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Interview with Jean Graham Ford

Ford, Jean Graham
Kratt, Mary
Date of Interview: 
Billy Graham Crusades; Farming; Farm life; Department stores; Chalmers ARP Church; Tenth Avenue Presbyterian Church; Calvary Presbyterian Church; Evangelical work; Religion - Southern States; Charlotte Rescue Mission; Christian Men's Club; Marriage; Dilworth neighborhood; Gender roles.
Jean Ford describes her life growing up on the Graham Brothers Dairy Farm in Charlotte, NC, including information about work and leisure activities. She discusses her earliest memories of her family, specifically her brother the Reverend Billy Graham. Ford talks about the important role religion played in her family's life, including her families' church affiliations, religion in the home, and various crusades and sermons led by her brother Billy. In addition to family information, Ford paints a picture of Charlotte in the 1930s and 1940s by reminiscing about trips to the downtown and Dilworth areas to retail stores and restaurants.
Interview Setting: 
Interview took place at Dove's Court Lane, Charlotte, NC
Levine Museum of the New South, Billy Graham Series
Interview Audio: 
MK (Mary Kratt): This is Mary Kratt recording continued interviews concerning Billy Graham and his growing up and his family. This is June the 6th, 1996. [Ms. Kratt has some difficulty with her equipment at the beginning of the interview] Jean Ford, Mrs. Leighton Ford, on Dove's Court Lane in the Morrocroft farm section of Charlotte right off Colony Road. This is Mary Kratt with Jean Ford. All right. I'm speaking with Jean Ford in her home in South Park on Dove's Roost Court. The leaf-blower man has finished [Laughter] and so, her houseguests have gone so we're ready to talk about growing up out on Park Road. And I'm just going to ask you--. What we're interested in is the era of Billy Graham's existence in Charlotte. The family and how it relates to Charlotte.
JF (Jean Ford): OK.
MK: You lived in this--? First let me say, what, what year were you born? Can you tell me?
JF: I was born in '32.
MK: 1932?
JF: Um-hum.
MK: So you were his younger sister?
JF: Yeah. He was born about thirteen and a half years before I was. So things had changed probably by the time I was born because he was born in, what we call, the old house, and I was born in the new house.
MK: Which of those houses was, was he born in?
JF: Well, I guess he was born in this one, although it did not look like that by the time I came along.
MK: Um-hum. Um-hum.
JF: I guess this is the old house, although that doesn't look like I remembered it.
MK: Um-hum. How did you remember it?
JF: Well, just different from that. My sister, that you will be talking to later, lived the house.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And I did not, and so she'll be able to tell you about that. I, I just remember it was an old frame house that had a lot of trees in the front, and the roof, to me, did not look like that. I'm not sure this is the old house. I, this may be daddy's house, where he was born.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: My father's house. I don't know that.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: Is this the one you were told?
MK: Melvin,
JF: (Was torn down soon--?)
MK: Melvin talked about those two houses.
JF: Oh, OK.
MK: Uh-huh.
JF: Well then Melvin probably would know, too.
JF: But just show that to Catherine.
MK: OK, I will. I will.
JF: Yeah.
MK: But, you were born in the house that I recall, which is the brick house
JF: Yes.
MK: That was up close to what's now the Wachovia Bank at Montford.
JF: Right. Yes.
MK: About fifty yards south of--. I don't--. It would be fifty yards
JF: North.
MK: out of town from, from the Wachovia Bank.
JF: Yes, yes but about fifty yards north of the old house.
JF: Yeah. Yeah.
MK: Is that marker in front of the IBM building, is that located correctly?
JF: Yes, it is.
MK: Do you remember?
JF: Yes, it is.
MK: As being sited on the site of the old--.
JF: Yes.
MK: The original house?
JF: And I don't know when they tore that original house down. Melvin may have told you that, but I don't remember the year they tore that down.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: Probably mid-50s, something like that.
MK: Um-hum. Well how do you remember your family growing up in that house? Was--. Who was there from your--? When you go back to your earliest memory, who, who, whom do you remember in the house?
JF: Well, we had cousins that lived with us off and on a few months at a time. I remember that, and of course Melvin and Catherine and Billy. I remember--. I don't remember an awful lot as a, as a real young child. I remember my daddy better than anybody else when I was young.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: He was older when I was born, forty-four or forty-five, and, and I probably felt closer to him than I did to anybody else
MK: Um-hum.
JF: at that particular time as I was growing up. Those are just feelings I have.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: My first memory of Billy is he, he carrying me on his shoulder and singing to me. And when I was probably just, you know, maybe two, two and a half, that's my first memory. And he couldn't sing, and I remember that. He, he could not carry a tune.
MK: What, what was he singing?
JF: He was singing "Polly Wolly Doodle All Day," you know.
MK: Do you, did you play with him or--?
JF: No, I don't remember that.
MK: Or did you play games--? There was that dis, distance in your ages.
JF: No, I don't remember that. In fact, I don't remember our playing games ever.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: Daddy and Mother worked full time and long hours. Mother would go to bed at, at midnight. I remember this when I was growing up: that she would go to bed at midnight and be up at 5:00 or 5:30.
MK: What do you remember her doing?
JF: Just working around the house. She kept the books for the dairy and was very diligent and precise in doing that. She was a perfectionist by nature. She was an excellent cook, and we always had a lot of company visiting, ministers from all over the country. Way back then, when I was little, I remember that- having a lot of visitors. And then mother would cook a lot for the people who would come in to harvest in the fall.
MK: On your farm?
JF: On the farm. Yes.
MK: So, so it was not just the diary farm. You were growing forages? What crops were you growing that they were harvesting?
JF: Well, it would be hay. It would be wheat, alfalfa, all sorts of things. Again, Melvin would be a lot better at that than I would be.
MK: Um-hum. Do you recall--? Why were all these ministers visiting your house?
JF: You know I really don't know that. That's a, that's a very interesting question. I just don't know that.
MK: What church did you all go to when you remember it?
JF: I remember barely going to Chalmers ARP. By the time I was about five, we left there and went to Tenth Avenue Presbyterian. I barely remember that. And then my father and mother were some of the founding members of Calvary, and they started meeting in the old- gracious, I can't even remember where we met first-some downtown building. Those are some of my first memories.
MK: You're speaking of Calvary Presbyterian--.
JF: Yes.
MK: Which was, a brick building beside Presbyterian Hospital there--.
JF: It was after--. Yeah.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: But when it was first formed, they met downtown somewhere in some building, not, not a church building.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: An office building of some sort. I can't remember where we met. Maybe it was Central--. I'm not sure whether it was Central High School or not.
MK: Did you ever have chores or do anything on the farm?
JF: Yeah.
MK: What did you have to do?
JF: I loved to work out on the farm, and Mother did not like for me to do that because that's not what a little girl was supposed to do. I milked cows, and I drove--. I loved to drive the wagons with the mules, and I wanted to go anywhere Daddy went. And I loved to milk and to work out in the fields. I didn't do hard labor out on the fields, but he would let me drive the mule wagons. And he taught me to drive his old Ford pickup truck by the time I was ten, and I was driving a lot by the time I was ten or eleven.
MK: On Park Road or around the farm?
JF: Around the farm but on Park Road also.
MK: What ca--, what do you remember Park Road being like?
JF: A little, barely two-lane road where a very few cars went down it every day.
MK: Was it dirt?
JF: No, not when I was--.
MK: Was it gravel?
JF: No.
MK: Macadam?
JF: It was, it was--.
MK: Some sort of hard
JF: Yeah. Um-hum.
MK: surface, but narrow.
JF: Yes, yes. And we, you know, you'd see a car coming down the road, and you would know who's car it was because there was so few of us around there. And then where Woodlawn is now, it dead-ended into Park Road. And it, it, it's what we called "the sand-clay road" because it was a dirt road.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And that was the road that we took to go to school.
MK: Where did you go to school?
JF: Woodlawn. Over on Woodlawn Road. And we would walk up to the bus- at least I did- up to the corner of Park Road and what is now Woodlawn and catch a bus on this old dirt road.
MK: You milked cows by hand, of course?
JF: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
MK: Do the cows have names?
JF: No, no. A few of them may have, but they had a lot of cows, and I don't remember any names.
MK: Um-hum. Did Billy milk cows too? Did you recall?
JF: Well I understand he did. I don't remember that.
MK: That would be a different time when he was, he was so much older. He was--. Was he away at school?
JF: You mean when I was born? [Clears throat]
MK: Um-hum. Or early on.
JF: He left, yeah. By the time I was about three or four, he left.
MK: Um-hum. I think he went away when he was sixteen or seventeen
JF: [Clears throat]
MK: to, to, to a school--.
JF: Yeah.
MK: The one in Florida.
JF: Well he went to Bob Jones first,
MK: Uh-huh.
JF: for six months or something. And I do remember that. It was really funny. Daddy went up to get him. The school then was at Cleveland, in Cleveland, Tennessee. And I remember being in bed, and when Daddy came home with him, late at night, or one or two o'clock in the morning. And I was so excited that he was home. That was his first year in, first semester at Bob Jones.
MK: Do you remember his ever preaching like on street corners or --?
JF: No.
MK: Or anywhere in Charlotte?
JF: I remember perhaps the first message he preached was at Sharon Presbyterian that I heard. And I remember Mother telling me--. I don't remember this, but Mother said I sat and put my hands to my ears because I said he was so loud. And I was probably about maybe five or six or seven. I do remember it. I remember his preaching. I don't remember putting my hands to my ears.
MK: Did you all ever go to Sharon Presbyterian?
JF: Not my family. Leighton and I did after we were married.
MK: Um-hum. But that was probably the closest church to your farm.
JF: Yeah, probably. Yeah, probably.
MK: It's a very old church on a very old farm road.
JF: Yes, yes. And Mr. Little was the pastor back then. I remember him, and I think he and Daddy were pretty good friends, but that's not where we went to church. [Clears throat.]
MK: There's some stories about goats. That your family kept goats, and Billy liked goats particularly.
JF: Yeah.
MK: Do you remember any of that?
JF: Oh yeah, I do. I do remember that. And I, I loved goats. And actually Melvin one year for Christmas got a little goat wagon. And he had a little goat that he would hook up to this wagon, and they would go and pick vegetables across the road. And I remember one time going over and taking his goat and his goat wagon and taking it home and leaving him with all the vegetables to carry by hand. [Laughter]
MK: Did you--. If you wanted to buy something--. Now and you said you liked to ride with your father
JF: Uh-huh.
MK: on the, in the wagon. Or they had a car? Do you--?
JF: Oh, yeah. They had a car and trucks and, you know. Yeah.
MK: If you wanted to buy something, though, where did you go?
JF: You mean groceries or what?
MK: Anything.
JF: Oh, we went downtown, or uptown. For anything.
MK: For, for regular shopping?
JF: For a spool of thread, we had to go to town.
MK: So you'd get in the car--?
JF: [Clears throat] Yeah.
MK: And go.
JF: Um-hum, um-hum.
MK: And you'd--. Would you--. How--. What route do you remember that you would go?
JF: We'd go up Park Road to what was then Avondale and go up to East Boulevard to South Boulevard. Oh, to South Tryon, I'm sorry, to South Tryon. And then go up South Tryon. My mother did not drive. [Clears throat.] Excuse me. Mother did not drive, and Daddy had to take her everywhere she went. And we have some funny stories about that, I'm sure.
MK: Why? [Laughter]
JF: Well because, [Laughter] Mother would call Daddy out of the field to take her to Ivey's downtown to change a spool of thread. [Laughter] And I remember many a time [Clears throat] sitting at the side door of, of Ivey's and waiting for Daddy to pick us up. And he was supposed to pick us up at 12:00, and he'd show up at 1:30, always saying, "Oh, well my watch said--." We teased him a lot about that.
MK: If you wanted like an ice cream cone--.
JF: Uh-huh.
MK: Where would you have gone?
JF: We would go--. There were two pla--. Well, for an ice cream cone, the closest place I can remember is Niven's Drugstore on Park Avenue. In the Dilworth section.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And Daddy went down there every Saturday night to get a haircut and shave, and Melvin and I would go with him. And he'd give us a nickel to spend, you know, and Melvin would usually get a Moon Pie.
MK: Is, is that the drug store that's still there that was made into a hardware store?
JF: I believe it's still there. It was until recently. I haven't been down there recently.
MK: There's one there. It's almost at the corner of, where, what is now Ideal Way comes into Park Road.
JF: No, no, no, no.
MK: That's not it?
JF: No. No.
MK: Where is--?
JF: This is up on Park Avenue. Park Avenue runs into, to South Boulevard.
JF: That's where.
MK: Where Harris, Hart, that part?
JF: Across the street from that.
MK: Across the street?
JF: Yes, yes.
MK: So it would have been on the railroad track side.
JF: Something. Yes, yes.
MK: That, that little group of stores that are right there together?
JF: Yeah, there was a, there was a barbershop there and Niven's Drugstore, and I think it still, it may still be there.
MK: The building is.
JF: Yes.
MK: I know exactly where, what
JF: Uh-huh.
MK: you are talking about. So really the drugstore was about--. Was there anything else in the Dilworth area that you would have used?
JF: Not that I remember.
MK: Um-hum. Chalmer's though, was there.
JF: Yes, yes, yes. But I--. And, and my--. I had two aunts that lived in, in the Dilworth area so we went up there quite a bit to see them, my mother's sisters. One older and one--. Well both of them were older than mother.
MK: Do you remember--?
JF: [Clears throat]
MK: We, we've, we're talking about the goats. Were these big goats or little goats or there, or?
JF: I, I don't remember big goats.
MK: Uh-huh. And they would be like out in a pasture by themselves or--?
JF: Yeah or just running around the dairy farm.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: There was a brown one that I particularly liked, and I've forgotten what we named him, but--. When I was little I, I do remember that.
MK: There's a story about the family, that Billy bringing the goats in the house when your mother was gone. Is that--? Have you ever hear that story?
JF: I don't remember that. I don't remember that. I doubt that that happened in the new house.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: You know, I doubt that.
MK: More like the old house?
JF: Yeah. I don't remember that at all.
MK: People now can't remember much about how there were fences. Everywhere was, was fences because people had loose chickens.
JF: Yeah.
MK: And loose dogs, and loose guinea hens and all sorts of things. So almost everything was fenced--.
JF: Yeah.
MK: Along the country roads
JF: [Clears throat]
MK: that I remember. What, what--. Do you remember going to Bonclarken? Melvin said that he and Billy sometimes went.
JF: No. I, I, I've been to Bonclarken but I don't remember going there as a child.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: I remember going to a place called the Blue Ridge Assembly.
MK: Yes.
JF: And I remember that as a child going.
MK: My father remembers meeting your dad at some meetings for the Rescue Mission.
JF: Uh-huh.
MK: He was on the board of the Rescue Mission. And he said he's extremely religious man. He remembers him as a, as a very religious man. Do you remember that?
JF: Oh yeah. Well yeah, I remem--. Daddy was a very quiet person by nature. Had a very quiet way about him. But deeply committed to the Lord.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And he certainly did not wear that on his sleeve to talk about as much as I think his life exemplified that.
MK: How would you--? What were
JF: [Clears throat]
MK: some examples of that? [Pause] Some of the kinds of things he would have done?
JF: [Pause] I think perhaps his--. Gracious, that's a hard one to, to answer. I just, you know, for me personally, to watch him and, and to know that his life matched his beliefs was really, really important. That's not to make him a saint. But I, you know, I--. Back in the early days when [Pause] there was a lot of going on in the church with, with the session, for instance. The elders would just fight each other almost, and Daddy would, you know, he'd let them go through all that and he'd just say, "Well, let's just pray about it."
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And it, a whole calm would come over. I remember this in congregational meetings when there would be a lot of arguing going on, and Daddy would just say, "Well let's just pray about it." And he, he would lead in prayer and a, just a calm would come over.
MK: Did he do that at, at home?
JF: He prayed at home. We had family prayers every night no matter what we were doing. When he's at--. When he or Mother said it was time to pray, Mother would always read the scripture and Daddy would always pray.
MK: How did she know what scripture to read? Or did he ask her to read certain thing or did she--?
JF: No, she would do that on her own. And I don't really remember how she would--.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: Or whether, whether we went through a book at a time. I, I really don't remember that. I just remember that no matter what we were doing,
MK: Um-hum.
JF: when they said it was time for family prayer, it was time for family prayer.
MK: Would that be like in a certain room?
JF: We always had that in the den. Uh-huh.
MK: Would you kneel on the floor? Would you
JF: No.
MK: sit on a chair?
JF: No, no. We just sat.
MK: ( ). And whom do you remember being there most of the time?
JF: I mainly remember Melvin because he's the one next to me in age, and Mother and Daddy.
MK: Do you think they'd always done that or was there something--?
JF: I doubt that. I imagined this happened as a result of that, that meeting that was held in '34 when Billy was converted.
MK: [Bell rings] The Mordecai Ham
JF: Yes. Yes.
MK: meeting and so forth? Melvin mentioned that that really changed their lives. The whole family's life.
JF: See, that--. And I was what, a year and a half or something so. See, I don't remember previous to that, of course.
MK: Do you remember--? So that's, so you would be, would have been a year and a half old when that meeting was held.
JF: Yeah, or two.
MK: So your recall--, recollection would be what the family lore is about it?
JF: That's right. Absolutely.
MK: How did--? How do you tell that story? What do you remember about it?
JF: Just what I have been told. Just that, you know, what Billy has told over and over himself. How he went and tried to hide behind some woman's hat or something, and thought well, he would get away by singing in the choir. I can't imagine his singing in the choir. And how he really committed his life to Christ at that, at that particular time and how his life was absolutely transformed. And course I don't have any recollection of that at all, personally.
MK: Um-hum. The meetings in which your father would get up to calm the conflict--.
JF: Um-hum.
MK: Was that at the Calvary Presbyterian Church that you recollect that?
JF: They, when they left Tenth Avenue Presbyterian Church, they formed what was called a Bible Presbyterian Church, and it was in the Bible Presbyterian Church that I remember that happening. There was a great deal of emphasis put on separation, which they thought was biblical teaching, and I think Daddy and Mother both felt that they took it too far.
MK: Separation from what?
JF: Well, from the world.
MK: As the Amish would do, or something like that?
JF: Not that, not that far. But that it would be sin to go to a football game or a baseball game. Not to have any, excuse me, association with the world at all.
MK: Um-hum. Did that affect--? What, what were your Sundays like?
JF: Of course, they had to work. I mean, they did not work the fields on Sunday. They worked everything else. And, of course, the dairy had to keep going; the cows had to be milked. Sundays to me were a boring day when I was growing up.
MK: Were there things you could not do on Sundays that you could do other days?
JF: Oh yeah, like almost everything. [Laughter] Mother did not even like me to read the comics on Sunday.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And even as late as when my children came along, if mother came to visit us, I did not even want them to bounce a ball, because that would be, really offend her.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: They were allowed to do it if Mother wasn't there. [Laughter]
MK: Did they call it the sabbath as they did--?
JF: Probably growing up, they probably did for--. Not after we left the ARP church, not after we left Chalmers. Her sisters did. They continued to do that.
MK: Do you remember going to some of the early meetings out of town that Billy would hold? And some of the
JF: Yeah.
MK: early crusades, the earliest
JF: Yeah.
MK: crusade in Charlotte? What, what do you remember of that early one?
JF: Well I--. The earliest crusade in Charlotte was '47 or '48. I was in high school. Now remember- this is a crazy thing to remember. It's funny what you remember. I remember what clothes I had to wear. I remember the boy I was dating. His name was Jimmy Todd, lived over on Vale Avenue. Cute boy. I remember Gilbert Dodds who was a runner, one of the champion runners back in his day that came and ran around the old Armory and then gave his testimony.
MK: On that day he did that?
JF: Yes, yes. And I remember the marimba player that they had.
MK: Was this in the afternoon or at night?
JF: No, at night.
MK: Uh-huh.
JF: And it went on, I don't know how long it went on. I'm sure you have record of that.
MK: Several days.
JF: Oh, I thought two or three weeks.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: Now I believe that was the first crusade that Cliff-that Bev Shea sang in. And I remember that very well.
MK: In the old Armory Auditorium?
JF: Yeah, yes.
MK: Which is now behind the, it, the site is behind Central Piedmont on Kings Drive.
JF: That's right. [Clears throat] You might have to turn that off. [Coughing] [RECORDING INTERRPUTED][RECORDING RESUMED]
MK: Let' s see, I was going to ask you [Pause] a little bit more about that revival. You said you remembered what you had on. What you--.
JF: In '40--.
MK: What you were going to wear. In '47.
JF: Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.
MK: What did you wear?
JF: Well Mother had made me--. Mother made a lot of my clothes back then. I, I didn't have many clothes actually. But I remember she made me a aqua wool vest and skirt. And I bought a white blouse to go with it. That's a funny thing to remember, but I was so proud of that.
MK: Do you remember where you sat in the auditorium?
JF: No. No, I do not.
MK: Do you remember what Billy wore?
JF: No. No, I don't.
MK: Do you remember anything about that [Clears throat] service at all, other--?
JF: No, I think I went every night. I think--. And no I don't remember. I don't. I remember that--. That's what I said. It's funny when I remember [Laughter]. I don't remember what he preached on or--. I know I was really proud of him, and I was in high school and I just remember being really proud of him.
MK: Did you go to the others to that were here? The subsequent ones?
JF: Yes, I did. Yep. Uh-huh.
MK: Do you remember anything about those in particular?
JF: Yeah, I remember the one in '58. The week before the crusade started, our daughter was born. So I, I remember that very well. And Leighton at that time was working with Billy. Leighton worked with Billy for thirty-one years. So we had a lot of involvement in the crusades. Now I remember the one in '58 very well. I remember the one in '72 probably, or was it '72? Probably. I'm--. Let's see, probab--. It's '71 or '72. And I remember our son Sandy, who has died now, or died when he was 21. I remember his, his sitting there when he was ten or eleven years old, and I remember he was wearing a little blue coat. And he took notes of every single message that Billy preached. And I thought that was so remarkable for a ten or eleven year old to do.
MK: Um-hum. Did you save those? Do you have those anywhere?
JF: No, no.
MK: Now?
JF: No.
MK: Now in reading about your family, I came across this quote in Marshall Frady's book, and it's where Billy Graham says to Jean, you, after you had-after he had come to know Leighton, and after you had met him. And this is the quote. "You hold on tight to Leighton. Don't let him go. I could walk around the world a hundred times, and I'd never find a fellow I'd rather have for a brother-in-law."
JF: Yeah he did. On our third date he told me that. Yeah.
MK: Where was that?
JF: We were in--. We had just dated once or twice and we were in college at Wheaton, Illinois, and Billy was holding a crusade in St. Louis, Missouri and we drove down for a weekend. And Billy told me that.
MK: Can you say that, so it could--. In your own words rather than--?
JF: Yeah, I just remember him saying to me, "I could walk around the world many times and never find anybody I'd rather for you to marry than Leighton Ford."
MK: That carried a lot of weight with you?
JF: Probably not. I just, I loved Leighton for who he was. In fact, Billy had told me about Leighton two or three years before that. And when we got to college together, we did not look each other up because we--. Leighton's mother kept saying to him, "Don't forget now, you haven't met Billy Graham's sister." And we were not interested at all. And we dated once, and then we dated twice and just, sort of, on our second date we fell hopelessly in love.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: But I was glad he felt that way.
MK: Oh, yeah.
JF: And then, well, he married us in--.
MK: Where was that?
JF: Here at Calvary. And he told us that night, he'd, he'd been married ten years. We were married in '53. He told us, he said, "I've never been so nervous." And he said, " And now that Leighton and Jean have exchanged wings." And, of course, with that, everybody laughed.
MK: Now, that would have been at Calvary, where you got married, would have been there beside the Presbyterian Hospital?
JF: Yes, yes. Across the street.
MK: Was that not the building that was called Bible Presbyterian earlier?
JF: Yes it was. Earlier, um-hum.
MK: Because I remember its changing names.
JF: Yeah.
MK: And then it moved out to, beside where I lived on Sardis Road.
JF: Right.
MK: Before it moved to--.
JF: 51.
MK: To Highway 51--.
JF: Uh-huh.
MK: Which is a very recent thing. One other thing really is about all I have to ask, unless you can think of something else. When you, when you remember going down to Charlotte you described the route which you, in the car and all, you would go down town. What do you remember being--? Can you describe what downtown Charlotte was like?
JF: Well, [Laughter] I don't remember much except Ivey's and Belk and Efird's. And a store on the corner was Kresky's or Kress, Kress, Kress's?
MK: Kress's.
JF: Kress's, yeah.
MK: Dime Store.
JF: Yeah, yeah.
JF: And that's about all I remember in the early years.
MK: Do you remember anything about Efird's in particular?
JF: I may be mistaken in this, but back about the time I had polio, I remember going down there because we would shop there simply because, if I remember correctly, it was the only air conditioned store. Belk and Ivey's didn't, were not air conditioned.
MK: Do remember another singular feature of, of Efird's?
JF: No, I don't.
MK: I, I was, I was trying to get at the escalator.
JF: No, I don't remember.
MK: Because it had an escalator that I, is what I recall is being--.
JF: Yeah, I don't, I don't remember that. I do remember Thacker's Restaurant on South Tryon, and I remember Ed Mellon's Store, S and W Cafeteria. I do remember that well, S and W Cafeteria.
MK: Would your whole family sometimes go to S and W Cafeteria?
JF: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Very rare, but we would go.
MK: That was on West Trade, the first block of West Trade.
JF: Yes it was. Yes it was. And Ed Mellon was right next to it.
MK: So you and your mother and father and Billy and Melvin and Jean, and Oscar and Catherine.
JF: Yeah, probably. I just remember, of course, later.
MK: Did you weigh yourself?
JF: Oh, yeah. Always--.
MK: On those big scales?
JF: Always, always, yeah.
MK Did you throw pennies? Do you remember what else? Was there a, a pool where you threw pennies?
JF: I don't remember that.
MK: Uh-huh.
JF: There may have been, but I don't remember that.
MK: How often would you have go--, would you have done that?
JF: [Laughter] Couple of times a year probably.
MK: Big occasion?
JF: Yeah. And then Daddy belonged to, what they called back then the Christian Men's Club, and they met every Friday night at Thacker's. So on occasion, Mother and I would go to Thacker's and eat by ourselves while Daddy went to the men's meeting
MK: Um-hum.
JF: that was going on.
MK: What did the Christian Men's Club do? Do you remember?
JF: No. Just met, that's all I know. I really don't know. I thought of one other thing to tell you right along there, and I've forgotten what it was. That we had not talked about. I don't know what it was.
MK: About going down town or--?
JF: If it comes to me I'll, I'll tell you.
MK: Is it a burden being a member of Billy Graham's family?
JF: No, not really. It's, it's more joy than anything. When we were first married, I really resented the fact that everybody was saying, "Oh this is Billy Graham's sister," because back then, I wanted to be Leighton Ford's wife. And it took me eight or ten years to get over that. Now my children are feeling that it is a little bit of a burden. You know, they get tired of answering the same questions over and over again.
MK: When you became Leighton Ford's wife, what was he doing?
JF: He was in seminary. He had been a year and a half to Columbia Seminary in Atlanta, and we had another year and a half to go. And then he graduated early in abstention. Went to work with Billy
MK: Um-hum.
JF: in London.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: So when we were twenty-two, we sailed the ocean blue and enjoyed Wembley Stadium and those meetings, and it was interesting.
MK: Did you always listen to the "Hour of Decision" whenever you could?
JF: Yeah, and Leighton alternated with Billy for ten years on that. Leighton had it every other Sunday, and Billy had it every other Sunday.
MK: Where were the headquarters for that? Where did that--? Where did they tape that, or perform that?
JF: Well, wherever they happened to be. Leighton would go to some studio to tape it.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: Here in Charlotte, WBT or WSOC or Arthur Smith's studio.
MK: Can you think of anything else that we haven't talked about that--?
JF: Isn't that funny, because something came across my mind but I just, I, certainly can't--. Well, I think that maybe you don't want this recent, but I remember after Billy and Ruth were married, she did not know how to drive. And I took her out and helped her to drive when I was twelve years old, probably. And I remember her backing up Park Road, and we had a lot of bushes out at, at, at our driveway. At the end of the driveway. We had crape myrtles that lined the driveway. And I remember her backing up and trying to back into the driveway and backed right into one of the big bushes and just knocked it down. And Daddy was not real happy about that. [Laughter]
MK: I know this but, if you would say why she did not know how to drive at that age?
JF: Well, you know, I, I don't honestly, don't know that. Daddy, Daddy would always say he didn't think mother had enough sense, well, you know.
MK: Um-hum. I mean Ruth.
JF: Yeah, I know but, that, that may have carried over a little bit to Billy. I'm not sure about that.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And Ruth, of course, was born and raised in China, and then she came over here and went to college. And back in those days, you didn't have cars, and so there was probably no opportunity. But I don't think Billy encouraged it either so.
MK: Any other thing more recent that you can recall? They, did they have goats up on the place up in Montreat?
JF: No, not that I know of. No. Never. Oh I, I remember one thing. When we were trying to decide about getting married, we were only twenty years old. And Leighton was an only child, and his mother really, really did not want him to get married. And that's understandable. And we went and talked to Billy about that. And he said, "If you don't break your mother's apron strings now, you never will." And that was a big influence on our lives, that one statement.
MK: Um-hum. And you would have been almost that age yourself if Lay--. If he--.
JF: Let's see, I was--. When we went up and talked to Billy about that, we both were probably twenty. Leighton's nine months older than I am.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: So.
MK: There're a lot, quite a few early marriages
JF: Yeah.
MK: in the family.
JF: Yeah. Billy's three daughters were really young. Eighteen.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: One, I guess, was seventeen and two were eighteen or something.
MK: Um-hum. Anything else at all?
JF: I, I, I, I can't think of anything else but--. [RECORDING INTERRUPTED] [RECORDING RESUMED]
MK: You're continuing just a little bit more, Jean, talking about her father. What he used to wear working in the fields.
JF: Yeah, I just rem--. He always wore a hat in the summertime, always a straw hat. And he had his good hat, and he had his working hat, but they were always (wide) straw hats. And he always wore a shirt, dress shirt, usually white, and he had his sleeves rolled up and often would wear a tie. I never saw Daddy, never, ever did I see him in a sport shirt until after he had a stroke when he was seventy-three years old.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: But he [Laughter] was always dressed. I just never could figure that.
MK: Well, why do you think that was true?
JF: You know, I'm wondering if that, other farmers were that way also? I don't know that. Mr. Hunter and Mr. Ashcraft were his contemporaries and--.
MK: What--? Do you remember their first names?
JF: Mr. Harvey Hunter and Mr. Ashcraft. I don't remember his first name.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And then, also that lived out there near us, Mr. Hunter. Mr. Ashcraft had the farms and then Judge Henderson. Those were the three older men that I remember being friends of Daddy's.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And I think Mr. Hunter always wore a shirt, a dress shirt when he worked.
MK: What, did your dad get up and, and milk early in the morning?
JF: I don't remember Daddy ever milking. I'm sure he probably did in the early days. I remember Billy and Melvin milking. I don't remember Daddy doing that.
MK: Did Billy and Melvin--? When did Billy and Melvin milk? And like, they would get up?
JF: At 2:30. I remember Melvin used to come in from dates with Peggy at one o'clock and go upstairs and change clothes and go down to the dairy. [Laughter]
MK: So you milked at 2:30 in the morning and then when in the after--?
JF: 2:30.
MK: In the afternoon.
JF: In the afternoon. Um-hum, um-hum.
MK: And you--. They'd put the milk in big containers and took it somewhere?
JF: No, they processed it right there. This was before the days of pasteurization of course, and they processed it right there. They'd put it through a cooler. That's another thing I did as a child. I helped bottle the milk. That was not hard work, and I loved doing it.
MK: And did you ever go with them to deliver it?
JF: No, never.
MK: Or did they take it to a distributor who delivered, or he had certain people that--?
JF: No, they delivered their own milk, and that was a thing that Billy did, I think, more than anything else was deliver the milk to different homes throughout the city.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And we still have people today say, "Oh, we took milk from your father." You know? Some of the older families.
MK: Would you, would, would Billy Frank have delivered the milk after school in the afternoon?
JF: No. He did it the mornings.
MK: Early in the mornings?
JF: Yes.
MK: You would milk--. He would milk. Did he change clothes after he milked into his school clothes?
JF: I'm sure he did, but I just don't remember that.
MK: Uh-huh. Yeah.
JF: I'm sure he did.
MK: So you'd did the milk route very early in the morning and then come back and go to school.
JF: Yes, early in the--. What they would do sometimes, is come back and go to bed for an hour, you know. When you, you work that hard, and you're that tired, you'll sleep.
MK: Do you remember how, how many hands, other hands, people there were working on the farm?
JF: Well I remember names and, you know, there would be times, I guess there'd have eight or ten. Melvin, of course, would know that much better than I. We had another thing when I was growing up, when I was little, the first maid we had was Susie. That's the one I remember, Susie. And she lived on the farm, and she had three children. And none of them turned out very well. I don't know who the father was. But Susie would come to work about 5:30 in the morning and leave about 5:30 or 6:00 at night. And I think she had worked for them quite a few years before I was born.
MK: Um-hum. She was an African-American?
JF: Yes, yes, yeah.
MK: And she would help with what in the house or in, on the farm?
JF: No, she worked in the house. She--. Mother had taught her to cook and she did the cooking and housekeeping and she--. [Laughter] Every once and a while, she would slip me some money that she would get out of Daddy's pockets or something, and I'd go up to the little store, right up on Park Road called Holmes, where--. It was a, a gas station, and where I'd get a piece of candy for a penny or something.
MK: H-O-L-M-E-S?
JF: Yes, yes.
MK: Where would that be it you were finding it now?
JF: It's right across from the Coachmen Cleaners, up there. Right above the Park Road Shopping Center.
MK: Um-hum.
JF: And it was on the left.
MK: Um-hum. Before you get to Tranquil or Hillside.
JF: Oh. Yeah, yeah, um-hum, yeah. And Mrs. Holmes ran that store. And then her son was Frank Holmes, and he ran it afterwards. But that was way before I was born and after I was born.
MK: Um-hum. So what--? It, it would have a very limited amount of things.
JF: Oh yeah. The only thing I remember is gas and cold drinks, Pepsi Colas, and candy, penny candy. I'm sure that she probably had other things, but those are the only things I remember.
MK: Was it, like a little frame, one-room?
JF: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, so.