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Interview with Daisy Dunlap

Dunlap, Daisy
Crosby, Tameka
Date of Interview: 
Wilmore Community Center; York, South Carolina; Crops; Jefferson High School; Segregation; Children; Gardening; Great Depression; Civil Rights Movement; Overcoming Obstacles; Then and Now.
Daisy Mae Lowrey Dunlap discusses growing up in York, South Carolina and living in Charlotte and Wilmore, North Carolina. Ms. Dunlap describes growing up during the depression. Her family was not affected by the depression because her father had a job with the government. When she was young, her family had a garden in which every member of the family helped. Helping with this garden influenced her to continue gardening throughout her life and was a source of great pleasure. She attended Jefferson High School, which was a large, all black school with grades 1 through 12. She started a family in her late teens and worked as a housekeeper, a maid, and worked in a cafeteria. She describes how she was affect by segregation and the civil rights movement while living in South Carolina.
York, SC 1934-1969 and Charlotte, NC 169-2001
Interview Setting: 
Wilmore Community Center, Charlotte, NC
Cultivating Common Ground
Interview Audio: 
TC (Tameka Crosby): This is Tameka Crosby. October 27th, 2001. I'm interviewing Daisy Lowrey at Wilmore Center for Cultivating Common Ground. Today I would like to interview you with a couple of questions. First of all I would like to ask you, what is your full name?
DD (Daisy Dunlap): My full name is Daisy Mae Lowrey Dunlap.
TC: When were you born?
DD: I was born in York, South Carolina.
TC: Where were you born? [Pause] When were you born?
DD: Oct--. I was born October the 7th '34.
TC: Where did you grow up?
DD: I grew up in York, South Carolina.
TC: Can you describe your house and community where you grew up?
DD: My house we had three, four rooms, two bedrooms, kitchen and bath.
TC: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
DD: I have two brothers and I have one sister.
TC: Tell us about what kind of work your father did.
DD: My father worked at a grocery store and he worked at (C Erne).
TC: What did your mother do? Did she work outside the home?
DD: She worked outside the home for a while, did housework, and worked in the cafeteria.
TC: What kind of chores did you do when, when you growing up?
DD: When I was young I did babysitting, and tend to my sisters, my sister and my brother.
TC: Anything else you'd like to tell us?
DD: Yes, one thing I'd like to do when I got out of school, I would like to go and tend to other people's kids.
TC: Did your family have a garden when you were growing up? Tell us about it.
DD: Yes, my father and my grandfather had a garden. We had a garden at our house. We had cabbage, greens, okra, tomatoes, corn. And at my grandfather's house we had cabbage, corn, okra, greens, tomatoes, and later on we had, we had a farm my grandfather did. He had cotton, cotton. And that's when we would hoed cotton and pick cotton for him.
JB (June Blotnick): Did you live near your grandfather?
DD: I lived about, about ten minutes from my grandfather.
TC: Did you go to visit your grandfather often?
DD: I went [laughter] to visit my grandfather and my grandmother everyday because it wasn't too far to walk. And I would take my sisters. I would take my sister and my brother would carry one on one side and one on my hip.
TC: Where did you go to school?
DD: I went to school at Jefferson High School.
TC: How did you get there?
DD: I walked [laughter].
TC: How long did it take to get there?
DD: About, about fifteen, about ten minutes. It was about ten minutes because it wasn't far.
TC: What was it like going to school there?
DD: It was nice. We had a good principal and good teachers.
TC: Can you describe your school?
DD: Well we were, our school was a large school. Where it went from first grade to the twelfth. And we really did learn, you know, it was a large, one building was big and then we had other buildings that built on to it.
TC: Were there any--? What kinds of people, like races were going to the school?
DD: Was no one going to school but colored?
TC: As a child what kind of things did you do for fun?
DD: As a child I played with paper dolls, cut out paper dolls, had a bicycle, skates. Just like all the little children did.
TC: Did you have any hobbies, or play sports as a child?
DD: No, I loved to play, I was a tomboy.
TC: Were you? Can you tell us about it?
DD: Most of the time with my brother and my nephew, my brother and my uncle, and my other, my brother's friends, we would go climb a tree, shoot marbles and play football.
TC: Describe a day in your life when you were my age, and I am seventeen years old. So could you please explain that?
DD: Oh, when I was seventeen, I was working. And later on I met my first husband and we got married at eighteen and I had a son. And then at nineteen, I had a daughter.
TC: Where did you work at?
DD: Did housework, did motel, and then did work in the cafeteria at the hospital.
TC: How long did you live in Charlotte?
DD: I have been living in Charlotte now for about, I'd say about thirty, thirty-two years.
TC: How long did you live in Wilmore?
DD: About, let me see, twenty, or more.
TC: Where did you, where did you live before you built, I mean, before you moved to Wilmore?
DD: On Alexander Street in Charlotte.
TC: Can you explain to us what it was like living there?
DD: I really, oh, Alexander Street, I really enjoyed it because it wasn't too far from the bus, and then it wasn't too far from the grocery store. And so that was nice for me.
TC: What kinds--?
JB: What neighborhood was that, Alexander Street?
DD: In First Ward, I think--.
JB: First Ward Neighborhood?
DD: Um-hum, yes.
TC: What kinds of work did you do over the years?
DD: I worked in a mill cutting rags. Then I went to the motel. And after that I went to the school, and that was it. I retired from the school, from nineteen years and five months and five days, and five hours [laughter].
TC: How many chil--, children do you have, and grandchildren?
DD: I have two children. I have a boy, Jerry, and a daughter, Marilyn. I have three grands, Carlton, Erica, and Demond.
TC: Do you, do you ever produce vegetables? Who taught you how to do it?
JB: These next few questions will be about gardening.
TC: How long have you been working in Wilmore Gardens?
DD: This is my second year.
IB (Ivica Bilich): Hold on a second. It's better to say, I've been working in the Wilmore Garden than it is to simply say ( ) [phone rings].
TC: How long have you been working in the Wilmore Garden?
DD: I have been working in the Wilmore Garden for two years.
TC: How long did you work in Wilmore Gardens?
JB: I have been working in the Wilmore Garden for two years.
TC: What is it like?
DD: It's real nice because you meet friends and nei--, and I do learn more about garden.
TC: Why do you keep gardening after all of these years? What do you get out of it?
DD: Well, I keep gardening this many years because I love to have vegetables, like tomatoes, okra, corn, cabbage, greens and [pause] collard greens.
TC: What do you have, do you have a garden in your own home, or in your yard?
DD: Yes, I have a garden I have some greens in my yard, in my back yard.
TC: Who inspired you to start gardening?
DD: My grandfather and my father.
IB: Now see once again, it's better to say, I was inspired to--.
DD: To out--.
JB: Don't stop.
DD: I was inspired from my, my father and my grandfather.
TC: Tell us about it.
JB: How did they inspire you, tell us about it?
DD: They inspired me by, let me see, now how can I start this, because well my dad, my father inspired me when he got out there and got the plow and I wanted to learn how to handle the horse. And I wanted to do that, try to plow with--, use the horse, so that what inspired me.
JB: So you had said you remember sitting on the plow? Talk about that.
DD: Well, I remember when my father had the plow, he borrowed the horse from my grandfather and so what he did, he let me get behind holding the plow, and tell him, you know, get up, so you can have, have the horse get up, so you can get the holds, and the guards so you can plow.
TC: Did your parents ever garden or raise any farm animals? Tell us about it.
DD: Yes, my, we, my father and my mother, we had animals, we had ducks, chickens, and that's it. But my grandfather, he had ducks, chickens, hogs, pigs, all kinds of animals at home, because he had a bigger place than we, we did.
TC: Is gardening today different from when your parents were gardening?
DD: Gardening today, is, is a little different, because we always, we didn't have to always worry about putting this and that in there, because we all we had to do was plow it up and stuff would always be already cult--, cut--, cultivated in there so all we had to do was plow it up and plant it, you know.
JB: Did you use manure or anything from the animals to fertilize your garden or--?
DD: Yes, my grandfather would do that, have manure because he had a cow and hogs, and he would use that, put it in, and that was all, you know, put it in the garden, put the tomatoes and the cabbage and the corn, the rest of it, it put, have dead leaves and plow them up and that would make more fertilizer too.
TC: Where did you live during the Great Depression?
DD: I lived with my grand--, my mother and father in York, South Carolina.
TC: What was it like, for your family, can you explain that?
DD: Well, it was like, it was like for my family--, my daddy had a good job, and so that made it better for us, because he worked for the government. And that's why we didn't have it as hard as some people did.
TC: Are there other--, any memories during that time, that you would like to let young people know about?
DD: The memories that I had was, that it wasn't hard for us. It wasn't, you know, some people had it hard, but since my father had a better job, it wasn't as hard on our family as it was on other people.
TC: Can you explain some experiences that, maybe not so hard for your family?
DD: Like, for my family, after my father, he had this good job, and he had, he, he would make, you know, good money, and so therefore, not that we, people couldn't buy, they had to have stamps. And sometime like my father didn't have, you know, the job closed down, well we got stamps to buy shoes and food. But it wasn't bad for us because we still, you know, didn't have to worry because we still, had a little money left from, he was working for ( ).
TC: What was your earliest memory of gardening? Tell us about it.
DD: The earliest memory for me from the garden is when I started down here for myself and that's when I learned to love it better because I could see to it, doing it for myself and no one else had to do it for me.
TC: What kinds of things did you grow in the community garden?
DD: First when I started, I started out with some tomatoes and some okra and that's about all I had, tomatoes and okra. And later on that's when I moved from up there to the front, back there where I am now. I had some tomatoes and okra and after that, now I have cauliflower, collards, greens, and onions, and they are doing fine. And I am proud of myself.
TC: Any special reason for growing these things?
DD: I just love to grow fl--, have a garden.
TC: Can you explain why you like gardening so much?
DD: [long pause] Well, I'm explaining to you because I don't have to go downtown, to buy anything, spend no money, I already have it.
TC: Do you, do you ever can or freeze vegetables? Who taught you about those things like to freeze vegetables and things like that?
DD: Well, I don't can vegetables, but I do freeze them. I taught my own self, because my mother, she would can them. And at the time, I wasn't paying any attention to canning. [laughter] So, that's why I had to taught, teach myself.
JB: What kinds of things do you freeze?
DD: The things that I freeze, I freeze tomatoes, okra and corn. And I cook my cabbage and put them in, I cook my cabbage. Mostly, I cook my collards, let them come to a boil, let them cool down, put them in a plastic bag, frozen bag, and put them in the freezer, that's the way I do my greens. And my tomatoes, okra, and corn, I do it the same way.
TC: Have you passed on your knowledge about gardening ( ) to your grandchildren? Why or why not?
DD: No, I haven't passed it on to my kids, because right now they're not interested in, in it. So, you know when they come to get interested in it I will tell them and explain it to them.
TC: What do you think about when you're gardening, are you reminded of old memories?
DD: No, when I think about the garden, not really because I'm just, I'm just happy doing something for myself, instead of thinking back. Because back then I had someone over me. This time, I have my own self.
TC: What kinds of wildlife have you in seen in your garden? For example snakes, have you been bitten by a snake or any other insects?
DD: While I've working in my garden now, you know, I haven't been bit by anything, so far.
TC: How does the weather affect planning and why?
DD: Well, the weather, if its summertime, it will burn your food, it will burn it. But in the winter, it may freeze, it more likely to freeze your garden, fruits and vegetables.
JB: Have you ever used an almanac to plant by, you know, certain signs, of the full moon, or a--?
DD: No, I've really haven't used the almanac, because I just go by I say, time to plant, so I go ahead and plant.
TC: Do you remember ever having any really bad times around the year and garden?
DD: Really, I hadn't had any bad times.
TC: Do you use chemicals in the garden? What do you use to keep bugs away?
DD: In the garden now, I haven't used anything.
TC: Can you tell us about any recipes or dishes you like to prepare with the garden vegetables? Like special dishes.
DD: In my garden now, no, because I don't have anything but my greens and my cauliflowers and my turnip greens and my broccoli so no.
JB: Do you have a favorite recipe using those vegetables, or do you just--?
DD: No, it's no recipe for those. [laughter] I'm sorry.
TC: What kind of suggestions do you, do you have for young people who want to be successful gardeners?
DD: For, my suggestion for the young people they got to get their self into it first, they're going to want, they're going to have to want to do it. When they get themselves into and want to do it, they can be a better gardener. [long pause]
JB: I was just trying to think of other things about the garden. So you've been gardening here for a couple of years?
DD: Yes, this is just going on two years.
JB: Tell us about the greenhouse and, and what you've done with the greenhouse since you've been in the garden.
DD: Since, since I've been in the gar--, the greenhouse, all we do, we just cut pieces off and replant them, and let them grow. [pause]
TC: What kinds of--? Do you think is important for young people to learn about gardening?
DD: Yes, I think it's better for the young people to learn about gardening because they're at least they know, they don't have to go to the store all the time.
TC: Are there other parts, other times in your life that the young people like to learn about, or to learn from? [pause]
DD: Knowing the hardships that I had. It's not that--. I didn't have any. [pause]
TC: Do you have any stories you'd like to tell us young people about the days of segregation and ( )?
DD: Well that's, the time of segregation, but we used to go, we didn't have but one school, one colored school. We didn't go to white school. We'd go uptown, we had to go one place and white--, people sat down to eat, and we'd have to go to the back, they in the front. But now, we can do just what they can do. We have the right to go wherever we want to. Sit at the front of the bus, the back, go in there and buy what we want to.
TC: What bit of special wisdom or advice would you like to pass down to the young generation?
DD: What I would like to pass around to the young generation, they have to listen. They have to be obedient. Listen to older people because they know more than they do. They can tell you more, and better that you listen you'll be a better child.
TC: Anything to education has--, would it be advice to stay in school to pass down to the generation, the younger generation.
DD: Yes, I think it's better for the childr--, the children nowadays to stay in school. Get an education, if you don't get a job right then, keep on getting more education, because it will come out better later on.
JB: We talked a little bit about segregation, but this--, were you in Charlotte during the civil rights movement? Or where you still in South Carolina?
DD: I was in South Carolina at the time. I was in York, South Carolina at the time, when we had to go to the back, if we want something, to go to a restaurant.
JB: And when the laws started changing, do have any stories of what it was like during those years that the kids could learn from or do you remember?
DD: Well, when I was going to school, we had good books. We had good teachers. Our teachers, we would make sure, they were making sure that we would learn if we do something wrong, we'd take it home to our parents, and our parents would get on us, and the teachers would. And we wouldn't talk back. Because nowadays, the kids do not listen, they want to be the teacher they wanted to be the principal. But we couldn't do that. Because if my mother or my father would go and tell, ( ). That's why I'm sending them to school, because I'm not, we can't be with them at all times, and they'd whoop us and we'd just go back home and get another whooping. So, that's why we you know we learned better, we'd stay in school. But I didn't stay like I was supposed to, but anyway, I know better now, and I can teach, tell someone else to do better and my grandchildren and my great grands. [RECORDING INTERRUPTED. RECORDING RESUMED]
TC: In closing anything that you have, haven't got to say in closing anything you would like to share with us?
DD: In closing I, one, one thing I want you to do is, stay in school, and listen to your mother and father and the grown-ups. Don't talk back. If they say something to you that you don't like, you just take it because they know better. They're not going to tell you nothing wrong. Other people can tell you the same thing, grown-up. So that's what I want you to do. And I want you to keep going to school, get you a good education. If it don't work right then, keep, don't, don't give up. Always keep going. So if that job won't help, that job won't do nothing right now I want another one. You maybe have to keep on with that job until you can do better. But just keep in school. That's what my daughter's doing now, she's forty-six years old and she's still going to school. Bettering her self, her life. And I am proud of her, and I'm going to be proud of you too.
TC: Thank you much for letting us interview you for our Common Ground Project.
DD: You are very, very welcome. And I didn't mind doing it to help you, education yourself better.
JB: Do you have anything else you want to add about the garden or--?
DD: No, I really don't. [laughter]
JB: OK. OK. All right well thank you Daisy.
DD: Um-hum.