatened a bomb. We have all the church school kids all lined up the whole next block, but people want to come in here and inspect the church”. I said that was fine, they could do that but I wasn’t moving. I said I was going to preach my sermon.

So I told the congregation that anybody could leave if they wanted to, but I was going to stay there and preach. Two people got up and left. People wondered whether this was right, whether this wrong, books and magazines and what not.

Zarbock: What about the bishop’s position?

Welsh: They had no grounds. The one bishop who didn't like anything I was doing, he died and the succeeding bishops, one of them was from the South itself. He had stood up for the blacks. Things began to melt a little bit. Nobody was shooting anybody or saying you can’t do this. You asked if the people left, yes there were some who left. My best friends just couldn’t stand it.

But the church also evolved. This is an English parish and everything is situated with big altar, huge marble altar, a huge baptistery like this. Well my vestry agreed that we would take another measurement on the body of the church and cut down the big section of the sanctuary which was made up mainly of pews for singing. We made that into the baptistery and we moved the altar down to the center with a big cross coming down directly from up above.

We moved the pews so that they were facing this way and this way. Everybody was facing the sanctuary. Forty people could come up at the same time for communion. At the pulpit a person could either stand there and talk or walk around and talk. Well that was movement too.

We had already done a lot of things about women. We eliminated all the women’s organizations because there was always a contest between the women’s organizations and the vestry. So I put women on the vestry. I got them involved in the church operation and we organized all the functions of the church so that everybody had a part in it. There wasn’t any group over here and a little group over here.

On top of that a couple of my women went to seminary. There had been no women priests at all anywhere. One of mine graduated from seminary and I was vacationing up here in 1974 and I got a telephone call. I couldn’t answer at that station. I had to go out to a phone practically in the middle of the beach. I picked it up and it was this particular person.

She said, “Walter, I want to go to Philadelphia. There are a number of women who are going to be ordained down there by the bishop of Pennsylvania. They will not have permission of the bishops. I will make the 11th.” I said okay, if that is really the way she felt she wanted to go, I would stand by her. So she went down. They were all ordained. Of course I paid the piper too, there’s rules you know and I had broken the rules.

I wasn’t going to say no, I didn't break the rules, I broke them. So they gave me a penalty like I had to stay off the pulpit for about two months. Somebody would come in, but I did everything else in the church, but I couldn’t celebrate the Eucharist there.

Zarbock: But why did the young woman call you?

Welsh: Because she was a member of my parish. She was beholden to me. I had to give her permission. So I’m always putting my neck out, but it takes a lot of energy out of you. It goes with the maintaining of a church where all people are welcome. It’s still unique and it’s still operating. Unfortunately that’s when I left. It had big thing when the woman called and she really wasn’t prepared to do the work so it failed pretty much during that time.

They’re recovering now considerably. Fortunately they have somebody who is really aware of what needs to be done. A lot of things happened there because there was a change in the neighborhood because the city was rebuilding, putting buildings where people were and tore down those houses. So the neighborhood was changed completely. I saved one section of the demolition beside the church and that’s now the Welsh garden.

Eventually my wife ______. I was back this last Thanksgiving. My father drove me over to be there for the service. A lot of people came out I hadn’t seen for years. New people are coming in slowly, both black and white. They’re renovating. Connected to the church the first Indian bishop had been baptized there.

Zarbock: You mean Native American Indian?

Welsh: Yes, Native American, that’s right. The Menandaga Indian reservation is right near there. Those people are still identified with the church as well. I retired in 1977. Do you want to ask me anything else?

Zarbock: I thought you were a staff member with the NAACP.

Welsh: I was a member of NAACP, yes.

Zarbock: Did you work for them?

Welsh: Not during the stuff up there. I worked for CORE, they were connected. They didn't know what to do with themselves. They were typical black people who had been intimidated and they went through the motions, but they really didn't get off their duffs.

Zarbock: You mean the NAACP?

Welsh: The NAACP black people and other blacks.

Zarbock: They were floaters.

Welsh: That’s right. They just didn't want to get involved. They didn't want to rock the boat.

Zarbock: Now CORE stood for…

Welsh: Congress of Racial Equality.

Zarbock: Where were they headquartered, Chicago?

Welsh: I wish I could remember. I used to know the names of all the people involved.

Zarbock: I’ll tell you what, why don’t we discontinue and let you have time to rest up and I’d like to come back for another hour, may I do that?

Welsh: Sure.

Zarbock: The Lord be with you.

Welsh: That’s what I depend on. Thank you.

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