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Interview with Dorothy Williams

Williams, Dorothy
Wright, Christina
Date of Interview: 
Charlotte Trolley; Dilworth; Social Acceptance; Latta Park; Segregation; Efird's; Carolina Theatre; Ringley Brothers Circus; Broadway Theatre; Ivey's; Cresses; Belk's; Pearl Harbor; Junior Order; Public Transportation; Great Depression; Strikes; Unions; Bus System
Mrs. Williams discusses her life growing up in Dilworth, Charlotte, North Carolina and her personal experiences with the Charlotte Trolley system as well as her father's stories from working as a conductor. She discusses her experiences with World War II and the Great Depression. She also details society at that time. She discusses the transition of the city of Charlotte from trolleys to buses.
Interview Setting: 
Home of Dorothy Williams at 435 McAlway Road Charlotte, North Carolina
Piedmont Stories
Interview Audio: 
CW (Christina Wright): Today is April 22nd, 2004. This is Christina Wright interviewing Dorothy Duncan Bird-Williams for the UNC Charlotte Oral History Project. We are at the home of Dorothy Williams 435 McAlway Rd. Charlotte, NC. Dorothy Williams who was born October 5, 1921 here in Charlotte. Her father was the late Thomas Lee Bird who operated the Charlotte Trolleys for many years. Mrs. Williams is also the wife of another of our interviewees Mr. Earl Marshal Williams. Mrs. Williams I'd like to start by talking about your life growing up as a child in the neighborhood of Dilworth. What was it like for you?
DW (Dorothy Williams): We lived at 1919 Winthrop Avenue and we played in Latta Park that was close to home.
CW: Now tell me what Latta Park was like then?
DW: Well we had a person to come three times a week to play games with us. And it had the monkey bars, and it had swings, and it had seesaws. It had a place where we could put on skits like a stage. And all the children in the neighborhood came, especially on the days that a supervisor would be there. It had tennis courts; a lot of the young people would wait in line to get to use the court. It was so crowded.
CW: Was it quite different from the way it is now?
DW: Oh, yes.
CW: When you were a child?
DW: Oh, yes.
CW: What were the differences?
DW: Well, where Romany Road is with South Park, part of the park. Then they built those big houses there.
CW: So you saw those houses being built?
DW: Yes, in fact I saw Dilworth Methodist Church being built. Because Dilworth Methodist first met in the church that was bought by the Nazarenes on the corner of Worthington and I don't remember that street. It's the corner there. And we had several stores up on South Boulevard. Wyatt Grocery and he delivered.
CW: Uh huh.
DW: He had an old fashioned truck that he delivered the groceries in and along the side of our house was an ally and those trucks would come up that ally.
CW: Where was that grocery store on South Boulevard?
DW: In the 1900 block.
CW: Was that anywhere near where East comes in?
DW: It's just before you get to Tremont.
CW: Right.
DW: And that store is still there but, it's like a coffee shop, I think.
CW: Right. Do you remember-
DW: On that street there was a barber shop, a grocery store, a shoe store, several stores right in there, and people did their shopping there. Then the A and P built a small store at the corner of Worthington and South Boulevard. And then they built a Super A and P store over on Park Avenue and that was one of them. Because before you had to stand at the counter and say what you wanted and they would get it for you. But when it became a super store you could go in it and take it off the shelf. Which was quite a come up, but Dilworth was really a small neighborhood group. All in the neighborhood went to Dilworth School and after Dilworth School they went to A.G., which was over on Morehead. And walked; it was close enough to walk, but then after we finished at A.G. it was too far to Central, which is now Piedmont Community College. We had to ride the streetcar and some of the kids used to say, "Dot you get your tickets for free." I said, "No way, Duke Power doesn't give anything." We had to buy our tickets even though daddy worked for them; we had to buy our tickets.
CW: Did most of the children from Dilworth take the streetcar to school?
DW: Yes.
CW: So, it was pretty full in the morning then?
DW: Loaded, standing up it was full and standing up by the time it got to the corner. I got on it at the corner of Dilworth, where Dilworth Methodist Church is- Winthrop right across from J. Jones' home; I got on there. It was full by the time it got to where I was. Then after they took up the streetcar tracks it was our senior year, beginning to be the last year. We had to ride the bus and so by that time people began to carpool and take their children. They didn't ride the public transportation, after that they carpooled.
CW: Sounds like you took the trolley quite a bit though. Did you as a child?
DW: I did.
CW: Did you enjoy it?
DW: Oh, I loved it.
CW: What was it like? Describe a journey, what did you like about being on the trolley?
DW: Well my mother would take turns taking us shopping with her. And I was only five and it was my turn to go. I was so excited because I was going to get to go to Efird's and ride the escalator to the mezzanine floor. This was very horrible trip for me; I was so excited that by the time I reached downtown I needed to use the restroom. We went in Efird's, rode the escalator and mother told me that she was going to step in the beauty shop that was on the mezzanine floor and speak to my cousin that worked there. I didn't hear her, I darted in the restroom, I came out and my mother wasn't there. All the clerks and all the people were so nice to me; they give me chewing gum, they give me candy and my mother came out of the beauty shop just horrified that I would be so crybaby. So, I didn't get to go to town with my mother anymore for a long time- long time. We had a colored women that worked for us for 35 years, because mother sewed for the public and she needed help. So, I didn't know that the colored people weren't allowed to go to the Carolina Theatre. But if she wore her white uniform she could take me. And then after I got bigger I said "I don't want her to go with me". And didn't know why she liked to take me. I don't think the children were really aware of the fact that we discriminated. I don't think we were aware of that, I wasn't. 'Cause we loved her, she was just part of the family. So, she didn't work on Saturday and Sunday, though; because that was her time to get ready for Daddy Grace coming to town. The big church they had- Daddy Grace was quite a person to them. In fact she used to buy his handkerchiefs for 50 cents and when she'd be she sick she'd use that handkerchief and get well immediately. Superstitious she was.
CW: Did she live in Brooklyn?
DW: She, they tore her house down when they built the Charlotte Town Mall.
CW: What was her name?
DW: Mary Mitchell and she lived to be over 100. But she lived at the later years after she wasn't able to work, she went to what they call Green Acres with- I guess it's a hospital there. Now that hospital was supposed to be part of the University at Charlotte and it was supposed to be- we were supposed to have a pre-med school in Charlotte. And Sanford didn't want it in Charlotte he wanted it down East. So, they put that pre-med school at East Carolina, instead of UNC Charlotte, and so it was too bad. We were supposed to have a big hospital here instead of in Salisbury for the veterans and they made it into Veterans Park instead, because again, officials in Raleigh put it in Salisbury instead of Charlotte. Charlotte gets left out sometimes.
CW: It must have been very disappointing-
DW: Politically.
CW: For people here you remember that.
DW: Yes, talked about it. It isn't fair what the government does to Charlotte; tried to hold Charlotte back.
CW: Thinking about- going back to your childhood; thinking about those journeys, when you went down to the Carolina Theatre with your nurse did you go on the trolley?
DW: Oh, yes.
CW: Yeah, so what did you like about it? Was there a conductor on board then or was it the motor man that took the money? And do you remember giving him the money and I guess your nurse? How did you like to sit and did you like turning around at the end of the journey and that kind of thing?
DW: She couldn't sit with me.
CW: Right.
DW: So I went to the back with her.
CW: Uh huh, which was sometimes-
DW: Held her hand 'cause I was little; small enough to... Then after I got bigger and wanted to go with my friends that I went to school with, she didn't go with me anymore. She took me to the Circus, the Circus met over on Tremont Avenue on the West Side across the railroad track. In a big empty lot they would set up the tents. It was Ringley Brothers Circus that came to Charlotte, and they would set up their big tents; it was an exciting time. Of course we walked to that because it wasn't far to walk to the circus. Charlotte had a lot of entertainment at times for things.
CW: What other things-
DW: The Broadway Theatre back before I was born- I've heard my mother talk about they brought real plays here to the Broadway Theatre.
CW: Where was the Broadway?
DW: Oh, it was on South Tryon Street about two blocks from the square. They later built the Imperial Theatre right across the street from it. And the Old Broadway Theatre stayed carrying second run movies or Westerns for a long time after. After such things as plays coming to Charlotte.
CW: Did you go uptown a lot then as you were growing up, getting a little older with your friends?
DW: Yes, yes. We did.
CW: Besides the movies what would you go for?
DW: The Briar Hopper's would put on their show and one of the dairys sponsored it and would give us ice cream or treats and a big group of us would go and watch the show live.
CW: And where would that be at?
DW: Just to get the refreshments. I guess it was in the WBT Studio. I'm sure 'cause it was right on Tryon Street in a back building. I think they had about six floors, well that's how I remember.
CW: What about the shopping. Did you like to go for the shopping?
DW: I never did go shopping without my mother. Not even- it was very rare for young people to go shopping without their parents. I always went shopping, we loved Ivey's because one of the bus driver's wife worked in the shoe department. My mother had a very narrow foot, narrow heel, and she knew just- and she'd call her and tell her I have just your size in. They would good to do that if they got her size in. Now he lived, he's still living, now you might talk to him. I saw him out in the yard he looked kind of feeble, but I saw him out in the yard the other day, up here on McAlway.
CW: Which other shops did you like to go to downtown when you were with your mom?
DW: Well, like I say, Belk's, Ivey's and Efird's were the only stores we shopped in. They had little shops like a little dress shop called The Darling Shop that my sisters they were older than me, they liked to shop in there because they carried inexpensive line of clothes, that catered to young people. There was a purse salesman that was a Lucile that I liked after I had finished high school and was working. My first job was in Cresses, right after high school.
CW: How old were you then?
DW: And I worked on- I finished high school in 1940. Guess I was 18,
CW: Nineteen?
DW: Eighteen, 19, and I worked in Cresses. I was working at Cresses when Pearl Harbor happened on the toy counter. And I remember Mr. Chapman that was head of the store and Mr. Kisser asked me said do you think that they will continue to buy our toys because they all come from Japan. I made the mistake of saying or made the comment the type of people that come in the dime store for toys don't care where it came from.
CW: What did they say?
DW: They laughed 'cause that was true; they just laughed. See people with money would buy their toys in department stores, or in hardware stores; hardware stores carried really nice toys. And they were more expensive than the dime store toys. Dime store toys were more reasonable and the class of people that shopped for toys in that store would buy the cheaper things.
CW: Did you like working at Cresses?
DW: Oh, yes they were so nice. We had the best time; they had the best lunch counter. You could buy a complete lunch for 25 cents: a vegetable, a meat, two vegetables, and a drink, and your bread for 25 cents. But if we'd save up enough a group of us would go down to ( ) Hotel to their cafeteria and we'd buy only one thing like a salad and a drink, which wouldn't be very expensive. We laughed. One of the girls that worked with me in Cresses, Vicely Garland, lived in Mint Hill and after- years later after I married Earl she was in school with him and her parents ran a store in Mint Hill, but yet she worked at Cresses in Charlotte. I don't know if she- I doubt if she's still living. But we had fun.
CW: It must have been a very busy store, too; lots of people coming in?
DW: Very busy.
CW: Did you like-
DW: Especially the candy counter. Everybody stopped in, they had delicious candy. I don't know what line it was but it was their chocolates, you could smell it passing on the street you could smell it, and you'd come in for the candy.
CW: And you must have got to work on- did you get to work on the streetcar at this point? Oh no, the streetcar had gone out, just a year before?
DW: Oh, it's gone; you ride on the bus. You ride the bus. Yeah, but I rode the bus to work. The bus came by since the streetcar- the streetcar came by on because of Mr. Latter at first. It came by in front of his house every 10 minutes and some places it was a whole hour's variance. So the streetcar continued to come every 10 minutes so then when they got the buses it was the same thing. Buses came every 10 minutes one right behind the other.
CW: Now what do you remember growing up about Mr. Latter's old house that J. Jones had brought and that the Jones' were living in?
DW: It was a beautiful home. We used to have a very low stone wall in the front and we'd go and sit and count the cars that would go by. Or we could name the Plymouth and Chevrolet and we would count how- and Ford's. We would count how many more of those than the Packards and the Cadillac's. And Oldsmobiles, not too many of those; they were beautiful, and the Buick's, not too many of those; but lots of Ford's, Chevrolet's and Plymouth's.
CW: Was there quite a bit of traffic then up and down East Boulevard?
DW: No, oh yes, quite a bit. But yeah, Dilworth was a busy section of town.
CW: Would you say that a lot of people were still using the streetcar though, they were busy too?
DW: People used the streetcars up until they took the streetcars up and started the buses.
CW: Right
DW: Then they quit.
CW: 1938.
DW: Yes, they started driving their own car rather than the bus.
CW: Right, but was there ever a time when the street cart got to be not so busy or in your memory were there always plenty of people on those even though they came by every 10 minutes.
DW: Always.
CW: Really?
DW: The people, even the men that worked in the offices downtown in the banks, a lot of them rode the streetcars. Families only had one car.
CW: Uh huh, right.
DW: And gas was very cheap but, they were really no parking places in town.
CW: Now, your father came to town to drive the streetcar really didn't he?
DW: Yes.
CW: Can you tell me that story? Where did he grow up and what made him want to come to Charlotte?
DW: He worked on a farm, picked cotton worked hard on a farm. And his cousin owned a furniture store in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He let him come work for him and he liked it. Then he found out that they were hiring and training streetcar drivers and he came and applied and got the job and he loved it. It was highly looked up to 'cause they wanted to men to us as if they were professionals. They had what they called the Junior Order and they had a club and the men would wear uniforms that were cleaned there at this club. Their shoes were shined and they'd get hair cuts there. They would take showers there, they were looked up to as being a gentleman and the company wanted that. They wanted the people to feel that it was not just a job but a profession. They wanted the people to look up to the conductors.
CW: Was this built into the barn somewhere or a separate building somewhere down there nearby.
DW: The barn was down there and what it was, was like a big pit. They'd drive them in there and the men would work on the bottom of it on the pit thing. It was run by electricity and the street car drivers had to pull when they get to the end of the line, pull it and hook it to the other end and take everything they had to the other end. Now Dilworth it wasn't that way, the street car made a loop around Dilworth Road and turned and made a little loop and come back, so you didn't have to. Daddy liked that run, because one time in doing the trolley he ruptured himself and it hurt too bad till he had an operation for that. But during the war, I left Cresses and went to work at Belk's, right after Pearl Harbor. I liked working in Belk's and Belk's was very good to me, they sent me to training school. The person came down; the instructor came down to teach us lots of things about how to be a buyer and they were training to buyer when I became engaged with my first husband and he was in the officers' training school and he wanted to get married. Mother and daddy didn't want me to; the war was going on already. They didn't want me to, but I did anyway. So Belk's gave me a beautiful letter of recommendation. The first place I lived was in Monroe, Louisiana and I looked for a job and all the department stores in there said no. Your husband is out at that air base and there is no way we ever hire any one because you wouldn't learn how to stock until he'd be transferred out. And sure enough he was transferred then to Roswell, New Mexico. I stayed in Roswell, New Mexico and I became pregnant and decided that I rather go home near my mother. I was nervous about it and I came home and he was transferred then to Columbia, South Carolina. So he happened to be able to come to Charlotte when the baby was born because of being stationed in Columbia, South Carolina.
CW: But you stayed in Charlotte then from that point onward?
DW: Uh huh.
CW: Right?
DW: Yes.
CW: And you said you stayed with your parents?
DW: I stayed with my parents and my sister two years older than me, came out to see me. She was- her husband was also a pilot and she was transferred from somewhere in Kentucky to Vincennes, Indiana. And she became pregnant in Vincennes, Indiana. So her little girl was just seven months difference than my little boy. She came home while her husband was overseas. We all lived with mother and my husband was killed and three months later her husband was killed. So we were left- she took her job back and that's when I decided to go to college. So I went to Queens and it was my senior year that I married Earl, in my senior year, spring break of my senior year.
CW: What were you studying at Queens? Was that business?
DW: No, no to be a teacher, education.
CW: Did you go on to teach?
DW: Oh, I taught here in Charlotte Mecklenburg [gasps] I couldn't tell you for how many years.
CW: Oh you did?
DW: Yes.
CW: Aw that's wonderful.
DW: I taught here.
CW: Well that's another whole other conversation that we just left out.
DW: Yeah, we'd better get back to the street car.
CW: I know, yeah let's just get back to your father for now. When I was asking you where did all that operation go where they left their uniforms, and they had their shoes shined? I was wondering was that near the barn or was that another building?
DW: That was downtown
CW: Downtown?
DW: Downtown where the Duke Power building was at that time on First Street.
CW: So would they finish work downtown and then go home from there and that's where they stopped in the morning?
DW: Well another driver took over their street car.
CW: Yeah, yeah.
DW: They would just get off down there, downtown at the Duke Power building and go in to turn in everything down there. There was nothing at the barn but the street cars.
CW: Yeah, right
DW: That was just- that's why it was called a barn.
CW: Right.
DW: It wasn't- all the official things went on uptown. In fact they had a booth right up the square.
CW: Oh tell me about that.
DW: It was- you know the Independence Building that they tore down. It was in it and that was the main office for the men to go and get things, transfers. Things--change if they needed change and Mr. Drum and Mr. Fox ran that office. They were head of the motormen, they called them motormen; they were head of them. And I do not know who was in charge down where the uniforms were, that was another crew.
CW: Uh huh, that's right. What color were those uniforms?
DW: Um, they weren't black, they were a dark gray.
CW: What about the buttons?
DW: Yes, they were brass, real brass buttons. Wished I would have saved some.
CW: What about his hat?
DW: Yeah, they were like a train, like the conductor on a train.
CW: And he would have a special-
DW: Shaped just like a-
CW: Little plaque on his hat to give his- was that his number or-
DW: No, they had their name plate and it was placed in that little bracket for it. Their name plate his was still Bird and somebody in the family got that and I don't know who took that, I didn't get it. The only reason I had the things that were saved when daddy died, mother moved in with my sister and she asked me to keep daddy's trunk. And the trunk was here in the basement when they called and said they wanted things, anybody that had anything. They was just started the streetcar back, the idea of it and anybody that had anything. So I looked in the trunk and found those things and I gave it to them.
CW: That's nice. So in that collection there's a lot of interesting things. There's his watch for example.
DW: Yes.
CW: How important was that to him on the route?
DW: Because he stuck right to the- if he was going fast he saw it was going to be the next stop too soon he would slow up. If he was a little bit slow he would speed up; he stayed right on. You'd know his bus was going to be on time.
CW: Uh huh.
DW: Even though it was on the city street and hard to keep up. Easy for the streetcar to keep up because they had that bell; just stomp on that and the cars would get out the way of the track. But they had their own track so nothing could stop them. The streetcars were very reliable.
CW: Did the watch, was he giving the watch by-
DW: Oh no.
CW: Somebody else or his watch; they had to provide their own?
DW: He bought that, they didn't give them anything. He paid expensive fee out of his salary to belong to that club and all the men did not belong to it. You weren't compelled because it was taking out of your pay if you did. My daddy was a very proud man and he belonged to it. I'm sure some others didn't and just took the money for their family. We were fortune, because we owned our home. We didn't have anything but taxes to pay.
CW: What was the address of your house?
DW: Huh?
CW: What was the address of your house?
DW: 1919 Winthrop.
CW: How did- did your father gain enough money to buy the house out right.
DW: No, his daddy let him have some to get started, but he bought the house through what was called the Building and Loan back then. And he would double up or anything on his payments or whatever to pay it off quickly, and he did, he paid it off very quickly. So during the Depression it was paid off way before the Depression. So the people across the street from us, next door to us, and around the corner from us lost everything. But we didn't suffer because streetcar drivers, postmen, teachers, the workers like that, you had to have those. And so they didn't, but the people that lost their jobs were bankers, lawyers, and doctors didn't do to well either because people wouldn't go.
CW: What impact-
DW: It was a bad time.
CW: What impact do you remember personally from that time? I mean what did you see around you besides those losing.
DW: Oh, I felt sorry for the little girl across the street. Natalie Goode, her father was a lawyer, he lost everything. Because he had put money in stocks that went bad, and you miss those people.
CW: Did they have, they had to leave?
DW: They left. Lost their car, lost their house, lost their furniture, they lost everything. Those that were- now we had really nice furniture because daddy got the furniture from Rock Hill. And the furniture store where he worked he got a discount. We did have beautiful furniture even though he didn't make a big salary it was the bargains he could get. My mother was a very saving woman and she helped save and helped take care of things.
CW: Did your father talk much about his salary when you were growing up? Did he keep that very private from the children?
DW: Yes, we didn't know.
CW: The little books that you gave in to the trolley museum, were they a record of his earnings? The little notebooks that he kept, when he was- his records.
DW: No, I think that was a record of how much he took in on the-
CW: On the trolley car.
DW: Yeah, that was what he turned in as a day's report. I'm thinking- I don't know, I really don't know.
CW: Did he talk about that?
DW: No.
CW: The record keeping or-
DW: No.
CW: What do you remember about paying fares when you were getting on the trolley? Was it generally money or you-
DW: He would give me 25 cents and for 25 cents I could buy four tickets. They were just little tickets, like theatre ticket, and streetcar ticket. I didn't even save any of those. And you'd get four, because it cost seven cents. Even from the very start it cost seven cents to ride the streetcar. In some big cities you could ride for a nickel, I know they talked about it. But Duke Power was piggy, they wanted that extra two pennies added up. So it was seven cents.
CW: Unless you got the pack.
DW: Put if you bought it four at a time it was 25 cents for four.
CW: Saving three cents which would be a lot over a period of time. And then the transfers, what do you remember about the transfers?
DW: If you had to transfer at any point you would get tickets just like the buses now. If I wanted to ride to town from out here on a McAlway bus and I wanted to go straight to town, I could get a transfer up here at Randolph and get on a Randolph bus and it goes straight. But the McAlway bus twists and turns through Griertown. Takes you a long time to go from here to town on a McAlway bus because it twists and turns all through Griertown. It's dangerous now to do that; I wouldn't do that.
CW: Thinking back about your father and his smart uniform and his professional demeanor and everything, how did people in the community see your father do you think?
DW: Oh, they liked him. Even at Dilworth the men that were really rich, liked daddy.
CW: How did they show that?
DW: They do. When we'd go in church they'd speak to him, and they called him Mr. Bird, how are you today? Very friendly and all the people were good to us. They were good to us, they knew we didn't have as much as they did but they didn't care. One time we met at the church and we were going up to Gastonia to a Methodist Church over in Gastonia, and Edwin Jr., Mr. Jones grandson, Edwin Jr. was going to drive that brand new Packard and a group of us got in it. Wilkinson Boulevard had just been completed, nice beautiful four-lane. He said to those in the car, you want to see how fast it would go. I'm sitting in the back; I said dear Lord if you get me home I'll never get in this car again and I didn't. If there's anyone else, I always had to ride with someone, but never in that car again.
CW: Went too fast?
DW: He got it up to 100 mph on Wilkinson Boulevard, and this was, I guess about- whenever, I don't remember the year. But I was young enough to know better than to get into his car.
CW: What were the ways in which the families showed you this generosity that you were suggesting from these? Didn't you help with some involvement with the Jones Family, no?
DW: Just speak to them.
CW: Alright.
DW: Well, when I was working at Cresses, Dorothy Jones that married Mr. Brown came for her children's birthday party and bought all her balloons from me. But I had to stand there- it was that type that you- I had a machine that you pump it up with, but I had to use my foot, and it took me a long time to fix them. And she left the store and some of them said all those balloons are going to make her float. She had a chauffeur to pick her up.
CW: Now you were saying that your father would start and finish work downtown.
DW: Yes.
CW: Did he go to the barn at all? Was there a need for him-
DW: Oh yes.
CW: Yeah?
DW: Sometimes he would go- he was-
CW: Did you ever go down to the barn? Did you know the engineers there?
DW: Yes, I knew Mr. Perry because he lived around the corner from us on Worthington.
CW: And he was an engineer down at the barn?
DW: He was- a yes. He worked on the in fact he was the one that made daddy a stool for him.
CW: Oh.
DW: I have the stool.
CW: Can you tell me about the stool?
DW: This- it's heavy, awful heavy and well built so that if you make a sudden stop or anything it wouldn't of tipped; it was very sturdy.
CW: But it didn't get locked into place in some way, it was just a free stool.
DW: Never, it's a free stool, just a stool.
CW: And he would carry it from one end of the car to the other.
DW: Yes.
CW: Would he store it at the barn over night or in this downtown- where would he leave the stool at the end of his shift?
DW: I guess he left it on the streetcar for whoever, they were friends. Whoever took over his streetcar, yes.
CW: How many shifts were there doing the day?
DW: I guess there were three.
CW: So were the trolleys running-
DW: Because when Roosevelt came in he limited working hours to eight. Otherwise he went in overtime and they would have never paid overtime.
CW: So, they would-
DW: Never.
CW: Run the trolley all day long?
DW: No.
CW: Right, so when did then-
DW: Last one that came by was 12 o'clock at night.
CW: And the first one?
DW: And the first one was at five in the morning.
CW: Which shift did your father like best?
DW: He always had the early morning shift and get off at three o'clock.
CW: When he got off at three o'clock did he do anything else? I mean did he have any energy left, or did he need to go take a nap? Do you remember what he would do with the rest of his time?
DW: Oh no, he worked in the yard; we had a beautiful yard.
CW: Did you have a garden?
DW: Yes, just a small garden.
CW: Was that-
DW: Mostly flowers.
CW: Oh, really?
DW: Not very many vegetables.
CW: So, not vegetables. During the depression you didn't need to really grow food then? Mr. Fur was saying that they had a huge vegetable garden that helped to support their family.
DW: Well, we had a- yes, not a big garden but little things like radishes and cucumbers, and lime beans and little things like that. Not corn, we did have tomatoes, okra, I remember those, but just little plants.
CW: But your father was a passionate gardener for flowers?
DW: But when he first got married, I've heard them talk about it they got rid of it before I was born, I guess, but they had a cow and chickens.
CW: In Dilworth?
DW: In Dilworth, because it was in the country. Way back, not any of the side streets were paved. I remember he had to pay street assessment to have it paved in front of us, you had to pay for that. Now they pave anything but, he had to pay street because I know I heard them discussing that street assessment.
CW: He obviously enjoyed yard work and making his garden beautiful?
DW: Oh yes, he did.
CW: Were there other things?
DW: And he read a lot.
CW: Right, anything and everything or did he have a particular passion in-
DW: He loved history; mostly he loved to read the Bible. He's very, very good at reading the Bible. I remember after he retired he was sitting there one day, one of my sons said grandpa you're reading the Bible all the time, you cramming for finals? He said if I had more time when I was young I would have read more, but now that I have time, I have plenty of time. And he visited a lot, he would visit the ones that had retired, or the ones that, you know, most people retired he'd go visit them; he was very friendly with them.
CW: What was camaraderie like between the motormen, it sounds as though it was very strong. Did he have particular friends among his peers?
DW: Oh yes.
CW: Who were the people you remember? Was Mr. Fur a friend of his?
DW: No, no, I don't know why but he wasn't. I guess because we kids- I don't know. Mr. Fur was a very quiet man.
CW: Is that to difficult to think of names now?
DW: I can't think of too many of them. Mr. Moore was real friendly, Mr. Frye- I don't remember; I don't remember too many names. Mr. Clumps was one. There's one that lived down the corner from us and I don't remember his name, but he passed the house all the time, he had the same hours that daddy did and he would come by.
CW: Were there ever any times when certain utilities would have a special party, picnic, or take the motorman and their families somewhere on the trolley? No, you don't remember any of those?
DW: Umh um.
CW: What about vacations, did your father have much vacation time?
DW: Yes, he got- I think he had a week a year. But his brother that was a principal of a school, Daddy would take his vacations in the summertime and his brother would take him down. He had another brother that was a minister and they would go down to Estill, South Carolina. They would go down and spend that time together. And then daddy loved to go to Myrtle Beach and fish and so he would spend his vacation in Myrtle Beach fishing.
CW: Would you all go together as a family?
DW: Yes, but a lot of times after I started working I wasn't able to get off the same time he was, but I did get to go to camp in the summertime. I went to Lake Junaluska and that was another thing, Mr. Jones paid my way, and some of the other girls wouldn't go they couldn't afford it, but they were too proud to accept it and, me I wanted to go. I didn't care who paid for it. The stipulation was when you came back you had to in front of the whole church tell about your trip, and that was another reason some of them wouldn't accept his gift, was they didn't want to make that talk.
CW: Uh huh.
DW: It didn't bother me I tell what I saw and what I did.
CW: You were looking to be.
DW: I had a very full life growing up.
CW: Yeah.
DW: And people accepted me. They knew everywhere I went, I ran around with the group that had money; they knew I didn't but they didn't care. And one thing was Mother made me precious dresses and I was well dressed because of her making my clothes.
CW: You were saying to me, a week or two ago, that during the depression your mother skill of dress making became extremely important. That was a good way of making a little money for the family.
DW: It did 'cause-
CW: Can you tell me more about that?
DW: Well the people who want their dress change a little so that you wouldn't know it was the same one. And she would do that, make one over. There were several big, big women that had become oversized and she would make like a gusset under the arm to make it fuller and thicker and give them more room; she did a lot of that.
CW: What was her sewing machine like?
DW: A Singer.
CW: A treadle?
DW: Yes.
CW: Did she teach you how to sew?
DW: Oh yes, I was really good at sewing. I made Earl's sister's wedding dress and my mother helped a little, a good bit, but I did the cutting out and things. I made my bridesmaid's dress and her wedding dress.
CW: Did she learn from her mother?
DW: No.
CW: Or how did she learn?
DW: No, her mother died when she was only 12. She had seven brothers and she had to raise one brother that was an infant, lived with us until he was 50 years old and Mother and Daddy sent him to Davidson.
CW: What was your mother maiden name?
DW: Duncan.
CW: And she was born here in Charlotte?
DW: No.
CW: No, she had come from somewhere-
DW: She was born in Heath Springs, South Carolina.
CW: Right, so both of you parents came here-
DW: From South Carolina.
CW: Was that together?
DW: The way mother met daddy, her brother ran a boarding house up on Morehead and Daddy and several other, well two policemen lived there in the boarding house; they were single young men. And Mother came up to visit her brother and my cousin told Daddy all about her aunt that was coming; you'll like my aunt. So Daddy was standing in the entrance hall and Mother was coming down the stairs. The dresses were off-white, skirts were off-white and he said just the dang way she lifted her dress and I saw those beautiful ankles I knew she was for me, he said. Now, if I had seen the rest of the leg I might not have fallen in love. And we kidded about that, Daddy was full of jokes; he was a jokester.
CW: Do you think he joke at work with his customers, do you think?
DW: Yes, he surely did.
CW: Did he have a lot of wit?
DW: Yes, they liked him.
CW: Now your father was working for certain utilities when the strike happened and you told me a little bit about that. I was wondering if you could tell me about what you remember.
DW: That was scary.
CW: This was before you were born of course.
DW: That was scary for my mother because Daddy had a- and what we had now that's one thing I got too is his Six Shooter. He loaded that and carried it with him because the union that was striking were doing bad things to the motormen that didn't strike. And his father told him don't join a union, don't ever be part of a union; the union is the ruination of this country. His father was very emphatic about that, 'cause I hear my mother talk about it. She thought it would have been easier for him if he hadn't booked the strikers but he went to work everyday, she said he didn't miss, and it wasn't successful because of those that kept going to work. The mill struck about the same time, Nebbles Knitting Mill that was out in the section. The workers belong to a union and struck against those that didn't belong to the union. But the union dues were so expensive Daddy felt that was just money down the drain and so he didn't join for that reason more so than what his father said, because he didn't want to pay the union dues.
CW: Did he talk about the violence at all, I mean you said he carried his Six Shooter, was he involved in any of the struggle that happened. Did he get hurt?
DW: Oh they would pull the trolley off and you would have to get off and put it back up. I heard him talking about that. And Mother was so afraid that some, and that's when he would tell them, you bother me while I'm picking this back on I'll shoot you, I'll shoot you. And they would back off. And they saw he had it and they knew he probably would have, if they had, I don't know- you don't know.
CW: But these are the stories you remember him telling when you were a little girl.
DW: I was real small but they talked about it.
CW: Uh huh, that's interesting. What's your mother's name by the way?
DW: Sadie..
CW: Sadie Duncan, hmm. Do you remember the fair ground? Was the fair ground still held there in the Dilworth area?
DW: Yes, but I don't remember ever going to the fair.
CW: Did you remember stories of Lakewood Park and did you ever go out there? It would have really been kind of the end of it's era but, I was wondering did you father talk about driving the trolley out there?
DW: My mother went but I was too little. They had pictures made out there. But, I really didn't talk much about things like that. I had so-
CW: By the time you were older.
DW: I had so much homework to do and chores to do at home. And I baby-sat to make my own spending money. Because there was an apartment close by and one of the radio announcers had two children and I baby-sat for them. Then that Lamar Beauty School things I baby sit for their children. They lived in an apartment. But I stayed busy and then I did a lot of things at church; I was at church a lot. I didn't listen too much to what went on-
CW: And the park would have really been in decline by the time you- more interesting for you parents really. Did sometimes trolley drives do little favorites for people along the route? I don't know whether I've picked up some stories like that. Did your father ever, you know, taking a letter, or anything like that?
DW: One time he- right in front of the Broadway Theatre on the track he saw something shining, he jumped off and it was several karets diamond ring.
CW: Wow!
DW: And he turned it in and they found the owner. I remember he gave Daddy a five dollar gold piece. Daddy carried that for a long time. It was real small, it was about the size of a dime but, it was something for him to talk about. But I don't know what he did with this but, that was the reward he gave him for that really expensive diamond ring.
CW: What good eye sight he must have had.
DW: Oh, I'm sure it was shiny.
CW: Now were there any other funny stories he told?
DW: Yea, there was one streetcar driver and I do not know his name, but, he was what the other streetcar callers called "Goochy" in that if you'd scream "Throw it!" or "Stop!" or something he'd jump. Well one day he had just got a double dip of ice cream and Daddy felt so sorry for him because he had just put it up to his mouth and one of the other drivers screamed out, "Throw it!" and he threw it down. Little things like that they would pull on each other. I don't remember that man, that driver's name. But they were full of fun.
CW: You don't know when the conductors stopped running with the motormen? That would have been before you time wouldn't it?
DW: What?
CW: Do you remember conductors on the cars?
DW: No.
CW: No?
DW: That was way before my time.
CW: Yeah, that was way before your time. But your father would have probably worked for a conductor wouldn't he?
DW: He trained many, many drivers; Broadway was one we met him over at church. And he went into other business; he didn't drive the streetcar long. He told me he said little Bird girl your daddy taught me how to drive a streetcar. It was so good to know exactly how to start off easy and stop easy; it had a lot of power and it took skill, in not jerking everybody. Slow easy stop.
CW: Now when the buses start coming on at what point did he switch to a bus? Was it long before 1938 when the last trolley ran?
DW: No, he drove the last streetcar; one of the last.
CW: Do you remember which one it was?
DW: Uh ugh, don't know the number.
CW: Do you know the route, which route was he driving? Was it the Dilworth-North Charlotte route?
DW: Yes, no, yes he had, yes he went right.
CW: So he worked right through until 1938?
DW: Yeah.
CW: And then he transferred to the buses. How did he feel about the bus?
DW: Well his bus was hard because he had to double clutch it. It wasn't until later that he got one of those automatics, but when it first came out they were hard to manage. And the traffic wouldn't get out your way for you to pull over to the curve. It wasn't nearly as easy as driving the streetcar, much more complicated.
CW: He drove the buses for a long time didn't he?
DW: Yes, he did.
CW: Until the late 50's?
DW: He drove the bus for I guess you'd say 39', I guess it was 1939 he took over the bus. And he drove the bus.
CW: Till well into the 50's?
DW: Oh yes.
CW: To the late 1950's and he was 70 when he retired.
DW: Oh yes, the 50's. He was 70 when he retired, so it must have been-
CW: Almost 20 years?
DW: That he drove the bus, yes.
CW: Not quite as long as he drove the streetcars?
DW: No, but he drove a long time.
CW: Did he stick to the same kind of routes on the bus or did he end up going all over the place?
DW: He had Myers Park.
CW: Do you think it was-
DW: I don't know what the other end of it was. I believe it came up Hutchinson Avenue and Tryon Street. Then I know when I went to Queens if I wanted to ride the bus instead of going to the square and transfer, I would ride down and walk and get on the Seventh Avenue down there.
CW: To try to get on his bus?
DW: No, no I'd never, I didn't ever. The hours that he did I don't remember ever driving, riding him. No, I never rode the bus with him.
CW: But you rode the streetcar with him?
DW: Yes.
CW: Did he miss the streetcars you think? Did he talk about them after they had gone out of service?
DW: Oh, yea he thought that was the worst. He felt that was the most foolish thing that Charlotte ever did was to listen to the city council then he said, we have some stupid people on council; I've heard him call them stupid. And we do today, they make big mistakes.
CW: What was his reasoning at the time? What did he think, did he think they could have kept the trolley route and just added buses as the city grew?
DW: Some of the people in cars wanted that street car track out of their way.
CW: You think that was the main push, it was the fact that cars just didn't tolerate the streetcars 'cause they were heavier and bigger? Do you remember many accidents happening?
DW: No.
CW: So you think it was pressure from people saying we don't want those streetcars, we drive properly.
DW: They wanted to be- they thought that the street car was old fashioned. They wanted to be modern and have a bus.
CW: How did you feel, did you feel like your father?
DW: Well all the kids in school hated to lose the streetcar because it was so much fun. And then after the buses came, very few rode the bus.
CW: How did you get to school if you didn't ride the bus then?
DW: Your parents took you. There were more cars.
CW: What was more fun about the streetcars do you think?
DW: You could get up and walk around on it; walk from one end to the other, talk to your friend, move around. It was only a rocking motion. It was very comfortable, you could walk all around; wasn't dangerous.
CW: You had a pretty view out of them didn't you?
DW: Oh yes, very good view.
CW: Oh, I did want to ask you, do you remember Dinty Moore's Cafe by the side of the barn or had that gone by the time you were a child?
DW: Yes, that was.
CW: Did you ever go in there?
DW: Never did but, one of the girls in my class father ran it. Sometimes she would bring a slice of pie from the restaurant and it was delicious. It was a French Apple, oh it was delicious.
CW: What did they serve? Was it warm menu?
DW: Just fast food.
CW: Fast food?
DW: Just fast food things.
CW: So, they would have burgers and things like that?
DW: Hotdogs, hamburgers.
CW: And then pie, coffee, things like that. Did you think that the streetcar drivers and the engineers in the barn must have gone in there.
DW: I'm sure a lot of people stopped in there. My daddy never did because he came home to eat. That took money, extra that he wouldn't spent. He was very close with money.
CW: Well this was a time when people didn't have any money, wasn't it. Did your father every work for anybody besides the streetcar, the apart from the furniture. So he was always, he didn't switch to trains, for a period or anything like that. Well I think really that's probably all my questions that I had about the street car and your father and growing up. I know you could tell us an awful lot more about Dilworth and the society there and your own teaching career would be really interesting to hear. Do you have anything else you would like to say about your father in conclusion.
DW: No.
CW: I know you must miss him a lot.