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Interview with Rosa Lee Shepard Gibson

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  • Gibson 1 WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA TOMORROW BLACK ORAL HISTORY PROJECT Interviewee: Mrs. Rosa Lee Shepard Gibson Interviewer: Lorraine Crittenden County: Jackson Date: August 6, 1986 Mrs. Rosa Lee Shepard Gibson is 78 years old; now she is in poor health, but she has a clear memory. She now lives with her younger sister. As the interview progressed, it became evident that she loved her younger sister for whom she provided the money necessary for her to complete high school and technical college-- no sacrifice was too great for her. Miss Rosa Lee has traveled around the country as a cook, along with her husband who was a waiter. She was willing to share her family's background in great detail. Her foreparents had been slaves, and her grandfather's mother was a white woman whose name she did not recall or, perhaps, want to reveal. After the initial questions, she began to relax as she realized that she did have a story to tell. At first, she wanted me to wait until her younger sister was available because she could "say it much better." With my assurance that there was no right or wrong way to say what she wanted to share, she visibly became more enthusiastic about participating in the project. Lorraine Crittenden Lorraine Crittenden: Mrs. Rosa Lee, has your family always lived in North Carolina? Rosa Lee Gibson: Yes. I: Where did your father originate from? G: Franklin. I: Where about in Franklin? G: Macon County. I: It's in Macon County? G: Yes. I: What community did he live in? Was it Cowee? G: Yeah, I guess that's what that is. It's on the mountain. I don't know too much about it. Yes. Gibson 2 I: Where did his father come from? G: Well, I guess they all were somewhere in there. I: In Franklin? G: Yeah. Because I don't know much about them because grandpa was a black man out of seven brothers and his mother is white. I: His mother was white? G: So, I don't know too much about them. I: Do you know his mother's name? G: No, I sure don't. I just know his sister's name, Lydia. I: Lydia? G: Had a sister that lived between Franklin and Cowee and I remember her. I: Do you remember her last name? G: No. I don't know her last name. She married a man out of Georgia and he didn't care for color to come around so, well, you know, black, and my grandfather went in and out just like all the rest of them. But he wasn't raised by them. He was raised by foster father. I: Who was? G: She gave him away? I: Who was? G: Grandpa. Tom Shepard. I: Your grandfather was Tom Shepard? G: Ummh. I: His mother was white? G: Ummh. I: He was given away to the foster family? G: Ummh. Gibson 3 I: Do you know which family that was? G: Lord no. That's too far back for me. I: Too, far back. Ok. What was your father's name? G: Caneary Shepard. Mattie and I are just half sisters. I: Will you spell his name please? G: C AN E A R Y. I: Like the bird canary. Different. Do you know your grandfather's name on your father's side? G: T. B. Shepard. I: T. B. Shepard. Do you know your father's mother's name? G: She was a McDonald. She was Maggie McDonald. I: Maggie McDonald. What is your mother's name? G: Uh hum. I: And her father's name? G: Joe Babb. I: Her mother's name? G: Charlotte Babb. Well, she was a Love before she married a Babb. Charlotte Love Babb. I: Ok. Let's stop here for a minute please. I: You said that your grandfather was T. B. Shepard. G: Yes. I: Do you know how he earned his living? G: They farmed. They were farmers. I guessed they worked out for others, sometime mostly but all them big old places, they just farmed. I: So, they raised all the crops? Gibson 4 G: Raised everything. I: What about the meat? G: They raised that, too. I: Now, how did he get money to buy the things that he couldn't grow? G: Well, he traded horses and sold horses and everything like that. I: This was in Macon County? G: Yes. I: Did he own or rent his home? G: They owned all that big old place. I: How much land do you think he had? G: I don't know. I think we got about 18 or 20 thousand from the way it come to all of us. I just imagine. I: Acres? G: No. It was sold. I don't know how many acres it was. I just don't know. I: But it was quite a bit of land. G: Yeah, maybe like three or four acres. A hundred acres, I don't know. I: Did he inherit, did someone give him this land or did he buy it? G: That I don't know. I: What else can you tell me about your grandfather? G: Well, honey, I don't know nothing else to tell you. That's all I know. He went to fairs. He sold to the fairs and everything like that. He'd have horses in that house way down there. So, I don't know what he did. I'd call it just traffic and traded. I: You said he went to the fairs. Are you talking about county fairs? G: Yeah, to the fairs, where they go the fairs and they trade horses and buy horses and sell cattle and everything like that. He sold cattle, too. Gibson 5 I: He sold cattle? G: Ummh. I: So, that took care of your shelter and food. What about your clothing? Did your mother make them or grandmother, I mean? G: Let's see. I don't know whether she made them or not. They had an awful big family. She must've had to done something. I don't know. I: What can you tell me about your mother or your grandmother? G: I can't tell you anything about my grandmother hardly. She was a housewife as far as I know. I: How many children did they have? G: They had. She had Aunt Allie, Uncle Charlie, and my mother, and Aunt Jessie. And Two boys, I guess that's all. How many were there? I: That wasn't an unusually large family for that time. About six children. Do you know? G: Uncle John and Uncle Charlie, them all I know. I: Now were your grandparents…? G: You meant my mother didn't you? I: Yes, Ma’am. G: You said my grandmother didn't you? I: I asked you what you could tell me about your grandmother and you said she was a housewife. G: Well, I know she had been married twice. First time she was married she was married to. Oh, gosh! I can't mention all those many children because there must be about 12 or 15 in the family. I: so, she had children in the first marriage? G: Yes, I don't know if I can call them all or not. I: Now, these would've been your half brothers and sisters? G: No, that's my grandmother. My mother I told you we just 5. Two girls and three boys. I: So, your grandmother had two marriages? Gibson 6 G: Ummh. Had two marriages. I: Did she have children in both marriages? G: Yeah. In my poppa's family I think there was about, let's see, there was poppa, and Aunt Lillie, and Aunt Velmer, and Aunt Buella, and Uncle Weaver. I can't count right now but six of them, but it seems like there are more than that in that family. In the other family, I don't know just how many. In my lifetime, I have know two of them and that was uncle Charlie, and I can't call the other one's name but two. They lived in Asheville. He was real old, you know, in my knowing. I: Do you remember his last name? G: Shepard. I: Shepard? G: Yeah, both times she married a Shepard. I: Oh, really? G: Ummh. I: So, that was your grandmother? G: Maggie McDonald Shepard. I: She was born in Waynesville? G: Yeah. I: Do you know what her father did for a living? G: See they were slaves there. I: Who was a slave? G: My grandfather and them had been brought there as slaves you know. I: Now, your mother's father was a slave? G: Ummh. I: What was your mother's father's name? G: Joe Babb. Gibson 7 I: That's your grandfather? G: Yeah. You got that down there somewhere. I: I just wanted to make sure I've got it down correctly. Now, he was brought to Waynesville as a slave? G: They never would separate that family. All the whole family stayed together. I: Where did they come from originally? G: I don't know where they come from to Waynesville. Waynesville is far as I know. I: So, you think the whole family was sold as a unit? G: They never was sold and they were free there. All of them together. The first time they were sold was they had a real good master. You see my grandmother that leads back to her. She had a good master. Her mother did. Because she belonged to her master's son and she went to school like the brother and sisters, like they did. I: Now which grandmother are you talking about? G: I'm talking about Maggie McDonald. I: Maggie. All right. G: She was eleven years old when she was free. They were free. My mother back there. My mother never was a slave but her father and his brother and that bunch were slaves. But when their boss first sold them they never would separate them. If anybody that ever had them that separated them they could come and take them. I: Who would come and take them? G: The original good man. I: Do you know his name? G: No. I don't remember his name. It was in the contract. If they ever mistreated them or anything like that or took any of them and sold them apart, he'd come and take them. I: I see. That's unusual. G: So, they were never really treated like slaves. They said they were treated just like their children almost and all. Gibson 8 I: So, since your grandmother was the master's grandchild, was she sent to school? G: Went to school just like her sister. I mean her daddy sent her. She went to school with a sister or cousin or sister I think it was and was educated just like they were. I: Just like the white children in the family? G: Yeah, they got to go to school and had good education. I don't know how far she went. Back in my days when you come up when you finished the 8th grade you could teach school. I: You could teach it? G: Yeah, that was highest school went here. You could teach up to where you were and that's all it was. I: I see. Now, would you say that your father was a good provider? G: Yes, we had hacks, buggies and surreys and riding horses, cattle and hogs. I: What's a hack? Now you said a hack was like a bus? G: Yeah, a hack and a surrey. You ain't never seen one? I: No. Maybe on TV or something. G: No. I don't think it's on. I: TV? G: Yeah, you could put. Sometimes they'd have four and sometimes they had six to one. My mother had her own riding horse and sit side saddle on there. I: Oh, really? G: But I just straddle and went on cause I could never learn to ride side way. I: Did the children have to work on the farm? G: Yeah, we all worked. I: When did you do your work? G: Well, we did our work at different times, because we didn't work when the sun was too hot. We'd get up at day break in the morning and stay in the field until the sun got so hot, then come out. Then about two thirty or three o'clock somewhere along in there, why we were back in until eight and nine o'clock as long as we could see how to hoe. Gibson 9 I: Now, how old were you when you had to do your share on the farm as far as hoeing the garden or whatever? G: Well, I can't know because we worked from the time we were very small because we'd drop corn and beans, you know how you do that? I: Right, in the rows. G: Yeah. We could do that when we were quite young you know, but we didn't hoe until we got up about six or seven years old or something like that. Then we could hoe and know how to take weeds from around the corn and everything. I: Now did you have the opportunity for an education? G: I lacked from December to June, finishing the eighth grade. That's as far as it went here. I: Now this is in Sylva, Cope Creek? Where was the school located? G: Where the center is right now. I: Senior Citizen Center? Community Services Center? G: Yeah. I: That's where the school was? G: No, that didn't serve. We had two schools and then had one great big white nice school. I: Where was that? G: It would sit right there. I: Where was the other school? G: When that was torn down they built a new school up on the hill there. Right straight across in front of Wilmers and them. I: So, you're speaking of the building that's the Board of Education Building now? G: Yeah. I: Now, how did you get from Cope Creek to the school here? G: We'd come across that mountain and right down towards Mrs. Liny Arnold's down that way to the schoolhouse. Gibson 10 I: When did you do your chores when school was in session? G: We would work after school and then in the wintertime we milked. We had two or three cows and gathered eggs and different things like that. I know when Uncle Ern died, he left a big mortgage on the place and they could never pay that off and so they finally lost it. Then they begin selling off things and selling off things until they just, I reckon, went broke. I don't remember way back just how but it all got gone, in that kind of way. I: It was sold? G: Yeah. I: Did your father live here on Chipper Curve? G: Yeah, he lived up there with me ever since about 1935 or 40. He was living here. Then he moved when all of them died out. My brother and Will and all. But then he stayed with me constantly up there. I: Do you remember when he died? G: Oh, Lord. I've got that down somewhere but, anyway, it was in the 50's something when he died. I: In 1950? G: I don't know exactly. I: Did any of your brothers and sisters go beyond the eighth grade? Did any of them go off to school? G: No. None of them went off to school. They just finished the graded school up here. Since Mattie has been grown, I helped her in Knoxville College. So, she has two years of straight college and, of course, she's a beautician. She's a telephone operator. She's a minister. I put her through. I helped her get through all them. The last thing I did was I paid all her tuition for a nurse. During that time she had went through high school here. I: Where? G: Then she went to Knoxville College. When she come back here finished her nurse training, she just wanted to take LPN. I sent her over here. I: At STC (Southwestern Technical College) G: Ummh. Gibson 11 I: Did she ever work as an LPN? G: She still works. I: She does? G: Yeah, ever since this building has been over here the nursing home right there on top the hill. Well, she's been there, but you see she was retired from there but she still works two or three days a week whenever she can. But whenever her nursing interferes with her ministry she don't do it until you know it's over. Then she will go back and work. Sometimes she'll have to work, if sickness or something and she's able she'll have to work a week or so. But otherwise just regular she just works, suppose to work two days a week. I: Now, how did you earn the money to send your younger sister through school? G: Honey, I was a cook. I: Where did you cook? G: I cooked up here at Cullowhee. That's been a long time when there wasn't but 499 students. so, that's been a long time. I: That's been a long time. G: I've always cooked. I cooked at Phi Kappa Alpha and for several years at Knoxville on Pint street. I: So, you spent part of your life in Knoxville? G: Oh, yes, I've lived a lot of mine all over. I: Where are some of the places you've been? G: Well, I lived in Knoxville around 18 years when I first married and then I stayed around five years in Virginia. I: What part? G: Portsmouth. That's the only places of working and them kind of places. I: Were you a cook in Portsmouth? G: I always made top money in that field whatever it was. I made top money. My husband and I always traveled and worked together. so, we always made pretty good money. I: Now was he a cook also? Gibson 12 G: No. He was a waiter. Then he helped me too. I mean he was a waiter and he helped prepare the vegetables. Back in those days you had to prepare all your vegetables. You didn't run to a can and open and empty it up. You cooked. I: I bet it tasted better then. G: Well, I don't know but then I've worked all through Cherokee. I: Oh, have you? G: Oh, yeah. I: What are some of the places? G: You know Grimlow's wife and Grim? They've worked with me a lot in Cherokee. I: Did you ever work at Frymont in Bryson? G: No, I never worked in Bryson. I: Where did you work at in Cherokee? G: Just before you start up the mountain there was a big place right in there. I: Parkers? G: No, I can't remember who the names were right now. I: But you've cooked all of your life until you retired? G: Yeah. I: How long ago did you retire? G: Except eleven years. I: What were you doing? G: I went to work for Dr. Ramsey down here. Then I left here and went some place else. I guess back to cooking. I'm sure when I left from up here I run on back to cooking. Now what did you do at Dr. Ramsey's home? I just took care of the home and three children. I: Did you have to cook there also? G: Did I have to cook? Gibson 13 I: Yes, ma'am. G: Yeah, she usually did most of her cooking because she didn't have a lots of cooking done. If I needed to cook then I would cook but usually she cooked herself, most of the time. I just stayed so many hours. I'd go clean. I worked from 8 til 5 anyway. I: You worked for them about 11 years? G: Yeah. I: Then you moved again? G: Yeah, then I left here and went back to Tennessee. Well, usually when things would call me to Tennessee, I wouldn't go to work but Mattie lived there and she was always sickly, you know. I: Your sister? G: Mattie lived on Yeager Street but Yeager street, I don't think, is there anymore. I think that's all been torn away in there. I'd go there and there wasn't no time till a lady hear I was there and sent somebody over there to get me and I went on to work and I worked down there. I don't know. I guess about three years, I guess I worked there at the college. I: At Western Carolina? G: Yeah, no,no. I: Knoxville College? G: Yeah. At the Phi Kappa Alpha, it was men, of course everybody come in and eat from the streets or anything. It was for boys, and, of course all the boys would bring sweethearts or something sometime. so, it was a pretty big crowd. Then when I come home, well, this is after I married the second time. Remember when the pool room opened up here? I mean the bowling club. I: Yes, the bowling alley? G: Well, see my husband worked at the hospital. I got that job. I: Working at the bowling lane? G: Yes. I: What were you doing there? Gibson 14 G: Well, you just dust. See, it's got seats and things in it and the floors are pretty. It's got that snack shop. It did have. Just keep things straightened up and let out shoes or things for some of them that didn't have their own shoes and things. Bowling shoes and things like that. But I had to clean. I ran the buffer, dusted, and everything. I: Did you learn to bowl? G: No, I couldn't bowl. I could learn and was good at knocking down all those balls, but it pulled my shoulder. That ball was too heavy. It hurt my shoulder and back too. So, I couldn't fool with it. Broadus bowled a lot. I: Was Broadus Gibson your husband? G: Yes. I would probably work, go in from 8:00 until 1:00 and then from around 1:30 to 5:00 I'd be someplace else. So, I still made pretty good money. I: What were the relationships like between blacks and whites? G: Well, far as I know it was good. We weren't raised with nobody but white. So, it never made any difference who I was talking to or where I was. We all trick or treated together and we all were together. We'd eat right at the table with them. I: Ok. What about restaurants? G: The restaurant, you'd have to eat in the little room that they had on a little small table and chairs. You were served nice, but you had to go to the back. I: What about in Knoxville? G: Well, in Knoxville you just went in wherever you wanted to as far as I know. We did. But can't compare us with everybody else because they said you couldn't buy a cone of ice cream in Franklin. That you couldn't go in a drug store and buy a cone of ice cream. Well, my sister and her friend from Knoxville, we went to Franklin and marched right in the drug store and I sat down on the stool. They didn't tell me to get up. Uncle Weaver was standing across the street wanting us to bring him one because he was afraid to go in. He wouldn't go. They served all three of us just as nice as you please. We just bought cones of ice cream. I just sit there kind of on a stool the rest were standing around here. So, they talked to us and said, "Where you ladies from?" Well, at that time I was from Knoxville. Darryl was too. She said, "Well, I know you don't act like none of these around here and y'all don't talk like them. We knew you weren't from here." Maybe she meant she knew if we were from there we wouldn't have come in there. I: That's probably what she meant, wasn't it? G: Here we always just went in a drug store and got anything we wanted. Drinks or anything, We didn't sit down but the people were always nice to you. I've heard some say that you got to act right if you want to be treated right. You just can't go in and acting and doing most anything. Gibson 15 You can't go in there with your head in the air, acting all smart. You'd know where your place was and you could be nice. It didn't cost you a thing to be nice. We went down there and get anything we wanted to. I: Did you notice a difference? When did you notice that things began to change? When you go to any restaurant you wanted to or stay at a motel? G: Well, honey, you know I can't tell no changes because we were treated the same all the time until there was this change over was. We could go sit down and get served just like all the rest. I: So, that was during the Civil Rights Movement? G: But there was no trouble never. As I've ever heard of. I don't know of any. Of course, in Knoxville well you had so many places to go. The stores all treated you the same and they had so many different places to eat, you didn't think about going to no white restaurant anyhow. I don't guess. At least I never did. It's always been pretty nice for us all the way through. I: As long as you stayed in your place? G: Yeah. Everybody should know there is a place you can't come in here and do any kind of way. There's rules. But I think if everybody would act nice and my brothers had went in places and take their hat off like they should and stand and talk real nice. Well that's the way it was. That's the way we were raised to do. We'd come up right with the white people, so I couldn't tell no difference. They said, "You sure don't talk like nobody around here." I: That's an interesting comment because you would think in Tennessee the accent is also Southern, mountain like, I would say. G: I don't know. I didn't go a lot of things like that. The biggest places I'd go was to work and church and I never did go to the dances places or nothing like that. I: Were you not allowed to or just didn't want to? G: No, we just didn't do it. Well, when Louie Armstrong begin coming there a lot, a lot of people would just go to see him and to hear the band you know. My husband took me there a time or two but not for dancing, just to get to see Louie Armstrong. I: Did you enjoy his music? G: Yeah. I liked it. Liked it all right. I: Let's talk about a few of the other customs during your day. For example how was Easter celebrated? G: Easter? Gibson 16 I: Yes, ma'am. G: Well, in my days you'd always get up and be at the church singing and praising God at sunrise, you know. Then you would go maybe on the church property, you know, right after that. Go to church and then we'd have Sunday school and hide Easter eggs and all things like that. Just invite different ones coming and bringing eggs and hide them. Well, they don't do as much of it as we did but sometimes they have sunrise prayer meeting and just things just about like they always did. I: What other customs, religious or social--by social I mean Christmas, any special occasion-- what other customs have changed? You said they don't have as much participation at sunrise and Easter egg hunt. What other things have you noticed the change in? G: Honey, I don't know. They just still have the services and the egg hunt and all that kind of stuff. I don't much see no changes. I: What about a change in the church itself? G: Well, everybody did that. They didn't call it the same thing at the Methodist church. We'd go to our church the 2nd and 4th Sunday and down here we still come on right to church the first and the third. They still do that. Some of the preachers didn't like those kind of things. Don't want you to visit other churches like that. But now you are invited out or called out to sing or do something all the time. The preacher don't say nothing about it. I guess they don't like it so well sometimes. Well, that's about the biggest changes I see in their going to different denominations. They didn't do too much of that back in them days because they tried to keep you busy there all the time so you couldn't go no where else. I: So, that was usually Sunday? G: Yeah. I: Where there services during the week? G: Mid-week services. Wednesday night service. They just don't do it regular all the time just like we did. You see we were just there. They don't have no BYPU and what is the late study they call it. They call it something else instead of BYPU now anyway. But it would be at the same time and it was still Bible study. I don't know. I can't see all of those changes. Only I see where they are much better denominations. Because everybody mixes and mingles now. I: They are not that separate? G: No. They almost Jim Crowed you from the other churches. Seemed like there wasn't anybody, they weren't invited out as much as they are now. See all churches white and black and everybody you can't tell the difference now. They treat you just as nice in there and loving and I visit several churches. Just loving, kind, and throw their arms around you and kiss you and say Gibson 17 how glad they are to see you. They that way most all of the time. I think that our church is the coldest church I know. I: Are you speaking of the Methodist Church? G: No, I'm talking about the Baptist Church. I: Liberty? G: They, well, yeah, they don't reach out enough. G: Everybody are just for themselves like. I: In the older days do you think the church was more of one large family? G: Yeah. seem like they selfish more. Now, one thing seem like they ruled the preacher back in them days than they do now. And now they don't try to rule the preacher. Look like they just try to take the church over. I: You said rule the preacher in the earlier days. The congregation told the minister what they wanted? G: You always fed them. They just went from one place to the other. They always got their dinners. We lived way back on Cope Creek but they'd go way back there or get back there and horseback or something. It's the same. There would always two or three families that would just want them all the time. Didn't like them to go someplace else. The great change is they won't feed them at all. G: Everybody fix their own. Friends and neighbors would come in and put you on a cooler board. They take a saucer and put a saucer on you right here. I: A saucer on the dead person's chest? G: Yes. I: What was that for? G: Keep them from purging. That was something like embalming them you know. They would stay that way two days but you had to bury them within that length of time, you know. I: Then they were carried to the cemetery on a wagon? G: Well, then the family had horses or ever who there was somebody. Mr. John Arnold has carried all of ours with two great big horses to the cemetery long as he lived nearby. I: Well, who dug the graves? Gibson 18 G: Well, different neighbors just gone in and dug the grave and fixed it, no charges and nothing like that. I: Did they have family plots back then? G: No. There was just a big cemetery there and wherever you had your own or where you picked for yourself or something you had that. I: Which cemetery was used for your family? G: Old Field Cemetery up here at Beta. They'd pull bodies I say by horses. Friends and neighbors everybody just come in. Why they just come in and take over things for you but now they don't hardly come at all for anything. I: So, there has been a change in that respect? G: Oh, a lot of change but now you see they come and talk to you before hand and find out what you want. How you want things and then you go down and pick out your casket. They have already come, of course, and got the body and it's much more easier and much more convenient than it was back in them days. It's much, much more expensive too. You had your casket, relatives had the casket made. Lining and fixing it. I still say I'd like that. I always like the smell of it. I: The pine box? G: Yeah. I: What was the casket lined with? G: It was lined with cotton, and this white soft, soft cloth, or white satin whichever you were able to get. I: Now was there a particular person in the community who made the caskets and lining? G: Mr. Cox, Reverend Cox. I: Was he black or white? G: Made the caskets all over here. I: Was he black or white? G: White, black. I: He was black? Gibson 19 G: At Christmas time? There was Tom Bryson and Mr. John Arnold's family and Jack Murphy. They were all just inseparable. I: Did they live on Cope creek too? G: Yes, for a while, then they moved off Cope Creek and bought where they live up here. Well, that just our family there. But still as far as they were apart, they got in those wagons and drove those wagons and put hay and stuff all in the bed of the wagon and pile them youngings in there and threw old coats or whatever they had--a quilt and anything over them. Then here they'd come. All of them. I: Would come to your house? G: Would come to my mother's home. But all of them would bring you there for a lot of food too--cakes and pies and things. What I can't understand, is you can make a pie and don't bother it on the stove and go on, but if you don't do something about that pie by tomorrow night it's soured. They'd keep them for days in an old cupboard, corner cupboards and things. You just line that up in there with pies and cakes and everything like that. It didn't spoil. I've asked so many people that and they say they think it's a chemical. I: Chemicals? G: That they use on some much now. I: I believe so. G: They'd all be cooked up. Turkeys or something or baked ham or fix something. They didn't have a Frigidaire or nothing like that. I: Did you have an ice box? G: No. I: How did you keep your milk and butter cooled? G: Well, you know back in them days they had called a spring house and there were shelves in there and the water ran through there. You'd just go in there just like almost opening a Frigidaire door. Close to the water was shelves and the butter and stuff would be all set across there. The milk would be sitting down there in the big cracks in the wall. It was just as cold and nice and easy. I: Now you were telling me this story about Christmas. G: They'd be there just about Christmas to New Years. Gibson 20 I: Oh, really! G: The next Christmas it would be to one of their houses. Not a family would be left out. I: Were there gifts exchanged? G: Yeah. I: Now that sounds like a lot of fun. G: We'd have a good time. A lot of the neighbors would come in and some of them would play Santa Claus and have that big sack on their back and come and set it down in the floor. All the children, children from all around, would come and sit on his lap and tell him what they wanted. They'd bring their presents for the children's tree. We'd always have a big nice tree and then we'd have to put nice table cloth on the table. We'd put in the center of the table a cake and then put candies, apples and oranges and a whole lot of stuff all around them. That was for Santa Claus. See, when we went to bed he'd sit up there and eat all that. I know my brother, Harrilee, he was so scared of him. I: Was Santa Claus dressed up as Santa Claus? G: I remember one time they all came and it was stormy and raining and the creek was way overflowing but they'd all got across. See you had to wade the creek. They all got across though and everything before the creek came down. That's when the creek come down. Oh, boy! So, they were all talking and they were wondering if Santa Claus was going to be able to get across that creek. How in the world was he gonna get across there? Well, we didn't know. So, Harrilee and them all running around and playing and clowning and he was a pretty good size little boy, but honey, he screamed. He was scared to the edge of his life when Santa Claus come. Oh well, they got kind of calmed down from being so afraid, then Santa Claus begin giving them their presents and different things. That's the way it was and you know, seem like nobody got aggravated or getting on the children or nothing. I just don't know. They had better times and it was different. Children don't think it was fun now to talk about it. It wouldn't seem fun to them. But it was fun to us. All the elders would join in with the children and play games, like the thimble, playing the thimbles are moving or something like that. I: What's a thimble remover? G: Well, everybody would be sitting around like this. The girls they'd all be glad, because they know they are going to get a kiss or two. I: Oh! G: Because they would find them you know. You'd have a thimble. A thimble may start here and your hands, everybody's hand are going like this all the time. Our hands would meet and I'd drop the thimble in your hand and somebody would tell, "Rosa Lee's got the thimble," and then they's search me and while they are searching me you send the thimble all the way around. When they'd Gibson 21 get who they caught the thimble with, they would have to sometimes have to pick out the ugliest person in the world for you to kiss. They'd say, "She's got the thimble. Well, what will you do to redeem me this thimble?" Well, they'd say she'd have to kiss so and so or she'll have to sing a song or say a recitation or do something or maybe have to do a dance. Had to do something for that thimble. I: That was fun. G: Yeah, it was fun. Of course, we didn't have these other things we didn't know about you know. But that was fun. Everybody could play, you know. I: Do you think the family life is much different today? G: Yes, the family life was much closer back in them days than they are now. Lord, you never eat together, you never see each other at meal time. They won't come home. It's much, people were happier. I know they were happier. They didn't have so much. But they had plenty to eat. They had all kinds of things to eat. You even made your own flour, your own corn, your own syrup and people done canning way up in the hundreds. You had everything. There wasn't but one thing you had to buy hardly and that would be sugar and coffee. I: Sugar and coffee? And the rest of it you grew? G: And a lot of times they'd use honey in the place of sugar for something. You know they knew how to do it. Change a lot of things. People were friendlier and you just didn't say I love you. Deep down inside it showed. You knowed I loved you. It's not all together like that. I: Today? What do you think the reason for that is? G: Honey, the devil is loose I guess. There are so many changes. Young people was a church nearly. Young people just crowded the church. They's up early and ready to go to church and Sunday school and speaking and all. I: Well, wasn't the church also a social event as well as religious? G: Yeah. You could have all kinds of programs, church programs and things like that and cake walks and different things. That was fun then but it's not fun to the children today. Then again I don't understand that. I: What about the dating customs? G: Well, there wasn't nothing like that. Usually the girls were shy of boys. They weren't outspoken, nothing like they are today. You never heard no kind of naughty talk. Why you hear worse things on TV that I never heard come out of a human's mouth in my life till I was grown. They don't even court like we did. Boys had certain nights that they could come to see you. Now, they stay. Gibson 22 I: Oh, the nights they can come to your house? G: Ten o'clock was called on you and that was as late as he could stay or go to bed. Well now they come anytime, at one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock or in the morning or anytime and stay until bedtime and then probably get up and go to bed. That's what they call a date. I: When you were growing up, if the boy came to the house to see you, he had to leave at ten o'clock? G: Yeah. I: Did you not go out anywhere with the boy? G: You could go out if you wanted, if there's anywhere they wanted to go. You could still go. But you always had a chaperone. I: so, there was an older person with you? G: Yeah. I: Well, while you and your young man were talking in the living room or wherever, was there a person in there or did you have privacy? G: No. There wouldn't be anyone there. You know like we would be sitting there talking or playing music. Usually back in those days we had organs and all kinds of string music and everything and juice harps and made music. Well the boys usually enjoyed doing things like that a lot. They didn't just sit and talk and corner you off most of all the time. Sometime, but not all the time. I: So, the family was involved in that too? G: Yeah. sure. I: What about the wedding ceremony? Was there a wedding ceremony? G: Yes. They had wedding ceremonies. I was married at home. I: You were married at home? G: Yeah. Mr. Roy Cox marries us. The whole gang come that time. My house was swarming. My mother had been cooking ever since Friday. We got married Sunday evening. Oh, friends were just in and out and it was different. I: Did you have a special dress then? G: Yeah, you had a special dress. Gibson 23 I: Did you mother make or buy it or what? G: It was a store bought dress. Just the plain navy blue with a different color in it you know. Colors is mixed in a different kind of way than what it was then. Just straight with a bell. I just say like a street dress. Bridesmaids and things like that we didn't have. Just one person stood with me, ever who I wanted. Then one stood with him of course. Then the others were all lined up everywhere. I: Right. G: Then when they'd say "Kiss the bride,” did you know my husband had never kissed me when I married him. I: He hadn't? G: My first and I hadn't never kissed him. He never asked me to kiss him but one time and I refused him. He didn't ask no more. I: Really? G: That's the truth. I: Well, did you have a honeymoon? G: Only one night. We went to Asheville and spent the night and come back. I: Then where did you live after you got married? G: We still lived at my mother's and over to his parents, over on Watson Cove. I guess about three months before we got a house. I: Did he rent or buy? G: Rented. I: There were houses for rent at that time? G: Yeah. I: Where did he work? G: He worked. Well he worked at a garage, a mechanic at a garage. Ain't none of those places here now. They all tore away and rebuilt something else you know. I: So, he was a mechanic? Gibson 24 G: Now, right across from Cogdill's Motor Company, right in there, use to be a great big garage. It was named Bailey's Garage. That's where my husband worked. I: Did you work when you were first married? G: No. I: No? You just stayed at home? G: Yeah. We worked at home. There was plenty to do. Yeah, we still had right much up until the wedding, until I got married. I: What year was that? Do you remember? G: 1921. I: 1921? G: I mean 1923. Wayne was born in 1921 and I married in 1923. [Pause] G: We could hear it from up there. I: During Would War I? G: And everybody was running up and down the road and hollering that the war was over and that the folks would soon be coming home. They were just crying and rejoicing and meeting each other and loving them and hugging. That always stood out to me. I guess I was about eight years old or nine. I: Oh. G: Let's see. I was born 1908 and that was in, I was about eight years. Somewhere in there 1918. I: Well, do you remember anything about World War II? G: Yes, World War II was a rough time for us because you couldn't get no work to do and you could take a dozen of eggs and go to town and get sugar and coffee or anything you wanted. Like you know. You worked 10 cents an hour. I: Ten cents? G: Then you couldn't hardly get it. Ten cents an hour. Some people didn't pay that much. My husband then got out of a job and he'd just have to take day's work; like a ditch, doing anything Gibson 25 he could get to do. And of course I didn't work at all. Cause nobody, now and then you might get a job in a boarding house you know, something like that. Because people just go to the boarding house and work one pay day most of the time. Then they'd leave. That was hard. I: That was hard work? G: For a girl back in them days. I: Were any of your brothers in World War II? G: No. None of them went. No. In this last war Sambo was the only one. Uncle Weaver went to the war that you are talking about. I: World War II? G: One I guess. No. He was in the one in 1919. I: Well, that's World War I. G: Yeah, well that's the one. We had several cousins and things like that. I had a brother-in-law was in that in 1945. I: Now, that would be world War II. G: But otherwise no. We managed not to go hungry. But that's about all you can say. I: Do you remember, let's go back a little bit further. Do you remember the Depression in the 30's? G: Well, I guess I had that all kind of confusing with the war. I: So, you had it confused with World War II? G: Uh. I: OK, so times were hard for you during the Depression because there was no work. G: During that time is when my mother and them lost everything they were about to have. I: Do you remember the food stamps? G: Yeah, now was that during the Depression or after the war? No, I don't know about that because you know through that time things begins to open up. That was in Theodore Roosevelt's time, wasn't it? I: Right. Gibson 26 G: Things begin opening up and they had this--you know it was like these boys all went off on this. What was that called. Something like a job corps, I guess. I: Called WPA? G: Yeah. No. I: CCC Camp? G: No. They didn't call it that. They wore army clothes. I: I think it was CC Camp. Was it Civilian Conservation? G: No. That's not what it was called either. But anyway, some of them would work on that or something or another. Then things begin to pick up or seem a little bit better. But for a while, about a year or so it was tough but it begin when he got all these fixed up. It was something just like job corps and things like that you know. The boys begin getting something or another to do. I: Now, did your husband work on any of these projects? G: No. My husband would go right back to the garage every time. I: Where did he learn to be a mechanic? G: Well, you know you learn yourself to do some things because he had an old piece of car all the time. They work on them and they just learn to know. Then when working in the garage they learned more and more. But I don't know. As far as I know he learned it there in the garage cause I didn't know my husband but about a year before I married him. Yet we were raised here in the same town. I: Oh, really? G: See, Webster was one place where people walked. I didn't go to Webster. I knew other folks and have associations and things like that. They'd come out you know, but they didn't come out this way too much because they had their own school over there and everything for so long. I: Oh. I see. G: After that school was closed and they consolidated it, they come to this school over here. But he was about quit school by then I think. Gaither. Gaither, he continued on to school. That was a brother next to my husband. Night school and different things you know after he go grown, till he finished high school. I: Where did he do that? Gibson 27 G: What? I: Where did he go to school at night? G: Knoxville. I: Oh, so, if you wanted your education you had to move. Leave from Sylva? G: Ummh, they didn't have that here then. I: What do you remember about that? G: Honey, I don't know much about it because we didn't have radios then. I mean TV's then. We had radios. But I don't remember much about that. We were all right. What I mean, everybody was working. I didn't hear no complaints about them because there were plenty domestic workers. Until this change come, and here in the late years there ain't no domestic work to do. They all have to do their own work. A lot of times I'm afraid. Several years, I worked up here at Sylco's and the girls would say, "How on earth did y'all ever work out? How did y'all do it and then do y'all work?" I said, "Well, we done it cause we had to do it all the time and it didn't seem hard to us like it seem to you now. We didn't have no silver spoon in our mouth. We all had to work." Now it was new for them to work and the have to take care of their family. Because they didn't usually take care of their family. They usually kept help. If it wasn't nothing but just soon as school let out have some little colored girl to come and play with those children so they didn't have to worry with them. Now then they couldn't get nobody to come and do nothing. I: Well, do you remember when more women went outside the home to work? G: Well, yes. I know when they started going out the most, but you know, most of the white folks didn't do nothing. Their husbands worked. They stayed home and beautified. They wouldn't even get up and get them a glass of water hardly. So, I know it really goes hard with them now because they have to do every bit of it. It didn't hurt us that bad. I: When do you think the black women more and more of them started leaving home to work outside instead of being a housewife. G: Well, I can't say just to the year and things like that, but yes, I remember those things. Because most people that had daughters and things back in then, they were well enough off that they didn't allow their children to work. I: The black families? G: Yeah, because they say when you let your girl go out yonder to work, you lost her. I: What did they mean by that? Gibson 28 G: Well, when they, well you even take now. It's the same thing. When they finish high school and they go out that's the last of them. When they go out you've lost them right there because even if they go off to school they come back they are gonna go over yonder somewhere to work. You've lost them either way you look at it. I: Oh, I see. Ok. G: Most of the folks back in them days when you finished high school, they were ready for their girls to get married out on their own. They all of them trying to hold them. I can understand that because soon as Dicki finished high school we sent him to different schools, anywhere he wanted to go. But he thought he wanted to go up here and he did. He wanted to go to Atlanta. Well, he tried two places out in Atlanta. Then he went to Canton. He was just here and yonder, you know. Then he went to Atlanta. There's a nice place. He went to Atlanta for this electronic stuff. I: Computers or electronics? G: Yeah, computers. He stayed there six months and he decided something about the church thing that he belongs to. I forgot. Is it Boodie? I: Buddhism? G: Yeah. I: Really! G: So, he travels everywhere. He prays just like I pray. It seems like he's praying to the heavenly father instead of that Boodie but anyway, Mattie went with him a time or two to see. She was awfully hurt about it. So, he sent some of his books here for her to read. The only thing she said she could see is in a different language but it comes out the same way. So, she and him discussed you know. "Momma," he said, "When you do learn this you got it." I don't know because I can't talk that stuff with him. Then he got tied up with this girl and he married her. Now they are separated. He's divorced and now he's married again. Ever since he gone away from home when he got out, that's it. But you could just notice it around. All of them, something just went. I: So, the Eastern Star isn't as active as it use to be? G: Well, they still go. I'm not in it anymore. Vinny and them, they still going-habit and all that. But you know there's no talk about it like it use to be. It use to be a subject. Masons, you hardly ever hear tell of a Masons. It's not active like it was. I: It's not as active? G: Not that I know of. I: When you were growing up, who in the community was considered to be a leader in your community? Gibson 29 G: Well, let's see. There was Aunt Sarah Pickens. I: What did she do? G: Missionary. I: She was a missionary? G: Aunt Zudy Wells. They were all in that and Harry's mother. I: But that's in the Eastern Star? G: The Eastern Star, I was in that one time but when we moved away from here there in Portsmouth I didn't, you know. Didn't get back in with none of that kind of stuff. I: Now you say aunt Zudy Wells. Why was she a leader? G: She was a District President I know. I: Of the Eastern Stars? G: No. Of the missionaries. Aunt Sally Grey was a president of Eastern Star. I: Are you saying to me that the people who were active in religious activities were considered leaders in the community? G: Well, you know, near about the same ones were in the same things in recollection. There weren't too many of them but the ones that were. There was Grace Rice. There were several but they all were in the same things you know. I: Right. Ok. What about the minister and the teacher? Where they considered leaders in the community? G: Well, I don't know about then. I don't exactly remember all those kind of things and how it was. Why when you got there to it, I was a head of it almost. You'd go the that one over here where I was. I: So, you were active. You held different offices? G: Oh, I have been active up until a few years back. Missionary, the church, and everything. Anything come up but now I can't walk about. I can't walk from here to the car without just panting for breath. I've done for a long time. So, I don't get out very much. I send my tithes in. I: Is there not a person in this community people consider a leader, someone to go to? Gibson 30 G: Well, Reverend Smith and Sister Smith or some of them or maybe Wilma. I: But once again, they are connected with the church. G: Oh, yeah. You see they ain't nobody here if you take the church people away. It wouldn't be nobody left, only maybe a few gamblers or drunkers or something here and yonder. You can't get them to look towards the church, not along anything else. So, there would be several but you know in having something, they won't be there when they tell you. They won't go. They may not come at all, nobody. So, these young people they start out maybe for a time or two and then they just drop everything. So, I don't think there's no good leaders around here anyway. I: Let's get back to Civil Rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King. G: Well, I think everybody was hurt very bad and everybody realized just what they had lost. Now, I know I was at work standing over an ironing board ironing when that came over the radio. I: When he was assassinated? G: Yeah. I'm telling you I just cried like it was my mother or father cause I thought he was wonderful and he was doing a wonderful job. Now, I've read several books on him. I feel he was more wonderful than I even thought. All the things he went through and the things he and his wife would talk about and he said he knew that he would die a young man. It was really interesting. I: Do you think things have been better? G: If he could have carried on? I: But even though he died young, do you think that the… G: Oh, yes, I think he left something for everybody to think about and to grow on. I: A legacy? G: Yeah, I really do. I: Do you think we have that kind of black leader today? G: Well, we don't have them here. But I'm sure there are plenty of them otherwise because you read about them and you see them and you hear them over the T.V. and they seem to be. I think this Jessie Jackson, Reverend Jessie Jackson, I think he's gonna to be a fine leader. He's a fine leader now. He's already and I'm sure there's plenty more just like him, but we don't know just where to pick them out from. Right now, I can't think who or when all of this was but I think all the buses and things like that. Gibson 31 I: It was during the sixties. G: Yeah, but it was a wonderful thing about that part of it for us. I: You mean the fact that we don't have to ride in the back of the bus. You can go to any restaurant. G: Freedom. If we all are born equal then we all are free, why were we so Jim Crowed? Now you feel that more than you use to. Of course, though some of them would like it to come back because they didn't care. They didn't care before that was. But it's just some of these few old ones that as they die out it gets better all the time because there aren't that many younger ones are taking it up. So, that was a wonderful thing. Sorry that he had to lose his life over it but the others followed behind him was doing just as good a job as seem like he was. They were trying to carry on. But you know everyone that's leader ain't a leader. Everyone that's out there trying to lead, some of them don't know more about leading more than I do and I don't know nothing. They just can't seem like they can't handle it so well. Well, I think Dr. Martin Luther King, if we had several leaders like that why the world would be a better place to live in maybe. But seem like almost of the places all they can think about is fighting. I: Fighting? G: Fighting each other not even loving each other, but fighting. Break in the tape. G: Education plays a big part in these things and the more education you have the more you have to put out there. If you don't know anything, why there's nothing you could put out. So, that we have, our race now has a much better chance in every kind of way because we don't have so many ignorant people all together because they all pretty well educated. It makes it a whole lot better and easier more understanding in the home and everything, I think. I: can you think of any unique contribution by black people in the community? In this community of Sylva, has a black person built anything or done anything special noteworthy? G: Well, no, I don't think so. But there has been some well- educated and well-knowledge like Mr. Dallas Gray. You know how he built all these nice buildings. I: Where did he build? G: Let me see if I can tell you some of the places. He built that wonderful church in New York you know. That's a big church that they built up there. That's kind of like Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers and them have done many wonderful things but I can't just put it in because it wasn't just right here in this community. It was always away somewhere. They had built lots of things. Yeah. They had done lots of building and done nice work. They were brick masons and things like that. Mr. Gray was a good carpenter. I know he was away about two or three years on that trip or Gibson 32 something up there. I've heard him talk about how nice the church was that he built. Not only by himself you know but I mean he had an interest in it. I: Do you know of any black history projects either from the past or in the works of Jackson County? G: No. If I do I can't remember it now. I: No one has come here and asked you specific facts about your family? G: No. Nobody but Kathy Joe and she's writing one too and some of it is for school and all. She's getting all the background and everything with those plaques. I: Oh, she's doing a family tree? G: Family tree, that's the same. There has always been somebody to do that but I had more sense then than I got now. I can't even think hardly a thing. I'm surprised I could tell you this much. I: Now the persons who interviewed you before, where they family members? G: Yeah. I: Were the other persons family members also? G: Oh, Lord, there was another one come around. I said Lord, go to Kathy Joe and get some of hers. I don't know. I: Has this been done recently? G: Oh, yeah, this year in school. I: Oh, so the high school children students are doing this. This was an assignment? G: I guess she did have it that. But she was more interested in it otherwise she said to know for herself anyway. I: Right. Kathy Joe and I are the only two who have come around. G: Lately, yes. Cause I was so sick she's just have to go an I: Can you think of any members of your family who have gone on to be teachers, lawyers, doctors or whatever? G: Oh, yes. There's a lot of them but I can't mention them all to you. Will's son he's a… What is it? Those different degrees, B.S. What's that? Gibson 33 I: Bachelor of science, masters? G: Well now, he's got all that and he can't make his mind up whether he wants to go on more and be a doctor, or what he wants to do. I: O.k. well, let's go back a little farther to your uncle’s family, were any of them professionals? G: No I don't think so. Now like Wayne was a welder. I: Where did he learn to do that? G: In Norfolk, Virginia and Will was a chipper. I: What's a chipper? G: Well, it's something like a welder, he used that you know that thing they drill, you know cutting off things from the road or anything brick and concrete. It was a great big jack kind of a thing. I don't see how it keeps from jacking you to death. And of course then Harillee was a Baptist minister. I: Now you said he was a minister, was he trained or was he called to be a minister? G: He was called. And, oh I don't know, and when they'd get gone I'd say I wished I'd told her something. Everyone's gone now.
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Object’s are ‘parent’ level descriptions to ‘children’ items, (e.g. a book with pages).