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Marian W. Boyd Interview

Boyd, Marian
White, Jane
Date of Interview: 
segregated high school, Quaker school, African American barber
Marian Boyd discusses her education and early career as an elementary school teacher. She also tells about her foster father's military career and work as a barber.
Cabarrus County, Caswell County, Milton, Tyrell County, Roxsboro, High Point, 1920-1970
Interview Setting: 
Interview as part of the WSOC-TV Oral History Project. Interviews conducted at either the downtown public library or the Midtown Shopping Mall.
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
The Oral History Project of 1979, headed by Dr. Edward Perzel, was an effort to gather and preserve spoken recollections. Interviews were conducted with older citizens, primarily over the age of 65, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
MB: Marian Boyd
JW: Jane White
JW: Mrs. Marian Boyd we're happy to have you here with our Oral History Presentation. I'll let you talk from now on. If you have any questions that you, tell me and we'll stop and talk about it.
MB: Oh, thank you. Um , I suppose the one experience that I know about that would be historically valuable would be the life of my foster father. His name was James Wiley Brandon. He was born, I think, in 1860. In, I believe, the county is Caswell County and near a little town named Milton, on the border, a, it's in NC but the border that borders Virginia. When he was sixteen years old he told a fib about his age and enlisted in the army, the United States Army, for a period of five years. He served in the West and when you see movies about "Call out the Militia" and "Here Comes the Militia," that's where he was. He was out in the area where they were on guard against the Indians. As a small child, we use to sit by the fire in the winter, and he would tell about some of the, a, happenings, some of the experiences that he had in the army. He seemed to be especially interested in the pretty Indian girls. [laughter] I don't know where he learned the learned how to be a barber, but when he came out of the army, he opened a barbershop in Roxsboro, NC, by the way where I was born. And he married shortly after after he had established his business and bought some land. He married Cora Parthenia Bowers, who was also from Caswell County, Milton, NC. Um, he operated a barbershop for white people. In those days, men who were in business say in politics and so forth, the leaders in the community, didn't do their shaving at home. They went to the barbershop to be shaved, and some of them, if they did shave themselves, their mug was at the barbershop. So there were mugs along a shelf in the barbershop, where the, the mugs were where men would come in, the customers would come in and shave themselves. He was a very successful businessman. He was a very stern person. He just didn't take any foolishness. He had a very descent barbershop, and so his customers were a felt safe and so when anyone of prominence, so to speak, came to town any man and needed hair cut or shave they went to Brandon's Barbershop. And [long pause], um, he would come home in the evening sometime and tell about someone who, some of the political leaders, some of the government officials who had come into his barbershop that day. I can remember his mentioning a governor or two.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: I was very small, I was twelve when he died. So all of this is far back in my memory, but I still remember his mentioning some of the political leaders and gave his own opinion about them sometimes. [laughter] I dare say that there were not many blacks in the standing army during that time and a research into his life might be of value historically to show contributions that black people have made [pause] in the development of the United States.
JW: Um-hum . It's over but I think that.
MB: Of course, with my foster father being born in 1860, that was prior to the end of slavery, but the area in which he was born and grew up was on the Virginia border in the tobacco growing area. And slavery appeared, at least from what I heard my relatives say as a child, not to have been as harsh as in the cotton growing area.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: So that more blacks I guess percentage wise owned their own farms, had their businesses. They were the blacksmiths. They were the barber. They were the repairmen
JW: Um-hum.
MB: They raised and sold tobacco, vegetables. Um, I guess you would say they were peddlers to some extent. So that the, the relationships between the races may be somewhat different in the on the along the Virginia border and tobacco growing area from here. I assume that my foster father's parents were slaves. My relatives, my maternal relatives in that area were not slaves.
JW: Um-hum. [pause] Now will you tell us about your schooling, your Quaker schooling?
MB: My foster father died when I was twelve. My foster mother died five days before I was fourteen. And I went to live with her sister, by the way the sister and my foster mother were both second cousins of mine, so they were blood relatives, though my foster father was not. And I went to High Point to live in January and the work that we had completed in my school in Roxsboro was in advance of the work that was being done in the seventh grade at High Point. So, I was placed in the high school in eighth grade, leaving Roxsboro in the seventh grade. This was the most interesting high school. There were students who were living in the city.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: Of High Point who had come from other towns to go to school because this was one of the few all black high schools in North Carolina. At the time that I entered there, it was owned and operated by the education department in High Point. It had been owned and operated by the Society of Friends, commonly called the Quakers in NC. They had sold the school to the city about two years before I entered as a student there. So that some of the students who had been there before it was sold, boarded and lived in High Point so they could finish their education. It was an excellent school. The teachers were really left over at that time from the operation of the by the Quakers. Apparently when the school was sold, the Quakers put the money in a special fund still for the education of black students. And the year when I graduated, the Quakers started giving scholarships to graduates.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: And each year, for a number of years, one of the students who graduated in the senior high class received a scholarship to, a, go to college. The valedictorian of our class was the one who received the this scholarship. There, however, were some other monies that the Quakers had were holding for the education of black students, and I was the reciepent of one of those.
JW: Good.
MB: And at the same time that I was a recipient really fulltime scholarship by the Quakers, there was a I went to school at what was then North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham. And they were also sending a girl to college, had been at college in Greensboro.
JW: Oh, uh-huh . What do you know?
MB: I don't uh
JW: How many, many were in your high school. Excuse me, how many were there in your high school class?
MB: There were, there were twenty-one. We graduated from high school in 1927.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: There were 21 persons, and 18 were girls and three were men.
JW: What do you know? And you got a full scholarship.
MB: That's right.
JW: Oh, that's great. OK. When you finished there, your college, where did you teach? Or did you teach at, I know you've taught but?
MB: Well at first I, well actually, I graduated from college with a, majors in math and science in 1931. And that was in the middle of the Depression, and rather than high schools expanding in enrollment and needing teachers, the enrollment was low because the older students, you see the compulsorary education age was 14 at that time. It has since been extended to 16. So that there were very few, um, persons who actually went to high school, only those who, of course there was, by that time a child was old enough to go to high school and he passed the compulsory school age. Of course you didn't get through high school in those days or get through elementary school if you didn't know how to read and write. [laughter]
JW: There have been some changes made.
MB: There have been some changes made. And so the, the enrollment in high school was going down, and getting a job in high school was very difficult. And I was determined I wasn't going to teach out of my field.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: So I tried working and going to school, and I found that I could not have a job, a part-time job, and go to school. So I after two years I gave up because there were, there were plenty of need for teachers in the elementary school.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: So I gave up and started teaching in the elementary school. And the first place that I taught was in the dismal swamp area of NC, in Tyrrell County, the county seat is Columbia, NC, and I worked in a little village, a few miles from Columbia called Gum Neck. It was an interesting place because it was four feet below sea-level, and when the hurricanes would come up the coast, the water would rise four feet. So that the water would be inside the lower floor
JW: Um-hum.
MB: of the houses and frogs and snakes would be floating in and out.
JW: Oh, gosh. [laughter]
MB: Um and uh.
JW: Did you have a house there or did you live with someone?
MB: Uh-huh. I lived with, oh in those days, if you was single you didn't
JW: I know.
MB: Have you didn't live independently you lived with a family. I, I think we need more of that now. I think we'd have fewer crimes if young people did not live alone. [pause] There's a great deal interesting geographically about that section of NC. In order to get, well really the town of Columbia is at the end of Highway 64. There's a section so badly swamped before you get into Columbia that the road is built on piles that have been driven 80 feet down in the ground, and that's the bumpiest road I have been over in all of my life. It's very rough, but that's the only way that you can get into Columbia by road. People do a lot of traveling from Columbia by boat. It's on the inland waterway that goes from Virginia down to, to Florida. And in those days you could go from Columbia to Elizabeth City for 50 cents, and you could go to Norfolk for a dollar.
JW: Do they still, still have boats going down through there?
MB: I'm sure that, yes, it's quite a, a well known a, in what inland waterway, yes. Fishing was one of the main industries down there. They do a lot of fishing of herring.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: Put up salt herring. As a matter of fact, one of the jobs that women had was slitting the herring and cutting off its head. And one lady was so good she could do one a minute.
JW: Oh my.
MB: She could do 60 in a minute, I mean sixty in an, in an hour. She could do one a minute. There were no rocks there. The soil was very black, very fertile.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: And full of nutrition. [pause] You hardly saw a tooth with dental (claries) because of the minerals that were bone building
JW: Uh-huh.
MB: And teeth building. We had no problem with children throwing rocks because there was no rock to be found. [laughter] There was some other interesting things about this section. There's section there that smolders. Just why, just what is burning, I don't know. I'm sure that some, someone knows by now because I went there to work in '33, and I'm sure that a lot of investigation has been done about this section.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: That was the section down there called the Pongo was a lake called the Pongo Lake. Now I don't know how they spell Pongo. And this was the section where the smoldering took place, and often you would hear people telling tales about someone traveling in a wagon or what not and they just dropped through the earth. Just sank in and they disappeared. [pause] They did a good bit of logging down there and of course hunting
JW: Um-hum.
MB: There were the animals were otter, deer, bears, panthers, and it was the actually the swamp was dangerous. Almost every year somebody disappeared in the swamp.
JW: It does sounds dangerous. With the animals alone it sounds, sounds dangerous.
MB: Oh, it was a, a rather frightening thing to me that people welcomed snake in their homes. A, I've forgotten what kind of snake it is, but they called it a rat snake. And the reason they welcomed having a snake in their house running up and down the between in the walls between the support because if there were a snake in the house, they wouldn't be any rats. [pause] In June 1977.
JW: Oh.
MB: I worked only one year in Tyrrell County. The atmosphere there, the climate, was not good for my health I got a cold that I didn't seem to be able to get rid of. It's there's one place where you can see a car's lights at night seven miles away. It's just that flat.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: And [pause] you can, it's when the wind is blowing there's there are no there, there's nothing to knock the wind off of you. And when you are walking along early in the morning in the winter time, your breath will freeze on your clothing. And if you put your head down you know, under your chin, pull your coat collar up then you will find frost from your breath on your coat collar. And I came to Cabarrus County then in 1934 to work, and I worked in Cabarrus County in the public schools until 193, a, '68.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: And then I went to Barber-Scotia and worked there until through December 1975, and I retired.
JW: Um-hum.
MB: January '76.
JW: Well we appreciate your coming by that's, that's for sure. And that's interesting I must say.