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Interview with Leon Lowder

Lowder, Leon, 1906-
Cheek, Ashlea
Date of Interview: 
Lowder, Leon, 1906-; Cotton growing; Country life; Farm life; Farm management; Farm management--Economic aspects; Family farms; Race relations; Political and social views; South Carolina--Eastover; South Carolina--Sumter; South Carolina--Richland County; South Carolina--Clarendon County
Leon Lowder recounts his life, family, and work in retail and farming in central South Carolina from the 1930s-1980s. Mr. Lowder describes being the seventh out of eleven children in a farming family and leaving home in 1926 to work in the grocery department of a general merchandise store. He recounts stories of his domestic life, meeting his first wife at a house party, and raising their nine children together. Mr. Lowder talks at length about his work, particularly farming. He left the store and began farming his own land in 1949, which he continued to do through the early 1990s. Mr. Lowder discusses various crops he cultivated, including cotton, corn, and soybeans. He also talks about economic aspects of farm management, including his avoidance of debt through timely repayment of his loans. The interviewer tries to engage Mr. Lowder in different topics with greater historical interest, including his thoughts on World War II and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, but he appears to feel more comfortable discussing farming because of his knowledge on the subject. Mr. Lowder does comment on his former black employees, and states his belief that they worked as hard as anyone else and that they loved him because he treated them well. However, he shares his opinion that the social climate changed for the worse beginning in the late 1960s once school integration began. He concludes the interview by discussing politics and praising various prominent Republican politicians.
South Carolina--Eastover; South Carolina--Sumter; South Carolina--Richland County; South Carolina--Clarendon County; circa 1900s - 1999
Interview Setting: 
Home of Leon Lowder in Eastover, South Carolina
David Goldfield student project on change in the Charlotte region
Interview Audio: 
AC: Ashlea Cheek
LL: Leon Lowder

Begin Transcribing Interview Below:

[TAPE 1, SIDE 1]
AC: Right, now what’s your full name grandpa?
LL: Leon Clyde Lowder.
AC: Leon Clyde Lowder. What’s your birthday?
LL: Huh?
AC: What’s your birthday?
LL: November 19th born 1906. (pause)
AC: Alright, what you were saying about your grandmother before that she died at 10 or when your mother was then or twelve.
LL:  I don’t remember how old she was but she wasn’t too old because mommy wasn’t the oldest child that she raised up. I think she had one brother or two brothers older than she was. She couldn’t been, she was early 40s when she died but when she died really I don’t know that I couldn’t tell you. Back then we didn’t have doctors like they got day and night. It could have been cancer it could have been anything. So I couldn’t tell you nothing.
AC: Did most of them farm too?
LL: Huh?
AC: Were they farmers also?
LL: Oh, yeah they farmed also, everybody farmed.
AC: Out in the same area as where your farm is still or.
LL: Well my daddy never did nothing but farm either he was just, that’s all he ever done.
AC: Were they all from South Carolina like in several areas.
LL: Yeah, they was born down in Clarendon County and all of them come from down in there. We lived in a little place I don’t know about 3 to 4 miles Davis Station. That’s where we worked, that’s where I was born at. That’s when their daddy started over ( ), right after his daddy died he brought his sisters out to give them a piece of land and have it. ( ) farmed down there.  
AC: So, how many brothers and sister do you have?
LL: Brothers and Sisters?

AC: Uh huh.
LL: Well, most of them dead now but there’s five sisters and six boys including me.

AC: Uh hmn, 11. How many bedrooms did y’all have in your house growing up? (laughter)
LL: I tell them if I was the seventh child I was the seventh wonder of the world. (laughter) I don’t know where that’s true or not. So, that’s what I tell them. I was the seventh of the boys so I don’t if it was good luck or bad luck. I loved them brothers, I had a pretty good time. I had some tough days, I seen the day I didn’t have a dime and didn’t know were the next one’s coming from, had two or three children. But they come from somewhere, you know I got it.
AC: Did you help on the farm when you were little?
LL: Huh.
AC: Did you help on the farm when you were little?
LL: Well I was little until time I was big enough to be drink liquor that I left home when I was twenty years old. And then I went back to farming in 1949 and I should’ve quit ( ) sooner.         Cause when I come on this farm in 1949 I had about a thousand, twelve hundred dollars and I said ( ). Didn’t know where I’d be buried at.
AC: What did you do after you left town from the time you were twenty until 1949?
LL: What did I do?
AC: Uh uh.
LL: Worked at a store.
AC: What kind of store did you work for?
LL: Well, it was around about ‘78. The early thirties and business got so bad they had to close up.
AC: What kind of store was that?
LL: Uh.
AC: What kind of store, what could you buy there?
LL: What kind of store?
AC: Uh huh.
LL: Well then it was a, general merchandise that kind of store. One of those big stores that go ( ), that was one of the first stores on the left there. It was four departments: the ladies’ department, mens’ department, hardware department, and grocery department. I worked in the grocery department, for seven years. And then I, went over to farm again, lucky enough to farm for somebody else and stayed there for about seven years. One time I even got fired, I got fired and I left, went back in the store and came here on the farm. From 1940 to ‘49.
AC: Now, did you, how many years of school did you go through?
LL: Huh?
AC: How many years of school did you go through?
LL: I didn’t catch it what honey?
AC: When you were in school when you were younger, yeah.
LL: Oh, I got through the eighth grade.
AC: So, what you would have been maybe 13 when you stopped going or 14.
LL: My daddy has always told me, he reckon all he got ( ) any money he got through the second or third grade. Cause you could build a ( ). Or they build a house in ( ). You could get your people started and before you got through ( ). How many, how many ( ). Oh, I can’t do that.
AC: Wow!
LL: I had ( ) too. I built up a clubhouse. After Hugo hit us I had to come down here. Had to ride this old rail i guess ( ) some work at the station.

AC: Ah huh. Hmn.

LL: I did ah, Clarendon ( ). And, I fixed this up. I put a bathroom in a building and I done fixed one bedroom, and that’s all I got I don’t need two. (laughter) Cause I done got too old to raise grandchildren (laughter). I’ll help ‘em as much as I can but I can’t raise them. I done been around too long and they will run me crazy. And I love children, I wouldn’t think of leaving ( ) what I got, honey. I thank the Lord for them, but, but I don’t want the responsibility again. I don’t think I could stand it at 92 years old (laughs). I don’t believe many people could.
AC: Yeah, so after you got out of school you just worked on the farm until you left home at age twenty?
LL: I did what now?
AC: After you got out of school, after you finished the eighth grade did you just work on the farm for your dad until you left home.
LL: No, I was working on the farm, we didn’t go to school like they do now. I had to walk to school three miles and three miles back.
AC: Long way.
LL: I walked in the mud holes in the road, walk cross and that’s how everybody’s going to school. We had to walk there and carry your lunch with you. A sweet potato, a biscuit, and a piece of ham in it. And I ate so much ham growing up cause, the reason is all of the hogs but there was no market you couldn’t sell them. Now you could sell somebody one but at the market. A small one and they couldn’t even sell them out in one day. And we killed that pig. When I left home at twenty years old I never ate another piece of ham until I was forty something years old (laughter). I said I hope I don’t never see no more ham (laughter). But now I had better since, I reckon, Mama always had a roast hen for dinner stuff it with the dressing and I thought that was the most wonderful thing, a change and not pork. We would enjoy that chicken on Sunday and dressing. Of course growing up most of the children like me you couldn’t fill them up, I could eat all day and no it wouldn’t bother me at all. And it didn’t, I didn’t get fat but I reckon I, I was running, playing and worked enough to keep it off. If I wasn’t working I was out there playing ball or ( ) throw it up in the air and catch it. No I didn’t stop, dinner time ( ) meet out there and ( ) go back in the field.
AC: Now what kind of crops did y’all raise on the farm?
LL: Well back when I was a boy biggest thing we planted was cotton and corn. And we didn’t plant wheat, oh we would plant a few acres just for our own use. There wasn’t no market for it. What selled good is what we planted at that time. And cotton was the only money crop and the corn you planted up for your own use, because you had to feed mules to plow that land. Now we use a tractor don’t use mules no more. Back then when I was coming up you had to turn ( ) with a mule. Started the work in January breaking and preparing the planting. ( ) the planting back                            ( ) down the harvest. ( ) time. You live by your corn crop the first of June because the cotton be planted, would start to be cracking open. We only had two of the ( ) grass and weeds. But ( ) we knew everything we had to do we had to plow and a hoe.
AC: So after you left home at the age of twenty a few years after that I guess was when the Depression started?
LL: Yeah, I left home in um, 1925, ‘26, I got a, well I ( ) man to run the store. And I knew they would only hire the extra help for Christmas. And I asked him if he need some extra help, I’d appreciate it if he’d give me a job. But it wasn’t but two or three days, he rolled up to the house. Well I didn’t even talk to him, my daddy talk to him. I was out there in the field we was picking cotton. I was out there helping picking ( ). ( ) my daddy said Mr. Dickson said, tell you to come to work tomorrow if you want and he’ll put you to work. So I went up to work in the store so that’s where I worked at growing up. And that’s when I first left home.
AC: So did, do you think the Depression, um, did you feel the Depression and like, the--?
LL: Well ah. I don’t really know. I didn’t really feel much of the Depression ‘cause I didn’t have much money. And I was used to it so it didn’t go hard on me, I wasn’t looking for too much.
AC: I guess if you are used to not much it didn’t really make that much of a difference to you.
LL: Well, young people working now make about as much in a hour as much a we made in a week. You get a job with five or six dollars a week, but you couldn’t get three or four dollars a week was much as you could get. About 40 cents a day, plowing mule from daylight to dark.
AC: Hard work for not much pay. Now were you married then?
LL: No, I got married in ‘26, 25. March the 25, and that’s what I was doing I worked real hard. It was fall when I went in the store and I stayed there for seven years and left from one thing to the other.
AC: Now that was when you married Inez Lowder. Now how did you meet her?
LL: Well, the neighborhood where we lived in would have parties, there wasn’t no traveling all that much. In fact I didn’t even know where she lived when I met her. I met her at a party. There at somebody’s house. We started going together and, I wound up wanting to get married.
AC: How long did ya’ll go together before you got married?
LL: How long did we go together? ‘Bout a year or a little longer. A year and a half.
AC: Now did you like her family?
LL: Yea they were nice people.
AC: Did you get along with her dad? (laughter)
LL: Yeah. Inez’s mother and daddy her mother, particular, she was a nice little old lady as I ever saw. She was a little woman she wasn’t big. And I know y’all don’t remember cause she’s dead before y’all were even born. But ah, Willie Mae might remember. But she was a little tiny woman, in fact she was little. ( ) lived in our house, until he committed suicide. And then this ( ) stayed until she died. We built an extra room over the house, over there, so they could have privacy to their selves. Of course they come out in the house they could do whatever they wanted to do. Of course they wanted to go in and get away from the children, they could go in there and the children was good at going in their room they go in theirs.
AC: Now how long were you married before you had your first child?
LL: I think it  was about 13 or 14 months.
AC: And then--
LL: But we got married the 20th of March. And then Junior was born the, April the 10th 1927. About 13 months mnh hm.
AC: And y’all had nine kids?
LL: Nine, yeah.
AC: OK. And--.
LL: It is only, seven of them living and two is, three is dead. Leon Junior, Wilfred, and then one little boy that died, he was, four or five years old I uh ( ). He was younger than Joann, between Joann and Gertrude.
AC: Now so you had, which was your first son? What was his name?
LL: Ugh.
AC: What was your first son’s name?
LL: My first what?
AC: Your first son?
LL: My son.
AC: The oldest son what’s his name?
LL: Leon Junior.

AC: Leon Junior?

LL: Mmn hmn.
AC: And then?
LL: Then Wilfred, then Howard, and Floree Dell. Go back. Leon Junior, Wilfred, Howard, Floree Dell, then Derle. And then Joann and then ( ). Hold on, he was after Joann he died after Gertrude and Jackie then. Because all that’s living right now is Howard and Derle. Floree Dell, Gertrude, Joann and Jackie. Those the only ones that’s living.
AC: And how long was you married to Inez?
LL: Inez?
AC: Uh huh.
LL: (pause) We got a divorce, must of been ‘51 or ‘52 something like that.
AC: And then you married Madeline after that?
LL: Madeline ( ).
AC: And what year did you marry Madeline?
LL: ‘54.
AC: Now where did you live, like, while you were married to Inez, did y’all live here in Eastover, or I mean in Sumter is that where you lived the whole time?
LL: Uh huh.
AC: Uh huh.
LL: No I was living here when I married the last time, I was up there in the big house right up there. I sold that, what, last year.
AC: Um hmn. Well how many years did you live in Sumter?
LL: I done lived in Sumter for ‘bout a year or something like that, little bit. Cause I got a job over here in Hawkins and I worked over there nine years in the store until I came in here.
LL: And when I left to go there, I came here and I done never left here since then. I leave here I am going to the cemetery, I don’t want to know nothing about it.
AC: (laughter)
LL: It’ll be a good thing I don’t know nothing about it (laughter). I don’t let that worry me that don’t cross my mind. I know I’m going one day but what day I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s a good thing to know. Because say what you want to but in ( ) know when it’s coming I imagine ( ) i don’t know. But uh, I tell them, I don’t mean to brag or nothing I thank the good Lord. My funeral’s good as any but I just ain’t going ( ). My funeral’s, my funeral’s as good as ( ).
AC: So, now when you went back to farming in 1949, what did you farm then?
LL: Cotton, corn and planted a little wheat. ( ) when I first started, then right after that they started planting soybeans. And I made money out of soybeans. I started in, ‘49 just planted a few acres I was still at the store. And a colored fellow plowed the mule, farming some land.

AC: Mhn hmn.

LL: When I came here, fall of ‘49 or spring, I think it was in ‘49. Well ah, I didn’t know. I was at ( ), I didn’t know where I’d be buried at. I went to work. Well I was gonna farm on mules, there wasn’t  no tractors back then. A fellow down at old ( ), was one of the best friends I ever had. Dr. Isaac Hand. He was as good to me as any brother or sister I ever had. I was about three weeks older than him I was born November the 19 1906, and he was born December 12 1906. He was a doctor. One of the best doctors we ever had in all of Richland County. He was raised right over here ( ) about four or five miles from here. He was one of the best friends I ever had. Best buddy I ever had. I don’t know, I like to associate with them kind of people. Although he’s good, I didn’t follow his, ah, junk he throwed over on my junk ( ) I’d never do that. I was raised better than that, they’d would’ve, they would’ve skinned you, had they caught you. Of course they didn’t have none of that when I was growing up. But they didn’t have no juke joints back then to go to like they got now. I call them juke joints, but some of them were nice places, but ah, we couldn’t go to one of them when we was growing up, they didn’t have them nowhere. We couldn’t have got nobody to take us. The parents wouldn’t have let the children go ‘till they was 18 or 20 years old, they was still doing what his parents say. They handled the children. And they didn’t abuse them but handled ‘em. As little as I remember, my mamma never did whip me, she whip me but she whip me but with her tongue. You do something wrong she put you ( ) set you in the corner. She’d ( ) she’d start, and smiling all the time, a few minutes a terrible ( ). Course she’d ( ) “Alright now, you can go, I want you to behave yourself so I won’t have to bring you back.” Lord knows I’d have died ( ) keep a coming back and I didn’t like that. ‘Cause she could whip you to death with her tongue, and smiling all the time. And my daddy never whip me. He always said I was a pet. Now, I don’t know, well I was a pet or not I didn’t think so. But I believe my daddy ( ) he called me all the way up there like a bullet and see what he wanted. I was there he didn’t have to holler a second time. I was never sassy in my life I knew better ‘cause I oughta got slapped. If I would have fooled, for that. You didn’t talk back to your papa and mama back then I didn’t, no. Which in some ways it’s good and some ways it’s bad. Children, let us talked a little bit more, it would’ve helped a little bit but company come he sitting back there. My daddy didn’t speak to me he just looked right along, boy you better cover up and don’t say nothing and that was it. He didn’t have to say anything, keep quiet. You ( ) you get up and sneaked out, and you sure didn’t come back, until them people left. But he never whipped us that’s just the way he raised us. You could look up over he’s “alright,” and that was all he had to say. Now I was a pretty good little boy I was pretty devilish. Justin ( ) time up in Virginia and Corey ( ) and ( ) some of them. They wanted me to get a whipping so bad they didn’t know what to do. So, daddy would always bring us every night, read us something from the Bible, and praying you got to get on your knees, no, stand over here, you had to get on your knees. Well my Daddy would always take his shoes off, ( ) Daddy tickle his foot. Well I didn’t like to think of that I would tickle his foot and then he start moving. Now we’d start praying right on and he didn’t get us for that. Dad would say, “Son don’t you do that trick no more, and especially during them prayers. I’d said well all he’s saying is I don’t want to see you ( ) tickling his foot no more (laughing). But them sisters I had they wanted him to beat me so bad, they could’ve figured I’d get a whipping for. But I didn’t, but I didn’t have no better sense to do it. I should’a knew better, I reckon I was seven or eight years old or something like that.
AC: The little store that you had up, up here across the road from the big house. When did you have the little store and when did you run that?
LL: At the big house, now what now?
AC: The little store that you had the old country store?
LL: Squirrels?
AC: The store.
LL: Store yeah, the store right by the ( ) right across from the house up there. Year ago we went there and we hadn’t run it in 10 years or 15 years and we closed it up. But there was a lot of stuff still in there that I never did get rid of it. We hauled it out after a year ago, and a lot ( ), and we put it in a trash pile.
AC: And how old did you say it was?

LL: The store?

AC: Uh hmn.
LL: We opened up that store in 1943 or ‘44 and run it. Madeline run the store, until the early 70s. We made a little money in that store. The fact about it when I started to farming, I had one fellow helping me work on the farm of course you couldn’t pay him much three or four dollars a week, but course that was pretty good money at that time, that was more ( ) to get a way up. And we made enough money in the store that I could pay him, and pay for the fuel I been farming, and then we eat out of it. And that would help now and I didn’t have to go in debt during the year for money. We got through most of it, it would come in a lump sum. And that went on for a couple years and I brought a new tractor, paid so much a week on it. 50 dollars a month, and ( ) ‘bout a year and a half and got that paid for. And in a few years I bought another one. Now ( ) I bought another one because I got up. I might of had five tractors on there, I farmed about 800 acres. Me and a couple of more donkeys (laughter). And the last six or seven years me and one of them, done the whole thing, I worked on, what, going back to the early fifties, middle fifties. I said well we really ‘bout did it and I was young and I could work and I knew what work was I knew what you had to do, to make a crop. I’d leave in the morning before sun up, before 7 o’clock, I would eat breakfast and ( ) bring my dinner ( ) two or three miles, to the field and I take about fifteen minutes to eat right back on that truck, and I’d come in it was dark 9 o’clock at night and I’d come in, take a bath, and go to bed, eat supper and get up at five the next morning and get breakfast and get ready to go at six o’clock in the morning.
AC: Long days.
LL: I done that for several years, not ( ), you had to do it to make any money. And that went on ‘til 1966. That’s when I had bought three new tractors, just the year before I wrote, bought ‘em on credit got it bought it on the finance company out there were farmers could borrow on it. They was always good to me they never turned me down on nothing I wanted they let me have it. They must had a little confidence. But I went in that farm and made the best cotton in ‘66. Went in ( ) then I borrowed 50,000 dollars in cash to operate on the farm with so I could pay the labor. Well I paid that back, 50,000, that was about, forty-something thousand, payments on the ( ) I made all them payments. One tractor I had just bought that year and that was just the first payment. There were four more payments. Next year I had to, made the best crops ever made since I’ve been farming. I paid up oh about 75,000 dollars or 85,000 dollars the payments and the cash I borrowed that year. I didn’t sell my soybean crop until January. Because I sold so much cotton, it, make it pretty rough on your income taxes. See I still had to pay 6 or 7,000 dollars on my income tax, without selling the soybean crop. So they brought the haul in, the beans ( ) a good price at that time. I said well I don’t want to collect them beans until after the first year, I said that will be alright. I’ll let ‘em know then ( ) can give you a check after the first, you got a good price I will move them. I said I will move them. But I rather they went out there the first of January, and he gave me a check I think it was a 133,000 or 134,000 dollars for soybeans.
AC: And what year was that did you say?
LL: That was, that was ‘67.
AC: ‘67
LL: Well I put that check in the bank, I had done made my payments I didn’t owe nothing ‘til next year. So I went up there a week after I put my check in the bank, told the man that I had, I think it was 7 mortgages I had in, cotton picking, combine, three-year tractors, and some other stuff. Ran up to about 90,000 some dollars and I still owed after I done made the payment that far. I said “get my bills out I want to give you a little money” he said “you done paid up for this year you don’t own nothing to next fall.” I said “well I got a little extra money, and I am going to tell you like my Daddy told me when I was a little boy.” He said “Son if you got a nickel in your pocket and you owe that man at the store a nickel you go and pay him, ‘cause that nickel would get away and that debt ain’t going nowhere, when you are dead and gone you will still have it.” I haven’t forgot that.
AC: That’s good advice.
LL: I had all, I had one of my bills with me. It’s the oldest one I’d given up ( ), every one of them except one. And it had four more payments 1900 and something dollars a payment for four years. Well I told them, I said “listen I want to pay three payments, and leave one payment for next fall.” So he added through the, he said “you mean you want to pay all that?” I said “yeah,” and his eyes got about that big. I gave him the check and I said “you write the check and I’ll sign it.” So, the next year I got the government paid up for some stuff, all of it be covered and paid off. So I went up there and paid that 1900 dollars off. That was in ‘67. I got out of debt and I ain’t never bought anything on credit in my neighborhood. This is ‘97 that’s 30 years.
AC: Wow! Now was that Uncle Clayton that you sold the soybeans to?
LL:  Huh?
AC: Was that Uncle Clayton that you sold that soybean crop to that year?
LL: Yeah, he was the one hollering at me and of course I paid him and he paid me. Um, now I forgot what I was going to say. But, he asked me when I got through paying he says “how about next year, ( ) you needing money?” I said “yes I will sell some. Cause when I run out I will come up here and borrow some if you let me have it.” He said “well you know you can get it,” but I didn’t have to borrow nothing off of him. I had enough to make the crop, and I ain’t never borrowed nothing since. I run up my credit, but the first one in the first city I went there to borrow it. I just wanted 500 dollars to borrow some, buy some fertilizer ‘cause I knew, I could do the labor and my fuel out the store money. The first thing he asked me, “where have you been doing business with?” I say, “Captain, I ain’t have no business, I ain’t never borrowed no money this is the first money I ever asked to borrow in my life.” And he wrote it down, he sure did, and made me a check for 5,500 dollars. That’s where I started and told him I never, I never had to borrowed no money, I didn’t never owed no money. But I borrowed corn credit, to pay so much a month and stuff like that. Anytime I got a bill I paid it when I got it.
AC: What year was that when you first borrowed money?

LL: 19

AC: What year?
LL: Probably ‘51. 1951.


LL: I borrowed 500 dollars. ‘50 or ‘51 I forget which one it was, one of the two. And I paid them up in ‘67. Before I paid ‘em in the fall and what I owed was only 200,000 dollars. But I paid it all in one year, and I never looked back I never got credit since. He told me he said “I wish I had more customers like you,” I said “well they probably couldn’t be if they wanted to, but some of them say we have to dig it out of them.” (laughter) I’m not bragging, but I borrow money from ‘em. They put it out there to buy, bought the stuff like that. And then made the check out they make it out and get the credit production company and they said ( ) that, and they don’t see Lowder. Well I couldn’t cash that check until I went to ‘em to get them to endorse it. ‘Course, I’m not bragging they never did do me like that. And I’m the only farmer, I don’t know how many they had but they had a bunch of them. He said you are the only farmer we got that we don’t put on that list. Because I tell you what, it’s like you say go put the money in the bank and go up there give them a check for some of it. But that check don’t cover it all put it on it until you get another check, and that’s what I did. I could have put it in the bank and give them a check but I didn’t I would go over there and wrote that check, what I sold whether it was cotton or corn or soybeans after I started it. So it’d be cotton would be the first crop we give them, but I didn’t put that check in the bank I went up there and gave it to them endorse it, and it was enough to pay me out I said soon as I get, sell another batch I would be back and cash it, that’s what I’d do. Then after that I put the money in the bank, that’s what they want you to do a lot of them would do it, they said they would come up here and give us a check and let us have what they owe and keep the rest. I said no, I want to get rid of mine I don’t want to be lacking I want it all paid.
AC: Now when did you stop farming? When was the last time you farmed?
LL: When did I quit farming? ‘Bout ‘90, ‘91. ‘92 somewhere along. But, I was farming when Hugo come in ‘88, I was still farming pretty good. ‘Bout ‘92 that I quit in 92, I didn’t quit until about five or six years, ‘cause this is ‘99. I don’t know, I still have a tractor now.
AC: How many acres were you farming when you stopped?
LL: About 250 acres, and the fellow I had working for me died so I said I ain’t gonna hire nobody so I’ll do it myself. I was doing that for three or four years I tended all the ( ). I was wealthy in the 70s and 80s too. I said I ain’t too old to farm. ( ) had a fit they wanted me to quit. They said “Daddy, when are you going to quit. I said “when I get old.” (laughter) I didn’t think I was older than she was. In fact I reckon, the feelings and the way I was doing that work, I was younger than she was. (laugher) I didn’t ( ) it was just, I had an energy in me and didn’t mind doing it and I still don’t mind doing it. I don’t hire nobody to mow my yard I get out there. They said “Daddy mow half of it and let ( ) oh shoot. When I start I ain’t gonna stop ‘til I get through it take me ‘bout two hours I keep going I can’t stop. Sometimes Howard comes over here, and he mows it, but I do it myself. Break up the land and plant, little stuff, but I’m not farming no more.

AC: Mhn hmn

LL: Well, I couldn’t farm good enough to make any money so, a little bit you would do nothing with.

AC: Right

LL: Cause farmers like ( ) if anything you got to do more ( ) to make money. In those stores, you don’t turn your money over ( ) or you ain’t gonna make no money, farming is the same way. You got to, plant at least six or seven acres to make any money. And then ( ) what you do is if you make it you’re going to lose money. Throughout the years I was farming for 40 something years. I never did get enough money but one year I made, a 3000, dollars to get me back what I spent. ( ) about 40 years I couldn’t fix it. I worked all the farm but didn’t make nothing that year. But I said “well I’m not going to grumble the Lord been good all those years, that’s the first year a farming done lost money since I’ve been here. Now I had some years I didn’t make much, but I didn’t lose nothing. I had some years I made 50,000 dollars. I had an expensive little crop, children coming on back I had to take care of them. When they was little, we couldn’t really give them much because we didn’t have much to give them. Felt that if we kept clothes on them they was doing good. We give them a quarter a week ( ) they got up that was all we could give ‘em, three or four dollars or five dollars a week of spending money. But at first I couldn’t afford it and I weren’t going in debt to give it to them, you going to have to do like me, do without. Just as sure. ‘Cause I said well it worked. And don’t try to keep up with the Joneses and Smiths you won’t last long. You gotta live your life and let them live theirs, don’t try to keep up with them, they are very wealthy. I never have disliked anybody, if I had any making money, I always said, well, I wish I had what they had, and then had more. I wouldn’t want it to just to take it from them for me. I don’t judge nobody for what they do. Cause some people I don’t know is looking, smart, you got to be smart to do it, to make more money than those. I got a brother like that who made a, I was working just as hard as he did. But he was in the business ‘cause he could make more money and he, became a little more stingy than I was he kept more of it and I end up, having a good time with it and I had a good time. And I sure don’t regret it, I enjoyed it now for the last 89 years, and ( ) and I’m still going and I’m six years older than him. I reckon the Lord been good to me, I don’t reckon I know he had. (laughter)
AC: This is going back to when you were younger but do you remember much about World War I? What was happening and like how that affected you?
LL: Well I was. Well that was 1917, and I was about 11 or 12 years old I don’t remember too much about that. I remember some of the boys going and talking to me to come back. But, you know it didn’t, those boys didn’t talk too much about what happened over there, they didn’t tell you too much, I don’t reckon they want to talk about it. And, when I was a little boy I would, ( ) past them because they’d say, I ain’t going to tell you nothing, they would pay no attention to you. So, I never did ask too many questions, but if I got a chance I would listen but I didn’t hear too much.
AC: What about, what do you remember anything World War II, during that time or even Vietnam and or Korean War, anything that stands out?    
LL: No I don’t know very much about it. Wesley Graham and Robert, they were my second cousins, they both drafted and came back over here. They never did talk too much about it, the biggest thing I heard them say is that I talk too much. Fact they look like they enjoyed it, they laugh and talk about the whole thing what happened over there. But it didn’t amount to nothing what I heard. ( ) was, well they got in some right ( ) looking up they came out of it, not getting killed. They had so many buddies got shot down one bomb but ah, the bullet miss them they said, so they still have to be thankful for that. Well I reckon you have a funny feeling, you know those boys are in that fight know that ( ) fall with a bullet on your right side you’re thinking you might be next. But you’ve got to hold on to your nerves out there, do the best you can you can’t get scared.
AC: Now during the war did y’all plant any kind of different crops or, did you do anything different as far as how you, did your, crops, and just day to day stuff?
LL: During the war?
AC: Uh huh, or like in 1940 when the, World War II was?
LL: Growing up ( ) your Daddy ( ) the only thing we did but work. But, since I got out of home, I, was thinking about what I was going to plant in this field or that field corn or cotton, soybeans and wheat, stuff like that you’ve got to be your own judge of that. You know your land you know where to put this and that. This field right here might be a lot better with cotton or corn, and the field over there might be a little, ( ) parched you got to, after you farm a few years you learn all that. ‘Bout the type of soil. It’s quite interesting. I guess it’s like anything else if it’s not done right you ain’t going to make any money, I can tell you that. You better know what you’re doing, because you can spend more in a month than you will get back in two years. You got to spend it as if it was the last nickel you got. Lastly try to do it as wisely as you can because lots of, now and then you’ll slip up but not often, if you watch what you’re doing.
AC: Now did you feel like in the 1960s when the civil rights movement and, other stuff was going on in the nation did you, witness much of that here?
LL: (pause) In the ‘60s.
AC: Yeah.
LL: No I was, moving along pretty good in the ‘60’s on my farm. I done got up to about between eight and nine hundred acres. And I had new machinery. I had two combines one wasn’t taking care of it, it would take too long. I had two combines and a cotton picker and all that kind of stuff.

AC: Mmn hmn. So like the national, affairs and stuff that was going on as far as, like with the unrest as far as racial tensions and that kind of thing, did you feel like you experienced much of that or you just, stuck to your farming?
LL: Yeah, because how much I was spending on all the things?
AC: No I just mean, did you feel like, ah (pause). How do I say this?
LL: You had to go along, with the crops that was going to make you the most money. And you still had the cotton and soybeans, because them was the two money crops. Corn was alright, but corn, but I mean money making corn a few years. But um (pause), if you got just a little short on water, your corn crop could get cut pretty bad. Which cotton and soybeans will pull under but the corn won’t. Lot of particular times we don’t get that water on corn it’s gone in a few days. So you have to be particular on those kind of things.
AC: Now you said you had a colored man that worked for you?
LL: Yeah.
AC: Did you just have one colored man or did you have--?
LL: Well, I had three at one time, then I got down to two in the summer. The jobs were getting a little plentiful in the late 50s and 60s

AC: Um hmn.

LL:  They could make more money and we could afford to pay them to farm. And, the colored that I kept he was a, Neil was about old as me but he died about, I reckon, 15 years ago. If he would’ve still been living and moving around like me I’d still be farming. The younger ones got jobs and I didn’t hire nobody back in their place, ( ) I don’t mind working, I could plow as much as you can.

AC: Ah hm.

LL: Me and him would get out there with two tractors, the colored man, and we would plow 125 to 150 acres a day. ( ) we’d go out there. Especially after dark you know you could go out seven or eight miles out with them tractors, course you go too fast and you cover it up you go fast enough, you throw that dirt through there, and any grass whatsoever is in that cotton, you covered it. And you could, get up a little speed and then you go on lot of territory. Less people farming in the ( ), a green hand, they don’t lose their time ahead on the edge of the road. And we could come out on the end of the road, we was just clipping them pedals come off. Circle around we couldn’t stop, ( ) just keep going. We didn’t stop ‘cause we didn’t know what to do, so we went on. I tried to turn right round in the sand, this tiny way you turn, you come right back in the same place you just made. Get off the plow, hit the edge of the road, and you didn’t stop. I showed Bill how to do it he was the only one ‘bout, 14 years old he never had trouble with it. He came down here to work on the farm in the summer time with me, you know that’s what he wanted to do. So when he came up there we was cultivating beans back in yonder. He come to the field. I said “You come to plow”? Yeah, he was ready to plow, so I, I said “get up on the tractor in front of me. Let me make a round and show you how to do it ( ).”
LL:  Go ahead and make a round by yourself I said “( ) I’ll show you what to do.” He went round, come back down and did as good as I did. ( ) plow for about three or four hours. He’d pick up that plow turn around and drive back around ( ). (laughter). He was one of the best tractor drivers I ever had. ( ) he feels a resident he wanted to do it, he done it. And, I’ll say it again he was one of the best tractor drivers in this country. He knows what to do with one he can handle them. And ain’t nothing ( ) get killed. Don’t get up there and act crazy, ‘cause you won’t live to get back to the house I can tell you that. ‘Cause they ain’t going to stop unless you stop it. Now don’t get on there and play with it.
AC: Now um, the blacks, like the black people that you’re talking about before the colored man. I know in the South that they like, well actually all over the country they were fighting for equal rights then. Did, and here in Eastover did y’all have many blacks that were trying to get, like,  more rights as far as to be treated equally the same as whites.
LL: Yep. 1950 to 1965 we had the blacks picking cotton sometime and we’d have 140 to 50 people picking cotton one day. Pick six or seven bails, lay it out, pay them off and go in there and they spent most of it before they left there. Of course we’s making money out of that, they were spending it as fast as they were making it. But, I got a cotton picker. I think I paid seven or eight thousand dollars for that cotton picker, one little picker. And it look like it lifted a lot of cotton, but it didn’t leave much cotton. I asked them, some of them “y’all better scrap up some of that cotton,” I’m getting four or five cents a pound which was, picking 2 cents a pounds, when it’s picking by hand. But that picker could pick 300 pounds a day, but they got to pick all day wouldn’t get but 15 or 25 pounds it was nothing. ( ), it looked like a lot of cotton but it wasn’t enough to go and to pick it up and what few was left on the stalk. In three years, I made enough money picking cotton then with other people I was able to pay for my cotton picker in three years. But other people, that’s when I made more money in six years farming by picking cotton with that picker than I made 750 years pay. Got out of debt and ( ) no money no more. But money rent was like (??), you got to hire people to pick and say, about 120 or 130 picking children. This guy name Sammy he picked 30, 40, 50 pounds, them little children probably six years old. But, they had to work for a living back then they didn’t mind working, of course you couldn’t get them to pick now. No way you get one out there in the field to pick cotton now. I’m glad I ain’t farming because the way they used to do it, they ( ) kill one of ‘em and you can’t afford to do it.
AC: So how do you think the world is different today than it was when you were growing up?
LL:  Now what?
AC: How do you think the world is different today than it was when you were growing up?
LL: The world?
AC: Uh huh.
LL: Well I never did believe I would get old enough to see like it is today. I know things have change that much, they started to change in the, the late 60s. In the first 25 years I say they changed any worst than the next 25 I hope I don’t be here. That’s when it started changing. Until they started putting the blacks in the schools that when it started changing. It started just a year or two before that but it wasn’t bad. But after they put the blacks in the school, I said they ruin the schools before it was over with and I don’t think I’m wrong, I think they just about ruined it. They build a new one in three or four years and it looks worse than the old one. There were people who weren’t raised, to take care of anything. They been busy, tearing up with they could tear up. Of course when you, open a ( ) you had them under your control. Nobody was mean to them I think this is what colored people were like white people, if they, if they behaved themselves. But if they don’t I don’t have nothing to do with them, I don’t speak I keep going I don’t even look back. But I noticed, a lot of colored people I think they loved the ground I walked on. They worshiped whatever I told them to do, they, whatever I told them to do they do it and come running they didn’t act all. I never had no trouble because I treated them well, and I paid them, compared to what everybody else did they know I was friendly to go by and you couldn’t afford to pay them, two or three dollars more than ( ) ‘cause you wouldn’t make enough to pay them. You had to pay them enough to live off of. I never had no trouble with them at all in the working. Never had to run one home. I have no hard feelings for them. Some come to me and say they didn’t have no money I say I’ll help you get the job if I could be of any help to you I would recommend you. That’s what I’d tell them. I’d ( ) all I could tell them. I wish I could pay you more but the farm won’t allow me to pay that much. I got seven jobs working for me they got it and I recommended them for the job, and they stayed with it, ‘til they died some of them, the same job. I don’t judge ‘em I tried to help them get it, I wish they could make more money, but I couldn’t afford to pay it on the farm ‘cause we didn’t make that kind of money. Course its still like that today. You can’t get a good farmhand now for less than 100, 125 dollars a week. That’s how I did eight hours, and back when I worked we worked from sun up to sun down. 12, 14 hours a day. But they were used to it because they had to work to make a living. But things has changed in the last, 20 years, very much so in our lives. I didn’t, you had to work so many to be able to ( ) paying them so much out. Well I didn’t have but two ( ). I told them I said, “Okay it’s changed, how y’all wanna do this thing?” I paid the minimum wage by the hour, they go to work at 8 o’clock get an hour for dinner and work ‘til five. I’d rather work just like I’ve been working just like you pay me. I said “suits me fine, I don’t have no trouble with ‘em at all.” I put it up to them. ( ) I pay you so much an hour, for eight hours a day. You know I pay you like I’ve been paying ( ) off. But I still paid them, they would make a dollar or two more than what, what that minimum wage would pay them for eight hours I still paid them a little extra time, because they was worth it to me. Shoot, five o’ clock ( ) you have three and a half hours of just steady work, sun up to sun down. When my fellows come in I tell him, “come home, before sundown so you can get home.” But the old fellow that died he once stayed with me, he saw the job and he liked a, he ( ) he wasn’t coming until you finish that field, he wasn’t going back there the next day. He was going in another field, he would come and it’d be dark. Couldn’t see him coming down the road 100 yards from the house, you hear the tractor, of course the little tractor had lights on it. I said “well it look like you weren’t ( ),” he said “I wanted to finish before I come.” That’s the way it was. Well, if I was working and we got through, we come in at 5 o’clock in the evening and we didn’t have nothing I said alright boys, get some crackers and jelly go ahead and come back tomorrow. I give them two or three hours but I knew that was plenty of time, til a lot of them the same thing I did, we didn’t make I didn’t talk about that time it was gone. You gotta do things for others sometimes as well as yourself, and different things. You can’t get it all yourself, and don’t give the other man something. You got to be fair and square with them. Because a lot of them had been working like we have been working, forget about that hour, so much an hour, I don’t want it. I rather work just like you do, you paying me and I’m living off of it. I paid them good.
AC: Now um, as far as the nation and the politics, as far as the people that was president and in the government back when you were younger, how do you think that compares to today?
LL: Well, I wouldn’t know how to explain that one. There was a big difference then I know good and well. But I don’t know if you could keep them satisfied at any price you give them. I don’t know that you could satisfy them now, especially this younger bunch. In the old bunch, the old bunch is dead, they are gone most of them. I go back down to the country where I was raised and born and I went to school in, the boys I went to school with you can’t follow them ( ) some of them 20 years. ( ) I don’t ( ) you tell me which one’s I knew their daddy or their mama, but I don’t know them.
AC: What do you remember about Senator Strom Thurmond?
LL: What do I know about him?
AC: Uh hmn.
LL: Well, I don’t know Strom Thurmond personally, I met him once or twice, in crowds and I spoke to him that’s all. But I think he was a wonderful man, I think he did a wonderful job. And I don’t think well, it will be a long long time before we ever have another Strom Thurmond. I tell you, when he was governor I didn’t vote him for governor ‘cause I didn’t like him. And then when he, he come out of the governor’s office and when I voted for him. Of course you don’t know nothing about him ‘cause he’s ( ) you get in there you and uh, ( ) figured you’re an outsider. Because they have this ring up there in South Carolina they tried to, cram a fellow, ( ) I believe it was Red Smith that died, I think it was. A fellow Edgar Brown down in Barnwell he was the speaker of the, big shot up there ( ), the legislature. Big Red rode in, and Strom wouldn’t put think about putting him on the ticket. Strom was smart enough, he come back, somebody come over there and let him right in. Well he went in against Edgar Brown, Edgar was the biggest, stick of South Carolina. Strom Thurmond bet him three to one, with a right hand vote, he’s been ever since, and I think he’s done a wonderful job. Now I didn’t vote for him when he went running for governor, I didn’t especially like his attitude I thought he was, he thought he was a little bit better, a show-off type but he wasn’t, that was just his image. He wasn’t that type of fellow. But I looked back and laughed, the fellow I voted for, the fellow Dr. McCloud running for governor that year from, Florence, and he got beat and he ( ) he pulled out after that. He wouldn’t have been able to live the term out. But Thurmond made us a good governor he stayed there for eight years, and I think he did a real good job. And he’s done an outstanding job as U.S. State Senator. I don’t think we could beat him. We would never get another one I don’t think like him. A lot of people ( ) and I say “well, he’s three or fours years older than me, I am going to try and keep up with him.”
AC: (laughs)
LL: People just laugh, I wish I was as brilliant as he was, smart as he was, but I’m not a politician. Never have, never too late now to try to be one. I wouldn’t try now, if I was young I wouldn’t try I don’t want it. ‘Cause I think they would try to persuade you for this and for that. And I couldn’t see if it wasn’t OK with me I wasn’t going to do it. So I’d just be a ( ). I remember when I was a boy before I started to ( ). They had a good man down there in Clarendon County, he preached a little bit. He wasn’t a regular preacher but he could preach good as any preacher you have heard. He was a likeable fellow, as you ever met. He ran for the House of Representatives, he led the ticket. And what he preached was what he wanted to do. So he got up there and he, said I could have been hogtied and in fact I couldn’t do nothing. He said two terms is not going to want to go, you can’t get those things through that ringer up there, boy they’ll hold it against you in the election, and he never did run no more. He said you can’t do nothing with them. He fought them for two years, I’ll never forget that, just for I got old enough to vote. I knew the man and I liked him he was, everybody gave him a good name. Old and young, black and white, he was a nice fellow. A Christian man, but he couldn’t do nothing with that bunch over there.
AC: Do you remember what election you first voted in?
LL: I don’t remember that, I had to be about ‘25 or ‘6, I didn’t get old enough to vote, back then you had to be 21. It had to be, ‘27 the first year I voted. I was 22 years old so it had to be 1927.
AC: I’m just curious, have you normally voted over the years?
LL: Huh?
AC: Do you vote every time you can vote?
LL: I voted every year since. All my people I voted for them to get elected. But I said what if, I voted for them regardless whether they get 10 votes or not. ( ) and I voted for him and that’s what I did, and still do that.
AC: Well I think I have enough information. I think I’ve got enough to write my paper now. (laughter)
LL: Now well if I live in next year or 2000, ( ) George Bush Jr. for the President he’s the man I’ll vote for. He hasn’t even announced yet. I think he’s going to run and I think he’s a good man. But his daddy, well, ( ) and you stay in there and that’s what beat, his daddy. And put the worst crook that the United States has ever had in the President, I might not want to step on nobody toes, he might be a clever man. But I’m going to speak what I think, I don’t think much of it. I wouldn’t vote for him for dogcatcher. I didn’t vote for him on that one either, he didn’t get there on my vote.
AC: How did you like Reagan?
LL: I think he was a wonderful man. If he was ever gonna run again I would vote for him again. And I think that George Bush will be just as a man as Reagan if he could get there I think he will. But he’s going to have a hard road of stuff to get him there. Because they don’t want that kind of man that you can, stamp and move him wherever they want him, they ain’t gonna move George Bush I tell you that right now. It’s going to have to be right for him to go along with it. Now that’s my opinion there, I may be wrong, but I don’t think I am. I think he’s man enough to stand up for what he think is right. And that’s what you got to be in anything you do, if you ain’t you ain’t getting too far. Well if I tell everybody, and I don’t be in my grave, if they got a heaven in this world I don’t know it. And the nice part about it I don’t want to know. I’d rather have to say something good then something bad, ‘cause ain’t everybody going to like you now, you know that. Well they’ll like you but I mean they are not, going to have nothing to do with you but we got that. But I never have been nowhere that I couldn’t make friends, I could make friends anywhere I go. I don’t worry about that. And if they don’t let you make a friend then you don’t want him no how. Talk to you about that, you haven’t lost a thing, you didn’t want it to start with.      

AC: Thanks so much, I’ll turn this off.

Approx: 66 minutes