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Interview with Marie Hicks

Hicks, Marie
Sides, Beth
Date of Interview: 
Kansas; Charlotte, NC; World War II; Farming; Church work; Roosevelt, Franklin Delano; U.S. Navy Shell Loading Plant; World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American.
Mrs. Hicks gives details about growing up on a farm in Kansas and working at the shell loading plant in Charlotte during World War II. She also talks about traveling the globe and working with the church.
Kansas; Charlotte, NC; 1910s - 1940s
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: 
BS (Beth Sides): This is Beth Sides interviewing Ms. Marie B. Hicks, October 23, 1979. And if you would, would you start off by telling me about what--, when you were a child.
MH (Marie Hicks): Well, I was born in Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City at Edmond, and later, my husband, my father being a minister we moved to Kansas. And I grew up in Kansas near Hutchinson, which I still consider and think of as home.
BS: What was it like living on a farm? Or were you on farm or were you in a smaller community?
MH: Partially, Hutchinson was a, a very middle sized small city you might say. It's about fifty miles from Wichita. And we lived [clears throat] in a town as a child as I remember. But I had two older brothers, of course, I was the youngest child. My sister being the oldest, there were two brothers in between, and my father felt they needed the experience of farm life. And so we moved to a farm, and had a large apple orchard, and other things that you just naturally have about a farm. And we lived there for quite a number of years until the boys, brothers, were practically grown. And then my father took a pastorate away from, from Hutchinson and so we moved. [pause]
BS: About what year was this? Do you remember when you were moving? How old were you, maybe that'll help?
MH: I was around, well possibly, I was around ten I expect.
BS: Um-hum.
MH: About the time that we made a change. And of course I worked very much right along with my father from a very small child. Being the youngest child, he worked with me and I worked with him. And we sang together, and I went to all the church meetings with my mother. And I can quite well remember going to the Ladies Aid Society with my mother, and, when I was quite small. And I used to lie on the floor and kick my feet up and bump the quilt that the ladies were quilting. And, of course, I was reprimanded several times for that. [laughter]
BS: I'm sure.
MH: But I learned to do so many things. As I was just telling you maybe a few minutes ago, I taught myself to crochet by watching the ladies crochet and so forth. And I didn't and don't do it just work they do today or hold my hook that way, but that's the way that I can work the fastest. So I have just stayed with it.
BS: When you lived on the farm, did you did you make your own clothes? In other words, did ya'll basically live right off the farm? I know you said you had an apple orchard, but did you have your own garden of other things too?
MH: Oh, yes. We did have a garden. And I remember particularly that, of course we rode horses, we ice skated. There was a big pond down in front of house that in the wintertime would freeze over, and we could ice skate. And we had chickens of course. And I remember burying the vegetables a lot of them in the ground and also in a cellar for the winter.
BS: How did you, how did you go about burying the vegetables in the ground to preserve them?
MH: Well now, I, I, I was quite young. And I can't remember all the details but I can remember going out and digging them out of the soil.
BS: Right.
MH: And well I remember one thing that was, that I always loved. We had an apricot tree, and I just loved them and still do. And I used to go out and climb the tree and sit there and eat apricots.
BS: Um-hum.
MH: That was the things that I think I enjoyed so very much.
BS: So those were you're kind of recreational type things?
MH: That's right.
BS: Was you, was your father being heavily involved in the church that was most of your social life? I mean did you have church dances or was the town large enough to have their own?
MH: We didn't have church dances, no. But we had a great deal of activity in the church. You know at that time, actually, the activities of a small town or city really went about the church. Everything, you know the church created the activities. It was the center of things.
BS: Right.
MH: And we had all kinds of different social events. I remember the old box socials that you heard about where people took their box of food and people bid on it you know.
BS: Oh.
MH: I remember those. And--.
BS: Any dinner on the grounds?
MH: No, not outside dinner as they have in the South. I, I know that they have many of the, many dinner on the grounds in the South, but we usually had those dinners in the church. Usually had a church basement or a social room, you know a fellowship hall where we had those dinners.
BS: How--?
MH: But--.
BS: Excuse me. Go ahead.
MH: That's all right.
BS: Did you marry in Kansas or?
MH: Yes. When I was about twelve years old, my father practically lost his voice. And so we moved to Gulfport, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast for his health. And while we were there, after we had been there sometime, my husband was with a construction company, small ( ) construction company out of Birmingham, Alabama. They came to Gulfport to rebuild a courthouse that had burned. And he was the timekeeper for the company. It was his first time away from home. Really his first job. And we met at that time.
BS: How old were you?
MH: I was only about, I was about fourteen at that first time.
BS: How old was he?
MH: And he was [pause] about eighteen. And later on my father's health improved and we went back to Kansas. And then it was a year after that that he came, my husband came, and we were married.
BS: So you were what, fifteen, sixteen?
MH: I was sixteen.
BS: Did you have your own farm when you married?
MH: No, no. Now my husband [clears throat] he was with an Alabama Power Company at that time, and they were working on the power lines into Muscle Shoals. And that of course was right at the end of the First World War.
BS: Could you tell me a little bit when you were talking about you worked at the shell plant during World War II?
MH: Yes, I did.
BS: Could you explain to me what that was?
MH: That, that was here in Charlotte. I was a supervisor and a line instructor. The--.
BS: Where was the plant?
MH: It was right here [pause] west of Charlotte.
BS: Uh-huh.
UN1 (Unknown Speaker 1): Out by the airport?
BS: Marsville, out that way.
UN2 (Unknown Speaker 2): Arrowood.
UN1: [whispers] Arrowood.
BS: Yes, OK. Good.
MH: Yes, yes. It was back where Arrowood is. [pause]
BS: What was a line instructor?
MH: Well, you know we were loading shells out there-.
BS: Uh-huh.
MH: At the time. And that was what it was. A line instructor was instructing different ones to do that work. I went to work out there shortly after I had news that my only nephew, my oldest, brother's only son, who was a pilot, was lost out of Perth, Australia on a flight. And I felt that time, I was very involved in church work at that time and all, and yet, I felt that I was not doing enough. And, I that I must just do something. And so that's why I went out there because I felt that if he had given his life then I could certainly give my time.
BS: How many, did you work there for several years?
MH: I worked. No, only two years.
BS: Only two years?
MH: Only two years.
UN1: Do you rememberhow much you paid then? [long pause]
BS: It's OK. We were just wondering if happened to remember.
MH: I don't remember. Of course, it was a very low pay scale so far as that goes to what we consider today. But, anyway, I did work those two years and then I went to California to greet a new grandbaby. My daughter and her husband were at Fresno. And, were, he was still in service at that time. I left the shell plant shortly after President Roosevelt's death. And I went out there.
BS: Do you remember much of his administration?
MH: Yes, quite a bit. Enough to know that it was such a shock. I had the news that day they came in from my car radio. I had been out to the car for something, and I don't know what made me turn the car, the radio on, and I did. And got the news and I went back into the plant, and I told our superintendent on the line about it. And we called all the workers together and announced, announced it. It was the first they had heard of it. That he had died. And it was quite a shock to everyone. Later on, we went moved to Washington, D.C., and we were there twelve years. I worked ( ) department store in Washington for ten years, and worked with the training department and also in selling and training in the china department. And then--.
BS: How did you wind up in Charlotte after moving around so much? You had quite a travel experience.
MH: Well, [laughter] we had lived in Kansas, of course. And we've lived in Mississipi, and Alabama, and North Carolina, and Maryland and in Washington, D.C..
BS: That's a good deal of traveling.
MH: And we had pretty well traveled around considerable.
BS: Yes, so maybe you better ( ).
MH: We, we have been. We like to travel, and we have been through a good portion of Europe and of course, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. And I believe in every state in the Union with the exception of maybe Maine.
BS: Had you always wanted to travel as a child?
MH: Yes, That was one thing that I, I enjoyed studying was history.
BS: Did you want off the farm to travel, though? Was that it?
MH: No, the farm life was, I was never really too involved in the farm except just as a child I remember those things, you know. But as to working on the farm and knowing anything about that kind of life I didn't. As I say, my father and I were very close, and he to me was just the Rock of Gilbralter.
BS: You said he tutored you. Did he have a degree of his own?
MH: Oh, yes. He was a minister. He graduated from Des Moines in Des Moines, Iowa. And so he, as I said, we worked very close and studied together.
BS: Did he also tutor your brothers and sisters in the home?
MH: No, no.
BS: OK. Just you.
MH: I being the youngest one. I guess that was it. I was the baby. [laughter]