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Interview with Margaret McKenzie

McKenzie, Margaret
White, Jane
White, Jane
Date of Interview: 
Early Charlotte; Social change; Then and Now; Farm life
Margaret McKenzie offers her recollections about early Charlotte and her life. She gives brief statements about registering people at the polls for elections, the Brooklyn area of Charlotte, and the fact she was the oldest person to ever serve on a jury.
Charlotte 1910s -
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 WSOC-TV 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: 
JW (Jane White): Thank you for coming to see us Ms. McKenzie. Now how long have you lived in Charlotte?
MM (Margaret McKenzie): [pause] When did we come back from Virginia? [long Pause]
UK (Daughter of Ms. McKenzie): About.
JW: Were you in school when you came back?
MM: No.
UK: About fifty-six years ago, wasn't it?
JW: About fifty-six years ago.
UK: Well, we went to Lumberton, North Carolina.
JW: Um-hum. Um-hum.
UK: Lumberton, North Carolina first, and then we came to Charlotte. We came to Charlotte, go ahead. [laughter] Do you remember what year we came to Charlotte?
MM: No, I don't. I don't.
JW: Can you tell us some of the changes you have in, seen in Charlotte?
MM: Oh, very immense. This was the first time I came down town for some time, and it has changed just tremendously.
JW: I see. When you came here where did you live?
MM: Well my, I came here, my sister lived on 6th Street. She was Ms. W. H Bass.
JW: Um-hum.
MM: And I lived with them for a while, and then I got married in Charlotte.
JW: That's good.
MM: Yeah, and we lived here for a while, and I worked for the, [pause] the man that drove trucks you know.
JW: A trucking company was it?
MM: Yes, uh-huh.
JW: Um-hum. Um-hum. Were you in the office?
MM: Yes.
JW: Were you one of the first women to work in the office?
MM: I guess so.
JW: Uh-hum.
MM: And I was there for sometime, then when we got married we moved to Lumberton, North Carolina.
JW: I see.
MM: And we lived there until 19 and--.
UK: That's 1925 I think somewhere along there we moved to Charlotte I believe.
MM: I, I say but when we moved to Newport News, Virginia.
UK: Well that was--. [pause]
JW: When you came here, when you were living in Charlotte was there a great difference between the white and the black population? [pause]
MM: You mean were they separated?
JW: Uh-huh.
MM: Yes they were separated.
JW: They didn't go to school together or--?
MM: No, no. But I didn't go to school in Charlotte.
JW: No.
MM: I went to school in South Carolina.
JW: In South Carolina?
MM: In Georgetown, South Carolina. I went to the ( ) Indigo Society.
JW: Oh. [laughter]
MM: That's where I graduated from high school.
JW: I see.
MM: And I have a picture there of my graduating class. There were only a few of us.
JW: Oh.
UK: What was the graduating class?
MM: Yeah, seven.
JW: Seven children. Uh-huh.
MM: There are six of them living.
JW: Good.
MM: One lives in Tampa, Florida.
JW: Um-hum.
MM: And one in Gainesville, Georgia. And the others live here.
JW: Do you remember who was the mayor when you came to Charlotte?
MM: [pause] What was that man who was mayor here? I can't recall his name.
JW: No.
MM: He was a big man, and but I can't recall his name.
JW: Well, when, when you lived in Charlotte fifty-six years ago, was it rather country where you lived, and its now surrounded by the city? Or was that just part of the city?
MM: It was just part of the city.
JW: It was, it was.
MM: I lived on Myers Street. And--.
UK: Which is no more.
JW: Oh, no.
UK: All that's changed.
MM: It 's closed up now.
UK: It's all new building
JW: I see.
MM: I was on the jury a short time ago, and I was the oldest person that ever served on a jury.
JW: Oh. You were on--.
MM: On a jury.
JW: Just recently?
MM: Yes.
JW: First time that you'd ever been on the jury?
MM: Yes.
UK: Was that the first time? That wasn't the first time.
MM: I believe it was the second time I've been on a jury, but this was when they told me I was the oldest one that they ever had served on the jury. See I was ninety-six when I served on the jury.
JW: I see.
UK: Registration ( ).
JW: Will you tell us about working in the polls, registering people and that sort of thing? How has that changed today as it was when you registered them?
MM: Well I don't know how much its changed, but when I took the polls, why I made seventy dollars. And my husband and I went to New York and had a real good vacation on it. [laughter]
JW: Oh that's great. When they were voting at that time, when the people would come to vote, was there much discussion while they were voting or was it a very private thing?
MM: That was private.
JW: Um-hum. Um-hum. Um-hum. Um-hum. They didn't let two go into the booth at one time or anything like that?
MM: No.
JW: Now they have machines here in ( ).
MM: Yeah I know, I voted with them.
JW: With the machines.
UK: You went the democratic--.
MM: Yes I did.
JW: What year was that?
MM: I don't know.
JW: Tell us about that, what went on there?
MM: Well it was very, very nice I can't tell you exactly what happened though, but.
JW: Was it, was it for a state election or was this for the national election?
MM: It was for the state election.
JW: It was state. Did you ever go to one for a national election?
MM: I don't believe I did.
JW: No. [pause] Were you here when the old city hall was here?
MM: Yes.
JW: Now, where, where was that located? I know where the new one is but where was the old one?
MM: It it was there right next to the courthouse.
JW: Was it?
MM: Uh-huh.
JW: Maybe you could help her.
UK: I think the new courthouse is still there, isn't it?
JW: Um-hum.
UK: See I've been away for so many years now, the city has changed so much. I don't recognize it.
JW: Yeah. Um-hum. Were, were you here when, when that Brooklyn section was here? The section of Charlotte they called Brooklyn.
MM: Yeah.
JW: Can you tell me about that, your impressions of that area.
MM: Well it was entirely colored people. And [pause] they were, they stayed in their place.
JW: Did they?
MM: Yeah. We never were troubled with colored people though.
JW: No.
UK: One lady who worked for us one time. I went over to her house. Just as clean.
JW: Um-hum.
UK: The smell her I think she did the laundry and everything just smelled so clean. She was a nice one. I can't even remember her name.
JW: Maybe your mother will, do you remember her name?
MM: It was Mary, wasn't it?
UK: I can't remember.
MM: Yeah that was her name. Mary, but I don't know what her last name was.
JW: Um-hum.
MM: Just was Mary that I know.
JW: Let me ask you, when was the first time you flew?
MM: When I went to Hawaii.
JW: Uh huh. Did you fly out of Douglas airport?
MM: Yeah.
JW: Do you, do you remember that, when it was practically nothing that airport?
MM: Yes.
JW: Did people go out there to picnic or-
MM: Now Douglas was the one I was thinking of that was mayor.
JW: Um-hum. Um-hum. He was. Well what did you do for recreation? I mean did you go out, say part of Charlotte that is now built up. Did you go out there to picnic or was there any particular place? I don't think Lake Norman was here at that time was it?
MM: No.
JW: You didn't go up there.
UK: What about the family picnics? Do remember we'd go with different car.
MM: Yeah we'd do that.
UK: Is Latta Park?
JW: Uh-huh. Was it like a family reunion or just your own intimate family?
MM: Just our own family.
UK: Seven children and grandchildren would come along.
JW: Um-hum. How many great grandchildren do you have?
MM: I don't know. I have sixty-six grandchildren and great grandchildren.
JW: Sixty-six. Do you ever have a family reunion with all of them?
MM: Yes we do. On my birthday. We're going to celebrate my birthday Saturday.
JW: Uh-huh.
MM: Out at my granddaughter's house.
JW: Good.
MM: And out in the Mallard Creek section.
JW: I see. Well that wasn't here when you, when you first came to Charlotte was it?
MM: No.
JW: Do you remember the boundaries of Charlotte when you came?
MM: No. I don't but it was very limited.
JW: Was it? [laughter]
MM: It has grown immensely.
JW: Yes it has. What, what do you think of all this growth? Did you like Charlotte, as it was when it was smaller?
MM: Well, I think usually change with this town. Don't you think so?
JW: Um-hum. I can see you changed with the times that's for sure. [laughter] That's great. Can you think of anything else you'd like to tell us? Can you tell me about the clothes? We haven't had anyone talk about the clothes.
MM: We didn't wear pants. [laughter]
UK: ( ).
MM: I'll wear my pants to church and somebody told me yesterday I was the one that inspired them to go to church with their pants on, you know. [laughter]
JW: Yes, yeah. Where did you go to swim around here at that time? Did you go any--?
MM: I don't swim.
JW: Um-hum. There weren't any lakes or that sort of thing that you ever went to, to picnic or?
MM: Well in Lumberton, we lived on the Lumber River, and we went in the river.
JW: Um-hum.
MM: There was a place that we could go that was very good to wade in, you know.
JW: Um-hum.
MM: And my father lived right, we lived right across it, right near the river.
JW: I see.
MM: And, there's where we went to all our bathing.
JW: Did, did your father have a farm?
MM: Yes.
JW: Was it a large farm?
MM: No, it was only 100 acres I think. But it was enough to keep you busy. [laughter]
JW: Yeah. I would think so, yes, yes. What did he have? Did he grow things or animals? Or did he have the?
MM: He grew cotton, and he grew everything on that farm.
JW: Uh-huh.
MM: Even tobacco.
JW: Did he?
MM: Yeah.
JW: What, what did, did he do with the cotton? Did he sell it to someone or did your mother make things of it? Or?
MM: Well, they used to have a loom. And they got the thread, you know, they made the thread would spin the thread. Have you ever seen a spinner?
JW: Uh-huh.
MM: They would spin the thread, and then they would make clothes on, on the loom.
JW: Did you learn how to use the loom?
MM: Oh, well, not much. See I was quite young then. But I could use it.
JW: Could you?
MM: Yeah. And I would spin quite a bit, and I could card the rows.
JW: Oh, yes.
MM: You know they used cards. Have you ever seen cards?
JW: Uh-huh, um-hum. I've seen them do that.
MM: Yeah, well, they would card rows, and I could do that.
JW: Where, where did you shop, when you lived in Charlotte, where did you shop? Do most of your shopping? Did you come, well, you must have some up town because there wasn't a--.
MM: Yeah, we would usually trade at Belks or Ivey's.
JW: Did you? Uh-huh.
UK: ( ).
MM: Or where?
UK: Or Efirds.
JW: Efirds
MM: That's right Efirds. There was Efirds too.
JW: What happened to Efirds?
MM: Efirds had a teashop up there one time too.
JW: Did they? Did they have a fortuneteller in there tearoom?
MM: I don't remember that there was. You mean the teller from the tea leaves. [laughter]
JW: Yes. How long have you belonged to your church? They must honor you as one of their oldest members, don't they?
MM: Well, you see, I was not here for a long time. I was in South Carolina.
JW: Um-hum.
MM: But I used to sing in the choir in Georgetown, South Carolina.
JW: Did you?
MM: Yeah, we had just two soprano voices and two alto voices, tenor and base, and we had a good choir.
JW: I'm sure it was.
UK: What church was that, Mom?
MM: That was the Methodist church.
UK: Oh Methodist church. But here in Charlotte you've been going to it my, a good many years now. I guess since about since 1925--.
MM: Since 1924, 1924. That's when my youngest son was baptized in the church was when in 1924.
JW: Uh-huh.
MM: And he's fifty-four now, I believe.
JW: And, and you've been a member of that church all, all those many years?
MM: Yes all that time, yes.
JW: Has it stayed in the same building or did it move to another building?
MM: It's in the same building.
JW: Is it in the same--, [long pause] your husband was a bookkeeper in the city of Charlotte and where did he work? What building was he in? In the courthouse or what?
MM: No. He worked in the ( ) city garage.
JW: Oh. And where was the city garage at that time?
MM: I don't know whether it's the same place.
UK: It's where it still is. It's still in the same place because--.
MM: And one of my grandsons works at the city garage now.
JW: Oh, keeping that in the family, aren't you?
MM: That's right, he's a mechanic now.
JW: um-hum. Are there some things in Charlotte that you wish were the same as they were?
MM: I don't think, I think change is good for you, don't you?
JW: Um-hum. Um-hum. Yeah. Were you and on this temple here on--.
MM: No that was in Georgetown, South Carolina.
JW: Uh-huh.
MM: I was a member there.
JW: When you came to Charlotte you weren't active in it?
MM: No.
UK: She, she would tell us about several. She was voted the most popular girl in Georgetown, South Carolina one time, wasn't it?
MM: Yeah. I got an umbrella for that.
UK: Gold headed. Wasn't it gold headed?
MM: Silver headed.
UK: Silver headed.
JW: Well that's great, and I'm sure if you went back there now you'd be voted that again. [laughter]