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Interview with Virginia Oates

Oates, Virginia
Stathakis, Paula
Date of Interview: 
Leaksville Woolen Mill (Charlotte, NC); Homestead Mill (Charlotte, NC); Villages - North Carolina - History; Church; Textile workers - North Carolina; Piedmont and Northern Railway Company; School Children - Food; Race Relations; Then and Now
Virginia Oates was a child living in the Homestead Mill village, which was built by the Leaksville Woolen Mills in the 1920s. Virginia gives details about the mill village from 1930 when her family moved there.
Charlotte, 1920s-1930s
Interview Setting: 
Interview took place at the home of Virginia Oates
Piedmont Stories
Interview Audio: 
PS (Paula Stathakis): When did your family live out at the mill?
VO (Virginia Oates): They moved there probably in the early 30s. Probably 1930, because all the kids in the family were born there except for the two oldest, or the three oldest girls. This, there was eight children in our family. And so it would have to be 19 and 30, along there when they moved to Homestead.
PS: When the, when the, where the children born at, on that property or did the doctors come?
VO: Yes. We were all born there.
PS: Didn't go to the--?
VO: Um-hum. No. Didn't, my mother didn't go to the hospital. They were all, we were all born there on the village.
PS: Did the village have a doctor, or was there a--?
VO: No. They, the doctor that we grew up knowing was Dr. Taylor, Dr. B.C. Taylor, here in Mount Holly, over in Mount Holly, which is not very far away. And anytime you needed him, he came. He made house calls. In fact, even after we left the village, and, and, and Taylor was getting way up in years and did not drive anymore, if you needed him, you went and got him and brought him. And he still came. It was just the fact that he didn't drive an--anymore. But still came.
PS: Did he, did he serve the whole village or was he just your family's--?
VO: He was our family doctor. But he did minister as a doctor to a number of people that lived there on the village. But he was our family doctor, Dr. B.C. Taylor.
PS: Did you, where did you go to school?
VO: I attended school at, I started, the first through third grade was at Kendall. And then the fourth through the ninth grade was at Paw Creek. And at that time, they had changed Paw Creek from a high school to a middle school. And you went through the ninth grade. And then the tenth through the twelfth was West Mecklenburg.
PS: That's where all the kids out there would have gone?
VO: Um-hum, um-hum.
PS: When, when did your family move off the village?
VO: I think it was in 19 and 47 that we moved off the vill-the village and moved here.
PS: But your dad, did he continue to work at the mill?
VO: Yes, uh-huh.
PS: Did your mom work there, too?
VO: Yes, she did. They both-
PS: She worked there when you were little?
VO: Yes, uh-huh. She, my father worked the first shift. He was a supervisor of the card room. And my mother was a spinner. And she worked the third shift. And that kept somebody, you know, at the house all the time.
PS: I was going to ask who looked after the kids. But that solved that problem.
VO: Um-hmm, um-hmm, um-hmm. That solved that problem. And she was always, you know, up. She was coming in as we were going to school. And then when we came in from school, she had had her sleep and was up with us until she went back to work at eleven.
PS: Did many, do you remember if many women worked in the mill? I'm really interested in women working in the mill.
VO: Oh yes. Yes. Almost all the women, both the, the man and the woman worked in the mill. There were very few families that both didn't work in the mill.
PS: Did, did women do mostly spinning work, or was there special jobs?
VO: Well they would work in the packing room and, and where they put the, the ribbon binding on the, the binding room. But there was various things that they did in the mill.
PS: Did they, do you know if they paid the same for, or, or similar?
VO: I really don't know. My, my parents never really discussed finances with us or anything like that. If, you know, you had a need for something, they'd say, "Well we don't know whether we have the money for it." But they always the money. It, but they really never discussed in front of us what they made or anything like that at all. There was no discussion of that to my knowledge.
PS: When your family moved here, did your mother work, continue to work third shift?
VO: No, she did not, after we moved here. She didn't work anymore at the mill.
PS: Forgot what I was going to ask. Well does, it seems, and I don't want to put the wrong skew on this question 'cause I think some people always work simply because they want to. But were most people at Homestead, husband and wife working because they pretty much had to?
VO: Well they-
PS: --was it mostly economic necessity?
VO: Probably mostly economic necess-necessity because of the fact that they would, the families were large families, you know. And even though it didn't take the amount of money to live then, I sometimes wonder how they provided all that they provided for our needs.
PS: Parents can do amazing things, can't they?
VO: Right, right. But I would, I would say that it was out of necessity. I'm sure that if both my parents hadn't worked that we would not have owned this property today. Because they, this was a hundred and forty-eight acre farm that they bought. And they continued, you know, my father continued to work in the mill even though we had the farm. And he worked the farm also then.
PS: And I guess you children were expected to--?
VO: Oh yeah. We did our, we had our assigned chores that we did.
PS: Did any of the, your, did you ever work in the mill?
VO: No. I never worked in the mill.
PS: Did any of your brothers and sisters work in the mill?
VO: My brother Johnny worked in the mill for about, probably three or four years. But I think he was the only one out of our family that worked in the mill at all. He worked in the mill after he was sixteen. He would work in the summertime. And then, he worked there for a while before he went into the service. And, but he didn't go back to the mill or anything after he came out of service.
PS: Did your, did you ever, did your parents want you to work in the mill? Or was it something that if you wanted to, it was fine?
VO: No, it was, they left us to find our own destiny. Their main concern was to be sure that we were educated. And that we had the tools necessary to, to make our way in the world, as far as education was concerned. And that seemed to be their main concern.
PS: And if you had wanted to do mill work, that would have been okay?
VO: If we had wanted to do, that would have been perfectly fine because they looked at it as a, honest labor and an honest way of making a living. And it was a good living for them.
PS: When I was driving out here, it seems to me even now that this--, and I, and I don't know what it was like when it, when it was operational and people were living and, and functioning out here-it seems so far removed from Charlotte, just, but now with a car it's very easily connected. But in a time when people might not have always had cars or been able to get back and forth, did you ever feel like cut off, or away, or far out--?
VO: Cut off? No. Well, we felt like, when we went to, when we into Charlotte, we felt like we had been on a trip. My parents owned a car. My father drove and my mother would drive. But she didn't like to drive. And she, you could always tell when she was going somewhere, because if she was going to drive, my dad would take the car out of the driveway and park it in front of the house, because she would not back up. And anywhere that she parked, she always had to make sure that, you know, she could pull out because she didn't back up. But she drove and she had her license to drive. But most of the time when we were going into Charlotte, if my dad did not take us, then we would catch the bus out at the store, because the Queen City Trailways ran the schedule. And you could ride the bus to the bus station and then walk downtown to the, and do your shopping, and then catch the bus and, and come back out. And that's how the transportation, that and the P and N system, which was just a little further out Toddville Road there. They had a station that you could catch the P and N. That's some of my fondest memories as a child because then your, you didn't have TV. You had radio. You might go to the movies once a week or, or maybe once a month, or something like that. But that was not a thing that was open to you every day of the week as it is this day and time. And the, your activities centered around church and school and, you know, your, your friends, what you did with your friends that you were, you know, your neighbors. And the Sunday school classes, the Sunday school teachers on Saturday, we'd get up and pack us a picnic lunch. And we'd go catch the P and N and we'd go to Gastonia. And go to the park in the summertime and swim at the park. And then catch the P and N and come home. And you know, you had a nice outing for no more than fifty cents. But it was the fact that, it was available there for us to do. And you didn't do things that cost like they do today to entertain yourself and, and to have fun. But the, and the Sunday School teachers spent so much time with children in groups, taking them places and doing things with them. So you know, that's some of my fondest memories.
PS: So your family's part of the, the Homestead United Methodist Church?
VO: Church, uh-huh.
PS: Okay.
VO: We were Baptist until I was a little girl. And during the late 30s, when everything was so, was so hard to come by and everything, my father and mother were members of Thrift Baptist Church, which is down next to the Kendall Mill Village. [coughs] And they had, you know, always been Baptists. But they, it got to where you couldn't get gas and everything was, you know, so they started, we started going to the serv-well we'd go to the Baptist Church in the morning. And then in the afternoon is when they had the Homestead Church. And we would get ready and we'd go to that one, too, you know. So, but the kids in the family, we just joined the Methodist Church and started going there. It was within walking distance. And, so we just started going there instead of going back to the Baptist. So that's how come we became Methodists. [laughter]
PS: Methodists. And they were happy to have you. [laughter] The church seems to be an important hub with the village, socially and spiritually--
VO: It was very much a, an important hub of the, of the village. It was definitely important to the village. And when they have, when they had services on Sunday nights, you'd walk and you'd walk back home. You could see the stars. And, and, and the people were very caring people. It's just, you know, it's just a fact that you can't get around. It's just a very caring group of people.
PS: When--I, I assume and I don't know, so I'm going to ask you--that most of your friends were probably from, from the Homestead?
VO: Not necessarily so.
PS: Did you have any contacts with others?
VO: I have, I have, I had contacts with other, you know, through school. But until I was sixteen and, you know, able to, to drive and get about, which we could at that time, most of my friends were there on the village. Peggy and Saundra and, and Larry and Faith, you know we all played together and, and did things together on the village. But as we, you know, got out into school, then our, our friendships began to branch out more. And some of my dearest friends are still the ones that I grew up with on the village. But, but they're, and I still socialize with them. But not an every day or an every week type thing like it was, you know, when you were kids and playing. But they're still very near and dear to me.
PS: Did the, did the children that went to the same schools that you went to, were they mostly children from other mill communities?
VO: Both. Because the school served the Oakdale community and, and most of the people didn't, they didn't have a mill or anything over in the Oakdale community. They either farmed or either they worked at some other type job somewhere else. But you had, and then you had the kids from the Hoskins area. They were in a mill type setting. And you had the kids from Kendall which were in a mill type setting. And then when I got into high school, the kids from Berryhill and Thomasboro, and they were not mill type settings at all. They were, you know, they came into the high school. We came together there. But they were not all mill connected people. But there was no difference or anything. I never felt any difference because I grew up on my village. I never felt that, that anybody thought that that was beneath them or anything at all. I never received that feeling.
PS: That's, yeah that, I was interested in that, too. It seems like, I'm not, I've seen the Hoskins Mill or what's left of it right now, and it, I've never seen the Kendall Mill, not real sure where that is. But were there, they have, the, the Homestead Mill seems to be so nicely set off the road ( ) pretty, pretty landscaping. Were the other mill villages like that? Did, did you ever see them? Or did they just have houses? The Hoskins Mill doesn't seem to be quite that well thought out-
VO: I don't know what the Hoskins really had. I think they had some houses but not like Homestead was built. And Kendall was not laid out like Homestead was either. Homestead was laid out, you know, in the circle which had the big houses. And then on the back side, they had the smaller houses which was also in a circle. And I don't know whether that, the way they had the village laid out or what, but, and Kendall was set out in, in you know, kind of squares, and, and it's not, it was not in one, didn't seem like one whole big unit like Homestead did. And I think they sold the houses to people that worked in Kendall. I think those houses have sold to individuals and they have fixed those up. But the little school that I went to the first grade in is still standing and still being utilized today at Kendall. It's called Pawtucket now, though. That's where I started school. And, but at that time, it was just the one little brick building that had, well I think they had two first grades and maybe two second grades and one third grade there. And that's all the classrooms that were in that building. And they were not equipped, first through third grade you carried your lunch because they didn't have hot lunches there. But when we went to Paw Creek in the fourth grade, then we could go to the cafeteria and have hot lunches then. But, and I thought that was a big treat, to get away from carrying your lunch to school. [laughter]
PS: I'm sure food, school food was better then. [laughter]
VO: Well school food was good. I always thought school food was good. They served a, a nice, nourishing meal. It wasn't all the choices that I understand the kids have today. They can, you know, select, have a hamburger if they want to, or you know, this type thing that they have today. They, they had, everybody was served the same thing. If it was meatloaf day, you had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw and milk and a dessert, you know. So, it wasn't like the, they do the school lunches today. [laughter]
PS: Were, was your age group part of the group that got Christmas presents from the, from the mill?
VO: Mill? Yes, they did that all through the years. And I don't think they even discontinued it un, un--unless it was done, you know, within the past six or eight years. But the mill always packed a bag of fruit and nuts and candies for each kid that lived on the village. And you went to pick it up. There would be apples and oranges and tangerines and, and pecans and English walnuts and the, the Brazil nuts and raisins and, just about, you know, any of the fruits that you assoc-and the hard candies, that you associate with Christmas. And you would always go. And I can remember as a little tiny girl going and just barely being able to lug my bag home, you know. It was, but I wanted to carry my own bag. I didn't want anybody carrying it for me.
PS: Well ( ) might disappear.
VO: [laughter] Right!
PS: Where did they, where did they distribute this?
VO: You would go up to the community building or the church or either, and then after they built the scout cabin, and then you would go to the scout cabin and pick it up. You'd go there and pick it up.
PS: Did you, when you were little, do you, did you ever remember seeing Mr. Morehead roaming around? Was he a figure that was out a lot or was he--?
VO: Yeah, he was out a lot. He was, Mr. Morehead was extremely good to my father. My father had a heart attack, or stroke when he was sixty-two. And he went back to work after that one. And then he had another stroke. And it paralyzed him on his right side. And at that time, we were still in school. Even though we didn't live on the village, we were still in school. And my father was the income for our family. And Mr. Morehead paid his full salary until he was sixty-five and able to draw his Social Security. This is the type man Mr. Morehead was. Mr. Morehead came to see my father. Even after he knew that he would never return to work for him, he still came to see my father. And one of the funny stories that we tell in our family is my youngest sister, she had never been really around Mr. Morehead or saw Mr. Morehead. But he always drove the same old, old Cadillac. And he wore, his suits were always short pants, you know, that would strike him here in place of striking here. But that's the way he liked to wear his clothes. And he always wore a beat-up old felt hat. And my dad always kidded him about, he would ask him when he would, he'd say, "Is there anything that I can do for you or get?" He says, "Naw. Just take your old hat." You know. So, Mr. Morehead had called one afternoon and that was after we had brought my dad home from the hospital from the stroke. And my youngest sister, she always fixed the evening meal because, and she was, and she had the house all cleaned and everything. And she said, "I do wish that guy that's in that living room would go ahead and leave. Mr. Morehead called and said he was coming down to see my daddy." And says, "I don't want him in there when he comes." [laughter]
PS: Mr. Morehead. [laughter]
VO: But we tell that on her all the time because she was so upset. She thought that, you know, he was just somebody in off the street [laughter] that had stopped by to see my daddy. And she didn't know who he was. But, no he was, he was a, an extremely kind person. I, I've always felt like that he was. He, he had a caring attitude about those that worked for him. And, and I guess that's the reason everybody was so loyal to, loyal to him, is the fact that he truly cared about their welfare. And they tell--I was too young to know-but they tell that, you know, when things were so bad during the Depression that he saw, you know, to their food. And he, and they didn't do it in a degrading like manner either. You'd just wake up and it would be on the porch, you know. It would be corn or whatever, you know, a sack of it on the porch. And it wasn't done in a manner that made you feel like that you were taking charity or anything like that. It was just there for your needs. And you know, so I grew up with very warm memories.
PS: Everybody seems to have thought very, very highly of Mr. Morehead?
VO: Um-hmm, yeah, yeah. And, but he did. I, I'm sure my family wouldn't be where we are today if he had not been as kind. You know, there was enough of us out working, because I graduated from high school. I guess I graduated from high school about two years after my father had his first stroke. And you know, everybody was working and, and, and earning money at that time. And we could have footed all the bills. And we could have, but he didn't, Mr. Morehead didn't see fit to handle it that way, you know. Dad, my dad had worked for him for all those years. And, and I guess he looked at it as his obligation to look after him until such time as he was on his own. But he did. He paid his salary.
PS: That's, that's nice.
VO: And, and I won't ever forget it, you know. And, and nobody will ever say unkind things about him in my presence without me telling them so, telling them so, too. Because he was extremely good, he was extremely good to the people.
PS: I get, I get that distinct impression. Sounds like a very impressive man. What I've read about him suggests he was very quiet and--
VO: Oh he was, he was. You would never know that he was around. But he was a very quiet and, I guess he would be the type person-and I was not around him that much-but, he would be the type person that, that, you know, if he, if he really liked you, and, and he, you commanded his respect and, that he'd give you the shirt off his back and walk away with no regrets, you know. That's, you know, the impression from my parents that I received of the man. That, you know, if, if he really liked you and, and you had what, what was the, what was then called the proper values of, of life, then you know, that, then he would do for you. But I did not know the man that well because I was, I was on the lower end of the totem pole in the family. [laughter]
PS: Do you remember blacks working in the mill or around the mill or with any connection to the mill?
VO: Well I know that there was a, a back, black family, the Greens. And I really don't know what he did. And the Luckys were also, but I know that, I don't know whether they were, they were in the maintenance type end of it or not. Because as I recall, I think they would come around and pick up the trash and haul it off, you know. But I, I just really don't know what their connection was.
PS: They didn't live--?
VO: They did not live on the village, no, un-huh. They, and I don't know whether that was just, you know, something that they did on their own or whether, and, and my parents paid for, or, or whether that, you know, was whether they were employed by the mill to do that. I just don't know.
PS: Because I've seen a picture of blacks folding blankets with-
VO: Well I know in later years the blacks worked up there, the blacks worked there. And the, and when I was a child, and, and, but they did not live on the village when I was a child. Now we had a black that lived with us, Fanny. And she stayed with us in the house.
PS: Did you know which, which, would you have one of the bigger houses ( )--?
VO: Uh-huh. We lived in the third house on the right when you go around the lower end of the village. They've torn our house down. But, but Fanny lived with us and stayed with us when I was a, a child. And, and she was very much like family to us. In fact, I don't know where Fanny is now. She was in Newtown, Pennsylvania living with her children. But I have not gotten a Christmas card from her in the last couple of years. So that leads me to believe that she maybe, you know, passed away, because Fanny would be probably in her eighties, seventies, late seventies or eighties now. But-
PS: Was she, did she have children--?
VO: Yeah, she got married-
PS: --when she lived with ya'll--
VO: No, [sound indicating negative response]
PS: --or was that afterwards?
VO: [sound indicating negative response] It was afterwards. She got married after, she was a young girl when she lived with us. And then she worked for me after I became an adult. She would come and do my ironing and, and things for me. But I don't know where she's at now. I don't know whether she's passed away because her children have not acknowledged the cards or anything what. So I don't know where Fanny is.
PS: Did, did, did other people have black housekeepers as well?
VO: Yes, uh-huh, uh-huh, um-hmm, um-hmm.
PS: Look after the children?
VO: Look after the children, uh-huh.
PS: Do domestic things?
VO: Uh-hum, uh-hum.
PS: Did, did, was she from the area, or was she just ( )--?
VO: Yes, she was from this area out here, uh-huh. She lived in the area. And they would take her home on Fridays, and then go back and get her Sunday night. Yeah. But she stayed right there at the house all week long.
PS: Did, I guess the baseball team was still a big thing when you lived over there?
VO: When I was a child, yes, uh-hum. The baseball team was. You would go up and sit on the bank and watch the ballgame. Yeah.
PS: Did, any of your brothers play?
VO: No, neither of my brothers played ball.
PS: [pause] I, I guess that your parents, probably both what you, what you could get, what you, what the impressions you got from that, from working there was probably positive as far as their relationship with the company and the jobs and their relationship with other people.
VO: Oh, uh-hum, uh-hum, yeah.
PS: Doesn't seem to be a place where there was much discipline problems-
VO: No.
PS: --outside of the, the, the regular petty arguments and, nothing really substantial.
VO: No, no, [sounds indicating negative response]
PS: So Mr. Morehead didn't really have to do any major discipline?
VO: No. [sound indicating negative response] I never even heard of anybody ever getting fired from Homestead, you know, as a child. I just never knew anybody. Because if they got fired, they probably moved and they didn't move, you know.
PS: So was the community pretty stable when you were--?
VO: Very, very stable.
PS: --from what you remember there was none of this transient-
VO: Uh-huh. Un-huh, there was no transients--
PS: --working and leaving--?
VO: --and leaving.
PS: I think probably most of the trouble would have been before you were born ( ).
VO: Right. Well the only thing that I, you know, I have heard them tell about when they were trying to organize the mill. But I don't know of any real, you know, it, it just was never was discussed when I was a child. Other than, you know, what I've heard my, my older sisters tell about the time that, that my mother sent them to the grocery store out there to pick up something. And they, they were there trying to organize the mill. And they were on the other side of the road and trying to get people, you know, that was coming to buy their groceries to come over, over and talk to them. And they said that the only thing that crossed the street was a cat. [laughter] So that, you know, I, I, I just hear the things that they tell. But I didn't, I was not aware of that because I was born in '37.
PS: That was well after the strikes.
VO: Uh-huh. See that would have been,well I don't think they ever struck at Homestead.
PS: There was a strike at, a small strike in 1929.
VO: OK. Well then, well that was before my parents came there, too, see. But that would have been before they got there. They probably, my parents probably moved there in, in, in 19 and 30.
PS: Now did they come from another mill? Or did they come from the farm?
VO: Yeah, yes. My, my father worked in Rhodhiss, North Carolina. And he also worked in Brookford, North Carolina before he came there. My, my father was born in Kings Mountain. And my mother was born in Shelby. And my mother's parents owned a farm. And my father's mother was living, but my father's daddy was dead. And he apparently died when my dad was young because my dad didn't go to school beyond the third grade. But he could out-figure anybody. And, but after he was married and, and you know, they were having children and everything, he took correspondence courses and got his high school certificate. But he only went through the third grade. And he was by no means uneducated. He did it himself.
PS: Probably why it was so important for the kids to get an education.
VO: Uh-huh, uh-huh. He did it himself.
PS: How far did your mother go in school?
VO: I think my mother went all the way as far as you could go in school at that time. But my dad did not. But, and he never would let us see, you know, his grades. He kept them in the trunk. And we never saw those until after he died. But he had high marks. He had high marks on his, all of his work, because he kept them in a box and kept the papers. But-
PS: Would, would, where did he, where did he correspond? What institution? Do you remember?
VO: I don't remember. And I wish I had kept all of that when, and Dorsey may have. But I don't know whether she did, because she's a packrat. I'm not a packrat. [laughter]
VO: But Dorsey may have kept that. I don't know what correspondence school.
PS: I was wondering if it was something local that he was doing ( ).
VO: I don't know whether it was or whether it was, you know, out of state or what it was. But-
PS: It's impressive nonetheless. Well do you remember anything outstanding?
VO: Outstanding.
PS: This, this would be outstanding for you, not outstanding as ( ) just something, the bits and pieces of your childhood with, on the village or in connection with, with the mill and the people who worked there.
VO: Well it was always [pause] everybody did things together. It was the, the togetherness of it, I guess. You know, everybody worked in the mill and they, and like if my mother was canning peaches and, and she, you know, she might have six or eight bushels of peaches that she was going to can. Well then everybody would come and help her peel her peaches and get her peaches canned. And if, you know, the Fishers were doing the same thing. And if the parents were away, you, you had no problem with discipline or anything. And if somebody got hurt or something and needed to go to the doctor, whoever it was picked them up and took them and saw to their needs. And there was no concern that they were going to be sued. It just wasn't even thought of. Just wasn't even thought of. I know my, my mother and father were down here when we still lived on the village and, and we were playing with the hose pipe out in the yard. And my sister Thelma was squirting the hose pump and it hit a jar. And the jar fell and burst. And when it did, a piece of the glass went through the top of her foot and cut the main artery in her foot. It was just, you know, spurting blood. And Presley Byrum lived in front of us at that time. And he, he says, "Well we've got to get her to a doctor." He pick her, picked her up and carried her, carried her, and put him in, put her in the car and took her to the doctor and got that taken care of and brought her back home. She could have bled to death if he had not been willing to have done that. Very easily she could have bled to death. But he, you know, it was no concern that somebody was going to-oh, I can't do that so, you know. You didn't worry about things like that. You did what needed to be done. And there was, you know, everybody accepted that you did your best. And that's all that anybody expected, was your best.
PS: Did it ever get to be too much togetherness out there?
VO: I don't think so. I don't think so. [laughter] In fact, if the world had more of that today it would be a better place to live.
PS: Did, did you take vacations together? Was that--?
VO: Some people did. They would go to the, because they had the same week off. You know, you'd go to the beach and, but now, I didn't go to the beach until I was, my first trip to the beach was when I was about thirteen, I guess. And this after my oldest sister was married. And she and her husband took us. But that's the first time I had been to the coast. But a lot of people, yes, they would go to the beach at the same time and they would, you know, socialize right there at the beach [laughter] just like they did at home. But we never did because we were always busy on the farm in the summertime doing things. But, but a lot of people, you know, did. You saw the same people on your vacation that you saw when you, you know, were back home.
PS: That's a lot of togetherness. [laughter]
PS: You have to really like each other.
VO: Well that's like, you know, we say, we kid each other now because all of us, all my family lives right here in, in a row. And we say we can't get mad at our neighbors because [laughter]-
PS: You're related to them?
VO: You're related to them. [laughter]
PS: Okay , well I think that'll do us for today, unless you have anything else that-
VO: I don't know of anything.
PS: It's been very helpful.
VO: Oh I hope I have. I thought well what do I know, you know?
PS: You lived there. I didn't! [laughter]
VO: The, Craig Lawing who was one of the state senators from this area, his father was one of the ones that ran the store there.
PS: Yeah, that store, that's the one-
VO: The grocery store.
PS: --on the strip. Now that's a newer building, isn't it? Is that the same ( )--?
VO: Um-hum, um-hum, um-hum. Well it's the same building. The only thing that they have done is added the brick veneer to it.
PS: OK, I see.
VO: Uh-huh. It's the same building, the same, you know. It has not been expanded and it has not been cut down. It's the same size that it was when I was a child. But I remember when, oh gosh, I don't, I must have been about the second, first or second grade. I always claimed Craig's father as my sweetheart-Oliver. And I would go up the store with my mom and dad to buy groceries. And he had a little red fire truck with the pedals, you know, that you pedaled, and, and he'd give you a ride. And I'd ride all around that store in that truck. And I thought that was a big store at that time. But, you know, as years go by, it's not as big as it was. And when I woke up on Christmas morning, that fire truck was under my Christmas tree from Oliver. I won't ever forget, I won't ever forget. All the other kids had tricycles, but I had a fire truck. [laughter]
PS: Was that store a big gathering place? Or was, was it sort of a--?
VO: No, not particularly, not like some, like, like washday. This is up here, you know, people go and sit around the pot-belly stove and, and talk and tell, tell tales. No, not like that, not in that sense, it wasn't.
PS: Now did it serve just the Homestead community or just the area was--?
VO: No, anybody, anybody. It was, it was, it was owned, the, the building was owned by the mill. And the proprietor of the store paid rent for the building to the mill. But they stocked the store and they ran the store as their own business. It was a, you know, it was their business. And Oliver always ran the store when I was growing up. And the one that they had on there before him was Cookie Todd. And I don't remember him at all. Because as long as I can remember , Oliver owned the store and run the store. And, but, and the men hunted together. They would go bird, bird hunting together and, and you know, that type thing. They, they pretty much socialized with each other and did things with each other. But it was a good place to live. Very good place to live.
PS: Everybody has good memories. Was the community around there largely rural?
VO: Oh yeah, yeah. It was not built up at all. Oliver's house was over there on the same road that the church is on. It was a little, a white two-story house over there. But there was not many houses built out there at all other than the village. And the McCalls were up there on 27 but none of those other brick homes were there or anything. But, no, it was not, it was densely populated, densely populated. The Eisenhowers lived on down where that black church is built now, on down the same side as our church. But, but they weren't many homes, you know, other than the, the houses there at the village.
PS: Now this has nothing to do with the village, but since you lived at, I was just wondering if you know what that little cemetery or that little collection of graves is? As you're coming in towards Homestead on Rozzelles Ferry.
VO: It's a black cemetery, uh-hum. It's a black cemetery.
PS: It's just that little cluster of maybe five or six-
VO: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Well there's more than that. There's more graves than that there. But you only see that many headstones. Because I really don't know, but that is a black cemetery. And it's been there ever since I can remember. But it's a black cemetery. And it may have some connection with that black church that's over there [pause] between 16 and Rozzelles Ferry. But where you branch off up at the Circle G, there's a street that goes this way and Rozzelles Ferry comes on around this way. Well there's a black church. And I can't even remember what the name of that church is. And I've been in it. But I can't remember what the name of it is. But that church has been there ever since I can remember, too. It used to be that before segregation came along, our church would go to the Woodlawn Church over here, which is a black church, and sing. And their church choir would come to our church and sing. We'd do things, you know, and, and, but after segregation came into being, I mean came such a predominant issue, people seemed to get afraid to fraternize as we had once done.
PS: How long did that go on, that, the exchange of the choirs?
VO: Gosh, it had gone on ever since I can remember. [laughter]
PS: But what would you, can you remember some years, some dates, just approx--just a rough guess?
VO: No, but it was still going on in the 40s, in the late 40s, because I remember going and how much I enjoyed it.
PS: Or did you just go and sing and that would be all, then ya'll would go home? Was, was there any kind of social--?
VO: No, not necessarily socializing or anything, but, but we would have not, if, if there had been, I don't think we would have felt anything about eating there or anything. Because goodness, nine time-nine out of ten of the, the women in that church were keeping us as kids through the day. And we ate their cooking all the time. Why would we think anything different from it, you know? I can remember as a child asking my mother why Lucky's kids didn't go to school with us. And my mother said, "Well, you know, they have their own schools. That's the law." She didn't say that they weren't equal to us. She didn't say they weren't as good as us, you know. And it, it created no block in my mind as to them not being.
PS: Did you play with those children, were they, were they around--?
VO: Yeah, sometime, yeah, they would, yeah. If they were around the village or anything, we would play, yeah. We'd play with Benny's kids, you know. So it didn't, it didn't bother us. We never thought about it. [laughter]
PS: More playmates. The more the merrier.
VO: Yeah, yeah. We, we really didn't think about it. But [pause] but it, it was a good life, good life.
PS: It sounds like a nice place to live. It's certainly a very pretty--