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Multi-party Conversation with Flora Miller

Miller, Flora
Miller, Earl;White, Tammy
White, Randy
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming Obstacles; Relationships with People and Places; Childhood Adventures; Tolerance and Respect
Flora Miller talks about the experiences she had growing up in the 1940s and 1950s.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Randy White interviews his mother-in-law to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
FM (Flora Miller): Born in Wadesboro.
RW (Randy White): Westburg?
EM (Earl Miller): Born in a cabbage patch.
FM: Born in Wadesboro. W-A-D-E-S-B-O-R-O.
RW: Wadesboro.
EM: Born under a collard green.
FM: NC. It's in Anson County.
RW: Anson County. That's in NC?
FM: [Long pause] Uh-huh. My--.
RW: Your earliest recollections that you remember?
FM: Jumping off a building.
RW: Jumping?
FM: It gave you a sort of high.
TW (Tammy White): A tall building?
FM: Well, tall to me then, but it wasn't really all that tall. Um. [Long pause] Playing in the woods. [Pause] Which you can't do nowadays there isn't hardly, there isn't any. Um. [Long pause]
RW: Well, what you mean?
FM: Well.
RW: What was the automobiles like and stuff back then?
FM: The first one I ever saw had a bird braid, with a part of the A model.
RW: Model T?
FM: No, there was the A model. A. And my uncle had one. They made a funny sound, "Click, click, click, click." Um. [Long pause] There was a, let's see. Five of us then, my brother lived with us. We lived in this little two-room house. Five people.
RW: Five people in two rooms.
FM: Um-huh.
RW: Did you have wire, electricity?
FM: Yes.
RW: Oh, well. [Long pause]
FM: They had a fireplace in that little house. It looked more like a little dollhouse then a, you know like a little playhouse or something. [Pause] It had two porches on it. [Pause] And um, we had rabbits. Pet rabbits and I had a pet chicken. And I taught a pet and asked her where her eggs were. And she would take me to them. My dad sold them to the grocer and I wouldn't ever eat another chicken that came from the grocery store. I was afraid I'd be eating my pet.
RW: I don't--.
FM: That's right. [Long pause] I was afraid I would be eating my pet. And so I never ate any more chicken from that grocery store. I remember down in the woods. I had this like a--. Partner. Stepping on them flowers. And climb them trees. The taller the better. Guess I was a tomboy. Tammy was too. [Laughter] [Pause] It's a small thing, but Daddy was an alcoholic. And sometime good times and sometimes not so good times. [Long pause] It's pretty good up and until he was a truck driver. And went along on them long hauls sometimes. Went up to New York and everything. And get snow bound. Got gas in the truck. Driving a truck to him was like a habit or something, you know. He'd hear the sound of a truck and tell you what it was. That's a white. That's a diesel, and then he couldn't drive it anymore. [Pause] He became a plumber's helper, you know and it killed him. He had about a fifth grade education. [Long pause]
RW: How's that?
FM: I remember we were coming up to Charlotte to visit. They still had um, the way they delivered milk was in a, [pause] with a horse. The thing they pulled. I can remember waking up to the sound of the horse, "Clip, clop, clip, clop." And I don't know, it sort of made you feel secure. And that's the way they brought around ice too. They didn't have any refrigerators then. Maybe some people did, but most people didn't. [Long pause] And believe it or not that was in the 40s, 50s.
RW: That's during World War II? You probably don't remember that do you?
FM: Um-huh. No. I know I was living then, but don't know. I remember some little things. They were playing war games, near our house in Wadesboro and they got, them guys got Mama to bake them a cake. Is that twenty minutes of recording? [Laughter] [Cough] Well, I just told you that Daddy was an alcoholic. So, when I was a teenager. I was so embarrassed, you know my friends would come by. It's a small town. So everybody knows that he's one of the town drunks, I mean there were quite a few of them. And I told Mama that it was darn right embarrassing he'd get drunk, you know, like in the summer time and then he'd get as far the yard and pass out. I told Mama it was embarrassing for my friends to come by there, ride by there, there he was laying in the yard passed out. So the next time he started to lay down in the yard Mama told him, she said, "Clayton, if I were you would not lay down in the yard and go to sleep." He mumbled something or other and laid down in the yard and went to sleep. She took him by his feet and we had steps to go up on the porch. And pulled him up, his head going, "Bump, bump, bump," all the way up them steps.
RW: It's bad when you don't even feel it. [Laughter]
FM: Oh, he was saying, "Oh, oh, oh." He felt it. [Laughter]
TW: He was just to drunk to do anything about it. Wasn't he? [Long pause]
FM: Drinking I don't understand. They say they drink to forget their troubles and then that's all they talk about. [Pause] Me, when I'm drinking I get sick on the stomach. My mother said that God has blessed me and made me that way because I could have been like Daddy and could have been an alcoholic. [Pause] I can't understand how anyone likes the taste of it. [Long pause] Where's the boys?
TW: At home.
RW: When did you, uh, get married?
FM: No. I came up here to work.
TW: Did you mean to leave him?
FM: He left me first. He was in prison. He went to prison.
TW: Oh.
FM: And I'm still writing to him up here, but I met George Watkins and I really don't know how to pick men. He um, believe it or not I met him in the church, but he turned out to be a paranoid schizophrenic. And his doctor said he was dangerous and it was best that I got away from him.
TW: But you didn't listen to his doctor, did you?
FM: Yes.
TW: No, you waited until he ran you out the door.
FM: I was out the door that time. I just had on black shorts and red shirt and I was a witch. Living with him you had to be careful of what you wore. What colors. How you picked up anything on the dresser and put it down or you were arranging some witchcraft stuff. The reason the doctor say I shouldn't live there is that. Um, he thought the Bible said, well it does say don't suffer a witch to live, so he might kill me. I was teaching ya'll, my kids witchcraft too he said. [Long pause] Well, like I told you Tammy I could tell bits and parts of my life story and make, I don't know how many books. If I could just get into it, sit down and think about it and do it.
TW: Sitting down and writing it should remind you of some of the battles.
FM: I would read the True Story magazine sometimes and think, "Good gosh she didn't have it any rougher then I did. And why did she go out and become a heron addict or--"
TW: Was your whole life bad or did you have anything good happen?
FM: I had fun. I danced. Um, I sang. And my best friend was Eleanor Ruth Hare. And [pause] we went everywhere together. Well, we didn't go to many places because we couldn't sneak out that much.
TW: You were quite an artist too. You love to draw women's clothes.
FM: A designer is what my teacher said I ought to be. I did. I'd draw them, Sarah my older sister, would make them. [Long pause] Um, when I had fun was after I went to work for Schmick in wiring electric duck heaters. I had fun doing that.
TW: You loved that job.
FM: I love wiring electric duck heaters. And--.
TW: You love the people too, it was like a family.
FM: Um-huh.
TW: Made you feel at home.
FM: And then they closed out the electric duck. You know the heaters. The wiring they say just um, air conditioning units and all those things were big and everything, but I still enjoyed working there because I knew the people. I worked there for about ten years. And then--.
TW: You made very good money for people during that time too. For a woman.
FM: Yeah. I was the only woman in that place making the kind of money an inspector made. Electric duck heaters. But the men weren't jealous of me like they said you know that they were. Most places.
TW: \\ The men--. \\
FM: \\ The men helped me get the job. [Cough] \\
TW: I noticed that about mine too. They helped.
FM: They taught me what I ought to know. To get the job right before I was to go for the interview they told me everything I suppose to know when I went in there I knew it.
RW: That's good.
FM: They said, "You got it on your own. You remembered things real well." [Pause] I had been going over there and helping the temporary inspector anyway. [Pause] We had to learn about the air gauges, how much air would go in them things that make those, I can't even remember the name of them now. Fly open and shut when you put air to it. [Pause] And then, I married Earl and along came Nicole, call her Buttons on there so--. And um, [long pause] that made me stay young I think, Nicole.
TW: You got with her what you couldn't have with us.
FM: Because I had to work all the time with them. I worked quite a few with Nicole too.
TW: But you got to do more--
FM: Went to the beach a lot. [Long pause] At that time I had kids of all ages, one grown up, one thought she was grown up, and [pause] Amy was just real quiet, [pause] Nicole was never quiet.
RW: You had all girls.
FM: Um-huh. [Pause] I had a miscarriage. Swore it was a boy. [Long pause]
TW: All the people during that period, the 50s.
FM: I was born the last you know '39, so '49, I wasn't nothing but about 10 years old.
TW: So the 50s were when you were a teenager.
FM: Um-huh.
TW: What did you wear?
FM: At the last of the 50s?
TW: What you wear the most?
FM: What I'd wear?
TW: What music did you listen to?
FM: I listened to Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, uh, [cough] Elvis Presley, The Platters.
TW: Elvis wasn't your favorite was he?
FM: He was everybody's favorite.
TW: Everybody's favorite. [Laughter]
FM: Except the daddies [laughter] and mamas. Mama liked him pretty good.
TW: What about your boyfriends. Boyfriends liked him?
FM: They liked his music. They didn't particularly like him.
TW: They didn't like the girls liking him so much.
FM: Um-huh. They liked his music. Earl likes his music. And, um, Elvis, [pause] Elvis is sort of a legend. If he had become a preacher. He had the charisma to.
TW: \\ To bring in the sheep. \\
FM: \\ Uh-huh. [Long pause] \\
TW: Tell me about Elma Ruth before she run away from training school.
FM: She came to me then I hurt her feelings because I told her she couldn't stay there, but I was staying with Sarah.
TW: How old was she?
FM: 15.
TW: Why was she in training school?
FM: Um, she was with this girl named Barbara and they told, [pause] they looked older then what they were. Although the guy at the car lot should have asked for their driver license. And they use to let you take the cars and drive them around with nobody in them, but now you know they stay with you.
TW: Yes.
FM: And they went on a joy ride in it. [Laughter] They took the car and went on a joy ride. But, it was called stealing because they didn't take it back.
TW: They didn't give them any warning or probation like they do nowadays?
FM: Well, she'd, Elma had a lot of warnings about school.
TW: She didn't go to school?
FM: Playing hooky. [Cough] They put her there.
TW: You said she was beautiful.
FM: I thought she was. She had jet-black hair. I mean it was black as ace of spades. And a pretty complexion, but I got along better with her then I did with my sisters.
TW: How long have you been friends?
FM: Since when we were little tiny things and sliding down the bank--. Red mud in little white panties. [Laughter]
TW: When did you stop seeing her? When you moved to Charlotte?
FM: Well, we saw each other after I moved to Charlotte when I go back down there to visit, but when she moved to um, some, [pause] I can't think of the name of the place. Just lost touch with her. She got married and moved.
TW: So ya'll were friends on up until you were teenagers.
FM: Um-huh. I talked to her one time when I lived in South Carolina. My daughter Debbie gave, called her, found out where she was, what her phone number was and called her and had this three way calling and we talked to each other.
TW: It's quite common now, but it was new when Debbie done it.
FM: It, it wasn't the same. I guess you just can't go back, but I still would like to see her. But when we uh, drive through Wadesboro going to the beach and everything, nothings the same down there either.