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Interview with Alice Lee Murray Travis McCall

McCall, Alice
Causby, Anna
Date of Interview: 
Early Charlotte; Clothing business; Radios; Camp Greene; Queens College; Clothing trade - North Carolina - Charlotte - History; Murray's Store; Depressions 1929
Ms. McCall speaks fondly of her father's early days in Charlotte and his ownership and operation of a clothing store, Murray's. She also tells some interetsing stories about the first ice-cream cone in Charlotte and riding on the streetcars as a child.
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: 
AC (Anna Causby): This is Anna Causby, May 24th 1979 interviewing Alice Lee Murray Travis McCall. What a long name? [laughter]
AM (Alice McCall): Two marriages.
AC: Two marriages. OK. You want to talk about your father's business, right?
AM: Yes, I, I think, too, we, it would be interesting we think it's so new that the children are marrying and going to college at the same time. Well my father and mother were married, and my father was in NC State, it was called then, in Raleigh, studying electrical engineering; he was electrical genius. And he and mother were married, and they had three children while we was still in college. And they used to walk down Charlotte, in the streets of Charlotte, with daddy and his friends would stop and say, "Oh, this is the, the young lady that you use to bring to class with you," and I thought well now I know better than that my father's wasn't in college when I was born, you know, but he was, he was still in college. So they did things like that even in those days. And then to make a living, he sold suits for a Jew that lived there that in Raleigh, and he had no children and he wanted to retire, so he sold the business to my father, and he moved it to Charlotte. And it had a motto of being the oldest and the largest tailoring business in the South, and he used a picture of my brother, who now has his business on 4th St. Murray's Radio and TV, baby picture on a bear rug and here this little naked boy, and he's said he had under it this was on his stationary, it said, "Clothes don't make the man but they help." [laughter] That was his motto on it. And his store was at 131 South Tryon, it was there for years and years. And the old people here remember that store and now it's NCNB Bank, you know, in the Radison Plaza there, but that was his store and across the street he had his radio store, one of the first radio stores in Charlotte. In fact I believe it was the first, because radio's old, you know that was something brand new.
AC: Um-hum.
AM: Just never heard of anything, like it. And my brother, when he was possibly ten or eleven years old made the first radio in Charlotte, before my father opened up a radio store.
AC: Age of ten or eleven?
AM: He made it on an oatmeal box and a little crystal, and we would sit at the top of the steps and he had it wired to the radiators we had in the house and then he had a wire going out the window to a tree. And we picked up Dr. Little at the First Baptist Church, and oh, that was marvelous to hear Dr. Little, we had to put on earphones and listen to Dr. Little preach his Sunday morning sermon. [laughter] I think he was the first one in Charlotte on radio was Dr. Little, and then we could hear the Philadelphia Orchestra. We could pick that up on this little radio on the oatmeal box, now, just wires wrapped around an oatmeal box, I don't know how he did it but--.
AC: He was a genius too, probably.
AM: Oh yes he is a genius. He is anyone who wants a TV fixed now they won't have but Harry Murray do it. And he's on 4th Street, yes he is an electrical genius, well daddy was too,
AC: Right.
AM: but daddy made his living selling clothes so he opened up the store here and he had a pair of great big scissors. I guess they must've been twenty feet, they reached from the store all the way out to the street, over the street, enormous scissors. I often wondered whatever happened to that thing, a great big sign in front of it said, "Murray's" on it and it's disappeared too. I don't know where that was. But daddy also in his teens, now he was born in 1888, so in his teens he went to St. Louis to a fair and saw this thing called an ice cream cone, and so he came back to Charlotte and opened up a little stand, and we have pictures of that stand, with daddy and his brother, Buddy, selling. It said, "Murray's Ice Cream Cones," and daddy said he got his mother's waffle iron and he mixed up a cake dough and said he didn't know what he was doing but he mixed it up himself and put it in that waffle iron and he rolled it up right quick and put ice cream in it and said everybody in town had to come get one of those ice cream cones. [laughter] So he had the first ice cream cone in Charlotte. I, I don't know, well I do remember Lakewood Park. I was knocked down here at the square by a doctor, I've forgotten what his name was, he hit me when I was four years old, that's why I have a scar up here, maybe it's on this side, I don't know where it is. [laughter] I had been out to Lakewood Park, on the streetcar, remember the streetcar, [laughter] you wouldn't remember any of this. The streetcars they came out, we lived out, we moved way out when my mother and father built their first home, it was on Park Drive, still there a lawyer has it now, moved way out in those days. It was all woods, dachas woods, and we use to play in those woods, but we would the streetcar ended about a block up 7th Street. That was the end of the line and we use to run up there and jump on [sounds like technical problems] We, we would jump on the back of the streetcar and pull the line down that, that connected it with the wire up there, and of course the streetcar would stop and the conductor would get so mad, and he'd get off, and he'd run back there trying to catch us, and we'd strike out and hide behind some house. [laughter] Oh, we were ugly little things, and we used to put straight pins on the car tracks.
JM: Across them.
AM: And yeah, and make well you used to across them, well, I've forgotten what we did but we thought that was so exciting to put a straight pin on the car track and let the car smash it flat. [laughter]
JM: With scissors.
AM: And pennies. Oh, we really gave those streetcar conductors a lot of trouble. [laughter] That's what the children did in those days. [laughter] I don't know, ask me some questions.
AC: OK. You've been married twice?
AM: Yes, I was married thirty-three years when I lost my first husband. And then I married my aunt's husband. [laughter]
AC: What did your first husband do?
AM: He was a contractor, and he was also with the government he was [pause] Chief Claims Adjustor for the government in Houston, Texas.
AC: So you lived in Texas awhile?
AM: Lived there fourty years, left Charlotte, went to Texas and then married Dr. McCall and came back home.
AC: Oh, I imagine you saw a lot of change when you came back to Charlotte?
AM: I couldn't believe it. They moved the square on me. I couldn't find the square. [laughter] We use to walk Uptown everyday, every Saturday, and everyday we'd come up after school. I mean that was the thing to do, to come up and walk abound Ivey's and Efird's. We had Efird's over here, and and well Belk's, we didn't go to Belk's very much. It was a little old tiny store down here on Trade Street and you just didn't go down that end of Trade Street. I don't know. We just didn't go down there, wasn't considered very nice for young ladies, so we didn't go to Belk's very often. It wasn't until Belk's bought out Efird's and came all the way through in front of Ivey's, you know. Mr. J. B. Ivey was a very dear friend of ours and
UN (Unknown Speaker): What did he do?
AM: oh he, I bet he's turned over in his grave two or three times with Ivey's selling wine, in their store, and, and staying open on Sunday's and leaving, oh, Mr. J. B. closed up the, the windows on Sunday. You couldn't even look in his windows on Sunday. Now, he's got it open, everything's open. [laughter]
AC: How about the Carousel Parade, do you remember that? ( ).
AM: No, no, a Carousel Parade?
AC: That they have every Christmas, or is it Thanksgiving, yeah, Christmas, Thanksgiving.
AM: No, I don't remember that. And certainly I should.
AC: I don't even know when it started, I just wondered you know
AM: [laughter]
AC: you know like celebrations.
AM: Yes, I don't remember.
AC: You remember any celebrations like that?
AM: Oh, I'll tell you what I remember and I wasn't but, oh, maybe four or five years old. I was wasn't in school I went to started the first grade at when I was five so it must've been before that. I remember the end of World War I, we had the burning of the Kaiser. They, they, somebody built an effigy of the Kaiser and they strung him up. I'll never forget it because my father had me sitting on his shoulders. He was real tall, and I was sitting up on his shoulders looking, and I remember how horrible burning a man, you know. I thought he was a real man and the that was the burning of the Kaiser. Yes at the end of World War I, I remember that. And I remember playing, my aunt's husband was a sergeant, and she met him out here at Camp Greene, and he had a farm. After the war was over he had a farm out there at Camp Greene and they had a lot of, of ditches, trenches dug, and I remember the little log rooms in those trenches that we use to play in when we were kids. We'd go out there and we'd run up and down those trenches and play in those little rooms [laughter] little log rooms. Had something to do with the war.
AC: Where did you go to college?
AM: Queens College, Austin College first in Sherman, Texas, where I met my husband and then came back and finished at Queens College. The Depression hit and my father had four children in college, and he couldn't afford to send us off, the boys had to go off but the girls could go to Queens College. So--.
AC: How was Queens College?
AM: Well I tell you I didn't like Queens College. I really hated it because there were no boys there.
AC: Oh.
AM: And I had been to a boys college, Austin College in Sherman, Texas, was strictly a boys college, and a few girls were allowed to go there, and I lived with my aunt and uncle. He was professor there, so I got to go to this boys college and it was great. [laughter] I mean I just had all the boys I wanted, but when I had to come back to Queens College it was horrible no boys. Now, anything else?
AC: Can you think of anything else you want to talk about?
AM: No, the main thing I just thought it was very interesting about my father, yes
AC: About your father.
AC: it was.
AM: He was an outstanding Charlottean. He was a big Elk and a big Mason and a big all these.