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Interview with Jessie Cherry

Cherry, Jessie
Perzel, Ed
Date of Interview: 
farming, cookery, school, shopping in Charlotte
Jessie Cherry describes her live on a farm in Mecklenburg County in the 1920s and 1930s, describing the food her family ate, gardening and chores. Mrs. Cherry attended McClintock School in the Steele Creek community.
Mecklenburg County, 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.
EP (Ed Perzel): This is Ed Perzel, May 25th 1979 interviewing Jessie Cherry. Let's see you were born in 1915, you're a young one, young lady.
JC (Jessie Cherry): [laugh]
EP: We've been talking to people 93, 94 years old.
JC: Oh yeah.
EP: And you're only sixty-three.
JC: That's right.
EP: Just sneaking in under the wires.
JC: [laughter]
EP: Tell me, where were you born?
JC: I was born it was ( ) Fort Mill.
EP: In North Carolina, or South Carolina?
JC: South Carolina.
EP: ( )
JC: It was little more on the SC line than it was on the NC line.
EP: And how long did you live down in that area?
JC: I don't know, I guess, I guess till my mother moved to straight to NC, I guess I think I was about four years old when my mother and father married and I they moved to NC then and that's where I've been ever since these years in NC.
EP: In this area, or?
JC: In Charlotte, North Carolina. In the country, Mecklenburg County, I went to school at McClintock School graded school, you know, in in the country, I went to school there.
EP: Where was that?
JC: That was out of Steele Creek County, they called it Steel Creek County. I went to school out there.
EP: Steele Creek Was that integrated schools?
JC: ( )
EP: Whites and blacks?
JC: No, no, no, at that time it was just solid black school, you know, the white was one place school and the black was the other place. I use to walk to school, walk five miles to school in the mornings, walk back home in the afternoon, I picked cotton, I hoed cotton, I helped my daddy to pull ( ) off of corn, I helped him to cut sugarcane, and, and I helped him all in the gardens, he was helping to do what was suppose to be done and he was just proud of me for helping him. And, and
EP: You raised sugar cane in Mecklenburg County?
JC: Yeah, my daddy in the country, it was the country, my daddy raised sugarcane, made molasses, all of that kind of stuff.
EP: Did you use to eat sugarcane?
JC: Yes, I loved it, the sugar cane juice, you know, he'll let me I'll just eat it and you know have a big time with it and I enjoyed it, ( ) he enjoyed me being out there with him, you know, and we'd have fun out there it was fun then, you know, much more fun then than it is now because people don't do too no farming now, not like they did back in those days. We had garden, my mamma had all kinds of stuff, vegetables in the garden, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, all beans everything anything you make she made it in that garden.
EP: Did you have to go to the grocery store?
JC: No, didn't have to go to no grocery store now unless we was going for salt or sugar, something like that you know. You see the sugarcane made syrup it did you know it wasn't the sugar that cane that you made the sugar out of, it was the sugar that you made the cane made syrup, you know. And we'd go to the store for sugar and salt and black pepper, you know, well we raised red pepper, you know, the green pepper like you buy now in the stores, you know, the green hot pepper. My mother raised that in gardens, we had chickens, we ate we
EP: Did, did you eat the chickens?
JC: Eat the chickens off the yard.
EP: Did you kill chickens?
JC: Yeah, my mamma had me to kill pick up one once to ring his neck off, you know how you pull a chicken neck off.
EP: Tell me how you do that.
JC: I picked up a chicken to ring his neck off and get him round like that, you know, seen my mamma do it, you know, I twisted it round two or three times throw him down like she did, the chicken took off through the woods, just a running [laughter]. And we had cows, my daddy had a cow, and we had hogs, we had most everything on the farm that a person would have, you know.
EP: You mean you, you actually take a chicken and just pull its head off with your hands?
JC: Um-hum. My mamma use to show me how to do, you know, and I would didn't grip it tight enough and when I throwed him down he took off across the yard and it was [laughter] and we'd go to screaming oh it was fun in the country.
EP: Did you have hogs?
JC: We had hogs, yeah, and we had a cow, my daddy had a horse, we had a buggy, we had wagons, we had all of that, you know.
EP: Did he own his own land?
JC: No, no, he didn't own it we's staying under other man's land, you know, he was working that land and everything but he had his own hogs, own cow, and own horse, and we had our own chickens and everything, we had meat, we had sausage, we didn't have to go to the store for that kind of stuff, I use to go to the store and get my mamma her sugar and I'd get five pound of sugar for a quarter, nickel a pound, and lots of time she would want a piece of meat, and go to the store and get a piece of meat, five pound of meat, fat the salty fatback for a quarter, my children loved me when I'd sit down and tell them that. My mother use to make bread, cornbread, she use to have a skillet, called it a skillet, she'd put the skillet set it down on the fireplace and she'd make cornbread and put it in that skillet, put the coals under that skillet and put coals on top of that skillet lid and cook that cornbread, that'd be the best bread you most ever eat.
EP: She didn't have a stove?
JC: Yes, she had a stove, but she was cooking on the fire, had a big black iron pot, she'd cook cabbage, beans, in that pot and they would cook them cabbage a half a day before they ate them and they'd cook the beans the same way, they'd cook the beans in that iron pot, them beans would be real dark and they'd be the best beans you'd most ever eat, pinto beans, she'd cook them all day long, all day long, and them be the best beans you ever ate.
EP: How did you store all of that food you grew in the garden?
JC: Well, you know, take cabbage, mamma would make kraut, sourkraut, and tomatoes and okra, the beans she would put up in a can, you know, in jars, she would can all that in jars, put the tomatoes and okra together and she'd make the kraut, well she'd put corn in there, tomatoes too, just like you buy them in the store but they taste much better than they would when you get them in the store out the can, and she'd have them in jars, you know, we put up blackberries, she'd make strawberry preserves, pear preserves, apples, put up apples, oh all that stuff.
EP: Did you have an icebox at all?
JC: No, we had one of these here we didn't have icebox, when they brought ice we put in a tin tub and put old coats and stuff over it to keep it from melting so fast, you know, and when she did get an icebox it was on of these here what you call wooden boxes, open the top, you couldn't put food in it, you know, it'd open at the top and you'd put the ice down in there and then you could put some ice, you know, like you ordered some ice water, you'd set the top with ice for, you know, ice-cream, we'd make ice-cream, had ice-cream freezers, we turned the handles, you know, that handle turn and stuff, and oh it was, it was nice, it was very nice.
EP: What, what kind of a house did you live in? Was it, how many rooms?
JC: It had well I remember the first house I can remember we lived in, it had one bedroom, a kitchen, because years like that they had beds in the front room, mamma had her bed in the front room, my bed was in the bedroom, and you'd go out her door to go into the kitchen, kitchen was round off the back, you know.
EP: And how many children did she ( ) ?
JC: Nobody but myself, my mamma have only me.
EP: Just you?
JC: Just me.
EP: You were unusual then, cause families were bigger weren't they?
JC: My family is bigger, but my mamma didn't have nobody but me, yeah, so
EP: You got spoiled then.
JC: They kept me from one place to the other, one I was at from one aunt's house to the other aunt, from one sister's house or her sister's from one to the other, that's the way they kept me, so, I guess that's the way I am today, but I'm enjoying myself and I thank the Lord that he has let me live to see the days with what's done past and gone, not the days was to come, and I'm 63 years old, I thank him so much, cause I have come up through the hard way in one way, you know what I mean, in one way I've come up through the hard way, but I thank the Lord I'm still here.
EP: When did you move into Charlotte?
JC: Well, my father moved into Charlotte, I trying to figure out, in long about it was in the 40s, I believe, in the 30s, I think, round about '38 or '39 something like that, might've been a little, you know, I can't just hit the exact number on it, but we moved in, in Charlotte and he had a job at working at the ballpark, he was making fifteen dollars a week working at the park, and we was renting, the rent was a dollar seventy-five cent a week, down there off of Tryon Street and that's where we lived until he moved, we moved back to the country, in this when, when he died he was living in the southside, he died in 1963.
EP: The south, what do you mean the southside?
JC: Southside of Charlotte, you know.
EP: Uh-huh.
JC: southside of Charlotte over there.
EP: When you were growing up as a little girl in the country, did you ever come into Charlotte on a trip?
JC: Yeah, I always would come to Charlotte, my father bring me to Charlotte.
EP: How did you get here?
JC: He had a, a long, once you know there wasn't no cars, but he had got one of these here, what you call it, T-Models, or A-Model Ford.
EP: Uh-huh.
JC: [laughter]
EP: Probably a T Model.
JC: Yeah, and, and that's how he would bring us to town.
EP: Was that an exciting thing to do?
JC: Oh yeah, that was so exciting, you know, cause you didn't see too many cars, you know, there was horses and buggy's and wagons mostly, we use to go to church we'd walk to church or you would go in the wagon or go on the buggys. It was fun, it was, it was a much better living then and you know what I mean, cause times is fast now, times wasn't fast then like they are now.
EP: What did you do when you got to Charlotte?
JC: Go to ten-cents store.
EP: Where was the ten cents store?
JC: They were on Tryon St. Go to the ten cents store, Kress's.
EP: Kress's?
JC: Kress's, Woolworth's, Woolworth's still up there and go to Grats, they had a store yeah Grat's, and, and Charles store was up there on you know. [cough]
EP: Was this in the 1930s?
JC: I think this must've been in the 19-, wasn't no taxes I tell you wasn't no taxes you know it had to be back it was it was in the 1930's, I believe -'38's and the -'39's something like that when there wasn't no tax, cause we could go up there and buy candy and whatever we buy wasn't no tax to it, you know, and we'd get shoes for a dollar, hat for a dollar, whatever was 98 cent, you pay 98 cents for it you wouldn't have to put no tax to it, if it was a dollar you still got that hat or shoes or whatever you was getting for a dollar, so that's the way it was. It was you know, it wasn't like you'd go, you'd buy socks for Christmas presents for your father or whatsoever, you would pay the twenty-five cents for them socks.
EP: Um-hum.
JC: Twenty-five cents for them socks and they was be good socks, everybody was wearing them so [laughter] they had to be good socks, so that's just the way it was.
EP: Do you remember much about segregation and how it affected you?
JC: No, I can't remember that too much, I do remember whenever we had to have stamps for shoes, stamp for you know sugar, meat, that was a
EP: During WWII?
JC: That was WWII, I don't know nothing about WWI, I wasn't, you know, old enough to discuss it, but I do know my granddaddy was in WWI, he, he's been dead a good while.
EP: Did you know your granddad?
JC: Yeah.
EP: And your grandmother?
JC: Yeah, yeah, I know my granddad, my grandmamma was named Annie White and my granddaddy was named William White.
EP: Did they ever tell you any good stories about the old days?
JC: Yeah, they knew, but I done forgot what they tell me, they would sit down and read talk to us about different things, you know, but all of that's done passed out my mind just about [laughter].
EP: Well you have any good story you want to leave with us?
JC: Well, no more than what I done said and just that I asked, I want my children to come up and I don't want them to come up like I came up, I want them to come up a little more, with a little more education than what I had, and to learn how to take care of stuff, you know, ( ) and treat peoples a little better well I was nice, but I want them to come up I want them to treat peoples you know, real good so they can be treated good, see, so.
EP: Well, well that was very interesting, I, I enjoyed talking to you, see you had some good tales for us.
JC: [laughter]