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Interview with Elizabeth R. Herbert

Herbert, Elizabeth R.
Causby, Anna
White, Jane
Date of Interview: 
Churches; Influenza - History; Methodist Church; Wesley Heights neighborhood
Elizabeth Herbert talks about Charlotte as a church city and the many changes in the city she has seen. She and her husband were placed here with the Methodist Church.
Charlotte, 1930s - 1970s
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed 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.
Interview Audio: 
EH (Elizabeth Herbert): Also in 1918 we were near the YMCA, and it was the time of the flu epidemic so I was given the assignment of taking soup to the men in the YMCA. With a mask on my--, over my face, and a bucket. I went into I guess about fifteen or twenty rooms a day taking soup to the men who were sick with the flu, in 1918. Those are memories after I read your article that came to me, and I just thought--.
JW (Jane White): Uh-hum
EH: It might be indicate how little children were used.
JW: That's right most people don't associate children being in those situations.
EH: That's right and, and being used and given a, a responsibility.
JW: Yes. Yes. Um-hum.
EH: I remember that I was taught to knit and knitted a muffler. That's the first knitting I'd ever done, but I knitted a muffler.
JW: Yes, yes.
EH: I was very proud.
JW: Yeah I'm sure some man enjoyed it.
EH: Well I hope it helped you know. But this was just part of what I remembered, and I thought it might be a little bit of interest to see that children by wise adults were asked to help in those early days.
JW: Uh-hum. Well when did you come to Charlotte?
EH: My husband is a Methodist preacher.
JW: Uh-huh.
EH: And we have had a number of assignments in Charlotte. When we were married in '33, he was at Wesley Heights and years later he came as the pastor of Myers Park Methodist Church.
JW: Yes.
EH: Then he came back here as the bishops assistant and he's now retired, but helping at First Church so we've had many connections with Charlotte.
JW: Uh-huh.
EH: Charlotte is home to us now.
JW: You've probably seen the religious community change too, haven't you?
EH: Yes, yes very much. But it has always been, I think, a religious town. The churches I think we've seen them thrive. We've seen the suburban churches grow and develop. A big ( ) of the down town ones and that's that has been a ( ).
JW: Yes. Yes.
EH: And something that the city needs to, well the conference somebody needs to look into.
JW: Um-hum.
EH: We are, I've just come from First Methodist where we had a meeting on world hunger, today, and what we can do. So the world problems, it's either war and peace or hunger something and the churches are working on that.
JW: Um-hum. Um-hum.
EH: You know to, to help.
JW: Do, do you have any idea why Charlotte became such a church oriented city?
EH: I think the Presbyterians are the ones who settled here early. And I guess the Methodists wanted to come along too. [laughter] I think that's the reason but there are strong Presbyterian stronghold here, early.
JW: I see.
EH: And then the Methodist and all others have come. But it is a religious town.
JW: Yes.
EH: And we have neighbors that moved in from other sections of the country don't seem to have any idea of what the church can mean in their lives.
JW: Yes.
EH: And I'm sorry. But we who have been brought up here are know that it, it fills a need in a time of trouble.
JW: Yes. Yes.
EH: As well as happy times.
JW: Do you know if they still have, have the ministers that go out to these little towns, or has it now jut become standard practice that each town has it's own?
EH: Now the Methodists move. You know, we move every year. We have to go to conference and get an assignment.
JW: Um-hum.
EH: And so we, we come to a, we are assigned maybe for one year at a time, but sometimes it lasts four, five, or six years. But Methodists get their assignments once a year. And so they had, they covered the whole, our conference covers half of North Carolina, and every town is in that conference. And the preachers we, they cabin the bishop, assign preachers to every church, so they are not without a preacher.
JW: Uh-hum.
EH: So, we, the Methodist ground is covered. [laughter]
JW: Yes, yes. Well was your First Methodist Church it was up town, here when you came to Charlotte--?
EH: No, no. And our first--.
JW: It was probably then out in the country, was it?
EH: It was--, it was on West Trade Street.
JW: Oh, yeah.
EH: Over on Wesley Heights, and my husband was preaching there, and I was teaching in Winston. We were married when he was there, and they didn't have a parsonage at the time. It was during the Depression. And when he went to that church, the debt on the church was more than all the members' assets put together. He had never owed spending money. He realized that he owed, or his church owed this much, it disturbed him very much. He worked on that, and they worked for several years to try to ri--, take care of that debt. Then we were moved on because he had married, and there wasn't a parsonage. And then the preacher that came after us worked on it, and after a while, the debt was paid off. But, but those were the days of the depression 1933-34; along there.
JW: Um-hum. Do you notice a difference around that area around your first church?
EH: Yes, yes. It has now become a black church, and Wesley Heights has united with another church so I have not kept up with it.
JW: Um-hum.
EH: In recent years except we went to their last service. ( ).
JW: When, when it was a Methodist Church?
EH: Yes, when we knew it was being changed. That's right. I don't know what congregation has it now, but I hadn't realized I'd talk about. [pause] We have been interested in now many contacts with Charlotte. In 1933, my husband was pastor at Wesley Heights, and then we were moved away which is the Methodist system. And served churches in a number of other places. Then we were moved back here in 1952 to Myers Park Methodist Church, for 5 years, and a very happy time here. Then the Methodist system sent us away again.
JW: Um-hum.
EH: And we came back some years later after about fifteen years. He was the Bishop's assistant and in that fifteen years, we saw great changes in Charlotte's renewal. The slums had been cleared away. The big beautiful buildings in the center of town had been built so it was quite a difference. We also saw a great increase in the number of churches, fine Methodist churches, being a Methodist, the other ones you were interested in. But those churches were thriving,
JW: Uh-hum.
EH: After we came back so we have seen, we think Charlotte and her cultural advantages now for an old person are terrific. We settled here because we've been so happy in Charlotte when we lived here in '52 to '57. And then he after being the Bishops assistant, he was a, he retired. And he is now serving as the parish minister at First Methodist Church. So we've had many assignments, but we think Charlotte has much to offer the elderly.
JW: Um-hum.
EH: We find that the colleges, the senior scholars, the senior forum, all the different things that are offered to elderly people can keep them busy with their minds and their bodies all the time. So we are just happy to be retired. Busy and happy. And partly employed during these latter years in Charlotte.
JW: Um-hum.
EH: Charlotte has a lot to offer any body.
JW: Yes.
EH: I think. Would you agree?
JW: Yes, yes I do. And thanks so much for talking to us.
EH: Oh you're welcome.
JW: We, we do appreciate it, and.