Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Carry Harrison Gaddy

Gaddy, Carry
Funderburk, Jamel
Date of Interview: 
Gardening; Canning; Family life; Wilmore Neighborhood; Great Depression; Food habits; Wilmore Community Center; Charlotte, North Carolina; Overcoming Obstacles; Then and Now; Relationships.
Carry Gaddy grew up in Union County, NC in what she describes as a small rural community. She discusses her daily life and chores, growing up without any running water or electricity. Mrs. Gaddy's passion for gardening began at a very early age through the influence of her mother, who she describes as a homemaker with great skill in cooking and gardening all the food they needed. Mrs. Gaddy describes her first job working as a maid, and how much she was paid in those years. She recalls how the community of Wilmore has changed greatly since she moved there twenty-nine years ago. In discussing the importance of gardening in her life, Carry comments on the fellowship the Wilmore Community Center.
Wilmore Neighborhood; Charlotte NC 1930s-2001
Interview Setting: 
Wilmore Community Garden Center, Charlotte, NC
Cultivating Common Ground
JF (Jamel Funderburk): This is Jamel Funderburk. It is October 29th. I am interviewing Mrs. Carry Gaddy at the Wilmore Community Center Garden for Cultivating Common Growth Project. We'll start with some questions about your childhood years. What is your full name?
CG (Carry Gaddy: Carry Harrison Gaddy.
JF: And can you talk a few minutes about the community where you grew up?
CG: OK. The community where I grew up was real small. We walked to school. It was a neighborhood of about, maybe about forty or fifty people but everybody was not close but close. You know, because the houses wasn't that close. And then we didn't have city water; we had a pump to pump the water with. And we had a little, a little side room where our bathroom was, the water wouldn't run but we had to run it from a little trough thing to get our baths. That what you call it. And that's, that's the, all the community met at this same little place to get their water to do their washing. And then we had the washing machine, we didn't have electricity but you turn the little thing that would wash the clothes. And now, I grew kind of up with my grandmomma and she had a, a washboard thing that she scrubbed the clothes with. And she also didn't have this Tide and stuff; she made her own soap. But that's enough of that.
JF: Tell us about the house you grew up in and how it was different from, from being the way you used to.
CG: OK. The house I grew up in, it had five rooms and one bath and a small kitchen, no running water but we had water. [Clears throat] We had to go out and get it in a pump. We pump it in a bucket and bring it in the house. The, that's the way the house was. We didn't, at first we didn't have electricity we had these little, these fancy lamps, there were lamps in each room. Then we didn't have a, a electric stove. We had a little stove that you put wood in to bake, to do your baking and your cooking.
JF: OK. Who lived with you when you were growing up?
CG: Two other sisters and my momma and my dad.
JF: And can you tell us about your family members?
CG: OK. I am--. There, there was ten of us but we all were never at home the same time. It, it really was like four at one time, the rest of them went off to school, to college and so forth. But, what did I, what is the question? That's, that's the way we grew up, you know. We didn't, we didn't go to like Food Lion and stores. We went, we went and raised everything. Momma knows, raised everything that we eat, even the flour and mill, and our chickens and stuff. They raised that stuff because that's what we eat. That's what we eat. We would eat and go home.
JF: Could you tell us about your father and what kind of work he did?
CG: OK. He was self-employed and he had some guy do work for him. And that's about it.
JF: And what kind of things did he teach you?
CG: Well, to be independent and work and take care of yourself and be able to support yourself. And he, we all had a little chore, a small chore, and we had a little allowance. And when we got that little allowance we had to save that little allowance. And, and at, at certain points we'd have quite a bit, quite a bit then, if you had five dollars that was a lot. But we used to get about, like say about, fifty cent, not a day, a week. We get fifty cent and, and, and we would save that then at the end they would give us an extra amount. But you had to save that little money that he gave us.
JF: And what do you remember most about him?
CG: I was, well, just being with him and following him around in his little truck and then going to the store and getting five-cent worth of candy. And going to church on Sunday and all of that stuff. That's what I remember most about my dad. We were real close but we didn't get to go to a lot of movies and things but we had the--. I remember him checking over my homework real close. I remember him punishing me if I didn't have it all right and that kind of stuff.
JF: OK. And could you tell us about your mother and what kind of work she did outside the home?
CG: Momma, momma really didn't work that much out of the home. She was, after taking care of all of us, she was kind of like a homemaker. She done a lot of, she made all our clothes, she done all our, our baking and cooking and stuff. And then she done all the garden stuff, you know. She done all the canning but momma really didn't work out the home. (When we were home).
JF: Did she teach you anything?
CG: Yeah.
JF: Is there anything that you remember her teaching you?
CG: Well yes and--. She, she taught us really how to cleanliness, how to take care of the little clothes we had, and how to take care of the house and the little furniture we had. We had to take care of that. And she made sure that we all learned--. She'd make these little fancy dishes and we all learned how to do that for mom. But we--. I stayed in the kitchen a lot with my momma, making those fancy sugar cookies and so forth.
JF: And do you remember anything about her? What do you remember most about her?
CG: Just, just being mom. I remember, I just remember my mom as being mom. And the little things, well nothing special about--. You could say do I miss my mom? I do. But I just remember her, the closeness to mom. I was real close to my mom and daddy really. And her making me obey and not, if she would speak I couldn't speak back. I remember that. You [Laughter] wouldn't dare talk back.
JF: Did your family have a garden or raise animals when you were growing up?
CG: Uh-hum. They had a garden and momma done a lot of canning. And we had cows and pigs. We, we, we, we raised the pigs, then we, then we, they would, they would butchered them in the certain time and they would do the little sausage in their little tubes and the hams and things. They'd put the seasoning on them and put them away. In the spring we would eat the ham and all that stuff. That, that's what they did on the farm and all. They had big fields of vegetables and momma canned all that stuff. And the cows, we would, they would kill them and take them to this little place somewhere and they would wrap it and label it for us. And we had a little freezer thing. But, but, but we rented this storage thing because back in then we didn't have a big freezer like I got now. But you rent this freezer and put all your--. You were, you would slaughter these hogs and the cows, then we'd wrap them, and we would put them in this freezer. And when we get ready for some, dad would go down there and get a supply of that stuff. Now a lot of it, momma would can it. So that's it.
JB: What community did you grow up in?
CG: Union County. It was called--.
JB: You grew up in Union County?
CG: Uh-hum.
JF: What do you, what do you remember about your school years?
CG: OK. I remember--. Well, from first grade, the school was right-walking distance. I walked to school. The teacher stayed with us and I didn't have to worry too much about that. Then after I went from grammar, elementary to high school we had to walk. We didn't have a bus to come. We had to walk like about three miles every morning to catch a bus. Then we ride again about thirty miles to the school and then we come back in the afternoon, had to walk that walk back home. That was from--. Now elementary we didn't have to do it because the school was just a block from our house and we went to elementary but high school we had to walk and catch a school bus and then stay on the school bus an hour and a half or so. And the bus didn't have any heat, we was cold. So that's that. Then I graduated from that school, Western Union High School.
JF: Can you talk for a while about the kinds of things you did for fun when you was a child and how it was different from your grandchildren today?
CG: OK. We didn't, well, we didn't have that much--. Well it was fun, I guess, because momma would--. We, we made our own games and then we did have a few puzzles and things, cut out dolls and so forth. But we didn't have, every--. I can remember we would get to go like to the fair but as far as movies, we didn't get to go. We didn't--. We had a radio, little radio but they ran by battery because we didn't have electricity at first. And we didn't have--. We had to make our own games. Whatever games we had we had to make them. Like hop and scotch and tin cans with-we had some things we could put a string through we could talk on. We had, that was our microphone. That was our telephone. So--.
JF: Here are some questions about your adult life. How long have you lived in Wilmore?
CG: Twenty-nine years.
JF: What do you remember about your neighborhood you lived in before Wilmore? Could you tell us why you moved here?
CG: I moved to Wilmore because I was renting an apartment. I stayed in that apartment for well about nineteen years and then I moved from there, we bought the house up here. So we moved because we was buying a house and we stopped renting.
JF: OK. Tell us about the kinds of work you did over the years.
CG: OK. Can I first--. Before I --. When, when, when I first came out of high school I done something called, what they called (day) work. I done that for about a couple of months. Then I went to school and I got my little training. Then I done hair for about eight years, I was a beautician. Then I took up another little course, I done some elder care. I done nurse's assistant. And that's about it.
JF: Do you remember how much you got paid per hour?
CG: When? When I first--?
JF: When you first started?
CG: Oh so lo--. OK. When I first started to working, that was back in '48, I think we were making like about fifteen dollars a week. That was before I went to school and got my training and stuff. About fifteen dollars a week and I didn't work there long. But that was doing something like maid work. That's what I did for when I first come out of school until I got my training and stuff. You made about like fifteen dollars a week. [Laughter]
JF: Can you share any instrument-interesting or memorable stories about the work you've done?
CG: OK. It, the, the key to it was, the harder you worked the less money you got. And the easier it got the more money you made because back then when I first came out of high school I worked and I wasn't making but about fifteen. And I went to school then at first I think I was making like about six dollars an hour maybe back in them days. Then I at the end I was making fifteen dollars an hour and all that stuff. But at the beginning it was real cheap, real cheap. But you got a lot for your money. You could take five dollars then and get a whole bag of groceries. Now you can't take five dollars and get a loaf of bread, you know.
JF: Can you talk for a few minutes about living through the Great Depression and what was it like? Do you remember that?
CG: I don't know. I don't know too much about that. But I remember momma knows they had their ration sugar and stuff. You couldn't get but just so much and you could stand in line and if the sugar and stuff ran out before you got there you didn't get any. And, I don't know too much about that stuff. When I came along, we didn't have too much of that.
JF: OK. Did you raise vegetables or farm animals during that time?
CG: During, which time you talking about?
JF: The Great Depression.
CG: I, I can't. I don't have too much to answer. Now I guess momma knows they did. They raised everything because they didn't, they didn't have anything but what they raised. And the little money they had, you know, they bought clothes. They didn't really buy clothes but momma made most of our clothes really. But as far as the Depression, I don't know any-too much about Depression. All the way back in then.
JF: Do you remember who was the first President you voted for?
CG: [Sound indicating negative response] [Laughter] I don't remember.
JF: Could you tell us some of the old stories about Wilmore and what it used to be like when you first moved here?
CG: OK. When I first moved to Wilmore in 1970 it was real quiet and it really didn't have all the noise we got now. We didn't have all the break-we didn't have all the breaking in's we got. But it was real quiet but now, through the years, it's gotten real noisy and the traffic's gotten real heavy. But we did not have all this when we first moved over here. It was real quiet. And the neighbors was real cooperative when I first moved over here.
JF: Besides that what, I mean, did it look the same?
CG: Do the, do Wilmore look the same? No it do not because the people who in here now don't keep up there property. It don't look the same because people had pretty shrubbery and all that. But now, people don't care what they put in their yard and they throw it down. It, it needs some improvement now, really.
JF: Do you have any stories you'd like to tell us young people about the days of segregation and what it was like growing up then?
CG: Not really. No.
JF: How did the civil rights movement affect your family, if it did?
CG: It didn't.
JF: Could you tell us about your children and grandchildren?
CG: OK. Yeah. I got two children with, they all graduat--. They all on their own. They in their own homes and they supports themselves. And I got two great-two grandchildren. I see them often. They are real dependable. And I have two greatgrands, which has just now been born so I don't know ( ). But I have--. My grandchildren and children are real good children to me. They've never given me any trouble or anything. They all in school. They all got good jobs and so forth.
JF: And, how did your love of gardening begin?
CG: Hmm?
JF: How did your love of gardening begin?
CG: OK. It first began, we was up on (Wilmore), it was about ten, ten of us, I think. And it, it started with Miss, Miss Cissy here. Well we was, we was getting people to join. When at first it wasn't--. It was just really starting it. So I was one of the one, the one that wanted to be in the garden. So I was one of the ten when we first started ten years ago up on Wilmore, Wilmore Drive. We had a little garden up there. And then we moved from up there, here. And we had to move them here, up on Park, West Park, then back here.
JB: Why did you have to leave?
CG: From here?
JB: Uh-hum.
CG: When--. Well because its, well--. We moved because of the property it was on, the man was, whatever. We ain't going to deal with that. He just got kind of ugly and we had to move. We moved up there and he, he sold it and then we moved back. That's how--.
JB: How did your love of gardening begin? When did you really--?
CG: It begin from when I was a child up until now. About--.
JB: Tell us about that.
CG: Because I like--.
JB: How you got interested.
CG: Well I was already interested. I, I--and this was the first chance that I've had since I moved from down at my mom and thems, they had a--to have me a garden. So that's what got me interested in it because I, I was able to have me a garden here in the city. So that's what got me started.
JF: What kinds of things do you enjoy growing?
CG: Well I like a variety of things. In fact in my garden now I have--. In my summer garden, I usually have tomatoes and squash and cucumbers and okra and corn. That's what I had in my summer garden.
JF: If you could grow three things what would it be and why?
CG: OK. If I would grow three things, it probably would be corn and green beans and tomatoes because those are my favorites.
JF: [Pause] Did you have a garden in your yar-in your yard at home?
CG: Uh-hum. Small.
JF: Could you describe it for us?
CG: It's, it's growing beside of my house. I had, I got, I had some corn and I had some pole beans and I had enough of beans growing beside my house that I canned fifteen quarts of beans. Then I got tomatoes. I had, in fact I got peppers beside of my house that I can just go out there and get it when instead of coming up here because this summer I haven't been able to come up here like I should because of my health. But I have this little garden outside of my house and a friend of mine would come over and kind of work it for me.
JF: How was gardening in the community different from gardening in your own yard?
CG: It wasn't. It wasn't any different. As far as growing it, it wasn't any different, you know.
JB: But how, how has being a part of the community garden different than gardening at home?
CG: OK. OK. OK. So, a part of the community garden, there is a fellowship and, and the garden at home I'm just over there by myself, you know. So, it's, it's fun to come up here and meet with the girls and look at their garden and each of them has a garden. It's, it's fun being in with the community, more so than home I just out there me, by myself.
JF: What has the--? What has having a community garden in Wilmore meant to you over the years?
JB: Why do you still garden?
CG: Because I like it. I like, I like the fellowship with each other and coming up and meeting the girls and all those benefits and things. That's why I keep it because, you know, I like the environment coming up and looking in everybody's garden and working mine. Yeah.
JF: Have you worked in the greenhouse over the years?
CG: When it first came, I did. But the, of last few years no because I, I haven't been able to do it because of my health.
JF: What kinds of things have you enjoyed growing there--did you enjoy growing there?
CG: In the greenhouse? The flowers because I love flowers and watching that--. We had some plants out there, watching them grow because we, they started from little seeds and they just grew up in the greenhouse, but mostly the flowers really.
JF: When you first put tomato plants out in the spring, what are you thinking about when you put them in the ground?
CG: [Laughter] Well the first thing this year when I put them out, I thought about, I won't have any tomatoes this year because they look like they wasn't going to live but they did. They grew up. That's what I thought about when I put them out this year. I thought [negative sound] I won't have any because they going to die but they didn't.
JB: And why do you think they made it? [Laughter]
CG: Well, I guess they just made it. [Laughter] But they, well because then I put fertilizer on them and I worked them and they came right out but they did looked kind of dead when I first put them out. Not dead, but they didn't, you know--.
JF: What kind of things have you put up over the years and who taught you how to do those things?
CG: Put up? Such as?
JB: Canning food.
CG: OK. For the canning part, I learned the cold pack stuff from my mom because we used to have a pressure cooker and we used to can the stuff. I learned that mostly from my mom and how she did it.
JB: What kinds of things did she put up?
CG: She--. Well back in then, she put up everything from her green beans and she made the soup and from the corn. And, because they didn't have freezers now. A lot of stuff now I don't can, I put there, I got a freezer. I freeze my stuff. But mom, the way I was brought up, they put stuff in jars, which I don't do that now.
JF: Have you passed on your knowledge about gardening to anyone special or to your children or grandchildren?
CG: No because when I've, when I've been doing it, they think that, that work is too hard and I've been trying to show them that it's, the more you work in your garden, you save that, you can save that money to buy something else. But kids now a days they think that's awful they way I be in there snapping them beans and all that stuff. They don't, they don't see the value of it really. The older kids do but the grandchildren don't see the value of canning stuff.
JF: Do you have any stories about snakes or ( ) in your garden or other critters?
CG: [Sound indicating negative response] [Laughter] The only story I have about snakes, I'm afraid of them. And if I see one right now that would be the end of it because I'm afraid to death of snakes. I can see the on TV and can't sleep so no thank you! [Laughter]
JF: Can you talk about how you decided when to plant, when to plant a spring garden or when to plant a fall garden?
CG: Have I decided?
JB: How do you decide? Have you ever used an almanac?
CG: Yes.
JB: Tell us about that.
CG: Well, well, it you have a-the almanac. If it, I go for that if you're going to, say for instance you're going to plant the stuff that grow on top of the ground, well you wouldn't, you don't plant that you got a sign to go by. And there's the stuff that grow on top of the ground, there's a sign you go by. I use an almanac most of the time. Then again you can just plant it and it do about as good but that's the luck. But I go by an almanac to plant my stuff.
JF: Do you ever remember having a real bad year of gardening?
CG: [Sounds indicating negative response] Not since I've been up here. Now back in, years and years, yeah, they did but I have never. Ever since we had these garden, they been a success. Ever since we had them as far as I'm concerned.
JB: When you said there are signs to plant by, can you talk about that for a little bit? What signs are you looking for in the spring or in the fall to plant?
CG: OK. If, if, if--. Say for instance if you was going to plant something like a turnip, like a turnip, you would plant it in the (feet). It's, it's, it's in the almanac. The man's got some signs on it. You plant in the (feet). You wouldn't plant it in the head because everything as it go up the head, it bloom and don't grow so that's the way it go. You go by it. If you, if you read it and know what, you go by the signs on it. By the way the shape the man is made, you, you plant different things in the feet and plant different things in the head and you plant different things when it's timed in the heart. Those things.
JF: And can you talk about what you've learned over the years in terms of growing and gardening?
CG: The type of fertilizer used and all that stuff and I use it through the winter. I throw stuff down there and cover it up and let the leaves rot and all that. It, it depends on your fertilizer and your ground. They have a lot to do with it. And try to get it where it's not all in the shade. That helps a lot too; get sunlight.
JF: Well what do you use for fertilizer?
CG: W--, 10, 10 something, 10-20, 10-10 and fertilizer. I use, they got this organic stuff, I put that around my garden sometimes. You buy it at the Home Depot or something.
JF: Have you ever composted your leaves or kitchen scraps to use in the garden?
CG: Uh-hum. Uh-hum. I did have a thing in the back of my yard down in the fence until the flood came and washed all that stuff away. So right now I don't really have one, but I have did it.
JF: What kind of--? We are going to include favorite recipes in our book. Can you talk a little about cooking with your garden vegetables and herbs and share some of your favorite recipes?
CG: Well, yeah. I had--.
JB: Excuse me one second. We're going to turn the tape over.
JB: Can you repeat the question?
JF: We are going to include family recipes in our book. Can you talk a little bit about cooking with your garden vegetables and herbs, and share some of your favorite recipes of the way you like to cook your vegetables?
CG: Mostly, now this, this, this one particular dish that I make, a casserole. I cook it with the squash, but the rest of my vegetables I probably just cook them. I have made a bean casserole, a squash casserole, you can even make corn souffle. I have done that with corn and the butter and eggs and stuff.
JB: Do you grow any herbs in your garden or have you used fresh herbs in your cooking?
CG: No. I buy them, frozen stuff. I buy bay leaves and all that stuff. I buy a lot of them, but I don't have any thing in my garden. I did have but it's all gone.
JF: What do you keep--? What do you do to keep bugs from eating your vegetables?
CG: I use Seldyn Dust. It's called S-E-L-D, S-E-L-D-Y-N Dust. I put that on, let it keep the bugs off.
JF: And do this look familiar?
CG: Uh-hum. It does. It's cotton. It's cotton. In fact, in, when I was coming up, my momma and them used to pick this stuff and with a sack on their back and they weigh it at the end of the day and then they would take it to this place. And they'd put it in a bailer or whatever. And they get it, that's when they would sell it. But they would pick it all day long, pick cotton, pick this stuff right here. But I didn't never have to pick it because I was one of the younger ones. But momma and those used to pick it. Two or three hundred pound a day. If I picked all day I got about twenty-five pound because we didn't, we didn't, I didn't really have to do that, really. You want your cotton back?
JB: [Laughter]
CG: [Laughter]
JF: Why do you think it is important for your people to learn about gardening?
CG: Well just in case it come har--, like it was when I came up; they had no other choice but to work it, but now, only thing they know about is going to the store and buying it. If they got their little garden, you can, you can, you can raise it cheaper than you can buy it. And it's nice to know that in case it-you won't be able to buy it you can grow it in your garden, they'll have it. You can go--. And if you don't have time to go to the store, if you got a garden, you can go around there and pick it and bring it in, clean it up, and cook it without going to the store. In case nobody there with a car, you can go out there and pick (the garden). That's what I do.
JB: How long have you been gardening would you say? How many years have you been--?
CG: Well I've been with this for ten years and I was planting my little garden way before then because I've had a little garden up at my house. I've been in my house twenty-nine years so I had a little flowerpot with tomatoes growing in the back on my deck and I've been gardening for years and years and years, really. (Then I got old).
JF: Do you have any special techniques you do when you're, when you're gardening like when your planting your collards or anything, like how far you spread them out or anything?
CG: Yeah. Now the, the collards, you put them about a foot apart because they going to spread. And, that's about it really. Of course your, your cabbage and thing you set them spacing apart. They don't, they don't spread like a collard do, really. And your broccoli you don't have to worry about them too much either.
JF: And when you're growing your tomatoes do you let them stay, keep going until they're red or take them off when they green or--?
CG: Well now, if it's in the summer, I let them grow until they red, but if it's in the fall, I pull them all and I lay them in the window and they get ripe in the house. Of course, I got one up there now; it's about half ripe. But I pulled it off because it was going to frost and I brought it in the house. So, it's in the house.
JB: What do you love most about gardening? What would you say?
CG: Working it, just watching it grow and gathering it once it grow.
JF: Is there a special way you water your garden?
CG: No. But, but you, well, this sounds silly. Now as far as my tomatoes, I got a special thing I do. This sounds silly but that's what I do. Yeah. I dig a hole. I get like a two liter bottle and put it down in the ground next to the tomato root and, and when you get ready to water it, you put water in that bottle and it seeps out amongst the root and you don't get water all over everything, but that keeps the plant moist. I do that with my tomatoes down there and home. But you have to put it in, put the water in this little bottle and put it down in the ground. It's like you dig a hole, really, and put it at the root and that helps a lot, a whole lot. Even if it's dry you got your water in your, and if they say it's no, no watering your plants you take your bottle of water out there [Laughter] and you pour it in your bottle and they don't see you do it. [Laughter] If they see me on their film they get me for that. [Laughter]
JB: [Laughter] Well that's the end of it.
JF: What bit of special wisdom or advice would you like to pass on to younger generations?
CG: ( )
JB: Do you have any advice for these young kids coming up about things they ought to remember? You've lived a long time.
CG: To be independent and learn--. Be independent and, and help themselves and not too dependent on other people.
JF: What was your gar--? OK in your garden, is there a particular time you pick up, like cucumbers or collards or anything, like--?
CG: OK. For the cucumber I wait until they get a certain size and then I pull it off, but if you, if you don't watch them then, then you can look out, one day you look at them the next two days it's too long. You have to watch the cucumbers and your summer vegetables. You have to watch them real close or they, or they get over grown. So you have to watch them at least every other day as far as your cucumbers and squash and stuff.
JB: What about collards?
CG: You don't have to worry about them.
JB: When do you pick your collards? When are they ready?
CG: Aft--. After the frost hit them. [Laughter] That's, that's, that's the way we used to do. When the frost, they're, they're supposed to be like a, like a different taste or something. That's just, that's just what we heard.
JB: Do you have anything else you want to say? We're done with our questions?
CG: No.
JB: Well we thank you very, very much.
CG: And I hope I was a help.
JB: You did a great job.
CG: I hope I was a help. Do I get to keep this piece of--.