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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Harris, September 5, 2002. Interview R-0185. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The growth of United Taxi

In 1948, a group of cab drivers banded together to form United Taxi. Harris describes the company's founding and its subsequent success. At the time of the interview in September of 2002, United Taxi operated seventy-seven cabs in the Greensboro area.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Harris, September 5, 2002. Interview R-0185. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KIERAN TAYLOR:
Under United Yellow. So at what point did you go from MacRae—
JOHN HARRIS:
About 1948 a group of men that were with MacRae sort of, MacRae was a nice guy. But he was dictatorial. So there was a group in there that didn't like his methods. So they said well, we'll just pull out and we'll start our own. So in 1948 they had meetings at my father's house on Regan Street. They had meetings. There were men at MacRae's. There were men at Harlem Deluxe. There were men from Daniel Keck the other cab companies that found out we were going to form another company. They met with us. So in 1948 United Taxi was formed, and it was born in my father's living room. I was a senior in high school at that time. So they were trying to decide on a name so lots of names came up, and I suggested United Taxi, and they liked it. So that's what it became, United Taxi.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Where was that located?
JOHN HARRIS:
At the corner of Clinton and Market Street. There was a little building at, right beside the Shell Station that they made the cab stand. So the man that ran the Shell Station was glad to see us come because that meant that we would be buying gas from him. We didn't have to pay him any rent, just buy gas. So it worked out very well. So we had to only thing we had to do was buy a phone, hire somebody to man the phone. So being new we just all sort of chipped in. The phone didn't ring like it used to because we used to sit, between rings we'd play checkers and do a lot of, have a lot of conversation because we weren't as busy then as we are now. We were just getting started. So we did a lot of advertising, and so we just, it was a lot of well, it was new. But we did, we finally, now we ended up the biggest company. We have at the United now, we have seventy-seven cabs in our—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But at some point you affiliated with Yellow, did you say?
JOHN HARRIS:
Well, no, what happened was we had a manager that's a professor. He's a professor at A and T State University now. He had a cab with us. He thought that if we change it from, if we would add Yellow it would sort of change our image. So it was, Yellow was brought in as an image change. So we could and by this time the city had required that we have our color schemes. So our color scheme was black and white. So when we added yellow, United Yellow then that meant that we could put a yellow cab on or we could use black and white. I had two cabs. I've had a yellow one and a black one and a black and white. So I'm putting on one now, and I'll show it to you. It's yellow. I just decided that I wanted to make it yellow. So I had a car that was torn up a couple of weeks ago. So I decided I'm going to replace it and just make it yellow instead of black and white. So it's just a choice.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So you didn't affiliate with the national Yellow cab.
JOHN HARRIS:
No, no. We have nothing to do with that. We're an independent.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Independent and locally based company. But the one that lasted.
JOHN HARRIS:
Oh yes. Yes. We're pretty well grounded. Our telephone runs, our business is as good at two o'clock in the morning as it is in two o'clock in the afternoon. It's been, that's a sign of the times. We're living in a different, used to be that everything died at eleven o'clock at night and didn't wake up until five o'clock the next morning. So we used to, used to be we didn't have. We'd just close the door. But now we have twenty-four hour service, and the night operator is as busy as the day operators.