Chapter 1: Childhood and Family
10:59:42:20 - 11:00:00:29
Lisa: My name is Lisa Sonneborn and I'm interviewing Doctor Graynle Edwards, um, on January 23rd 2013 at Temple University, Philadelphia PA. Also present is Oscar Molina and Dr. Edwards, do I have your permission to begin our interview?
Dr. Edwards: You have my permission.
Lisa: Thank you.
Dr. Edwards: (Laughs)
11:00:00:29 - 11:00:17:16
Lisa: Even though I know your name I'm going to ask you if you would kindly restate your name and your current working title.
Dr. Edwards: Graynle Edwards. Uh, Adjunct professor at Lincoln University teaching Environmental Sciences.
Lisa: Thank you. And Dr. Edwards, can you tell me when and where you were born?
11:00:41:19 - 11:00:46:16
Dr. Edwards: I was born in Philadelphia, December the 7th 1936.
11:00:46:16 - 11:01:03:29
Lisa: Um, Dr. Edwards, you're the parent of a man with an intellectual disability, Graynle Edwards Jr. Um, we're certainly going to be talking about your son during this interview, but first I wanted to ask you a little bit about your own background. Um, I knew that you grew up in North Philadelphia.
Dr. Edwards: That's correct.
11:01:03:29 - 11:01:36:28
Lisa: Mm Hm. Can you tell me a little bit about your family? For instance, did you have brothers and sisters?
Dr. Edwards: Yes, I had, uh, four siblings; one brother and three sisters. Uh, I was the youngest of the clan. Uh, the older sister was nine years older than myself and uh, the next one is four years older; three years older. My brother's about a year and a half older. (Laughs)
11:01:36:28 - 11:07:03:13
Lisa: How would you describe your parents?
Dr. Edwards: It's an interesting household. We had, um, Attila the Hun, and we had uh, uh, uh, what was it? Uh, Nightingale, I'm trying to think of her first name. The nightingale was the nurse?
Dr. Edwards: Florence! Florence Nightingale, yeah. My mother was basically the one that, who could, uh, we could probably get over on my mother but not my father. He was the one who, uh, he was the one with the iron first. If we did anything wrong my mother would let us know that she'll let, uh, daddy know about it when he gets home from work. Uh, both of my parents, uh, in my judgment, were extremely bright but neither of them, uh, finished high school. Uh, my father came out of school during the time when many students, uh, left public education at the end of eighth grade. Uh, whereas my mother, uh, she went to Frankfurt High School and uh, but just prior to, uh, uh, graduating; that would be her senior year, she was married and never finished, uh, never finished. Uh, back in those days often times if you were with child in a school; it was time for you to leave school. (Laughs) And, uh, the, uh, but interestingly enough, both of them were readers. And they brought that into the household; brought that into the clan, the importance of having books around. Uh, my, uh, my mother was, uh, what you would call a child prodigy as relates to music. And she would go from, uh, church to church performing and uh, the uh, she took up that craft, uh, or that skill, uh, late in the, uh, marriage. I guess she was about 35, 36 before, uh, she was a nursery school aide who was transformed into the nursery music teacher because the, uh, director saw; was able to identify those skills. And for, uh, a number of years, she came to Temple University taking courses, uh, that were aligned with, uh, early childhood education and uh, so she, uh ended her career, uh, over at Swarthmore College working in their early childhood program as the music teacher. Uh, my father was a postal worker, who uh, as I said before; well read, spent a lot of time in the library, uh, towards his free time. And he was also an artist. Uh, in act, that's one of the skills you find in about four of the children who are artistically inclined. And uh, so he was what you would call, uh, fine arts was his avocation. And, uh, for years, uh, he spent a lot of time in the basement producing a number of works that, uh, that merited him being, uh, being given an exhibit at the, uh, at the Art Alliance at over at Broad, I think Broad and Arch. Uh, the, uh, uh, my father, uh, was a... a lot of people gravitated to him because he was bright; he was very smart in fact. I remember a number of college graduates coming to my house, uh, to be apart of that. They had a social, uh, uh, set that came together for libation as well as meaningful dialogue. (Laughs) And he was basically at the center of that core. Uh, he, uh, was also a very religious person who, uh, who had trouble with that we call organized religion. Uh, in fact, he was a part of a group that actually established a church; small church. It sat about a hundred members but he was always one who conducted the household with strong religious principles. In spite of the fact in his act of involvement; his leadership of the church, he decided that was just something he didn't want to be a part of. Uh, I guess that's about the long and the short of it in terms of, uh, my parents.
11:07:03:13 - 11:07:53:11
Lisa: Dr. Edwards, did you have any experience with disability in your family growing up?
Dr. Edwards: Yeah, my sister had Polio. Uh, the, I guess, that the, that certainly sensitized us to the fact the there's some individuals that have to deal with disabilities in their life and my sister contracted Polio, I can't give you the exact years, but I never remember my sister not having Polio which means that, uh, I certainly remember my sister from the time I was about six years old; at least five years old; five or six. And she had Polio so she was four years older than mine, me; which means that, which suggests, that she probably contracted the disease in her sixth or seventh year. Yeah.
11:07:53:11 - 11:09:02:09
Lisa: What was your sister's name?
Dr. Edwards: Sonya.
Lisa: And did your family make concessions or allowances for Sonya because of her...
Dr. Edwards: None. Zero. (Laughs) In fact, in fact, I mean, we knew she had a bad leg but that's all she had. Other than that, she was just like anybody else. She was expected to do the same things and uh, so interesting, as we were growing up, she would run and uh, as, uh, as much as that bad leg would allow her to run, dance and what have you so that, uh. While we knew that there was a handicap there, we didn't allow that, uh to have any impact on how we related to her. In fact, me be the youngest there was more than a few times where she would just walk up and punch me right in my chest. (Laughs) I guess that's all a part of the big, the older sister, uh, having to dominate the younger, the younger sibling, you know but that went on until I was about 12 or 13 and I put a stop to all that. (Laughs)
11:09:02:09 - 11:10:37:16
Lisa: You said she liked to dance, did she teach you to dance?
Dr. Edwards: Yeah that's an interesting story. The, uh, I guess I was about 12, no maybe 11, 11 or 12 and uh my two sisters, uh, wanted to, uh, dance, but they wanted to have a boy to dance with. So they used to draft me. I'd be out in the street playing and they'd drag me into the house. "Come on, we want you to dance, we want you to dance, want you to dance with us" Uh, actually what they really were trying out their steps, you know, but in the process, I learned how to dance. So there was a pay off because when I went to junior high school. Uh I was one of the better dances in my junior high school. I forgot to mention, I did have an older sister, my older sister died of tuberculosis. I was seven at the time so that would make her 16. Uh, she, uh, had to go away up, somewhere in upstate Pennsylvania and they were not able to capture the disease and as a result, she passed. So, uh, so when I speak of my older sister, it's really the sister that was really with me for many, many years as opposed to the, uh, literal older sister in the family.
11:10:37:16 - 11:11:25;24
Lisa: You mentioned that your family didn't make any concessions for Sonya because of her disability. Did any friends or neighborhood people in the community treat her differently or you differently by proxy?
Dr. Edwards: Never noticed it, never noticed it and I think its because, uh, Sonya would not allow anybody to, as she got older, she would not allow anyone to treat her in any way other than the rest of the folks. And I used to see her interact with her girlfriends, you never got a sense of "Oh Sonya has Polio so we're gonna do X Y Z" Didn't happened. Uh, she was, uh, a much a part of the gang as any of the other, uh, girls in her group. So, no, no that's... it didn't happen.
More Interview Chapters
- YOU ARE HERE: Childhood and Family
- Dr. Edwards as a Student | Professional Aspirations
- Birth of Graynle, Jr.
- Graynle Jr.'s Educational Experience
- Impact of Disability on Relationships
- Graynle Jr's Education and Impact of Least Restrictive Environment
- Joining a Community of Advocates
- Lack of Opportunities Post-secondary School
- Dr. Edwards Advocacy for Children and Adults with Disabilities
- Challenges for Parents Today
- Relationship with Graynle Jr. and Reflections on Advocacy
About Graynle Edwards
Parent, Adjunct Professor in Environmental Sciences, Lincoln University
Fathers, Education and Least Restrictive Environments, PARC, Parents, Employment and Workshops, Waiting List