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Interview with Nola Elizabeth Knuckles

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  • 1 Knuckles WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA TOMORROW BLACK HISTORY PROJECT Interviewee: Nola Elizabeth Knuckles (K) Interviewer: Edward Clark Smith (I) County: Buncombe Date: August, 1987 Duration: 1:27:33 Note: beginning of tape damaged Nola Elizabeth Knuckles: So, my mother's brother and his wife took us children and reared us. My mother's brother had been widowed. He had two children by his first wife, she had died, and he had just recently married again when my mother died, and the woman he married had one son. This is the son that was in the nursing home now. Edward Clark Smith: Ok, ma'am. He's in the nursing home now? K: Uh mmh, he, I believe, will be eighty-six this April. April has passed hasn't it? I: This is April. Today is the 27th. K: I forgot to send him a card. His birthday is in this month. He will be 86. Of course, you don't have to know his condition, but he lost both of his legs. He was widowed. His wife died so he couldn't live alone, so we had to put him in a nursing home. I: What caused him to lose his legs? K: He had arthritis, gangrene set in his legs. They had to take one off above the knee and one just below the knee in order to save his life, but he's doing fine. He's jolly and happy and everything. We go to see him regularly and keep him happy. I: So, your mother died when you were four? K: I was four years old. They tell me when my mother died, and my father died just a matter of months after my mother died. My mother left four children. I: Can you remember the year your mother died? K: No, because at four years of age children wasn't as wise then as they are now. I can just remember all the people being at our house, but I really wasn't aware of what was happening. As I look back on the situation, I can remember them taking my mother out, but I didn't realize she was dead. You know, at four years of age, you don't know too much. You didn't in those days. Children can tell you a lot of things now at four, but we weren't as smart as they are now; but 2 Knuckles nevertheless, she had asked my aunt that married my uncle. She said that my mother always told her, "If anything ever happened to me, will you take care of my children?" And she promised her that she would. So, when my mother died, this aunt who was married to my uncle, they took all us children in the house. His two children, the four that my mother left and the one that he had married, she had one--the one that I am telling you is in the nursing home. And they just dumped us all in one house and reared us as sisters and brothers. Now she says, "You all are sisters and brothers. And I want you to live like that." So, they reared us, gave us a good Christian foundation. We never suffered for food or clothing. They helped us with our school lessons. We went to church and we were baptized. My uncle was the chairman of the Deacon Board, and we went to Sunday school. We didn't say, "I don't want to go." You couldn't say, "I don't want to go," when you were told to do these things. Now these days, people leave it with their children to go if you want to. But we were reared in a family, a good Christian family, and I'm so thankful to God for that. They really gave us a good foundation on which to stand because if somebody don't give you a foundation when you are small, when you get up you're just out there. We were reared in a Christian home. In those days they had what they called the fireside prayer. At night when we got through studying our lessons my uncle would say, "Now, we must have scripture," and he would read the scripture. Then we all had to get down on our knees while they led in prayer. You don't see that today. I can recall they'd be saying, "Dear Lord, this, that, and the other," and I wondered who the Lord was, and I'd be just peeping up. (laughs) I was trying to see him. You know when you kneel down around a fireplace you had to keep your head down. While he led the prayer, I'd be peeping up. Who is they talking to? How silly I was when I look back on those days. I was looking for him. Then when we got through with our prayer, "Now you all go to bed." We had done had our lesson--they would help us with our school lesson and we had a devotion, now go to bed. That's the way we were reared. I: What county were you born in? K: South Carolina. I believe it was Abbeyville County. I: Were you born in the rural country? K: Out in the country, was out in the county. I: How did your family earn a living? K: They were farmers. Oh, they were farmers. Yeah, we grew up on the farm. Gosh, they raised so much cotton, and corn, and potatoes, peanuts… I: So, you worked on the farm? K: Oh yeah, I worked on the farm when I was little. I had to go along and pick cotton and do whatever I would do, and I grew up on the farm. And we would have just oodles of corn, beans, potatoes. I can recall when my uncle would have a sweet potato patch, enough potatoes to carry us all through the winter. In those days, they buried the potatoes out in the yard or field or some place or another. I don't know how they did it, but they would make some kind of big well and put those potatoes down in it. They would put a lot of corn stalks, you know, you done gathered 3 Knuckles your corn. Put these over that bed of potatoes. And anytime they wanted potatoes during the winter, even if it was snowing, they could go there and scratch a hole. I get some sweet potatoes and bring them back home and cook them. I: So, you all raised your own? K: We raised--my uncle, everything we ate. Corn, potatoes, peanuts. You name it. We didn't suffer for nothing. He was a good farmer. So, the thing that brought us to Asheville was one year a hail storm came that evening. We had a beautiful cotton crop that we were going to pick. See, they picked the cotton and after they baled it up, they'd take it and sell it. And that gave money for our clothes and shoes and food for the next year. We never suffered for nothing. I've never gone barefooted a day in my life. I: What happened with the hail storm? K: The storm came that night and the hail was as big as eggs. It just beat the farms down. We got up the next morning—no corn--the corn field was just done beat down. The cotton had just been swept away. Just like almost it had been plowed. It was a storm that came through a section of the country part at that time and our farm was hit by it. Other farms were hit too. I: How old were you then? K: Well, by that time I must have been around 10 or 15 years of age when we had the hail storm. The whole farm--you got up and looked out there and there was nothing, nothing to gather--no crop. No corn, no potatoes, no nothing. We weren't the only ones that was hit by it. I: Did he try again? K: No, I'll tell you what my uncle did then. He said that he was going to leave South Carolina, and he left the family there. Me and my aunt and all of us children while he came to Asheville to seek work. My aunt sold all the cattle. We had horses, mules--we had cows. We had all the milk we needed. He left her to sell all the cattle and everything and she did that. While this was going on, it took us almost a year. We picked cotton for people whose farms were not hurt. We picked cotton and they paid us for the cotton that we picked. When we got that all done, by that time he sent for us all to come after she got through selling the livestock and the wagons, the horse and the buggy. We had one of those big rubber-tire buggies. You know, in those days, that's what me and her went to church in every Sunday. My uncle would hitch up the wagon and take the boys and all, and they would go on ahead, but then when my aunt got dressed, I was the only girl you know, and she just praised me. She would say, "You stay and go with me." We'd get in this big buggy with the shelter over it and this beautiful horse. I thought I was something. (Laughter) I thought I was something riding in a rubber-tire buggy. I: Who drove? K: She would do the driving. 4 Knuckles I: Did she ever let you drive? K: No, I never did drive a horse in my life. I: You didn't try? K: No, I didn't try. I'd just get in and set with her. She had me dressed up in all my clean little pretty clothes. I: What were the clothes like? K: Oh, she made me some of the prettiest dresses. I: What was the style like? K: Well, different dresses. Some of them were short, you know. They stood out around the corner for little girls. They had a big band around here, and you tied a big bow in the back. Sometimes I wore a hat--had a little streamer hanging out—a little white hat. Little white shoes. I was so dressed up I didn't know how to take care of myself. If she let me go bare headed, she would put a big ribbon in my hair. I thought I was the stuff. I'm telling you! So, when this all happened, and we had to sell out, he came to Asheville at the time when they was just building the Oteen Hospital. He got a job there. He got a place for us to come to, a house and then when she got through selling the cattle, the buggy, the wagons, and all that stuff, and I think she sold some of the furniture that we had too. Then he sent for us to come to Asheville. I: What was it like for you to grow up down there? K: Beautiful, I loved it. I had a lot of friends. I: Did you go to school in South Carolina? K: I went to school in South Carolina. I: What was school like? K: School was just about like schools are here. You had to get your lessons. Now in those days, we didn't go to the 12th grade. You go to the 12th grade now to finish high school now, do you not? Well in those days, the 11th grade was what you went in South Carolina. I: Was the school far from where you lived? K: Not too far. We could walk every day. Of course, in the country you walk a long way. The school from far as from here to farther than from here to Pack Square. I: You're talking about five miles. 5 Knuckles K: Yeah, but that wasn't nothing to us. I: That was 8-10 miles a day. ·What time did you have to be there? K: We had to be there at 9:00, I believe school started. We had to get up and get out of the house. sometimes, if my uncle wasn't too busy, he would take us in the wagon to school but we walked back home because he was farming. He didn't come to get us. We had to walk home. A lot of mornings we walked to school if the weather wasn't too bad and rainy. Sometimes when it was rainy, he'd put us all in the wagon. He had one of these wagons with the top over it, you know, and take us all to school but we went to school every day. She'd get up and fix our lunch. We carried our lunch--some of the best cheese sandwiches and sausage sandwiches. She fixed us all a good lunch. When we'd get back home she'd have some cookies or some cake or something like that. We'd have a little snack and then we would have to get out there to do our daily work, like bringing in wood and sweeping the yard or whatever needed to be done. We didn't go there and go to play. I: You swept the yard? K: You had to sweep the yard in the country or you had to bring in the stove wood. You don't know nothing about that. In those days we cooked with wood. I: But you had to sweep the yard? K: Oh yeah, the front yard you know. It’s a dirt yard but you had to keep it clean. Better not be throwing a whole lot of papers over the yard. If you do you have to clean them up. Just like sweeping my walkway out there. You got to keep it clean. We were taught that way. We had a good life. My uncle and aunt couldn't have been no better. They both are dead now. But we moved here to Asheville and… I: You were 16 or 17? K: When we moved here to Asheville, I guess I must have been 16 or 17 years old, something along in there. Now my brother that lives here, he had not gotten in high school in South Carolina. So, when he came to Asheville, he went to Stephen Lee. I didn't go to Stephen Lee because I had finished high school in South Carolina which was at that time the 11th grade. So my aunt got a job cooking for a family, and I got me a job as a little maid for a family. I'd go and work a half a day just cleaning up you know. I stayed at that job 15 years. I grew up there. I got to be a cook with that family. So as the years rolled on, my uncle… I: So, you worked a half a day? K: I worked a half a day for a long while. As I grew on the job with this family, I worked for a white family, I became their chief cook. I just learned how to cook everything--cakes, whatever. Of course, I had had experience at home. My aunt would always have me helping her in the kitchen. So, I had some sense about cooking. As I stayed with this family around 15 or 16 years, I could cook anything you put out there by that time. I stayed with them until they moved to 6 Knuckles Biltmore Forest. They were living here in town, and they moved to Biltmore Forest. I went on out there with them and stayed for several years. Then as time went on the husband of the house died. And I guess his wife wasn't able to keep up the house out there in Biltmore Forest. That's one of the swanky places. So then, I don't know whether she lost the home, or it was sold, I don't know the details of it, but I do know that she moved back into town, and we moved back here over on a street right off of Charlotte street there somewhere. I moved back in town with them and stayed a good while. And then as time rolled on, she died. The children were at that time all grown and living in their own--some of them were married and gone. So therefore, I didn't have a job anymore after she died. But she didn't die right away. She got sick and they had to put her in the hospital. So, I got me a job working at Oteen Hospital -- Oteen VA Hospital. I: Your uncle was out there, right? K: My uncle had died by that time. I: How long did he work there? K: He worked there and helped build that hospital. I don't know how many years he worked there. He was just in the building program. I: And your aunt got domestic work? K: My aunt, yeah, she cooked for a person, a family. I: And you worked half time? K: Yeah. When I first started off I had never worked out. I started out as a maid for this lady I worked for, and I learned to do the cooking, the washing, the ironing and everything else. I: Did you stay on the place? K: No, no, I went home every day. I went home every day. I: When you first got to Asheville, what did you think, coming from the farm where you were coming from? What kind of feelings did you have coming to Asheville. K: It didn't bother me. I was happy. I was happy to come to town just as much so as I would have been had we stayed in the country just so long as I was with my family. It didn't bother me at all. I never had to worry about where I lived because I had a good family and a good provider for us children. I don't have anything to gripe about. So, when we came here and I got this little-maid job, half-day job. My uncle then, as time rolled oh, he had a heart attack. The doctor stopped him from working. That left just me and my aunt to be the breadwinners. So, as I told you, I was working full time by that time. My thoughts were I always wanted to be a trained nurse. I wanted to be a nurse with a black band around my cap and that white uniform on. I could just picture myself back when I was a girl. Well I had a friend here. She was going to Washington to take up nursing—nurse training. She and I talked, and she said what she was going to do was go work in 7 Knuckles the day time and go to school at night. So, I wanted to go with her to take nurse training. But then along in that time my uncle got sick, and I couldn't leave home because I had to be home to help with the expense. There wasn't nobody working but my aunt because my brother was young, and he was in school. He used to do dish washing. After he got out of school every evening, he'd go to the hotel and wash dishes. We had to get one of the neighbors to come in and stay with him when we was gone to work. So, I didn't worry about it after I found out I couldn't go to college. It didn't worry me. I just turned to community work. I: Now you were a young person when you started that. K: Young, yeah. I just started doing things for people in the community that I saw a need to do. I remember when I first started off, when I got off from work I'd always come by Aunt Lizzie's house. Aunt Lizzie was a slave girl. She grew up a slave girl. I used to love to hear her talk about slavery. So, when I was working only half a day, I would always come by Aunt Lizzie's house and sit down and talk with her. She lived alone. She would tell me about slavery and about when she was a girl. This kind of stuff. She was in her nineties then. And then I would go on home and tell my aunt what Aunt Lizzie said. And I would say to her when she would fix dinner, "Could I take Aunt Lizzie a plate?" She said, "Yeah, I'll fix Aunt Lizzie a plate." She'd fix a plate and I would go back over and take Aunt Lizzie a plate. I: About how old were you then? K: By then I must have been eighteen or nineteen years old by that time. I don't keep up with my age, I'm thirty-nine now. So, I would go back and me and Aunt Lizzie would talk. You know how old people are. They don't keep their house any too clean sometimes. I'd get up and go into the kitchen and wash up all her dishes. She'd say, "What you doing?" I'd say, "I'm just cleaning up the kitchen.” "Well, I was going to do that." "Well, that's all right, I'll do it. And I would just clean up the kitchen and everything, and if the floor was dirty I'd mop it. Clean up the whole house. Me and her just had a great time together. I loved to have her talk to me about things. Then I'd go home… I: What did she tell you about? K: Well, she'd tell about slavery. How the masters didn't allow them to do this or do that. And she said there was an old white family that lived way across the woods from where her mother was a cook in this man's house and she was a little girl there. They said her mother would--this family that lived way back in the woods somewhere and they didn't have food to eat, and her mother would get a bucket of milk, they had cows you know, and she would get a bucket of milk and put a great big pat of butter down in that milk and send Aunt Lizzie through the woods to take the food to the white people that lived way back over in there. They were white people. Aunt Lizzie said she'd run every step and get it over there and run back home so the boss man couldn't miss her. Her mother didn't want the boss man to know she was sending this food over there to those people, you know. She said she carried many buckets of food, beans, peas, and whatever, and she said to me, "You know, God will reward you. I carried food to those poor people and here you are bringing food to me." I said, "Aunt Lizzie, I love you." She was a widow. She lived by herself. She finally died. From that, I started to do whatever I could, 8 Knuckles wherever I could where I could help people. And I just got involved in it along with my work. We would help people that we found were in need. I: Did you do that through the church. K: No, I just did it through myself. I did become president of the Negro Auxiliary of Buncombe County Red Cross Chapter. You know in those days, you didn't have white and blacks didn't work together. You could work for the companies, say for instance, you see that picture back there on the table. That was the Red Cross where I was involved as president of the Negro Auxiliary of the American Red cross Chapter. But we did our work separately. I was a grey lady at Oteen VA Hospital. I got a picture in there that you can see with my uniform on. We went out there once a month. We had a group that went out there once amonth and served the soldiers. We would go around and pass them out cards and magazines. I: To the veterans? To all of them? K: Well, we had certain white and black that had gone in any war. And if they wanted us to do any shopping, we'd go to the canteen and buy whatever they wanted us to do. That was our job--to pass out magazines and just chat with them. If they needed to write a letter to the family, we did that. And so, I did that for six years as a volunteer. That is, volunteer work through the Red Cross. I: Did you have meetings with them? How did you work with them? K: With the Red Cross? I: Yes, how did you manage this work? K: Well, we did our work like this. We would hold a meeting once a month. But we had groups, we had sewing groups that worked out of the Red Cross We would go to the sewing room up there at the courthouse, city hall or wherever it was. We would go up there and make garments for needy families. The Red cross would furnish the material, but we would go up there, they would have ladies who would cut out and we would baste up stuff and then we would often times they would cut out clothing like shirts1 and dresses and baby clothes and things like that, and we would sew them together. so then, along with that, we organized some sewing groups. I was president by that time. We had six sewing groups to make clothing for needy families. I: Were there a lot of needy families at that time? K: Oh, yes, yes. There were lots of needy families. In those days times were hard. And we would sew. We would go up there and they would cut them out and each group would take so many things and then we would meet every week, each group met at my house, at your house, or someone else's house, and we'd do our basting on those things, and then we would go back to the office up there and stitch them on the machines. Then we had what we called a loan closet, and in that closet, we had what we called all kind of sick-room supplies -- anything you would need 9 Knuckles in a sick room, we had it there. And when somebody needed it, the chairman would go there and get whatever was needed and take it to them. That was some of ours. I: Were there medicines? K: No, we didn't have medicines. We had like crutches, linens, bed pans, baby layettes or baby clothing or stuff like that. We had wheel chairs and crutches that we could loan in the event somebody needed them. Bed pans and whatever things were needed in a sick room. We had all of this stashed away there and whenever it was needed, whether it was white or black, the chairman would go there and get it and carry it to them. So, we did that. I stayed president for 12 years of the Red Cross Chapter. We would meet every year. We would have our annual meeting and would have 3 or 400 people there, white and black. I got some pictures here, and I want to show you one to give you an idea about how large it was. I: How many years did you do the volunteer work with the Red Cross? K: Well, for volunteer work I can't hardly remember, let's see. That was awarded in 1960. I: When did you get married? K: I got married in ‘53. I: 1953? And up to that time, this volunteer work. How did you support yourself? K: Oh, I worked. I: You had another job at the same time you did the volunteer work? K: I didn't take up all my time doing volunteer work. I worked at Oteen Hospital for several years. I bought a home working at Oteen Hospital. I: How long have you been a member of Nazareth? K: Since 1923. It is now 1987. About sixty-two or sixty-three years, Sixty-seven years. I: Have the religious customs changed since you started going to church as a little person. Is it much different now? Is the service different now? Is the church different? K: It's much different now. When I was going to church as a young person, the young people attended church more than they do now. The young people today are not too interested in church work, whereas back in those days we, the young people helped make up the first junior choir that was ever organized in that church. It was full of young people, boys and girls. The first youth missionary department I was elected its president. We just had gangs of girls in it. We would go to Sunday School class. I taught the girls Sunday School class, well you would have anywhere from fifteen, sixteen, eighteen girls in your class. Whereas a friend of mine would have the boys class, and she would have probably that many in her class. But young people don't attend church 10 Knuckles now like they did. They have other places to go. When we get out of Sunday School in the morning, you know when you have that little relaxation time between service time and Sunday School, the yard would be just full of young people. But we were taught that when that bell rings, you better go back into that church. Sit down and be quiet. In those days they rang the bell for the morning service. They got so they don't ring it anymore. When you go out there for refreshments after Sunday School, I mean to refresh yourself, but when that church bell rings, you better go back in there and take your seat and there ain't going to be no playing neither. Our parents would get us if they saw us cutting up in church. We weren't allowed to do that. But now you might have five or six young people in Sunday School and you might have two. I go to Sunday school and I went the other day, well not the other day but back, and I saw one Sunday School teacher sitting there and he had three little boys with him. They'd done the class and was up giving the report. And I thought how sad this is. You know, as I look at our church today, I don't see a future church twenty-five or fifty years from now. There's no growth. Most people who attend the church now are senior citizens. We have a few young adults. I would say maybe 15 young adults. But so far as the children are concerned and are active. We don't have them like we used to. I: Why is that? What happened? K: I just think that the change of the time and young people just think that church is not for them. Now they'd probably be out yonder somewhere dancing while we were having church when they used to be at church. But now they get this old wankity wankity music out and come home, and that park will be full of them on Sunday. But I've known a day when that park would be empty on Sunday because children had to go to church. But they are out there throwing the ball and running and cussing and doing everything else they are big enough to do. So therefore, we don't have attendance at church now. Not our church, not the black church. Now some churches may be running over with young folks. There's quite a change. I see a great falling away from the church, both youth and age. I don't see the attendance now that was twenty years ago. I: What made it so different? K: A change of time, the change of the world. You know you didn't used to see all these ball games and football games and baseball games on Sunday. Wrestling and all that stuff. Rather than come to church, you know there's going to be a football game on starting at 12:00, they'll stay home and watch that game or go to it wherever it is. Whereas you didn't used to have that on Sunday. You don't have football, baseball, and wrestling and all those things. That's not keeping the day holy. You can go look on television and just thousands of people there at the football game on Sunday. So, you see it’s a change of time. The devil's got his hands full now. He's swinging the people now. Don't you go to church because you'll miss that game. Don't go to church because you'll miss that race track. You know, people say, "I can't go to church, I've got to see my ball game." And that's the way it is. I: This plaque from the Christian Ministry says, "With love and appreciation for Nola Knuckles for service to others. The Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry. Take our hands and work through them. Take our lips and speak through them. Take our minds and think 11 Knuckles through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire." What did you do to have those think so greatly of you? That is a beautiful statement. K: I'm a volunteer there. I have been a volunteer for about fifteen years. We carry programs to the prison. We're going this coming Wednesday. I told you about that the other day. We carry religious programs to the prison. I'm a volunteer of the Christian Ministry. I have a group that goes with me. I was talking to them yesterday, and one of the men that usually leads our singing, but his wife is sick. He brought her home Saturday from the hospital, so he said he wouldn't be able to go, but nevertheless, if we have three or four, we just go right on. I think I asked you about going and giving a message. We're still planning on it. I: You’re a member of the NAACP? K: Yeah, I've been in that ever since I was big enough. When I joined the NAACP way back when I was a child, my uncle joined it. I don’t know if you were born then. I don’t know if you remember all those black men that they tried to kill because they said they had assaulted some women, some white women that were on that great train a long years ago. Well then, my uncle joined the NAACP here and he took us children in with him. I: And you’ve been a member ever since? K: I've been a member of it ever since. I: Mrs. Knuckles, when you first came to Asheville, what were the social conditions like for black people and white people? Did you go to the same schools? K: No, no-no. Whites and blacks didn't go to the same schools. I: What were the other conditions like in Asheville when your family came? K: When we came to Asheville, we had the YMI to go to if they was having a play or a dance. We used to go to dances at the YMI, not the YMI, the YWCA. Now we could go if we got an invitation. My uncle would allow us to go if we got an invitation to the dance at the YWCA. Now they didn't allow us to go down on Eagle Street to a dance or no place like that. It had to be to a place where you were invited. Decent people. Then they would give us a certain time we'd have to be back home. You had to be back home. You can't go out and stay until 3 or 4:00 in the morning. You had to be back home by 12:30 at least. If we went to a dance, they knew where we were. We had that to go to, we could go to movies. They would let us to go to the movies as long as I - I couldn't leave home by myself and go to a movie. But if my brother's going with me, I could go. And then after I got up to where I had boyfriends, we could go together to the movie. They didn't have us pinned down to nothing. We had club meetings we went to. Progressive club, church club, choir rehearsal, we went to that. We had plenty of freedom. But it wasn't loafing around like the young people do now. Your family had to know where you were going when you left home. And then, this is my family now, I don't know everybody's family, they tell you now y’all be back here by such and such a time and we'd know to be back. 12 Knuckles I: In 1973, you were the Senior Citizen of the Year for outstanding service to the community (Area 9-A). Is that this area? Your community? K: That must be this area. I was responsible for getting this Montford Center over here. Me and this another lady friend of mine. We wanted a center where the senior citizens could attend. I'm a founder of the Senior Opportunity Center also. I: Did you ever know Mrs. Daisy Glenn? K: Yes ma’am. She and I worked together and we're the founders of the Senior Opportunity Center because in this area we wanted a center over here so that the elderly people wouldn't have to go all the way across town to get to a center. Over here we asked for a multipurpose center and that's what they built so that the young people could have a place to meet too. Now the young people meet in the Montford Center over here, but they don't meet down at the Senior Opportunity Center. So, Mrs. Wakefield and me were responsible for the Moffitt Center being built there. We're the founders of it. I: So, you have been a community advocate a long time? K: Yeah, so we told Mr. Kisiah, Mr. Gustus Barnett was the chairman of the parks and recreation in those days, by the time Mr. Kisiah got here, we told him about it also. That's what we wanted and that's what we got. A center where the young people could go and where the seniors could go. And we just have a wonderful time over there. The young people have their department and have their basketball courts in there inside. They have a tennis court out on the yard. They have a ball park way down in the foot there. Just a real nice place for young people to go. That's what we wanted. Someplace for the black people to go. I: How you all did is exactly how I remember my mother always involved. That is what we say as the leaders in the community. K: Yeah, that's what they call us, leaders in the community. We just doing things. That was our purpose you know. Way back in those days black people didn't have very many places to go to. They didn't have things to do like we do now. Like the Senior Opportunity Center. We didn't have no place to gather for senior citizens. I: Then who took care of the widows and children? Who was responsible for doing that in the community? Was there any agency that helped black people who were indigent? K: I don't know if there were. I don't know but maybe somebody who went to their rescue and helped them. I can recall a family that lived over on my side of town and they didn't have food and they didn't have clothing. What we would do was just through the Red Cross we would go to the loan closet and get clothing out and take to them whatever we had, maybe some of us would have something at home we would give them. And we would just probably go to a store and buy stuff and carry to them in the way of food stuff. We've done that a lot of times. 13 Knuckles I: In your opinion, how have conditions for black people improved? With integration, have things gotten better. K: I suppose that in a way it has, in a way. Because now we have more efforts to help people. For instance, the ABCCM over here. Now that helps the poor blacks as much as it does the whites. I can recall, you don't know anything about the model cities program when it was here, do you? I: I wasn't here but I remember the model cities program and I notice you have a plaque from them also. K: Yes, well now I was a commissioner. I was elected a commissioner at large. My job was to go out in all of the communities, not just around here, and investigate and see how the people are living out there. Me and Mrs. Daisy Glenn, we worked together. We have gone in homes that you wouldn't want your dog to live in. There were houses that you could stand in here and look out through the wall and see daylight. And people living there. Women in homes where the toilets were still out on the yard. What we had to do was get all this and carry it back to the task force. What we saw out there. Then we had to make some effort to get this situation cleared away. We've gone in homes where they had dirt floors and people living in them. You wouldn't believe it. I: What time was this? What year was this? K: Model Cities Program was here in, you know, I don't know what year it was. I: In 1974 this plaque was awarded to you. K: What is that about? I: It says, "To Nola Knuckles in appreciation for invaluable services rendered to the Model Cities Program and citizens of Asheville 1974." K: That program must have been here through 1972. It was here for five years. It must have been here through seventy-two or seventy-three when it came in because it was a five-year program. I: It came in 1967. K: Yeah, somewhere along in there. As I say, I don't keep record. I: And during that time, you were finding people living in those kinds of conditions? K: In those kinds of conditions. Absolutely. I: In Asheville? 14 Knuckles K: Right here in Asheville, yeah. You take all down now on Southside and those streets down in there now where you see all these nice buildings. There was the most slummiest place you ever seen in your life. And down Cox Avenue, do you remember where Allen's funeral home used to sit down there on the corner? Well all down in there was all dilapidated. I can recall that we were told that a family lived right down in there back of Allen's Funeral Home was. They was hungry and didn't have food to eat. We went and got food. I don't know who they were and never have known. But I got my group together and we went and got some food and carried the food down to them. You know, uncooked food. Staple stuff that they could have. Up to today I don't know who the family were, but it was told to us that they were living there and they didn't have any food. The kind of houses that they lived in just almost make you cry. I: Who owned them? K: I don't know, I don't know a thing about it. I don't know who they were. I might have gotten their names then, but I sure don't remember it now. And I recall another family over here in the east end section. The mother was sick, and she had three or four children. Somebody was telling me about that. We got the age group of the children. We went downtown. Me and my husband did this. We bought all those little children dungarees and sweaters, shoes. I think it was three or four children. It's been a long time. And then we bought a great big basket of food chicken, greens, and whatever and carried over there one evening late. When we got there, it was so dingy there. One little lamp burning. You couldn't see who was in there. The mother was in bed. So, we just carried it there. I told her who we were, and I said we just came to bring you some food. We heard you needed something. She thanked us, and we put the food down there. Well I didn't know who she was. My husband didn't know who she was. But the news had come to us that they were starving so we just went out and bought the stuff and took it over there. About a year or more after that this lady walked up to me in the grocery store. She said, "Aren't you Mrs. Knuckles?" I said, "Yes, I am." She said, "Do you know me?" I said, "No, I don't think so." She said, "Do you remember bringing a lady some food stuff such an such a year over on East End." I said, "Yes, I remember that." She said, "Well, I'm that woman." I didn't know who she was until this day. I didn't say, " What's your name? Who are your parents?" or nothing like that. If there as a need we just tried to meet it and let it go at that. To this day, I had not met her, but we had gotten the information from someone that they were suffering. But now you don't have to do that because you have your Christian ministry here now. Whereas, in those days, you didn't have no certain organization that would go carry your food. Cause we had a member of our church and they were without food. I was president of our missionary department then. We made up some funds in our department and went out and bought them food. They were members of our church. So, people have suffered back in those days. Things were hard, and a lot of people just didn't have nothing and no way to get nothing. Now we had a depression here in the ‘30s. I: What was it like? How did it affect you? K: It didn't affect me period because my uncle at that time, that was before he got sick, and my aunt was cooking at a place, and I was doing this little maid work, and we had food on our table for every meal. We had clothing on our backs. My aunt did all our sewing. She'd make all our clothes. Every year they'd buy us shoes an stockings, things like that. So, we didn't have to worry about nothing. But a lot of people didn't have clothing and they didn't have shoes, and they didn't 15 Knuckles have food. You could go downtown and the line on Patton Avenue was a long as from here. People trying to get clothes and shoes out of there for the children. Stores along where Kress's used to be and the stores there, people just standing in line down there where they were giving, trying to get shoes and clothing for children. We never had to ask for nothing. I never gone barefooted a day in my life. My aunt wouldn't let me go barefooted in the summer time. She'd say, "You might stump your toe." but she just didn't want my feet on that naked ground. She wouldn't allow me to go barefooted. I wanted to go. I saw the other girls going. They kept shoes and clothes on my feet. Now the boys could do anything they wanted to. It's just different now. I: So, your role in the Model Cities was to facilitating giving those people better housing? K: Yes, yes. we got a lot of families out of those houses. What they done, someone was fussing about it the other day. They said we transferred all the trash from Southside Avenue to over here in this area. And we did. Because at that time there was a lot of vacant houses in this area. Whereas the houses down in there after they had been inspected and the city officials found out that they were fit to live in then through the Model Cities Program--you know the Model Cities Program was strictly a poverty program, that's all it was here for was to upgrade the poverty area. The government furnished this money, but they didn't all it to go into the hands of the city officials. Logan Delaney was the head man in this. He was the man to whom the money came to do these things that we needed to. It didn't go into the hands of the city officials, so they could ram fifty-five percent of it in the bank. It was purposely for the poverty area. Because of the fact that the city didn't get the hands on the money, for the first year they wouldn't have nothing to do with the program. We would meet and get something together and then we would have to carry it before the city officials. And every time we carried a program there that we wanted done, the officials and that city manager, who was at that time Ben Horton, they would kick against it. They would kick against what we were trying to do because they didn't have their hands on it. We the commissioners had to set the salaries for Logan and all the other employees that was a part of it. Maybe you were the chairman of the task force and somebody else is chairman of some other kind of group. We had to pay those people. What we done in order to give people jobs, we created outreach programs. We would have young people going through this area handing out literature, through the other area handing out literature. And we paid those people for that job in order to give them something to do. Not only that we created an educational fund out of this money where they could go school. The city didn't like this. They didn't like it. Because the money wasn't coming into their hands. When we found out about all these places down there and how the people were living we asked the city council to come and go on a tour with us. They hadn't gone into the neighborhood to see about nothing. So finally, we got a bus load of people, of the city officials, and we took them down through these areas and just showed them that the kind of homes the people here in Asheville were living in. They weren't fit for my dog to live in. Many of them wasn't. After they went on that trip and really saw the condition in that area, I think they had a second thought. They had a second thought. They began to work with us better. To want to accept some of the programs that we carried before them. Without their support, HUD was not going to fund the programs, see. If we wanted to build X number of houses down there the city. (The tape ends, picking back up with Knuckles mid-sentence) 16 Knuckles K: Well, we didn't have the council that we have now. It was a different council altogether from what we have now. This has really been one of the best city council members, in my opinion, that we have had in a number of years because they are more interested in doing things for all the people rather than just the city or part and don't care anything about what's going on down yonder. They are different from that now and just like the other night, when my yard flooded here and my driveway, that rain you know, it just liked to have washed me away. Well, I called one of the city councilmen about this and he said they were going to do something, get some drains down in here so the water can drain off. The water just flooded my basement, my front yard and this lady's yard just like a river standing down here the other night when it rained. Well we didn't have that kind of protection back in those days. They just weren't interested in what went on in your neighborhood unless you were white. So, when we turned in our first year's program HUD did not fund it and they sent letters back telling us the why they didn't fund it. They said there wasn't enough involvement of city officials, while there was no involvement of city officials, they went with us and saw all of these dilapidated places, but it's just the same as saying "I don't care." so the program was turned down by HUD at that time. What they done, they didn't like it because we had hired Logan Delaney as chairman of the program and that we were paying him $1,000 a month and they didn't like that too well. They said that was too much money. Well it was too much money for a black man and so what they done they took all of us commissioners out to a dinner one night out on Tunnel Road and their motive was to buy Logan because the program was not passed. That's what they were saying that the program was not passed by HUD and that Logan didn't know what he was doing. So, when they got through talking, I stood up and I carried my letter, I had gotten a letter, see all the commissioners had gotten this letter for HUD and I carried my letter with me. When they got through lambasting Logan they didn't ask him to go to the dinner, they just took all of us commissioners. So, I stood up and I said, "Mr. Mayor." I said, "I have a letter here in my pocketbook that I would like for you to read if you will." I said, "This letter says that the reason the program is not being funded is because it does not have enough city official involvement in it," and I said, "I take that to be you," and I looked at every last one of them. They just acted like they wanted to go under the table. I said, "You may read this letter if you like." Nobody took it because they had already gotten the letter. And then I went on to tell them how hard we had worked to develop these programs. We had worked long hours night and day trying to develop these programs, and I said, "What we are doing is not just for the black community." I said, "It is for the white community and for the entire city of Asheville." I said, "If we can build the poverty areas now, that is going to help the city of Asheville to be better." And I said, I said, "People are living in places now that I wouldn't allow my dog." I had a little cocker spaniel at that time. I wouldn't have put her in them buildings in them kind of buildings. When I got through giving them a piece of my mind, they changed the idea of firing Logan. See they wanted Logan fired because he was getting this high salary. That was the main thing about it. I think white people are different from that now. Most of the city council members are good friends of mine and they seem to be cooperative and interested in the needs of people as a whole. I think they are much different now from what were then. I: I noticed that you have a certificate of recognition—you were nominated the first annual Martin Luther King Award. How, in your opinion, did he impact on your life? 17 Knuckles K: Martin Luther King? I think he's been one of the greatest men that we have had because it has been through Martin Luther King that a lot of doors have been opened to us as black people. Now you may not remember but I can remember when, if I went to the S&W, I couldn't go through walking through that door. I had to go around to the back window and say would you stick me a sandwich out here. I didn't have the privilege to go in there and sit down. Martin Luther King opened the doors for all of us, doors that have never been opened before. I think he's one of the greatest men that… I: He opened our minds too. K: I think Martin Luther King is one of the greatest men to my knowledge. Abraham Lincoln was good. He did free the slaves and all like that but Martin Luther King what he done has been for all the world, white, and black. It's just too bad that he couldn't live to see these things really come to pass, but I guess that was God's will. But he has done a marvelous job for the whole country. I don't know of anybody that has done anything that is any better than the things that Martin Luther King has done and not only that, he did it in a manner that he didn't have to have a whole lot of bloodshed. The blood that was shed, it was through the other people. We never raised our hands to do anything and I saw him when he walked up there to what's that man's name now, he’s in a wheelchair? Wallace. Wallace was standing in the door and Martin Luther King walked right up in his face. He didn't raise his eyes. He just stood there looking down and he said we weren't coming in that building but they just walked right on past him. I forgot now what it was that they were going to. You can’t find many people that would have gone up there with all these people behind them and was successful in what he was trying to do. Because there was no fighting in it, you see. There wasn't any bloodshed. He didn't have axes and guns and things like that. It was just a God-sent program and when he done his work it was over. I think this was God's plan--now you have done your work, come on home. And I hope that. you know as I look at things now it sorts of seems like there are people who are trying to turn the clock back. If you read the paper a lot and you see a lot of things that it seems they are trying to go back to that used to exist and it's just no telling unless some of our leaders really come to the front and lead. Now Jesse Jackson ought to be a good man to take Martin Luther King's place because they're trying to turn the clock back and if you will notice the Ku Klux Klans are coming back in also. I: Did you ever have any experiences with the Klan in your life in South Carolina and in North Carolina as you were coming up? K: No, no, no. I never heard of the Ku Klux Klan when I was in South Carolina and since I've been in Asheville I've heard of them, but they have never bothered me. But I tell you this, a lady called me it's been about two or three months ago now, the telephone rang, and I answered it. She says, "I'm a member of the Ku Klux Klan, are you?" I said, "No, I'm not." She said, "Well, I like the Ku Klux Klan, don't you?" I said, "No, I don't care for the Ku Klux Klan." She said, "I don't like niggers. I think she must have thought I was a white woman. She says, "Well, I don't like niggers, do you?" I said, "Yes, I love everybody, both white and black." I said, "Because God made us all out of the same blood," and I said, " People are just people." No, he didn't. He made black folks out of black blood and white folks out of white blood." I just hung the receiver up. (Laughs) That was the funniest thing. I never seen any black blood, have you?" Now that's 18 Knuckles what she said to me. No, he didn't. She didn't say he made white folks out of red blood, she said white blood. She said, "He made white folks out of white blood and black folks out of black blood," and I just hung the receiver up. I didn't say another word. What's the use? I: I know at that point there's no further need there. K: That thing tickled me. I told all my friends. I: It was a waste of time. K: That thing tickled me, so I told all my friends. They just died laughing. I: You're right there is a resurgence of those kinds of feelings. K: There certainly is. I can see it happening. You know these Ku Klux Klan that paraded here about the city hall? Well they say when they left they went down Eagle Street. It might have been that they were trying to spot some Negro to throw something at. Ain't no telling what they're up to. I: I was reading before I say this let me ask you one more question. Do you recall any holidays or customs that were celebrated just by black people different from what they celebrate now like the Fourth of July? I have met some people that remember celebrating the eighth of July, some the first of January. K: I don't recall ever having celebrated anything you mean just related to black people? Phone Rings (End of Interview).
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Object’s are ‘parent’ level descriptions to ‘children’ items, (e.g. a book with pages).