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Zonia T. Way

Longtime Chicago resident Zonia Thomas Way was born Zonia Matticx on May 9, 1905, in Meridian, Mississippi. Her grandfather founded St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Meridian. Way’s mother, Virginia Anna Shields Matticx, who taught Greek and Latin at Meridian College (later named Haven College) met Way’s father, Frank Henry Matticx (who was half French and half Choctaw Indian), in college. Way attended Meridian Academy and later attended Meridian’s Colored Public School. When Way’s mother died in 1915, her father relocated to Chicago, remarried, and then sent for his daughter in 1918.

In Chicago, Way attended Doolittle Elementary School and Hyde Park High School, where she was an honor student and a member of the Girl’s Reserves. Her stepmother, Grace Abney Garnett Matticx, frequently entertained black business leaders and notables like Congressman Oscar de Priest, Provident Hospital leader Dr. George Cleveland Hall, Dr. T.K. Lawless, Chicago Defender publisher Robert S. Abbott, banker Jesse Binga, and Illinois State Representative Louis B. Anderson.

Way’s first job was in a hat shop in 1925. That same year, she met Walker V. Thomas, a dental student. Soon they married, and Way for many years was an active part of civic life on Chicago’s South Side and in Idlewilde, Michigan. She joined the Church of the Good Shepherd in 1934 and was a member of the Douglass Chapter of the League of Women Voters, the YWCA board, the Meharry Auxiliary and the Dentists Wives Club. After her husband died in 1949, Way made draperies and sold them to clients. In 1960, she married John Way and continued to design draperies and do interior design. A former president of the Seniors Club of Parkway Gardens, Way designs and teaches crafts.

Over one hundred years old, Way has a grown daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Accession Number

A2006.170

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/14/2006

Last Name

Way

Maker Category
Middle Name

T.

Schools

Hyde Park Academy High School

James R. Doolittle, Jr. Elementary School

Meridian Academy

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Zonia

Birth City, State, Country

Meridian

HM ID

WAY01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Idlewild, Michigan

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/9/1905

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Interior design consultant Zonia T. Way (1905 - ) was an active part of civic life on Chicago’s South Side and in Idlewild, Michigan for many years. She designed and sold draperies, did interior design and taught crafts.

Employment

Aragon Draperies

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Zonia T. Way's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Zonia T. Way lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Zonia T. Way describes her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Zonia T. Way describes her mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Zonia T. Way describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Zonia T. Way describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Zonia T. Way describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Zonia T. Way describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Zonia T. Way describes her childhood personality and activities

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Zonia T. Way describes Meridian, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Zonia T. Way recalls a harsh punishment from her second grade teacher

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Zonia T. Way describes her experiences in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Zonia T. Way recalls leaving Meridian, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Zonia T. Way remembers Meridian, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Zonia T. Way describes her family's experiences in Grenada, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Zonia T. Way recalls her mother's death

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Zonia T. Way recalls living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Zonia T. Way recalls moving to Chicago, Illinois as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Zonia T. Way describes Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Zonia T. Way describes her stepmother

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Zonia T. Way describes her father's occupation, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Zonia T. Way describes her father's occupation, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Zonia T. Way remembers celebrating the end of World War I

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Zonia T. Way recalls prominent figures from her childhood community, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Zonia T. Way recalls prominent figures from her childhood community, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Zonia T. Way remembers Dr. Theodore K. Lawless

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Zonia T. Way remembers the Matticx Creole Sausage Company

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Zonia T. Way recalls the rioting in Chicago in 1919

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Zonia T. Way talks about the Chicago Defender's early publications, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Zonia T. Way talks about the Chicago Defender's early publications, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Zonia T. Way talks about the NAACP and Marcus Garvey's movement

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Zonia T. Way recalls her experiences at Chicago's Hyde Park High School

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Zonia T. Way remembers her teachers at Hyde Park High School

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Zonia T. Way recalls her aspiration to teach in the South

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Zonia T. Way recalls meeting her second husband, Walker V. Thomas

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Zonia T. Way recalls ending her first marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Zonia T. Way recalls divorcing her first husband

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Zonia T. Way recalls marrying her second husband, Walker V. Thomas

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Zonia T. Way remembers Chicago's Douglass League of Women Voters

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Zonia T. Way describes Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Zonia T. Way describes Oscar Stanton De Priest and her stepmother's family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Zonia T. Way recalls Ida B. Wells' family

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Zonia T. Way talks about her organizational involvement in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Zonia T. Way talks about Chicago's African American dentists

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Zonia T. Way recalls her husband's dental practice during the Great Depression

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Zonia T. Way describes her social activities during the Great Depression

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Zonia T. Way recalls listening to radio programs

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Zonia T. Way recalls attending a Negro League Baseball game

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Zonia T. Way recalls being forced from her home after her husband's death

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Zonia T. Way recalls protesting the development of Lake Meadows Apartments

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Zonia T. Way describes her children's college educations

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Zonia T. Way recalls working at a drapery store on Chicago's North Side

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Zonia T. Way describes segregation in Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Zonia T. Way remembers marrying her third husband, John Way

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Zonia T. Way describes her involvement at Chicago's Church of the Good Shepherd

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Zonia T. Way describes her injuries after falling in church

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Zonia T. Way describes her healthy diet and activities

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Zonia T. Way reflects upon her longevity

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Zonia T. Way describes her grandchildren

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Zonia T. Way describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Zonia T. Way reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Zonia T. Way reflects upon her legacy and how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Zonia T. Way narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

4$13

DATitle
Zonia T. Way describes Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood
Zonia T. Way recalls being forced from her home after her husband's death
Transcript
(Simultaneous) Now you described Chicago [Illinois] as, as having changed at a certain point, but, but, tell us what it was like before it changed, you know, think (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) All right--$$What was it like?$$Let me, let me tell you what 35th Street was like before it changed.$$Okay.$$There was the police station, Doolittle School [James R. Doolittle Jr. Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois] was where it is now, police station was across the street from that. There was stores from I can only tell you from Vernon Avenue 'cause I don't remember what was back, but stores along there and many of the shopkeepers lived in the back of the stores at that time, and they were all Jewish. So that's why Doolittle had, one of the reasons Doolittle had some Jewish students in there because the shopkeepers' children, you know, went to school there. And, it was--what else can I tell you about it? Grand Boulevard [Chicago, Illinois], which of course started at 35th Street and went south to 51st Street, and on this side of the street where Paul G. Stewart is now there was a courtyard, beautiful courtyard that went--had beautiful apartments and everything in it. It was very, you know it's a beautiful street before they tore all that down for Lake Meadows [Lake Meadows Apartments, Chicago, Illinois]--what is this, yeah--no, Paul G. Stewart is there but it was vacant for a long time too. But, it was nice; it was nice, uh-huh.$Your husband [Walker V. Thomas] passed in 1949, from what I read, right, okay (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) That's right. Uh-huh.$$So what happened, what, what happened?$$He, what did he die from? I know he was very sick, very sick. He had, malignant hypertension. And it was a high--your pressure goes up and does not come down. It's as vicious as a malignancy, so that's what it was, malignant hypertension, and he died, he died at home.$$Okay, okay.$$Uh-huh.$$So was, was it very tough after he died, I mean for you, I--did you--$$Yes it was tough.$$Okay.$$Because I had that, oh I forgot I have to (laughter), I forgot these. It was very tough 'cause we had--my mother [Way's stepmother, Grace Garnett Matticx] had turned the house over to us and she moved to California and it was tough, it was tough for me because I didn't work, I didn't have a job. Had not had a job; didn't know anything about working. And at that time they were beginning to buy houses in that area for Lake Meadows [Lake Meadows Apartments, Chicago, Illinois], we had fought it, we founded an organization down there, and we had fought it very hard. I remember Lillian O'Neal [ph.] and a number of others of us who got a group together trying to save our homes. But they didn't do it, they didn't do it, no way, uh-huh. And so I had to move out, I had to sell my house to the city and I remember after I sold my house they--I was moved out south and I was on the bus going home, going downtown past my house and there was a hole where my house would be and I just sat there on that bus and cried all the way downtown. Our house, there were ten houses in that block and our house was the one that the builder decided to build for himself, remodel for himself. The, the dining room woodwork was maple, the floors were quarter sawn oak with parquet going around the edge all the way upstairs, it was a beautiful home, a beautiful place, and they took it.