Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

Welcome to Troup County Georgia and Georgia Genealogy
Proud member of the rootsweb.com family

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
Return to Main Page

Stories Presented Exactly as Written.
Look at bottom of this page for stories.

Documents 1 through 20 of 73 Page One
1 [An Air-Minded Family]
2 [Bargain House]
3 [Bea, The Washwoman]
4 [The Boarding House]
5 [The Capital City Insurance Company]
6 [A Change of Vocation Brings Success]
7 [Cindy Wright]
8 [Cosmetics and Coal]
9 [Cotton and Horseshoes]
10 [A Day in a Store]
11 [De Trubles I's Seen]
12 [The Depression was a Republican Trick]
13 [E. W. Evans, Brick Layer & Plasterer]
14 [Edward Walcott]
15 [Elam Franklin Dempsey]
16 [Ernest Gerber]
17 [The Family of an Automobile Worker]
18 [A Farming Preacher-Prophet]
19 [God Helped Us]
20 [A Good Investment]

Documents 41 through 60 of 73 Page Two
41 [The Man Who Out Thought the Other Fellow]
42 [Merchandise on the Toboggan]
43 [Mildred Lawson]
44 [The More Modest Among Us]
45 [Mr. Doolittle]
46 [Mr. Richard]
47 [Mr. Thomas J. Henry]
48 [Mr. Trout]
49 [Mrs. Brown]
50 [Mrs. Janie Bradberry Harris]
51 [Mrs. Lelia Bramblett]
52 [Mrs. Margaret Davis]
53 [Mrs. Margaret Davis]
54 [Mrs. Marguerite R. Thomas]
55 [Mrs. Whelchel]
56 [My Ups and Downs]
57 [Negro Life on a Farm]
58 [New Way Dry Cleaning and Laundry]
59 [The Orchid Beauty Shop]
60 [The Patent Medicine Vendor]

Documents 21 through 40 of 73 Page Three
21 [Honesty and Fairness to the Bitter End]
22 [Hopes 'at Somebody Will Come Along]
23 [The House of Flowers]
24 [I Ain't No Midwife]
25 [I am Reaping in Tears]
26 [I Been 'Voted to Horses All My Days]
27 [I Got a Record]
28 ["I is a Baptist"]
29 [I Managed to Carry On]
30 [I Saw the Stars]
31 [I Want to Die in Peace]
32 [I Wanted to be a Merchant]
33 [I'm Planning to Make a Come Back]
34 [I'se a Fast 'Oman]
35 [In Lieu of Something Better]
36 [It Wasn't So Easy]
37 [Janice]
38 [Jilson Littlejohn, Preacher]
39 [Life During Confederate Days]
40 [Making the Best of It]
Documents 61 through 73 of 73 Page Four
61 ["The Poppy Lady"]
62 [Principal of Grammar School]
63 [Recovery]
64 [Reminiscence]
65 [Reminiscence of a Negro Preacher]
66 [Reminiscences and Recollections]
67 [The Successful Farmer]
68 [The Sunshine Lady]
69 [Unable to Stage a Comeback]
70 [The Unwelcome Caller]
71 [A Visit to a Flower Shop]
72 [A Visit with Aunt Joe]
73 [Women and the Changing Times]

 


American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 1 of 73
[An Air-Minded Family]
March 6, 1939
Mrs. Omie Williams Epps (White)
892 Hill Street
Athens, Georgia
Saleslady
Sadie B. Hornsby
AN AIR-MINDED FAMILY
I asked the taxi driver if he knew just where Mrs. Edwards lived? "Yes mam." At the same time stopping in front of a one-story red brick house, with the woodwork printed white. Hyacinths, forsythia and jonquils were in full bloom. These flowers [bordered?] the spacious lawn that was green with glass, low shrubbery surrounded the house. [?] There was a lattice fence with an opening just large enough for a car to go through, screened the back yard from the front, Like the front yard name was flowers in full bloom. low shrubbery close to the house and garage. A [washpot?] turned upside down, a [?] play house, and parts of a [?] demolished airplane in the garage.
I knocked on the door, and a voice within called to me. "Just open the door and come in. I am too lazy to get up." I entered the livingroom, there sat Mrs. Edwards dressing a small black haired, blue eyed little girl about four years old. "Do have a chair, if I don't dress Sissie before I get up she won't let me get her dressed. I haven't made a fire in the furnace and the house is none too warm. The maid hasn't come yet and everything is topsy-turvey."
As she talked about this and that I glanced around the room. It was evident that a member the family worked for an electric company. There were three lamps in this room. One on the radio, another on a marble top antique table and a floor lamp by a governor Winthrop desk. Several antique chairs, modern three piece
Page 2
livingroom suit book case filled with books on aeronautics, two mirrors and several pictures on the wall. A clock, and pictures of her two grown sons on the mantel as well as a picture of her deceased husband who was a well known aviator, and one of her oldest daughter on the desk. A rug with a flowered of pink roses in block design and criss-cross curtains with blue ball trimmings completed the furnishings in this room.
She had finished dressing the child turned out the light, came over near the window where I was sitting on the red upholstered divan. Picked up a sweater and began darning it. "My boys won't wear these sweaters because there is a touch of red on them. It isn't necessary to do this mending this morning, but I thought I might as well be doing something while I am talking. It is such a bad day I can't get out and sell my cosmetics. My battery is no good on my car so I will have to wait another day. When I go out I take the two small children with me and leave them in the car while I make my calls selling my product. I also sell Christmas cards in season. My children fuss with me because I get out and work, but I have worked all my life and know what it takes to live on. Too I don't fell right to sit down and let my older children take care of me and the ones who are not large enough to work. So after the negro finishes her work and dinner is over I put the children in the car take my cosmetic kit and try to do my bit. Some days I do real well and some days I get so discouraged I feel like giving up but I can't.
"But what is it you want me to tell you I have just talked and talked and you have come for my life history. Why would anybody
Page 3
pick me out of all people? You know a mother of ten children and nine living don't have time to think about what has happened and afraid to think what might take place after all I have been through. I have had a child and my husband killed. I am praying I wont have to go through it again. We never know what is to happen to us in this life.
"My young days was spent in Greene County at Siloam, Georgia. I was born in Madison County out here at Neese. People in Madison County could sell their land and buy land for half price in Greene County in those days. So my people sold their land and bought a farm near Siloam and lived in the little village that is the way people did than. I was 12 years old when I went there to live, and perhaps my happiest days as a young girl was spent in that settlement.
"It was a little odd the way I started to work. There was man who ran a general merchandise store, his daughter who was my best friend helped him in his business. On the day my friend was to marry another man the invitations had been issued and everything set for the wedding, she ran away and married someone else. A few days after that I met the girl's father on the street, he told me his wife wanted to see me right away. Well I was scared green, I thought sure, she blamed me for the girl running away and marrying someone lese. That woman was a captain. Instead of that she wanted me to work in the store in her daughter's place. I accepted the job and received $6.00 a month. I worked from eight o'clock in the morning until twelve o'clock on Saturday night. Infact I worked twelve hours a day. I was crazy about my job, I worked and took music lessons too. I remember I had an argument
Page 4
with my family they wanted the money for something else and I wanted to continue my music lessons and did it, also bought my own clothes as well as things for the house.
"My brother got a job with the Athens Railway and Electric Company. He was here about a year when I decided to write a leading store in this town for a job as they were the oply people I had ever heard of in business. My people laughed at me and said. 'Why, don't you know they wont give you a job. There are so many people in Athens they won't even answer your letter.' "Anyway I wrote them and right away I received a letter from them telling me the next time I came to town to come by to see them. I wrote them and right away I received a letter from them telling me to see them next time I came to town to come by to see them. I lost no time coming to 'Athens on going to the store, applying for the job they told me the one who employed the girls were out sick and for me to come back the following Monday. As I was leaving the store I asked them to save the job for me I would be back when they told me too. As I walked out of the store the man to whom I had been talking to came to the door saying to me. 'Come back when we told you too and go to work.'
"I received the big amount of $15 a month. I worked there about three years before I married and worked [off?] and on about two years afterward. I worked as long as I could before my first child was born. As soon as I could I went back and worked until Jr. came along, then I gave up and decided there was no need trying.
"My father and mother came to town with me to live. He went back and forth to Greene County to [superintend?] his farms and saw
Page 5
mill. Mother kept house, and looked after the children, cows chickens and etc.
"When I came here to live, I was engaged to a man studying for the Presbyterian Ministry at Clemson college in South Carolina. I have had so many things said to me that turned out to be true, it frightens me for anyone to make any predictions. This man to whom I was engaged to didn't want me to come to Athens. He said you wont be there three weeks before you will meet someone you will like better than you do me. I told him that was impossible, because I was in love with him and very much interested in my music. Sure enough I hadn't been here but a short time before I met Bert.
"One day I was leaving the store going to lunch. A boy I knew was standing out in front he called to me and said. 'Wait a minute I have something to tell you.' Bert started down the street, 'come back here pal I want you to meet the new girl in the store, she hasn't been in Athens long.' From that time on my friend kept asking me for a date to go automobile riding. I didn't know girls went riding at night. I told my mother, she told me it would be no harm if there was another couple along. So when my friend, Bert and another girl came to my house I didn't know I was to be with Bert until he got there. From that time on we had dates regular. I told him I was engaged to someone else. He told me he didn't care, he was in south Carolina and he here, and he was going to beat his time, and he did. He was like that he started to build airplanes and wouldn't quit.
"After we married we lived with his mother two years then his father and mother gave Bert a building lot just out side of the city
Page 6
limits. We built a nice house, I thought I was all set with a well on the back porch, and kerosene lamps. With a nice garden, chickens, cows and I even had a hog or two. It wasn't long before Bert put an electric pump in the well. After the children got large enough to go to school it was too expensive to send so many to school in town. So I began to beg my husband lets build in town. He told me, 'All right, but as sure as we do one of the children will be killed sure.' Still I insisted so after living in the country 13 years we built this house and moved to town. Sure enough we had only been here 3 years when the child next to the baby than was run over in the yard and died as the results of that injury. He developed pneumonia and only lived a short time. We have been living here ten years.
"My husband's real business was in the garage business. He had the first filling station in Athens. You know every man has a hobby, his was with airplanes when he closed his garage for the day instead of playing golf or working in the yard or garden he tinkered with his planes, my brothers just sat down. He begun building airplanes about two years before we married.
"He made a short flight in 1909, in 1910 he write to a land company asking them to let him attend one of their land sales and take people to ride to draw a large crowd. They wrote him they would take the matter up with him and they were sure it could be made profitable for the company as well as himself, but they never did anything about it.
"The whole family is crazy on the subject of airplanes. However, when he had a smash-up his family blamed me for not discourageing
Page 7
him. He was doing this before we married, how could I change him than.
"There was no airport here to try out his planes, so he took them out to an open field to try them out. That was when he first tried to fly them, he smashed them up hauled them in and started all over again. He just took it up as a hobby and only studied it a short time in a private school in Virginia when my second girl was a baby. He took up this hobby a short time before the Wright Brother's flew their's.
"Bert was never a person to talk about himself. He always brought the newspaper clippings home for me to read. Several days ago Dr. Reid told me that he and Mr. Hugh Rowe went out with Bert at two o'clock one morning to fly his first plane.
"Back when my oldest son was 14 some friends took him on a trip to Washington, D. C. Mrs J. S. Grey of Chevy Chase, Maryland was writing a book called 'UP' aviation of yesterday and today. It never occured to me to mention it to my son to visit her. So when he got to Washington he decided to look her up. She was very much interested in him and wrote a Page and a half about him in her book.
"He made his first solo flight in Atlanta at an air show when he was 13 years old. That was the first time I had ever seen him fly and he handled it just like his daddy. Then I look at these children of 13 it frightens me to think of the things we let him do. As far as we know he was the youngest person to fly a plane in this country or abroad.
Page 8
"I remember there was a mob in Atlanta at the air show. It was about dark when I started home one of my little boys was missen. I looked everywhere in that crowd. Finally I learned that he had flown home with his daddy in the plane, and slept all the way. Yesterday Mother Edwards was spending the day with me. The planes were flying overhead. I said to her, 'my little boys are dying to get out to the airport and get in one of those planes.' She said, 'I don't blame them, I would too if I was out there.'
"Bert taught lots of boys to fly. It was $10.00 an hour, he gave one man lessons to refresh his memory on flying. I had to get up when one of my babies were two weeks old and get Bert's breakfast so he could get out to the field by six o'clock to take him up and teach him two hours before he went to his garage at eight. That man run his bill up to $80 and never paid a cent of it. He was later killed in New York. He ran into a high tension wire while flying a passenger plane over the city.
"Oh, I do wish the weather would clear up so I could get out and sell my cosmetics. You know it's my disposition to work and I sold them during my hisband's life time to help out. I don't make much but now, every penny I make goes a long ways.
Mrs. Edwards daughter who holds a responsible position with reliable company in Athens came in: "Good morning," her mother told her what I was doing, "That's fine," she said: "Mother I want my lunch by twelve o'clock and while you fix it I will make out some reports." She went to the desk and lay her books on it. Mrs. Edwards got up to excuse herself while she went to the kitchen, saying. "Now, you don't have to go just stay and have lunch with
Page 9
us." I declined. "Now, don't go there's no need and after lunch we can finish what you want to know. It wont take me but a few minutes as I cooked quite a bit yesterday, I was expecting a house full of company they didn't come so I am just warming it over. You just make your self at home. I have the most convenient way of cooking in the world."
I followed her to the kitchen there was an electric stove, refrigator, percolator and several other electric appliances sitting around, a kitchen cabinet, rug on the floor and curtains at the windows. "While the dinner is warming I want you to see the bed my daughter had made. A woman had the lumber left from a suite she had made and sold it to her. I think it cost $20 finished." I went into the bedroom from the kitchen. Was this ever a breakfast room I asked? "No, this is the only say so I had about the building of this house? 'I told my husband how in the name of the Lord could I run through the kitchen, diningroom and livingroom to get to the bedrooms to see about one of the children if one of them were sick.' "So this door was cut."
In the room was a slender four post bed, vanity dresser painted green a few scatter rugs on the floor and a pin-up lamp still burning over the bed. This room opens into a small narrow hall. A bath room opens into this hall. The floor is tile with tub and other conveniences. Another bedroom opens into this hall, which is evidently the boys room as clothing, shoes, book and airpleans are scattered all over the room. There was two white iron beds, dresser, bed side table, pin-up lamp and nice blue bed spreads on the beds. Mrs.
Page 10
Edwards took me into another room which she says: "This is my room and the babies, I don't have no other place for this desk my husband used in his office. I had several students staying with me for eight months I let them have my room and the boys. I have a nice large room in the basement and we went down there to sleep. There is a shower too. I would like to have some boarders now, but the boys don't want them. If I did than I could give up selling my cosmetics and devote all my time at home." There was a walnut suite in her room. "Everything is so torn up this morning I am ashame for you to see my house. The maid came, but she didn't stay long she is a settled woman and has to look after her affairs on Monday when I pay her off."
"Mother?" asked the girl. "Is lunch ready I have got to eat and get back on the job." "Yes, all I have to do is to put it on the table." I was writing and she went to the kitchen. In a few minutes she announced that lunch was ready. "Now, I have set a plate for you, and there is no reason why you can't have lunch with us." Again I declined the invitation saying I would wait until they had finished to complete the interview. Miss Edwards, said: "Oh, come on and eat with us." So I went to the diningroom with her and had lunch. The suite in this room was much too large for the size of the room. Consisting of a large buffet, table, chairs, an old victorla, doll carriage and a large book case filled with books on aeronautics, sat back of the door. A floor lamp was placed between the windows overlooking the street. Criss-cross curtains with blue ball trimmings was at the windows, a few pictures on the wall and a green rug on the floor. We had Grace at the table by
Page 11
Miss Edwards and the lunch consisted of spinach, turnips, mashed potatoes, cornbread, biscuit, banana salad, cake and coffe also butter milk. "Now, help your self." Invited my hostess, "Don't be afraid to eat for there is plenty for all. I had cube steaks and gravy yesterday for lunch, so I didn't think we needed meat today. Anyway vegetables are much better for people."
Lunch was over and we sat chatting then an airplane came zooming over head, everyone jumped from the table some ran to the window while others ran out on the front porch. After the commotion was over Miss Edwards came back into the room saying: "Gee it was flying low." Did you ever fly a plane I asked? "I never soloed, but I did take lessons from my father when I was about fourteen or fifteen." Why didn't you continue your lessons, I asked? "Well the depression came on and father couldn't afford to take his planes up unless he was getting paid for it so I had to discontinue them." Putting on her hat and coat she was gone.
Mrs. Edwards came in and began: "These children have pulled out every book their daddy has on airplanes. At night I have to pick my way to bed over modal airplanes, and find books all over the bed and even under their pillows where they have fallen to sleep with them.
"Bert felt like he was a failure, but of course he wasn't. He went to New York about twenty years ago and bought a flying boat that had been shipped back here from France. I was so busy with babies I didn't know what he was doing. He provided for his family what he thought was necessary. So He had saved a little money of
Page 12
which I knew nothing about, and bought the boat with it. He advetised it for sale for $100.000. A man who was an aviator saw the ad, wrote him, saying. 'Lets get together on the boat you have offered it too cheap, and rebuild it and make some money.' They spent three weeks putting it in shape, then they took it to New Jersey to fly it. The man who was an Englishman. He took it up and had to make a force landing in a small place where there were lots of trees. When they tried to take it up again they didn't have room enough to get it over the trees they had a smash up. That $100.000 was gone, so they brought it back to Athens and made a land plane out of it. They made quite a bit of money [on?] out of it. That was back when people didn't mind paying $15 to take just a short ride.
"Bert had a very dignified man helping him at the air field. One day several people went out for a ride in the party was a very prim woman. That was when women wore long dresses. After the helmets, safety belts and strappings were ajusted on the people in the plane. The helper noticed the woman hadn't pulled her goggles down. He said to her, 'Pull your goggles down, she looked at him but made no attempt to pulled them down. He told her several times, after the door to the plane was closed he tapped on the window and yelled. 'I say lady, pull your goggles down.' To this she meekly pulled up her long skirt to her knees and pulled her garters down around her ankles. That brought a burst of laughter from everyone who saw it. That man would get out of the way at the mention of a woman's garters.
"The money my husband made on his planes he always put back in them, the money he supported his family on was made in the garage
Page 13
business and filling station. He had so many smash-ups it took everything he realized from them to put them back in shape again. Once he was going to Florida to an air show when they got to Macon they stopped for gas. They had hardly got out the sight of town when he had a smash-up. He always did think the people at the filling station put cheap gas in his plane. When he was building his hanger, there came a terrible storm, it took one of the post up out of the ground and sat it down in the middle of his plane as if some person had done it. Every time he had an accident, people would say to me. 'Well, I guess Bert wont fly any more after this.' I would tell him what they said. His answer was; 'I never quit.'
"The most honest thing ever happen to him was; he had a man helping him rebuild planes, one of them he connected the control wires backwards and when they took it up to try it our it worked in reverse. That smashed, the man got out of the plane and walked off the field without saying a word. Several years after that Bert was in Atlanta and saw him on the street. He said to my husband: 'I want you to know when I smashed up that plane I was broke, now I am making good and I want to pay for half of the damages done.' My husband took the money as he was badly in need of cash at that time.
"About fifteen years ago Bert built a light place of his own design and sold it. Than he built another one, my son flew it all the time and my husband was flying it when he had his last smash-up. Before his death he had lost everything we had. He often said one
Page 14
thing he would never do that was mortgage our home, but he did, and now we are doing everything we can to save it. He had closed his garage and gotten a job at $35 a week he thought with that coming in each week and what he made on his planes we could do very well he had only drawn one pay check. At one time we were worth $40.000, now it is a struggle to keep our heads above the water. Just a few nights before he was killed he couldn't sleep. Mother Edwards said, 'It was his garding angel warning him that something was going to happen.' "No, the Wright Brother's had no effect on him he thought everybody was responsible for their own failure or success, he never had one penny donated him toward his enterprise.
"His death has had no effect on us as to our disbelief in aviation we are as interested in it now as we were in his life time. I am sure if Bert had known that was his last flight he would have been happy to know he died or was killed in what he loved best no matter how far he had to fall.
"His death left us without a cent. He did have two insurance policies however, he had borrowed money on both of them. One policy had a clause in it that the policy was no good in case he was killed in an airplane accident. The other one was taken out before that clause was added in policies. To be exact I only received $500. and $18. which was just enough to put him away decent.
"I have two sons in college they work in the day time and go to Tech at night. My oldest son is taking aeronautical engineering, and the other one is taking a plain freshman course at the same college. I have two girls who have finished college both have good jobs. One here and the other one is teaching school at Tate, Georgia.
Page 14
"One of my little boys told me not so long ago. 'mama, did you know one day I went up with daddy to chase the clouds and got lost?' "No, I told him." 'Well we did, we didn't have much gas and was afraid we would have a smash-up. I am sure we were over Comer, Georgia so we turned around and came back safe. Do you know why we weren't hurt or run out of gas?' "No, I said." 'Well it was because after daddy told me that we were lost in the clouds and didn't have much gas. I began to pray and prayed until we landed. When we got out of the place I said thank you God for letting us get back safe.' "Thats fine, 'I told him, but you children are going to drive us to the poor house, spending every cent you get on model airplanes. A few days after that the baby said to my oldest daughter." 'did you know we are going to move?' 'No,' she said, 'Well we are.' 'Where ? ' she asked 'to the poor house.' 'How are we going?' 'In an airplane.' answered the baby.
"I know what I have told you isn't interesting, but it is our life we are all wild about aviation. But when you need some consmetics please get them from me that is where my few pennies comes from now." I thanked her for the story, and started to leave." "Do come back again." There is my daughter she went to get a check cashed so I can pay my bille." The telephone rang she closed the door. The girl was getting out of the car, belonging to her company. "Come back again." Thanks I said, and left the Edward's home and the air minded family
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 2 of 73
[Bargain House] (Life History) CONTINUITY
February 16, 1939
J. Buford Dudley (white)
124 Thomas St.
Athens, Ga.
Merchant
Grace McCune, writer
BARGAIN HOUSE
As I walked down a side street in the business section of town, looking for something interesting to get a story about, a large sign swinging out in front of a store drew my attention. Fastened on a rod, it was swinging in the wind and boldly announcing to the world that "Every day is a Bargain day here."
In the window was a display of most everything that is carried in a dry good and ready to wear store. Yet it was very neat and attractive to be such a small window, and in one corner of the window was a small sign, which read "old and used clothing, bought and sold as well as the latest styles out."
It looked interesting and thinking I might be able to get a good story here, I opened the door and went in. A tall, well dressed man, was waiting on a customer showing him children's overalls. Seeing no one else in the store I looked around at the different things and how they were arranged.
It is a small store and most every bit of the floor space is used for either a table or show case. On the right as you go in the door is a long rack on which is a display of men and boy's suits, and just beyond that is the shelves for shoes. Also a small wraping [wrapping?] table with a small cash register on it.
On the left was ladies hats, dresses, and dry goods. At the back of the narrow room was a long rack of second hand clothing. In
Page 2
the front was a glass show case in which was displayed hose, ladies underwear and baby clothes. On two long tables at the back of the show case was the overalls, mens trousers and some piece goods. A small rack of childrens silk and wash dresses was also on the left side of the store.
As the customer went out with his overalls, the man came to me and asked what he could show me. I replied that I was just waiting for him and asked if he was the proprietor of the store. He replied that he was. I then explained that it was my first visit to his store and why I came in. He laughed, then said, "That old sign is a very good drawing card as it brings in new customers most every day. But how do you like my little store? I only opened it last August, but I have done pretty good. I bought out a man that only sold and bought second hand clothing and to get the store I had to buy his stock also. As it was paying pretty good, I decided to continued with this line as well as the new for there is really a demand for used clothing.
Two boys came in the front door and asking me to have a chair in the little room at the back of the store, he went to wait on the boys. As I went in the very small room, I found that a large heater with glowing sides, two chairs, and a bench, a small table. As I waited I could see in the other room, where the boys were trying to sell a suit of clothes and one of them said, "It is a good suit but it is just too small."
Mr. Brown bought the suit and paid three dollars, the price they asked. Before the boys went out they had bought shoes and a shirt each. As he came back he said, "See there if I had not bought that suit, they would have went somewhere else, to buy their shoes
Page 3
and shirts. I asked how long had he been in this kind of business before he opened this store. He laughed and said, "Well, I have worked in dry good and clothing stores for about 29 years so I should know how to sell.
"But I was born on Feb. 24, 1887 on a farm, about four miles from Comer, Ga. and near the old Hard Shell Baptist Church. I have been to that old church many times and especially to the foot washings. Now that is something interesting if you have never been and all together different from what you might think. For instead of being funny it is very solemn and also sad, or at least that is the way it impresses me."
*1 Another customer came in and [he went [??] to wait on*1] him. The man wanted to know if he had any high top shoes for small boys. For [?] explained his boy had a weak ankle and just had to use wear a strong high top shoe. Mr. The Brown merchant said, Have you got "Did you bring the child with you?" The customer said Receiving a negative reply, " No," then the clerk made this suggestion. he suggested Why not bring your boy in and fit him right I've sold shoes for years and that's about the only way that you can fit anyone correctly, and especially if it has to be a certain fit or make of shoe and perhaps I could also [?] have braces fitted that would help your son. The man thanked him and said,"Why I had never thought of that!" the customer said and I sure will bring him in when I come back to town. and Maybe [?] we'll come in the morning for he really needs something to support his ankle. Sometimes it will give way with him when he's walking and he just falls down." After buying some cloth for his wife, he thanked Mr. Brown the merchant again and went out. As he [?] I said, "You have made a friend and a good customer out of that man I remarked to the merchant. His reply was, "I think so and it's so easy to be nice to people. Of course, we come in contact with all
Page 4
with all classes of people. Some that just will not let you be nice regardless of how hard you try. [?] But where was I at in telling my story? I reminded him that he had just finished telling me about the old Hard Shell Baptist Church, and he continued! "Well when I was about three, my mother got sick and do you know I was eleven 11 before I remember her being able to get out of bed again. She was sick so long and that my father spent everything he had trying to get her well.
"When I was eight 8 I went to the fields and ploughed plowed like a man, and I ploughed [plowed?] day in and day out until I was 20. But hard as it was, we came back, got out of debt , bought our home and we had plenty of everything that could be raised on a farm. For My father believed in working, but [and?] he believed in having a plenty of everything needed We of course had all kind of things that grow in gardens, and on a farm; and we didn't have to buy feed for our stock either, for there was plenty of that raised.
"We had chickens turkeys, geese, and guineas, and [stet?] raised all our hogs . and We had meat from one hog killing to the next, and cows and plenty of good fresh milk, butter and eggs. Also fruits of all many kinds. And I'll tell you now, we didn't have to wait for company to come to get something [?] [good?] fixed, for we had what we wanted at any time. Father said that we had worked for it and should have it and he liked to have good things to eat.
"I [?] lived three 3 miles from school and didn't get to go to school until I was eleven 11 years old. and We went to school [a?] after the work in the fields was finished. [??????] We stayed all day, too,[??] carried our dinner with us, and with [?] all the time I went to school, I just finished the fifth grade. Our teacher was a man and he was mean as the devil. I know I shouldn't say that but it is the truth.
Page 5
"The larger boys did everything they could to aggravate him because he was so mean. I guess I was mean to. [?] Any way I would get from one to three whippings a day. [?] "What did he whip with? I asked. [?] "Why, he used big switches, sticks or anything that he could get his hands on, except his walking stick. He had one made out of a large [?]. He was very particular with it, and would not allow any of us to so much as touch that stick.
"He was always nearly [about? half?] drunk and every day at noon and recess periods he would take that his walking stick and go out in the woods. We followed him one day at dinner time and we found out why he carried that cane with him. It had a big cork in one end, and would you believe it, he took that cork out and drank [out of it for he had his corn liquor in it. corn liquor from the hollow cane. When he stopped drank it he was just about drunk. We hurried back to tell the others what we had seen.
"We hunted up about forty or fifty pins and put them in the big cushion in his chair. He came in and rang the bell like he would tear it up. That was one time we hurried in when the bell rang for we was were anxious to see what he would do. He looked at us like he could go through us, as we marched by his chair. As we all got to arrived at our seats desks, he just flopped down in his chair, but he came up in a hurry and the cushion came with him. His eyes looked like they would pop out of his head, as he tried to pull that cushion lose from him.
"We all yelled out and laughed. It was just too funny to watch him, but that is where we give gave ourselves away for he knew then that some of us was were responsible for those pins. He kept every one of the boys in after school and tried to find out which one who did it. No one would tell - just didn't know a thing about it. He got a bundle of sticks and said if we didn't tell he would whip the whole crowd for he knew then he would get the guilty one. [?]
Page 6
[?] " And Still no one knew anything about the pins. Why we didn't even know that there was a pin in the schoolhouse. Then the whipping started. I'll say we really got a trashing thrashed, and he didn't miss a one of us either . Almost beat us to death. Oh, yes, he got the guilty ones, for we was were all , everyone of us in it.
"He didn't last very long after that as a teacher for we told why he gave us such a whipping and about his drinking. walking-stick flask. Some of our fathers got a hold of that cane and found the whiskey in it. As soon as they could get somebody else they let him go. For he was never able to learn [teach?] us anything. I guess one reason was because we disliked him so much.
"Our next teacher was man also. But such a different one! He was a fine man person, and teacher and we all liked him. All I ever learned in school was from him. He did not believe in whipping, but was strict with us and made us study. Yet, he never had any trouble with a one of us. He was a good man.
"When I was about 17 seventeen I got sick and was sick for a long time. The doctors were treating me for indigestion, but I didn't get any better. Finally my doctor sent me to Augusta for an operation for appendicitis, and on the 17th of October 1907 they operated on me. The *2 doctor in Augusta that operated [operating*2] kept me there for in that Augusta hospital two weeks and charged me $500 for the operation and hospital bill. But When I was ready to come home I asked the doctor for my appendix. He said they were it was in such a bad condition, in fact were just rotten and that they had to throw them it away. But that they said they had some one that belonged to had been taken from another man and I could have them that if I wanted them it. I thanked them and told them I didn't care of for anyone else's appendix. I came home much worse off than I was before the operation.
Page 7
"I stayed at home until January, [?] 1908. Then I went to St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta. One of the doctors there, after the x-rays, examinations, [??],and x-rays, said, 'Well, son, you will have to have an operations for appendictis.' I couldn't understand and told them that I had an operation for that, just a few months back. They He said, 'Well, you still have them it so what are you going to do about it?'
"I was in such a condition that something had to be done. I told them to go ahead and see what they could find. They laughed and promised and said, 'Well, We will find your appendix. Want to bet on it? I was sure they wouldn't, but was just about too sick to care, but after the operation and after I had come to myself, that was the first thing they showed me, my appendicticappendix. They were It was in a very bad condition. All that suffering and hospital bill in Augusta had didn't do me any done me no good.
"It seemed as if I just couldn't get any better, and on the eleventh (11 th day of March I had to have another operation. For three days and nights I didn't know anything. They had sent for all my folks and just knew I was going to check out, but I wasn't ready to die and after the fourth day I began to mend. I stayed there in the hospital for twenty-seven (27) weeks.
"After I got better I had a good time for , the Sisters nuns - we called them Sisters' - were so nice . They did everything that they could for us. There was a man there who had been burned. He was in a terrible fix, but so jolly with it all. There was A young doctor was there for treatment. We were soon put in a room together, for the Sisters said they could keep up with us better that way.
"We did enjoy teasing and playing jokes on these good Sister. They were good sports and could take it . and Very often we got it
Page 8
back . [from them as good ????]. I was there on my twenty-first 21st birthday. I was a little blue that day. I had been used used to having my birthday a dinner at home and then you know a man's twenty-first 21st birthday is rather important to him. We were discussing it and the other two patients in my room were threating to give me a whipping [- 21 licks?].
"One of the Sisters came in the room and said, 'I have tried everything else to make a man out of you and now I am going to try the last thing. I only hope that it will do more than we have been able to do.' And then another Sister came in rolling in a table . And such a table it was ! A real dinner for the three of us and in the center of the table was a cake with twenty-one 21 candles.
"I just couldn't say anything and I guess I would have been a big baby and cried if it had not been for the doctor. He told the Sisters to put the baby to bed that they would take care of the dinner [??]. We really did enjoy the dinner [that ?], and as we were eating they bought brought me in a cake from mother and I had a nice birthday if it was spent in a hospital.
"When I did get home I was not able to do anything , and the doctors had told me before I left the hospital that if I would take things easy for a year, I would be well and a good man again. After I had been at home for a few months and got a little of my strength back, my father decided that a good camping and hunting trip would put me on my feet again.
"After considering several places, he decided that down in Greene County would be the best place for me to go. That suited me fine, for there is nothing that I enjoy more than hunting and fishing. I went to Parks Mill and Ferry, and I just fished and hunted birds, rabbits, and squirrels for the rest of the year. I was camping out, but and even had a cow with me so I had all the fresh milk that I needed. could use.
Page 9
"The only thing I didn't like was the water. I just couldn't get used to that, but I had to drink it. I met some of the finest people that I ever knew there and they were all so good to me; always bringing me [?] things to eat, and inviting me out to their homes. I stayed there until I had my health back and was ready for work again. But you know , [??] there are more kickory hickory nuts in Greene County than in the rest of the whole State of Georgia. I never saw so many nuts in my life.
"I came back to Athens in November 1910. As I was walking down the street I met a man I knew and he offered me a job. I accepted and went to work for in his store for twenty-five dollars $25 a month . and I worked for him until April of 1911 and then I changed jobs. And on the fifteenth 15th day of April 1911 I went to work for [??] for thirty five dollars another store at$35 a month, [and worked for thirty five dollars a month ?] in June of 1913 , when I got married. Then my boss raised me to forty-five dollars $45 per month , and But he continued to give me raises until I was making $175 per month. I worked [?] for him until the end of 1919. He was such a good man to work for ! and Always looking out for the people working for him. He was just a good old Scout all the way around.
"But you know I was from the country and I wanted to go back to the farm . [?] I don't think you just ever get that country out of you. I know I haven't !" So in 1920 I went back to the farm. The first year I made good with the farm, and I also put me up a country store." He laughed , and [?] [?], "I have 've noticed you looking around in here, but you should have seen that country store of mine.
"It was small also, but Lord the stuff I did have packed in that small little place. It was a sight . I had to move things sometimes to get what the customers called for. I had farm supplies, such as
Page 10
ploughs plows, hoes, rakes, seeds, and, in fact , just a little of everything [?] needed to farm with.
"Then the food stuff, everything in that line. Of course you I didn't forget cloth, thread, pins, powder, hair pins, combs and just all the things the women had have to have , and the children needed paper, pencils, and books for school. I tried to think of them all, and I really made money.
"But [as it goes in the country, as same as in town, [business conditions in town and country are much alike. The next year I lost as much as I had made before. Crops were bad with us all , and cotton prices went to the bottom. I lost heavily , for the other farmers could not pay for what they had bought in the my store. It was That just a bad year for all of the farmers, and it took me four 4 years to get over that [it's? losses.?]
"I never did like to give up when I was down, so I stayed right on that farm until I was on my feet again. Then as my wife did not like the country, I came back to town [Athens?]. This time I went to work in a mens clothing store.
"I worked there for three (3) years for [at?] $124 per month. My boss was very good to me, but he had a good business and he carried a line of clothes that his customers could depend on. He is still in business here and he still carries the best in mens clothing and I really did like to work for him, but while he was good to me, he was really hard on the other clerks . but Finally, a dull season hit him , as well as all the other stores in town , and my salary as well as the other clerks was out. I was cut to $100 a month. [?????]
"When I left there I went to work in a department store. It was owned by an a fine old Jewish man . and he really was a fine old man. He was good to everybody and especially to the people that worked for him. There was just he and His family was small, just himself, his wife , and one child, a girl daughter. She was married , and her husband was [?] manager of the store. I went to work there for $120 a month.
Page 11
"The old man [?] tried to keep his business going straight and to keep pay his bills [?] promptly, but that son in law manager of his was rotten, and did so many things the old man [??old father-in-law] didn't know about and that in a few years he put the old man was in bankruptcy , and the shock of it this really caused the old man's his death.
"He [????] passed away one evening at about six o'clock. He had a stroke of paralysis a day or so before and never knew anything after that. They called his son-in-law at the store, [????] but you know that sorry Jew [?] wouldn't go home until the store was closed . and The old man was dead [??] before we left [??] and the manager told us that he would have to close the store until the funeral was over, but that he wanted me and the two girls , that were working worked there , to come to the house the next morning to help them get fixed for the funeral.
"Do you know I never saw anything like it in all my life ? ! And I don't think I was ever so mad about anything that really didn't concern me in anyway. We worked hard all day . They had to have everything , and could think of more things to do. The girls had to fix their [?] clothes [???]. I went with him [the manager?] to see about things for the old man, for they was were going to leave him at the undertaking parlor, because it would be cheaper than carrying him home , [?].

"And when I saw what he was going to put on that old man, I really went up in the air, for it was an [?] old palm beach suit, that he had had it cleaned and pressed , and he was going to put an old worn-out shirt and tie on him, but that was just more than I could stand. I went out and bought a shirt and tie myself and asked the undertaker to put them on my old boss for he had always been good to me. [????????????].
"But [?? His son-in-law said [?], " What is What's the use ? in that? It is It's just wasting money and he will never know the difference," but I remembered how neat and particular the old man had always been in
Page 12
his clothes and I felt sure that he would want it that way [???]. I begged for a new suit out of the store to put on him but I sure didn't get it.
"The funeral was the next morning at eleven 11 o'clock. Of course, we all went. Do you know that [the manager and?] son-in-law of the old man gave me the key, [???] while they was were letting the body down in the grave, and told me to hurry back and get the store open. It was open and ready for business before the funeral wreath had been taken off the door. On the following Saturday when we was were paid for the week's work, he had took taken out for the day and a half that we worked at his house.
"The business was reorganized in his mother-in-law's name, but he was still manager. It took just about all of the old man's insurance to get it straightened out and that is where the old woman made the greatest mistake of her life for she has no more to say in regard to it than you have [, and I] can't even get a dollar unless he says so.
"I could see how things were but there was nothing that I could do about it. It [??] was just going down every day, and he had cut our salaries also, but he and his wife were having the time of their life lives. They only have one child, a girl , and they [have?] made one long trip after another and that takes money.
"About this time I had opened up a small grocery store of my own for my oldest boy to run the store. I started that store with a capital of seventy dollars cash and a debt of almost $700. My son was married, and we had five other children at home. We all [?????] lived out of that store, and I used my salary and what we made out of the store to pay on the notes.
"It was a hard pull but I knew that if we tried hard enough we could make it, and I knew that I was going to have to do something for myself. For the way things were going at the store, I didn't
Page 13
really think it would could last long. When he [the manager?] found out that I had opened up a store for myself, he wanted to know how I did it . but we worked hard and there was no need of extra help for [???] there were enough [?] of [?] [my family?] to look after the store . without my help.
"In about a year I started another grocery store . One of my daughters and her husband took care of the new store . and then My boss then said, "How in the world do you manage with your large family and on the salary that you are getting here. I told him my small salary was the reason that I was having to work so hard to try to get something else started, so that I could take care of my family.
"His business kept going down and he just bought until he was loaded down with stuff that he could not sell. The That fall was a disappointment for that is when he has the [???] most business, [but that was ??] and he went broke. For awhile it looked as if he would lose everything but he finally got a settlement with his creditors for 33 1/3 per cent, and just as soon as that was settled he put off part of the help, cut our salaried again, then / took his family on a trip to Florida.
That left just three of us to run the store and get it straight of after the inventory that had to be taken before the settlement could be made. We worked hard and had the store all cleaned and everything in place when he came back. He was telling told us about the grand trip and how they had enjoyed it. He had left his family in Florida for they did not want to come home.
"He told me that he paid five dollars $5 for a berth on the trip home and I realized it when he paid me off that night that I had paid for that berth, for he had given me another five dollar $5 cut and the others got another cut also. We were paying for his family's visit in Florida. I did not think it was right and told him so.
Page 14
"He said, 'Well , that is that's the best I can do.' I asked him if he thought we could live on what he paid us. That made him mad and he said that was up to us, he didn't have anything to do with it. I told him that I was sure I couldn't live on it and that my family was just as important to me as his was to him.
"He said, 'Well , what are you going to do about it?' Only this, I replied and put the *3 key to the [store*3] down on his desk. He wanted to know what that meant. I asked him what did he think it meant. [It meant?] That I was leaving for I wouldn't work for him any longer. Then he wanted me to reconsider. I asked if he would reconsider and he said no, that He was doing the best he could.
"So I told him I didn't see where I could do any better either [?] by staying on there and that it was time for me to try something else. He laughed and asked me if I would be back in the morning. I did not didn't even answer ; just got my hat and walked out, and I haven't been back yet since.
"That is when I opened up my store here, and from what I hear I really did more business last fall than he did. For My customers that I had waited on for years followed me here to my store and I hope before the fall business starts this year that I will 'll be able to get in to a larger place for I really need more room.
"My wife and daughters help me and we manage just fine." ]?] "Do you do any credit business ; ?" I asked. & par; "No," he replied, "But I do use the lay-away plan. A small deposit will hold anything the customer wants for a reasonable time, and I find that is a much better plan than taking it out and paying later. It really is a help to the customer as well as to the store.
Page 15
"My greatest mistake was in not pulling out for myself sooner. I would have been so much better off and [would have?] bad something to fall back on. But I hope to do [??] that yet . I have I've built up a good trade here and both of my little grocery stores are going good. I don't have much trouble with collections in them, for if they don't pay up, I cut the customers off [???] until they do pay up [???].
"I have managed to give my older children a high school education and the younger ones are still in school. I have three grandchildren . but I have I've had my share of trouble and sickness in my family I guess [???] everyone , has them and with hard work I have I've managed to come through them all and get all [?] the bills paid.
"You know it has it's been years since I have I've had the time to think of a vacation . But just as soon as I can now, I am I'm going to take a good long vacation one just like I want. [?????] I asked just what would he liked in a vacation [He quickly replied,*4] "A camping trip," *4 "with good fishing and hunting. "I can get more pleasure out of that than any other kind of sport.
"Of course , I enjoy ball games. [?] Baseball is my favorite and [?] the movies also for too. I go to shows often with my kids for I really want them to enjoy life while they can , for as they grow older, they will may have many problems of life to face and work out, [?????] and I may not be here to help them then.
"And I always try to see that they go places and have a good time, but [now*5] understand *5, I want them to [go?] with the right class of people and [?] the best places , and we try to keep a pleasant home for them so they will want to bring their friends there as well as go out with them and there is usually a crowd of young people at our house . as they like to come.
Page 16
"Some folks tell me I am too easy on them [my children?], but I don't think so for they are smart and they all work at home / and in the stores when they are not in school , so why not try to see that they have some pleasure as well as all work. What do you think? [?] "That you are right, I replied , [?] and as I was leaving he walked to the door with me and said, "Come over to our house sometime and see just how we do live. We will be glad to have you."

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 3 of 73
[Bea, The Washwoman]
[?] Feb. 27
February 1, 1939
Sarah Hill (Negro)
157 Church Street
Athens, Georgia
Wash Woman
Sadie B. Hornsby
DEE , Bea, THE WASH WOMAN
When I reached Sarah's house, and knocked at the front door, three voices greet me. "Here we is come 'round to the back." I made my way to the back yard, jumping a mud hole in the walk, walking in the grass that mired down every step I took. It had been raining lots that week, however, the sun was shining on that particular afternoon.
In the back yard two negro girls were bending over old fashion wash tubs washing. There were four lines filled with clothes drying in the sun. Sarah was sitting on the porch talking to another Negro woman, I heard her say: "It's too bad he had to get in jail." When she saw me, she said: "Lawdy Mistess, if I had knowed it was a white lady I would have let you come through the house so you wouldn't git your shoes muddy." She called to one of her daughters who was washing. "Ca'Line git that clean pot rag hanging on that chair, and come here and wipe mistessess shoes off for her." I told her that was quite all right I didn't mind a little mud. "Well, that's all right than, but come here and git the lady a chair. 'cuse me for not getting up I has been sick in bed with the flues, this is the first day I has been up, and I is [power'ful?] weak. But I couldn't stay in no longer 'cause I had to see that the children was wash the them clothes clean. [Sarah?] [Susan?], is about five feet tall and is very black, she was
Page 2
wearing a black and white dress of some thin material, a red waist over this, a knee-length black wool coat, a white cloth wound turban fashion around her head, black shoes and gray cotton stockings.
"Yes'um, when us is out here in the yard washing I [?] ain't gwine let Negroes com thro' my house in bad weather tracking up my house." What is your name I asked the woman? "My name is Sarah Hill, but they calls me [Dee?] [?] for short." Sarah [?], how long have you been washing for the white folks? "Oh, my gracious Mistess, gwine on thirty-five years I am sho! 'bout that." Well, would you mind telling me about your experiences as a washwoman? "Now, Mistess, what in the name of the Lord do you want to know that for?" I stated my mission, she laughed. "Well, if you want a history of my life I can tell you what I knows. Yet and still, I am sho' you can find somebody else what had a better story than me to tell. 'Cause what I knows ain't no 'count you know cullud folks don't have money to do things like white folks does, leastwise us don't.
"I have been working every since I knowed what work was. I maided and cooked befo' I married, I maided a while and cooked a while. After I married and started having chillun I couldn't do no good at working out. So I stayed home and tuk in washing." SArah stopped talking to me to give orders to the girls washing. "Look here sister that sheet belongs in that white sack. Just look at that dirt you got on that man's shirt tail, rub it out befo' it gets dry. Ca'line, git up off them steps and git back to that wash tub. If I don't come out here and stay in behind you you wouldn't finish washing to day." "Well, Ma, I am hungry and you won't
Page 3
cook us no dinner." "You finish that washing than you can cook something to eat yourself. That's what I done when you won't big enough to help me."
"Mistess, I use to git good money for washing. I have made about ten dollars heap of weeks way back yonder. I [?] had a heap of washings than, now - don't git near as much for them as I use to. And folks are lots harder to please. Now I am ready to put them down.
"I am getting too old to do family washings any more. Both of my girls had good jobs, but I won't able to do all my work, so they had to stop, so they could help me. The last white woman sister worked for was a good lady. I done her washing too. I told sister she loved that white lady and her chillun as well as she did us.
"I washed for a family of Jew's who paid me $4.00 a week. You know how[ / them?] them kind of folks is 'bout wanting you to do their work for nothing. Well, the lady kept cutting me down 25� at a time until she got to $2.00. So I put her washing down. I won't thinking 'bout washing for for that little. She had ten and twelve sheets in wash [?] every week. Twenty and thirty towels, twenty-four pillow cases three and four table clothes and no end to shirts and other things."
She stopped talking to watch two roosters fightning in the yard, while the girls threw rocks at them. She yelled at them: Ca'lina, sister, get back to your washing. Ca'line come in the kitchen and git that startch off the stove and thin it down and stir it good so it wont be lumpy. Sister bring me Professor Yank's socks here and
Page 4
let me turn them. You are gwine to let 'em git mixed with them other folkses clothes than he will fuss if they are is lost.
"Once I was washing for a family, who I had washed for a long time. After they were ready to be sent home, sister took them. The lady sont me word one of the little boy's shirts was not in the laundry I had sent home. Well, we asked every body we washed for if they had a shirt what didn't belong to them no body had seen it. I reckon sister lost it 'cause she was working for the lady and knowed the shirt was in the wash when the lady got 'em up. So sister had to take her money what the lady paid her for working and buy the little boy a new shirt. That didn't look right in a way, yet and still sister was 'sponsible for them clothes from the house to be washed and tuk 'em back.
"Yes, mam, I have been working all my life. My mammy and daddy died when I was about three year old. I went to live with my brother and sister-in-law and nursed their chillun. My sister-in-law was a mighty good trainer, she learned me how to clean up good and cook. I knowed better than to leave any cat faces in the clothes when I ironed them. She whupped me many a time 'cause I didn't wash the clothes clean. 'Course I am speaking 'bout when I got big enough to do them things.
"I was borned in Elberton, and have several aunts living there now. My mammy didn't work out none, she stayed home and kept the children. She had a heap of hogs and cows to look after. My Pa was a blacksmith. They lived in Tignall befo' they moved to Elberton. After they died I went back to Tignall to live with my brother. No, mam, I wont big enough to work in the field I
Page 5
when I first went to live with him, I jest worked 'round the house doing what little I could.
"I jest have two girls and two boys one is the cook at the Varsity and the other one is an insurance agent in Flint, Michigan. He come to see me Christmas. My girls maids when I am well enough to do the washings I take in. I don't have but two big family washings and I was for two students. I have been washing for Professor [?] long befo' he married his wife. I don't wash for her, the cook does her washing.
A man came by selling produce, the girl Sarah [?] sister asked her mother: "Lets buy some turnip greens I want some boiled victuals." "You know I ain't got no money, today is Wednesday and I wont have none befo' Sadday when I gets my wash money." "Well, I am going to tell him to charge it. I want a cake too." "No you don't jest get me a half pound of butter." The negress yelled: "Say Mr. Waters does you have any turnip greens?" "No" "Well has you got a cake?" "No," "Well what has you got?" "Us has been washing hard all day and we is hungry." I just have potatoes today." "Huh," said Sarah, "He just wanted me to know he was still selling things and come by here in a empty wagon. That white man knows I will pay him when I gets my money Sadday, I ain't never failed to pay him yet and he has been coming 'round here a long time.
Her husband is a preacher, he came about this time, "Mama," he said in a deep voice to his wife: "I was hoping you had dinner ready. I have got to go to a deacons meeting to night, and I want to go down to the courthouse to the trial, therefo' I wanted to eat
Page 6
befo' [I?I left." "Papa, you know I don't feel like cooking and if I don't sit out here and keep sister and Ca'line over the wash tub they won't ever git through." "All right, all right, than I reckon I had better go on down the street and see sister Mary Jones you know she ain't been well for a long time. I am mighty un-easy 'bout her, I am afraid she won't last much longer. She sho' will be missed out of my congregation at the church."
My second visit to Sarah's was made in the pouring rain, when I reached her house which is perched on a high hill. The walk up to the house is red clay. I knocked on the door and a young black girl invited me in. "Come in mistess." she invited. I asked if Sarah was at home, before she could answer, Sarah called "Here I am in here come in to the fire." I entered the room from a narrow hall that had two red scatter rugs on the floor, and a hall stand with a red umbrella resting on it. In the bedroom [?] [? where?] Sarah sat [patching?]. There was an old style wood bed, an iron bed, dresser, several chairs a table trunk and curtains that needed laundering, a much worn rug almost covered the floor.
"Have that chair in front of the fire and dry your foots[,?] sister take mistess coat and spread it over that chair to dry." I asked her if she was ready to finish telling me about herself. "Lawdy, Mistess, I have thought and thought. I was sick when you was here befo' my brother had jest died and I have had a house full of company up 'til last Sunday. I have had so much expense trying to buy something for them to eat and it has been raining so much I couldn't do no good at washing, everything I had thought to tell you has left me. Sister do you reccomember what I told you
Page 7
to keep with so I could tell her? "I cain't remember you told me so much.
"I ain't collected much money here lately and it takes all I make to pay house rent, and a little something to eat. "Taint nothing left to buy even a pair of cotton stockings with. I did want to have a supper for the church but its been too bad for that. I buy the food and cook it then I let the folks know about it and they come and buy their supper. Sometimes I has a fish-fry, than again I has a oyster supper. I gets 25� for every plate sold. After I pay for the food I buy, I turn the rest over to the church. If I don't git to washing I will have to have a supper to git some money for ourselves it looks like.
"I told sister and Ca'line today looks like I will have to hire them out instead of keeping them home to help me. Sister had a chance to work for a lady who has jest come to Athens and gone in business of some kind for herself, but she lived so far from my house I knowed she couldn't git there on time these winter days. Looks like I don't know what I am gwine do for money. Whitt has gone out to find a job, but ain't nobody gwine have no carpenter work done 'til spring 'less they has to. He ought to fix the leak in the kitchen, but the house don't belong to us. Looks like the man what owns it won't fix it no how.
"Sister show the lady the house if she wants to see it." Oh, mama the lady don't want to see the house, she come here to git your story about washing." I would like to see your house. "See there I told you so, [go?] go on and it will give me a chance to think about what I want to say. Right now I can't get my mind off that tub of clothes on the back porch."
Page 8
I followed the girl through the hall to the livingroom. There was a three piece jackard valour livingroom suit, a studio couch, dresser, organ, a mahogany library table with a coal oil lamp, books and magazines on it, another table of golden oak with a crochet cover and radio on it. The table was placed back of the divan, pictures of the family as well as others were scattered about on the wall. A heater and rug on the floor completed the furnishings of this room also red draperies with ball fringe and cream scrim curtains at the two windows. "My brother give us that table with the lamp on it when he was here two years ago. We don't play the organ any more since we got our battery set radio, unless we have company and they want to play and sing.
"Come in here this is our diningroom." There was a golden oak suit in this room. Round table with a white cloth on it and a cheap glass fruit bowl. On the sideboard were several pieces of glass ware and a vase filled with artificial daisies reflecting in the mirror in the sideboard. Curtains at the window are of scrim a fruit picture on the wall and a curtain stretched across one corner of the room for a closet.
"I hate to take you in the kitchen." said the girl. "It leaks so you might get your feets wet." There was a bucket under the leak in the kitchen. In the small room, was a wood stove, an old dresser used as a cabinet, in large glass jars on the makeshift cabinet, was filled with flower, sugar, meal and lard there was a eating table and over this hung two huge hams and a middling of meat. The girl said: "I sho' wish papa would let us cut one of them hams, but he said we couldn't because they are not to be cut until summer."
Page 9
Whitt came in the back door as we were talking about the hams. "Good evening Miss, how do you like the looks of them hams?" Oh, they lood good to me I replied. "Yes, mam, they sho' does, they wouldn't be here now if I let the old woman and the girls have their way. I told them the other day when they wanted to cut one. I won't thinking 'bout it. They had all ready run away with it too fast now." By that time we had gone on the back porch entered into another bedroom which was furnished very much like the other. Bed, pilled with clothes to be washed as well as a folding couch, dresser, a few chairs and curtains at the windows. [?] it is a five-room house ceiled with wide boards. The framed house was at one time painted gray. There was a swing on the porch and a [crocker?] sack to wipe muddy feet on. The only shrubbery in the yard was a few bushes of privet hedge planted near the porch. "We sodded the yard in Bemuda grass to keep it from washing." the girl told me.
Again I went into the room where Sarah sat still patching the pants. "Miss, how did you like them hams?" I think they are fine. Whitt interrupted, "Sarah when we cuts them hams I am going to send Miss a nice thin slice." There are three of us I told him. "Than I will send you three nice thin slices."
"We have lucky about getting washings, its the weather that messes us up. I [got?] $1.50 for a family washing and 75� for one person when I started washing look like I was afraid to start, I was sho' I couldn't please the whitefolks. Than I started at it and I must have pleased the folks 'cause they come to me when I won't expecting them too. That's what I tell Ca'line 'bout getting a job, she is [skaert?] the folks wont be pleased with her work.
Page 10
"In bad weather folks don't realize you don't have no way of boiling clothes, 'course we do wash in the house, and rense the clothes as good as we can, they does git dingy in the winter and you can't help it.
"We use to pay out and have a little left when I made good money. Now I don't pay out and have nothing left either. This house we live in cost us $8.50 a month, but we has to pay it by the week which cost us more in the end. I pay $2.25 every week and that makes $9.00 with 50� included for the water.
She spit a mouthful of snuff spiddle into the fireplace. "Ca'line go cut off that radio, I done forgot what I did think of telling the lady go on put that dream book down. All you think about is that dream book and the radio.
"The worst trouble I ever got in was when we lived cross the river on [the?] tother side of town. I had my wash out on the line and they didn't git dry, so I left them on the line that night to dry when I got up next morning every lasting piece of them clothes was gone. Well sir I didn't know what to do, so I ported it to the police. He searched every house on that side of town, and all the time it was us next door neighbor what took them and that was the last house the police searched. I washed them clothes and tuk them to the whitefolks, and as soon as I found a house on this side [fo?] town I left that place and I don't think I has ever been back to stay no time.
"[No?] mistess, I sho' don't like these fire places what has grates in them. Long befo' folks got to sticking 'em in every room, I could clean my hath (hearth) nice and sot my irons in front of the fire
Page 11
and iron all day without stopping so long as I had a heap of oak hickory and ash wood to burn, 'twon't no need to put a iron by the fire if you didn't have that kind of wood 'cause they didn't heat and jest git the irons full of smut and one thing I jest hate is to iron with a nasty iron. I have cooked on a fireplace many a time befo' stoves come in fashion, and iron at the same time I have sot up many a night 'til twelve and one o'clock ironing. That is what's the matter with my eyes now. Come here sister and thread my needle. I don't do that no mo' what I don't do in the day time I leave it alone, unless I put sister and Ca'line to work on them. I wish I had electric lights, 'cause you can't do no good at ironing the wrinkles out of clothes by lamp light.


"Since the folks what rents houses stopped up the fireplaces with them grates, us had to use charcoal buckets. I reckon that is what they done it for. Yet and still the buckets don't cost as much as they use to. The first bucket I bought cost a $1.25 that sho' was a heap of money. Now I can git one for 75� and 50�. It takes about a bushel of charcoal to do the ironing I has now. It cost 20� a bushel but I use to pay 25� for it. Charcoal is like everything else there is good and bad. Ash charcoal is heaps better 'bout holding heat than pine. I don't use pine if I can help it. The buckets have been in use about fifteen years.
"No, Mistess, us wash women don't make good money no mo' since the whitefolks what use to pay good, all got washing machines and these laundries have open up. 'Bout the onliest folkses what has washings done now is them what ain't got no machine and can't pay the laundry their price they is the ones what brings their clothes
Page 12
to us and we have to do it for mighty near nothing or stop work. It sho' is bad on us what is trying to make an honest living and raise our chillun right.
"All my chillun has fairly good school nothing to brag about, but they talks a heap better than some of the folks do round here. We [is?] all members of the Baptist church. sister here sings in the church choir. Whitt is a preacher, so we do try to live good christian lives. I would like to hire my girls out on good jobs, but folks don't want to pay nothing for your work no mo' if they did than I wouldn't have to work no mo'.
"Well Mistess I have told you all I know about washing I might have thought of lots more to tell you, but since my brother [died?] my mind has been crossed up so I cain't remember what I use to [know?]."
I got up to leave, and Whitt began about the hams. "Miss did I tell you them hams weighs 33 pounds a piece. If you know of anybody that wants carpenter work done, I wish you would pint them out to me. And sent the old lady a washing. Times is might tight. I got to go down to Arnoldsville and get some of my good [white?] friends to sign a paper for me so's I can git the old age pension. I reckon they is living, yet and still I ain't been back there in 40 years."

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 4 of 73
[The Boarding House]
LIFE HISTORY?]
February 7, 1939
Mrs. Texie Gordon
363 E. Hancock Ave.
Athens, Georgia
Boarding House Mgr.
Grace McCune , writer
THE BOARDING HOUSE Starting out on an early assignment to get an interview with the city judge, I found when I arrived at his office, that he was at home sick and would not get down for the day. I decided to try someone else. Walking down the street I came to a Mrs. Brittain's large two-story house is painted brown and trimmed in yellow. A sign on the front of the house [read?] [reads:?] [?] "rooms and meals, [very reasonable?]. The This boarding house is near the business part of town, and is convenient for the business people that work and also students. The small yard was small, but clean and had recently been [was?] freshly spaded and a few flowers had been put out. [showed he [?] of [recent?] [? ?]. The front door was open. I [knocked on the screen?] door, and a [ A?] tall, slender black - headed girl came to answered my knock on the door. I asked her if she was "May I speak with the manager of the boarding house ?" She said, "No, [ [?]?] " that is that's mother ," she replied. " She is She's in town right now, but will be back in a few minutes . won't you come in and wait for her? " She opened the screen door and I We went through a narrow hall, and in which was the [?] up the long stairway leading to the second floor , We went into large as we passed [?] way to the dining room. She pulled placed a rocking chair near the heater, and asked if I would have a seat near the fire [?], for it was rather cool out , and she was sure I must be chilled. She excused herself, saying that she had to order some things from the store that the cook needed to finish up her the dinner. [C. ? ?]
Page 2
The large room was very clean and attractive. It's Walls were done in a light [creamcolor?], and the woodwork and doors were painted a dark to resemble oak. Freshly laundered Crisply fresh curtains were draped * at the three large windows . [over cream window shades.*] Floor was covered with a linoleum square of dark brown and green , was on the floor and A few pictures were hung around decorated the walls. [?] The long dining table , covered with a fresh clean white cloth, [?] extended almost across the room, and in the center of it, was a vase of artificial sweet peas, that I at first thought were fresh, but I found that they were artificial that was of surprisingly natural appearance. The other furniture concluded of included a large buffet, china closet, frigidaire , and radio. Besides the dining chairs placed around the dining table, there were four large rocking chairs[.?] in this room. A card table, folded up and sitting by the leaning against china closet , and a chinese checker board on the buffet, gave were evidence that the dining room was is also used as a living room part of the time.
A small fox terrier dog came in the room entered and at once came to see if it knew me. As I patted its the dogs head, a large black cat came , in and and jumped in my lap , and wanted a share of the caresses. The cook came in to get some dishes, and seeing the cat and dog, laughed , and said, "Lawsy Missy," she said " you done been 'dopted in dis fambly, " cause dat black cat sho don't make friends wid every body dat come hyar. "
Mrs. Brittian Brittain came in, at this time. and Her daughter explained that I had been waiting for sometime to see her. Handing her daughter some packages, telling her to give take them to the cook at once. She turned to me and said, "Just let me get off my coat and hat , and I' will I'll be right back. " As she came back in the dining room without her heavy coat and hat, When she returned, I saw her as a tall, dark headed woman of good figure and medium weight , dressed in a dark crepe [freds?] frock. her long hair [was?] long and plaited in two plaits, that was brought around her head in the was dressed in the very latest style, with two [braids ? her head?].
Page 3
I explained the [purpose?] my visit , and asked her if she would tell me something of her problems in running a boarding house. She laughed heartily, "Well, after sixteen years of it running a boarding house, I still have plenty of problems to face, And everybody else that is in this kind of work has them. But I have I've been able to make a living, and make ends meet, so I guess I have I've done pretty well.
"I was raised reared on a farm, and lived on a farm there until I moved to town long [ this?] After my husband died I stayed on at our home, as I owned it our home, and my son was large enough to help me manage my the farm, But when we lived there, he married . Then I moved to town, for I didn't see how I could run a farm by myself. My oldest daughter was also married and my other two girls were too small to help. I also I had my mother to take care of too, and like every one else I came to town.
"The first year that I was in town, The first year after I left the farm, I did practical nursing[.?] I was busy all the time and of course I didn't make earn anything near like a as much as a graduate nurse. But I did make fifteen dollars $15 a week and board, and with that I was able to support my mother and two girls. I don't know if you know anything about nursing, but it is it's hard work.
"And I was had to be away from home all the time, day and night, and I hated to leave mother and the children by themselves, and especially at night for my mother was old and her health was very bad. After thinking about everything that I knew how to do , I realized the fact, that I was better at cooking than anything else, and that is when I thought of a boarding house.
"But still I didn't really know anything about that keeping boarders, and to get a little experience in this I worked seven months for a woman who run ran a large boarding house . and when it was time to think of starting my children to school again[ ,#?] I rented a large house and started to taking boarders. I guess I was lucky[,?] for I soon had a house full, but even at that, it was a hard pull for I had gone to some expense in getting
Page 4
more furniture and linens than I had to have.
"After getting it started and running very nicely, I got a good cook, and then I went back to nursing . [?] and I worked for one of the doctors here for a long time. Of course, it wasn't regular, mostly just his maternity cases. In this way I was able to keep going until I had paid up all my bills. Yes, it was hard, but I have always been used to work, and I had I'd rather work hard any day than sit down and wait for some one else to do for me.
"I stayed there in that place for a little over a year, and then I rented a larger house a little near nearer in town. I was really making good there, and stayed there for about two years in that location. I had a full house all the time , as well as just the ones outsiders that took their meals with me. But even boarding houses are like any other kind of business. Some one is always trying to do [?] them you [?] outdo you. There's plenty of competition. And this was ture true in my case. I was paying My rent was $30 a month [?] - for rent wasn't as high then as it is now. A woman just below me on the same street was also running a boarding house[.?] too She was always wanting to know how I managed so well, and how could I keep my boarders so long, as hers were just coming or going all the time. I worked hard, and I told her that I did most of my own work and that my children also helped when they were out of school. We didn't pay out everything we took in to servants, and our personal work and attention helped to keep satisfied boarders.
"Even at that, she wasn't satsified satisfied and went to told the man I was renting from, told him that she would give him fifteen dollars more $15 a month more than I was paying. He came to me and told me of her offer, and said that I could stay on if I wanted to pay the extra money. I didn't feel able to do that, so I told him I would I'd just move and she could have the house. I rented this house and have been here ever since.
"The other woman moved in, took part of my boarders, as I did not have room for all of them /# here. But child, it never pays to try
Page 4
to undermine any one, for in a very short time, she was almost without any boarders at all. My old ones that I left with her had all left gone away. many of them got rooms near enough to [?], so that they could still to enable them to continue take taking their meals [?] with me. It looked like bad luck hit the that poor woman, who got the house from me. and I was really sorry for her, for she just kept going from bad to worse, and few years ago she was so up against it that she drank poison[?] and died before they could get her to a hospital.
"But, let me tell you one thing, I do not have any drinking in my house . Not if I know it. I have had plenty of them to think they could get by with their liquor in my house, but they soon find out that I mean business, for they have to get out, and if they don't get out when I tell them to , get out. Then I show them that I can have them put them out. But I have very little trouble, for in all of my sixteen years, the law has only been in my house three times.
"One of those times I had to call them the [police?] to get a man. I didn't know what was wrong with him, but the police officers knew him and [?] [stat?] said he was a dope fiend. We thought he was crazy and [?] was all all of us were afraid of him . but that is that's the only time I have I've ever had any one like him , and But I hope that I won't ever any more have a dope addict to contend with again.
"One of the greatest problems in this kind of work is keeping dependable good help [,?] that you can depend on. For this is such hard work . they may have some get off in the afternoons off but how they do hate to come early in the mornings. Most of my boarders are all working people, and they have want breakfast [,?] [served?] not later than seven o'clock. My days' work starts around five thirty 5:30 to six 6 in the morning. I usually get the breakfast started before the cook gets here, but she is she's pretty good and it is it's never much after six when she gets here arrives.
Page 5
"We have dinner from 12 to 2, as we have a good many students for meals, and most of them meet here by two o'clock, but when they can't she fixes them a their plate plates and puts it them in the warming closet on the stove, for I use a large big old wood burning range. She is then off every afternoon until time to start the supper. She The best proof that she is smart and a good cook, is the fact that boarders all like her and are always giving her something.
"I got sick about 4 four years ago, and was in the hospital from a , for sometime after a major operation . for sometime I had to let my boarders all go then, for it was a long time before I was able to look after the house[.?] and I really started back long before I should have. But because they begged so hard for me to come back . They said they would just do any way for it was just like home here[.?] and they are all very nice to me.
"Oh, yes, I have I've lost money[,?] many,, many times, and in large amounts too. When I have I've tried to help some of them out, especially when if they were out of work , sometimes then they have slipped out owing me a months board and some beat me out of more than that, but for every one that does that way. I usually find some one else that is a good honest payer. " When the overall a certain plant near here[ ,? ] opened up again after it had been closed for sometime awhile the man that came here to run it came to me and made arrangements with me for his meals. Well, I never got any of it a cent for them. But I was not the only one he caught, for he used the [firm's?] money, gave the help bad checks, and /# owed everyone in town that had let him have anything[.?] on credit. Yes, he got out of it some way. I never could understand how. The help finally got their money from the owners, but none of the rest of us were so lucky, for he had nothing for us to get it out of.
"Everyone is not like that, only last Sunday I had four girls in for lunch. I knew the girls, as they eat here quiet quite often. I was busy when they went out, and one of the girls put a bill in my pocket, as
Page 6
she went out, saying that she was paying for all them. It was sometime before I had time to check up for all the lunches, and then I found that she had gave me a five dollar $5 bill instead of the one $1 that she owed me. I called her, and told her of the mistake. She had missed the bill, but did not didn't know where she had lost it. She sure did thank me and said, 'but if you hadn't called I would never have known how I lost it, for I was sure I gave you a one dollar $1 bill.'
"I have some boarders that have been with me for seven 7 and eight 8 years , and there are other people that have just been having meals here for that long. I do not don't see much difference in now and when I first started out with a boarding house. I mean in the expenses of it. Somethings are higher, rent for one thing. Of course, groceries go up and down all along. Meats are the same way. I do not don't have a garden, but I get fresh vegetables all the time, mostly from the farmers when I can for having lived on a farm I know how it is for a farmer to get cash for produce.
"I also get a good deal of my meat from them farmers. I like it, for I was used to having [growing?] my own meats at home and it these purchases help me as much as it they does do them for I get it food cheaper and they get the money for other things they need. Then many of these farmers that I trade with send their children to me when they come here enter school here[.?] You know , I appreciate that[,?] for it makes me think they have confidence in me, and I try not to betray that trust.
"I have different rates for my boarders. It is by the day then it My daily rate for board is $1 is a dollar a day , but the weekly weekly it rate is six dollars, $6., and by the month it is twnety five $25 for the men, twenty $20 for women and also students. Meals are twenty five cents, 25� each and you know I make good on those meals. The other houses around here say they do not see how I can make clear any[-?] thing [profit?] the way I feed but I do.
"Yes, it is it's hard work. You come in contact with all classes of people, both good and bad, but when I get some rough ones in, I get
Page 7
them out[.?] again. I ask them all all my boarders to respect my house as they would their own home. Oh, what class of people had I rather have ? Well, I think the working class of people suit suits me the best. They are more considerate. I guess it is it's because they have to work and know how it is[,?] I work too, and then the students that I have are very quiet[.?] but they My boarders are all congenial, and [?] every night they play cards[,?] and checkers[.?] or some just sit around and play the radio , or read and study.
"I keep fires in the diningroom and the livingroom for them, but if they have fires fire in their rooms then they furnish that themselves. I have plenty of hot water all the time. There is one Bathroom upstairs and another downstairs . [too?], and ∥ "I try to make[,?] them all feel at home. They all like to play a jokes on me, and they all like to tease me tease me and play jokes on me, but it is it's all done in a way the friendly friendliest manner. However, " And when if someone gets the best of me, they the others don't like it a bit, but they will they'll tease me[.?] themselves right on. For instance, not long ago just at lunch time when most of them were here [,?] A very nice looking middle-aged man , who said he was a Methodist preacher came here with a young man that he said was his son. and a younger man came in. He said he was a Methodist preacher and the young man was his son. He said they were going to be in town for a few days and wanted a room and meals.
"I happened to have a vacant room[.?] that I showed him . the room. He liked it and said they would they'd take it. Well, they had lunch, came back for supper and was were so friendly and nice that everyone liked them 'em. After sitting around and talking for a while they said they were tired and was were going to their room. And that was the last we saw of them , For instead of going to their room[,?] they left.
"Oh, yes, the boys sure did tease me about that. You see I am a Methodist also too, and they told me that if it that had been a Baptist preacher he would he'd have paid for his meals. " She laughed and said, continued: I told them that if they had been Baptist they would have at least
Page 8
slept part of the night, instead of leaving a good bed like that. But now, I will I'll have to stop and help the my cook get the dinner on the table for these boys of mine are always hungry. I want you to stay and try one of my lunches. "
I thanked her and said if she didn't mind I would like to very much[.?] for I did not get home for lunch. ∥ The people boarders began coming in, [and?] every one was friendly and had something to say to each other. Severals Several girls that who work in the stores came together, and discussed their work and the picture they were going to see that evening. Several [Although?] students came and talked talking about tests they had during the morning[.?], some thought they made it and [falling marks others were not so sure.?] discussing the questions and what they had answered, one of them said, "Well, I sure have flunked that test if you all are right. " They all laughed and told him to do better on the afternoon test. ∥ Another boy [A ? ?] came in and said, "Well, folks, the music man is man's in town." Everyone looked at Mrs. Brittain and laughed. I wondered what the joke was. ∥ Just as fast as one table full group finished eating the table was fixed [?] for the next, and they didn't stop coming until about two o'clock. then plates were fixed for two students that had not been able to get there and then she had sent out come [?] several trays had But [? ? ? ?] there was plenty to eat, most anything that one could ask for, even two different deserts desserts. I never [?] had bought such a lunch for [as little as?] twenty five cents. [25�.?] As lunch [? ?] was almost over, when a very neatly dressed well groomed old man came in . he was greeted [? ?] by them all, as he asked if he was "Am I too late be for get lunch. [?] Mrs. Brittian Brittain told him she was sure they could find
Page 9
enough some food for him. He then wanted to know about a room. That was matter was fixed also [arranged?] too, as when one of the boys said, "put him in the room with me. We will We'll be all right. " The [old?] man said , that is that's all right with me[.?] for that boy He has been needing a spanking for sometime and that will now I'll have give me a good chance to see that he gets it. "
After they were all gone had all departed, Mrs. Brittian's Brittain's daughter laughed and said, " that is that's the music man. We all like him. He tunes piano pianos for the music houses here, and also teaches music. But We tease mother because he is a widower[,?] and he really wants to get married. That is why we tease mother about him all the time for He seems to like us for he stays with us every time he is he's in town. "
Mrs. Brittian Brittain laughed and said seemed much amused, "Well," she began from what a man told me the other night, I will I'll never be able to marry again." I asked what that could have been. She replied Asked for [her explanation, she continued?], "I think I told you that I did not didn't allow drinking here. I had a new man that had only been here a few days. and while He knew my rules on that matter[.?] But he thought he would get by and he came in beastly drunk. with it.
"He came in late, and got in his room without me knowing it [I noticed him when he came in beastly drunk and went to his room very late one night. But after he got in reached his room, he fell stumbled over the chairs[,?] and tables, and then fell out of bed. I heard the other boys laughing , so I and got up I and went upstairs, and I told him the drunkard he would have to get out. He told me that he wasn't ∥ [? was not?] going out of this room ," I told him he could get his things, and get out or I would have him [He defied me ? ? things and get out right now ? I'll have you put out. [? ? ?] He finally went. left. But when he got to the door he [looked?] at me and respectfully said, 'It ain't no wonder that you are you're a widow. I don't see how your husband lived [?] eighteen years, if he had to stay with you.' I told [?] him that if my husband had ever been in the his condition he was in, that he wouldn't have lived that long.
Page 10
"I have had a good many boarders to leave without paying and some have sent it the money back to me. One man left sometime ago. He had been out of work and owed me over a hundred dollars. He got work in another place, and he sends me money every week. I liked like to help people that way for if I think they are the sort that they really appreciate it.
"I do not don't make clear so much [?] profit, but I do make a living, and don't owe anybody. Yet, I have had some awful large bills to pay. ∥ I thought I would never get through paying doctors, and hospital bills[.?] and them [?] I lost my mother[.?] and I had to pay all these bills all the bills connected with her [last?] [?] and funeral, but the Lord has been with me for they are paved paid. ∥ I sent my daughter to Atlanta for a business course. That cost me over three hundred dollars for school and board. My other daughter is married and there is just tow two of us at home now. "But [In spite of all my heavy expenses?], I still don't have too little to divide with others. Not so long ago, there was a family near here[,?] that was in awful poor circumstances. The little boy got his arm broke and they were really up against it. I carried them a box of groceries, and when I saw just how badly in need they were I went around to all the neighbors and we all together got them the things they really [needed;?] food, and clothes, as well as coal[,?] and wood . to make them a fire.
"And I even gave away my daughter's best coat. I just couldn't help it. A woman came here, asked for something to eat. It was cold and raining. I gave her something to eat and the coat. Yes, my daughter raved, said I would give away my head, and it wasn't a week until she gave her other coat to a girl that didn't have one. I had to buy her another coat, but I am I'm glad that she can think of other people also.
Page 11
"I have had a hard time. Although we have never been without the things we really needed. I just can't refuse to help others when they need it. Some of them around here, say 'I just don't see how you give so much, and especially when I bought two old women a pair of shoes and to tell the truth I had to have one pair of them charged. But any way I paid for them, and helped two boys out in the country get up some clothes so that they could go to school.
"Then there was the old blind man. He needed an operation on his eyes. The doctors told him that if he could get a place to stay, they would treat his eye eyes and then operate, and not charge him anything. Poor old man, he didn't have anything to pay for a place to stay [food and room?]. Nobody else would take him. So I did, and he stayed here ten weeks. I didn't miss the little he ate. When he got ready to go to the hospital my boarders and I got [ya?] the clothes he needed. Now the old man can see how to walk by himself and doesn't need anyone to wait on him. No, I didn't lose anything by taking care of him. The boarders were awfully nice to him and looked after him at night, and if I wish you could see how happy that old man is for he comes to see us [occasionally?] and we feel well paid for what little we were able to do.
"I don't feel like I have lost anything in helping people. The Lord has been good to me. I have I've worked yes, but he keeps me able to work and has looked after me so far and I still have confidence in him . and I know he will still help me if I do what I can [? ? ? ? ? ].
There is a cotton buyer that takes his meals here. Last week I said something about buying some cotton to fix over some
Page 12
quilts. When he came in to lunch the next day, he brought me a large box of cotton. When I asked how much it was , He wouldn't let me pay for it . said " why couldn't someone do me you a favor one time ?" [he asked and added,?] for I was you are always doing something for someone else. "
"Last Christmas there was a family in this neighborhood, with five children in it. The father was out of work. They had nothing no cash very little to eat, and no prospects of Santa Claus making a visit there. I fixed a box for each of the children. One of my neighbors said, 'Mrs. Brittian Brittain how in the world can you give away so much? I can hardly meet my bills[.?] I don't know why it is, I just can't keep any boarders, and what are here don't pay half of the time. '
"But this neighbor of mine does not doesn't take an interest in her work. She will not fix for her boarders as I do. She will get out for her bridge and other pleasures and let her work go undone. I don't know which is right. She or I. But I just can't find time for much pleasure on the outside. I go to church[,?] sometimes , when I cam am so tired out at night I go to a show . that helps. And I do enjoy visiting , But it is so mighty seldom that I have the time for that For I am I'm busy from the time I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night . [But?] I do all my sewing and that takes quite a bit of time. "I have "I've managed to give all of my children a fair education. The two oldest girls married young, before they went through finished school, and one of them now is doing the very same thing that I y I'm am doing. She lost her husband and she is here in town , running a boarding house to try to get her boy and girl through the
Page 13
university. "
As we were talking one of her neighbors came in and from the conversation she was also taking in boarders and I wondered as I listend how the woman that I board with judges me; if I am rated as a good boarder or one of the kind that is so much trouble and expects too much for the money. It was my first time to listen to their side of it and I enjoyed it.
The woman [?] said : "Mrs. Brittian Brittain, I never hear you complain about your boarders and I don't see why. Why, mine are never satisifed satisfied. [/#?] I can't cook a thing to please 'em, and they are threating threatening every time they come in to get 'em another [pla?] place to stay. I just get so mad I don't know what to do. Why, they can use more towels, and the laundry bill is tremendous. I just can't stand it. ["?]
["?]And you know they even want me to keep a fire in the living room at night, just so they won't have to buy any coal themselves. It is It's outrageous. And then they grumble about everything. ∥ Turning to me she said, "Young lady, did you ever have to put up with running a boarding house? * I replied [no,*] that I was am just one of the boarders. " Mrs. Brittain laughed and said, "Well suppose you tell us just what kind of a boarder you are. Do you pay your board without grumbling? Are you hard to please? Does it take a lot of twoels towels for you? "
Looking at the merry twinkle in her dark brown [eye?] eyes, I knew why she was asking / all these questions, and I answered in the same spirit, "Well, as I board with a policeman's family I am afraid not to pay, but as to being a good boarder I am afraid to say. And as to eating, the biggest rouble trouble there is, they
Page 14
think I should eat more than I do, and are always after me about that. I have many extra things are fixed for me to eat tempt my appetite and I'm grateful to my [?] ∥ Mrs. Brittian laughed again, and said, "Well, I should think then that you rate as a good boarder. "
The woman [?] did not didn't stay very long[.?] After that and didn't discuss her boarders any more , and she After when she was gone, "Mrs. Brittian said, "I shouldn't have asked you those questions, but I'm I'm am a pretty good judge of people and you answered just as I wanted you to. For she really is hard on her boarders. Yet, we do have to put up with a lot of things to keep boarders satisfied." [?] "Just a few weeks ago, a man came in here one night wanted for supper and a place to sleep , and he just had fifty cents. I did not have an extra bed. He wanted to know if I couldn't fix him a cot in the hall or any where that I could. [??]. It was cold and raining. I felt sorry for him. I gave him his supper, and fixed a cot in the hall upstairs for him. The boys laughed at me and told me I was too easy. [?] They were right that time, for he slipped out the next morning[,?] taking with with about eight dollars worth of clothes that belonged stolen from to the boys. Yes, he got away and I made the things good, for it was my fault that he was there. The boys didn't want me to pay for the things /They said I couldn't help it, but I felt like it was nothing but right for me to [?] pay them for I was the one that put him there. "
The two boys came in for [?] lunch that was late that had been prepared for them. [They said?] they were "We're hungry," and did the cook leave anything for them ["] Mrs. Brittian Brittain said replied, "now , you know she did for I think you boys must
Page 15
be her special pets , for she was she's looking out for your plates before any one else [?] eats." They laughed, and said "Don't you think it pays to stay on the good [?] side of the cook? " But one said. But "I'll I'll bet you haven't lost any more eggs,"[was the parting shot of the other young man?] As she went to get their plates . [?] While [? ?] one of them said to me[:?]
"Mrs. Brittian Brittain is dear old thing and just like a mother to us all. She is She's good to everyone. But we do like to tease her, even if and she is she's a good sport ; and she can take it. But about the eggs; our cook was off sick and sent another cook in her place. The first night after supper, she asked Mrs. Brittian Brittian if she couldn't just take her supper home and eat while she rested. Mrs. Brittian Brittain said that would be all right, and anxious for the servant everybody to have enough food she went back in the kitchen as the cook was leaving and was going to give her more before she left.
["?]The cook insisted that she had a plenty, but went to sit the plate down on the cabinet, and when she did, eggs began to roll down her sleeves and hit the floor. She must have had at least a half a dozen up her sleeves. She was scared so bad, she didn't wait for her supper. She sold out. Mrs. Brittian Brittain had to scrub the floor and that cook didn't come back.
Mrs. Brittian said [?], "Look out boys, how you talk to this woman you may get yourself in trouble," she warned them, "for she is getting writing a story of our boarding house. They asked her what she had told me, and then said, "Oh, well ! Can we tell you a few things about this place? " I assured them that I would be glad for them to to listen. [?] One laughed and said, "Well, he told you about the eggs, I will I'll tell you about the wood.[?]
Page 16
Mrs. Brittian had another cook and she cooks with wood, and having lived on a farm she still buys her wood from the farmers, [and?] keeps a good supply on hand all the time. She was out one afternoon and the when another cook was here , She and that nigger was helping herslef herself to wood. Yes, mam, she loaded up a wagon full. A police [man?] came by and asked her what she was doing. She told him that she worked for Mrs. Brittian Brittain and that she furnished her wood. He didn't know what else to say, but he told Mrs. Brittian Brittain about it and said he had noticed her sending wood out several times.
"Then one time she took a woman and her son in for a couple of days because they didn't have anywhere else to stay. But when they left the room was awfully clean. Yes, mam, it was. even the linen off of the bed was gone. If we didn't have to get back to our class, we could tell more about this place here. Mrs. Brittain is easy in some ways but we sure know better than to come in tight. "
As the [?] two young [men?] went out the door, a small boy apparently between two and three years old came in calling , " Granny !" She smiled and said this is my grandson. [?] He said he wanted to see Granny, 'cause I loves my Granny and her is her's good to me [."?] [then ? like he wanted to know if she had any candy and bananas. [So he was asking, "Got any candy, Granny?" His grandmother smiled, [? ?] finished, "How 'bout a nana?" Before she could [?], His older sister came in then. She said "he cried until we just she had to bring him to see " Granny and Fritie. " she said, As he called Fritie [? ? ? ?] the fox terrier Dog came running to him, and jumped all over the little boy. They were both very happy to see each other. Mrs. Brittain gave him some candy and a bananas banana and he went out to play[.?] with the dog.
Page 17
After the children went out, Mrs. Brittian Brittain said, "We run up on many problems in a boarding house. The greatest one is good help. I have a good cook and now. [I?] pay her four dollars $4 a week , and feed her and her little boy. My laundry bill runs from a dollar a week up , and has been as much as three dollars. Of course that is just for bed linens , and towels[.?] and a wash woman does them and table linens. Our personal things we wash ourselves. Lights and water are reasonable, considering how [?] we use them.
"I furnish lunches to a good many of the business girls get their lunches from us and suppers also too. I can feed so many more than I can keep here, for I do not have the enough room rooms. Of course, I could get a larger and much nicer place farther further out from town, but I don't really think that it would pay for so many of my boarders could not [get?] [go far?] out for their meals. I also feed lots more of the students than you saw today. As many of them do not come for lunch.
"Besides what [??] came to the house, I sent out enough lunches last week to bring in between nine and ten dollars and that is doing pretty good. My daughter has been working some on the doing some of the government work, but they put some of them off lately and as she was one of the last ones to go on, she was put off, but she hopes to get back soon.
About two years ago, a blind boy / stayed here for sometime. Not long ago, he was going walking by here and heard me talking . he recognized my voice and came back to see me. I was really glad to see him for he was a nice boy and I liked him. He was very little trouble [even?] if he was blind, and was never blue about his trouble.
Page 18
"Some people that can pay the are [the?] best able to pay, they are the first ones that will try to beat you out of something. But some others will pay good. I had a man that boarded here for sometime. He got out of work, and had to leave here town. He owed three months board when he left , and I did not hear from him for six months ; and then one day I received a money order for every penny that he owed.
"About the same time another man left the same way, owe owing me fifty dollars i[$50?] but I haven't had a line from him, but that just shows the difference in the two men. One wanted to pay and did pay. The other did not[.?] care. Still I try not to judge too hard for we never know just what the circumstances may [be?].
"I had a crowd of brick layers boarding here. Their board was paid in advance. They knew my rules on drinking, but thought if they paid in advance I couldn't do anything about it. But [I?] just gave them their money back and told them to get out the next day. They begged, but it didn't do any good for that was one time that I was not easy. "I have had a good many to leave owing me board and send every bit of it back and then money that I never hear from any more. But still I find that not all of them are bad. I had one man that married twice while he was boarded with me and he still eats lunch here. He and his [?] first wife separated and got a divorce , several years later , he married again and this time it was a girl that had lunch here every day. He lives too far out to go home for lunch [?], so he still eats lunch here, and just real often she comes back with him for lunch.
"The Some traveling men will get you if they can . [They are?] quicker than most anyone else. I had a shoe salesman here. He seemed
Page 19
very nice. He said he only got his check once a month. He stayed here while he worked the other towns near by. The cook was doing his washing. I guess maybe he got his check, I don't know, but the day he said he was to get it, he went out and did not return. He had slipped his clothes out with his samples and the cook and I were just out of luck.
"I had another couple that was staying here with me that [when?] got married. They both got out of work for a long time and got behind in their board. He finally got work in Va. Virginia and asked me if he could go and send my money back. I told him to go ahead . and just as soon as he could get to work he sent me every penny that they owed. And they never come through Athens without stoping stopping to see me.
"I have learned many things in running a boarding house. One is that it is very hard work, work that keeps you going from the early morning hours until late at night. One thing I have not been able to learn very well and that is to turn away people that I feel like really needs help.
"But I do now require traveling people and others that I don't rust trust very much to pay in advance for their room. I guess if I had done this long [ago?] that I would saved something. I try to never worry over what has been done [for?] that can't be helped.
"I am thankful that my health is so much better and that I can still run my boarding house for it means my living to me and my daughter, And [I?] only hope that I will I'll be able to continue to work . but I hear the cook in the kitchen. I did not didn't know [?] the time had passed so quickly."
Page 20
Realizing that she wanted to see about her supper, I thanked her for the nice story , and told her how much I enjoyed the lunch , and That I had had a She very pleasant day. As I went out the door, left she came out on the porch with me and said, " It has It's been a pleasure to have you and I hope you you'll come back again. But you really should stay for I see the music man coming. "
***********
(Copied by M.S.E.
Feb. 10, 1939)

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 5 of 73
[The Capital City Insurance Company]
Rewritten in accordance with Mr. [Cutter's?] suggestions. THE CAPITAL CITY INSURANCE COMPANY
Written by: Miss Grace McCune
Area 6 - Athens
Edited by: Mrs. Sarah H. Hall
Area 6 - Athens and
John N. Booth
Field Supervisor
Federal Writers' Project
Areas 6 and 7
Augusta, Georgia
July 10, 1939
April 14, 1939
June 20, 1939
July 7, 1939
J.H. Robertson (Negro)
Samaritan Building
West Washington Street
Athens, Georgia
Manager, Atlanta Life
Insurance Company
G.M. THE CAPITAL CITY INSURANCE COMPANY
The young Negress, who sat at her desk in the reception room of the Capital City Life Insurance Company's local office, was industriously thumbing through a sheaf of papers when I entered. She stood up at once when she saw me, and when I expressed a desire to talk with the manager of the office, she said, "Just have a seat, and I'll see if he is busy." As she left me to open a door marked "PRIVATE" I noticed her straightened hair, combed back from her very black face and arranged in a smooth coil on the back or her head. Her neatly fitted frock was made on the tailored lines of appropriate office costuming for women.
She returned promptly, saying, "Mr. Smith will see you now." She led the way, and on entering the small private office I saw a young Negro man dressed in an impeccably tailored and freshly pressed dark blue business suit. "I'm Sam Smith," he greeted me, standing beside his desk, "What can I do for you?"
He laughed when I asked him to relate some of his experiences and problems in his occupation as an insurance man. "We
Page 2
do have a good many problems," he admitted, "and our experiences might fill a good many books. But first, won't you have a seat?" He saw that I was comfortably seated before a table, then began his story.
"Maybe you'd better start asking me questions, for I don't know just what it is you want, and then, I'm not very good at telling things anyway," he suggested.
"Then tell me about your early life," I replied.
"Well," he said, "I was born in [?] a small town in South Georgia, in 1905. The folks down there may not consider it so small - they even have a daily paper there - but after spending so many years in Atlanta and Athens, and visiting other larger cities, I came to realize that I am from a small town. My father worked at sawmills and consequently was away from home much of the time, for when one lot of timber was cut the sawmill had to be moved to another tract.
"One of my earliest recollections is my determination to earn money. I wanted to have my own money and to be independent. I hardly know just how old I was when I began work as a bootblack. It's really surprising how many nickels and dimes a small boy can earn blacking shoes. During my grammar school days I was on the lookout for any little chore by which I could earn money between school hours. After finishing grammar school in Moultrie, I began
Page 3
high school studies at Americus Institute in Americus, Georgia, but after one school year there I went to Morehouse College, in Atlanta, where I completed high school studies, and I remained there until I graduated from college. About twenty percent of the students at Morehouse did part-time work to earn some of their expenses. I was one of that group, and I also began the fall term every year with quite a tidy sum saved from wages and tips paid me at summer resorts during the vacation period. I waited on tables, did bellboy service, or 'most anything that came to hand at summer hotels.
"When I finished college my plans were already definite. I wanted to go in the insurance business, for I could think of no other field that offered as promising opportunities to a young man of my race.
"I didn't step out of college into a high salaried executive job. My first work was the humblest that this business has to offer. I was an agent's helper. That means I made the rounds with the agent to keep up with the literature that was distributed for advertising and selling insurance. I wasn't allowed to do any collecting and neither could I try to sell any insurance until I /was promoted to the job of assistant agent. Even then I was given long and careful training by the agent before I was permitted to discuss any matter of collection or selling with a policyholder or a sales prospect. It takes someone who is
Page 4
plenty interested in insurance to stick through the long training period that begins with the lowest chore of our work and takes in every detail of our routine just as rapidly as the learner can attain the degree of efficiency required of our agents.
"I can tell you it was hard on me during my first experience in trying to keep up the quota required of all agents and their assistants. There were days when it seemed impossible to make even a small increase in the volume of sales and collections. I would have given up then but I very well knew it was only by means of bringing in more business than the other agents that I could hope for promotion, and I was firmly determined to get it. The agent with me knew I was doing my very best and that I wanted, more than anything else in the world, to make good at insurance work, so he did everything in his power to encourage and assist me. It was his kindness and understanding that enabled me to successfully pass through the trying period of training.
"When dark came, the other agents would call it a day and they would go out for an evening of pleasure and frolicking around at dances and shows, but I worked right on. That was my time for contacting those of our people who couldn't be reached in the daytime because of their jobs. It was this night work that enabled me to pile up a higher total of insurance sold than the others in my district, and eight years ago it won me my place as manager.
Page 5
"Now we have a regular training school for young men of twenty-one and over who want to enter the insurance business. We take twenty or thirty of them and start training the group. They don't have to have college education for this work, for we teach them according to our own ideas. Do you know that some of the best executives in the insurance business are men that never finished high school, and some of the top-notchers never even finished grammar school? Education is a great thing, but that old school of experience beats 'em all, because that's where you have to work for yourself. That's one school that will make you put out all there is in you.
"We start our agents off with small salaries, plus a commission on all business above a certain quota. That's an incentive to work, for they realize that the amount of their earnings depends on their own efforts and resourcefulness, and they usually dig in and get the business. After an agent is appointed and his territory assigned he becomes responsible for the business in that definite area; not for just one type of policy but for all the different kinds of insurance that we write. All the special problems that arise in that particular territory - and believe me there are plenty of problems coming up all the time in any territory - the agent is expected to settle by himself as far as possible. It seems as if a week never
Page 6
passes that some policyholder doesn't let a policy lapse for one reason or another. The agent who can keep in sufficiently close touch with his policyholders to be able to persuade them to let no insurance lapse is considered exceedingly good and is in sure line for promotion. Sometimes the lapses will total more than the new business, and that's when we get discouraged and feel like giving up.
"Of course we investigate every risk as well as we can before we write the insurance, and then do more investigating before we pay any claim that appears to be in the least doubtful, but even at that we do get caught sometimes. Things aren't always as they appear on the surface and its not possible to accurately judge the physical condition by casual inspection of outward appearances. People who want to collect on sick benefit claims will swear to anything that they think they can get by with. When they want to get a policy written, they'll swear they have never had to see a doctor, at least not for the last 5 or 10 years, when all the time they're just planning to cash in on some disease already present in their bodies and which they may be able to conceal from us long enough to get the insurance written and in effect. We've learned that there are almost as many speculators as there are honest people. This is especially so on the sick and accident policies. Some of our policies carry
Page 7
sick benefits that run as high as twenty-five dollars a week, and persons have tried to collect as soon as the policy was in force. Then again we have had some that have carried these policies for years, and have never put in for the first claim.
"I'll never forget the time when a woman who held one of our sick and accident policies, paying $5 a week in the event she was confined to bed, tried to swindle us. We paid the first week's claim without hesitancy after I had personally visited the home and found her in bed apparently very ill. When the claim for a second week came in I made my formal visit of investigation at an hour when she did not expect me. Suspecting there there was some reason for the excessive delay in permitting me to enter the home, and noticing that the cover pulled up closely about her neck on that sweltering July day was probably to conceal the fact that she had gotten into bed fully dressed, I remained by the bedside administering simple remedies and sympathizing with the patient until the limit of her endurance was reached. That was after I had awkwardly mixed up quantities of freshly ironed clothes with piles of unironed garments and had apparently accidently, dropped them on the floor and trampled on them, as I directed a neighbor woman to apply hot water bottles to the feet of the patient and mustard plasters to her chest. She rose up out of bed, fully clothed, even to her shoes, and said she did not want that $5 a week if she had to go through all that to get it.
Page 8
"But you know I don't believe she ever did suspect anything other than that I was just extremely solicitous about her. That story spread through the district and it gave me a good reputation for looking after the sick people who hold insurance with me. If anyone else in that district ever tried to swindle me in a sick benefit claim I never did find it out.
"Now don't get the idea that we're reluctant about paying just claims. We very readily pay all just and honest claims, but because of the great number of speculators who are always ready to take any and every advantage of us, we must /at all times be very careful in our investigations of claims.
"The worst feature of it all is that these speculators sometimes find doctors low enough to help them in their efforts to swindle life insurance companies. However, I'm happy to say that this doesn't happen very often. We always learn when these cases do show up, that the policyholder has promised to divide the benefits with the doctor when, and if, the claim is paid. I don't think they ever gain by this practice in the long run, for if they win once they invariably keep on trying to work the same gag, and sooner or later it makes a lot of trouble for them, if not a jail term."
"Are all your insrance payments weekly?" I asked.
Page 9
"In town, yes; or that is, most of it is paid by the week in town. It can be paid by the month by special arrangement. Out in communities where we don't keep an agent all the time, we send a representative once a month to make collections, and those clients are usually very prompt, for they know that if they don't have the money ready for him, they'll either have to buy a stamp and money order to mail it in or let the policy lapse before the agent calls again. It's counted a serious matter to risk loss of money by letting insurance lapse.
"Perhaps our greatest collection problem in rural communities lies in the frequency with which our policyholders move from one farm to another, and we've never been able to make them understand the importance of notifying us whenever they plan to move. Some of them move about so much. They will stay probably a year on one farm and then get dissatisfied for some reason. Usually they think they haven't been treated right, didn't get enough pay, or the people they rented from didn't advance them enough during the year to get by with their bills until the crop was sold. Sometimes it's the illness or death of the main breadwinner in a family that's the reason for the move, but they scarcely ever stay in one place over a year or two at the most, for they're always thinking they can do better at some other place.
"Sometimes they move into a county where they're not known, and it's a problem to locate them then. I've known it to take
Page 10
several months to locate one policyholder. They just don't cooperate with the agent. After all that work in locating them, when we ask, 'Why didn't you let us know where you had moved?' we got this answer, 'I just never thought about it.'" He laughed and continued, "But you know that's about the truth of the matter, they just don't think; that's one great fault of my people - they don't stop to think.
"I don't know if you know this or not, but one of the greatest mistakes our people make is when they let a policy lapse, they'll sometimes just drop that one and take out a new policy with another agent. I've known this to happen many times, and I've occasionally known them to die before the new policy is in force. If they had only kept the old policy in effect by keeping it paid up they would have received its value. It's hard to make them understand this. Of course, if they just move from one town to another it's very easy to transfer them to the agent in that town if they notify us, but the point is, they seldom do this.
"People with high incomes don't need insurance like those who work on small, uncertain salaries. I really don't know, just what my people would do in some emergencies without their insurance, for it's one thing on which they can depend. Take the washwomen, cooks, maids, and all the others that work for two and three dollars a week. What do they have to depend on? Their
Page 11
earnings are not even enough for the necessities of living, and if sickness should come they couldn't get a doctor to come unless he knew he would get his money, and it's the same in case of death. They'd have to lay out until enough money was raised to pay burial expenses. But if they have a good insurance policy they can get the doctor to come, and if they should pass out the doctor, as well as the undertaker, would get his money. Yes, a good policy is something they can depend on, and if they can possibly get the money to keep it in force, they won't knowingly let it lapse.
"Another feature of insurance which has brought up many questions and caused some lawsuits is the minor child beneficiary. Of course we can't turn the money over to a child, and sure as the world when the uncles and aunts of the beneficiary learn that it has money coming from insurance, they all fall out about who is to be the guardian. Each one of them will want the child as long as they expect it to receive money. In most of these instances we have turned the money over to a court, whose duty it was to appoint a guardian for the child and its money. Now we refuse to write policies that name children as beneficiaries unless the policyholder specifies a guardian in the application for the policy.
Page 12
"As to the matter of production, we divide the business area into districts, and in each district we set up a local office in some central town. A manager is appointed to take charge of the business of the district and to handle the affairs of the local office. The personnel of the local office includes manager, assistant manager, cashier, clerk, inspectors, supervisors, and agents. Each supervisor has from four to six agents working under him. Each agent has a quota to make, and this quota must go over and above his lapses.
"For instance, it's worked out this way: if you're collecting on 25� policies and you lapse four, that would mean a lapse of $1 a week, and for every dollar lapsed you have to write $1.25 in new business to keep up your quota. That makes it very much to the interest of the agent not to permit policies to lapse, and how they do work to keep up their quotas and to exceed them! They know that'll count more on their records and will bring promotion quicker than anything else can.
"Then too, the agents are supposed to make so many calls each day. The required number of calls is rated according to the size of territory and the amount of business done in that territory. While we understand that not every prospect called on will take out insurance, we do expect our agents to land at least three out of every ten they call on. Each agent has his prospect book, and in this is kept the names of all the people he calls on,
Page 13
the date of each call, and a notice of when he expects to see each prospect again. Sometimes it takes weeks for the agent to make just one trip to each of his prospects, but whether they want him or not, he hunts them up and calls regularly, just as a matter of persistence. Do you know that in the end these regular calls usually win out for the agent?
"Our larger towns are divided into what we call zones, and each agent has his own zone to work. Their work is so carefully outlined and systematized that they run on schedule time, just like postmen. That schedule is important to the prospect as well as to the agent, for they know just what time the agent is due to arrive for his money.
"From time to time the company puts on contests, and the prizes are, as a rule, nice trips. For instance, a winner of one of our latest contests got a trip to California, and another won a trip to the World's Fair in New York. There were many other smaller prizes in the contest that were well worth working for. These contests make agents feel like putting out their best efforts to win those fine prizes, and the efforts of the agent compose the lifeblood of the organization, not only of our own, but of any business organization.
"Few people on the outside realize the valuable services we render to morticians. You know the collection end of their
Page 14
business is bound to be difficult, for they are compelled to bury the deceased even if they never get anything for their services and merchandise. As a usual thing people are inclined to request expensive funerals for their relatives, whether they can pay the bills or not. We encourage the proprietors of undertaking establishments to call us as soon as they are notified of a death, so that we can let them know whether or not the deceased has insurance with us. Most of the other insurance companies extend the same courtesies.
"When they know in advance how much cash will be available, the morticians are enabled to make a more sensible deal with the family. They can show only what they know can be paid for.
"It's an established fact that unless they get at least a substantial part of the cost before the interment, it will be difficult for them to collect at all. After they have rendered services to the best of their ability, furnished burial robes and casket, and used their hearse, automobiles and other equipment, there is little that they can do toward collection after the body is under the ground. They had better get a claim on what insurance exists before they even start to work on the corpse.
"We don't have very much time for recreation, and there's very little in that way to do here, but our agents usually go in for whatever amusements are popular in their territories, for
Page 15
it's /a good policy to mix with the local people. That helps business. We don't have any ball teams among our workers as is customary in many other organizations, but that's because we don't know all the time where we will be located. We do try to cooperate with each other in anything that comes up, and in that way we do really help each other in many ways.
"Personally, I have very little time for recreation. I do enjoy swimming and billiards, also a good game of tennis in the late afternoons, and I think we all like a good picture show. I visit all the churches very often and attend their different entertainments, for, as I told you, I consider it a good policy to mix with people. Though I'm a Baptist myself, our policyholders belong to different churches, and it makes them feel better to know that we want to be with them.
"I married an Alabama girl soon after I came here to work as a manager. I have no children, and just a short time ago - it really seems ages - I lost my wife. Since she passed away I'm left without any family. I get lonesome, for we were so happy, but I know that I'll have to go on some way and I'm trying to take it as she would have me to. I'm glad I stay so busy that I don't have time to brood and worry so much.
"There are so many problems of our people, and many have tried to find their solutions. The white folks are working
Page 16
on these things now, and I hope and believe that at some time in the near future there will be better understanding between the races. The South is the home of the Negro, and our people are beginning to realize it more and more in every way. Of course some of them, in fact a great many, have gone North and have made a success of their work at the better salaries paid there, but after all, that doesn't mean so much, for it takes all they can make to live up there.
"Housing conditions can be blamed for many of the problems of my race. Our agents have found that these conditions are worse in small towns and rural areas than in the more thickly settled sections. Rain comes in through leaky roofs and they can't keep the cold out. Continued exposure in cold, wet, and unsanitary living quarters brings a notable increase in pulmonary disorders. Pneumonia flourishes in areas where these conditions prevail. In fact, the majority of our sick claims are based on this disease. As a general thing there is a trend toward improvement of housing conditions throughout the section of the country that I frequent. Our people are beginning to take advantage of the plans offered by various Government bureaux for financing improvement of houses. Marked improvement in rural areas in coming from the aid and encouragement now given tenant farmers toward purchase of farms and building of farm homes.
"Our company sponsors lectures and assemblies for
Page 17
teaching improvement of health by means of diet. We began this several years ago when an amazing number of sick benefit claims, based on varying degrees of prostration accompanied by a peculiar roughening of the skin, came in from a section in South Georgia. We investigated and found this malady to be pellagra. Our workers in that territory concentrated their efforts on convincing the sufferers of the benefits to be gained by properly varied diet to such an extent that we think more cures were effected by the change of food habits than by medicines. By means of the county agents, nursing projects, and other facilities the government has done splendid service in teaching the essentials of proper diet to the people of your race and mine.
"It would probably be hard for you to believe what we found to be the main obstacle in our efforts to help pellagra victims in the area I've just mentioned," he remarked.
"Go ahead and tell about it," I urged. "It should be known."
"Well," he continued, apparently unaware that he had lowered his voice until I had to lean forward to catch the words that followed, "in this section almost every landlord would forbid the tenant to plant a garden for his own use saying, 'I want you to put all of your time on your crop, so I'll plant a garden big enough to feed every family on this plantation. You plant your crop on every foot of land I've rented you.' So the tenant had no garden, no potato patch, no watermelon patch, no chickens, and
Page 18
no hogs or cows. Sure enough the landlord would plant a grand garden, but everything the tenant, used from it was charged to his account at a price that enabled the landlord to make an excellent profit and it usually left the tenant in debt to his landlord at the end of the year if he used anything from that garden. So the poor tenant learned to do without vegetables, milk, and fresh meats. He lived chiefly on cornbread, syrup, and fatback, and consequently became susceptible to pellagra. Some of our people in certain sections still find themselves hampered by restrictions like that, and so they keep moving from place to place. They're trying to get away from such things.
"Most of us can remember the time when people of my race had few opportunities for higher education. Now we have excellent high schools and colleges, as well as much improved facilities for grade school education. If young people of my race want to be educated, there is nothing to prevent them from going ahead and getting whatever training they desire.
"I'm proud or these educational institutions, for they have been the means of giving us better preparation for our work. Even the cooks need to know how to read and write, and the same knowledge enables the maid to answer your telephone more intelligently and take down the messages that come for you in your absence. Nursemaids give better service in the care of your children when they are trained for their work. In fact, there is no line of work - no matter now humble the service - that cannot be improved by even
Page 19
a little education.
"The relationship between our people and the white folks in the South is on a sounder basis than in the North. I know that many thoughtless things have been done by our people, and some of them have been terrible in their effects on the harmony of the races. These things have made hardships for the rest of us. We are working in cooperation with the good white people to prevent such things from recurring, and it will all be straightened out eventually. It takes lots of time to solve problems concerning the human race, and much more time to work out those solutions sufficiently to see improvement.
"Only the Negroes who have means can make money and progress in the North. The ones that have nothing can't get along. I know many who couldn't live in the North. Eventually they'll all want to come back to the South where the majority of them were born. The South is their home. Here they have their own friends, relatives, churches, and schools. If they can just learn to get ahead, then they'll be on the road to greater advantages.
"I know many that sold their farms and moved to the North because they thought they couldn't make a go of it on the farm. They didn't know how to do much of anything except to raise cotton and corn. Now there's no excuse for the farmer not to make a good living if he's willing to work. The Government has all these farm projects and agents to teach them what to plant and how to
Page 20
cultivate the ground to the best advantage. They are learning that cotton is not the reliable /money crop they once thought it was. They know there are many other crops that will bring in more money, without the work and risk if one-crop farming.
"They are getting along better, having more to eat and wear then ever before on the farms. The Government has really been a blessing to the farmers, yet many of them can't, or rather just won't, admit it. It isn't just teaching them to till the soil that counts. The agents are showing them how they can make money raising cattle for the market as well as for their own use. In this way they no longer have to depend on one crop for cash, and that keeps them from getting discouraged so easily.
"What political party do I belong to?" An honestly puzzled expression came over his face that was quickly followed by another expansive smile, as he confessed, "I don't know. I was reared in a family of Republicans without knowing very much more about that party than the story that President Lincoln was a member of it and that he become a martyr soon after he signed the document that sealed our emancipation. It seemed natural to us that there was no better way for Negroes to pay tribute to the man who gave us our freedom than to vote his way, and there was no other party that seemed as much interested in our welfare as the Republicans did. Since the present Mr. Roosevelt was first elected his remarkable achievements have made me do some serious thinking. I'm
Page 21
reluctant to vote against the old party, but I cannot ignore the fact that my people have had more consideration from the present administration than from any in the past. Please don't ask how I'll vote in 1940. I really don't know. I admire our President," he said in conclusion.
"You've probably heard of our Mr. Henley, the remarkable man who founded our company," he queried, looking up at a large framed photograph.
"Everyone has heard of him, and I can very well remember seeing him for I passed his barber shop in Atlanta almost every day, about thirty years ago," I replied, "but I'd like to hear his story from you."
"Well," Smith continued, "he was born a slave, in Monroe County, Georgia. After freedom came he went to Atlanta and started to work for a barber. That he made a success of his work in shown by the large business he built up. His best customers were among his white friends. Before 1900 his barber shop had more then 20 chairs in it, and that shop is still going today long after his death. A list of his patrons would sound like a roll call of Atlanta's most prominent and important business men. It may be that his daily contact with successful business men had something to do with his own success. His ambition to do something to enable the members of our race to prepare for the financial crises so often brought about by sickness, accidents, and by death, led him to organize his first little accident and sick benefit
Page 22
company. It's probable that the purity and unselfishness of his motives in starting his insurance business were factors that led Providence to permit it to prosper so that in 1905 he was able to buy out several other companies, organize a great business, and put up a $5,000 cash bond in accordance with a law enacted that year by the State Legislature for the protection of insurance beneficiaries. Prior to that time there had been several small companies doing business in accident and sick benefit insurance that carried death benefits of from twenty to thirty dollars, and not one of these little organizations was able to raise the cash bond. Mr. Henley's purchase of these small companies and merging them with his original insurance business was the beginning of the Capital City Insurance Company, and our home offices are still in Atlanta.
"Our little mutual company, that before the merger in 1905 paid sick benefits of from two to three dollars a week, has grown and improved until we have more than 300,000 policyholders, and we're now one of the largest insurance organizations among our people, we write any kind of insurance now, from sick, accident, straight life, and paid-up, to endowment. In fact, this is an industrial as well as an ordinary life insurance company, and we're more than proud of our business.
"Our records show that in 1939 we paid out more than $800,000 to our paid-up policyholders and to beneficiaries in
Page 23
general. This, of course, includes loans on policies, sick and accident benefits, dividends, and final payments after the death of the insured. After making these payments totalling considerably more than three-quarters of a million dollars, we still had a surplus of more than $980,000 on hand. At the beginning of this year we raised the amount of capital stock from $100,000 to $500,000. Our one hundred and four employees include our managers, clerks, inspectors, and field agents. That'll give you some idea of how our business has grown."
There was a proud and satisfied look on his face when he asked, "Now do you like our new home?" As I looked about me, he continued, "We've just recently moved into these offices. We'd simply outgrown the old place and just had to have more room. I'll have to admit we're rather proud of our new home."
The modern offices were well furnished and equipped. Venetian blinds shaded the windows facing the street, and the walls and woodwork were immaculate in their fresh coats of light tan paint. "You have every reason to be proud of these lovely offices," I assured him, "and they have the advantage of being centrally located and convenient for your workers and clients."
"Thank you," he answered, "and now I think I've just about covered everything of interest about my insurance experience. I don't have to explain that practically my whole scheme of living is bounded by insurance now. There is no other business that I
Page 24
know of that brings the worker in such close contact with the great mass of our race as does insurance, and through it we are able to have insight into the most personal problems. While a child to still very young, some insurance man is going to be there to see about writing a policy on its life, an insurance man will investigate practically every condition that effects the health and welfare of his policyholder throughout his life, and when he has died the insurance man comes around again to make settlement. Everything that the insurance man does to improve health conditions and to take care of his policyholder is actually an economy in the narrowest means, for in that way he is lessening the payments of sickness end death claims, but I still maintain that our Mr. Henley founded this business for the purpose of helping the people of his race.
"I'm hoping that you'll find at least a part of the information I've given you usable. If in the future there are questions that arise in regard to our race, I hope that you'll let us try to help you compile the information needed."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 6 of 73
[A Change of Vocation Brings Success]
Life story
A CHANGE OF VOCATION BRINGS SUCCESS
A Depression Victim Story
Research by: Mrs. Daisy Thompson
Augusta
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7 March 1940
(?). J. Lefferhan,
Restaurateur
647 Broad St.
March 20, 1940.
A CHANGE OF [VOCATION?] BRINGS SUCCESS
One of Augusta's swankiest eating places represents a spectacular come-back by John Farrell, one of the town's pioneer restaurateurs. In his own words: "It has been far beyond my expectations. However, it has been a most interesting experience all the way through and it has taught me much.
"My ups and downs have been very similar to all others who have tried to maintain restaurants during the trying years of the economic recession. Things just kept going from bad to worse until all resources were exhausted and the doors had to be closed to prevent [imminant?] disaster.
"My grandparents came to America from Ireland in 1854. My father was born three years later. My mother was originally a Prostestant, but later one joined the Catholic Church. I have 3 brothers, 3 sister, and 3 half-sisters.
"All of my education, which included a commercial course, was obtained at the Catholic Brothers' School. My father was the superintendent at one of the Textile Mills at that time and he helped me to get a job at the same place.
"After working there for some time I obtained a position as bookkeeper with the Johnson Paper Mills at Marietta, Georgia. This plant manufactured wrapping paper as well as many other kinds, all of which were made from wood pulp. There was a pulp mill located about nine miles from that city.
"I stayed there for a year and then went to work for the
Page 2
Abbott Brick and Tile Company. Then I moved back to Augusta and was employed in the Transportation Department of the Georgia Railroad Company for the next three years.
"At the end of that time I accepted a more lucrative position as Division Rate Clerk with the Southern Railroad.
"In 1904 I married Mary Vinson Arnold, who had moved to Augusta from Savannah as a very small child. All of her education was obtained here also. We have seven children, four girls, and three boys.
"Soon after my marriage I secured a position as bookkeeper with the Brown Jewelry Company, Augusta's most prominent and successful jewelers.
I kept books for them for 13 years. Then one day an accident happened which necessitated drastic changes in my method of making a living. A heavy door closed on the forefinger of my right hand, severing it completely. This not only rendered me incapable of following my chosed vocation but it left me in a highly nervous condition which lasted for quite a long time.
"A friend of mine who was an experienced restaurateur asked me to go into business with him. He had built up quite an enviable reputation and we enjoyed a splendid patronage for about two years. We called our place Peacock's Restaurant and made sea foods for specialty. The business venture represented an original investment of $19,000.00
"After a couple of years Mr. Peacock, who was getting old,
Page 3
sold his half interest to me and retired to his country estate.
"Then I became associated in business with Mr. Walder, who was also an experienced restaurant man. For the following several years we operated a very prosperous business.
"At this time the World War was on and Camp Hancock had been established at Augusta. The soldiers furnished us a very flattering patronage and we also enjoyed the cream of the city's trade. We catered to the very best people and served the finest foods obtainable. We secured excellent prices for our service and our profits were most gratifying.
"During 1919, which was our very best year, gross sales amounted to $120.000.00. We realized a net profit of $37.000.00, after Government, State, City, County, and various other taxes had been paid.
"Prices on all commodities were very high during the war and salaries increases accordingly. Trade was exceptionally good in all lines of business and for quite some time we operated a thriving business.
"About 1921 prices began to drop but we still maintained the same salary standards as we had in our banner years. Money came in slowly in 1920 and 1923 and profits for the next decade amounted to about $5000 per annum. During this time our receipts decreased from $300 to about [250?] per day.
"In 1929 this whole section was flooded and all crops in adjacent [viciaities?] suffered considerable damage. Due to the
Page 4
high water damage, cotton dropped to 10 cents a pound.
"War prices on cotton ranged as high as 40 cents a pound. Cottonseed oil was very high and pork loins sold for 40 cents a pound. As strange as it may seem milk is higher now than it was during the World War. This of course, is due to government control. Beef, also, is almost as high now as in that time of inflated prices. The government can't be blamed for this, however, as it was purely providential, being brought about by the disastrous drought experienced throughout the West. In its wake many (?) died because the country was left entirely without grazing and water facilities. The market was thus deprived of a great percentage of its normal beef output.
"This serious situation [hecassitated?] government intervention, with the result that vast numbers of cows were shipped to the South and East. (?) of these died [arrouse?]. Those that finally reached their destinations were extremely thin and unfit for market purposes. Others were sent to pastrues in various parts of the country to be fattened and slaughtered for canning in various government established canneries in different sections of the country. The beef (?) canned was distributed to Relief Clients through Surplus Commodity Warehouses.
"While you have been talking, Mr. Farrell," I interrupted, "I have been wondering how the high price of cottonseed oil affected your business.
Page 5
"Well!" he explained. "Restaurants use great quantities of cottonseed oil for cooking purposes. It is also used in a great many other ways. For instance, in mayonnaise, salad oils, ets.
"Forty years ago." He continued. "Farmers threw away the seeds out of their cotton, frequently using them to fill ditches and washouts on their land. However, it didn't take them very long to learn the great value of cottonseed as a fertilizer. Soon they were making compost of them, mixing the seeds with acid and decayed vegetation.
"So you see, that prices, high or low, affect us all regardless of the kind of business we operate. It is indeed a true saying that none of us each live to ourselves.
"In 1928 my partner died. I carried on the business for several years but then the depression came on in full blast causing such a curtailment of business that I was forced to close my doors and seek more lucrative employment.
"Fortunately, before very long I secured some government work which kept me busy for the next eighteen months. At the end of that time I had retrieved my losses sufficiently to open another restaurant.
"Certainly the World War was the primary cause of the economic depression, but I believe there were other contributing factors. During the war period when money flowed freely, people were agog with excitement and spent money lavishly. Later on
Page 6
they seemed to become absolutely reckless and those who formerly had known only the bare necessities of life now bought luxuries. Then the depression came with its resultant panic.
"When Americans were taken from their jobs and sent to France, many vacancies were created which were filled immediately by women, both married and single, and even young girls. When the boys came back there were very few openings and these were not sufficiently remunerative to warrant raising families. Consequently there has been a startling decrease in the number of marriages and in the birth record. I believe in early marriages and large families which in my opinion would go a long way toward solving our economic problems.
"As I told you, my paternal grandfather came to America in 1854. He went to work in the Georgia Railroad shops as a car inspector. At that time this position carried with it a salary of $125.00 a month. Today the same job pays $140.00 a month and a bookkeeper makes about $75.00. The only way I can account for the difference is that women have never entered the car inspector field, while the market is overrun with woman bookkepers.
"I am firmly of the opinion." He stated emphatically. "That a woman's place, except where it is absolutely necessary for her to make a living, is in the home. There are many girls working in stores and in offices who do not need the money, but who work for very small salaries to obtain the luxuries they couldn't afford otherwise.
Page 7
"I can see very little difference in the cost of living now and before the World War, but I believe the low prices of some commodities offset the high prices of others. Of course certain articles are more expensive. For instance, silk stockings and cosmetics. I estimate that such of my daughters spends from five to six dollars a month for her hose. I believe it costs more to maintain a girl from her knees down and her shoulders up, than it does to clothe her body. A few years ago women folk washed and curled their hair at home. Now, the beauty shops are full practically all the time."
"After having reared a large family, Mr. Farrell," I asked. "How would you say the morals of the young people of today compare with those of a few years ago."
"Well, I believe their morals are just as good as ever and their ideals are equally as high, but they are much more frank and natural - not so mid-victorian.
"The ever increasing number of divorces is deplorable." He went on. "Tax laws are responsible for them to a great extent, but selfishness is also a dominant factor. There seems to be an inability to adapt one's self to conditions and an unwillingness to make concessions in order to keep the home intact.
"I do not believe wars will cease and peace come to the world again until the Pope's ideas for its restoration are carried out.
"Our children have had the best we could afford in the way of education and all of them are a credit to us.
Page 8
As you know one of our boys is in the insurance business here and another practices law. Two of our girls also hold positions here and a third is teaching Occupational Therapy at Providence, Rhode Island, after having charge of temporarily mental defective and acute alcoholic patients at Baltimore, Maryland. Our youngest son is still studying at the University of Georgia.
"No, I have never traveled abroad but I have seen quite a bit of our own country. I have been in practically every state east of the Mississippi."
"Well, Mr. Farrell," I said, "After hearing all you have told us I agree with you that at one time you were really caught in the depression and at a loss how to make a new start. However, as one looks at this very up-to-date place you now have, you seem to have found an excellent way out."
"You are right." He said with pardonable pride. "After I once gained a foothold my success was beyond my greatest expectations. But I do really try to please my patrons and give them not only the very best foods obtainable but also see that they have the ultimate in service.
"While I was doing the government work I told you about, I was always on the alert for something more [resunerative?]. I gave the matter much consideration before I decided to make another venture into the business world. Finally I was convinced that with my experience I could again make good and I opened at my
Page 9
present location.
"I am sure my past experience has been beneficial in a great many ways. I have learned how to overcome many obstacles that obstruct the way to success. Should these conditions which caused by failure return at some future time, I shall be much better fitted to meet the pitfalls peculiar to the restaurant business. Perhaps the greatest lesson was that a period of high prices will certainly be followed by falling prices and failing business. I am firmly of the opinion that each of us should exercise great care in building up a reserve capital against a possible return of the economic depression.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 7 of 73
[Cindy Wright]
December 13, 1938
Mariah Jackson (Negro)
181 Lyndon Row
Athens, Georgia
(midwife)
Grace McCune, writer CINDY WRIGHT
A search for Cindy's abode led up and down Georgia's steep, red hills that in this particular section had been converted into slick red mire by a downpour of rain. My frequent inquiry "Can you direct me to Cindy Wright's house?" invariably received this response, "It's just 'round de corner to your right." But they failed to tell me how many corners were to be turned before I would finally arrive at the four-room house occupied by the old granny woman. Except for need of a coat of paint the dingy little structure seemed to be in good condition. The small yard space that led from the street to the narrow porch was clean swept. At one side was a large grassy plot where a few late chrysanthemums were bravely trying to hold up their heads.
Two doors confronted me as I entered the porch and my knock on the first one was answered by a tall young Negro who said "Cindy, she lives next door." As I extended my hand to rap on the adjoining door it was opened by a tiny boy, black and shiny, attired in clean blue overalls and a red sweater. "I heared you ax for Cindy; she's right here if you wants to see 'er." A small mulatto woman came to the door. "I'se Cindy," she said. "Won't you come in and set down?"
Page 2
Cindy led the way into a bedroom where a glowing laundry heater was a welcome sight after the long, cold, and very wet tramp in search of her house. "I hope you will 'scuse the cookin'," said Cindy as she hastened to turn over a pone of cornbread that was smoking in its pan on the heater. Next to it a coffee pot was emitting a cloud of steam, and the remainder of the space on the small stove was occupied by a heavy iron frying pan covered with a close-fitting lid. "I don't s'pect you laks dis," she remarked as she removed the lid from the frying pan. "Dis is chit'lin's. Some of my frien's done kilt hogs and sont 'em to me, and if you don't mind I'd lak mighty well to finish cookin' our t'eats, 'cause I'se hongry."
This last remark seemed a good cue for presentation of the sack of fruit I had brought with me and to urge her to proceed with her cooking. Cindy was delighted. "Chile," she exclaimed. "I knows who you is now. You'se dat white chile my Mr. Aaron said was comin' to see me. Dat man sho knows how good old Cindy loves fruit, and I'll just bet he put you up to fetchin' it to me."
While Cindy was busy, I looked around the clean, comfortable and home-like room with its simple furnishings. Crinkled cotton spreads covered the mattresses on the two iron beds. There was a beautiful fern on an old-fashioned washstand. Other furnishings included two trunks, several chairs and a small table or two. A small dog and a cat were sleeping near the stove.
Page 3
The old style chimney, built out into the room, had a mantel on which were several tins of wandering jew and a large oil lamp. One corner of the room was curtained off with portieres made of flour sacks. The rough, wide planks that formed the walls were whitewashed. A small girl, apparently not more than eight years old, was ironing on a board placed on two chairs. "Stop your wuk, Honey," Cindy addressed the child. "Git you somepin' t'eat and eat it and then go outside and play while we talks."
Turning to me, she said, "I tries to larn 'em how to wuk, 'cause I knows I'se gwine to be called 'way one of dese days to come back here no more. Yes, Lord, dat I is, dat's a fac', Honey, sho as you'se borned." When she had placed a piece of cornbread and a serving of chitterlings on each of their [plares?] plates, she opened the sack of fruit and gave each child an apple and sent both of them to the kitchen to eat. "I ain't gwine give 'em none of my oranges 'cause wid just one tooth in my haid, I kin eat dem better'n any of de other fruit." When she had heaped her own platter with chitterlings and cornbread and had poured a cup of coffee, she sat down by me, near the stove, and soon was rocking in her chair as she consumed her food with every indication of satisfaction. I wondered how she could attain such gusto with only one tooth. A wide-spread checked apron almost covered her clean, dark print dress, and a little fringe of gray hair escaped the snowy head rag.
Page 4
As she ate, she talked; "I'se sho glad Mr. Aaron done sont you to see me," she said, "and I told Molly just last night dat Mr. Aaron hadn't never lied to me before. It had been such a long time since he had sont me word you was coming, dat I'd done plum' give you out." The platter had been sopped clean with the last of the cornbread and she reached into the sack for an orange. "Chile," she said. "I'se mighty proud and thankful you gimme dis fruit. I was just a-wishin' dis very mornin' dat I had some."
The dog woke up and started around the heater to investigate the presence of a stranger. "Don't let him tech your stockin's," said Cindy, "'cause he'll tear 'em sho as you'se borned. Course he don't aim to; he's just such a friendly little pup. We don't know who he b'longs to. He just tuk up here and de chillun wanted 'im so bad, I just couldn't say no. Our cat is right smart too. I sho don't never see no rats 'round here.
"Now, if you don't mind, I'll put on a pot of peas to cook for the other chillun to eat when dey gits home atter school. I'se awful sloe 'bout doin' things, 'cause I'se done got so old and no 'count dese days." Soon after she had replenished the fire and the peas had begun to boil, she placed a generous quantity of snuff in her mouth and settled back in her chair. Then we heard a knock at the door. Cindy introduced the aged Negress who entered, as 'Miss Jenny'. Jenny used the next few moments to tell Cindy about her 'job of wuk wid some white folkses, what lives a fur piece off. De man's a-comin' atter me in a great big autymobile tomorrow."
Page 5
Her story told, Jenny took her departure with the final remark, "I didn't know you all had no comp'ny, Miss Wright, I'll run along now, and come back to see you another time." After she was gone, my hostess chuckled. "She just had to know who it was here to see me, and when you'se gone evvy blessed 'oman 'round here will trump up some 'scuse to come and try to find out what you wanted, but ain't none of 'em gwine to find out nothin' from Old Cindy.
Again Cindy started her story, "I don't 'spects I can tell you much 'bout what you wants to know, 'cause my mind ain't so good as it used to be. Sometimes I can 'member things way back yonder good, and then again my mem'ry just comes and goes. I don't recollec' much 'bout de time 'fore de war, 'cause I was too young myself den, but I'se gwine to do my best to tell you de answer to anything you axes me. You want to know why? Hit's 'cause my boy, my Mr. Aaron, done sont you to see me.
"I was borned 79 years ago last March, 'way down in Alabamy at a place dey called Notasulga. My daddy had done been borned and raised on Dr. Long's place in Oglethorpe County, Georgy. Chile, daddy's marster, Mr. Long was such a grand, good man, dey named a town in Oglethorpe County for him. His wife - she was Miss Annie May Long - was one good 'oman in dis here world of sin and sorrow. All dat Long family was good white folkses.
"Sam Foster was my daddy, and he comed all de way to Alabamy to marry my mammy, and he stayed on in Alabamy 'til long
Page 6
atter de big war was over. Mammy's name was Sue. She had been sold off one time in her life, but when she married she b'longed to Miss Grace Bradford. Dere was one child younger'n me, born enduring' de war. Hit was a long time atter de war was over 'fore our white folkses would tell mammy and daddy dat we was free, and hit was a longer time yit 'fore we could come to Georgy.
"My grandaddy sont atter us. Yes, dat he did. He sont one horse and waggin plumb to Alabamy to fetch us back. De man he sont was sick wid a swellin' when he got dere; he was just swelled up all over. I ain't never seed de lak, and it was sho a mighty long time 'fore he was able to ride back in dat waggin. I don't know just how many days it tuk to come from Alabamy to Oglethorpe County in Georgy, but Daddy said hit was sho a long hard trip. Roads warn't lak dey is now and folkses lived a long piece apart. Somepin' t'eat was hard to git on de road and dey was hongry plenty of times 'fore dey got to de end of dat long ride. Daddy and de boys ride in dat waggin wid de man what had de swellin', but Mammy and us two gals ride de train. I ain't never gwine to forgit comin' to Georgy, 'cause dat was my fust train ride, and I was scared plum' to death. Mammy said I screamed and carried on so when dat train come puffin' up to de depot, she thought dey never would be able to git me on it. She said I helt on to her all de time on de train, 'til we got hongry and she opened up a big box of somepin t'eat what she had done cooked up 'fore we left Alabamy. Big as
Page 7
dat box was, de eats give out on us long 'fore we got to granddaddy's house, and we was hongry sho 'nough all de last part of dat long ride.
"Granddaddy's house was on de old Long place down on de Georgia Railroad. Right dere's de place I growed up in. I stayed dere 'til I married, wukin' in de field wid my daddy, 'cause dat was all de kind of wuk I knowned how to do dem days.
"Dey had schools but dere warn't none on our place. But schoolin' warn't no fur piece off, 'cause dere was a school in Foster Town. Dat was a place what had so many Fosters livin' in it dat dey sho 'nough did call it Foster Town. Lots of de young chillun was sont to dat school, but me, I ain't never went to no schoolhouse a whole day in my borned days. I hear folkses talk 'bout dem A-B-C's, but I don't know nothin' 'bout 'em. But just let me tell you, dere sho can't nobody fool me when it comes to countin'. I can sho do dat. Dere don't nobody beat Old Cindy out of nothin'. All of daddy's chillun had to help him in de field. We wuked mighty hard, but we had a good livin'; dere was plenty t'eat, a place to stay, and evvything we sho 'nough needed.
"My daddy seed to it dat I had a mighty smart weddin', when me and Joe Wright got married. Hit was just one of dem old time country weddin's. Daddy didn't 'vite so powerful many folks, but it was a nice weddin' right on. I don't even 'member what color my dress was. It was made out of thin cloth that had light dots on it. It may of been dotted swiss. I don't know.
Page 8
"Dere was de mostes' good things t'eat at our weddin' supper. Daddy even had a whole hog cooked for us, but we wouldn't 'low no dancin' round dere. I minded my good old daddy, and I ain't never danced one of dem sets in my whole life, and at my age I don't never 'spect to. Even if I wanted to do it, I'se done got too stiff and no 'count. If daddy hadn't minded, I ain't never had no time for dancin' nohow. I wuked hard and tried to take care of what us made. Me and Joe farmed for white folkses for years and years. I wuked right 'long wid Tom Joe in de field, 'cause I'se a-tellin' you he was a good man through all de 50 years we lived together. He has been gone and left me eight years ago prezackly, since five o'clock last Friday evenin'.
"I don't 'member how come I done it, but I got started in as a granny 'oman not long 'fore we moved into town. Dat's been more'n 30 years ago. Since dat time I'se been doing dat kind of wuk all 'long 'til I got too old and quit, 'bout three years ago. Course you ain't s'posen to know much 'bout my kind of wuk, but it's sho 'nough hard wuk. Why, I'se cotched as many as three babies in one night. Chile, is you married, or is I a-tellin' you what I hadn't oughta?"
Considerable urging was necessary before Cindy was convinced that it was proper for an unmarried woman to hear her story. "Atter I come here to town I wuked wid Miss Eckford and Miss Bryan. Course, I had to take dem blood testies den, and wear white gowns, and I wore white caps dat kivvered up all my hair. And does you know dey had to see me do some of my wuk 'fore dey
Page 9
would 'low me to have one of dem 'stificates. De funny part of it all is dat I 'spects I was cotchin' babies 'fore dem 'omans was borned demselves.
Miss Eckford, she was good and all right, but I just loved to wuk wid Miss Bryan, and she still comes to see me 'bout one time evvy week. Yas, Lord, I'se cotched plenty of babies as dey comed into dis old world. Dat I has, and Miss Bryan, she always said she didn't never worry 'bout none of Cindy's cases, 'cause if dere was anything wrong, Cindy would sho say so.
"Plenty of folkses right in dis very town still owes me for waitin' on 'em. Yas, Lord, dere's plenty owin' to me dat I don't never 'spect to git. Some folkses would pay if dey could; others just ain't got no mind to pay me nothin'.
"Laugh? Why, I'se never seed nothin' to make me want to laugh at on none of my cases; dem 'omans was always sufferin' too much for dat. I'se heared other granny 'omans laugh 'bout now deir cases behaved, but hit warn't lak dat wid me. I always wanted to visit wid my cases 'fore dey was down in de bed and sho 'nough needed me. Dat was so I could be sho evvything was fixed up ready, just so. But, yas, Lord, I'se fussed at 'em plenty of times, just to git 'em good and mad, dat I has. Hit was for deir own good for if I could just git 'em mad 'nough, hit was easier on 'em and was all over quicker. I'se seed plenty of sufferin' and sad times wid de rich, de pore, de white, and de colored 'omans. Yas, Lord, dat I has, for I'se wuked wid 'em all.
Page 10
"My job was to cotch de babies, and see dat evvything was all right 'for I left de place, and I always went back evvy day for seven days to see dat dey was gittin' 'long all right. If dey was doing well on de seventh day my wuk was finished. But now I'se got too nervous and old. You know, dat's wuk dat can't wait. I had to go right on when dey called me, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Dat chile what opened de door when you comed, dat's my great, great grandchile, and he's just about de last baby I cotched. Now, I did go out just dis last week here in de neighborhood, but hit was just to help Miss Bryan out, 'cause she is so nice and good to me.
"I'se had fourteen chillun myself, eight boys and six gals. Yas, Lord! Praise de Lord! I'se still got eight of my chillun left livin'. Most of 'em lives close by in dis neighborhood, 'ceppin' one gal dat lives in Cincinnati. I'se wuked hard to raise my chillun and send 'em to school. Some of my oldest ones went to de country schools 'fore we moved to town.
"Joe wuked and I wuked, and my white folkses has been mighty good to me. I just don't know what I would do if it warn't for 'em. Let me tell you, I sho did have a good husband. He made $15.00 a week wuking at de Holman Building, and evvy Sadday night he fetched evvy last penny of dat money straight home and laid it in my lap. When I axed him how much he wanted out of it, he always said 'fifty cents.' And what do you think he wanted wid dem fifty cen'ses? Not a blessed thing but to buy
Page 11
my snuff wid. Dat's right.
"I done housewuk and washin' too for some of my good white folkses, and I tuk good care of what we made, so'se we would have somepin. Other folkses, dey says, 'Miz Wright, how does you git along so well? How come you has so much?' Us always had plenty somepin t'eat, good clothes to wear, and a good home to live in. Dem other folkses never wuked lak us done, and what dey made, dey never tuk no care of. I made our chillun wuk too. Our white folkses said all my fambly was good wukers. Since I'se got too old to wuk no more, dem chillun of mine is been mighty good. Some of 'em's always sendin' somepin for me.
"We lived in one place for nigh on to thirty years, but it warn't here. I'se just been here 'bout one year. My gal what lives in Cincinnati, sont for me to come live wid her. I got rid of 'most all my things and went, but shucks, seven months was long as I could stay up dar. I was too homesick, so she had to send me back. Callie got dis place. We has two of de rooms and one of my gals lives in de two rooms on the other side. She wuks out, and I takes care of her chillun whilst she's gone evvy day.
"All my chillun's been mighty good to me, but my Emma, she never would leave me to git married. Yas, Lord, dat chile has sho stayed wid her old mammy. Dey was all of 'em mighty good to me in Cincinnati, but I was scared I might die 'way off up dere, and I [wants?] to be laid in de ground right 'long side of
Page 12
Joe, and dese chillun of ours had sho better see to dat. I b'lieves in in-surance. Dat I does! I'se got a policy dat will pay for puttin' me in de ground, when I'se called 'way from dis world.
"I ain't never been to no doctor for myself and I ain't never had no doctor sont here. I don't take no medicine needer, but I knows a man what kind of fixes me up somepin when I feels lak I needs it. Dat's sho 'nough. De last time I had a bad hurtin', I just went to see him, and told him I had a hurtin' in my right side under my shoulder. He walked 'round me a time or two, and den he rubbed dat side, and said, 'Hit's all right now.' And hit was. It ain't hurt me no more since.
"I ain't sick now. I'se just no 'count. I'se gittin' old. I fell last week and hurt myself right bad. I couldn't git up, and if it hadn't a been for dat little great, great grandson of mine I 'spects I would have had to stay on de floor 'til Callie got home, but he called a lady in to help me git up. My laig's been a-hurtin' me right smart ever since.
"Does you know what time t'is?" asked Cindy as she stirred the pot of peas. I told her that according to my wrist watch it was 2:10. She sipped water from a dipper for a while, gave the restless dog some food, then sat down in her rocking chair and put it in motion again.
She seemed to be pondering something as she solemnly
Page 13
and silently studied my face. Finally she asked, "Is you kin to Miz Josie Stewart? You all sho do favor. You'se just a-lak." I admitted that I am not related to Mrs. Stewart. Expecting to please her, I added that I know Mrs. Stewart and admire her. "I 'spects she's good," answered Cindy. "I washed for her fambly for years, and I sho does lak Mr. Gilbert. He is one good man. Dat he is! Dis here's his house. He lets me have dese two rooms for a dollar a week, and he sometimes says, 'Cindy, don't you worry none if you don't have de rent right ready evvy time.' Now dat's just lak Mr. Gilbert Stewart."
Suddenly she stopped rocking and asked, "What day is dis, anyhow?" I told her it was Tuesday. "I means, what day in de month is it?" When I replied that it was the 13th of December, she laughed and said, "I knowed I warn't wrong. I gits my check on de 17th. Yas, Lord, 'deed I does. I'se done got two of dem five dollar checks for de old age pension. Hit ain't but five dollars a month but dat sho does help. Does you think all de old folkses will git it? I sho hopes so, 'cause old folkses what's done wuked long as day dey can, needs it mighty bad now. Dere's a old man stayin' down dis street what ain't got no folkses, and dat pore old man is blind as a bat, and he don't git no pension. Not one Jesus thing, does he git. Yas, Lord, is dat right? Maybe dey will git hit fixed up for him so'se he can git a little help 'fore dey has to put him under de ground."
Page 14
She resumed her rocking, and looking up remarked, "When was de last time you seed Mr. Aaron?" Without giving me time to reply, she continued, "I wuked for his folkses 'til his mother and daddy moved 'way from here to go to New York. Dey was good folkses, if dey was Jews. Dey was 'special good to us what wuked for 'em. I just nearly 'bout raised young Mr. Aaron. Dere was other boys in dat fambly, but Mr. Aaron was my boy. Yassum, I 'spects he was bad as de rest of 'em, and I sho had to give him a talkin' to sometimes, and I still talks to Mr. Aaron just lak I wants to. He don't say nothin' back to me nuther. He just laughs and says he, 'Now, Gal, what's de matter wid you?' But, my Mr. Aaron ain't been to see me in a long time now, and just you tell 'im dat Cindy said he'd better come, 'cause she ain't got too old to git a holt of him yit, and she's 'spectin' him to send Santa Claus 'round to see her.
"See dis scar on my neck? Well, dat was one time I had to have a doctor. Let me tell you about it. A long time ago, when I was just as peart and hearty as I could be, a little bump come on my shoulder. For a long time, hit warn't no size a'tall, den hit started off to growin'. Hit growed 'til hit hung plumb down over my shoulder. I warn't sick none, and hit didn't hurt a'tall, but I was scared it would keep on growin'.
"I went to see Miz Lora Fant. She's a colored woman dat knows things. Atter she had done 'zamined dat thing
Page 15
growin' on my shoulder, she run through her cyards and said, 'Miz Wright, you'se been witched, but I'se glad I can tell you dat you hain't been pizened. You was witched by a 'oman dat lives right nigh whar you stays. She has a grudge 'ginst you 'cause hit seems lak to her you gits 'long so much better and has so much more dan she does, so dat's de grudge she is beholdin' 'ginst you.'
"Miss Lora said for me to come to town and git a certain kind of 'bacco and she 'splained just how I was to fix it up. She said she was gwine to do all she could for me, but I would be in bed and would have two more of dem same kind of places to start growin' on me. She said dat 'oman what had done witched me wouldn't come nigh me 'til de last of dem places was gone, but den she would ax and 'quire 'bout me evvy day. Would you b'lieve it? She done dat very thing. She sho did.
"When dat place started on my neck I got scared and went to see a man dat knowed how to do things. I didn't tell him a word 'bout me gwine to see Miss Lora, and dat man told me word for word pre-zackly what Miss Lora had done told me, even 'bout dat 'oman. Dat he did! Den I knowed for sho dat I had done been witched. Den dat old 'oman dat had witched me started comin' to my neighbors evvy day to 'quire 'bout how Miz Wright was, 'til dey axed her why she didn't come see for herself how I was. I sho was havin' me a time den, 'cause one of dem things commenced growin' under my arm, and I just
Page 16
had to lie in bed whilst dey growed and growed. I sont for Miss Lora again, and she said dey was ready to be lanced by a sho 'nough doctor. I warn't real sure so I sont for de old man I told you 'bout a little while ago. He 'zamined me and said dem places was ready to be lanced, and he 'lowed I would git well atter dat, and den dat 'oman would come evvy day to see how I was. When a doctor had cut open dem places, dat witch 'oman did start right out comin' to see me, but I didn't care, for she had done lost her power over me, and I got well.
"I'se got to see 'bout dem peas now," Cindy proclaimed in a tone that implied dismissal, so I began making ready for my departure. "I wants to tell you somepin dat'll make you always 'member Old Cindy," she began, "Hit's what I'se heared all my born days, and I'se found dat hit's sho de truth. "Many things may tangle your foots, but tain't nothin' dat can hold 'em.' Dat's right. Ain't it?"
I thanked Cindy and promised to return but would not set a date for the next visit, as I did not want her to be disappointed. She laughed. "Dat's 'cause I said you and Mr. Aaron done lied to me 'bout you comin'," she said. "Well, I still says you never come when you sont me word to 'spect you, and now you be sho and tell Mr. Aaron I'se a-lookin' for him too."
Cindy and her dog accompanied me to the door, and as I walked down the steps she said, "Chile, I'se sho gwine to have lots of comp'ny atter you gits out of sight, but none of 'em ain't gwine to git nary a word out of Old Cindy 'bout what
Page 17
your business wid me was."
Three days later as I passed the Southern Department Store, its proprietor, Mr. Aaron Stein, hailed me. "What did you do to my good old nurse?" he demanded. "I let you go out to see her, and the next thing I hear, she has had a stoke and is at the point of death. I think it's mighty lucky that her story was recorded when it was for it's not likely that she will ever be able to talk again."
The Athens Banner-Herald of December 21, 1938, carried the story of Cindy's death and announced that her funeral would be held from Ebenezer Baptist Church, Thursday, December 22nd, at two o'clock. It was fortunate that I started out a little ahead of time to find the church for I soon learned that there was more than one Ebenezer Church in, or near, Athens. Alexander and Freeman, undertakers in charge of the funeral, gave me directions for finding the place where the last respects would be paid to Cindy. Finding that I still had a little time to spare before the funeral I went by her "Mr. Aaron's" store to learn from him about her last few days. He said that her family had tried to prevent her from doing any hard work because they had known for several years that her blood pressure was very high, but while they were away at work
Page 18
her restless energy, the industrious habits of her lifetime, often led her to disobey their admonitions. He said that she had waited for her children to depart for work, and had "done a big washing," and this undue exertion was followed by a stroke of paralysis. She never spoke again, and died three days after she was stricken. In conclusion he said, "She was a good woman, real smart, and just as honest as she could be. We will all miss her."
The funeral party had not arrived when I entered Ebenezer Church and took my seat near the rear of the auditorium. A woman, apparently a member of the choir, approached me at once and invited me to come up near the altar, where seats had been reserved for Cindy's white friends. There I could see and hear everything. The altar was draped in white and banked with ferns. On it was an open Bible of immense size.
Soon the message was carried to the organist that "they" were approaching. The people who had been standing in groups on the outside filed in and took their seats at the right and left of the room, but the entire center section had been reserved for the funeral party. The sadly tender notes of the funeral march came from the piano as the doors were swung open and two preachers led the procession down the aisle. Not a word was spoken on the march to the altar. Immediately after the preachers were the six flower bearers, all of them elderly women, each carrying potted flowers and marching in couples.
Page 19
Behind them the casket on its wheeled stand was guided by an undertaker, and followed by the pallbearers. Then came Cindy's family, followed by their friends. Everyone in the church stood up until the funeral party was seated and then the remaining seats in the center aisle were quickly filled by some of the others.
The choir sang Nearer My God to Thee, and a preacher read as a text the ninetieth Psalm, beginning with the words, "Lord, Thou has been our dwelling place in all generations," and in solemn and reverent tones he continued through its last verse, "And let the beauty of our Lord, our God be upon us: establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands, establish Thou it."
The same preacher offered this prayer:
"Let us entreat Thee O, God!
May we come before Thee,
And ask Thee to console us,
And grant us Thy peace,
And help us.
"We know Thou has never done wrong
But everything is for the good of
Thy kingdom.
"Bless these, Thy children,
And give them peace.
And when our time comes
To go, may we find a place
In Heaven."
"We will now," he announced, "have the obituary of Sister Wright, read by Miss Bessie Cannon."
Page 20
A well-groomed, slender little mulatto Negress left the section occupied by the family, and standing by the casket she began:
"Sister Cindy Wright was borned in the year of 1861, and was married to Brother Wright at the age of twenty years. She was converted at the age of twenty-five, in Boggs Chapel, in Oglethorpe County, and when she came to Athens to live, she moved her membership to Ebenezer Church where she has been well-known, and loved by all who knew her. Her husband died in 1930. She was the mother of fourteen children, eight of whom survive her. When sickness, death, or trouble came, she was always ready and willing to do all she could for the ones that needed her. Always cheerful and ready to help others, she was very industrious in her community until her death on December 20th, 1938."
The preacher invited the congregation to be comforted by a solo, Fade, Fade, Each Earthly Joy, sung by Miss Mahala Wheeler. A very black Negress, of good appearance, in the choir group arose and sang four stanzas of the old hymn. Her voice, apparently almost strangled by emotion at times, indicated that her interpretative efforts stressed the meaning of the words rather than the tune and rhythm.
Until this point the second preacher had not taken active part in the exercises. The presiding minister announced that Brother Stanley would not talk. His tribute ended with these
Page 21
words: "She lived like a child of God, and served Him long and well. Thou good and faithful servant, well done."
Brother Stanley then stated that he would turn the service back to Brother Roberts. This was the first time we had heard the name of the presiding cleric. He arose and began the funeral sermon at the end of which the casket was opened. The undertaker then invited me to be the first to view Cindy. The pianist had started playing a funeral march when I arose and went to the casket. While the dignity of death was on her face, as she lay there in her white robe in a casket of a delicate shade of lavender and white flowers, it seemed as though the old woman had just dropped off to sleep. When I had returned to my place, the congregation filed by the casket in solemn procession, while one of the preachers droned in a low monotone, "The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." When all of the congregation had viewed her except the family, the undertaker lowered one side of the casket and rolled it close by each member of the family so they might see her, and even touch her, for the last time. Now the chant of the preacher took on a newer and higher note and tone as he read the ritual of the church, while her children took their farewell. "Foreasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, in His wise Providence to take out of the world the soul of the departed sister . . ." he read in ringing tones, and as the bier was wheeled back toward the altar he read the closing words:
Page 22
"From henceforth, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, evenso saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors."
The casket was closed. Brother Stanley uttered the benediction. The flower bearers took their places, in couples, before the casket, and led by the two preachers, Cindy Wright's body was followed by her family and friends as it was borne toward the cemetery.
Just as she had prophesied less than a week before, she had answered the last call, and had gone, to return no more.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 8 of 73
[Cosmetics and Coal]
COSMETICS AND COAL
(A Depression Victim Story)
Written by: Mrs. Ada Radford
Augusta, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. [Deila?] H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7
Mrs. [Inex?] Dennis
1481 Greene Street
April 4, 1940
A. R.
COSMETICS AND COAL
"Ours is much better coal than you are selling and it will certainly server your customers to greater advantage." A man's voice was saying as I walked into the office of the Fuller Coal and Wood Company.
His high-powered salesmanship must have been very effective for when he left he carried with him an order for three carloads of coal to be delivered by May 15.
A vase of flowers and a partly finished dress on a sewing machine evidenced the feminine touch in this office, which otherwise was like the usual one of its type.
Mrs. Fuller, owner and operator, to a very diminutive person, who weighs not more than ninety-five pounds. On this particular morning she was wearing a shirtwaist dress and her light-brown hair was combed straight back and arranged in a bun on the naps of her neck. Her manner was very brisk and businesslike.
An Mr. Milton of the Tennessee coal Company left the office with a "desire accomplished" look on his face, Mrs. Fuller turned to me with a smile, as one said:
"And now, what can I do for you?"
"Well," I answered, "Our work at this time centers around people who were drastically affected by the Economic Depression
Page 2
and because I know that you come under this category, I have come to ask you to tell me of your experiences."
She agreed readily but told me that she would need prompting as she went along in the shape of questions that would keep her on the right track.
"You're asking quite a lot when you expect me to go all the way back to my birth date. However, I'll try.
"Our old home was on a plantation in Wilkes County. My father was a native of Wilkes but my mother came from Lincoln County. I was born September 10, 1890, the third child in a family of 12, but only six of us reached maturity.
"My father believed in educating his children and although though we each had special work to do on the farm, he saw we had ample time to attend school.
"My mother passed away when I was 12 yours old, and as I was the oldest girl, I fell heir to her work. So then, I not only had to do the cooking and washing for the entire family but also had to find time to go to school. Of course I couldn't hold out very long under this strain and because my father was unable to obtain help, school had to be given up.
"My father finally married again, but the home was never the same. My stepmother was undoubtedly a good woman but she didn't understand children. In other words the maternal instinct was entirely lacking in her make-up.
"When I was 16 yours old, I married B. L. [MoManus?], who
Page 3
was employed as a loom fixer at the Sibley Manufacturing Company. Thus a little green country girl came to Augusta to establish a home. My three boys were born of this marriage.
"My husband gave me a lot of trouble. Whiskey and women were his weaknesses and after fifteen years, even he came to realize his failure as a husband. One day he admitted it and asked me why I didn't leave him.
"I answered: 'If I can't succeed at making our home, I certainly won't break it up.' Well, he had no such [scruples?] and he left me with my three little boys, when the youngest was seven. I didn't know what to do and felt certain we would starve.
"When my father learned of my trouble, he came to my rescue immediately. There was nothing left for me, but to move to the country with him. I was very grateful for the food and shelter but was very dissatisfied eating other people's bread.
"I applied for support from my husband. He agreed to give me $10 a week and then a little later a friend of mine sent for my oldest boy to work on his laundry truck at $5 a week. I now felt that I was financially able to move back to Augusta and put the two younger boys in school.
"I was almost a nervous wreak from ali the worry and trouble. I prayed every day for a way to open that would enable me to got the oldest boys, Otis, back in school also.
"One Saturday as he was working on the truck he found a
Page 4
copy of the Augusta Herald. He could never explain where it came from and I have always felt that it was an answer to my prayers. I [searched?] eagerly for the want ads, and found that there was an opening for a lady to sell California products.
"I could hardly wait until Monday. Somehow, I felt almost certain I would get the job and that through it would come the solution of my financial difficulties.
"I lived through Sunday somehow, and bright and early Monday morning I was on hand to apply for the job. My spirits were somewhat dampened when the lady told as me I would have to put up a $5 deposit for the sample kit for that was just about $5 more than I possessed.
"I found the proverbial 'friend in need' who offered to lend me the money and first thing Tuesday morning I reported for work. I didn't realize how very weak and nervous I had become and at first I was only able to work 3 days a week. It wasn't very long before I had built-up a clientale who ordered regularly and my average earnings reached $50.00 a month.
"As the mental strain lessened I began to improve physically, and I began to feel like I was really living again. I was now able to keep all three of the children in school. I only-worked from 8:30 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., in order to have my afternoons at home with my boys.
"Even with such short working hours my sales mounted to $1,000 a year for several of the ten years I worked for the
Page 5
company. Each of those years I received a $50 bonus as a reward.
"For the last two years I remained with that organization and for sometime afterwards, I also sold coal for Mr. Fuller as a side line. He allowed me a commission of 50 cents for each ton I sold. Some seasons I made as much as $100.00.
"I had always wanted a home of my own and before long I located a lot that suited me on Ellis Street. The cost was $575.00 and the owners offered it to me for a $10.00 cash payment; the rest to be paid at the rate of $10.00 a mouth.
"One day when I had my lot about half paid for, I went to the hospital to deliver some orders. I saw a crowd gathered at the emergency room, but as I was in a hurry to get home and have supper, so I could go to prayer meeting, I didn't stop to inquire who was hurt.
"You can imagine how amazed I was when upon my arrival at home, my next door neighbor hurried out to ask how Otis was.
""He is all right.' I answered in surprise. 'Why do you ask?'"
"'don't you know that he was run over by a city truck and rushed to the hospital with a broken leg?'"
"And before I realized what I was saying I cried: "Oh, God, why did you let it happen to my boy?' A minute later I was horrified at my [sacrilege?] in daring to question what God had done for after having a minute to think I remembered that
Page 6
'He doeth all things well,' as he showed me later.
"My boy's leg was in an awful condition and the doctors told as that an operation was absolutely necessary. They explained to me that the leg would have to be cut and put back together with silver pegs.
"I just didn't see how I was going to stand it and the morning of the operation I stayed away from the hospital until I thought it was all over. When they brought him down from the operating room he looked so bad I was telling myself: 'He'll never walk again!'
"Joy seldom kills but it came pretty close to it when the doctor said, with a much lighter manner than I thought suitable for the occasion:
"'Well, when we put him to sleep, we pulled his leg and kneecap slipped into place and it was not necessary for us to operate. In about three months, he'll be up and walking.'"
"The injured leg in about halt an inch shorter than the other but the difference is scarcely perceptible. The city paid the hospital and doctor's bills and gave me $500.00.
"I finished paying for my lot and used the rest of the money to make a deposit on the house. In a very short time I began building my home.
"Did I tell you that each of my boys helped themselves through school by carrying the Augusta Herald?" She asked with pride.
Page 7
"I couldn't always take up the notes just when they were due." Mrs. Fuller went on. "But both of my creditors were very considerate and as long as I paid the interest they were both satisfied.
"And now I want to tell you about the best part of my life. All through my troubles when I came face to face with a crisis of any kind I first asked God to guide me and without his help I would have failed. Yes, I have had many trials and heartacnes, but God always helped as carry my burdens."
"When did you marry Mr. Fuller?" I asked.
"We were married in January 1926." She answered. "And I kept on selling California products until he died in 1928."
"And he left you the coal and woodyard?" I queried.
"No he left a will which gave the executor the power to do as he liked with the property. I have never really known how much Mr. Fuller had. My lawyer advised me to ask for a year's support and I was given a houses, a lot, and a small cash payment. The house was in such ill repair that it took the better part of the money to put it in rentable condition. What was left after this was done I used to make the final payment on my home."
"Who got the woodyard?" I asked.
"Mr. Fuller's nephew. He told me that he had bought it."
Page 8
She replied. "I worked for him here in the office for $10.00 a week. As didn't know a thing about the business and just at the beginning of the Depression, I bought the place from him. It took all the cash I had as I also had to pay for several carloads of coal then on order.
"The effects of the Depression upon my venture were immediate. I took the business over at the very beginning of the season and instead of my sales increasing they were falling off daily. I lost a lot of money on coal that had already been delivered on credit. Most of this had been sold to railroad employees, who had been laid off after the receipt of the coal. It seemed that the bottom just fell out of the railroad business about that time.
"I didn't realize that the trouble was here to stay and kept on selling on credit. Of course, there was no way to collect for nobody had any money. The few cash sales I was able to make and the very little money derived from those who did pay failed to net we sufficient funds to keep coal in the yard for delivery. Then the larger coal dealers cut the price of coal to $6.00 a ton, in an effort to force me and another small local dealer out of business.
"I had spent my last dollar and the mines refused to ship more than one carload of coal and that was shipped C.O.D. I borrowed $175.00 to pay for a carload and when I had sold that, I ordered another.
Page 9
"I had mules to feed in addition to the upkeep of the wagons and the first two years of the Depression I only made $500.00. I felt as though we were facing starvation. As a last resort I mortgaged my home to keep my boys in school and to buy coal and wood."
"Did you continue to sell on credit?" I asked.
"Yes, I couldn"t refuse when folks would tell me they had sickness or that their little children were cold. Some of them I knew would pay when they could, others I was dubious about. And do you know I am still collecting some of that money? Sometimes they can only give me 50 cents a week, but at that - they are paying."
"How is your business, now?" I asked.
"Good, very good." She replied. "For a long time now it has been increasing. I have replaced my mules and wagons with four modern trucks, have paid off all the mortgages and have the money on hand to pay for my coal upon delivery.
"Yes I have a bank account. My average income is about $500.00 a month and I am able to save quits a bit of it."
"Did your boys go to college?" I asked.
"No, but they all finished High School. My oldest son is married and has two children. The middle boy is an accountant and the youngest works for me. Both of them are single.
"I am very tired and nervous and before very long I expect to turn my business over to my sons and take a much needed
Page 10
rest.
"Anyway, as I see it men make better managers for this type of business. I knew that in a good many cases women are more successful but where you hire colored drivers, it takes a man to keep them going and the responsibility in too great for a woman. I can notice a great difference since my son has been with me. Yes, a man is better fitted to manage this business."
"Mrs. Fuller, I notice what your place is surrounded by small houses, apparently occupied by people of meager incomes. Do you have many calls for help?' I asked.
"Yes, I do." She replied, "And up until this winter I gave away several tons of coal in sacks. I never turn an old person away or refuse to give coal where there's sickness. I have had fewer calls for help this winter although it has been the most severe on record. Times are really better. The nearby mills are running full time and are employing three shifts. I tell my boys constantly how very thankful we [should?] be. [Especially?] so, that we are Americans and live in a free country.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 9 of 73
[Cotton and Horseshoes]
Life Story
COTTON AND HORSESHOES
(A Depression Victim Story)
Written by: Mrs. Daisy Thompson
Augusta, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Leila M. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7
March 12, 1940.
[? ?] Saul
Cotton Factor and
Warehouseman
731 Reynolds St.
D. T.
COTTON AND HORSESHOES
"Certainly, I can spare you a little time." David Black remarked with a merry twinkle in his eye. "Since the government entered business, time is the thing we have the most of."
It required quite some time to find this office which is located two or three doors from the Cotton Exchange. Shortly after we had exchanged greetings Mr. Black was called out to the warehouse and I took the opportunity to glance around. As far as equipment went, the office was a facsimile of others of its kind. The unique feature was the array of horseshoes that adorned the walls and even the electric cords. Above the desk hung a large horseshoe, fashioned of thirteen small ones. Some were new and shiny, some old and rusty, and there was even one that was rough and home-made.
When Mr. Black returned to the office I said:
"Well if there's any truth in the old adage pertaining to horseshoes you certainly should have an abundance of good luck."
"I don't believe in that old superstition." He replied with a grin. "I have them for identification. In case a customer should forget my name he would possibly remember the display of horseshoes, which after all is a bit unusual. Should this happen he could at least ask for the darn fool who has all
Page 2
the horseshoes hanging in his office.
"Seriously though," he went on. "There are fifty of them in all. One to represent each year I have worked in the cotton business."
Just outside the office, enclosed with iron grillwork, was the bookkeeping department. Several men were working at long desks. A large iron safe constituted the only other equipment in the room.
The sample room was located in the front portion of the warehouse. Mr. Black explained that a place must be selected where the greatest amount of light would fall on the tables where the cotton samples were classified. The grade and the initials of the owner are indicated on a slip of paper and rolled inside of the sample.
"Do you want me to go back to the beginning. Well, my friend, that's a long way." He said thoughtfully.
"I am a native Augustan as was my father. But my mother was a Charlestonian. I first saw the light or day on June 15, 1875. My grammar school education was obtained at the old Central School and I attended the Richmond Academy for a year.
"I married an Augusta girl and we have two sons, who also make their home here. Both of them were graduated from the Richmond Academy, spent two years at Junior College and completed their educations at [Sine?] Hill College in Alabama. Then they returned to Augusta and entered the cotton factorage and
Page 3
warehouse business. The elder boy married last June and he and his wife live with us. The other one is also at home and both are doing well.
"I am now 65 years old and have lived my entire life in this fair city, with the exceptations of three years which I spent in Charleston during my young manhood.
"Fifty years is a long time to work in one line of business." David Black said pensively. "I went to work on Cotton now when I was only fifteen years old and am now rounding out my fiftieth year.
"Many and drastic changes have taken place during the half century I have worked close to the old Savannah River. The most important and effective change was undoubtedly when the government entered the cotton business. The many restrictions and the vaious taxes imposed on the business people have caused potents cuts in overhead expenses.
"In other words where formerly business concerns made contracts at the beginning of the cotton season for twelve months, in many instances they are now forced to make them for only 30-day periods.
"There is a resultant unrest and uncertainty for both employer and employee. It is very much like the Good Book says: 'You know not the day nor the hour.' The cotton factor has come to feel that the incentive to reach out for voluminous trade has been taken away. [?] he limits his business so as to take as
Page 4
few chances as possible.
"The businessman of today is very much like the Irishman, who, upon becoming weary of his arduous tasks, decided he needed a vacation. When he applied to the agent for a ticket, the man asked Pat if he would like to have a return ticket. Pat replied: 'Faith, no, can't you see I'm already here?'
"Prior to the World War, Augusta was one of the largest cotton centers in the South. In days gone by when farmers were allowed to raise as much cotton as they wished, more than once Augusta's receipts totalled a half million bales of cotton per season. Now the total is not over 150,000 bales.
"Yes," he went on reminiscently, "Cotton Row has undergone some drastic changes.
"In former years when cotton was king, Cotton Row was the most popular place in town. Warehouses overflowed; and the streets where they were located were almost [?] because the excess had to be placed on the sidewalk. There was always a great deal of excitement and the streets were fairly alive with samplers, weighers, and markers. Business was booming and the surrounding territory had the appearance of an ant bed, where the ants were hurrying back and forth getting their food stored away for the winter.
"The cotton exchange building at that time was perhaps the busiest place in town. It was always crowded. Now we miss the familiar rhythmic chanting of the cotton men on the streets.
Page 5
They indicated the brands on the bales by calling out: 'Betty, Dora, Emma, Molly, etc.' The first letters of the names indicated the brand but they used the whole names to avoid errors caused by the similarity of sound, say for instance in 'B' and 'd'. You can readily see there was no shadow of a doubt when they called out, 'Betty' and 'dora.'"
"Didn't the men who worked with the cotton wear long dusters over their suits?" I asked.
"Yes." He replied. "This was necessary in order to protect their clothes from the lint of the cotton and jute bagging, and from the ink they used for marking.
"Cotton people really made money in those good old times!" He exclaimed. "But when all's said and done we are making a living and things could be worse.
"This talk with you has recalled many things to my mind, some of them events that used to be part and pareel of Augusta's community life. Chief among these were the old fire parades, the street carnivals, and the cotton parades.
"The remains of the throns upon which old King Cotton ant in the parade is still in our sample room. In those days not only cotton but Cotton Row was the life of the town.
"The public could always call upon the cotton people for cooperation and also for generous donations whenever they were needed. At that time almost as many people visited the cotton factor's office as now frequent the banks. Everybody knew everybody
Page 6
else. One could walk into any crowd and feel that he was not only known but welcome.
"By the way, wouldn't you like to see the old throne that took such a prominent part in the old cotton parades?" Mr. Black asked.
"I can't think of anything that would give me more pleasure." I replied promptly. "And I should like to hear more of the cotton parade."
We continued to talk as we strolled slowly toward the sample room.
"Who portrayed King Cotton and when did the parade take place?" I wanted to know.
"Well, it was away back some fifty odd years ago, I guess." He said thoughtfully. "And the King was a fine old man, whom we knew as Uncle Josh! He passed into the Great Beyond many years ago.
"The parade was always held at night on Broad Street. The floats were decorated farm wagons, delivery wagons, and other vehicles. They were all loaded with cotton and were lighted with lanterns that burned coal oil."
By this time we had arrived at the sample room where the old [?] was preserved. The thick pieces of pine timber from which it is made have become rough and dirty. The back is about three-and-a-half feet high and is fashioned of two twelve inch boards.
Page 7
In its [?] days the old throne was covered with lint cotton, and cotton in the bolls furnished the frills. Practically all of the one-time decoration has disappeared; one arm is lost, and the bottom is gone.
We were both lost in memory for a few moments, for I, too, have spent many years in Augusta. Mr. Black was the first to break the silence.
"All of these things I have told you today would mean absolutely nothing to the young people of this generation. To them they would be purely the ramblings of an old man. However, I believe there are quite a number of the older ones who would recall them as fond recollections. The day of the minuet and waltz have passed and the rhumba and 'sans-Susy' have replaced them. The motto seems to have become - On with the dance; drink and be merry and let joy be unrefined.
He concluded rather sadly: "And thus have the prosperous days of Cotton Row passed into history. It is now like 'the calm after the storm.'"
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 10 of 73
[A Day in a Store]
Continuity Life history
January 24, 1939
Southern Department Store
Cor. Broad & Jackson Sts.
Athens, Georgia
(Manager - Abe Link
Clerks: Mrs. Maud Elliott
Mrs. B. F. McEntire,
Mr. Mell McCurrdy)
Grace McCune
A DAY IN A STORE
It was in a cold drizzling rain that I made my visit to a very popular department store. It was such a disagreeable day, that few people would get out unless it was necessary for work or business, and thinking this would be a good day to get a story, I went early.
As I opened the door, I was hailed by them all, wanting to know how I ever got out of a nice warm office to come down there on such a day. I told them, the same thing that brought them out was the cause of my getting out also. They were ordering coca colas and I was invited to join them. As we were finishing our drinks, Mr. Goldberg came in and wanted to know why we picked such a cold day for cold drinks.
The store is heated by a large circulating heater in the center of the first floor. They were all around the heater waiting for the store to get warmer before they started their work of dusting counters and straightening stock. They were all talking about their different work.
One clerk has the dry goods department which is on the first floor; a man is the one that has charge of the shoes and mens clothing which is also on the first floor; another
Page 2
clerk is saleslady in the ladies ready to wear and millinery department. This is located in a balcony that covers half of the first floor.
As they went about their work, Mr. Goldberg said, "You know that this building is one of the oldest brick buildings in Athens, and was built when Broad St. was the main street in town. It is three stories: our department store has the first floor, the Joel Brothers, Jake a lawyer and Charles, have their offices on the second floor. On the third floor is an overall and work shirt plant. This plant was owned by the Joel brothers, but they have sold it to another company.
"It was in this building that Michael Brothers first started in business and I think their home at that time was down on Oconee St; next Louis Morris had a dry goods store here for some years, and then it was bought by old man Abe Joel; he is dead now but the building is still owned by his sons.
"Joels were in business here for years, until the old man's health got bad and he sold out his store to my father-in-law. He has also passed away. The Joel boys then opened up the overall plant on the third floor, and run it up until last year when they sold out to another company.
"We moved to Athens when I was about nine and I have been here since that time. I went to school here, graduated from the University of Georgia. I worked for my dady's store, here on Broad St. also while I was going to school. Those were great days, the boys don't hit it as hard now as we did then.
I remember one night when the freshmen were having a banquet,
Page 3
the sophomore's were tryin g to prevent the freshmen from attending. I was carried out below Princeton and tied out on the river bank to a tree. They told me that they would come back for me after the banquet was over, but if I should by any means be able to get away from the tree, I would be allowed to attend without any more trouble from then, and they left me there.
"It was getting night and I couldn't work those ropes loose finally I heard an old man over on the hill. He had been ploughing and was hollering at his mule, and that old gee-haw whoa mule, gee-haw sure sounded good to me and thinking he would help me I started yelling as loud as I could, he heard me and came to see what was the trouble. I begged him to untie me. He wanted to know what I would give him. I promised him a new pair of shoes if he would come to dad's store the next day. He cut the rope and I lit out for home.
"Yes, I had to walk, but who minded that if we could out do the sophomores. And I just knew I could get in now and they would not bo r ther me any more that night. I went home bathered and dressed in my tuxedo, even had the high top silk hat. I was feeling great, but it didn't last.
"I went strutting along head high in the air. As I reached the old Imperial Hotel, where the banquet was being held, the sophomores were all lined up. As they saw me, they wanted to know how in the hell I got away. I pulled off the high top hat and made a most polite bow to them. But, oh, boy, I paid for that. For inspite of that, gentlemens agreement that when a freshman managed to work out of any place they put him he was free to go where he wanted to. They threw rotten eggs all over
Page 4
clothes and especially my nice high top hat. I was ruined. They wouldn't let me inside with all those rotten eggs on me. I finally managed by the help of one of my friends to get out of my clothes and he got up a couple of aprons and tied around me. That is how I attended the banquet, but at that some of them were worse off than I was."
"At this time an old negro woman came in wanting to see the manager. He asked her what he could for for her. She said, "now just look rite right hyar at dis pair of shoes, dey done busted plum out and I jist got 'em Saddy nite." Looking over the pair of felt house slippers, he said, "Aunty didn't you get them a little too small?" The answer came right back, "I didn't git 'em a'tall my gal done buyed 'em fer me." Mr. Goldberg laughed and told the shoe [salesman?] to give her a new pair of house shoes. The old aunty thanked him and said, "I done tole 'em dat you would make 'em good.
Two Negro men came in wanting to see some overall jumpers. The clerk carried them to the back of the store where the overalls were and they first [wanted?] to see some dat had linin' in 'em. But after they had looked at everyone of them, they wanted to see some of dem dat warn't lined a'tall. They were shown these and told the prices of both. After examining both kinds for sometime they decided the sizes won't right and they would look around sommers else.
As they departed, the clerk said, "That is what clerks get all through the day. Why sometimes meet I them at the door and ask if I can help them and they will walk all over the
Page 5
store and out again, without even answering me at all. Then sometimes they will walk around and then finally ask if we have a rest room. We have all kinds of experiences in our work, but we also have some very nice customers, and most of them are nice. And it is a pleasure to wait on them.
A lady woman came in looking for a hand bag to match a suit. The clerk helped make the selection, also showing gloves to match the bag. The customer thanked her, as she paid for them, saying you have been so nice to take up so much time with me. After selling a man some children's socks, a lady woman a child's sweater and cloth to another customer, she came back to answer the telephone. It was someone that wanted some of them to go out on the street to see if they couldn't find a dray, and be sure and get one that had a good horse and wagon.
I asked if they had many calls like that and she said, "Why all the time. When it is not bad weather there are usually drays and trucks both around on Jackson St. and some people think we have time to hunt up a dray anytime they want one.
A small well dressed man came in the store and asked for Mr. Goldbert, who introduced himself as Mr. Jacobson. He said he was from Florida and on his way to Hot Springs at his doctor's suggestion, and needed some help to get there. Mr. Goldberg asked him how long he had been sick. He said, "for sometime. I am not accustomed to asking for help, but I spent everything I had trying to get well. I have always donated highly to our society for the help of Jews, and it is embrassing now to have to ask for help myself. But I just can't stay here in this weather for it will put me right back in bed. Mr.
Page 6
Goldberg asked if he had been to the president of their society here. He said yes and that he gave him a place to stay the night before, but that was all he could do for him. He then called Mrs. Jake Joel, the president of the sisterhood. She refused to do anything at all for him. He asked her if he should get sick here, who should he refer to her or the Rabbi. He thanked her very polite, placed the telephone back on the desk and said, "I have never had anyone to talk to me that way before. Why she said that if I should get sick to call on the city that they were supposed to take care of folks like me. Well, when I had plenty of money I had plenty of friends. Asking who the rabbi was and where he lived he went out.
A saleman came in to see the manager, said he had his new samples of ladies underwear and a lovely line of ladies blouses both wash and silk, sport and for dress wear in all the new shades that went with the new spring suits. Mr. Goldberg asked the clerks if there was anything in this line that they needed. But they said that they had already placed their orders. He wanted to know why he was never able to land an order from them. They said well, you are always too late.
He said business wasn't as good with him this trip, and that he didn't think anyone made any money last year, and were lucky to break even. Mr. Goldberg told him that the fall of the year was when he did his best business for his largest buyer were farmers, but that it was very disappointing last fall. The farmers had short crops did not make anything, depended [too?] much on their cotton and lost on that. And when the farmers
Page 7
fail I lose also as they do not have the money to spend.
Two colored men came in wanted to see some mens underwear. The clerk asked if he wanted the union suits, hesitating, one of them said, "Yas'ser dats it." They were shown a heavy weight which was too heavy, the light weight was too light "fer wuk." Nothing was just right and they left to look around and if us don't find 'em den us'll sho be back.
A girl came in and asked to see an umbrella. Mr. Goldberg waited on her as the others were busy. She asked for an oil skin, but when he showed those she wanted a cellophane one. After looking at these, also the cloth ones she finally decided on the oil skin. Then she wanted to know if he had any rubber overshoes. He got out the old time overshoes and she said could she try them on over her wet oxfords, or if she would have to take her shoes off. He told her that he could not fit them on her feet for then they wouldn't fit the shoes. After working to get them on over the wet shoes, she said she would take the umbrealla and come back later for the overshoes, and be sure and put them aside for her. As she went out, he told the clerk that if she came back to give her the 8 1/2 for she would never get the size 8 on her feet. And laugh this off. She also wanted to know if she just wore the overshoes without the shoes would they look any smaller.
Two Negro girls came in the door. They were met by the clerk. She asked if she could help them. They just walked by her, went up to the ready to wear department. The clerk up
Page 8
there met them at the top of the steps with the same polite offer to help them. They walked by her looked at hats, pulled out dress racks, looked at them, then walked out of the store without speaking at all.
The clerk downstairs finished waiting on some more customers, and said it was time for her to go to lunch. As she started out the door, she was met by the husband of one of her old customers. His wife wanted some cloth matched and no one could do it but her so she came back and waited on him and then she went on for lunch.
"I went up to the ready to wear department. Two Negro women were looking at a child's wash dress. One said it would take one size, but the other insisted on a smaller size. [3/4?] Finally arguing they bought the dress, then wanted to see the hats. The clerk was very considerate and showed the new hats which had just come and explained the different styles and colors, one of them picked up a small roll brim hat and said, "ain't dis pretty, I sho does lak it, and I sho am coming back and git dis very hat.
The clerk asked if they wouldn't like to see some of the new spring dresses and especially the new suits. One of the women opened up a box she had and showed a new suit that she had just bought for $6.95 and wanted to know if their suits were as nice as the one she had just bought. Assuring the woman that she had suits just that nice, the other then said she was coming back to dis store for her suit. As they went out, the clerk said it is all in a day's work.
Page 9
"My motto is to do unto others as I would like to have them do for me, and I don't try to sell anyone else something that I would not want myself. I try to treat everyone fair in every way, and I do appreciate my customers, and I have built up a good business with them. Most of them are nice and considerate; of course we have some that are trying. But I can wait on them for hours and know that they are not going to buy.
"Only the other day, I sold a woman a coat. It was a hard sale, as she did not know just what she wanted, but after I had put it in the box and handed it to her, she said "I just reckon as how I won't take it. It took another good hour to sell her the coat all over again.
"And then I had another customer that I showed everything in this department and everything I showed her she said 'Ma has got one just like it, and very often these young flappers come in and try on dresses and hats just to have a place to smoke and rest, but they are usually very nice.
"One day a lady came and wanted to see my very latest dresses. After trying them all on and examining them to see how they were made she said I thank you very much. I am a dress maker and I just wanted to see how the new styles looked. It will give me new ideas in my work.
"Some people that clerks have an easy job, but they don't realize that we have to keep this stock in place and that it has to be brushed and dusted every day, and it takes hours to get it fixed back after a busy day. Then every season things have to be packed away to make room for the new things and I
Page 10
wonder every year as I pack and put away things if I will be here next year to unpack them. I have worked on this same block for 27 years. I asked her to tell me about it. She laughed and said, "Well, I will tell you what I can. I was young when I went to work right in this same store for Mr. Abe Joel. I had never worked before and I was started in at five dollars a week, but that was big money to me. I worked two weeks, then I was called to the office. I just knew I had done something wrong and my knees were shaking so I could hardly walk. But when I got there, they told me that I had tried hard to learn, and they were satisfied with my work, and they were raising my salary to ten dollars a week.
"We [worked?] hard, but business was good then and didn't have so much competition.' Farmers would come in to buy and they bought for the whole family and the bills amounted to something. We always got a bonus check at Christmas for Mr. Joel and the boys gave us a piece of gold money.
She had to stop and wait on some customers and I looked around her department. One side was filled with dress racks full of dresses and in the center of the balcony were seveal large round dress racks, one of house dresses at 98�, one rack at $1.98, one at $3.95. All dresses run from 98� to $7.95. Suits at different prices, popular prices in tailored suits were $9.90. Coats light and heavy weight at different prices, rain coats $1.98 to $2.98. Children dresses from 49� up.
The other side was hats, all sizes, colors and shapes. On a table in the center floor was displayed a nice line of hats that were priced at 98�. The better hats were in show
Page 11
cases and in the hat shelves. A large glass case also held blouses, gloves, and hand bags, sport shirts and uniforms. These were all priced from 98� $1.98 and some a little higher.
The sewing room and fitting room were in the back and in the fitting room was a table, chair and a long mirrow mirror. The sewing room had a long sewing table with an electric machine, a ironing board and electric iron, a long table with a mirrow mirror over it and was heated by a small heater. There was also a large full length mirrow out in the main part of the balcony for trying hats and dresses.
"At one side was the cashier's stand, where the baskets came from all parts of the store as the cashier also wraped the packages. This cashier stand is used only in the busy season as they had a register and wrapping counter on the first floor.
As the clerk finished with her customers, she came back to me, and said, "Did you know that I have had two weddings right here in my balcony, but that was when I was working for Mr. Joel. I dressed both the brides. The first couple was from the country and the bride came in and bought her outfit, from underwear to shoes and hat. We dressed her in the fitting room and they called a Justice of Peace to marry them. I / never laughed so much in my life, for he asked the groom if he would take the bride and feed her on cornbread and collars collards. Of crouse course all the clerks as well as our other customers were watching and listening and I thought they would laugh themselves to death when the justice of Peace asked that question. It was the only wedding I ever saw like that.
Page 12
"The next wedding we had was really a nice wedding. It was a couple from Madison County. We dressed that bride also. They had some of their friends with them and we called Preacher Elliott to marry them, and it was quite different from the first one.
Mr. Joel could just think of everything and did things so different from anyone else. One year business was bad. Farmers had a bad year and couldn't get anything for their cotton and couldn't pay up their bills. Mr. Joel bought a bale of cotton and put it out in front with a big sign on it saying, 'we will buy your cotton at ten cents a pound.'
He would buy the farmers cotton from them and we sure did do business that fall for they all traded with him, payed their bills with the cotton they couldn't sell and in this way we did a good business kept our old customers and made many new ones.'
"When the war came, his two oldest sons were just the age to go. They volunteered. We all hated to see them go, and we knew just how it hurt Mr. Joel, but he did not want his boys to be slackers. We just tried that year to see how hard we could work. Business was good everywhere then and we sure got our part, and at Christmas I received a bonus check for $300. with merry Christmas on it. He was a good man to work for, and he appreciated what his clerks did for him. I never had any trouble with him but one time. I came in one morning a few minutes late, and several customers were waiting for me. The boss gave me a dirty look and also a raking over before my customers.
Page 13
That made me mad. I went ahead with my customers and after they were gone, I went back to our dressing room, got my coat, and hat went by the office and told them that I was quitting, as didn't intend to be treated any such a way before my customers and I walked out. Mr. Joel called me, but I didn't stop.
"I had just reached my home when two of the boys got there. They talked to me and begged me to come back. They told me what was wrong with their dad. One of the banks had closed that morning, he had several thousand dollars in the bank. He was worried and didn't realize that he was so cross. I stayed at home a week and went back and I never had any more trouble with him. I worked for him as long as he was in business. In fact, I worked for them fourteen years and ten months.
"After he went out of business I worked for another store in this same block until 1932, and then I came back here to work for Mr. Goldberg, but it is time for my lunch hour now, will you have lunch with me? I thanked her and told her I would get me a sandwich later as I wanted to talk to the other clerks while they were not busy.
As I went back to the first floor, two ladies came in the front door. The clerk met them, but they had just come in to warm and rest awhile. She invited them back to the fire, and placing chairs for them, went back to wait on another customer. I listened to them talk while they rested. One said she 'just had to come to town, and see 'bout gettin' something to fix fer her children's school lunch. You know I has three in school and they has got to the place where they think they is too good to take jelly and butter and bread or for that matter they
Page 14
didn't want eggs no pre-serves neither. Just thinks they has to have fruits, sich as apples, oranges, and banannas, and why if I didn't just set my foot down, they wouldn't take a thing 'cept candy.
"My children can eat really more than most grown folks, 'cause they ain't finky bout what they eat at home. It is just what they takes for lunch.
The other lady had come plum to town to git her radio fixed. When they told me that it would take all of two hours work to git it fixed, I decided to come down here to wait. I knowed they would n't mind, they all'ers have such good fires and are so nice to us when we wants to warm and rest. Why sometimes folks eats dinner right here, when they has to [be?] in town all day. Tain't no wonder that folks likes to trade here, and I try to do all my trading here. They are always nice. I bring them eggs most every time I come and they always buy them and garden stuff too, but I didn't have any today. My children all like eggs and they come in handy in fixing up their lunches. But they told me to be sure and bring back the radio and we all likes to listen to it at night when we are through work, but I'm glad they likes it for it keep them from galivanting 'round so much at night.
They then got to discussing the Bible, said folks didn't read it right and anyway no one understood it, and after arguing this way and that way, they started out, one to see if by any chance her radio was fixed sooner than they said for you wouldn't always tell 'bout 'em, and the other one to see if the boys won't ready to go home and she still had to hunt for something else to help in lunches and she just had to be home by night.
Page 15
The clerk came back to the fire then, and said, "It has been a good day for sweaters for it is really cold outside, but I will tell you a joke on the boss. Mr. Goldberg had just come in and he said, "now look here, if these folks are going to talk about the boss just let me talk first, and tell you that my clerks are all so much older than I am that they have no respect for me and just talk to me any old way.
This brought a protest as well as a lugh laugh and very friendly argument between the boss and clerks, one of them said, "just write that our boss was one of the best pitchers in soft baseball here for years, until father time stopped him and now he plays golf. Mr. Goldberg laughed and said they will ruin me yet. Better let her tell her joke; for I know I will have to pay for it.
The clerk said, "Well, last week a lady came in to buy a sweater for another woman said he wanted a 38. As the one she was buying for was larger than she was and she didn't want anything except a dark blue, I know my stock pretty well and I knew that sweaters run small to the size. The lady that was buying couldn't have worn less than a 42. I gave her a 46 and told her that if it didn't fit I would exchange it or give her the money back. After she had gone, Mr. Goldberg bet two coca colas to one that she would bring it back for it would be too large, and yesterday the lady came back. He asked her how the sweater was, and she said, "it was just a perfect fit and the lady was well pleased.
Page 16
I asked if the boss paid off. He answered before she could, said no, but he was going to for if they ever got anything on him he never heard the last of it, but after all they are pretty good sports and we have worked together so long that we don't mind each other.
"We have extra help on Saturdays and in the fall we have several extra ones on the force. These long dull days just whips us all down. They are worse than being busy. We have a good trade among the farmers, but last fall was disappointing. Farmers made short crops, depended on their cotton too much and the boll weevil ruined most all of that, and when the farmers fail then we all lose too.
Business was not so good last year, but we are expecting and looking forward to a better business this year, and I hope we will not be disappointed. We open at eight in the morning and close at six. Except on Saturday nights, when we stay open late for the benefit of our customers that have to work also. Of course we come in contact with all classes and kinds of people. Most of them are nice but we do run across many amusing things in our work. In the fall rush we have a young boy from the university to work with us. He is a fine boy and well liked by all in the store, but we get a good many laughs on him. Especially one time last fall. A lady from the country came in to get a pair of shoes. This boy was waiting on her and he is very nice to his customers. He had tried on several pair, when all at once she wanted to know if he was a married man. He hardly knew how to answer, but told her that he was not married. She refused to let him finish waiting on her, said
Page 17
she was a married woman herself and she didn't want no young upstart fitting shoes on her feet. And if there won't no married men that could try on her shoes she would go sommers else. An older clerk was called and after assuming her that he was married and had a large family, she let him fit her shoes, and bought them, but she won't goin' to let no young upstart try shoes on her feet.
"You get a good many amusing experiences in all parts of the store, but most of all in the shoe department and the ready-to-wear. Ladies at least nine out of ten will want shoes that are too small and can't understand why they are not comfortable. And the colored folks are very amusing, and will try their best to get on a shoe that is several sizes too small, so dat dey won't look so pow'ful big. They are the same about dresses and coats, and you know it pays to watch them too when they come in a store in crowds for they can pick up thinks things and you looking at them. And as Mr. Goldberg went out for his lunch, he told them he would be late and might not be back at all, for he had an engagment and it was such a bad day they probably wouldn't be busy enough to need him and turning to me said don't let these folks tell you too much on me.
Fixing up the fire, the clerk said, "I am going to rest while I am not busy. I asked her to tell me something about her department. "Well, when some of them come in, they know what they want again they don't, and then my tables and counters will look like a cyclone has been through, but I don't mind for I do like to please my customers, and when they
Page 18
come back and call for me, then I feel like I have pleased them.
I have built up a good trade and I have customers that will not let anyone wait on them except me. They will call for me and wait until I can get to them. I find most of them nice, but have had some to tell me, after showing everything on the tables, shelves as well as the show case that they didn't want to buy, but just wanted to look and that was what we was here / for, to show them. And that clerks didn't have any business getting mad when folks wanted to look.
"It is really in the fall that we are real busy in my department, for I have everything that one could ask for at least I feel that way until someone comes in and calls for the very thing I am out of. I have a time with the new help sometimes for some of them have never worked in a store before and they have to be shown everything and the prices. Last year one of the new girls was selling some cloth that was marked 19� on the bolt and the girl wanted to know if that meant 19� a yard, or was it 19� a bolt. But things like that makes me think of when I first started out to work. I asked her to tell me about that. I [went?] to work when I was about fifteen for Max Joseph and Co. as a cashier for eight dollars a month. They had two stores both was on Clayton Street, but one was where Kress's is now, and the other one was where the Michael Building is. I had never worked before and I was just as green as any one ever could be. Didn't know a thing about a store. I did not have any trouble in learning to make my change, but the telephone had me. I had never tried to use one, and didn't know how and I would just let it ring until someone else answered it. But day it started to
Page 19
ringing, I just let it ring until someone told me to answer that telephone.
"I didn't know what to do, I had seen the others pick up the receiver and say hello so I tried that. And I never heard such a noise in my life. It was a Jew woman talking, and I just couldn't understand a word, so I just put the receiver back on the telephone. And immediately it started rining again. I let it ring until some of the others finally answered it, and it was the boss's wife. She wanted to know who that [D?] fool was in the office that didn't know how to answer the telephone. She came in the office later and asked me why I hung up on her when she was trying to get her husband. I just had to tell her the truth, that I didn't know how to talk over one. She looked at me hard decided I was telling the truth and she showed me how to talk over a telephone, but they were all good to me and I worked for them until I married.
"I was very small and thin then, and Uncle King as we call called him, but his name was King Marks, was awfully good to me. He was an old bachelor and was Mrs. Joseph's brother. He was sick all the time and wouldn't eat anything hardly. They would fix everything they could get to try to get him to eat. He would fix it nice and tell them he would [eat?] it at the store. And he would bring it to me, he said I needed more, because I just brought sandwiches for my lunch, but I did not know that he thought I wasn't getting enough to eat, and I really enjoyed those good things.
He would bring turkey, chicken, goose, cakes and pies, in
Page 20
fact they fixed up everything for him to eat, and I got the most of it, and I didn't know that he was suppose to be eating it all.
"He had a hobby of saving gold money and every bit that I got in the register, he would take it out and replace it with paper money. His folks all knew that he was saving this gold money, but when he died they could not find any of it. They sent for me to come to the house, said they knew he liked me, and thought that he might have told where he put his gold money. But I didn't know and I couldn't help them. But I didn't know and I couldn't help them. I never heard any more about it and I guess they found it, but it was right at the time I married and quit work. I didn't work any more for five years; and then my husband died leaving me with two little girls to raise. I went back to work, and it was right here in this same building for Mr. Joel as cashier at twenty five dollars a week. They were good people to work for and when in the busy season we did not have time to get out for lunch they asked us which we had rather do, have three dollars a week extra to buy lunch or let them have our lunch fixed at their home with theirs.
"We decided we had rather have them fix lunches, and we sure didn't make a mistake. For our lunches were fixed on a large plate for each one, and we had just what they did, and it was the best that could be fixed, and was cooked good.
"I enjoyed working for them. We worked hard for he really did a big business. I asked if she was there when they had the weddings. She laughed and said, "I sure was and I never laughed
Page 21
as much in my life as I did when the old Justice of Peace asked the groom if he would feed the bride on cornbread and collards. But the other wedding was a very nice one.
"I worked for Mr. Joel until he went out of business. We sure did hate to see him do that, but we knew it was on account of his health. But he didn't forget his old clerks then, but very often came by to see us. I never did any kind of work in a store except as a cashier until I came to work for Mr. Goldberg, and he asked me to try working on the floor. It was hard and I thought I would never get use to it, but now I don't want to change. I like it so much better. I have so many nice customers, and I appreciate them too. I am always pleased when one comes in and calls for me.
"Why only last Sunday in our church as we were coming out I noticed an old man standing off to his self. His clothes were old, but he was very neat and so clean looking. I did not know his name, but I did remember that I had waited on him in the store. So I made my way across to him, shook hands with him and told him how glad I was to see him at our church. He was very happy that someone had come to seek to him. As we talked a few minutes, he looked up at me with a smile and said, 'Ain't you one the clerks that work down at Mr. Goldberg's store. So you see I am pretty well known. But I do try to treat all my customers right, and it is a pleasure to wait on them.
Business is not what it used to be. Of course we do not make what we did years ago and those old bonus checks are gone. I make just about half what I did, and have a hard time at it.
Page 22
But in spite of the fact that I will soon be fifty-four I am not yet willing to give up my work. I like it too well.
A policeman on that beat came in then to warm, and said it was getting much colder on the outside, and that the wind was blowing so hard. The door opened again, a lady asked if Miss Sarah was there, as Miss Sarah went to meet her, she said she wanted to see some children's sweaters. After waiting on her customer, she came back to the fire, and said she wanted to go to the show that night. I asked if she enjoyed shows. She said yes, I really do and I enjoy my church and our Sunday school as well as the social gatherings. I enjoy my friends also and like to visit them and have them visit me.
As we were talking the clerk from the ready-to-wear department came down to the fire and they told me of one of their sales on Saturday night. A Negro man and woman came in to buy a dress. When the woman went in the fitting room to try on a dress, she left her purse on the counter, telling the man to watch it. She didn't like the first dress and the clerk came out to get another one. As she came out the Negro man went in. Waiting at the door for the man to come out, she heard to following conversation between the Negroes. What you done wid dat pocket book (woman) I done tole you to get it when I came in her (Man) didn't nuther woman youse better git dat pocket book and when youse do, just give me my money dat I done wuked fer 'cause if you ain't got no better sense dan leavin' it layin' 'round fer somebody to pick up youse sho haint gwine to tote my money. The woman came out in a hurry found her pocket book
Page 23
but didn't want him to take the money. A argument followed and the man refused to buy the dress, but about an hour later they came back and bought the dress also a hat. But the man was carrying the money.
I asked if they did a credit business. She said, "No, but we have our lay-away plan. People can [select?] what they want, until it is paid for. They are supposed to make regular payments but when they miss several payments without letting us know why, then it goes back in stock, but Mr. Goldbert Goldberg is very nice about that, for he will write them and ask what they want him to do, before he puts it back in stock.
"We do our alterations free of charge in busy season and on Saturday we have a tailor to do this work here at the store, but through the week we send it to tailor shop for we do not have enough alterations to keep one during the week.
"I have a girl on Saturday to help me. Business is not what it used to be and while I don't make the salary I used to, I think of when I was glad to work for five dollars a week to learn, and now we can't get one for less than two dollars a day, but it takes more to live on now than it did then. It will soon be closing time and I had better be getting my stock covered up, and as they all went about getting their stock covered for the night the boss came. He said, "Well, did they tell everything they knew on their boss. I told him they were very nice about it and he really had some fine clerks. His [reply?] was, "I know that, and I know when I leave them in charge that my work goes on just as well as when I am here. We have enjoyed having you with us for the day and come back to see us again."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 11 of 73
[De Trubles I's Seen]
DE TROUBLES I's SEEN
Written By:
Mrs. Ina B. Hawkes
Research Field Worker
Georgia Writer's Project
Athens -
Edited By:
Mrs. Maggie B. Freeman
Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens -
WPA Area 6
November 2, 1939.
October 19, 1939
Lucille Jackson (Negro)
260 Strong Street
Athens, Georgia
I. B. Hawkes DE TROUBLES I's SEEN
I went out one morning to get a Negro woman to do some washing for me. I wanted a certain [Negroes?] who had formerly worked for my mother, so I went to the address where she used to live. Lil was at home.
She lived on a steep, rocky street in a very dilapidated house, and in the side yard smoke was rising from the fire around the wash pot.
"Goodness me, Miss, I sho' is glad to see you. I ain't seen you in so long! Come on in, chile. Ain't you cold? I has a good fire inside."
Lil offered me the most comfortable chair in the house. "Sit down here, Miss," she said, "I wants to talk to you a while."
"I really haven't much time," I said, "but I do want you to do some washing for me this week, will you?"
"Why, yes, chile, you knows I'll do anything for you, but fust let's talk about old times. You know, I'se been kinder worried and seen a lot since I worked for you. I sho' was sorry you let me go, but does you remember the fust time I ever saw you, chile?"
"I think I do," I said, "but you tell me."
"Well, I seen you comin' 'cross the hill one evening with a big basket, I was wonderin' if you was comin' to my house and sho' 'nuff you walked up to me and said, 'Here, Lil, this is something my mother sent you and your babies. She said for you to feed them and eat some yourself, that she was tired of hearing them babies cry.' Then, next day I washed them dishes and went to yo' ma an' worked all that week for your ma, 'cause she sho' was
Page 2
good to me - and you too. Honey, befo' she died. Well, course, it is like this; we lose track o' people - lak us did. I sho' is had a hard time too. I got jobs anywhere I could, serving as scrubwoman, washwoman, or maid, earning no certain amount, an' had five chilluns 'fo I stopped. My husband, Sam, was a smart man and he was good to me a long time, but as my chilluns got older he got to where he stopped giving us money. You know, I couldn't feed five chilluns on a little fifty cent a week washin'. Two dollars a month for washin' don't buy much, Miss, and I had to pay $1.50 a month house rent on top of dat.
"Sam stayed on at home wif us. You remember how things was sometimes. You give us some meat and corn meal to help us out some, jus' like yo' ma did. Miss, I stood that treatment long as I could then I jus' got me a man named Ike to help me out wif my chilluns. Well, Ike did help me, but we got to drinkin' a lot together. That didn't do; we took money the chilluns needed and so the fust thing I knowed we was fightin'. Then Sam got to stayin' out more and more and he got him a woman too. Well, it was all right for me to have a man, I thought, but when he got that woman I flew up and got a [devorse?]. My chilluns didn't like that so such, but I jus' went on livin' with Ike then, but I was worried about Sam. I stayed drunk all the time till Ike and me got worser and worser. Well, I tell yo' this much I know I jus' had to do somethin'. Well, I kinder think God took a hand in my affairs about then; my ma and two of my sisters got sick. Well, I went to see them every two weeks. Sam come 'round more then and helped me some wif the chilluns. My po' ma died and my sisters and brothers wouldn't help me with the expenses. Even my only aunt had insurance on her, but would not
Page 3
give me a cent to bury her. I'm still paying on that funeral. My sister died after several months and the county had to pay that; I couldn't.
"My oldest daughter got married, too, about then and went to Atlanta to live. Honey, she married a real man! He don't mistreat her one bit. Up to now they has got two chilluns. One little boy died, but she has got two left. She helped me a lot after she married and let one of the chilluns come to see her and stay so I wouldn't have such a hard time suppo'tin' them that stayed with me. She put Joe in school there and he got some learning.
"Dis man Ike I took up wif was still hangin' 'round all dis time. Sam, he didn't know much 'bout him, but I knowed he was wonderin' all this time where I was gettin' help.
"The other chilluns was growin' up now and Ruth, next to the oldest girl, got sick, so I had to stay at home after that and wash and iron. I could not leave home to work out any. Sam begin to go out again with this woman of his. I sho' did hate it too, 'cause I loves that nigger til' dis day. My man Ike then begin to help me a little more 'cause Ruth was getting worse, and only one of the boys was big 'nuff to help me at all, and he worked at a small groc'ry store. He didn't make much and half the time he took up all he made by Saturday night in groceries an' we couldn't draw a cent. Well, Sam got to comin' home drunk and bustin' down the doors an' ravin' an' pitchin' all night. Sometimes he would run Ruth's fever up so high til' I would have to hold her on the bed.
"One day Sam come in drunk and was cussin' me 'bout Ike. I told him he didn't have no business 'round here at all; I paid house rent and wanted
Page 4
him to git out, but he would not do it. About this time Sam lost his job and I don't know where he went for three months. Me and Ike, thought, made it fine for a while. We bought us some new things as you see.
"One day my oldest boy that was workin' come home. Ike was in the other room talking to him very loud and I wondered what in the world was the matter. Well, I went in and ike was demanding my boy to bring home all his pay that night and Frank, my boy, was tryin' to tell him that he had brought groceries home for us to eat and he couldn't bring any money home. Ike jumped on Frank and I thought he would kill him befo' I could stop him. I quit Ike then and took in all the washin' I could git. I had four washings that brought me $4.00 a week. At night I would be so tired til' I could not sleep. I thought Ike was comin' back to take my furniture 'way from me every day, but I see now he was waitin' to work his way back in.
"I got in with another man one day 'bout a month after I quit Ike. His name was Harry, but, Honey, I could not stand him. He come in one day and said he heard I had another man on the string and he was goin' to kill me. Of course I did not think harry meant it, but I want you to know he didn't do a thing but draw a knife on me and cut my throat. I got a scar on my throat that never will go 'way. Sam got home that night from Tennessee and I was in bed. He said, 'Gal, what ails you?' I told him. Lawd chile, that nigger went out of this door and went to look for Harry. Sam found him all right and cut harry's insides out; I mean all of them. Well, Sam left for a while, but they caught him and turned him loose.
"Ruth got well and went out and got married, I guess. I never did see
Page 5
no man though, but she sho' had this baby. She was sick all time after this baby come, finally I had a doctor with her and he said she had a 'leakage of the heart' and would not live long. I found out later that someone gave her some whiskey when she was a baby. That's what caused her to be sickly all her life. Well, Ruth died with this awful disease. Chile, she swelled up till she liked to bu'sted 'fo she died.
"By this time my oldest boy had left home. He said he just could not stand things like that no longer. My next boy, his name is John, got a job on a beer truck helpin' out.
"Well, I jus' didn't know what to do 'cause 'bout this time all the men had left me and this grandchild had to have milk. I could not go out anywhere and leave her. I didn't dream about Ike, that had the trouble with Frank, comin' back. But, bless your soul, one day Ike come walkin' up behind me while I was washin'.
"You know, after all that happened between the family, Ike had done a lot for me and he sho' did look good, too! But I was going to play off stubbon and make out like I was still mad at him, but he said, "You jus' put that washin' aside for a while, gal. I's got somethin' to say to you'. Well, I put everything aside and we went in the house and sat down. Ike begin to tell me that he wanted to come home and he would be good to my chilluns and especially to the little baby girl of Ruth's. Ike had already bought things for the house to make it more comfortable, so I took him back and he has been with me now seven years, and I haven't seen Sam. My chilluns is all growing fast and is healthy, 'cause I was and iron so I can stay at
Page 6
home. Ike is smart and works hard and brings me money home every Saturday. He sho' has stuck to his promise to me. Come on, Miss, and let's look at the other part of the house. I jus' want you to see what people can do when they want to.
"Oh, yes", she said, while getting up, "we still has our little parties sometimes, but not rough ones like we use to, 'cause we found out it won't do."
We walked into the next room which was a bedroom too. It had an iron bed with a pretty bright silk spread on it, lace curtains at the windows, a vanity dresser, and a small table with a lamp on it, a rocker, a straight chair, and a neat small grass rug on the floor. Then in the kitchen there was a small green and cream-colored range in one corner, a home-made cabinet and breakfast set against the wall, green curtains at the windows, and a worn rug on the floor.
"Now, I and Ike is paying down on dis little shack, which ain't so much to look at, but by stintin' ourself of the things we feels we is got to have, we is paid a nice little sum of money on dis place and soon we is going to own dis little old house and lot.
"Now you see, miss, I am proud I did stay with ike after all. The funny part of it is - Ike come from the same county I did."
"What county did you come from, Lil?" I asked.
We both come from Oglethorpe County. An' we was both farmers. My childhood days was very happy and Ike says his was, too. We didn't either one of us have much schooling, but we can write our names. Well, Miss, I will be over to git the clothes after while."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 12 of 73
[The Depression was a Republican Trick]
THE DEPRESSION WAS A REPUBLICAN TRICK
Written by: Mrs. Ada Redford
Augusta, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
District [7?]
July 17, [1940?].
Mr. Clifford C. Farr
833 Broad St.,
Augusta, Ga.
A. R.
THE DEPRESSION WAS A REPUBLICAN TRICK
The Skinner Clothing Company, located at 833 Broad Street, an old established business, is one of Augusta's few remaining home-owned stores. When I walked in Mr. Skinner was placing price tags on brilliantly colored sport suits, which are so popular this summer. He glanced up with a smile of recognition and remarked:
"Well, what do you think of the Republican presidential nominee?"
Absorbed in what he was doing, he hardly waited for my reply before he went on, "Personally, I never heard of that man before, but from the race he ran with Taft he is well-known in the Republican party, but he hasn't a chance. Roosevelt will be president for the next term whether they like it or not."
"Yes, I too, believe Roosevelt will run and be re-elected, but that is not what I came to talk about, Mr. skinner."
"Pardon me, I was so excited I forgot for the moment, what can I do for you?"
"How long have you been in business?"
"About twenty-six years. Why?"
"I want you to tell me of your business experiences and of the causes and effects of the depression."
"That's a large order, but I will tell you what I know. Where do we begin?"
Page 2
"First tell me where and when you were born. You don't mind, do you?"
"Oh, no! But I wasn't in business then."
"Of course you weren't, but I would like to know of your very early life, your boyhood days and, in fact, your whole build-up to the successful business man of today."
"That will take a lot of your time, as I will have to take care of the trade, but if you want it that bad I will do my best to give you the information you want or at least what I know."
"I will work at your convenience, Mr. Skinner."
"All right, I was born in McDuffie County near Thomson, Georgia, August 27, 1887, the first six children of George Fletcher Skinner and Julia Brannon Skinner. At the age of 15 I finished grammar school at Sardis, Georgia, and went to work as clerk in Appling's General Merchandise Store for $7.00 a month and board. Being keenly interested in advancement I decided to take a business course and after a few months I came to Augusta.
"Before I entered school I met a boy from home who was working at Lombard's Iron works. He was so enthusiastic and happy over the work he was doing, I gave up the idea of business school and thought I would try to be a machinest. My friend took me to the boss and after looking me over he gave me a job as apprentice. It wasn't long before I learned I didn't care for hot iron and realized I should have stuck to my original plan of taking a business course. The trouble with me was I wanted a pay day and once you get
Page 3
the yellow envelope on Saturday, you just can't give it up, even if it contains only a few dollars. I left Lombards and got a job as clerk with the J. B. White Company. Augusta's largest and leading store at that time. I was back in my own line of work and though I was only 17 years old, I sold more than any of the other clerks.
We had the range of the whole store and were not assigned to departments as they are today. I don't think I was a better salesman, I just know a lot of people. My boyhood days on the baseball teams of Columbia, McDuffie and Lincoln Counties were now paying dividends in business as well as affording as a lot of pleasure. My salary was only $5.00 a week, while the others were drawing $10.00. I know I was worth more and I asked the manager, Mr. Denton, (a Yankee) for a raise.
"'Why you are just a kid and haven't been here long enough to get a raise.'" He answered.
"I felt that I was entitled to as much as the other clerks and told him so, but he refused to pay me a penney more, so I quit.
"About that time Ben Jordan, of Grovetown, was elected superintendent of schools in Columbia County. Ben had a large store and had to have a man during the school term. I accepted his offer of $7.00 a week and board and worked until the schools closed. Then I worked at Norvel's Store for the same salary. I was still in my teens, and while I was satisfied and happy in my work, I realized there was no future for a clerk in a small town store, and I decided to come back to Augusta. It was then I got my first real job with
Page 4
the Augusta Aiken Railway Company at 12 cents an hour."
"What kind of work did you do?"
"I was an all round man. I know you remember when they had open streetcars?"
"Yes, I do."
"Well, my job in the summer was training men to operate open cars, then running to Lake View, Augusta's amusement park. Most of the men were medical students who worked during the summer to be able to pay their way through Medical College. I also had a side line. J. W. Creasy, a tailor, had a shop on this block and I sold uniforms to the man on commission and made on an average of $40.00 a month. With my salary from the Railway company my earnings for the month were around $80.00."
Just at this point a man wearing overalls came in and asked if his uniform was ready. Mr. Skinner told him it was, but that he would like for him to try on the coat. I noticed that it was a Salvation Army officer's uniform. When the man left I asked Mr. Skinner about him.
"Yes, he is an officer and a working one at that. The Salvation Army is doing a good work in our city; more than the general public and the churches are willing to give them credit for. Not that they want any praise. They are interested mostly in helping the forgotten men and woman."
"And you still sell uniforms?"
"Yes, I usually have a contract with some company and furnish
Page 5
uniforms for the policemen and firemen every year."
"Getting back to our story, Mr. Skinner."
"Oh, yes! Where did we leave off?"
"You were working for the Augusta and Aiken Railway Co. How long were you there?"
"Two years and twelve days. I then went to work for Mentor & Rosenbloom, an old New York credit corporation that sold on the $1.00 a week plan. Shortly after I went to work there, on September 2, 1908, I married Miss Lillian Glisson, my boyhood sweetheart. She was from South Georgia, but we attended the same school and I had looked forward to the day when I could claim her as my bride.
"I was with Mentor & Rosenbloom about seven or eight months, when I found out that the office force was not honest; they were stealing my commission and I quit and went to T. R. Maxwell Furniture Company. After about a month Mentor & Rosenbloom wanted to know why I had left the company. They sent a man here to investigate and when they learned what the trouble was they sent for me and made me manager at a salary of $35.00 a week, with a bonus."
"How long were you there?"
"I don't remember whether it was five or six years, but during the time I was there I decided if I could manage a business for the other fellow at a profit, why not have one of my own. I had a little savings account, $1,000, to be exact and I believed with $1,000 more I could begin business. I went to the Culpeppers, who at that time were operating a very successful furniture business.
Page 6
I offered to give them a half interest for $1,000. They agreed readily, and gave me W. P. Seigler, one of their oldest men, as a partner. I opened at 1044 Broad Street, under the name of Skinner & Seigler, and from the first month business was good and in less than two years, it was worth $3,700.
"I soon learned that Seigler was not the man for my business. He lacked personality and tact in selling. I gave him $1,000 and bought Culpeppers' interest and then ran the business alone for five years. Then I sold a half interest for $18,000 to Hogan, my most recent partner, and moved to 958 Broad Street. We were incorporated in 1919 as Skinner & Hogan for $100.000, but sold very little stock. We opened three stores, one in Savannah and two here. Our business was thriving and we were in fine shape.
"Hogan and I each had a drawing account of $5,000 a year and we employed fourteen men in the three stores, all making a good salary. Then came the depression. I saw the crash coming and tried to head it off by liquidating the Savannah store. Hogan being a high salaried man, we gave him the small store where Thom McAn's store now is, and part of the liquidation that was still incorporated. I now owned 95% of the store at 958 Broad Street and employed five men. I cut my drawing account in half. In 1930 the Stelling Shoe Store, next door to my place, caught fire and my place was damaged so badly that I leased a store two doors below for the next five years, continuing business as usual.
"After a period of three years, business began to pick up
Page 7
and gradually increased, but it has never been the same. The chain stores have ruined the independent merchant. The big moneyed men who were on the inside of the political scheme knew the rise and fall of the stock market and when to buy. The results were chain stores in every city and town of any size, selling their merchandise for less than we could buy for. What chance did we have for a comeback?
"When my lease expired in 1935, I moved here, and each year business has increased. Today there are seven families getting a comfortable living out of the store and I can't complain. But with the competition and high cost of living, I will not live long enough to regain what I lost during the depression."
"What do you think caused the depression?"
"It would take a more brilliant mind than mine to tell you the real cause. My ideas along with a lot of other small merchants is about the same. It was Wall Street against the world, along with a political upheaval, in other words, a Republican trick. Millionaires were made over night from the life savings of others. The war got the credit for a lot of and rightly so. I remember the close of the Spanish American War; cotton dropped to 3 1/2 and 4 cents a pound, why? Politics and the little man being crushed and beggared by the man or men who were in power. Take my business for instance; before the last depression fourteen families were being supported from it; my own personal loss was 50%. I was worth around $40,000 with an income of $5,000. That was cut in half and today my average
Page 8
is a little more than $3,000."
"What to you think of conditions today?"
"They are about the same as the pre-war days of the last World War. When this program is over, there will be an increase in business. The present administration is wise now to all the Republican tricks and there will not be another depression such as Hoover and the Republicans caused. The people in our country know now that it was a political trick to enrich the big man and make beggars out of the little man. We have more unemployed than any other country in the world today, and the cry is that this is a machine age. That is true, to a great extent, but who built the machines? Where did the money come from? Out of the pockets of the working man? Again I say, 'Wall street against the world.'"
"Do you own your own home?"
"Oh, yea! I bought my first home in 1920, on the corner of Baker and Central Avenues. Three years later I sold at a profit and bought Mayor White's home on [Meiga?] Street. In 1928 I built my present home on Anthony Road at a cost of [19,000?].
"I have three sons and one daughter. My two older boys finished high school and had two years in college. The oldest boy is married and associated in business with me. The second boy is assistant secretary for the Department of Health. My youngest son was graduated from the University of Georgia and attended Students Art League in New York taking a course in commercial art, which he finished in June of this year.
Page 9
He helped to paint the mural at the World's Fair. My daughter has another year at Shorter College.
"This is my story of the depression so far as it effected my life, should we have another I don't think I would be lost in the struggle. With my knowledge and experience I would take advantage of the market and be ready for old man Depression."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 12 of 73
[The Depression was a Republican Trick]
THE DEPRESSION WAS A REPUBLICAN TRICK
Written by: Mrs. Ada Redford
Augusta, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
District [7?]
July 17, [1940?].
Mr. Clifford C. Farr
833 Broad St.,
Augusta, Ga.
A. R.
THE DEPRESSION WAS A REPUBLICAN TRICK
The Skinner Clothing Company, located at 833 Broad Street, an old established business, is one of Augusta's few remaining home-owned stores. When I walked in Mr. Skinner was placing price tags on brilliantly colored sport suits, which are so popular this summer. He glanced up with a smile of recognition and remarked:
"Well, what do you think of the Republican presidential nominee?"
Absorbed in what he was doing, he hardly waited for my reply before he went on, "Personally, I never heard of that man before, but from the race he ran with Taft he is well-known in the Republican party, but he hasn't a chance. Roosevelt will be president for the next term whether they like it or not."
"Yes, I too, believe Roosevelt will run and be re-elected, but that is not what I came to talk about, Mr. skinner."
"Pardon me, I was so excited I forgot for the moment, what can I do for you?"
"How long have you been in business?"
"About twenty-six years. Why?"
"I want you to tell me of your business experiences and of the causes and effects of the depression."
"That's a large order, but I will tell you what I know. Where do we begin?"
Page 2
"First tell me where and when you were born. You don't mind, do you?"
"Oh, no! But I wasn't in business then."
"Of course you weren't, but I would like to know of your very early life, your boyhood days and, in fact, your whole build-up to the successful business man of today."
"That will take a lot of your time, as I will have to take care of the trade, but if you want it that bad I will do my best to give you the information you want or at least what I know."
"I will work at your convenience, Mr. Skinner."
"All right, I was born in McDuffie County near Thomson, Georgia, August 27, 1887, the first six children of George Fletcher Skinner and Julia Brannon Skinner. At the age of 15 I finished grammar school at Sardis, Georgia, and went to work as clerk in Appling's General Merchandise Store for $7.00 a month and board. Being keenly interested in advancement I decided to take a business course and after a few months I came to Augusta.
"Before I entered school I met a boy from home who was working at Lombard's Iron works. He was so enthusiastic and happy over the work he was doing, I gave up the idea of business school and thought I would try to be a machinest. My friend took me to the boss and after looking me over he gave me a job as apprentice. It wasn't long before I learned I didn't care for hot iron and realized I should have stuck to my original plan of taking a business course. The trouble with me was I wanted a pay day and once you get
Page 3
the yellow envelope on Saturday, you just can't give it up, even if it contains only a few dollars. I left Lombards and got a job as clerk with the J. B. White Company. Augusta's largest and leading store at that time. I was back in my own line of work and though I was only 17 years old, I sold more than any of the other clerks.
We had the range of the whole store and were not assigned to departments as they are today. I don't think I was a better salesman, I just know a lot of people. My boyhood days on the baseball teams of Columbia, McDuffie and Lincoln Counties were now paying dividends in business as well as affording as a lot of pleasure. My salary was only $5.00 a week, while the others were drawing $10.00. I know I was worth more and I asked the manager, Mr. Denton, (a Yankee) for a raise.
"'Why you are just a kid and haven't been here long enough to get a raise.'" He answered.
"I felt that I was entitled to as much as the other clerks and told him so, but he refused to pay me a penney more, so I quit.
"About that time Ben Jordan, of Grovetown, was elected superintendent of schools in Columbia County. Ben had a large store and had to have a man during the school term. I accepted his offer of $7.00 a week and board and worked until the schools closed. Then I worked at Norvel's Store for the same salary. I was still in my teens, and while I was satisfied and happy in my work, I realized there was no future for a clerk in a small town store, and I decided to come back to Augusta. It was then I got my first real job with
Page 4
the Augusta Aiken Railway Company at 12 cents an hour."
"What kind of work did you do?"
"I was an all round man. I know you remember when they had open streetcars?"
"Yes, I do."
"Well, my job in the summer was training men to operate open cars, then running to Lake View, Augusta's amusement park. Most of the men were medical students who worked during the summer to be able to pay their way through Medical College. I also had a side line. J. W. Creasy, a tailor, had a shop on this block and I sold uniforms to the man on commission and made on an average of $40.00 a month. With my salary from the Railway company my earnings for the month were around $80.00."
Just at this point a man wearing overalls came in and asked if his uniform was ready. Mr. Skinner told him it was, but that he would like for him to try on the coat. I noticed that it was a Salvation Army officer's uniform. When the man left I asked Mr. Skinner about him.
"Yes, he is an officer and a working one at that. The Salvation Army is doing a good work in our city; more than the general public and the churches are willing to give them credit for. Not that they want any praise. They are interested mostly in helping the forgotten men and woman."
"And you still sell uniforms?"
"Yes, I usually have a contract with some company and furnish
Page 5
uniforms for the policemen and firemen every year."
"Getting back to our story, Mr. Skinner."
"Oh, yes! Where did we leave off?"
"You were working for the Augusta and Aiken Railway Co. How long were you there?"
"Two years and twelve days. I then went to work for Mentor & Rosenbloom, an old New York credit corporation that sold on the $1.00 a week plan. Shortly after I went to work there, on September 2, 1908, I married Miss Lillian Glisson, my boyhood sweetheart. She was from South Georgia, but we attended the same school and I had looked forward to the day when I could claim her as my bride.
"I was with Mentor & Rosenbloom about seven or eight months, when I found out that the office force was not honest; they were stealing my commission and I quit and went to T. R. Maxwell Furniture Company. After about a month Mentor & Rosenbloom wanted to know why I had left the company. They sent a man here to investigate and when they learned what the trouble was they sent for me and made me manager at a salary of $35.00 a week, with a bonus."
"How long were you there?"
"I don't remember whether it was five or six years, but during the time I was there I decided if I could manage a business for the other fellow at a profit, why not have one of my own. I had a little savings account, $1,000, to be exact and I believed with $1,000 more I could begin business. I went to the Culpeppers, who at that time were operating a very successful furniture business.
Page 6
I offered to give them a half interest for $1,000. They agreed readily, and gave me W. P. Seigler, one of their oldest men, as a partner. I opened at 1044 Broad Street, under the name of Skinner & Seigler, and from the first month business was good and in less than two years, it was worth $3,700.
"I soon learned that Seigler was not the man for my business. He lacked personality and tact in selling. I gave him $1,000 and bought Culpeppers' interest and then ran the business alone for five years. Then I sold a half interest for $18,000 to Hogan, my most recent partner, and moved to 958 Broad Street. We were incorporated in 1919 as Skinner & Hogan for $100.000, but sold very little stock. We opened three stores, one in Savannah and two here. Our business was thriving and we were in fine shape.
"Hogan and I each had a drawing account of $5,000 a year and we employed fourteen men in the three stores, all making a good salary. Then came the depression. I saw the crash coming and tried to head it off by liquidating the Savannah store. Hogan being a high salaried man, we gave him the small store where Thom McAn's store now is, and part of the liquidation that was still incorporated. I now owned 95% of the store at 958 Broad Street and employed five men. I cut my drawing account in half. In 1930 the Stelling Shoe Store, next door to my place, caught fire and my place was damaged so badly that I leased a store two doors below for the next five years, continuing business as usual.
"After a period of three years, business began to pick up
Page 7
and gradually increased, but it has never been the same. The chain stores have ruined the independent merchant. The big moneyed men who were on the inside of the political scheme knew the rise and fall of the stock market and when to buy. The results were chain stores in every city and town of any size, selling their merchandise for less than we could buy for. What chance did we have for a comeback?
"When my lease expired in 1935, I moved here, and each year business has increased. Today there are seven families getting a comfortable living out of the store and I can't complain. But with the competition and high cost of living, I will not live long enough to regain what I lost during the depression."
"What do you think caused the depression?"
"It would take a more brilliant mind than mine to tell you the real cause. My ideas along with a lot of other small merchants is about the same. It was Wall Street against the world, along with a political upheaval, in other words, a Republican trick. Millionaires were made over night from the life savings of others. The war got the credit for a lot of and rightly so. I remember the close of the Spanish American War; cotton dropped to 3 1/2 and 4 cents a pound, why? Politics and the little man being crushed and beggared by the man or men who were in power. Take my business for instance; before the last depression fourteen families were being supported from it; my own personal loss was 50%. I was worth around $40,000 with an income of $5,000. That was cut in half and today my average
Page 8
is a little more than $3,000."
"What to you think of conditions today?"
"They are about the same as the pre-war days of the last World War. When this program is over, there will be an increase in business. The present administration is wise now to all the Republican tricks and there will not be another depression such as Hoover and the Republicans caused. The people in our country know now that it was a political trick to enrich the big man and make beggars out of the little man. We have more unemployed than any other country in the world today, and the cry is that this is a machine age. That is true, to a great extent, but who built the machines? Where did the money come from? Out of the pockets of the working man? Again I say, 'Wall street against the world.'"
"Do you own your own home?"
"Oh, yea! I bought my first home in 1920, on the corner of Baker and Central Avenues. Three years later I sold at a profit and bought Mayor White's home on [Meiga?] Street. In 1928 I built my present home on Anthony Road at a cost of [19,000?].
"I have three sons and one daughter. My two older boys finished high school and had two years in college. The oldest boy is married and associated in business with me. The second boy is assistant secretary for the Department of Health. My youngest son was graduated from the University of Georgia and attended Students Art League in New York taking a course in commercial art, which he finished in June of this year.
Page 9
He helped to paint the mural at the World's Fair. My daughter has another year at Shorter College.
"This is my story of the depression so far as it effected my life, should we have another I don't think I would be lost in the struggle. With my knowledge and experience I would take advantage of the market and be ready for old man Depression."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 14 of 73
[Edward Walcott]
[?]
EDWARD WALCOTT
Written by: Mrs. Sadie B. Hornsby
Area 6 - Athens
Edited by: Mrs. Sarah B. Hall
Area 6 - Athens and
John N. Booth
Area Supervisor
Federal Writers' Project
Area 6 and 7
Augusta, Georgia
March 8, 1939
January 23, 26, 1939
February 1, 1939
Mr. George Shaw Crane (white)
897 Prince Avenue
Athens, Georgia
Landlord
[S.B.H ornsby?] EDWARD WALCOTT
Edward Walcott was the name on the card above the electric button by the front door, and my ring was promptly answered by Mrs. Walcott. She is a prim little woman, and on this occasion her neat silk frock was protected by a print smock.
"Do come in, my dear," she said, with an inviting smile. My hostess left me in the living room, while she went to let her husband know that I was there. Glancing about me, I saw beautiful old furniture, some of which I later learned has been handed down from one generation to another in the Walcott family for more then a hundred years. A rare and lovely old blue glass carafe sat on the floor under a mahogany drop-leaf table that has been in this family since 1800. A mortar and pestle, given by Dr. Crawford W. Long discoverer of anesthesia by ether to a member of the Walcott family, was placed on an interesting old bookcase.
Mr. Walcott came in with his wife and invited me into the dining room. "It's warmer in here," he explained, as we approached a glowing Franklin heater. When I explained that I had come to hear him tell his experiences in the renting business, he laughed heartily. "Why don't you ask Miss Annie?" he asked.
Page 2
"Miss Annie" is his wife. "She could give you a much better story than I can with all her experiences as a nurse before we married, and then, too, she knows as such about my renting business as I do, if not more. She's had many and varied experiences since she's been helping me keep our property rented."
"Oh, Ed!" she began, "You know how busy I am today. You just go ahead and talk. I'll be glad to help in any way I can though. Just call me and I'll be right in."
"You'll find that dining table a good place to write on," said Mr. Walcott, and as I opened my notebook he continued the conversation. "That table in what I would call a real antique. My grandfather Walcott purchased it in 1800, and it has been in our family ever since. I myself, have eaten off of it 60 years. It's solid mahogany, and we have never had to have a thing done to it. It's construction is remarkable; there's not a nail in it. An expert spent 4 hours looking it over with a flashlight, and he declared that it wasn't made in America. He should know about good furniture for he was apprenticed as a small boy to a manufacturer of fine furniture, and at the time he was in our home he was in his 70th year. Practically all of his life has been spent in the furniture business. Another man offered me a complete dining room suite, the best obtainable, for this one table. Of course I refused the offer. That was in the days when all of us had plenty of money. I doubt if the man who made that offer could pay cash for a loaf of bread now."
Page 3
Taking an odd-looking pistol from the mantel, Mr. Walcott inquired, "Would you like to know the history of this?" My knowledge of firearms is limited to almost nothing, and seeing the quizzical look with which I regarded the weapon, he answered the question that I had not voiced. "Sure, it's a real pistol. Take it in your hands and see for yourself."
I begged him to tell me the story of the pistol.
"Well," he said, 'this was one of a pair of duelling pistols that my father used to keep in a handsome morocco case in his desk. After our home burned in 1885, we found this one in the back yard, but we never did know what become of the other pistol and the case. This was the pair of pistols used in the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander A. Hamilton, and the one you see here now was the one fired by Burr to inflict the mortal wound. I suppose you remember reading that Hamilton died as the result of that duel. The pistols belonged to Hamilton, and were exactly alike, only the other was for a right-handed man. Aaron Burr was left-handed. If you held this one in your right hand the hammer would obstruct your sight and endanger your markmanship, but you can hold it in the left hand and sight from the small piece of steel on the right side of the barrel." I had never known before that there was a time when a pair of pistols, like a pair of shoes, were made in "rights" and "lefts."
Mr. Walcott continued: "Now let me tell you how this pistol is operated. It is first loaded with gunpowder and wadded with cotton, then a piece of flint rock, just large enough to fit
Page 4
the [seat?] - that's what that part is called - is placed in it on top of the barrel. This piece of steel is then fastened over the flint, and when the trigger is pulled it produces a spark from the flint, and that spark ignites the powder and causes the explosion. This pistol is of finest steel, and look at that handle! It's mahogany, I'm sure. Now, look closely and read the name of the manufacturer, 'U. & W. RICHARDS.' You remember, no doubt, that Hamilton was an Englishmen. These pistols are known as the flint-rock type. How my father came into possession of them, I don't know.
Mr. Walcott's ancestors have been connected with the development of Athens from its pioneer days. His paternal grandfather was the architect who designed some of the oldest of the many notable buildings here, and his maternal grandfather was equally distinguished in his individual enterprises. Mr. Walcott is rather stout, has black hair, and he seems to favor a black broadcloth suit, black felt hat, black shoes, white socks, white shirt and black tie to any other type of attire.
"Talking of buildings," said Mr. Walcott, "I was born in New College on the Franklin campus of the university. Grandfather was one of the builders of New College, and 30 years after it was completed, while the university was closed because of the war, he and his family lived there. My mother was visiting them there when I was born.
Page 5
"There were six of us boys, and we always realized what we missed not having a sister. We boys were into everything. In my young days all the houses were enclosed with picket fences, and we had our gateposts named 'twelve' and 'one.' When we had been out at night, next morning at the breakfast table our parents would ask us:
" 'What time did you boys come in last night?'
" 'Between twelve and one,' we always answered.
"We lived on this same street, down there in front of the church. The street was not laid out straight at that time like it is now. It was a part of the old stage route from Athens to Dahlonega, and the coaches wound in and out among the trees. The road in front of our house was higher than the yard. Father had let mother choose between the Ben Hill house and the Thomas house, and she chose the latter. That was where we were reared.
"You can imagine what life around six boys would be like. One of mother's best friends, a fine women, taught a private school in a building erected for that purpose in her yard. That old house is still standing in the yard of that family's home. When it came time for us to enter school mother's friend told her that she simply couldn't have the six of us for we were so noisy we would ruin her school.
"Well, that didn't keep us from going to school. Father just built a large one-room building on the side of our yard and hired Professor Hudson as tutor. He and father had been in the same
Page 6
company in the Civil War, and so father knew him well and was satisfied that he was quite capable of teaching six noisy boys. It wasn't long before there were so many parents anxious to send their children to our school that father put a partition in our schoolhouse and employed another teacher. He was Professor Orr from Martin Institute. Declamation time, an we called it then, was on Friday afternoons, and we invited our parents to attend and hear our speeches. At the closing exercises in June, Professor Hudson awarded a gold medal to the pupil who had maintained the best average throughout the school year.
"Well, instead of us breaking up the other school with our noise, it broke up because all its pupils came over to our school. Mother's friend was a wonderful teacher and a fine person in every respect, and we never had the least idea of making any trouble for her.
"My father was one of the instigators of the public school system in Athens. The first public school was on Meigs Street, and when that old building was torn down in later years, two houses were built from its timbers.
"Father was a great one for raising Jersey cattle, and gave each of us boys a male calf. We rode those calves all over town and probably would have ridden them to Sunday School, but mother wouldn't allow that.
"As for as you could see back of our house was in woods,
Page 7
and in the branch about where Boulevard now is, was 'the old swimming hole.' We boys went there every day in summer to swim. Bathing suits were unheard of. We just pulled off our brown check pants and blue check blouses and dove in. Every boy in town learned to swim in that old swimming hole. There was another one on the old Phinizy branch that we loved to swim in too.
"Speaking of clothes, everybody wore cotton checks made in the old Check Mill, in summer. Even my father wore them. However, he had handsome broadcloth suits that he bought on his trips to New York. Winter clothes were of jeans, wool and cotton mixed, and this jeans was manufactured in the same old Check Mill.
"Those were happy, carefree days for children. Every need was taken care of, but children didn't have money to waste like they do now, no matter how much their parents had.
"Dan was the name of one of grandfather's slaves. When he was about eleven years old he accidentally fell into the mill-race at grandfather's cotton factory, and his head was so badly mashed that it never grew back into the right shape. When he got old enough to work he became grandfather's coachman. His wife was named Martha, and every Saturday all six of us boys would go out to their house for dinner. Such feasts as Dan and Martha did set before us - fried chicken, ham, and ash cakes, all cooked in an open fireplace, and if you have never eaten ash cakes you have missed the treat of your life.
"Grandfather was one of the first to have an interest in
Page 8
gold mining at Dahlonega. It was a two-day trip from Athens to Dahlonega then, and grandfather made it about twice each year to see after his interests there. His oldest son was up there in charge of the work. When time came to go, two horses were hitched to a spring wagon that was loaded with trunks filled with bedding and food, and a trusted servant was sent on with it a day ahead of the family. He spent the first night at Jefferson, a distance of about 20 miles, and the second night he was scheduled to be in sugar Hill. For a week before these trips, the coachmen was busy shining up the carriage and all the silver on the harness. The family left in the carriage the day after the wagon set out, and usually overtook it at Sugar Hill.
"Some years ago I took mother to Dahlonega for a day. I picked her up at 9 o'clock in the morning, then stopped by home for my wife and daughter. We arrived at our destination about noon. At 3 o'clock that same afternoon I told mother to get ready as we were leaving for home.
"Why Ed, you must be out of your mind,' she argued, 'you know this a two-day trip.'
" 'Anyway, we're leaving at 3 o'clock,' I told her.
"When we were back in Athens and she got out of my car at her home, the sun was still shining. Turning to me, she said: 'Well, I never thought I'd live to see the day when I could go to Dahlonega and back in one day.'
"One of grandfather's sons followed in his footsteps as
Page 9
a builder. He was one of the three commissioners in charge of the construction of the State Capitol in Atlanta. Did you know that's the only State Capitol in the United States that was built within its appropriation? When that building was completed and all accounts paid up, there was a balance of $3.60 left.
"I believe I've already told you of some of our boyish pranks. What the six of us couldn't think of wasn't worth thinking of. We used to blacken thick ropes and pull them snake-like across the paths in front of courting couples that passed our yard at night. Our thick shrubbery made a grand hiding place for us to crouch in while we manipulated the strings that made the 'snakes' look more life-like. Once we stuffed a long black stocking and pulled it across the path in front of a young Hebrew couple and frightened them out of their wits. You could have heard them yell blocks away. Our parents heard the noise and stopped our fun when they learned that we were causing the racket.
"Dr. Billups was a fine old dentist practicing at Watkinsville. After his death father bought his dental kit and gave it to me. The mahogany case was well equipped for that day and time, and I was just the proudest boy you ever saw. One day I was sitting on our front steps looking through the dental case when a neighbor came by.
" 'Good morning, son! What are you doing?' he asked.
"Waiting for a patient,' I told him, as I hold up the dental case.
Page 10
" 'Good!' he exclaimed, 'Come on down to my house and see what's wrong with this tooth that's hurting so bad right now.'
"When we arrived at his house, I had him seated in a chair, and in an exaggerated professional style I took a piece of cotton from the kit, saturated it with oil of cloves and put it in the hollow of the aching tooth. My patient said it stopped the tooth from hurting and he paid me a nickle. That was the first money I ever earned, and from that time on the boys called me 'doc.'
"The height of my ambition as a boy was to carry water on my head like our old cook, Cindy. Way back of our house, near the spring, we had a well dug that was 62 feet deep, and every morning mother sent all six of us down there with Cindy and John, the gardener, for water. I tried and tried to carry a pail of water on my head, but was never able to accomplish this feat.
"We boys played many a day with the old ram that Mrs. Franklin had installed to pump water into her house. Here were the first waterworks we had ever seen. She had a slave that did nothing else but stand at that old ram all day and pump the water through the lead pipes to her house and gardens. During the war she had those old lead pipes taken up to be made into bullets for the soldiers. That old house has been changed quite a bit since then. At that time the entrance was on the west side of the house. There was even a porte-[cochere?] for the carriages to drive under. Three rooms extended across the front of the house, and now the entrance is in the middle room. The front porch has been added
Page 11
since then. Her porch was on the west side and its columns attracted lots of attention. They were put up just as the trees were when they were cut down - that is, the bark and stubs of the branches were still on them. One of the largest trees I have ever seen was in her back yard. All six of us boys used to clasp hands and try to reach around it, but our six pairs of arms were not long enough to encircle it. The interior of Mrs. Franklin's old house has been changed but little.
"Once when mother sent me to the dry well for something she needed, it was raining and the house girl had to go along with me to carry a lamp so I could see how to get around in that dark place. That was long before we had electric lights. I had to carry an umbrella to keep the rain from putting out the lamp. When we got back to the house I was lowering the umbrella out on the back porch and got it caught in the lamp, which fell to the floor and exploded. The maid saw me through the flames and began yelling, 'Lord, have mercy? Marse Doc done burnt up. He's done daid!' She fainted dead away, and was taken to the servants' house. I wasn't hurt, but I was plenty scared. Father appeared and extinguished the fire by turning over a churn of milk on it. All through the night the poor house girl kept wailing, 'Lord, have mercy! I done killed Marse Doc.' Early the next morning I had to go down there and show her that I was alive and all right.
"I have in my possession now some of the old mantle paper made in the old paper mill. My uncle married the daughter of one of
Page 12
the owners of the paper mill. During the Civil war, this mill made the paper that was used for the wads to hold the powder in the guns. These wads were about four inches long and were twisted at both ends. The soldiers hastily bit off one end and rammed the wad into the barrel of the gun with the ramrod. The women made those wads at home. That was just one of the many ways they found to help out during the war. There was another name for those old gun wads, but I've forgotten it now. Quantities of rags were necessary for the manufacture of the paper, and people around here saved almost every scrap of fabrics to sell as rags at the paper mill. Rags finally became such a medium of local exchange that while those who preferred were usually paid in cash, others traded their rags for food or clothing, whichever they needed most.
"My college days were full of excitement, as well as hard work. I graduated from the University of Georgia in 1896 in Civil Engineering, and in 1897 in Electrical Engineering. I was the only one in my class to graduate in the latter subject. Henry Grady, Jr, was one of my schoolmates during the college days. He was a fine boy.
"In 1896 after Roentgen discovered the X-Ray, we made the first X-Ray picture ever made in the south in our classroom at the university, under Professor Patterson. That same year we also made equipment for sending wireless telegraphy at the university. When I left college in 1896, I went in business for myself. I think
Page 13
the little electric shop that I originated then was perhaps one of the first ever opened in Athens.
"Did I tell you that my Civil Engineering course was under Dr. Strahan? He was civil engineer for the county at the time, as well as an instructor at the university. He had charge of supervising the country roads as far back as the pick-and-shovel days. Those were the days when every property owner was called on to meet on a certain date to work the roads going through their own property. Dr. Strahan was instrumental in introducing plans for having the public roads worked at the expense of State and county. It was while he was on a trip to Europe and I was acting as County Engineer pro-tem in his absence, that the ruling went into effect.
"I sold my business here and entered business in Atlanta. That proved a failure. I returned to Athens and with one or two of my brothers and a few others, helped to put up a machine for making cement blocks, and we also installed a rock crusher. These blocks we made were the kind used in building houses. One or two of the houses made of our blocks are still standing here, and there are several elsewhere. I guess we were too far ahead of the times with that enterprise, so we gave it up.
"Work with the Bell Telephone Company drew me back to Atlanta. I have helped to run telephone lines from New Orleans to New York. I was working for them when the first underground cables, or wires, were laid from New York to Philadelphia, and when the tube was laid under the Hudson River.
Page 14
"I was receiving an excellent salary and wouldn't have given up that work but for the fact that I was taken critically ill while in New York. As soon as I recovered sufficiently to make the trip, my wife and I returned to Athens to live. Soon after our return our daughter was born. She is our only child.
"As I told you, I had been sending my savings to my brother here to invest in real estate for me. I have always been interested in real estate, and I guess I've been active in the business for at least 40 years.
"Getting to my experiences in this business of renting; we have some amusing as well as trying, experiences with negro tenants. One of our houses has two large rooms and two small ones. A negro man, his wife and five or six children lived in two of the rooms; a man and his wife occupied the other large room, and a girl rented the remaining small room. The girl hadn't paid her rent in 3 months. Every time Miss Annie went there to collect the rent she was always told the girl was out. She never could find her in, so one night I took it upon myself to catch her in. I went there and found three negro women sitting in that one little room. when I asked for the girl, they insisted, 'We don't know where she is. She ain't been here all day.' When I came home and told Miss Annie, she said, 'Why Ed, you should have known better. Why didn't you try some other scheme to find out which one she was instead of just asking them?' That's just one of the tricks that have been played on us.
Page 15
"A white family was living in one of our houses, and whenever we went to collect the rent the man always had some excuse for not paying it. We were forced to take steps toward making him move out, so we gave him 60 days notice. Still he didn't get out. We issued a warrant, and he was to move by a stipulated date or the bailiff would clear the house. A man who said he was from out of town came to me for a house, so we rented him that one. In the lease it was plainly stated that he was to move in after the other family moved out. He said that he told the man who was living in the house that he was ready to move in and that he had already paid me some rent in advance. One day when he called on me, I asked him if the other family had moved out. He informed me they had not, but that he had moved in with them. I showed him the clause in his lease that read: 'You are to move in only when the other family now occupying the house has moved out.' I went straight to the bailiff. 'I'm paying you to do this work.' I reminded him, 'Why don't you do something about that warrant?' He went out to the house and put the furniture out in the yard. When I learned where he had placed it, I told him that would not do for no one could move in the house as long as the furniture stayed on the premises. Then the bailiff moved it on the right-of-way across the railroad tracks. The railroad agent ordered me to move the goods from their property for the owners of the furniture could sue the railroad company if a train came along and set fire to it. So the bailiff finally put the furniture in the
Page 16
street, as he should have done in the first place. It sat until the last piece had rotted down or was stolen. The owner never moved a piece of it. The funny part about the whole business was that the man who came here to rent the house was a brother of the woman who already lived there, and he was living there with them when be first came to see me about renting the house. They thought that by his making a new lease and paying the current rent they wouldn't have to pay up the back rent, or get out either. Well, they couldn't pull that stunt on us.
"An apartment in the house back of our home here was rented to a couple. The women was an artist and the son had what seemed to be a good job. They got about three months in arrears with their rent. When we felt that we had kept them as long as we could we asked them to move. Often when we went to their apartment we saw that they had much better food then we did. The woman put up an awful pitiful story in which she told us that her friends had sent in the food. I found out that a missionary society in one of the local churches was feeding this couple, and when a woman from this society called me to inquire about their financial troubles, I told her that I believed they were making enough to take care of their own expenses, and I couldn't understand why they were in such a jam. She asked if we would be willing to pay the expenses of moving them. Now, I was glad to spend, say two dollars, to get them out, so I could rent the apartment to someone who would pay. I was surprised when the women from the missionary society sent a
Page 17
large van to move them, for they were living in one of our furnished apartments and they only had about three or four suitcases and a few personal things. The bill rendered me for the use of that moving van was $18. We investigated, and found they moved to Anderson, South Carolina, after we had been given the impression we were to pay for moving them to another apartment in Athens.
"At that time we had a joint telephone in the house, and each of the three families paid a third of the bill. When that month's bill came in we found that this man had made a long distance call to Chicago and charged it to our phone. That cured us of any kind of joint telephone arrangements. On the other hand the people in the other two apartments in that house never gave us a minute's trouble.
"Negroes are funny people. For instance, they only work by the day or by the week, and when a member of one of their families get sick, they just won't pay the rent. After they are well again and start back paying current rental, they have already forgotten about the back rent that they owe. It's hard to make them understand that it's still an obligation. However, they are not all like that. One old negress lived in one of our houses 30 years and never missed a payment. She raised a large family and when they were all grown her sons built a three-room house and put her in it.
"All of our downtown store buildings are located in the
Page 18
best part of the business section, and we don't have to take any foolishness from the tenants. If they complain about the rent, all they have to do is move on out. We never have any trouble keeping those stores rented. Several of the tenants in those stores have been with us 25 years. However, we do have several small stores scattered over town that are hard to keep occupied. At the present time we don't have a single building, store, or residence, vacant. I don't think that's bad for 67 pieces of property to be kept rented.
"I'm not trying to give the impression that we own all of this property. We only have an interest in some of the buildings, and for various parcels or it I am administrator, agent, or guardian. Others of the parcels are our own individual property. We only have one-fifth interest in some of the property, for which I act as renting agent.
"When we have to make lots of improvements to please the tenant, we have to raise their rent, but when there is not much to be done beyond the inevitable repairs, the rent remains the same. We haven't followed the up and down trends of rental charges throughout the years. Our charge for negro houses averages 50� a room per week, plus the water bill which amounts to about 10� per room each week.
"There is one thing Negroes will not do; that is, when anything happens to a water pipe they never report it. They just let the water run. We have had to pay as much as $20 for one water
Page 19
bill, caused by a pipe that had burst and which had not been reported to us. Dances at negro houses often end in fights, and they do so much damage to our property that we have had to pay as high as $60 for repairs after one of their frolies.
"We are subject to call, night or day. During the worst of the storm yesterday I had to go to a building that had sprung a leak in the roof. I would not delay, for after the rain ceased I wouldn't have been able to locate the leak. Some property owners have their repairs done only when they can't keep tenants any other way, but we try to keep up our repairs an we go along, just as fast as we can after learning of the need." His eyes twinkled an he said: "In one of my apartment houses there are three families that I believe must take turns about staying awake at night to think up things they can ask me to do. You can't please some people, no matter how hard you try.
"Our rental prices range from $2 to $100 per month. Five store spaces in one building rent for $95 a month each. On some of the property the taxes and insurance run so high that we can hardly realize any profit from the rents.
"People from all walks of life will beat you if they can. You have to be on your guard at all times. A women who was living in one of our houses went one night to call on an acquaintance across the railroad tracks. On the way back home she fell and skinned her leg. She sued us, telling the lawyer that her injury was incurred in a fall through a broken plank in the house she was
Page 20
renting from us. She had broken a plank in the kitchen to prove her point. Of course, we made her move. She lost the case.
"There was another family we had to put out, and understand these people I'm talking about were white people. They hadn't paid any rent in so long that we had to get out a warrant for the bailiff to put them out. Every time he went to that house and asked the children where their mother was, he was told, 'she's sick in bed and can't see anybody.' That went on until we finally sent a doctor out there to find out what was the trouble with the woman. He reported that she was as well as anyone. Did you know that as long as you or a member of your family is sick in bed, even pretending they are ill, no law under the sun can be enforced to make them vacate rented property? We only send the bailiff with a dispossessory warrant, as a last resort.
"My sister-in-law said to me one day, 'Ed, there's a family in one of my houses that I haven't heard from in some time. Will you find out what's the trouble?' I suggested that perhaps she had better go herself and investigate. She found that family in an awful condition. The man was drinking up everything he made and letting his family suffer. My mister-in-law went to the stores and bought what food and clothing they needed and carried it back to that poor woman and her children. This went on for a year - providing not only the rent, but their food and clothing as well. Finally we did succeed in getting them out, but before they moved that man had the audacity to ask me to let then move in another of our houses that was vacant at the time. 'Not a chance in the world,'
Page 21
I told him, 'What do you take me for?'
"Don't think for a minute that all our tenants are like the ones I have pictured to you. They are not by any means. The renting game is like a mincemeat pie," he said with a twinkle in his eye, "for it's either good or bad. We complain about our piece of bad pie, but there's really not enough said about the good ones who pay their rent promptly and don't complain about this or that all the time. A professor and his family lived in one of our houses for 18 months before I ever saw him or contacted him in any way, except that as regular as the second day of the mouth came around, his check came to us through the mails. Miss Annie had rented to him and that accounts for why I had not met him sooner.
"We make it a point never to rent to undesirable people if we can help it. We investigate the character of the prospective tenant before the lease is signed, but even then we get bit some times. In one of our apartments last year there was a person whose uncle was awfully attentive to her. We were suspicious of the two without a definite reason, so when this woman decided to move before the lease expired, we were delighted to see them go pleasantly and without hard feelings.
"Now, please don't misunderstand us. We are not as hard boiled as some of these things I've been telling you might picture us. We help our tenants just as much as we can, but after all, we didn't go into this game just because we love it. The business of renting was thrust upon us. We couldn't get an agent to look after
Page 22
it to suit us, so we decided to take it in charge ourselves. There's not enough volume in our rents to warrant maintaining an office downtown and to hire a secretary to do the typing and book-keeping, so we do the work ourselves right here in our own dining room at home.
"To help me with the repairs, we employ a man the year around who is a pretty good carpenter, plumber, and electrician. I do a good deal of my electric work. The only reason I hire any of that done is that when I was a young man I fell from a building I was repairing and broke my leg just above the ankle, and since then I've had lots of trouble with that limb. Sometimes I'm in bed for 6 weeks at a time as a result of that fall.
"There is one of the downtown buildings in which I own one-fifth interest, that has been involved in five lawsuits that I have brought in order to try to clear the titles, and they are not cleared yet.
"Yes, indeed, we rent to lots of mighty fine people and Miss Annie and I enjoy having every one of them. We are proud of having that class of tenants.
"In conclusion let me say that as to renting property; we live with it, eat with it (at this very dining table), and we sleep and dream about it. We sleep 4 hours and work with our property the other 20 in 'most every day. That's the life of people who rent real estate."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 15 of 73
[Elam Franklin Dempsey]
Page 1
[Oct. 39?] Jaques Jacques Upshaw
Page 1.
ELAM FRANKLIN DEMPSEY
"I was born -- this Elam Franklin Dempsey -- as Benjamin Franklin, that great old sage of America. As for the Dempsey part, I always say that it is the same as Jack Dempsey, spelled the same way, so there is no further difficulty there. Elam Franklin Dempsey. I was born July 6, 1878, in Atlanta, Georgia, Tattnall Street, the Peachtree of that day, in my grandfather's house. My grandfather's name was John Durant Smith. My parents lived in Dodge County, and for a season my father lived in a place bearing his own name, Dempsey, Georgia. He was engaged in the crosstie trade, manufacturing and selling them, and therefore he traveled a good bit, living between Georgia and Florida. We lived here and there between north Florida and Georgia. His health breaking down around 1880, he was forced to give up his occupation, and had to move to Jackson, Georgia, near Indian Springs, the water of which is a specific, as you may know, for malarial diseases. He lived there thirty-seven years, raising four children.
"My oldest sister was named Irene, the second, Ernestine, who is now teaching English at Girls' High School, here in Atlanta. My brother, Thomas Jackson Dempsey, Junior, is in the education department of Georgia, a well-known supervisor-inspector of schools under Dr. Collins. He is next to Dr. Collins in rank. I'd be glad if you'd interview him sometime. He's a man who, though well-known in some circles, is not as much recognized as his ability and accomplishments warrant. Of course, he's younger than I am, and hasn't had as much time to make himself known. He lives at Watkins, Georgia, but works and has his office in the State Capitol.
"I just happened to think of it, if you will look at the Memoirs of Georgia you will see a sketch of my father.
"Both my parents were natives of Cobb County. My father was Thomas Jackson Dempsey, son of Reverend A. G. Dempsey -- Reverend Alvin Green Dempsey. I've
Page 2
often wondered how the Alvin and the Green came into the Dempsey family, but I haven't done the necessary research yet to find out. My mother was Narcissa America Smith -- N a r c i s s a. It's a peculiar old-fashioned name, and my mother never liked it. But we all loved its old-fashioned sound.
"Now, going back. We were at Butts County, where we lived many years. My father had a large mercantile business there, and other businesses, and was also a lawyer. Later he went to Florida, and at the age of seventy-five was elected Judge of the Supreme Court there, and won flattering praise for his excellent handling of the somewhat involved Florida law. He was never reversed on a single judgment, and only one was ever questioned, and everybody said that he was right on that.
"My father was a very aggressive man. I'm not very much like him in that -- unless you put me under pressure. My grandmother used to say of him, 'He's like Job's war horse. He sniffs a battle from afar, and rushes into battle.'
"At Jackson I had the usual experience of going through grammar school and then through high school. I had fine teachers, and I do appreciate good teachers and good preachers! My pastors were very lovely to me, also. One of them I would like to mention in particular. Reverend John L. Bowden. I remember him reverently. I remember him, giving me counsel many times. Once he said, 'My boy, a man ought not to preach to study in the pulpit, but should preach from the standpoint of study.' By that he meant that one shouldn't use the pulpit for experimenting, but should study diligently before preaching. I loved and honored him, and when he died I had the honor to write the memoirs of his life. I'd love to name all the pastors, but of course, that would take too long.
"Well, to get back to school. We didn't have, in those days, a formal kindergarten. But we were fortunate in having a lady -- Miss Eva Sassnitt, daughter of William Sassnitt, with us. She was an intellectual and devout woman, and had that enthusiasm of a teacher (which is the most valuable attribute
Page 3
of a teacher). She was my first teacher, and was more or less in charge of schools there. Then a schoolhouse was built at Jackson, where I first went to school. We were fortunate in being one of the earlier of the counties to have a good school.
"Professor [Blasingame?] I remember, Professer J. C. Blasingame, and Professor Troy Kelley, constituted the faculty that early gave shape to the school. . . . . . A typical day in school: First, in the large auditorium, in the morning we had chapel for Bible-reading and exercises. There would be comment, sometimes by the visitors, if any were present, on the Bible reading of the day, then there would be singing from a well-chosen hymn book. Professor Blasingame, who was always enthusiastic about music, would lead the singing.
"It was the privilege of Jackson High School to have a series of talks each year by visitors -- well-known men, whose talks would inspire us and counsel us to make something of ourselves. For instance, Doctor Quigg, a Scotch divine, lectured on his experiences on in Cuba, and his lecture was one of the most impressive of the series. Another man I remember was Marcus W. Beck, a native of Jackson. He gave many talks, and sedulously prepared for these addresses. He came to us with inspiring remarks, and filled us with aspiration for great things. It was natural that a man of such wonderful gifts and ability should advance rapidly, and I was not surprised when he became a Justice of the Superior Court.
I remember one day seeing him walking under the large oak trees along the walk on the sunlit sand. It was one of these beautiful Georgia mornings that we have, and the sunlight was coming down through the leaves of the trees, making a pattern of checkered light and shade -- a beautiful sight. He was absorbed in his meditations, and wasn't aware that anyone was watching.
Page 4
I saw him, though, gesturing vigorously, and walking soberly along. It was inspiring to me. I know that he was preparing another one of his fine talks. I said to myself, 'Here is a man who expects to be somebody. He is willing to pay the price, and works hard.' I'll never forget the picture of him striding down the walk of white sand, overshadowed by tremendous oak trees, through which the sunlight filtered down.
"We had some remarkable people in Jackson. Old Dr. Anderson, for instance. Nobody knew anything about him, or where he came from. He just appeared out of nowhere, before the railroad came, even. He was a man who had had considerable tragedy in his life, and he took refuge in his books. He was a very eccentric man, a very smart man. He was the one my father studied law under. The people of the famous Will N. Harbin were also there in Jackson.
. . . . . . "But you want a typical day in school, and I got off on this side track . . . . After [shapel?] we went to recitations again, then we had mid-morning recess, playing games, and so forth. Let's see if I remember any of those games. Of course, there was the craze over marbles that was current then, and top-spinning -- knulling tops, it was called -- and races. We waxed quite ambitious in our athletic program. Some of the boys got two ropes and tied them to high limbs, and they would swing way out with them. Sometimes they would put a little fellow on it and swing him way around, until finally he had to let go and do a belly-buster. I always hated to see them do that. Sometimes the little boys would get on the swings themselves, and fall off. They shouldn't have done it. But a young boy is ambitious, you know, and they didn't think about the consequences.
I used to get after the big boys for picking on the little ones, and one time I had a fight about it. One of the big boys was teasing and bullying a little boy. He wasn't really mean, but just the bullying kind. I said to
Page 5
him that I'd give him a licking if he did anything to the little fellow again, and of course, that was the invitation he was waiting for. The bully got behind me and put his hands on my shoulders and said, 'Elam will take care of him; yes old Elam'll take care of him.' When he jumped on the boy again I hit him. I had a negro friend who had told me something about fighting, and he had said to kick his shins. I didn't realize as fully as I should have that he could kick my shins, too. It was a game two could play, and his shoes were heavier than mine. For days after that my shins were sore. I made up my mind that the shoe business wouldn't work, and I took care to use another method next time. I wasn't really a belligerant boy, but I didn't like to see anybody picked on. All this fighting took place at the morning recess.
"At noon most of us went home for dinner, for most of us lived there in town. We came back and had recitations again, and the afternoons did seem long! We stayed till four o'clock, usually. Then there would be those, sometimes, who were kept in. That was bad on the teachers and the pupils, too. There was recognition of fidelity in marks, sometimes based on a hundred, sometimes on ten.
We had a debating society, which would rise, flourish, and fail. Then we'd have declamation time, being very ambitious and anxious to be Daniel Websters and Thomas Paines. We would get together in groups in the fields, far enough from one another so that we wouldn't disturb each other, and practice. We didn't know anything about platform posture, gesturing, and so forth, though, and it was mainly main strength and awkwardness. We could holler loud, though, and we did. When anybody had advanced to the point where he could be heard clear across the village he was thought to be very good.
Sometimes in vacation time we put on exercises, and had debates. And it did us good, too. That old time custom contributed to civic thinking, and taught
Page 6
us to think on our feet and get up before the public / and put our thoughts into words. I've noticed that those who excelled at those things have done well in life since then.
"There was a lady who taught music at the school -- mandolin, guitar, and violin. We had a very musical group in Jackson, Georgia. Professor Blasingame took a large part in the musical activities.
"The young men and women who went away from Jackson represented us well. Major Woodward, of G. M. A.; Professor Henry F. Fletcher; Douglas Watson, of Gordon Institute; and O. L.[,?] Thaxton, of G. S. C. W., are some of the men who have gone out into the world from Jackson and made good.
"In September, after my sixteenth birthday, I entered Junior College and went two years. My schooling was interrupted by ill health, and I stopped out and stayed one year on the farm. I have always been glad that I did, for it improved my health and helped me to be strong. In June, 1899, I graduated, having had the pleasure of being three years under Bishop Candler. I graduated, though, under Dr. C. E. Dowman. At college, in spite of ill health, I was champion debater, and was editor of the Phoenix. I entered every debate they had. At that time Mrs. Corra White Harris was my Sunday School teacher. You knew Mrs. Harris, the famous Georgia author. She was at that time wife of the Greek professor at Emory, Professor L. H. Harris, and as always, her mind scintillated with wit and shrewd understanding. I spent many an evening with her and others, enjoying their conversation and learning. I never enjoyed anything more than those informal gatherings where we discussed all the things I had been interested in for so long. I simply ate it up.
"During my college life I tried to take part in all the various activities -- the religious, social, athletic, and all of them. I was especially interested in debating.
Page 7
"I thought that a person in college should get a well-rounded education and culture, and I set out to do this. I didn't lay particular stress on the social activities, though I was a member of the A.T.O. Fraternity.
"The incentive I had at Emory was not personal ambition, but to please my father and mother. I was so sickly that the work was very taxing on me, but I knew that for me to do well would give them joy, and that was the happiest part of it for me.
"There at college all the books I had longed to have the opportunity to read were at hand, and I read them incessantly. I read everything -- Balzac, even. Ought not to have read some I did, perhaps, but I didn't know, and I gloried in the opportunity of having so many books at hand. In this atmosphere of books and learning at Emory I was in paradise. I was a very ardent fiction reader, but I had read that one must not be desultory in his reading, and I decided to limit myself to only one book of fiction at a time, and finally cut them out altogether.
"I can tell you, though, I stuck my tooth into one thing that was hard to handle. Mrs. Harris had recommended to me the Journal of Amiel, Journal Intime, translated by Mrs. Humphrey Ward. It is a book of philosophical thoughts that Amiel jotted down -- deep meditations on many subjects .... Talk about Attic Salt, talk about Ambrosial Nights, we had them in Oxford, Georgia, there at little Emory!
"My college friendships have been very precious to me. My roommate was G. M. [Eakes?]. He was like a brother to me. We were inseperables, and deskmates back in Jackson before going to college. He was my good guide and counselor and helped me on many an occasion. He loved me truly, and I him. He meant much to me.
Page 8
"When I was in the Freshman class in college an incident occurred which was rather amusing, which involved Eakes. He was persuaded by the rest of the boys to co-operate with them in scaring me. We didn't have any regular hazing then, but usually a new boy would be initiated in some manner by the older students. Well, they had decided to play the "dumbull" on me, which in tying a string on a nail stuck under the clapboard of a house and then rosining it and stroking it. It produces a weird sound, sometimes high and screeching, and sometimes low and ominous. Well, Eakes, being my roommate, was appointed to talk to me that night and get me properly in the mood to be scared. He began telling me all kinds of weird things about the effect of such a sound. I wasn't much impressed, however, and said that it was just silly. Well, we went to bed, and presently the noise began. We awoke, and Eakes asked me if I heard it. 'Yes,' I said, 'it sounds rather silly, doesn't it?' Then I turned over and went back to sleep and didn't wake up anymore that night. But Eakes told me later that he was kept awake half the night by the dumbull that was supposed to frighten me. He told the other boys about it the next morning, and one of them said, 'Well, I told them all the time that you couldn't do anything with that ugly old gangling, old long-legged devil!' I was long and awkward and thin then.
"Later in life, when I was started on my way upward he befriended me time and again, and took me about with him to various churches and let me help him in evangelical [work?]. I surely went through agonies to get up sermons and arguments for those services. I was just out of college, and it is not easy to get on to making a good sermon. A preacher has got to not only lay down a proposition, but he must argue it, apply it, persuade and admonish, and close with a definite and earnest proposition.
Page 9
"I could tell you many episodes of that part of my experiences. After we closed the meetings we would all go off somewhere and have a houseparty and relax before going into the next series of evangelical services. My good friend, Reverend G. M. Eakes, who was my roommate at Oxford, entertained a number of pastors once, and during my stay there I had a great deal of pleasure in going through his large library. I remember one volume particularly, a volume of James Whitcomb Riley, in which was a poem called THE PIPES o' PAN OF [ZEKESBURY?], and I read and reread it many times, I became so infatuated with it. I didn't try to memorize it, but I found the other day that I remembered it word for word. I amazed myself by quoting it line for line, all the nine stanzas:
(Quotes poem)
"Well, I've been blessed with a good memory, but I was much surprised at myself. The memory, I think has been depreciated lately too much -- probably because in former years it was rated too high. Not enough attention in given to cultivating it. The memory is handmaiden to all our faculties. What could you do if you lost your memory? Why, if you couldn't remember, you would lose even your personal identity. When I was a young boy I used to memorize just for the pleasure of it all the examples of correct English given in Hart's Readers. My mother, seeing me interested in cultivating my memory, suggested that I learn some hymns. I took her suggestion, and have always been grateful for it, for I still remember them. And I have been able to remember many Bible verses because of a good memory.
"And speaking of the Bible, do you know that there is not a book in the Bible that is not built on some other book? That shows that there was one supervisory intelligence for the whole work. Most people think that the Pentateuch is difficult to account for on the score of literary sources. But this need not
Page 10
perplex if one will notice such passage as the second half of Exodus, Seventeen, and such like scriptures. It is evident from these that writing and keeping records was a matter entirely familiar to the Hebrews in charge of the migration of the Jews in the Wilderness.
"I graduated, and then joined the conference in Lagrange, Georgia, following the life of an itinerant minister. Later, I graduated from Vanderbilt, in 1906, and it was my privilege to deliver on that occasion the address representing the department. Bishop Hendricks was on the platform. In november, 1909, it was Bishop Hendricks who presided over conference, and he gave me an appointment to Trinity Church, here in Atlanta. Later, he was helpful to me in writing the life of Bishop Haygood.
"When I entered the ministry I felt very strongly that I had to be mentally honest, and wanted to go into the Biblical problems deeply. Not all men feel that way, and I pass no judgment or criticism on those. I want to make that plain. But for myself, I knew that I had to study a great deal before I could satisfy myself on the various Biblical questions.
"I wanted to get more education to broaden my knowledge, and I requested Bishop Hendricks to appoint me a student to Vanderbilt University. I always believed, like Dr. Lovick Pierce, father of Bishop Pierce, said, that a call to preach is a call to get ready to preach. After graduating from Vanderbilt I returned to Georgia, and married Georgia Roger Hunnicutt, the daughter of James B. Hunnicutt. We have not been blessed with children, but my wife still lives, and blesses my life.
'"My first charge in the preaching line was in the city mission in Atlanta. Then I served circuits and stations in North Georgia Conference and was appointed to Trinity Church in 1910. I was Dean of the Theology Department at Emory from
Page 11
1914 to 1918; paster at Athens, First Methodist Church; Rome, First Church; and was Secretary-treasurer of the Christian Education Movement to [1926?], and was presiding elder of the Oxford district from 1926 to 1930. From 1932 [to?] 1934 I was pastor at Madison, and from 1934 to 1936 at the First Methodist Church in Toccoa, Georgia.
"At present I have been given a sabbatical year to complete and [publish?] the life of Bishop Haygood, which his family requested me to write some time age.
"My comment on my record of varied service is that no one is more surprised at its character than I. My expectations when I left college -- and I fully expected that and nothing more -- was to be pastor of a church. It came as a great surprise -- and almost alarm to me/ [?] when I saw I was being called in phases of service somewhat different from that detached work. But it was the call of Providence and the voice of the Church, and it would have been presumptuous of me to refuse. I have tried as best I could to serve in these various fields.
"Among other things I have been trustee of various institutions -- Holmes Institute, Emory College, Emory University. I was trustee at Emory for ten years. I have also served in that capacity for Reinhardt College, Lagrange College for Women. Others have invited me to serve, but those are the ones I served.
"I was secretary of the Christian Education Movement during many periods, and one year I raised $100,000. I'll tell you how that happened. I was within fifteen hundred dollars of that goal when conference met. I looked about and found that Mr. Samuel Candler Dobbs was in the city. Knowing his love for this cause, I called to see him and stated the case to him. In a very kind manner he said, 'Is that all you need?' I replied, 'Yes, sir, that will bring me to my desired goal.' Without further ado he wrote me a check for fifteen hundred
Page 12
dollars. You can imagine with what eagerness I returned to conference, and after getting the Bishop's recognition, stated that here in my hand -- holding it aloft - was the last fifteen-hundred dollars on a total of one hundred thousand dollars for the Christian Education Movement. I was very happy, and the whole audience cheered and applauded loudly.
"I taught in the college at Oxford for several years, and enjoyed my life and associations there greatly. It was very pleasant to be with the young men and help them as much as I could to understand some fundamentals of Biblical study. One of the things I think important is the ability to speak and enunciate clearly. I don't know whether my enunciation is clear, but I've been told it was. At Oxford, in one of my Bible courses I referred in a lecture to Aaron's budded rod -- you remember the story of his rod bursting into bloom. When examination time came one of the boys used in an answer to a question a reference to Aaron's butted rod! I don't know whether he was being facetious, or whether he [understood?] it that way.
"I never had any trouble keeping discipline in my classes, and I didn't have to scare the boys into behaving, either. I tried to be more subtle. One afternoon, I remember, a boy was sitting with his feet propped up on the seat of the desk in front of him. It was a very hot, long summer afternoon, and the students were naturally restless, but of course I couldn't allow that. There was a professor at Emory once who used to show the soles of his feet while he lectured, but I don't approve of that kind of conduct. I wanted to call the boy's attention to his position, but I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I looked straight ahead, at the wall in the back of the room, so that really I wasn't looking at anyone in particular, and yet it seemed that I might be looking toward any student in the room.
Page 13
"I said, 'I have been reading in a magazine recently an article entitled The Upward Tendency of the Foot.' Quick as a flash the boy took his feet down, and it was all I could do not to burst out laughing, but naturally I couldn't afford to smile even.
"Another way I had of keeping them in hand was, if I saw a young fellow [slack?] up in his work, to ask him to come by the desk when class was adjourned. For instance, one of the boys might have been making poor grades in one of the subjects, when I knew that he could do better.
"At the adjournment of class," I would say, 'I would like for Mr. Brown to stop by my desk. Class is adjourned.' I would wait until all the others were gone, then I would turn to the boy and say to him, 'Mr. Brown, do you think you are doing your duty fully by this subject?' He wouldn't know what to say, usually, but would hem and haw and shift from one foot to the other. 'that's enough, sir,' I would tell him. 'I'm sure it will not be necessary to again call your attention to this matter.'
"I didn't believe in embarrassing pupils, as some teachers do. I contend that a pupil usually wants to do well in his studies and maintain good conduct if he gets the proper appreciation from his teachers.
"One of the tenderest little episodes I remember happened at big Emory while I was teaching there. I think the subject of the class in which this occurred was Church History, or some such study. It was not a major, and many laymen elected the course -- maybe because they thought it was a "crip" course, I don't know. Well, anyway, one day I was a few minutes late to class, but not more than five at the most. When I got to the classroom, however, the door seemed to be locked. I pushed upon it and found that a chair had been propped against it from the inside, anchored under the doorknob -- you know
Page 14
how it's done. Well, I just pushed the door on open as if nothing had happened, and quietly set the chair aside. I made no reference to the incident, but went on with the class as usual. Years after that I received a letter from a man in Texas, well-established in business, and he said [that?] he was the one who had propped the chair against the door. It was purely in a spirit of fun, he said, but it had been on his conscience ever since, and he was much struck with the smooth and [gential?] way in which I treated the incident. I appreciated that, and thought it was a beautiful episode in my life.
"A minister meets a variety of people and personalities in his work. There was Mr. Dodd, who was a member of the congregation of my first church. His daughter, Nellie Dodd, had died a little while before, while still very young and beautiful, and he donated money to the church to build a chapel to her memory. He was a business magnate of the city, and an influential citizen, and I called on him one day to ask him advice about making the year's church work successful. Mr. Dodd -- Mr. Green T. Dodd -- was a bluff, hearty man, and he said, 'Why just go out there and start throwing rocks and killing snakes!' Of course, he was using snakes as a symbol of sin. Somebody once said, 'don't dig up more snakes than you can kill,' and that's pretty good advice, too. Mr. Dodd was a judgmatical man, and he proved a wise man and counselor for me all during my stay at that church.
"In the membership of what has grown to be Oakland City Baptist Church there was a delightful Irish family. Their home was a delightful place for the young minister. They had a picturesque way of saying, 'Our name is Shannon, and we are as Irish as the Shannon River.'
"There was quite a little romance to the family, as I learned after knowing them a while. When Mr. and Mrs. Shannon were young they lived in Ireland and were childhood sweethearts, but their parents opposed their
Page 15
marriage. Mr. Shannon soon came to America, and married a lady over here. The girl married someone else and lived in India several years. It happened that both Mr. Shannon's wife and the girl's husband died at nearly the same time, and they both went back to Ireland for a visit, of course quite without knowing anything of the other. They met again in Ireland and fell in love all over, married, and came back to America. They are a lovely family, and have some fine children. I have spent many pleasant hours with them.
"One of the most amusing little episodes occurred at Jefferson during a testimonial meeting in church. The meeting was well in progress, and several people had gotten up and made statements to the congregation. We had a lady musician who played the organ for us, and this lady had a peculiar habit of sitting up very rigid and straight while she was playing. She would not sway her body or turn her head, but would turn the whole body at once on the organ stool. During a lull in the service she whirled about very suddenly on the stool, looking like a marionette in a puppet show. "Brothers and Sisters,' she said, 'I just feel like I'm a settin on the stool of do-nothin''. It was very funny, the way it all happened, and many people had a job of it to keep from laughing.
"Very beautiful incidents occurred too. One time we were holding revival services in an old empty store which we rented for a song and used for a chapel. Right next door was a boarding house, and staying there were some very elegant people, but they had met sad financial reverses. They had been a prominent family, but now he avoided his friends because he was poor, and they hesitated to look him up for fear of embarrassing him. Finally, at the end of a year, during the time we were holding revival services next door, he received an offer from a liquor company, which sought to capitalize on his name and good social connections. They offered him a handsome salary of
Page 16
two-hundred dollars a month to use his position to sell liquor to people of the upper classes -- Justices of the Supreme Court, and such figures as that. He was a conscientious man, and he came next door to the chapel and asked my advice. 'Brother Dempsey,' he said, 'I just don't know what to do. My wife and children are on the verge of starvation, and I need a job badly.'
" 'Brother,' I said to him, 'God has called you to be [righteous?], and He will see you through this crisis. The devil has got you at the lowest [ebb?], and offers to buy you for twenty-four hundred dollars. Don't let him do it.'
"I had ten dollars in my pocket and gave it to him, telling him to stick it out, and that things would be better soon if he would [have?] faith. About two years later I was back in the city, and was attending a service where they were taking up a collection for the superannuated preachers. I wanted the worst kind to give something, but I was very low financially that night, and didn't even have a dollar in my pocket. Presently someone touched me on the sleeve and said that a gentleman wanted to see me outside. I left the service and went out. There I saw a well-dressed man, well-poised, and with the very aspect of financial independence and self respect.
"Brother Dempsey," he greeted me, and I recognized him as the man of two years before, "I want to give you back the ten dollars you let me have when I needed it so badly. Due to your advice I did not take the liquor company's offer, and soon I had a good job as a manger for a respectable firm."
"I told him to keep the ten dollars and give it to someone else who might need it, but he said, no, that I would see more people than he would, and for me to take it back. I took it, and since my heart was very full at this touching incident, I carried it right up to the front of the church and added it to the collection for the superannuated preachers. That man is a well-known citizen of this community today, and his children hold positions of respect.
Page 17
"During my days as junior pastor I got one of the keenest rebukes I have ever received, and I believe that from it I learned a valuable lesson. Reverend Henry R. Davies was my senior preacher at that time. He was then about sixty years of age, and broken in health and realty. After having conducted several sermons for him, and finding the attendance discouragingly small, I talked with him about it, trying to find out the reason for the poor showing. I was pretty discouraged, but I said to him:
"Well, at least I can console myself with one thing: I have done my best." I didn't realize then how Pharisaic it sounded. Wise man that he was, Reverend Davies let a pause ensue, a silence that could be felt, and then, catching my eye, he said, 'My boy, could you say that on your kness?'
"And of course I at once saw that the position would make a big difference. You know, there are few times when a man can say without qualification that he has done his best.
"During my second year as junior pastor under Reverend Davies I realized that he was going to have to take the superannuate at the next conference. He had no home, no house, and no family to go to, and I wondered what would become of him. Deeply concerned, having come to love him dearly, I was walking through the village one day and suddenly the thought darted through my mind, why should not I make the effort to provide that [home?]? I remember there was a little bridge across the stream beside the road, and my eye was arrested by a crevice in it. I just stood and regarded this spot and thought the problem through. 'My Lord,' I said, 'with Your help I'll do it!' I walked on, determined to do what I could. I went about among the people who knew Brother Davies, both Methodists and other denominations, for he had many friends in all the churches, and they all gave freely to the cause. The idea caught like fire, for the all loved him. 'Yes,' they all said, 'we know Brother Davies, and we'll be glad to help.' The Masons were very generous in their contributions. With the money
Page 18
I collected I was able to buy a lot with a house on it, right in the center of town, in the (an) ideal location for the old [man?], for it was near the post office, the school, and the railroad station. It was perhaps the first superannuate home ever bought for a retiring preacher. I did read, later, that such a project had been suggested before in Alabama, but I don't think it was successful. Now, of course, there is a regular fund for that purpose, but at that time there was none. He was certainly a fine man, and I know that if anybody in Heaven is permitted to intercede for another, he does for me.
"When I was just beginning my career as itinerant minister, I was sent to [?] When I arrived in town I learned of a family of eight boys. I called upon them, and met their mother. 'sister Martin,' I said to her, 'I understand that you are the mother of eight boys.' 'Yes,' she replied, 'and proud of it.' 'And you should be, ' I answered. 'I've come here to see you to ask you to take care of me too.' 'Why, Brother Dempsey, I don't see how we can do it.' 'Yes you can,' I said, 'for if you have raised eight fine sons you know all there is to know about taking care of boys.'
"I was a young man just out of college, and I wanted to be connected with some family. The boys of that family were fine young fellows, good sportsmen and masters of woodcraft. It was a great advantage to me to be allowed to stay with them, for they took me into the woods with them, and the exercise and open air did me good, for I was still frail and sickly.
"One of the boys of that family responded to the call to preach, and years later he told me that the association with me was the inspiration he got to serve the church.
"During my stay there in Lumpkin County (?) I traveled from church to church, spending a week in each church community holding "cottage communions."
Page 19
I would go from house to house, spreading news that tonight at six-thirty, say, at one of the nearby houses there would be a prayer meeting held. All the neighbors who could would come, and sometimes we would have fifty present, sometimes only five or six. Usually the meetings were held in houses about five miles apart, so that in that way the whole community could be covered. I remember one house was way [in?] back in the forest, at the turn of a small winding road. Way in there was the family of Mr. Ware. It was a beautiful rural scene there. The surroundings and manner of life were very much like the old southern home. The house was a one-story frame structure, with the guest rooms on either side in front, having a veranda across the front of the house between. In the back was a shed containing the kitchen and dining room, and of course a smokehouse also. In the front yard were shrubs such as the old southern farm homes had -- boxwood, cape jessamine, and such -- and across the road from the house was a beautiful pasture, in which sheep, horses, cows, and goats grazed. A very pretty rural sight, indeed. They had everything they needed there at home - sorghum syrup in barrels, sausage, lard, meal, beans, and other staples in abundance. There was little money, but they needed little.
"The life of the itinerant minister had its compensations, all right. I usually traveled by horseback and buggy, often finding it convenient to ride horseback because of the narrow bridlepaths through the forests. When I went in the buggy I would often read and study on the way, for my horse was well broken, and would respond instantly to only a word. There was an oilcloth for the buggy which kept out the rain, and in real cold weather I would set a lantern inside to keep me warm. On the bright sunny days I preferred to ride horseback, or even in summer rains.
Page 20
"I had a wonderful horse, that had a spirited gait, and I'll tell you it was thrilling pleasure to gallop through those forests for mile on mile through the sunlit trees. And then in the summer-rains the horse would catch the spirit of the ride, and seemed to enjoy feeling the rain slant down in gusts upon his shining side, tossing his head and running like a free spirit over the trail. The horse would feel the thrill of the rider's body, and of course I would get the thrill of his body, and we would have many an exciting morning. I'll tell you, I asked nothing of any man!
And then sometimes there would be amusing things happen on the road. I remember an experience I had while still in college. I was going from [Conyars?] to [?]?[?] , driving a low-swung buggy of my mother's. I was alone, and as I topped a long, gentle incline such as are found in south Georgia, I saw a man walking on the left hand side of the road far ahead. When I caught up with him I pulled rein and asked him to get in and ride. He got in, not saying a word. After we had ridden for a mile or so he asked, 'Which one of your churches are you going to?'
"Why, how did you know that I was a preacher?' I asked.
"Oh, I knew that as soon as I saw your buggy top the hill."
"I had always prided myself on not showing my profession, for I preferred to be merely a man among men, teaching the Word, and not be known only as a preacher. This shattered that illusion, however. And many incidents have happened like that since then. Just the other day I was standing on the corner waiting for the street car, and an old darky came up to me and said, 'Pardon me, boss, but you's a preacher, ain't you?'
"Yes,' I replied, 'I don't seem to be able to conceal my profession.'
"Yassuh," he laughed, "it marks a man, don't it?"
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 16 of 73
[Ernest Gerber]
Page 1
A. G. Barie
Feb. 25, 1939
JUL
February 25, 1939
Ernest Gerber (Swiss-American)
Route 1
Marietta, Georgia
(Farmer)
A. G. Barie From Around the World to a Georgia Farm
Just a few miles north of the Chattahoochee River, in what was once a part of the Cherokee Nation, in the foothills near Lost Mountain, lies an 80-acre farmstead, part of an original plantation carved from the wilderness by a family of Georgia pioneers who moved in shortly after the removal of the Indians.
Leaving the State highway and climbing abruptly between tall, spindling second-growth trees, a narrow, rutted red clay road, void of topsoil, suddenly breaks through to disclose, on the left, a long, narrow field surrounded by high chicken-wire fencing. Within this enclosure, which widens to include two large laying houses and a brooder house, a large flock of beautiful White Leghorn hens add a startling touch to the scene, and evince their high [breeding?] by their flighty actions and nervous cackling at the near approach of a car or even a pedestrian.
At this point the road widens into a miniature parkway, shaded by three old oaks, beyond which it continues on an ascending grade between terraced fields, to disappear beyond an orchard of old and scrubby peach trees.
On the left the parkway merges with a wide driveway which runs between the house and other farm buildings to the large swinging gate of the barn lot. The barn itself is a frame structure, somewhat larger than those common to this section, and to its left is seen a large pasture in the form of a valley, at the far end of which is a miniature lake
Page 2
formed by an earthen dam across a small clear stream fed by two constant flowing springs at the upper end of the valley.
Near the angle formed by the road and driveway, but on a high plot of ground, stands the rumbling one-story house, its squat galvanized roof, with those of the outbuildings, furnishing a familiar landmark for passing airplanes. Architecturally, its design was actuated only by the size of the Georgia pioneer family. A wide porch fills the angle at the front, and another fills the angle at the rear, furnishing a place for the inevitable outdoor shelf and wash basin, and a "catch-all" for articles too bulky, or too dirty, to be brought indoors. A large chimney in front and another on the north side are made of hand-made brick, while another at the rear is of large flat rocks and mud and was probably built at the time the original log cabin was erected. Although the present house was erected not many years before the Civil War, it is sealed inside and out with a fine grade of pine lumber, all of which was planed and tongue-and-grooved by hand, the boards varying in width from 10 to 24 inches.
Between the rear of the house and the barn-lot fence are a large grape arbor, a mammoth pecan tree, and a hoary gnarled oak, whose age, like that of another standing near the barn, is testified by the two or three feet of root growth protruding above the ground. In the shade of these two trees a small modern building houses the old farm well, with its familiar windlass, rope and bucket. Close to the well housing is a modern deep well pump and a small gasoline engine which pump the same water to an elevated 200-gallon tank, from which the water is piped to the rear of the house, and to the chicken yard.
Page 3
In this same shady spot, between the well house and the lot fence, is a long table made of heavy oak plank, its top stained by years of use as a "battling-block" for the heavy washings necessary on the red clay farm. And on this same table the writer, who has lived on an adjoining farm for eight years, has eaten many a luscious Georgia watermelon with the descendants of those Georgia pioneers.
But for the next two years a small, gray-haired, bespectacled man, whom we neighbors call either "Chief" or "Doc," has almost daily invited me in to have a sip of excellent home-made wine, or to sit and read while he fed his "buzzards" -- the White Leghorns.
When I asked him one day if he could be willing for me to write his life history he "came back at me" with: "Sure; provided you don't quote me in anything that would discredit the Navy, or anyone in the service. Yes, I've read so much I know you have to build up a scene, but you know a damn sight more about the place than I do, so go ahead and describe it. Come over Sunday and we'll begin." Remember Remembering that Switzerland was saluting the New York World's Fair over NBC that Sunday I invited him over to dinner. After the program was finished he said "That was fine, especially the yodeling. My mother won an old folks' yodeling contest when she was 70 years old. I'm sorry, though, that they didn't have any zither music. The zither was so popular in Switzerland and it sure make's sweet music."
Shortly after dinner he said he would have to look after the chickens so we walked over to his place, and as we entered the chicken yard a large hen flew up on his shoulder, another flew up on his back, and still another
Page 4
flew up in his face so he had to grab her and hold her in his arms. He stood there and talked to them for a minute or two, at the same time feeding them from a piece of bread taken from his pocket.
When his pets had become satisfied and joined the rest of the flock, and as we stood for a few silent moments gazing across the small valleys at Old Kennesaw and the foothills, he suddenly turned and said: "This sure is a funny world. Here's the two of us, you born and raised way up North and me from Switzerland, living on joining farms in north Georgia, probably the last place either one of us would ever have dreamed of being. And the longer I stay here, the more I wonder why those old timers built their house facing those woods, instead of the other way, with the beautiful view of Kennesaw Mountain."
"Well, Chief, you haven't anything on me. I've been wondering for eight years why the folks built the house on the hill (where I live) clear on the back of an 80-acre place, just about as far from your house as they could get it. Always looked to me as if they didn't want to get too familiar with the neighbors. Maybe when the R.E.A. runs our new lines they'll cut out enough trees so we can at least se each other's houses.
"Yeah, I'll be glad when they get the juice here so I can finish wiring the place. My little portable 25 watt does very well to light my room and the chicken houses, but it's too small to carry any more."
"Well, lets go in and get started, and you can use the Underwood Portable to make your notes. Save time."
Up a few narrow steps and through a narrow shed-room which houses the electric plant and a conglomeration of boxes, bags of chicken feed, egg crates, and shelves piled with a variety of things, we entered the one room of the
Page 5
house which the Chief calls home. The room itself is large and well lighted, the walls being of the same wide boards an the rest of the house, but painted a pale blue. A new matched flooring covers the original planking, and a new modern door leads to the other part of the house, now occupied by a tenant family.
The furniture and fixtures of the room are almost a picture of a goodly part of the man's life. There is a queer blending of military neatness and 'bachelor helplessness." The large fireplace has been filled in with about iron, and a long cast iron [box?] box store serves as a heater and cooking range, supplemented by a small Coleman Camp stove which rests on a large box-like chest to the left of the door. On the mantel shelf is a replica of the J. S. Destroyer Childs, complete to the smallest detail, which was made by a German prisoner interned at one of the hospitals where the Chief had served. Flanking the ship on opposite sides are a finely inlaid Arab flint-lock pistol and an Arab sheath-knife of exquisite workmanship.
The chest which holds the camp stove also serves as a kitchen table, holding the few dishes and accessaries necessary for his simple meals. A few inches above them, and extending nearly across the wall from door to window, is a fine example of Turkish tapestry about 18 inches in width, and immediately above the center of this is a small but excellent water color portraying the murdering of a Sultan's favorite by the Eunuch and his helpers. (The Chief says she probably waved her handkerchief out the window at some Yankee sailor). Flanking the picture is a pair of wrought brass candlesticks (from Turkey) representing two puff adders. Above each of these is a small framed excerpt, in Arabic, from the Koran. Above these, in the center of the wall is a beautiful prayer rug depicting the mosque of Little St. Sofia. Scattered about the other walls
Page 6
are pictures of Mohammedans in native garb and a couple of fine tapestries. Two small taborets of exquisite inlay workmanship stand near a large oil-cloth covered table which serves as a writing desk and also accommodates the typewriter and a few books and datalogues.
In the corner between table and window stands an article which would grace the home of a millionaire. It is a gray and white marble pedestal holding an eagle with partly opened wings, on top of which rests a translucent globe of pink and cream alabaster, and the globe in divided in the center to accommodate an electric light. The eagle itself is an outstanding feature. Carved from a single piece of marble which must have taken years to locate, the body, neck, head, and wings are of streaked gray and white, while the legs and beak are of a pale yellow tint, and the claws are black. It is tall enough to make an excellent reading lamp and was carved in a shop across the Plaza from the Leaning Tower in [Pisa?], Italy.
In this strange room, seated at the Chief's typewriter and with the beautiful statue-lamp at my elbow I began typing his story, which is given in his own words:
"I was born on January 12, 1883, at Langnau, Canton of Bern, Switzerland, the fifth child in a family of eight. I had four brothers and three sisters. The picture over the table with the tower in the center is of the ancestral home where we were all born. I have often asked my father how long it had been in the family or how old it was but he was very reticent about such things; the modern Swiss people are too democratic to be proud of old titles. I do know that the coat of arms of both my father's and mother's families are carved in the gate posts at the front entrance through the high wall.
Page 7
"Apparently the center tower, which is really at the back of the building, is much older than the rest of the place. When I was a small boy a party of archeologists and Government officials came and tried to buy the place but Father wouldn't sell. They made a very thorough examination of the whole place and told Father that the tower part was built at the time of the Roman Empire, and the other part in about the third or fourth century. The tower goes about three stories into the ground to solid granite rock and the rooms were probably dungeons for prisoners. On the third floor above the ground is a room which Father kept locked, but one day my oldest brother and I found the lock open and went in. We found a torture rack and wheel, a scourge like a cat'o nine-tails with lead balls on the lashes, and several other implements we didn't know what to call. Before we had much time to enjoy our find Father discovered us and we got an unmerciful whipping.
"The little lake in the picture is artificial and has a plain fountain in the center which throws water fifty feet in the air, the water coming from a spring high up the mountain. The water running from the lake goes to a trout breeding pool and from there to a fish pond where Father kept the fish we served to guests.
"Yes, we ran a Gasthaus, or tourist tavern it would be called here, but our guests usually stayed the whole season.
"When I think of how we used to feed the guests and our large family almost entirely from the stuff we raised on the six acres of cultivated ground, and then look out over this 80 acres with nothing on it but a few dead cotton and corn stalks, I sometimes wonder what in hell was wrong with my mind when I bought it.
Page 8
"Well, boys and girls had to work then, when they weren't in school and each one of us had a certain job to do, and God help the one who didn't do their bit. That little place even furnished us fruit and vegetables the year 'round and Father made a good deal of his own [wine?] and sold some to other wine dealers. Father had a wide reputation as a wine expert and traveled to many places buying wines for rich folks and for some of the big hotels.
"Father was an awful crank about the etiquette of wine drinking and serving. I remember one day he had a guest who claimed to be a judge of wines and Father sent me down cellar to bring up a bottle of special vintage made many years before. Being naturally neat I wiped off the bottle before bringing it to the table. For that I got one of the worst "tannings" I ever got. The guest got off easier than I did, but he deeply offended Father by drinking his wine down in a couple of gulps. Father got up and left the room and didn't come back until the guest had taken the hint and gone his way.
"Education is strictly compulsory in Switzerland, and there are two schools, the primary, from 6 to 11 years, and the secondary, which is a 4-year term like your modern high school. We were taught three languages; Swiss, German, and Romansh, or [Vulgaz?] Latin. I think the last has been omitted in late years. My father and mother were both educated in French and taught us children at home. The Bible was a part of our daily study and we had to read it from beginning to end. Like most kids I was mostly interested in the passages which had obscene references, and when Dad caught me reading the Bible one day at home he took a look at what I was reading and promptly gave me a good licking.
Page 9
"Students of high school age were also taught sex relations and hygiene, the girls being taught by a special matron at the school, and the boys were usually taught by the village Priest.
"Yes, I was born and raised in the Catholic Church, but after I left home I missed doing my Easter duties and was automatically suspended. Cause I might have got reinstated in their good graces but have never been interested enough to go to the trouble. Besides, in my years of travel I have studied many different [sects?] and found that all of them have their good points and are all headed the same way, though by somewhat different routes.
"My boyhood life was just about like the average run of Swiss boys, plenty of work, but plenty of sports too. Father was a great hunter, and a noted marksman. Several times he came home from National shooting tournaments with the Golden Clive Breath of Victory on in place of his hat, so it's no wonder we boys were regular pests until so were given our first guns.
"When I was about 18 years old Father gave my oldest brother a 22 caliber rifle and also gave me an arbalist, or cross-bow gun. We decided to go out in the woods and try them out, but before we got out of sight of the house brother began teasing me about never becoming a 'William Tell.' He was some distance ahead of me and I yelled back at him 'You couldn't even hit me from where you are standing now.' Damned if he didn't turn round and fire at me, the bullet going into the fleshy part of my knee. Didn't shatter the bone but I bled like a stuck pig. A passer-by saw what had happened and before we came out of our daze an officer had come for us and we had to go before the judge, even before I had the services of a doctor. Course it was all in fun so we just got a reprimand and were sent home.
Page 10
"Well, about a year after that I got even with him, good and plenty. Dad had given me a fine double-barrelled shot gun some time before and one day when I was coming back from hunting birds I saw brother backing out of the woodshed in a stooped position and I let him have both barrels in his rear end. Of course he wasn't hurt much but they sure had a time picking all those fine bird shot out of him.
"No, I didn't go to college. Father didn't like the idea of that. He wanted all of us boys to learn a trade, as most of the Swiss boys do. When it came time for me to take up an apprenticeship I wanted to be a real good cook, but Father said I should be a tailor, because I was so small. Sure I was small and still am, but I was too damn strong and active to sit cross-legged all day and stitch with a needle. I afterward decided I wanted to be a photographer. Father objected to that too; said it wasn't a man's job either. The consequence was that I didn't take up any trade at all, but I never gave up photography as a hobby. As soon as I got started in this country I got me a camera and that big chest you see out in the shed room is full of albums of enlarged photos I made during my travels. If they were arranged chronologically you could come mighty near having an outline of the story I am telling you from now on.
"Well, when I was 19 years old I decided to leave home to be a man by myself, through some friends I got in the Sunlight Soap Factory in Olten, in the Canton of Solothurn. I stayed there three years and nothing of any consequence happened, except that when I became 21 I had to take a vacation and go home for my examination for army services. They gave me just about zero on the physical exam. I was so short I guess they were afraid
Page 11
I might hide behind the other fellows to keep from getting shot. I had the laugh on them all when we took the mental tests. When those who passed were lined up for the ceremonial parade I was put at the head and presented with the badge of excellence, an oak twig with two acorns in wrought gold. Father was so proud of me that he gave me a pair of cuff links made from two 2-frame gold pieces. Then I went back to Olten and finished my term. Came back home and stayed home about a year. During this time the two sons of some neighbors were talking about coming to America. They were older than me but we chummed together and I got so interested in their plans I decided I wanted to come with them.
"Of course we couldn't just pick up and come over like folks do here. We had to get released from military service calls, get through a lot of red tape about property rights, passports and transportation, but we finally sailed on the St. Louis.
"The first day out I became the butt of a good joke for the sailors. I had gone to a man who professed to be an English teacher, soon after I decided to come over, and he had taught me what he said would be enough to get by with until I had a chance to study. "Well, when I tried to talk to the Yankee sailors they laughed like hell at me. I finally made them understand that I had taken English lessons, but one who seemed more informed than the rest told me I hadn't been taught English but 'Cockney.'
"We landed at Ellis Island August 5, 1906, and before we had cleared customs and quarantine one of your Yankee super-salesman had sold my friends 40 acres of land in southern Missouri. It was railroad land being sold by the Frisco Lines.
"We didn't even stop in New York, but boarded a train and went right
Page 12
through to the nearest stop on the railroad. We found the place and there wasn't even a shed on it so we went to the nearest house and the folks took us in and took care of us until we could get a log shack put up. The old man who owned the place, we afterward learned, was an old Yankee Indian scout who had homesteaded the place he was on several years before.
"The next day after our arrival the old man went with us to our place and helped us put up a rough log cabin. Having lived in rock houses at home we young fellows had never seen a log house built, so the old man was a great help to us. We had a great deal of trouble at first because he didn't understand our language and we didn't know his, but I overcame that difficulty to some extent by using a German-English translating dictionary I had brought along. When I wanted to say anything to him I'd pull out my book, show him the German word and he would read the English word and get the idea of what I wanted to talk about. After we got the cabin built I kept on going over to his place every night for two months, and by that time I had learned enough English so I could get along with most anybody.
"No, the place didn't have any cleared land but there were a few [barren?] spots so we dug up some of them and planted a little late garden stuff. We started clearing out timber too and it wasn't long before we had a nice lot of new land ready for the plow. Of course it was new ground and full of stumps but the soil was good and we knew it would produce good crops. My friends had farmed in Switzerland with oxen and had brought their harness with them so they bought a pair of young oxen and that is the way they started farming in America. Their harness for the oxen was a lot different than what was used here; it was made partly of leather and part chain, each
Page 13
ox having a separate harness the same as your team harnesses here. The collars were different though; they were put on up-side-down to the regular mule collar.
"Well, I stayed there and worked with my friends until 1914, but in the meantime something had been troubling me. We had got acquainted with a Swiss family some distance away and the oldest boy and myself used to go there often to play cards and drink wine with the folks, because we all talked the same language. The oldest daughter was, to me, a beautiful girl, and I sure fell in love with her and I thought she loved me too, because she used to walk out with me and we would hug and kiss like all lovers do. But I craved her physically, and here is where our early sexual training came into play. Instead of getting excited and angry because she wouldn't satisfy me we talked it over in a matter-of-fact way. She said she felt the same as I did, but that she was in love with my oldest friend and was saving herself for him, even before he had asked her to marry him. She told me of two sisters who lived a few miles off who she said would take care of me and that she would speak to them about it for me. I still wasn't satisfied, and got to worrying about things so much that I began to get poorly and not able to do much around the farm.
"An old priest from the nearby town used to come out to have prayer with the settlers and he asked me one day what the matter was, so I told him the whole story. He advised me to find work somewhere else and forget about the girl, for she was soon to marry my friend. Not so long after that the priest drove up one day with the Postmaster from the town and he offered me a job in the Postoffice, and said I could live with his family. I went to town and took a short examination and went to work.
Page 14
"Got along fine for a long time, but I was still going back to the place and by this time the girl and my friend had gone away and got married, and I missed her more than ever. I got nervous and began to fall down on my job so bad that the boss told me one day he thought I'd better go off somewhere and work at something else for a while and then come back. He even found me a job and one day took me farther north to a large dairy farm owned and managed by a woman, the wife of a millionaire who owned a large mill in Des Moines, Iowa.
"Man, that was some farm! Every cow on it was a Blue Ribbon cow and they were taken care of like humans. The boss lady put me in charge of the electric plant and water supply and I had a fine room in the large brick building which contained the feed mills and electric plant, besides other farm machinery. The other men there made fun of me and called me Shorty, but my short legs were a great advantage in some ways for I could stoop over and shoulder a 200-pound sack easier than the big fellows could.
"That winter the boss lady took me back to Des Moines with her and wanted her husband to give me a job, but he said she run her business and didn't want her to stick her nose into his; but he proceeded to show me a good time, taking me to shows and buying me all the wine I could ask for. He was quite a drinker and his wife was always wanting to know where we had been the night before, so I would try to remember the name of some show we had seen so I could tell her we had been there. Well, one night the boss took me to the Unique Theatre and the next morning when she asked me where we had been I told her, but my speech was still tinged with German [gutturals?] and it sounded like [Eunuch?]. She laughed so hard I simply had to ask her
Page 15
what the matter was and she told me to ask her husband what [eunuch?] meant. When he explained the meaning of the word I was so ashamed that I couldn't go in to supper.
"In the spring of 1917 I decided to join the army as most every other husky man was doing, but when I went to enlist they turned me down on account of my stature. I then told the boss lady I would like to get in the Red Cross and she said she would help me. About that time I learned that my old neighbor boy, the younger one, was going to California to enlist so I hurried home and went with him.
"On the train going west there was a bunch of sailors going back to their ships and they told us we would be a lot better off in the navy than in the army. Guess maybe none of them had ever been in the army anyway.
"When we got to San Francisco we went to the recruiting office and my friend was accepted and sent to barracks right away, but they turned me down, as usual, so there I was, all alone in a strange place. Still had money enough to take care of me for a while so I thought I'd take in the sights. While I was walking down one of the main streets I came to a Navy recruiting office and naturally stopped to look at the pictures displayed outside. A petty officer came out and started to talk to me about joining the navy but I told him how the army officers had turned me down, so I didn't think the Navy would take me either. He asked me to go inside and talk to the warrant officer in charge. The officer asked me a lot more questions and I told him I wanted to get in either the Red Cross or Radio service, and he said it would take me too long to get anywhere in radio on account of my speech. He thought for a long time then finally asked me how
Page 16
I'd like to go in the Hospital Corps. I told him that would be fine, just so long as I got to go somewhere.
"Well, I guess they must have been short of personnel on account of was conditions, for he mustered me into the service with a waiver of all disabilities, had he [?] outfitted in most no time, and sent me out to the Goat Island Hospital school.
"I was the only foreigner in the school, and being a rookie, I sure had to put up with a lot from the other students, but I toughed it out, and in September 1917 they sent me to the hospital at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for further instructions. I was assigned to repair room and ward duties, but due to my interest in the work I was given every opportunity to improve my knowledge and fit myself for a higher rating in the medical department. There was a large [personnel?] at the hospital at that time so our tours of duty were short, which gave me a chance to satisfy my propensity for exploration as well as to secure many of the pictures now in my collection.
"As a small sample of the queer things that happen in foreign lands I will tell you about the little shrine I found one day while on a scouting trip with my camera. I was several miles from headquarters, deep in the woods, when I came on a peculiar looking [clump?] of underbrush. On parting the bushes I was startled to discover a small shrine, in the form of a temple, but roughly made of common stone. It was completely surrounded by the bushes, with no path leading to it, and it appeared to have been built hundreds of years before. When I returned to the Harbor I hunted up a man
Page 17
who I knew to be connected with the British Archaeological Society and told him about it. On my next liberty day the two of us went out to look it over. Imagine my surprise on finding that during the week the whole thing had been completely removed, not even a piece of stone left on the ground. Things like that make a man's back hair rise, at least mine did.
"While scouting up the coast one day I found an old native who had a beautifully-built sailboat. Don't know where he got it but I sure wanted it and kept going back to see him until he finally sold it to me for $10.00. The [?] at the Hospital sent a launch after if for me and had a sailmaker assigned to the job of making a large sail for it. The tiller of the boat was made from a solid piece of rare Hawaiian mahogany, so valuable that a boat builder near there built a fine cabin, installed a good steering wheel and ropes, and covered the bottom of the boat with copper sheeting, in exchange for the old tiller.
"During the remainder of my stay at Pearl Harbor this boat was of great help to me in my scouting trips, as well as for many pleasures trips for other officers and men at the hospital.
"One of these trips will remain in my memory until I die. A man who was preparing material for a book embracing a story concerning the eruption of a volcano had come to the island for inspiration, and he asked me if I would be willing to take a party to Launa Los. I had been planning a trip there myself so we got a party together and sailed over. One of the men was a camera man for Fox Films and he had his movie camera along, so I didn't take mine, and missed getting a real picture. We were ascending the slope and got to about 200 yards from the top when suddenly it seemed
Page 18
as if the earth itself was about to go to pieces. After a short sharp rumble a mass of smoke and fire shot up into the air hundreds of feet and a stream of lava rushed through an opening in the crater walls. Some of the men started to run but the camera man had set up his machine and was grinding away so most of us stood our ground until the nest became too great and we angled away from the lava stream and hurried on down to the shore. We were simply lucky that the lava had broken through where we were out of its path. A scientist who lived not far from there said the stream of lava flowed at the rate of 30 miles per hour down the mountainside. This was the eruption of 1918, which furnished headlines for the newspapers, and stories for some of the magazines.
"Another little incident in connection with volcanoes might interest some of your students of folklore. You know that most of the natives, and not a few white men, believe that the spirits live in, and control the actions of the volcanoes. There was a doctor living not far from the hospital who was a great student of Hawaiian folklore, and was always exhorting to us in justification of his belief in the spirit folks in the volcanoes. Figuring that we might quash his enthusiasm by a visit to one of the inactive ones we got up a party and invited him to go with us on the trip. He agreed to go provided we would take along a native priest whom he knew. On the way to the crater, which was accessible by auto, he had us stop while the priest picked a twig off a small bush, and some bright red berries off another one. Arrived on the floor of the crater, we got out and walked to one of the small openings where steam came out and waited to see what was going to happen. After mumbling some kind of prayer, the priest threw the twig and berries i to the opening and we all stepped back and waited for something
Page 19
to happen. Guess we stood there about five minutes, then a little rumbling noise started and steam began to come out faster. We began to run and suddenly there was a loud explosion and a small stream of fire and smoke went up in the air about a hundred feet, but it stopped in about a minute and nothing more happened. To me it was just a natural [phenomenon?], or perhaps affected by the foreign matter thrown into the hole, but I bet that doctor is still telling the world how the old priest awakened the spirits of the volcano.
"Not long after this a man at the settlement became mentally deranged and it was decided to send him back to the States. As he seemed to take a liking to me and would do most anything I asked him to, I was given the opportunity of making one of the plenty to take him home. We came over on the South Carolina, by way of Washington and Oregon, then down the coast to San Francisco. After getting the sick man taken care of I was given a long liberty, which gave me a fine opportunity to visit all the old monasteries in that section, and to take pictures of many interesting places and things.
"While enjoying the sights in San Francisco I ran across a real bargain in a portable X-ray machine, and as there wasn't one in use in any of the places I had been so far I bought it for my own use, and this was the means of getting started on my rating as an X-ray technician. I sure got a lot of [?] out of that little outfit. Regulations didn't permit me to use it on medical cases at that time so the Medical officer said he would help me out by inviting civilian friends of his to get their pictures taken. Well, a lot of them volunteered, among them some darn good looking girls, and didn't I get some good pictures of them! I got the knack of the thing right away, and those pictures didn't leave much to the imagination, I'm telling you!
Page 20
"Well, the South Carolina finally got to San Diego. I was on her about three months and was transferred to the hospital ship Marcy. That was late in 1919. Soon after being transferred, the Marcy started on one of those good will tours, down the coast of South America, calling at almost every port. The day we crossed the Equator as had the usual "Neptune" party, and I being a rookie sure caught hell.
"This was more than made up for by the big time we had on our visit to [antiago?]. A party of us were invited by the Bishop to visit the monastery and vineyards. They showed us the old and very valuable church jewels, and wined and dined us in royal style. Guess the wine was too rich for our blood, for some of us got more than we could handle and they had to put us to bed, but we were not disciplined for being over-leave.
"It was March 1920 when we got back to San Diego harbor and life once more became routine. In June I got a telegram from home saying that mother was sick, so I got 30 days leave and travelling time and went home, but mother was dead before I got there. I stayed my leave in Switzerland, and while in Bern I met a bunch of Americans and we celebrated the Fourth of July in [rathskeller?], and we sure did celebrate.
"Shortly after that I was ordered to the USS Pittsburg, flagship of the fleet, and reported at Venice, but the Pittsburg had sailed for Genoa, Italy. When I arrived there she had gone to Milan, then to Cherbourg, then to Le Ravre, where I finally caught up with her. The ship was taking part in the [Maritime?] Festival. From there we went to the Isle of Wight, but were soon ordered back to Le Havre, where the Pittsburg was relieved by the Utah, which took us back to the Isle of Wight to take part in the King's Regatta.
Page 21
"We next went to Oravesend, and were given shore leave to make a trip to London. I was disappointed in that trip. To me London is very uninteresting, the only points worth seeing being the Tower and Westminster Abbey.
"On my return to Cherbourg I was transferred to the destroyer Childs, which had been ordered to proceed, by easy stages, to Dansig, Germany. He called first at Helsingfore, Finland, the [?] city I ever saw. You couldn't find a piece of paper or even a match stick on the streets. We then went to Tullian, Astonia, and then to Stockholm, Sweden, where we took part in the King's anniversary. Next we stopped at [Riga?], Latvia, and from there to Copenhagen, Denmark, where I had a chance to make a trip to Prince Frederick's Castle, made famous by Shakespears's Hamlet, he then went direct to Danzig, Germany, the Childs being the first American ship to touch at a German port after the war.
"I want to tell you here that during our thirty days stay as were treated better by the German people than either the French or English had ever treated us. In spite of the fact that my Swiss-German accent showed where I hailed from, the German boys gaven me every opportunity to see everything I wanted to, and the girls weren't far behind the boys either! The people were so short of money that you could buy about anything you wanted at your own price. In one of the shops I found a new camera which I knew sold in the U.S. for $280., and I bought it for $35, also a laboratory microscope for $50., which was worth $300 here.
"Well, we were finally ordered back to Constantinople, or Istanbul, as they call it now, but we were to make a sort of good-will tour on the
Page 22
way. [He?] went out through the Kiel Canal and shortly after entering the English Channel a big storm broke and that is where I caught hell for the first time in my experience. Destroyers don't have any [Medical?] Officer, so it was up to me to look after all the casualties, and there were plenty of them. [He?] picked up an S.O.S. from a vessel behind us in the channel, and in spite of the terrible thrashing the ship was getting the captain ordered her about to the rescue. Life preservers were put on and the life rafts got ready and when we went about I was sure I'd never see the U. S. again. [Men?] were thrown around like straws and dashed against the rails and deck fittings, and there was plenty of broken arms and legs, to say nothing of a few heads. [A lot?] of men new to the water were seasick too, which added to the general misery. To cap the climax, the boat we went to rescue had got free soon after she called and was a lot better off than we was. The storm lasted three days, but we finally got to Le Havre, where we laid up while the men [recuperated?].
"Proceeding to Cherbourg, we started out on another tour, touching at [Marcelona, Lisbon?], Gibraltar, [Cheablanca, Morocco?]; the Canary Islands; [alaga, Spain?]; Island of [Kajorca?], across the Mediterranean to Algiers, to Tunis, Tunisia; then [back?] across the Mediterranean to [arseilles?], France. Of course he stopped long enough in each of those places to take in the sights and get photographs. Our next trip was to Livorno, Italy, the port of call for [Florence and Pisa?], both of which places we visited, and it was at [Pisa?] that I bought the statue with the eagle. This trip was made worth while by the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral, its Baptistry with acoustics seldom found elsewhere in such perfection, and the burial place of the Crusaders, with its delicate Gothic arches and fresco of Dante's Inferno.
Page 23
"The ship next put in at Naples, Italy, and from there we made many interesting trips, the first of these being to [Pompeii and Herculaneum?], to Vesuvius, [sia?] with the baths of Nero, Capri and its famous blue grotto, and the ruins of the palace of [Tiberius?].
"Well, you know you can't see anything when there is a crowd so to make the most interesting trip in that territory I got up a party of just four, among them the boy from Georgia who really was the cause of me being here now, but I will tell you about that later. Anyhow, we jokingly called him "the rebel." The four of us went to Rome and had three full days of sight-seeing. [We?] spent a whole forenoon in the Coliseum itself, the Via [?] took another half day, the catacombs of [Lt. Sebastian?] alone took three hours. In the Church of [Lt.Sebastian?] they showed us a flagstone with the imprint of St. Peter's foot as he left Rome during the reign of [Nero?], when things began to get too hot for him. There on that spot Christ appeared to him heading toward [Rome?]; well, its the story of 'Quo Vadis, [Dominic?]' fame. St. Peter left the imprint of his foot there on the flagstone. But-- a few yards further on there is a church built over a portion of the ancient Via [Apia?] and lo and behold, there is another imprint of St. Peter's foot, and that is 'the only true one.' Which is the right one has never been decided, and so the fight still goes on. [We?] also saw the Forum, Temple of Vesta, the Arches of Constantine and Titus, and, to close the last day, permission to see His Holiness, the Pope, carried in state to the [istine?] Chapel, after waiting and wasting time standing in the loggia, first on one foot and then the other.
In order to actually have an audience with the Pope the four of us again went to Rome, this time in the ship's liberty party. I had a hell of a time to get the 'rebel' to go along this time as he seemed to have
Page 24
an unholy terror and fear in seeing the Pope. Finally, after a long wait, we were allowed to enter the audience hall and after a few more minutes His Holiness entered. His kindly face beamed as he shook hands with the thirty-five sailors (I guess he is a good a hand-shaker as our President); he had a friendly word for everyone and a blessing and souvenir rosary for Catholic and Protestant alike (the old fogey), and won the heart of even our 'rebel' who, on the outside, said 'Hell, he is just a man like the rest of us, except for the uniform.' I guess he expected to see a pair of horns and a forked tail, instead of that he saw a saintly old man with a face shining with kindness.
At the close of the audience a little incident occurred which gave me a great thrill. His Holiness had gone down the line [as?] we were kneeling and extended his hand with the symbolic ring, those of the faith kissing the ring and the others bowing their heads to receive the blessing. I was the last man in the line, and as he passed he noticed the Hospital Corp Cross on my sleeve. He stopped and asked what it represented. When I told him the branch of service I was in he said, 'my son, we may not be of the same faith but we are both in the service of God.' We were all glad we came and it was well worth the three hours or more waiting. This trip we visited chiefly the famous churches, from St. Peter's to a beautiful little church converted from a pagan temple which is remarkably well preserved, one of the most beautiful I think I have ever seen.
"Returning to Naples, the ship made a trip to the ports of the Black [Sea?], finally reaching Constantinople where I was transferred to the U. S. Embassy but officially attached to the USS Scorpion, which was the old [orgenthau?] yacht. The Turks wouldn't allow any foreign war vessels in their harbors, but they permitted the U. S. to keep the Scorpion there as
Page 25
she had no armament, but just the same she didn't lay around the harbor much, but often made trips on the theory that the Turks wouldn't get tired looking at her lying under their noses all the time. Uniforms were banned for the same reason, and we were given strict [orders?] to be on our dignity so as not to offend any of the Turkish officials. Imagine telling a sailor to be dignified! Well, I was a petty officer and it wasn't so hard for me to do that, except when I got out with the '[goba?]' and then I raised hell with the rest of them. In the two years I spent there on that trip I did not have as much time to see things as on my later visit but I did explore the city as much as I could, and also studied their language and customs a lot, too.
"Well, in 1922 I was again transferred to the [Childs?] and went to Norfolk, Virginia, and was sent from there up to [Bar Harbor?], Maine, to the Radio Station. The station was at [Sea Hall?], about 29 miles out. I sure did enjoy that tour of duty. I only had a few men to look after and plenty of time to hunt, both with the rifle and camera. Enjoyed it especially in the winter when the snow was deep and I could use snow shoes and skis. One night while there I saw a phenomenon I'll never forget. When I went to bed the Aurora was brighter than ordinary and during the night a heavy wind and snow storm came up. I was awakened by one of the men calling to me and got up and went to the control room. It seemed to be full of an unearthly greenish-blue flame, and a long drop cord in the center of the ceiling was acting as if the spooks were at work on it. It would swing over toward a control panel on one side of the room and then in a few seconds it would suddenly swing over toward the generator on the other side, and repeat the performance at regular intervals. We all got scared and got a long ways off until the light faded. Scientific men made a report later that it was
Page 26
caused by the thick snow falling through a highly charged strata and carrying the static to the big antenna running into the building.
"Well, somebody else must have been itching for a good place to stay, because early in 1924 I was called back to Norfolk and shipped on the Henderson, via Africa, to join the Scorpion at [Hagusa, Jugo-Slavia?]. Man, that's some old town. They have the old medieval customs and make a regular ritual of opening and closing the city gates as they have done for hundreds of years.
"The Scorpion proceeded through Cattaro Bay with its old and beautiful scenery, stopped at the Island of Korfu, then on through the Corinth Canal to [Piracus, Greece?]. [Was Lucky?] again and had a nice trip to Athens where I saw all the old and beautiful things, including the Parthenox. The Scorpion then took me back to Constantinople, where I was again attached to the embassy, but still officially with the Scorpion.
"No, I didn't find my old sweetheart in that port but there was plenty of others. Now, I'm not going to spill a lot of [hooey?] about the morals of sailors or make excuses, but what the folks call the immorality of the foreigners is a damn sight better than the same thing in some of the so-called civilized countries. Now, you take a man assigned to shore duty for a long stretch; he would have to spend most of his spare time on the ship, if he didn't live on shore, and would have to be in at certain hours and put up with a lot of other regulations. Well, he can rent a good room and kitchenette for five dollars a month, get him a good looking girl, and live like a king. Yes, they do everything a wife would do and a lot more than most of them. And let me tell you, they are a darn sight more capable and economical in running a house than the girls here. They have it bred
Page 27
into them in those countries ... They mend and press your clothes, buy the groceries, do the cooking, and they sure can cook, and keep the place spotlessly clean. And while you have her she is your woman and nobody else can touch her. Yes, as soon as you're gone she will be looking for another man, but they got to live just like everyone else.
"Since [Kemal Attaturk?] began to reform the country I suppose there have been many changes, and things would be a lot different than when I was there, but my camera retained for me the things as I saw them, and bring back to my mind the incidents that happened at that time. Some things I didn't photograph pop into mind once in a while and I was just thinking of the time I saw the fire department go into action. They didn't have any [waterworks?] then, just a well here and there, and there seemed to be two crews of firemen, one with red equipment and the other with green. The men wore helmets like the old Roman soldiers and a little short [tunic?], the rest of the body being bare. Their pump was a sort of barrel-shaped thing which was carried on the shoulders of six men, some extra men being in front and behind them to relieve if the trip was very far, and a number of men carried buckets. There wasn't any signal system, but a watchman in a tower in some part of the city would cry out when he saw what looked like a fire maybe the word would get around to the firemen after a while. When they heard about a fire they would start running toward the spot and the first crew there might get the job of putting out the fire. If both crews got there about the same time, they would begin bidding on the job of putting out the fire. That's what happened one day when I was lucky enough to be nearby, and damned if the building didn't burn down before the owner decided which crew he would hire.
Page 28
"Well, magazines have carried pictures and fine descriptions of the beautiful mosques and palaces in Turkey and nothing I could say would make them more beautiful or interesting. I do say, though, that the so called Christianized people who are always talking about the Turks or [Mohammedans?] being so terribly intolerant, don't know what they are talking about. They always cite the fact that the beautiful mosaics n the mosque of [St. Sofia?] have been covered with [echre?]. Well, did you ever see a picture of the Virgin Mary in a Presbyterian or other protestant church? I have been in St. Sofia many times and the thought came to me the first time that if these people were so intolerant, why didn't they destroy the mosaics? A Yankee boy with a handful of stones could spoil one in a few good throws. And in many cases the only part of the picture covered is the face, and some of these are not even painted over but covered with a gold star. In the name Mosque, on either side of the opening in the hall-way where the faithful enter the inner temple there is a beautiful statue which could have been destroyed with a blow of a hammer; instead they are enclosed in cabinets which are closed up during religious ceremonials, and can be opened to the view of the public at other times.
"I had a little adventure in connection with this mosque which might be worth telling about. It was built by The Emperor Justinian I as a Catholic shrine, and is considered the third most holy mosque in Turkey. For that reason it was, at that time at least, closely guarded, and no one was allowed to carry anything inside which might desecrate it. I had tried for nearly a year to get permission to photograph some of the interior but was always refused permission. Well, one day I got acquainted with a shepherd who tended his flock not far from there and
Page 29
and after I had visited him many times I told him what I wanted. He finally told me of a way to get in through a narrow opening between the bastions in the rear which was covered with bushes. I sneaked through the opening and not seeing the guard inside I set up my tripod and camera and got two good pictures. Just as I was hurriedly taking down the outfit the guard entered and saw me. He raised his long barreled rifle and was about to drill me when the [shepherd?] rushed in with his hands up, shouting the Arabic word for "immunity." This was my cue and I dug out my embassy assignment card and handed it to him. Of course he didn't know what it said but as we were immune from about everything else he thought I hadn't got a picture yet he finally got friendly and was very courteous from then on.
"One day I heard that same prominent man had died and his funeral was to be held at the Mosque of [Ryoub?], on the Golden Horn. [Hiking?] out there I joined the crowd lining the street and waited for the ceremonial procession. I noticed a young man in European clothes standing next to me and spoke to him in Arabic. He answered me in better English than I ever spoke and we immediately became friends. He was highly educated in English and other languages, was a graduate of one of our own famous universities, and was the personal secretary of the [Sheik El Islam?], the spiritual head of the Church in that part of the empire. He did me many favors during the rest of my stay and helped me to learn more of the [Mohammedans?] and their customs.
"Not long after we met, the month of the [Hamidan?] began. During this period, which begins when the first sickle of the new moon appears after the [Vernal Equinox?], the faithful fast every day from sunrise to sundown, not
Page 30
even a drop of water reaching their lips. But you'd ought to see them eat and drink between sunset and sunrise! They sure do make up for lost time.
"During this month there is one night set apart from the rest and called the Night of Power. On this night the spirits are supposed to descend on each worshipper and give him the power to control his body and mind, in fact make them sort of supermen. That is, if they are able to get themselves wrought up to the proper pitch for the reception of the power. I had long wanted to witness one of these gatherings but it seemed I was doomed to disappointment, until I met my new friend and asked him if he could help me out. Well, through his influence with the Sheik I was permitted to attend, clothed in the proper robes and instructed how to act. I must say that I was not greatly impressed with the show. It was not nearly as wild as I had been led to believe; in fact, I've seen a lot crazier demonstrations of fanatical emotionalism right here at home at [Holy Holler?] meetings. Very few of the worshipers went into contortions and for the most part it was more of a mass action, the robed figures swaying from side to side and forward and back in unison, me with the rest of them. Maybe its all [hooey?], but I know from close contact with them that they sure do know how to control their tempers, especially when some fool white man does something that would mean fight right now in any other country.
"I sure enjoyed life there and sometimes wished I could have stayed there permanently, but all things must keep moving, so early in 1926 I was ordered to the USS Pittsburg, at Ville franche, France. And here began the long trip which finally landed me back in the States, on the last lap of my journey to Georgia. I have a long way to go yet so will be brief in describing the many things I saw on the way. The Pittsburg first went to
Page 31
Naples, where I had been before, and then to [Palarmo?], Sicily. From here I made/ /a trip to Monte Santo Monastery with the world-famous cloisters. A few hours ride took me to several ancient Greek temples and amphitheatres, many of which are in an excellent state of preservation.
"[Malta?]. Not much of interest there except the quaint headdresses of the women, which they wear in shameful remembrance of Napoleon's visit. The claim is that there was not a virgin left in Malta after he and his hordes got through. Shameful work, maybe, but very good taste, for the women generally are beautiful, and our sailors said, with Caesar, "[Vani?], Vidi, Vici" - they did not find them hard to conquer.
"Alexandria, Egypt. Not much of interest except the Botanical Gardens, but at Cairo there was the University, Citadel, Tombs of the [Pamelukes, Bazears?], and, if you have the courage, the Arab quarters with the [dens?] of iniquity and [hashish?].
"Bizeh and the Pyramides and Sphynx. [?] and the [Nedropolis?] of the Pharoahs Household Officers and also the Sacred Bulls. The pyramid of [Sakara?] is one of the oldest in existence. Nearby are the ruins of [Nemphis?], The [Alabaster?] Sphynx, the Collosi of [Rameese?] II, one alabaster and the other sandstone. Karnak with its gigantic temple with collosi of the Pharaohs. [?], and the Valley of the Tombs.
"Palestine, landing at Port of [?] at the foot of Mount [Carvel?], we went to Nazareth and Tiberius, on the shore of Lake [Genazereth (Galilee)?] we paid a visit to the newly founded colony of Jews. Their work bids fair to make of their old homeland and land where milk and honey flows.
"Through [Camaria to Nablus?], where the High Priest Jacob, of the [sect?] of the vanishing [Samaritans?], showed us the ancient Thorah, one of the oldest manuscripts in the world. After a visit to Jacob's well we went on to
Page 32
Jerusalem. My host, a monk of the Trappist order, informed me that a visit to the Sailing [Wall?] of the Jews would be worth while, as this was one of the feast days. The wall was crowded with a motley of Jews of all nationalities, mourning and wailing over the loss of the Temple of Soloman's glory. Then a visit to the temple area proper with the Dome of the Rock, erroneously called the Mosque of Omar, which is built over the rock called [Moriah?]. This delicate and most beautiful building, with its arabesque decorations, and its dome rising [98] feet above the sacred rock, is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, and justly so. There is a cavern underneath the rock where one can note the conduit for the blood of the sacrificial animals for the burnt offering of the Jewish ritual. Continuing we turn south and after descending a flight of steps we approach the Mosque [Kl Akea?] which in Justinian's time was the Church of St. Mary. On entering this mosque we note the cruciform shape of the building. Underneath it we note the Double Gate of Herod's time and it is pointed out to visitors that Christ often passed through this gate. North of here is the Golden Gate, which seems to be the only part of the city which was not destroyed by Titus, and through this gate Christ made his triumphal entry on his jackass. The gate itself is [walled?] up because it was believed by the Moslems that some day a Christian conqueror would again enter Jerusalem through this gate. [Phooey?], they say the same thing of the Golden Gate in Constantinople, which also is [walled?] up.
"Our second day began with a visit to the dwelling of Pontius Pilate with the "[Zose Home?]" Arch, then following the Via Doloroso to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This may all be very interesting to some, but to me the Street of David with its ancient shops and overhanging balconies, where people still live and dress as they did in the time of Christ, was
Page 33
very much more interesting, for there one has to believe what they tell you with reservations, as the different churches differ in pointing out the holy places, except the actual sepulchre, while here life is real and unpainted.
"Next, to the Garden of [Gethsomane?] with its ancient olive trees, said to have seen the passion of Christ (even Monks will tell little white lies). The crowning glory, however, is the little dome built over the spot on the summit of the Mount of Olives from which Christ rose into heaven, for here they will show you with reverence (for a few [piastres?]) a footprint of the Saviour Himself, which he made when he gave himself an extra little push to aid the cloud to take him up. The footprint is some fifteen inches long and six inches wide, some footprint for a perfect formed man like He was reputed to be. On the trip to Jericho they pointed out the Inn of the Good Samaritan, and near the Dead Sea a monolith of rock salt which is the reminder of Lot's wife as she looked back on burning Sodom and [Gomorrah?], and across the river Jordan the place where Christ was baptized by John. Here the gullible tourist must buy some water from the very spot where Christ stood during his baptism.
"Next to Bethlehem, and on the way there, Rachel's Tomb. The Church of the Nativity, very interesting indeed because the Latin Church, the Greek Church, the Coptic Church, etc., will show you the very spot where Christ was born (all different) and the Latin Church will go the others one better by showing a gold star (looks like brass) let into one of the flagstones in the floor, the spot where the light from the star that guided the three wise men to the manger stopped. Just outside the Temple was a shop where they made beautiful mother-of-pearl articles for sale to tourists.
Page 34
"From Bethlehem we went back to Jerusalem and made a side trip to an Arab settlement at Bethsida. The only unusual sight on this trip was an Arab farmer plowing with one ox. His plow was entirely of wood and consisted of one long beam which extended clear up to the [mock-yoke?], the plow point being simply a short beam set at an angle to the plow beam, and the farmer walked alongside the plow, holding it with one hand and [?] the ox along with a long pointed stick held in the other hand. Quite a contrast to the modern plows we see here at home.
"Getting back to the ship at Haifa we proceeded to Mudros, Greece, the island windmills seen from a distance reminding one of Holland. Next, to [Trieste?], Italy, and then to Venice where we spent 5 days. A fine place to rest, and the 'rebel' and I put in a whole night in a [gondola?]. We inspected the Lido and the Grand Canal, as well as the painted beauties who sit on their balconies and wait for the smart uniformed sailors to come and make love to them. The most interesting building wa the Cathedral of St. Marks, with its altar of solid gold encrusted with 3,000 precious stones and which was stolen from the Mosque of St. Sofia, in Constantinople, by the Crusaders. Remember what I said about intolerance of Christians? It makes me laugh to myself sometimes when I think of the contradictions one finds in a world journey.
"We next put in at Gibraltar and spent two days exchanging [courtesies?] with the British. A bunch of us also made a trip to [Algosiras?] to see a bullfight. Ha, ha, I laugh yet at a drunken sailor who thought he'd show the crowd how tame a bull was in the ring. He climbed over the fence and started across the arena about the same time the picadore started pestering the bull. Guess the bull thought the sailor would be more friendly than
Page 35
the [picador?] for he started plunging toward him before he had got far from the fence. The sailor must have been fuddled in the head, cause he waited till the bull was almost up to him before he whirled round to beat it to the fence. Skidding on some fresh [dung?], the sailor went down, uniform and all, rolled over a few times in some more fresh [dung?], finally stopping with the big bull standing over him and blowing froth in his face. The matadors and picadors were there about as soon as the bull and they took the bull's attention long enough for some of us to get the sailor up and over the fence. The brave sailor wasn't harmed a bit, but didn't he get [razzed?] from then on for his appearance when he reported back to the ship.
"We next called at Amsterdam and [?], Holland. This is a beautiful country, flowers everywhere, and the windmills are certainly picturesque. The most interesting thing to me was the two outlying islands, [Markem?] and [Vollendam?], which, at that time at least, were a fine example for the student of [eugenics?]. Many years ago the Queen of Holland issued an edict that these two islands should always remain as they were, the people to live, dress and eat as they had done for centuries, preserving a sort of living monument for the students of coming generations. Well, I first visited [Markem?], on which the natives for years have been Protestants. Here I was downright disgusted with what I saw. The people were all pale, colorless folks, many of them [vacant-eyed?] and staring, many verging on the idiotic, all in a state of lethargy; many sickly and crippled, and their homes and surroundings showed the same state of general [debility?]. Here I found that, in spite of the fact that there never was a restriction on immigration so long as the new-comer took up the ancient mode of living, these people had intermarried for so many years that the tribe was fast getting to the point where there was danger of a complete collapse of the whole settlement. Imagine my surprise
Page 36
when I visited Vollendam, to find that there almost the opposite extreme. The people there had always been Catholic and as the church forbids intermarriage of blood relation, all these years there has been a constant steady inbreeding of new blood into the settlement, and a blind man could almost sense the difference in the two islands. Sure, the folks on Vollendam lived just the same as their ancestors did, so far as dress, eating and other customs are concerned, but they are a happy, energetic, good looking bunch of folks, in fact the men are damn near as good looking as the women. I'm not a Catholic any more, or anything else for that matter, but I learned one lesson on that trip, and that is that blood really is thicker than water.
"Well, we next went to [Antwerp?], Belgium, and some of us got a nine-day leave to go to Paris. 'reb' and I went together as we had been doing for some time, and did we celebrate on that trip! When we got to Paris I insisted on sticking to a system we had worked out some time back ... We both like to drink our share and have our share of girls, but my idiosyncracy was that I didn't like to mix them, the girls usually get too sloppy or weepy; in fact, they are a mess when they get drunk. So I always insisted on tossing a coin when we started out; heads - we would make the rounds of the taverns, tails - we would look for the painted ladies. Well, we had plenty of both, but most of this was at night; the daylight hours found us taking in the much advertised sights, and taking a few pictures for our own albums. On our way back to [Antworp?] we stopped in beautiful old Brussels, and shortly after we boarded ship she was ordered back to the States.
"Preparing for the homeward journey, we hoisted the homeward-bound pennant, a strip of small flags each a foot long, ours being [860?] feet in length, one for each man on the ship, including the officers. Before reaching
Page 37
home the pennant is taken down and cut up, each man getting his flag for a keepsake and souvenir of his tour in foreign waters.
"It was now the fall of the 1927 and after landing at Norfolk Hospital I was again sent to the radio station at Bar Harbor, where I stayed nearly two years. During the winter the crew were moved to another place and when they asked for a volunteer to stay and guard the property I spoke first and they all voted to let me have the job. Well, I was back where I could again use the skis and snowshoes, had the good Springfield rifle, plenty of ammunition, lots of food and fuel, and not much to bother me, except once in a while a prowler trying to steal a load of copper from the storage. I shot a hole in a fellow's gas tank one night. He heard me getting up to investigate before he had taken anything and about the time I raised the window he lit out with his truck, but I let him have one so he'd know it wasn't safe to try it again. Another night, later when the weather was warmer, I woke up on night and heard a noise out by one of the 250-foot wooden towers holding the antenna. I knew there wasn't anything out there to steal but I went out with the rifle anyway. Imagine my surprise to see a man and a woman climbing up the tower ladder, which was made of rough stuff and was only a temporary makeshift. When I called and asked where they were going, the man said, up to the top. I told them there was nothing doing, they'd better come down or I'd take a shot at them. They finally climbed down and when I asked them what the big idea was the girl spoke up and said, well, I've 'loved him up' about every other place along the Maine coast and when he stumped me to try it up there I said 'let's go. I was afraid one of them might fall of the thing if I let 'em go up so I insisted that they must turn round and get off the government reserve or I'd phone the sheriff. They finally left and I went back to bed. Well, I had a fine time hunting and taking pictures on that
Page 38
tour of duty. You know the fine game preserve belonging to Edsel Ford and young Rookefeller was near there and we boys were given the freedom of the place because we were rightly good in helping keep prowlers away from there.
"Well, I was called back to Norfolk and assigned to the Whitney which went on Atlantic Coast duty with the destroyer squadron. Not going into detail about the fine things in our own country. I remained on the Whitney until 1932 and was assigned to the [League?] Island Hospital at Philadelphia.
"Here is where we can tell about how I came to be a 'Georgia Cracker' because it was during my stay at Philadelphia that the matter was settled. Further back in my story I mentioned Joe, the 'rebel,' as being the reason for my coming here. Well, it's funny how men will take a younger man under their wing or make chums of them, and that is how Joe and/ /I came to buddy together after meeting on the Pittsburg. One time later he started talking one day about how we ought to fix things so we would have a home to go to when we left the service, and he was all for buying a farm where we could both settle down and raise chickens. Said he knew the very section where we would do the best. Of course he didn't press the matter all at once but mentioned it once in a while to keep me interested. Well, when I got to Philadelphia, I had a lot of time on my hands, especially on week ends, and one time Joe invited me to spend the week end with his parents, who were living in Philly at that time. After a few visits with them they started talking about this place we are on, what a fine place it could be made into, how cheap it could be bought, and that it was the very thing for us to buy it and have a living in view when we came out. We finally agreed that each of us would put in so much each month out of our pay, his folks would move to the farm and get things in shape, improve it as much as possible and they would be grateful for the chance to make their living
Page 39
out of the crops. The matter was finally settled and we made the purchase and the folks moved to Georgia. That's when my troubles began. Joe and I were not together much so I had no way of telling if he was doing his part, but it wasn't long before the folks started writing to me for money to do this and the other thing, buy mules, tools of many kinds, pay taxes, and God knows what else. Of course I didn't worry then, I thought I was preparing a little Paradise for myself and Joe later on.
"Well, not long after the matter was settled I was transferred to the Brazos and went to San Diego for duty with the Pacific fleet. Although I enjoyed the tour of duty I was looking forward to my new home, as my time was nearly out, and in February 1935 I came back to New York and was mustered out at the receiving ship.
"After a short visit in New York I came to the farm and I guess you know my feelings when I found the conditions here. I don't accuse anyone of being crooked, but for the life of me I can't imagine what was done with the money I spent on the place. The folks were still on the place and I lived with them and began trying to clean things up, but it was a discouraging job. Later I found that Joe hadn't put in one cent toward either buying or fixing things up and so I had to pin them down and get a release from the contract and took over the contract myself. In the fall of 1935 I went to Pensacola and bought a half interest in a business there but was taken with pneumonia and had to quit. I came home in May 1936 and finally told the folks they would have to move out. Out of the frying pan into the fire --- I got another family with a fine team of heavy mules, four big husky sons, and a lot of promises, but look what at what I got! The place is worse than ever. Just this last season, [on 7?] acres of good land they raised only three small bales of cotton, the
Page 40
heaviest only 450 pounds. And if it wasn't for the good neighbors sending stuff over I don't know what we would have done for garden stuff. It seems as if there was always some very important matter to be attended to in town, the weather was too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry, most anything for an excuse to put the work off till the next day, which never comes.
"Well, neighbor, I guess I've talked myself out. You know I got rid of the big family and now have a new tenant, just man and wife, and I believe they will do what I ask them to do; in fact, you can see that they have already cleaned the place up more than anyone else I've had and maybe I will get over being discouraged and begin to make things hum as I want them to."
"Well, Chief, that was some story, most enough for a book, if you could let me put in all details, but I want to know 'how come' you are so successful with the 'buzzards' as you call them."
"That's easy. Just as soon as we had decided to buy a farm I began to write to different dealers in the States, and to many concerns dealing in materials connected with the poultry business. I also took a correspondence course which in connection with my own knowledge of anatomy and drugs have given me a great advantage over the ordinary poultryman. Of course, I have made mistakes like everyone else. The biggest one was in not buying baby chicks often enough. At a time when I needed eggs most, and the market was high, I didn't have layers enough and had to buy lower quality eggs to piece out. You know I weigh every egg I sell to my regular trade and don't deliver one under two ounces in weight. The culls I sell to the stores."
"Well, Chief, one thing more before we quit. You told me one day about plans for raising grapes and making wine. Are you still looking forward to that?"
Page 41
"Yes, if I keep my health and never, I still plan to lay out some of these bills into a vineyard. I already have a small start, but it takes capital to do the thing right. I have a bachelor friend in New York who spent many years in France and who knows the wine business as much as I do, and if things work out to our satisfactions he may come down and go in with me on the proposition, and we will go into it on a large scale. If he does come, we plan to tear down this old house, build a modern bungalow with basement, facing it toward that fine view of the mountain, and tear down the barn which obstructs part of the view. I want to see that long valley pasture made into a clear water lake, with perhaps a few small cottages on the shore, and most of all, a pavilion where the good people could come out to sit and rest and sip some fine home-made wine from Georgia grapes. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I bet you have been dreaming too, and there ain't any harm in us old folks dreaming."
"Yes, Chief, I've dreamed of owning a piece of land in these red hills, seeding it down to cover crops and rotating as they did where I was raised, just to show the folks that it can be done. I'm too old to expect to see it through, but my two boys could do it, and although I was born and raised in the city, I hope that they will become inured to the soil, and stick to it."
"Well, neighbor, it's nearly time to feed the buzzards, so let's have a little drink of wine and call it a day."
Standing with our glasses in hand I happened to be facing the picture of his ancestral home, so I raised my glass and said, "to Switzerland." The Chief raised his and said "to Georgia." ... together we said "[Gerundheit?]." The subject of this sketch died on Dec. 23-1940
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 17 of 73
[The Family of an Automobile Worker]
Mrs. Sam [?]. Whelchel
1391 Miller Reed Ave., S.E.
Atlanta, Ga.
The Family of an Automobile Worker
A few months ago the Chevrolet plant in Atlanta was shut down and all the workers were idle for several weeks. But now the labor troubles are over, and the plant is working five days a week. The change in the outlook of the employee was typified in the expression of Mr. Whelchel when he came into the labor union office with a broad grin on his face, to get the lunch that his oldest son had brought in a basket. He recognized one of the interviewers, who had formerly taught a class among the automobile workers. They exchanged quick, hearty greetings before Mr. Whelchel hurried into the back of the office with his lunch. The interviewer asked if it would be all right for him to go down and interview his wife.
"Sure, go ahead."
The Whelchels live on a side street near the automobile plant, in a brown frame house of seven rooms - seven small rooms, as we found when we made a tour of the house. The lot is narrow but deep, stretching back almost two hundred feet to form a pasture for the cow which supplies the family with milk. The front yard is very small, but sodded with bermuda grass. The houses around the Whelchel's are similar in style and size, all frame structures, with small front yards planted in grass, and a few shrubs here and there.
Mrs. Whelchel was sitting on the porch, with her youngest child on her lap. She was combing and curling its hair. When
Page 2
we told her what we wanted she said that we had come to the wrong place, for she didn't think that she could tell us much that would be interesting. However, she began talking anyway, and told us that she was chairman of the home arts committee of the Women's Auxiliary. The home arts class, she said, was then working on some "gypsy glaze" pictures. She showed them to us later, and we found them to be designs painted on glass in transparent colors, with tinfoil on the back to reflect the light. She showed them with pride and sincere interest, and was genuinely pleased when we evidenced some enthusiasm over a design of a [sombre?] looking ship sailing a black ocean. She regarded her work critically, and remarked of one of the pictures, "I haven't ever been satisfied with the way that bird in the middle looks. I'll have to do it over." Impartially considered, the pictures were crude and gaudy, inharmonious mixtures of bright reds, yellows, and greens; but it was obvious that they were to Mrs. Whechel an outlet for the creative impulse. She did not draw the designs freehand, she said, but traced them from stencils the teacher of the class supplied. They included a ship, butterflies, and flowers, and parrots.
She showed us over the house, first explaining, however, that it was not all cleaned up. There was a mixture cleanliness and untidiness. The plaster of the walls and ceilings was badly cracked, giving an air of dilapidation, as did the mantel, with its cracked mirror, and the empty aquarium upon it. The living room had many cheap and incongruous knicknacks
Page 3
here and there. The large calendar which hung on one wall of the dining room helped the gaudy 'gypsy glaze" pictures to make the walls look like the displays at the midway of the fair. The front bedroom was a jumble of bedclothes, an old bedstead - which Mrs. Whelchel explained was the only piece of furniture that Mr. Whelchel had brought from his mother's home - a box full of books, and trash. It was evident, however, that some degree of order and cleanliness was usually maintained, for the colored girl who lived in one of the back rooms had just mopped the floors. All the floors were covered with linoleum. "Sam wanted to get regular rugs," said Mrs. Whelchel, "but I said, no, we'd better get linoleum on account of the children, and they're so much easier to keep clean."
Mrs. Whelchel had first told us that we had better come back for the interview when she was not so busy, and up to now had been merely extending to us a sort of preliminary hospitality. But there didn't seem to be a time when she would not be busy, after some minutes of trying to arrange a future date, she decided that now was as good a time as any. We sat down in the living room, and she took up some crocheting so that she might work with her hands while she talked. She was making some coasters for iced-tea glasses.
One of the interviewers, seeing some wandering [jew?] in a hanging vase, casually asked if it were not bad luck to have wandering jew in the house. "I never heard of it," she said, "but did you ever hear that it was bad luck to have goldfish in the house? There's a lady down the street from me that
Page 4
won't have any because she believes it is bad luck." Mrs. Whelchel, however, did not share this superstition, but planned to fill her empty aquarium and get more fish.
We had both noticed a large atlas that sat on a table in a corner of the living room, and asked about it. "I was hoping you would ask about that," she said, obviously proud if it. "We got that with a set of books we bought for the children. Sam bought the Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia, and we could either get that or a bookcase. We took the atlas, because I had always wanted one." She carried us into the front bedroom where the books were still in the box in which they were shipped. On examination they proved to have bad print and worse reproductions of photographs and other illustrations. We asked how much they cost. "Eighty dollars," she replied. "We pay four dollars a month." It was impossible for the interviewers to refrain from observing mentally that the books were not worth that much, even with the atlas, which was almost as cheap looking as the "gypsy glaze" pictures. She had bought the books for the children, she said, and this led us to ask what plans she and her husband had for their children's education. "It looks like now we will be doing good if we can put them through high school. Then if any of them shows any talent for anything special, we'll try to send them to college."
Neither Mrs. Whelchel nor her husband went to college, and Mr. Whelchel did not finish high school. "I graduated
Page 5
from Piedmont High School at Demorest, Georgia," she said. Don't get it mixed up with Piedmont College," she cautioned, "I wish it was, but it was Piedmont High School." She was proud of the fact that she had had five more points than was necessary when she graduated, even though she had attended the school only two years. She had attended another high school for one year before going to Piedmont, however. From high school she went to a business college in Athens, Georgia, and took a general course.
Mr. Whelchel's various jobs include being a shipping clerk, refinishing furniture for the Western Union Telegraph Company, and working as a lineman for the Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company. He is now on the unloading platform of the Chevrolet Company, having been until a few months ago a buffer, which, Mrs. Whelchel explained, meant that he polished off the scratches from the fenders of new cars. He now works forty hours a week on the unloading platform, making eighty cents an hour.
"No, we'll never get rich at that," she remonstrated, "but it's all right while it lasts. But two weeks off will just ruin you."
We were interrupted by one of the little boys coming in with an orange which he wanted his mother to peel for him. It was Bobby, who had broken his arm a few days before and now carried it in a sling. He is the middle child, aged four. Philip, the oldest, is six years old, and he is the one who carries lunch to his father each day. Tommy is the baby, only two years old. Mrs. Whelchel fixed the orange, while Bobby
Page 6
stood at her side, very shy in the presence of the visitors, and whispered something in her ear. In a few minutes Philip came in, also very shy, and walked timidly into the back part of the house. "Hello, Doll," greeted Mrs. Whelchel, but the little fellow was too timid to reply where the strangers could overhear. It was evident that Mrs. Whelchel was fond of all her children, and we were surprised that they were so very timid. During the whole time we were there they did not speak to us, though we tried to get a rise out of them by making comments about the toy mechanical train and asking them to explain how it worked.
Someone knocked on the door, and Mrs. Whelchel got up and paid the insurance collector. "We have two policies on each child," she said. "We let them lapse a while back, "but we've renewed them." One of the policies on each child is with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and includes a free nursing service. "Yes, it's right good," she answered our query, "but when one of my children gets sick I don't wait for the nurse. I send for the doctor right then." The nurse attended Mrs. Whelchel when she returned from the hospital after her last confinement, and also helped when the youngest child had the measles some weeks ago.
"No, we haven't got a car. We had one up to the time we moved over here. We were living in a house up there near the school then, and paying fifteen dollars a month rent. The landlady said we could have the house for a year for that much, but in about six months she told us that in two weeks the rent would be raised to twenty-two fifty." Both Mrs. Whelchel
Page 7
and her husband were angry at this breach of contract, and decided to move rather than pay more rent. They wanted to buy a home, but Mrs. Whelchel knew that they could not afford both a home and a car. "'It's either a home or a car," I said to Sam," Mrs. Whelchel related. "Sam sat there a while, and said, 'I can't live in the car. I'll let the car go and get me a house we can sleep in.' So we found this house and bought it because the terms was reasonable, and it was close to Sam's work." When they moved into their new home it needed much work done on it. The front yard was a series of red gullies. There was no bathroom, and the only toilet was in a shack connected to the back of the house. They fell to and [sodded?] the yard, built a concrete-floored bathroom with shower, and painted the woodwork on the inside. Recently a new sleeping porch has been added, the work being done by Mrs. Whelchel's father. The whole family sleeps on this porch.
She carried us back through the house to see the sleeping porch, of which she was very proud. On the way through the kitchen she showed us her electric ironer and new gas stove. "A while back," she said, "when Sam was laid off for so long, he wanted to let the ironer go, but I just couldn't see it, with the two little ones coming on. We managed to hold on to everything." While we were examining the new stream-lined kitchen stove Mrs. Whelchel opened the oven door and gave us some /cup cakes which she had just baked. She gave us also a glass of milk each. She had told us before that she kept a cow. "Sam can't quite see havin' her, but we use so much milk I told him it was cheaper. Two quarts a day pays for the feed."
Page 8
We asked if she ever sold any milk. "I have sold some, but we use it all now." She also showed us a calf in the backyard, which she said they would kill soon.
The sleeping porch was not so much a porch as we had imagined, having no more windows than an ordinary bedroom.
In the living room we had seen a gas heater, and asked her now if that was the only kind of heat the had. "That's all," she replied. "We have three heaters, and an automatic water heater that holds thirty gallons, and a gas refrigerator." We wondered if this were not expensive. "Cheapest heat we've ever had," she said. "Our gas bill was five dollars and two cents last month, and the coldest month last year was only eleven dollars. The other people around here burn about a ton of coal a month, and we figure this is cheaper.
There are two boarders with the Whelchels. "Sam kind of lets me do what I want to with the board money," she said, "but I usually pay bills with it." Besides this extra income from boarders, they sometimes sell milk or chickens. "We raised thirty-five chickens once, and sold enough of them to pay for the cost and the feed, and had the rest clear. We ate about twenty of them ourselves." Although Mrs. Whelchel does not sew for others, she does her own sewing. "I sew it all," she said. "Make clothes for the children and for myself too." It was apparent that the dress she was wearing was home-made.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Whelchel were reared on farms in the northeast section of Georgia. Mr. Whelchel worked in all the surrounding states before finally settling down. "I always said that he went all over the country first, and then come back home to get him a wife," commented Mrs. Whelchel. They are both between thirty and thirty-five years old.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 18 of 73
[A Farming Preacher-Prophet]
LIFE HISTORY
March 6, 1939
March 7, 1939
Nick Waller (Negro)
290 Tabernacle St.
Athens, Ga.
*1 [Preacher*2] and [farmer*1] *2
Grace McCune THE [?] A FARMING PREACHER -Porphet I had heard quiet a bit about Tom, as he [?] is a well known figure in about town, and coming across him on one of the main street, I asked him if he would give me a the history of his life. He readily agreed to meet me [?] about two hours at a local barber shop where he agreed, but said he would be busy for about two hours for he had to would talk but in the meantime he had to "tend to some business" tend some business. But that he would meet me at that time at a local barber shop where we could talk.
Tom is famous for his knowledge of his remarks about the Bible , as he understands it , also for his [?] power or gift of seeing things and predicting future events. I didn't want to miss him and was at the appointed place I arrived at the shop ahead of the time appointed for I before time did not want to miss him. Several people was were in the shop there, and [?] having a very friendly but spirited arguement argument. and just as one of them a young man was told that he was " just impossible," Tom came in.
The young man said, "Tom, did you hear what they called me ? and what do you think about it?
"That they is wrong," Tom [solomanly?] replied, "for with God, nothing [?] is impossible. He [?] He's the only one that is that's mpossible impossible.
"I knew Tom would take up for me," the young man said youth boasted, "and [?] I guess you all will let me alone after this." After a little The argument more of their argument, [?] and they left.
As they went out , Tom said, "Mistess just what is it that old Tom can tell you, for you knows I'se just a plain old ignorant
Page 2
stick man, that was borned and raised in the country. Yes'm [Yess'm?], I was borned right down yonder in Oglethorpe County, and that' is that's still home to me.
"I worked in the fields when I was too little to last - out all day. When I went to school it was in just a plain old country school. The school house was made out of logs and the cracks was daubed with red mud to keep the cold wind out for us really had winters then.
"Along in them times schools won't wasn't no ways lak they is now. Our only book was that old Blue Back Speller. Yes, Mistess, that is that's what us larnt , and too , us stayed all day, and we us started out to school soon as it was good daylight. [?] Wasn't no going then at eight and nine o'clock in the mornin' lak chillun chilluns do so now. I didn't git to go to school, 'cepting just two or three years, 'cause I had to work in the fields. ∥ When I was bigger big enough to work all day, I was paid 15cts [?] a day. Yes sum em , 15cts a day was good pay for us chillun in them days. My home was just like all the other houses then on the farms 'specially for the colored folks, just a plain old log cabin, and they called 'em notched houses, don't 'spect you knows what a notched house is ?
"But you know us didn't have saw mills back then, so us couldn't make planks, and nails won't wasn't plentiful [?] neither, so they just notched the logs as then they would log to make 'em fit and the cracks was all daubed with red clay and them old chimbles chimblies, they was made with sticks and red clay too but [?] us was happy and contented 'cause that was all us knowed.
"I tell you them old black molasses and ash cakes sho' [#?] tasted good 'specially after a day in the fields and us only had a biscuit on Sunday mornin', but that one biscuit made us feel rich, or as you say now like lak millionaires, only us didn't know nothin' 'bout that then. When us had biled [?] [vitals] it was most times just plain poke
Page 3
berry sallet, but we us enjoyed it.
"I remember too [#?] that good old eatin' when my mother [?] fixed ash cakes and [in ?] sweet milk and many a day that is what us et, and us was happy to git it. Yess m Yess'm them was happy days, more so than they is now.
"We won't Us wasn't up to dressin' then lak us is now and most all us wore was just one garment . that's right ! and that garment was just a long shirts shirt. [?]'se worked many a day in the field in [????? just a long shirt shirts. They was made right at home too . [??] mother would weave the cloth on her old loom at nights , and plenty times when us didn't have candles, she worked by the light from light[??] lighted knots and us chillun would play 'round on the floor.
"The very day I was big enough to plough plow, what you 'spose I ploughed plowed with? Well it was [?] old Mike, our old ox. He was just as good as a mule any day and when we us got out of bread, then one of us just put a sack of corn on Mike's back and a way us went, and it was eight or ten miles to the mill. While the corn was being ground, Mike had his dinner of corn shucks . and we was ready to start back home and if it won't too late, [?? got back home, us went right on to the field ' cause Mistess , us was raised to work.
"Long at that time, we us thought [??] twenty-five or thirty five cents a day [?] was doing fine wages. Then us had plenty of corn and 'taters , [??????] and a meat box full of good meat. That was some good meat 'cause we ra*3s[i*3]ed our own hogs and cured the meat by smokin' it with hickory wood. Back then, I don't know if you has done heered about this, but soda was mighty scarce skerce. Even that didn't 'mount to so powerful much 'cause corn cobb cob soda would sho make that bread rise. Yes [?] us just burn burnt[#?] the corn cobbs cobs til they was just a fine powder. That was good as anybody's soda.
Page 4
"That old persimmon beer was half of our living. Us chillun would gather persimmons by the bucketfulls. Mother would cook, them 'em with wheat bran and make it out into the big pones that [?] she used to make the beer mash and she [?] put lots of locust locusts in that beer it. It That beer was really good and so refreshen' after a hard day's work.
"We was not wasn't sickly ' long in that time, but when we was did get a little sick, mother would go into the woods and git herbs and grass. There was one kinda grass 'specially that she used. Just let me call Sally Anne, that's my wife, and bless her soul, she'll know." ∥ Tom went to the telephone and was back in a few minutes. He said, "I told you Sally Ann would know. She always knows and I can 'pend on her. She stays right at home in her field of duty , just right on the job all the time.
"Sally Anne said it was just plain old scurvy grass, and you find it mostly in pine woods. It has long yellow roots and the roots is what they made the tea with. It was , and still is , 'cause us use uses it now. Its It's the finest medicine anybody can get git to cure colds , and then when folks has git the measles, if they would just drink old scurvy grass root tea, they would soon be well and [?] wouldn't have to worry even 'bout gittin' wet even.
"Another good tonic is this very simple one. and It'll will make you eat your head off and lessen you wants to gain in weight you had better not try it and [?] is that's just the plain old turnip. Yes, that is that's right. You just bile turnips in clear water 'til you have 'bout a quart of the juice and drink that juice two and three times a day, but I 'spects you would have to put some sugar in it 'cause it's mighty bitter. Along in them days us used the old black mo'-lasses to sweeten most everything; even used it in our coffee. "
Page 5
Tom laughed and said, "Why even our coffee won't wasn't what it is today. Most all us had was corn meal, parched right brown, but to us, that corn /[#?] meal coffee sweetened with mo-lasses was really good, and we us was thankful for it.
"Another good medicine that the women folks used lots of times was what is known these days as black hall [?] root. They made tea out of that 'cause it won't easy to git out and buy medicine back then, for us didn't have drug / stores lak us does now. A doctor was seldomed called. Folks just made their own medicine. Yet there won't many folks sick in them days.
"Long back in them days when we us got in distress, trying to make a living we us have [?] up many used to set lots of nights, burning lightwood lighted knots to make tar. We sold that was sold by the quart or gallon. You know that blessed old mother of mine has even used that old homemade tar as a medicine. We had to drink the water off of the tar for colds and it was a good tonic also for any one , that didn't have no appetite.
"Still and too , that won;t wasn't just prezactly what us made it for , ' cause you knows back then us didn't have no such stuff as [?] [?] grease. That old tar answered the same purpose and it was used on wheels and harness to too, and just 'bout everything they needed to greeese grease.
"Another thing , Mistess , us didn't git no shoes 'ceptin' one time a year, and that was on Christmas, that was our Santa Claus . and we us would go to bed and try to see when come . , but [?] it wan't long 'fore us would be sound asleep . and in the Next morning we would find our brogan shoes with the bright shiny brass toes would be there, and how happy we us was ! just thankful for everything.
They said I was always a very [?] peculiar[#?] sort of a chap even when I was just a little tike. I was always asking questions. I was gifted with some kind of a strange power, but it was sometime before I could really understand this strange and wonderful [????????????]
Page 6
power. Fact is, I don't understand it now.
"But things just comes to me. I can see them and tell folks for it is just like a vision. Back then some folks would laugh at me about them visions. But , Mistess, they is all glad now when old Tom can help them out sometimes. Sometimes I can't help them a-tall for the vision just will not come and that is all I tells, is just what the Lord shows me and tells me to help folks, and I has been trying to [?] help for fifty years or more.
"Along then we us had confidence in each other. We were Us was taught to live right and serve God. Never to take nothin' that didn't belong to us and never to do anything that would hurt anyone. We Us just lived in the bonds of the law . nobody broke the laws, and when night come , us could lay down and sleep with a good clear conscience.
"I still 'members the first time I ever heerd 'bout any one breakin' the law. It was just-outrageous. People for miles around were upset, skeered , and shocked. A man killed his wife. It was just terrible. We just Us couldn't understand it. When they tried him in court lots of folks couldn't git nigh the place 'cause everybody t#4i[r*4]ed to go . But he was sentenced and hung for murder.
"From that time-on folks began begun to grow weaker and wiser , and how wicked they are now ! Murder is a very common thing now and folks [will*5] just*5 take things that don't no ways belong to 'em. We Folks just don't live right. And God is going to how show us one these days. Oh, how wonderful and grateful it was that I could hear my mother pray." Here Tom broke down and cried. After a few minutes, he said: "You couldn't go wrong on her prayers."


At this moment someone called an and asked if Tom was there. The proprietor of the shop called Tom to the telephone. He came back to me [?] and said it was "[?] two men tgat wanted to see
Page 7
me [?], but; I told them that I was busy ," he added. The They men didn't accept that excuse and before Tom could get back to his story, they the men were at the shop for him.
Calling Tom to the door, they said, "We have just got to see you for a few minutes, but we won't keep you long." Excusing himself, Tom said, " I will I'll be back in a few minutes." The men were evidently farmers, dressed in their overalls and heavy shoes. They seemed to be farmers. They [?] escorted Tom out to their car . where they talked. I waited over an hour and still Tom didn't get back. I waited on and finally he came in and said, "It is so late and I just can't git 'way from them men. What is I going [?] to do?"
I asked him if I would come to his home in the the next morning and finish our interview.
Tom thanked me and said, I am I'm sho sorry 'bout dis this, but; one of these men is in trouble and wants to see if I can help him ." and [?] He told telling me how to find his house and but asking asked if I had would rather he would prefer to have him come back to town and talk to me "cause he lived way cross town." I wanted to see his home and said, "I will go be there if you are going to be at home. Yes'em Yes'um I will I'll be there lessen someone dies 'cause that happens very occasionally. I will I'll call you if that happens." He went back to the car where the men / were waiting for him.
Reaching Tom's house early the next morning, I found that even then he had done been over in town. already been to town and returned home. He asked ask me to have a seat, in the livingroom and would I apologetically said: " Excuse him me while he I [?] eat his breakfast , for he I went to town early so that he I could git back by the time I you got there here." As he went out of the room to eat his breakfast, I looked around. The house was a new four-room cottage, painted white and trimmed in green on the outside.
Page 8
The inside was quiet different. The walls of the livingroom were were plastered papered with the comics comic sheets of from the Sunday papers, with a and the border [?] around the top [?] of pictures cut from magazines. The room top was ceiled . overhead. The floor was covered with a brightly figured congoleum linoleum square covered the floor. The furniture consisted of a very [??] [ a player piano , *6] with the rolls of music were neatly stocked stacked on on top of *6 it which was [?] by On each side was a large fern ferns in [?] home-made [?] boxes painted white The bench at the piano was covered by a long cushion with A crocheted cover adorned the cushion on the piano bench. a crocheted top. [?] I noticed a cabinet-style victrola and three large plain rocking chairs that were painted a bright shade of green . Fancy lace curtains were draped at the windows and a rocheted crocheted squares covered the glass panes in the door opening in the room. front door.
Tom was back returned in a very short time and asking asked me if I wouldn't would like to go through the house . and He said that he wanted me to see Sally Anne and his daughter. I followed him through a bedroom, where I saw furnished with an a walnut colored iron bed . painted a dark walnut Which was, and covered with a red silk spread, telephone stand, with the a telephone rested on a stand near the bed . There was a dressing table and several chairs , [?] completed the furniture, a heater , and [?] furnished heat for this room. The walls were also plastered with newspapers and the floor was covered by an old faded wool rug. The two windows were draped with [?] clean scrim curtains . , and the walls were covered with newspapers.
The next room was also a bedroom and a [?] fire was burning very brightly in a the grate. The A brown iron bed in this room was very much like the bed in the [?] other room, and was covered with a green silk spread. A dressing table , and a small table and several rocking chairs completed the its furniture in this room. The walls were also plastered [?] papered with newspapers . , and the floor was covered with linoleum square . in front of the fire was a box of baby chickens. The only window in this room was covered in a light cream [?] scrim curtains . [?] hung at its only window.
Page 9
As we passed to the next room which was the kitchen, I saw that it too was plastered papered with newspapers. It was warm and comfortable from the fire in the large woodburning range. A small dining table was covered with a clean white cloth . a side table held some dishes, and a very large cabinet was in one side of the room. A shelf just inside of the door held several very brightly polished water buckets. Two large windows furnished light and were covered with plain white curtains . draped the two large windows.
When we passed through out of the kitchen door, we was were in the yard and right in front of directly before the door was a well. Tom said, " This is one of the best wells of water that you will find any where in in these days. It is cold and pure too, but yonder is Sally Ann and Sister at the washhouse. They are a little put out cause they is washing today, and, haint ain't had time to git fixed up. I told them that was all right cause you knowed us had to work."
As we reached the washhouse I was greeted by Sally Anne, who is a very dark skined skinned Negro Negress, and in spite of the fact that they were at work, both were [?] *7 were very clean and neat [house dresses *6]. As Sally Anne smiled she showed a mouthfull mouthful of gold teeth. She is rather inclined to be fat, but Sister, as they called her, is [?] thin and tall, not as dark as her mother and father, and her hair was combed back and [?] close against her head. Chatting with them a few minutes, we looked around the large clean yards . as we chatted Showing me the hedges and different kinds of flowers, that they had just recently put out, Tom said, "If we us can ever get git the place fixed up lak we us want wants [??] this will be a right nice little place, but you know it takes money to do that. I have seen the time when I wouldn't have to stop for that, but like [?] most everything [?]
Page 10
else, it is all gone now. " I has had my day, and I has been wonderfully blest by a gracious and understanding God, and I wouldn't call back them days if I could cause I'se done had my day. I tried to make good use of the days past and I hope the good Lord can say " well done," when I goes home, but we us will go back to the fire to talk. This sunshine is mighty warm and pleasant, but if you stay out too long you can feel the chill."
As we were seated in comfortable chairs in the room, where the fire was burning so bright, Tom removed his large white felt hat, and asked if he might smoke his pipe, "'cause he I could think better if he could I can smoke." he said. Assuring him that it would be all right for him to smoke, I watched him as he very carefully filled his old pipe. He was dressed in a white shirt, gray wool trousers and a blue coat, not new, but clean and neat . black shoes , and a very bright red and blue tie , and white shirt, completed his costume. I wondered if some [?] had died, since I saw him the day before. He does not look so old, as he is tall and very straight. I judged that he was between sixty and seventy.
Getting the pipe going good he looked around and smiled. "Pride done ruint this old world , Mistess. Pride just done took the day. Back long in them times, us won't 'fraid to work. Didn't know what it was to go to the store when us went to cook a meal, 'cause [??] [?] was raised at home and all the cooking then was on done the fireplaces . clothes [?] was made at home. Why , when us went to church, it was in old home-made clothes, that our mothers made.
'But bless the Lord that she didn't stop us from having meeting. Folks had 'ligon 'ligion then and from the time the pastor read
Page 11
out the song and the brother over the corner started it off, every-body, would 'gin to git happy, and when that old song, Amazing Grace How Sweet The Sound , was sung the shouting could be heard for a mighty long ways off cause didn't nobody stay home 'cause they didn't have no clothes to wear. Everybody was there shouting.
"We All of us worked hard in the fields, and as dutifully as the sun rose in the morning it found us in our fields at labor for that was the way we made our living and I did work. I wanted to have something and from daylight 'til dark we us was at our work. We *8 was tired out [At night *8]. that we us was, and ready for the bed. Warn't no running 'round at nights for us on the farms, but we us did learn new things to grow and how to grow them 'em better. As we 'vanced 'long we could raise more things to eat and we us learnt how to grow sorghum cane to make [?] syrup. That was a change from the old black mo-lasses but I'se frank to say, them black mo-lasses is still my favorite. There was just nothing lak them gingerbread cakes that my mother made with mo-lasses and baked in them old ovens in the fireplace.
"I has I'se farmed all my life and I has I'se made money in farming and then and too I has I'se lost money the same way, but mostly after farmers started to raising cotton as the money crop . for a while us made money that way then prices of cotton would go up and then [?] to the bottom. When the price started up, everybody would hold all they possibily could just wasn't arn't goin' to sell, just waitin' 'til it got a little bit higher and fust thing us knowed it had done hit the bottom.
"I was just lak everybody else. I knowed I was goin' to git rich that way, but one thing I didn't do, I didn't quit raising plenty of foodstuff for us as well as plenty for the stock. I done pretty
Page 12
good. [?] I took care of what I had. I didn't th*9o[r*9]w it away and from my old ox, Mike, that I learned to plough with, I [??] had good mules and some fine horses. I loved good horses and I raised only the best, and if I does say it [?] won't wasn't no finer horses in that county than mine. "I sold one to a man here in town for a thousand dollars. Yes, mam that is right I had 'vanced from that little notched log house until I had a good farm , and a comfortable house for those times. When I married In 1894, I had besides my farm and horses, a sawmill, shingle mill, grist mill, and a gin , and I run them by myself.
"Course now you understand there was different times to run 'em. I couldn't do it all at one time, but I got it all by hard work and saving what I made." The insurance man came to collect [?] [???] was ready and waiting for he Tom went to a nail at one side of the fireplace, and took down an envelope with the book and money in it. We The collector chatted a few minutes with Tom and asked him if he was going to farm again this year. "I guess I will try," Tom replied, "but all this rain us has been having , will sho bake this old earth later on."
As the man left, Tom said, "How does you write that way and me just talking my head off ? I just can't see how you does it."
"It was hard at first," I replied, "but you know, when you have to work, you have to learn how to do the work."
"That's right," he said. " I has I'se been watching you as I talked and I has I'se had a vision. See if I am right."
"Well, I hope it is a good one," I said.
"I has I'se seen seed that you is the only one of your family left, and the last went, less than a year ago. Is I right?
"You are," I replied. He started to say something else when someone called to him to come out in the yard for a minute.
Page 13
As I waited for him to return, I picked up one of the small chickens out of the box. Sally Anne came in the house. Seeing the baby chick, [?] she laughed and said, "Does you lak little things to? Bet you laks dogs."
"I really do," I answered. "I think they are one of the most faithful animals that we have, and I always had a dog when I was at home and the little girl where I board has one, that I am very fond of. "
Tom came back in the room and said, "It was about them same men that wanted to see me yisterday [yistiday?]. I done told him said that I won't [?] gwine nowhere "til us got through talking 'cause they can just wait. Won't Wasn't us talking 'bout cotton? I remember back in 1920 when things was sky high and I had forty bales of cotton here in the warehouse.
"Cotton was sellin' for forty cents a pound, but lak everybody else I held helt on to that cotton, just knowed it would go higher, and I 'vest 'vested heavily in land also, bought every bit I could git a hold holt of. Everybody was just money mad. But it won't wasn't right. And I lost everything I had 'long with the rest of the folks. I has I'se learned learnt that the best way to make anything out of cotton is sell it, just as quick as it gits out of the ginhouse.
"I never ploughed plowed up one stalk of cotton, cause I 'bided by the laws and didn't plant only what I was 'sposed to plant. Yes'em Yes'sum I has stayed right in the bonds of the law. I has I'se got some money on my land and it was a blessing to me. Why , last year the farmers didn't make anything. It was the worst year I ever 'rmembers 'members for farmin'. Course most folks wouldn't do lak the great President done asked 'em too. They just went ahead and planted their cotton and then when it was ruint, they ploughed plowed it under so they could git their check checks.
Page 14
"I think our President is the grandest man that has ever set in the president's President's seat. He is a blessing to humanity. He has done more for the farmers, than anyone else has ever done. He is just lak Moses, leaden' the chillun of Israel, just rying trying to lead us out of struction, but he don't git much help. He feeds the poor, and fixed fixes jobs so that people could can work . he is a blessin' sent by God."
Picking up a [?] worn Bible from the table, Tom said, "Does you believe in this Good Book? Cause if it is wrong then there ain't nothin' else left for us . does you believe in it?
"Yes,indeed! I replied. "I was taught to believe in that by my mother."
"Do you ever read your Bible?" he asked.
"I do," I answered.
"But did you just read it or did you [?] study it? I'll find out later, cause I am goin' to ask you some questions.
"I ain't never had much education. But when I married, I decided that I was going to larn and make a man out of myself. I has sho tried to do that. I has I'se worked hard and I can read and write a little, specially can I read this book of Life. God lets me understand its meanings.
"But tell me about your wedding." I said.
"Well, along then times won't lak they are now. We Us had a big weddin', big for Negroes. Crowds of people was at our weddin' and there was plenty of white folks too. All Sally Anne's white folks was right there 'cause they sho did lak that gal and I'll tell you, she is one of the best of women and if I had a million dollars today, I would lay it all in her lap. She has never failed me. I always know that she is right here in her field of duty. She has worked right side of me in everything.
Page 15
"We Us has both farmed , [??] raised our things to eat. I didn't never try no 'bacco, just corn, peas, 'taters, rye , and wheat. Yes, I has made money farming and I has also lost money on the farm. It is hard work, out any kind of work is that way if you stays at it. [?] My check from the Government for thirty dollars came just before Christmas. It sho did come in a good time. I took that money and bought us all something to eat and some clothes . with it.
"We has just got two chillun: a girl, Sister, and a boy. Sister is a good and smart girl, but my son is just no 'count." At this time someone called him again and he went out to see who it was. Coming back in a few minutes he said "I has been wonderfully blest for God gives me these visions so that I can help folks and I has been so thankful, but Mistess war is comin'.[? arrow]
[? arrow] " I know it is, 'cause I has had the same visions I had before the World War. I has seed the people gatherin' together and marchin' in crowds, and then the Bible is full-filling fulfilling its teachin's, for it says: 'there shall be wars and rumors of wars,' and the war thats comin' and comin' fast, is goin' to be bad 'cause folks is [?] wiser" in [?] ways than they in the last war.
"I has had visions and predicted for our Govenors. Yes 'em I has had letters from more than one of them 'em, askin' me to help 'em. But lessen I gits the vision I can't help a'tall. But when God lets me see these things I think it is my bounding bounden duty to tell 'em.
"I has I'se been a liceneed licensed preacher for more than nineteen years, but I has I'se never been ordained. They has wanted to ordain me, but I just don't feel right yet in that way 'cause I is just plain and ignorant, but I takes my stand on my Bible, if it is wrong then I am wrong. But if this Blessed Book is right, then I
Page 16
am right, for as the Lord said to Nickodemus Nicodemus, "Ye , must be borned born again.'
"Churches ain't lak they used to be, just too much high poluttin' polutin' preachin' now. I don't lak that. I laks to hear 'em preach from the Bible, and the heart, not just read off a sermon that somebody done prepared purpared and writ down for 'em. Why they don't study the Bible no more. They reads it, but not with understanding. Some of our greatest preachers today, can't explain what the soul of man is.
"Now my Bible says this, and I takes my stand on the Bible. See right here in the second [?] chapter of Genesis in the seventh verse." Tom slowly read with some difficulty, "'and the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.' Now that is plain for anyone to read. The soul is the breath of life. My white folks comes to me lots of times and ask me questions about the Bible.
"I 'member one time. Us had up a question about the Sabbath Day. Has you always been taught that God made the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day?
"Yes I have always been taught that." I replied, wondering just what he would say about that.
But he was ready, as he said, "Well then Mistess just let me read the second verse of the second chapter of Genesis to you."
And again he slowly read, "And on the seventh day [?] [?] God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made."
Handing the Bible to me, he said, "There read it for yourself,
Page 17
and you can see where it says he ended his work on the seventh day." He has this place as well as the seventh verse which he had just read marked with a cross.
As I handed the Bible back to him, he said, "Don't you think that is plain for anyone to understand? For he says he ended his work on the seventh day. I is just a plain old Missionary Baptist preacher, but that is plain to me, and if all people would read with understandin' and belief it would be plain to them.
"*9 I was called to preach at my old church where I still keeps my membership 'cause I never has moved it in all these years. That was [a little more than a month ago , *9] everybody was upset and distressed 'bout these hard times. I just tore up that church. God just told me what to say. I told them that us didn't have no panic now, and I took 'em back to the days of Moses and Aaron and when Elisha led the people into Samaria and there was a great famine in that land.
"People were was so hungry that they et they own chillun. Some of them didn't lak and said won't no sich thing in the Bible. I asked them to read Second King Kings, sixth 6th chapter, twenty-eighth 28th and twenty-ninth 29th verses. They came to me and told me I was right. I had took my stand on my Bible and now it proved me right. Now I want to read them verses to you. " When he found the place which was marked with crosses, he read:
"'And the King said unto her, What alleth thee? and she answered, This woman said unto me, Give they thy son that we may eat [?] him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.
"So we boiled my son and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day: give they thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.'


"See I was right Mistess. This Blessed Book has never failed
Page 18
me yet. I always tried to preach just what I see, 'cause I don't like [?] this high polutin' preachin' and God don't lake lak it neither. He wants his deciples disciples to preach the truth and nothin' but the truth, but Oh, just for some more of them old meetin's when people got happy and won't wasn't 'frald to show it, that is what I calls real 'ligion.
"But I has I'se had my day and I 'spects I am I'm gittin' old. I don't knows know how old I is 'cause my folks didn't know how to count. I sill try tries to farm and I sell sells face creams, powder , and sich things as that and piddles 'round on odd jobs all the time." " What did you do back in those days for pasttime?" I asked.
"Well, 'bout the biggest times was them old corn shuckin's. Now Mistess they were was really enjoyable. Sometimes they lasted for two and three days 'cause folks sho raised corn then. We had a general that led the singin' , and there was big suppers , and I has shucked corn by the light of the moon and camp by bon fires. After thw the work was done, there was games and I tells you playin' marbles was a great sport.
"When we us just wanted to set a get together supper and party, us had hominy feasts. It was the real old lye hominy . just cooked in big pots full of it was cooked and that was something to enjoy and be happy and thankful for. ∥ I was afraid to ask about dancing and I just asked if they [?????] continue to have cornshucking in the [???]
"Why, yes, lots of times, when the corn is all gathered in 'specially 'mong the colored folks. They 'vites croewds crowds to help git the corn shucked cause they don't change much as the white folks and many of them is still lak they used to be but we are our *9 as getting gitting our [folks *4] in better shape just 'vancing' right along."
As the same men came back for Tom again, I prepared to leave. He walked out to the sidewalk with me and said, "This
Page 19
sun is delicious today and makes me feel good. I'se glad I'se not in the trouble dem folks is.
"Come back again when our flowers git gits to bloomin' out, and our place will look better."
As Sally Anne came around the house to tell me good-bye, Tom said, "Mistess, I am I'se going [?] to come and tell you 'bout that vision . cause It ain't right clear yit, but I has seen enough to know that you is goin [?] right on to success. I can tell you more about it soon. [??] that Tom was right, I started on my long walk back to town.
On my long walk back to the city I pondered Tom's parting remarks, and I hope that he is right.
******
The End
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 19 of 73
[God Helped Us]
GOD HELPED US
Written By:
Mrs. Ina B. Hawkes
Research Worker
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens -
Edited by:
John N. Booth
WPA Area No. 6
Augusta, Georgia
October 6, 1939
August 28, 1939
Mrs. Luther Crawford
Danielsville Road
Athens, Georgia
Ex-School Teacher, Farm Owner
and Housewife.
I.B. Hawkes -
"GOD HELPED US "
"Yes, we live right across the road here," said Mr. Ford. "Oh, yes, it's my wife you want to see. I'm sure she'll talk to you, because she likes company. Just go on up there and I'll be there to let you in just as soon as I can put this school bus under shelter."
Approaching the modern frame house I admired the shrubbery that enhanced the appearance of the well-kept place. I had to go around to the back door where Mr. Ford met me and assisted me up the steps nd into a tidy kitchen. Coming in out of the glare of the afternoon sun, I didn't see anyone at first, but when my eyes were accustomed to the shadows I saw a woman sitting very still in a corner of the room. Her face was illuminated by a bright smile.
"I've brought you some company," said Mr. Ford, when he had introduced me to his wife.
"Sit down over here by me," she said, as I repeated my name to her. "I was just ironing some pants for my husband, but it's not necessary that I finish them now." It seemed incrediable that a person so drawn
Page 2
and twisted in body should be able to iron clothing, especially difficult pieces such as men's trousers.
"Did you really iron those pants?" I inquired. "Oh yes," she proudly answered. "I ironed them, and I do all my work now, but I guess I'd better tell you something about my earlier life and about how I got like this. My life at home as a girl I won't say much about. I went to school in Daniellsville, Georgia, and then I taught for 15 years in three different school. Believe it or not, in teaching all three schools I never went but five miles from home. I always went on horseback; you see, we were country people. My father always said, 'If you can teach at home what's the use of going abroad?'
"My sister had typhoid fever, and it went into rheumatism which left her crippled for life. It fell to my lot to wait on her. I taught school in the spring and summer. After my long hours at school I'd start nursing her soon as I returned home. You see, she was in such a fix she couldn't stand the covers or nightgowns to touch her. I finally had to quit teaching. I just went to bed with her, night and day, to hold the covers so they wouldn't press on her anywhere. Now, you can imagine what a strain I was in. This went on for weeks
Page 3
When the doctor came one day and found us like that, he flew into a rage and said, 'this had to be stopped! There's no use in both girls dying.' My mother was not well either at that time.
"I'd met Mr. Ford here - I still call him Mr. Ford - and we were planning to get married, but it looked as though I couldn't leave home with no one to look after my mother and sister. You see, I always felt that way about them. I wasn't sure either what married life would be like; that kept me back some.
"After my sister died, my married brother and his wife said they'd take care of mother, Mr. Ford and I married after I was 33 years old. My father had left me a small sum of money, and we decided the best thing to do was invest it in land.
"The year after our marrige - in 1912 - our baby was born dead. Somehow I could never blame the doctors, for I had the best of care, but it left me helpless. I haven't walked [a?] step in long over 20 years now. No, I don't use crutches or wheel chair either. You can see why I am like this today.
"Well, things were going fairly well with our crop. Mr. Ford had to take care of me, for no one could do me any good but him. He worked with me night and day and for 4 years continously, getting up sometimes twenty-five or thirty times a night, and sometimes not even going
Page 4
to bed a t'all.
"It went on like that until he became so exhausted that he would completely give out and fall asleep. Sometime it would be impossible for me to wake him. You see, I suffered agonies all over, and when he went to sleep I couldn't 'rouse him a t'all. He decided to pull my cot up to his bed at night - we didn't sleep together then - and tie a string around my finger and then tie it to his hand. Then, when I couldn't stand it another minute, I'd pull the string. I'd have to keep on pulling harder and harder sometimes for he'd be so tired and worn out that when I pulled the string he'd just shake it off his hand, and turn over and go to sleep. Well, he gave me a stick to punch him with, but I was so weak and gradually losing use of myself, till I couldn't use the stick to any advantage. He kept on working with me and having me treated until finally I got to combing my hair, and then I found I could use my limbs a little.
"It was a terrible sorrow to me when I began to lose strength again and for 12 months I lay helpless again. One night during this relapse our home caught fire. When they came to get me out of the house it took four men to hold me. I was carried to that little cabin you see out there in the back yard. I was still suffering bad, but the doctor said he couldn't
Page 5
give me much dope. He was afraid I'd get in the habit of taking it. I'm telling you this because I was determined not to be a dope addict. The doctor advised Mr. Ford to give me some whiskey, but that didn't ease me pains.
"Mr. Ford and I decided that we were not living up to God's word and will as we should. Now this is where my life changed. I'd always been a Presbyterian, but a lady came and talked to me one day about my soul, and she told me about Christian Science. The doctors weren't doing me any good, so the lady taught Mr. Ford and me to declare and affirm the truth. After we had kept this up a long time I began to move my head and arms. Soon I was stronger. I only weighed 78 pounds when I put my whole heart and mind on God. You see, until we understand and stay steadfast with God we don't get any relief from Him. We cling to Him; we know He is divine love. He has done so much for me since I learned to declare and affirm His love and promises.
"We lived in that cabin in the yard for 12 years. Mr. Ford continued to plant crops of cotton, corn, and vegetables. Of course, we still had our land. We even saved a little money, and with a loan we built this house we are living in now. With God's
Page 6
help, Mr. Ford takes me up every morning, dresses me, and puts me in this chair where I'm sitting now. With the help of this chair I can go most any place I want to. He made it just for me. It's the only one I can get about in. In the mornings we first come to the kitchen for breakfast. Here, I'll show you how I walk in my chair." To demonstrate, she folded her gnarled arms as best she could and placed her toes on the floor, then reared back and twisted about one way and then the other, forcing the chair, which is a little higher than the ordinary straight chair, across the floor. She propelled it with almost incredible speed. "I carry my chair with me to church and everywhere else that I have to get out of the car," she said. "After we get to the kitchen, I fix the table and other little things about breakfast while Mr. Ford makes the biscuits. I can't use my fingers enough to make them.
"After breakfast, I wash dishes, churn, sweep the floor, and I even do our washing and, well, you caught me ironing. The reason I'm using this coal-heating [sad?] iron is because my electric iron is being fixed. I burned it out the other day."
I had been so interested in Mrs. Ford's talk that I hadn't realized it was beginning to grow dark. I suddenly knew that I had to go, but first I asked her
Page 7
permission to look through the house. "I was wanting you to," she replied. "I want you to see my rock mantel. Mr. Ford and I value it so much." The mantel, beautifully designed and finished, was in the diningroom. The furniture here was plain, but clean and well-kept.
In the bedroom everything was arranged so that she could do her own house work. Noticing that she had only one narrow cot in the room, I asked where Mr. Ford slept. She laughed, "That's all we need. I'd have twin beds or a double bed, but you see, I have to have Mr. Ford to brace me at night, and he might roll away from me in a double bed. I can go to bed now and sleep like a baby because I work all day. I never hire any work done. Sometimes people come along wanting something to eat or wear and I let 'em help me out some then so they can earn what they need so bad." "Do you own your house now, Mrs. Ford? You said something about a loan or mortgage on it," I inquired. "Well we're still paying on it, and if we keep loving God we'll soon get it paid for. That's where God helped us again. You see, the mortgage was to be paid off on a certain day. We'd put in for another loan and it hadn't gone through, so of course the place was advertised for sale. Well, the man that put the house up
Page 8
didn't show up at the sale a t'all, and in a few days the loan went through and we used it to pay off the old mortgage. We've managed to make our payments on the new loan regularly ever since.
"I have my telephone fixed so I can carry it anywhere over the house that I want to. When I go to any part of the house I always take it with me. I have friends that I've never seen that call me 'most every day for a chat. I take orders over the telephone for our farm produce and have it sent in to town 'most every day. And, too, I have my electric lights, frigidaire, electric iron, and radio. Most of all I have my God who is the cause of my having what I have today.
"I do lots of political work on my telephone, too. You see, that's the only way that I can help, and I do all I can that way."
As I prepared to leave I told her, "I've enjoyed this short visit with you, Mrs. Ford."
"I'm go glad you came, and do come again or call me sometimes over the telephone," she said, as she walked her chair toward the front door.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 20 of 73
[A Good Investment]
A GOOD INVESTMENT
Written By:
Mrs. [Leola?] T. Bradley
Research Field Worker
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens Georgia
Edited By:
Mrs. Maggie B. Freeman
Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens, Georgia
WPA Area 6
October 12, 1939
October 9, 1939
Andrew Johnson (Negro)
168 Pope Street
Athens, Georgia
Insurance Agent
Bradley - A GOOD INVESTMENT
One afternoon I went out on West Broad Street, one of Athens largest negro sections, for an interview. When I arrived at the address I found that my consultant had just left town. I rested for a few minutes, then went on my way wondering where I could go to get my next story.
As I walked down the street, I saw a nicely dressed, young negro man go up on a porch and rap on the front door. In his hand he had a book, to which he kept referring, while waiting for a response to his knock. No one answered and he turned to leave. I knew that insurance agents were usually out collecting on that day, so I asked him if that was his business.
"Yes, Miss," he said, "and I like it very much."
"Would you take the time to tell me something of your life work?" I said.
"Sure I will," he said. "Of course this is one of my busiest days, but I can make up the time I guess. But why do you want to know anything about my life? he continued. "I haven't lived in this old world so very long and my life story might not be of much account.
Page 2
I explained to him what my business was and why I wished his story.
"All right he said "if you wish we can talk right here." He looked around for a place for me to sit down. On the porch was a swing with most of the seat torn out. It did not look to be very strong either so I was afraid to risk it.
"I'll just sit right here on the edge of the porch," I said.
"Wait, Miss, it is very dusty," he said. He went to his car which was parked in front, brought a newspaper and spread it out for me to sit on. He stood very respectfully and we began our conversation.
Anthony Jackson is a negro far above the average of his race, about twenty-six years of age, rather tall and slender. He has, bright black eyes that were keen with [enthusiasm?] and his short mustache gives him the appearance of being older than his years. He was dressed in a neat business suit with a soft felt hat to match and wearing a nice looking ring, which he afterwards told me was his fraternity ring. Being a well educated negro his conversation shows none of the characteristics of the illiterate Negro.
"I was born," he began, "right here in Athens, Georgia, down on Pope Street. I live at 168 Pope Street now, but that's not where I was born. My childhood was
Page 3
very happy. Somehow we children had a better living than a lot of colored children. There were just two of us children. Yes, Ma'am, just two of us, one brother and myself. I owe the most of my advantages though, to my mother and her people. She had fine people on her side. I don't remember my father very well; he died when I was just six years old. Of course, there are a few little things I can remember. Funny how little things stick with you. I can remember good one day when he took me 'cross his knee and paddled me for running away. Oh, it didn't hurt such, it hurt my feelings more, than anything else. Yes, Ma'am, my parents were strick on us. We were not allowed to run 'round on the streets like a lot of children.
["My?] father was a carpenter and did well. Yes, he made good money. He always took his money home to my mother and she put it away with what she made. Yes, they pulled together. Yes, my mother, she worked too. My father didn't leave us much money, just a little insurance, that's all. He had a nice funeral. Of course I went, but I can't remember much about it. She doesn't want us boys to forget our father, so she keeps us in mind of him all the time. No, we had a small family. Large families, I guess are nice, but my daddy died and left us so young; I reckon it's best that there were only two of us.
We don't own our home, never have owned one, but we are planning to try to borrow some money soon and start us one. Of course I have to have a car in my business.
Page 4
We live in a nice house now. Oh! it isn't fine, but it's all right for now. It isn't so much to look at but my mother is proud or how comfortable it is. And her flowers! I just wish you could see them. If you ever happen to be down that way stop at 168 Pope Street and see my mother and her flowers. She's not there all the [time?], but most in general she is. She does [? shing?] so that keeps her there. She is a good cook too, but she don't cook out, just cooks for us. She makes a nice house for us, too.
"[Somehow?] after my father died, we got along better than we did when he was living. I believe I told you my mother had fine people, well they helped my mother raise us two boys.
"I have a fairly good education, and would have had more, but I had an accident that disabled me for a while. The first school I went to was Knox Institute, right over here on [Reese?] Street. When I went to the old Union Baptist school over on Baxter Street. [These?] are both elementary schools. Part of the time, too, I went to Morris Brown School in Atlanta. The reason I went there, my father worked there a short while, so we moved with him. When we came back to Athens, I went to Walker Baptist College in August and I finished there. I was a pretty good athlete and I got a scolarship for playing ball. That was a fine school but it only carried you so far and no father. My real college education was at State College over in South Carolina. While I was there I majored in chemistry and minored in biology. I was working toward a pre-med degree.
Page 5
I really wanted to be a doctor, but, during the time I was in college, I got a [fractured?] skull and had to quit my course. I believe I told you while ago about my accident. Well, I can't say just how it happened, it was done so quick. The first I knew I was in a hospital and doctors and nurses were all around. I was seriously injured and have never been able to go back to school. Sometimes now I am tempted to try it.
"I began writing insurance when I had to quit school, and have been at it now for several years. It is nice work and pays well. I'm with the North Carolina Mutual Company and my office is in the Mack Payne building on Washington Street. Our district office is in Atlanta and the home office is in Durham, North Carolina. There are three things we need when we get sick. God, a good doctor and life insurance. Insurance is surely a good investment. People of my color believe in insurance. They say that's the only way they can save money. It's too easy to draw out of the bank. Funny thing too about insurance - it looks like the poorer and more ignorant they are, the more particular they are about keeping their payments up. Seems that [those?] who know values do not carry protection.
"Collecting is not so bad as some people think. Most people are pleasant about it. The first week in the month is always good, but the last gets kinder tough. I try to help my customers all I can when they can't pay. One old lady pays all her insurance in vegetables. Sh has a good garden and we don't have one where we live, so she furnishes us all the kinds of
Page 6
vegetables she raises and in turn I [dodust?] the amount for the vegetables from the amount she owes the company and I take care of her premiums myself when they come due. It's all the same to me. We write a lot of different kinds of policies. [Indowment?], participating, industrial, sick and [accident?] and most every kind any other company carries. One of the finest kind we write is group insurance. Usually that is for a firm where lots of people are working. The head of the firm takes it out, and the premiums are taken out of their salaries. That is fine, for it compels people to have protection.
"I forgot to tell you, I have taught school some. I liked that too but like insurance better. This spring when schools were gettin' in such a mess, I was glad I was out of it. Governor Rivers is 'bout to get things straightened out though. I thought he would if they would just give him time.
"Going back to writing insurance," he continued, "we have some funny things to happen. Our company is fine to pay off. We never have any trouble on lawsuits or anything like that. Of course there are always people who think they are [mistreated?].
"A man who had a policy with us got sick and was down a long time. We knew he was going to die and he did too. His wife kept up his premiums. One day they told her when the end was near; this woman left her husband and came to our office.
"Good morning," I said, "can I do anything for you? I really was surprised to see her for I had heard John was dying."
"Yes, sir," she said, "John 'bout gone; I [jist?] thought I'd let you know, so you could rush up the insurance."
Page 7
"I explained that we couldn't do anything until after he died. "
"Well," she said, "he caint come back fer his eyes is done set. Now how [is?] I ter berry him?"
"I told her to let me know as soon as he died and I would see that she would not be worried about putting him away. In a few hours he passed away and he was put away in grand style."
"One right troublesome policy is the sick and accident. People will try to impose on us. Even if it is my own race I'm talking about, some of 'em are crooks. They will lay off from work from pure laziness, and then want to collect for it. We have some strict regulations though, and it's hard for them to get by now.
"Yes," in answer to a question, "I go to church, [Ebernezer?] Church, that big one right around the corner. J. C. [Gresham?] of Atlanta is the pastor. Yes, Ma'am, I'm baptist. I'm a junior deacon and I help usher, this is, when I don't sing in the choir. Yes, I sing or rather I like to. What voice I have is tenor. I never have studied singing but I wish I had. We have special music only on first Sunday. I don't go to the B.Y.P.[U?]. much. Guess I should, but I don't.
"Yes, I believe every one should vote. I never have, but I'm qualified, so I'm [goin?] to vote next time. I'm crazy about President Roosevelt. Why, Miss, he helped give me my schooling. It was NYA work. I was assistant to the physical education instructor at this college in South Carolina, I was telling you about. Yes, Ma'am, I believe in voting. My fraternity had a
Page 8
motto that says, [a?] voteless person is a helpless person.'
"I've never married, I guess I'm old enough, but I never have felt like I had enough money. It takes money to set up a home. Course now, I don't know how long I'll be single, but like it is now, I'm afraid to get mixed up with anything like that. Oh! I have a nice friend and I guess we sorter have an understanding, but I haven't ever breathed getting married yet."
It was getting late and I knew he should be busy with his collecting, so I thanked him and went on my way. He went in the next house and as I passed I heard someone say, "Good evenin', Mr. Jackson, it sure is a good thing you come right when you did. I wuz jest about ter spend my polishy money."