Accessibility Navigation:

Conversation with Pamela and Robert Grogan

Grogan, Robert "Bob"
Grogan, Pamela "Pam"
Dean, Courtenay
Date of Interview: 
relationships with people and places; then and now; tolerance and respect
Bob Grogan, with his daughter Pam, talks about living in south Charlotte.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Courtenay Dean interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
RG (Robert Grogan): After the, ah, service in War II, I went to work for, ah, a company in Atlanta that, ah, transferred me to Charlotte in August of 1946. Ah, upon arriving in Charlotte, at that time, there were no motels. [Pause] No ah-.
PG (Pamela "Pam" Grogan): What hotels? I didn't even know that. What hotels, hotel, Hotel Charlotte?
RG: Yeah. And the one down on, oh, um-.
PG: Tryon?
RG: North Tryon that they eventually turned into, ah, a nursing home.
PG: Oh.
RG: A home for old people.
PG: But that was it, if you wanted a place to stay.
RG: [Cough] There was not, we, we wound up, uh, staying at, in a one room in, ah, in a house.
PG: Oh, that's right, y'all-.
RG: A private residence.
PG: That's right.
RG: Yeah. There was no, ah, rental property, certainly no condos, uh, no really, really no, no place, no apartments.
PG: How long were you all in Charlotte before you decided to build this house?
RG: Ah, good, let's see. Well, you were 18 months old.
PG: When we moved.
RG: When we built it.
PG: Yeah.
RG: And ah, you were born-.
PG: '51.
RG: -In '51 ah-.
PG: You all came in '46. Five years.
RG: Yeah. Five years. Yeah. Ah, but, um, when we arrived into Charlotte, the main, ah, uptown of the city of Charlotte was, ah, Tryon Street, ah, Trade Street and a distance of, ah, about, ah, four blocks in either direction from the square. And that was Uptown Charlotte. Population was about, about, ah, 200,000. It was pretty small. And, ah, [cough] there were two theaters, ah, the Empire and the, ah, Carolina, which, ah, only showed movies on Sunday because they had a Blue Law. [Laugh] That it. That they didn't show them during the week then you had to go and on Sunday, and they had one showing. Ah, ah, alcohol was not approved and no beer, no wine, nothing. So, ah-.
PG: Uh, ah, it, it was completely dry? \\ Even on the-. \\
RG: \\ Completely dry. \\
PG: \\ Even the during the week. \\
RG: \\ Yeah. \\
PG: \\ Not just on Sunday. \\
RG: Yeah, completely dry. And then later on, they, um, passed a law, what they called the, uh, Brown Bag Law. When you went to a restaurant you carried your booze and, and they, they furnished you the mixes. Yeah. For a long, long time, yeah. And, ah, we, ah, ah, eventually from the, ah, room, one room we were staying in the city of Charlotte, took over a, ah, army air base which they called Morris Field and converted it, the barracks into little one bedroom apartments. And I got up one morning, ah, about five o'clock in the morning and stood in line to put my name on the list to eventually get one of those, which we eventually did. And moved out at Morris Field, ah, where, ah, our oldest daughter, Susan was born there. Then we eventually, ah, moved back to town and lived in, ah, a couple of apartments on Hawthorne Lane and then eventually, ah, had this house built which we've lived in, ah, ever since.
PG: Since '52?
RG: Yeah. \\ Since '52. \\
PG: \\ About '52. \\
RG: When we first come to the neighborhood, ah, it was called the Sharon Sanitary District. The, ah, streets were not paved.
PG: \\ Outside the city limits. \\
RG: \\ We were not out of the, \\ we were not in the city limits. Ah, and they were, I think five houses, ah, on the street at that time.
PG: All I remember is the, I do have a, ah, memory of you driving up and seeing nothing but mud. Everything was just mud.
RG: \\ Yeah. It, it, it ah-. \\
CD (Courtenay Dean): \\ Oh, really. \\
PG: \\ Uh-huh. \\ And they were building around here.
RG: Ah, we eventually got on the, ah, that came into, were taken into the city, And, ah, then was connected to the city water and the city sewerage system. But that was, ah, three or four years before we, ah, after we had lived here awhile. And then, ah, Pam and Sue, ah, were raised in this house. Ah, and ah, went to school, grammar school, junior high, and Myers Park High School while we were all living here. And then Sue, from graduation from Myers Park went and, ah, spent four years at St. Andrews in, ah, Laurinburg, uh, North Carolina.
PG: \\ I, I went to Peace and State. \\
RG: \\ And graduated from there. \\ And, ah, Pam went to ah-.
PG: Went to \\ Peace first for 2 years. \\
RG: \\ Peace, Peace and then-. \\
PG: \\ And then transferred to State. \\
RG: \\ And then transferred to NC State, \\ also worked at, ah, a bank and eventually \\ moved back to Charlotte. \\
PG: \\ That was my first job. I was a teller for Wachovia in the mid '70s. \\
RG: [Laugh].
PG: That was my first job.
RG: But, ah, while they were growing up, um, fortunately was some other, ah, little girls in the neighborhood. And they, ah, used to do, ah, a lot of things around the neighborhood, mainly playing in a place called, which they called Secret Rock. [Laugh] \\ Which was a creek. \\
PG: \\ It's totally overgrown now. \\ But if you go around the bend from your house where the \\ creek begins-. \\
RG: \\ Down on, on Sharon. \\
CD: \\ Uh-huh, uh-huh. \\
PG: There used to be a bunch of rocks which were, we thought were really big back then, but it was not over, overgrown at that point. And that was Secret Rock and that is where \\ we played.\\
RG: \\ That's, they, um, played on at Secret Rock. \\
CD: \\ Hmm! \\
PG: So everybody, all the, ah, people that were moving in at the same time were all about the same age so everybody had young kids.
RG: Yeah.
PG: And so we literally would go out early in the morning to play and didn't come in until they called us in when it got dark.
RG: \\ Yeah. \\
PG: \\ I mean it was kids everywhere. You always played outside. Everybody-. \\
RG: \\ Yeah. \\
CD: \\ Oh, really. \\
PG: \\ Played together. All the families were young. It was great. \\
RG: \\ Yeah. \\
PG: And all the dogs roamed free. You didn't have to know that, \\ there were no leash laws. \\
RG: \\ No, there were, they were, no leash laws. \\ Ah, ah, and the dogs just, ah, fortunately we had dogs that, ah, [laugh] certainly by suppertime they would, they would show up.
PG: Daddy'd whistle and \\ they would come out from wherever they'd been. \\
RG: \\ Whistle and they all come running. \\ And ah, ah, we would never have to go look for them. Um-.
PG: It's been all interesting watching how this neighborhood evolved. When we were going to school, Wendover was just a two-lane road.
RG: \\ Yeah. \\
PG: \\ A real tiny little \\ two lane road. And it had another row on each side of Gordon's trees, which were taken down, \\ when they did the-. \\
CD: \\ Uh-huh. \\
PG: Did the four lane. And going out to where South Park was, was farmland.
RG: Yeah.
PG: Wasn't it Morrison's Farm?
RG: Yeah.
PG: And that was out in the country, that was considered where South Park, \\ where South Park was. \\
RG: \\ That was, that was country. We-. \\
PG: We were heading towards country. Matthews was like, you went for a day trip. And I mean, we had some friends out in Matthews. And it was like-.
RG: \\ Yeah. \\
PG: \\ -You made plans \\ to go out there and spend the day because it was so far to get there.
RG: And ah, Providence Road was, a one, was a two land road. Um, and ah, back then, ah, getting to work, anything, that traffic was no problem, certainly now it's bumper to bumper every, every day. So-.
PG: Park Road Shopping Center was one of the first shopping centers. And then there was Cotswold and Midtown Square, used to be Charlotte Town Mall, which was a big deal.
RG: Yeah.
PG: And downtown had Ivey's, which is now Dillard's.
CD: Uh-huh.
PG: And, and I went to school with all the Ivey kids. And so-.
RG: \\ And ah-. \\
PG: \\ We had Ivey's \\ and Belk's.
RG: Ivey's and Belk's and, and, ah, department store that currently no longer exists but was called Effird's. Ah, the fact is that's what Dillard's bought Effird's-.
PG: That could be.
RG: Yeah.
PG: Montaldo's was this big, luxurious store downtown where you went to buy all the really neat stuff, you know, the really exclusive stuff. And it was just real, real exclusive back then.
RG: \\ And the big deal for the, for the ah, mothers-. \\
PG: \\ And that's where they had the, um, arts and craft museum-. \\
RG: Was, ah, sometime during the week they'd get a baby sitter or something and would go down to, ah-.
PG: Downtown to shop all day.
RG: Yeah. Ah, ah, Effird's, to ah, Ivey's where they had the Tulip Terrace which was- [laugh].
PG: Oh, that's right that was a big deal.
RG: [Laugh] Big deal to have lunch at the Tulip Terrace, ah, which was a restaurant in, ah, Ivey's.
PG: Or everybody ate at the-.
RG: \\ Yeah. \\
PG: \\ At the Woolworth's \\ at the lunch bar that they had. \\ There's nothing like it. \\
RG: \\ Yeah. But the, ah, \\ of all the department stores that were in existence then, only Belk's, ah, had the, no, Dillard's bought, ah, \\ Ivey's. Yeah. \\
PG: \\ Ivey's, yeah. \\
RG: Bought Ivey's, yeah. And, ah, Effird's just disappeared and just went out of business. And, ah, so then the survivors now are Belk's and, ah, Dillard's. Which is the mainstay of, ah, of, of ah, South Park. Ah-.
CD: Uh-huh.
PG: Even South Park was a lot different when it was first built.
RG: \\ Yeah. South Park was relatively small-. \\
PG: \\ A lot, yeah, a lot, the stores were-. \\
RG: \\ -When it was first built. And, ah, \\ [cough] ah, Park Road, was all, two, all of the streets around were, were two lanes. No, no, four lanes. Sharon Road was two lanes. And-.
PG: Not much traffic. \\ It was a small town. \\
RG: \\ Not much traffic at all. \\ And, ah, never worried about the kids being picked up and-.
PG: You didn't hear about \\ crime. \\
RG: \\ Crime, anything like that. \\
PG: The one thing that we were thinking about, though, we were trying to decide what to discuss was that when I was at A.G., Alexander-.
CD: \\ Uh-huh. \\
PG: \\-Graham, \\ that's on Runnymede, was during the Cuban Missile Crisis and so we, they had us do all kinds of, of, ah-.
RG: \\ Drills. \\
PG: \\ Exercises and drills so that we would be prepared-. \\
RG: \\ In case they had us-. \\
PG: \\ -If there was war. \\
RG: \\ -Under a missile attack. \\
PG: So Mama and Daddy had always told me to just, if we, they came and said if war had been declared to start walking home. And to just get on Runnymede and walk straight down and come straight home. And, ah, there's a house up the street that, that was real good friends of ours and they have a bomb shelter, a fall-out shelter.
CD: Uh-huh.
PG: I don't know \\ if you-. \\
RG: \\ Yeah. And one time they-. \\
PG: \\ There was a couple of homes, were older homes. \\
CD: \\ Which house? \\
RG: \\ There was a big mania. \\
PG: If you go up this way, ah, you know the house that just got bought? And they've totally razed the whole front yard and they've redone it. They've re-seeded it and planted it. And the white house across the street, it was at that one. \\ They've got a fall out shelter in their back yard. \\
CD: \\ Hmm. \\
RG: But there was, ah, ah, a craze of building bomb shelters at one time and stocking them with, ah, foodstuffs and all that business. Yeah.
PG: But they really had taught you how to plan.
RG: \\ Yeah, yeah. \\
PG: \\ And what you were going to do and-. \\
RG: Ah, but then that scare kind of went away, I guess. So, but, um, the neighborhood, ah, of course, ever since we've lived here changed considerably.
PG: Well even back then they had neighborhood parties and stuff. You all used to get together.
RG: \\ Aw, we use to have. \\
PG: \\ Real close neighborhood. \\
RG: \\ Once a month \\ we'd have a big, big neighborhood party. Everybody showed up. And everybody brought food. And um-.
PG: \\ Everybody knew everybody. Everybody knew everybody's houses. \\
RG: \\ Everybody knew everybody. \\ And bring your own booze and had a, had a great time. We really did have a fine time. Um, some of the, ah, people that lived here, ah, amazing that, ah, over a period of time they either would move away or they'd die, and then the estate would, would sell the property and, ah, and again another neighbor or two would come in.
PG: But it's been good because every time somebody new comes in, they'd renovate.
CD: Uh-huh.
PG: And it really kept the neighborhood-.
RG: Yeah. And they, um, fortunately, um, seems like that everybody's moved into this neighborhood has been pretty diligent about keeping up the yards and the property, and all that sort of thing.
PG: Your mom was asking me when I was growing up-.
RG: [Cough].
PG: -Ah, that it was so rural that we had a friend down the street on one of the houses right before you get on Wendover at the end that had a pony in the backyard. So all the neighborhood kids would go down and you didn't have to ask or anything. They had them in the stables and you'd just go back in the backyard and, and get the pony out, and put the saddle on it, ride all around the backyard. So a lot of families around here had, um, horses.
RG: Yeah.
PG: One of my friend's families had a big enough \\ piece of property. \\
RG: \\ Most everybody, most everybody had a dog \\ [laugh].
PG: \\ Yeah. \\
RG: All had dogs.
PG: It was just a real feeling of, ah-.
RG: \\ Lot of togetherness. \\
PG: \\ Yeah. \\ Everybody was buddies, knew everybody.
RG: \\ People knew everybody. \\ And, ah, um, real nice congenial neighborhood \\ to be in. \\
PG: \\ All the kids \\ grew up together. Everybody was in your, you know, all your neighbors were in school with you. You, you went through literally, you went through grade school and high school with everybody that lived around you.
RG: And it was only, ah, oh golly, when Sue was in, ah, Myers Park that they started integration, ah, of the schools. But they were trying to, ah-.
PG: The bussing started.
RG: Then bussing started. Ah-.
PG: Which, which at the time there was no tension whatsoever about it that I remember.
RG: No, nobody paid any attention to it. They had colored kids, uh, over at, uh, the other schools and no one paid any attention to that. Nobody, you know, said anything bad or, um, a lot of the colored kids would just stick with their friends, to the white kids. And ah-.
PG: There was no problem while I was at A.G. and there wasn't any problem then.
RG: \\ No, seemed like \\ news, news media been the ones that built it up and made a big deal out of it.
PG: It's just been real interesting, ah, having been born and raised here and then seeing all the transitions and it's nothing like it used to be growing up-.
RG: No.
PG: Nothing.