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Interview with Earl T. Stafford

Stafford, Earl T.
Causby, Anna
Date of Interview: 
Early Charlotte; Development; Flood of 1916; World War II
Earl Stafford discusses early Charlotte and how the city has changed in his lifetime. He also provides a description of the flood of 1916 and speaks briefly about World War II.
Charlotte, 1910s to 1940s
Interview Setting: 
Interview 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 sixty-five, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
Interview Audio: 
AC (Anna Causby): This is Anna Causby, May 22nd 1979, interviewing Earl Stafford. OK, Mr. Stafford.
ES (Earl Stafford): All right.
AC: What do you want to talk about?
ES: Well, I'm a young man compared to who you need to be talking to about the subject I have. As you mentioned, you'd like to know something about the high waters of the 1916. And I happened to be connected with the homecoming association as far as I know it's the only the place that have the old folks still get together. And there's a home coming there every year. And, I had brought a picture showing my, my mill and village hoping this would maybe make a clear understanding of what happened in that high water. And well, this was a village. The people lived there for quite a few years before this flood, and there was a lot of them that died and were buried on company property there. And the only thing I'm saying to you now is concerning up today's history is the cemetery and the few old folks who come back there. And later on I want to put some of them on to tell some of their experiences. But about all I have here I don't where you are going to have ( ) to show these pictures or not, will you?
AC: I don't know. Right now we are just doing the oral--.
ES: Ok.
AC: Part.
ES: But I came in to Mecklenburg in 1943. And, of course, the war and I moved from another county, and I've been here ever since. And what I remember is not very much important except to the everyday life of the Charlottean which is up and down until this time.
AC: That's what we're interested in.
ES: Like what?
AC: That's what we are interested in. [laughter]
ES: Well, I came over to change, to seek my fortune maybe, you'd say. I came out of the country and came into town. The best thing I did was I found a job in Charlotte working for a tire company and a manufacturer, and I was able to stay. And I raised a family here, but I didn't have very many experiences that would want to be recorded in history except I was just an ordinary draftee went into World War II. And came back to Charlotte after it was over. I got involved in some of the activities here such as your aid assistance for the needy and Red Cross and different things like that. And I began to learn about Charlotte and learn about the other people, and I think what I have had most for this to be introduced to these older people that I plan to bring in here, and let them tell their stories. Even I look older to you or seem older to you, but I'm young compared to what. And I've been fortunate meeting a lot of the celebrities and political leaders and working with them in different things, and I've seen Charlotte grow quite a bit.
AC: Why don't you tell us how you've seen it grow?
ES: Well, first thing I remember is the area around College Street, the warehouses and old depot. And when I look at it now that same area, it all looks so new that you hardly think it's the same place, but my experiences were, of course, of being around town, in and off my job and travelling some on my job in town. And that's the thing that I've noticed most is change in the whole every area you go into mostly. There's change. There's still change, and I think it's a fine thing. I remember next door here the Baptist Church is one of the fine examples of what a change can be and how it is now. In places that I worked, we were referred to them as alley's and back places, which really had a front door on the street. But it all looks good now. I think somebody's to be complimented the plan and program and I know there's a lot of fight for and against these things in becoming, but I'm glad to see it coming out. And one thing is the bond issues. I just about say about it any time you have a bond issue you should vote for it because it's progress. No considered expense because if we're going expense only, we won't have anything. It all comes from a little bit of cost in there, but I think it's one from what I've seen here the difference in the trans--, transportation. The old streetcar's some of them maybe never saw, but they still are some places the rails are still there.
AC: Um-hum. [laughter]
ES: I hope we don't have to dig them up. But I'm looking froward now to being in the city which I I'm a been living about six miles out of the city and now five hundred feet and I hope to--.
AC: Do you think you'll get annexed?
ES: I think I'll get in, in a couple of years.
AC: Yeah, I bet you will.
ES: But I'm looking forward to it. Transportation five hundred feet away someday. So it's just some of the things you might want to ask about in particular. I'm just a, just a common person who's seen a lot of this to not been involved too much. I do just a little civic work is all I've been involved.
AC: So any like specific dates you remember that you know for the city of Charlotte like you say you met some celebrities.
ES: Well, I met quite a few, if you want--, I don't know which types you mean. You talking about the mayor?
AC: Well.
ES: Well one thing in particular I heard about Ben Douglas, all my life. He was, my father knew him when he was small. And since I got involved in some of this civic work, I've done a lot of personal work with him, and he's helped me very much since I have been put in his offer and it's a home coming association. And we've been able to acquire that property and own it with his help. And I've been on a committee or two, interviewed him when we are having, fighting the airport. But I found out that he's, he's a real fine man, who is still active and doesn't want to quit. And the other celebrities that I, I, I have just worked with as I mentioned. But I remember we had a summer theatre here, I met a lot of celebrities from Hollywood, and I didn't think I'd ever get to meet those people in Charlotte.
AC: How long has that been?
ES: Oh I think that was about six or seven years ago. We used to just one of those things where you could donate a little time. And then, of course, you would be at the performances and see the stars. But I remember as I was growing up, you would see Pat O'Brien and James Cagney. I had no idea that I'd ever meet one of them. ( ) got to meet them and shake hands, make ( ). Just lots of but of course they were not local but they, but I mention the fact that we had some of them in town.
AC: Like how was holidays like Memorial Day or stuff like celebrated?
ES: Well, the thing that impressed me most, I had small children at that time and I'd come to the Christmas Carousel--,
AC: Right.
ES: when, when that thing started, we were on the front lines or front curbs, and we really got involved in, in that as just being there, and later on we decided we were fighting the crowds, but we still don't miss them we see it on TV. But I remember what a good thing that was, and what I was amazed at was to see so many out of town cars and people that particular day. And I think it's a good thing for Charlotte. Maybe you've got another one you want to ask about. I know we, since I got older, I don't go to all of them like I did but the festival and the park is a great thing that the people can participate in. I found out that if you've got time to go around town a little bit, you got the museums of art that you can learn a lot from them too.
AC: Do you, you came to Mecklenburg in 1943 right?
ES: That's right. I didn't move far I came out from Gaston County.
AC: Where were from in Gaston County?
ES: Down the river on a farm between ( ) and Belmont. I lived in the county. Real good life that's all.
AC: Came to the big city.
ES: Yeah, I knew the river when it was just a little stream before there was any dams on it, and I've seen it built all the way through South Carolina to Lake Norman now with step lakes, and we won't ever have anything like this again. It's controlled.
AC: Well do you have any other little stories you want to tell about, of interest?
ES: Well, I probably do, but I'm not a good thinker. [laughter] I was expecting to do some more of this tomorrow and I just--.
AC: You are doing fine.
ES: Well, I was amazed when I'd come to town from the farm. The, the difference is not what you think it is, and the difference is what you think it is, but when you meet the people you find out that they are all about the same type. And I found out that Charlotte may be one of the best places for the poor class or the richer class. We have it for all of it, and some of the poor class can't make it. I think I found from my volunteer work that you're lucky to be in Charlotte if you need something. From medical on, health on through a lot of other things. I, I can remember used to come to town, come into Charlotte maybe one day before Christmas. Do a little shopping or something like that when I was younger, but golly, from Catawba River to Charlotte was a long ways then. [laughter]
AC: Um-hum.
ES: And that is some interesting memories about how things looked then. As far as where you went all the time from the square, you wanted to go. And to me it seemed like it was more of a canyon than it is now. But whatever you wanted you could find it in Charlotte.
AC: Well, thank you very much.
ES: You're welcome, and I hope I've helped somebody.
AC: Oh I'm sure you have. .