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American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
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 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 Three
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 Two
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 21 of 73
[Honesty and Fairness to the Bitter End]
HONESTY AND FAIRNESS TO THE BITTER END
(A Depression Victim Story)
Written by: Mrs. Ada Radford
Augusta, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7
Augusta, Georgia
February 16, 1940
William Iverson Wilson
308 6th Street
Augusta, Georgia
Feb. 16, 1940
A.R.
HONESTY AND FAIRNESS TO THE BITTER END
Henry Iverson Johnson, at one time Augusta's leading undertaker, stands today still bewildered by the onrush of the great economic depression that has reduced him almost to a life of privation. However, unlike thousands of others caught in its aftermath he explains proudly that he is entirely clear of debt.
"I was in the undertaking business in Augusta for forty-one years and during that time I buried 5000 of its citizens. I followed through to the bitter end with my slogan: 'Honesty and Fairness to all.' When I was forced to close in 1936 I paid 100 cents on the dollar and owed no man anything. Now I am an old man of 83 years and absolutely broke."
Those who have known the family in former years experience quite a shock at the drastic changes that have taken place in their living conditions. The old couple are now making their home in a small upper flat in what is no longer considered a choice neighborhood.
A colored woman answered the door bell and told me she knew they would be glad to see me but that she would have to prepare them for my visit. She led the way to the upstairs hall and I could hear her explaining to the two old people that they
Page 2
had company. After a moment or two the woman returned and led me into a large and almost bare room. The entire furnishings consisted of a bed, a dresser, two rockers, one straight chair and a small table. A worn rug was before the fireplace.
As I walked in Mr. Johnson, who is very active for his age was putting on his hat preparatory to going on some errand for the home. When he learned of my mission he said with old-fashioned courtliness: "Please talk to Mrs. Johnson until my return. I shall be back in a few minutes."
True to his word he was away only a very short time and then settling himself in one of the rockers he began musingly:
"I was born May 5, 1857 on one of South Carolina's old plantations over in Colleton County. My father, Rev. Seaborn Johnson, was a Baptist minister, and I was his youngest child. My father required my help on the farm when I was not attending the neighborhood schools. When still quite young I entered Cedar Grove Academy, near Bamberg, South Carolina. This school remained open for just a short while and I went to the old Buford's Bridge Academy in Barnwell County. When I was 17 years old I was appointed to teach. Let me see, that was in [1873?].
"As you doubtless know, we were not required to have degrees in those days. They needed instructors so badly that anyone who showed unusual aptitude at their studies could soon become a teacher. No, I never was able to complete a college course for we were going through the unsettled and stirring times of struggle and readjustment
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which followed Sherman's march to the sea.
"Later on I studied under an eminent civil engineer and field surveyor and for a while I followed that profession.
"I belonged to the Hagood Light Dragons during this period and wore the red shirt. We were banded together to subdue riots and uprisings of all kinds and to endeavor to prevent racial conflict. We kept vigilant watch over the surrounding country and labored for the reestablishment of white supremacy.
"And that recalls to my mind the one and only time I was arrested. It was in 1876 and along with 22 others I was taken up and charged with intimidation. We were taken to Charleston, South Carolina to appear before Judge Melton. Without hesitation I told him I was guilty, that in fact I was the leader, and asked him to release the others. The result was the discharge of the whole company.
"My first business venture was a clerkship in a general merchandise store at Buford's Bridge. I stayed there only a short time and then I operated a store for Col. George H. Hoover at Hampton Courthouse.
"About this time my brother wanted to do farming and merchandising and asked me to go into partnership with him. We were very successful for we had many loyal friends and customers.
"In 1881 we planted enough cotton to realize 100 bales. We had borrowed the money to get started and hoped to be able to pay off all indebtedness by the end of the season. Then came panic.
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The weather was unusually cold and what little we did manage to raise, a storm swept away a part of that. The 100 bales we had visualized dwindled to 17 bales and we were $1700 in debt at the end of the year. Only one store was still doing business. The farmers were unable to pay and it had to close."
I interrupted with, "That was indeed a terrible blow for an ambitious young man. What did you do, keep on farming?"
"No." He replied. "Sometime during the first part of 1882 I went to Charleston and took a course in undertaking and embalming. At the conclusion of my studies I went to Allendale, South Carolina, and accepted a position in a general merchandise store where they sold coffins and I took charge of that portion of the business.
"On September 4, 1884, I married the eldest daughter of Major William James Gooding and my father-in-law gave me an old horse. I rigged me up a buggy and hauled drummers to nearby towns. I applied everything I made in this manner on the $1700 debt. I always made those trips at night and returned just in time to open the store. You see, my brother and I had to pay this money and of course we couldn't begin to save anything until we were out of debt.
"While I was in Allendale I met the president of an Atlanta / coffin establishment. He was very anxious to have a branch in Augusta and urged me to open up such a business. Finally I consented to attend a meeting of the directors at Atlanta. Mr. Hall introduced me and I said: "Gentlemen, I'm a poor man and
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don't have a dollar to invest, but if you want me as your Augusta manager I will do my best to make a success of it.' Their reply to this was, 'Mr. Johnson, we want to set you up in business. We will take care of all details and see that everything you need is supplied.'
"Well, what did I have to lose? I owed $20.00 for the suit of clothes I had on and had 50 cents in my pocket. I thought to myself, 'Nothing Venture, Nothing Have.' So I said, 'All right, gentlemen, I'm ready.'
"The next day the president of the company came back with me to Augusta, and we rented a store on the corner of Ellis and Sixth Streets. I prospered from the beginning, and am still proud of the confidence placed in me by the good people of Augusta."
"Did your family come to Augusta when you opened your business?" I asked.
"No." He replied. "You see my wife had a little business of her own. She handled dress goods and millinery. After I was established for about a year and had gotten a good foothold I moved her and our five children to the flat over the store. We immediately united with the First Baptist Church and all of my children were baptized there.
"By the end of three and a half years I had discharged all obligations to Hall & Company. My business had expanded quite a bit and I decided to look for larger quarters. One of my friends owned a place on Eighth Street. It was in bad repair, but he
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promised to put it in first class condition if I would rent it. I outlined my plans and he started on the work at once? I was so cramped for space that I decided to move in before the repairs were finished. Lawrence stopped the work immediately and when I tried to get him to finish he flatly refused.
"I declined to be treated in any such manner and hearing that a very desirable piece of property at 123 Seventh Street was for sale, I decided to buy it. I purchased the building on a ten-year basis and immediately added $3000 in improvements. I made the final payment in three years and eight months. I now had clear titles to my place of business in addition to rolling stock consisting of 12 cars, including hearses and trucks, and was averaging 25 funerals a month among the highest class of Augusta people.


"Then came the World War and Camp Hancock was established on the Hill. They needed an undertaker. Two others and myself made bids and one of them got the contract. That really didn't worry me for I had all the business I could handle with the help I had. My boys had gone to the war and I did most of the embalming myself. When the influenza epidemic broke out three of the officers came to me and said:
"'Johnson, we have 75 bodies at the camp and the undertaker doesn't have caskets enough to ship the bodies and we want you to take over and help us handle this situation.
"At first I refused emphatically, and Captain White said:
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" 'But don't you see that you must help us. This man's credit is exhausted and we are ready to give you a contract.' I knew conditions pretty thoroughly and told him I would agree to take it for [10?].
"You can't make anything on it at that figure.' He said impatiently.
"Then I came back at him right straight from the shoulder:
"I have three sons fighting in this war and I will not be called a profiteer. You furnish the trucks to do the hauling and I'll wire for the caskets and superintend the work.'
"Captain White then said somewhat grudgingly. 'Johnson, you are making a mistake but have it your way. We have a number or embalmers in the camp who will assist you.'
"I went up to the camp and established a morgue there. I found 35 embalmers among the enlisted men. Selecting about twenty-five of them I went to work, and during the epidemic I shipped 628 bodies without a complaint and saved the government about $8000 in the transaction.
"No, I didn't continue the work at the camp. I only helped out during the epidemic. I had to get back to my own business which had been neglected for the camp work.
"Had your business begun to fall off?" I asked.
"Not at all.' He replied. "I had all the business I needed but collections were not so good. But don't get the idea that people won't pay the undertaker. They do pay when they have it.
"When the depression hit the country hundreds of people were out of
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work and business places were closing every day. There was no money to pay insurance premiums and when families were forced to cut living expenses insurance policies were cashed in and dropped. Each person who was forced to take this step meant to renew his policy when times were better.
"But people didn't stop dying during those hard times and they had to be buried. I couldn't refuse to help the people who had made my business and I made up my mind that I would hang on and if the ship sank I would go down with it.
"At the onset of the depression I could have disposed of my business for $40,000 and walked out with more than $75,000. But I stayed on, believing the trouble to be only temporary. Then when things got in a bad way I borrowed money from the bank.
"My boys didn't like the undertaking business, they showed no interest and were of little or no help to me. When I saw that I was beginning to lose heavily I went to the bank and asked them to take the business for my indebtedness. They refused to do this and I borrowed from the Home Loan Company and paid the bank.
"I was then eighty years old and could see the utter futility of trying to hang on. I wrote to the manufacturers to take my stock and have it sold. I wanted every penny I owed paid and I want to give credit to my friend who is the president of the Imperial Casket Company of [Leesville?], South Carolina. He volunteered to come to my rescue and help me save my business.
"I closed in 1936 and paid 100 cents on the dollar. I had
Page 9
accomplished what I wanted to do. I was clear of debt but I was an old man and broke. However, I had kept my slogan for 41 years and did until the end.
"Yes, I am a member of several fraternal orders. In 1894 I was made a Master Mason in Allendale, South Carolina. When I came to Augusta I transferred my membership to Webb's Lodge. I was made a Royal Arch Mason in 1896 and a Royal and Select Mason in the same year. Five years later I was dubbed a Knight Templar and have filled the highest offices in each of these organizations. I am also a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason and a past patron of the order of the Eastern Star. I also hold memberships in the Junior Order of United American Mechanics and with the Odd Fellows."
"You spoke of educating your children, Mr. Johnson. How many did you have and what are they doing at the present time?" I asked.
"Well, I have two daughters. One of them, Anna [Elise?], was graduated from National Park Seminary (Maryland) in 1912. She is a pianist of great ability and is now married and living in Cincinnati. Lillian Hampton finished at Converse College. She lives in South Carolina.
"All four of my sons were graduated from the Richmond Academy. The eldest one, recently deceased, attended Sacred Heart College. He was an expert embalmer and lived in Mississippi at the time of his death.
"He served as a volunteer on the Mexican border and went to France with the American Expeditionary Forces in the World War.
Page 10
He served as a top sergeant in the aviation Corps and was with the Army of Occupation prior to his return to the States in 1920.
"My next son went from the Richmond Academy to Stone Mountain then to Georgia Tech for two years. When he came home he entered the Medical College and graduated as one of the five honor members of his class. Then he went to Charleston where he won a scholarship for a special course in the Naval Medical College (District of Columbia). He won his diploma and was commissioned by President Woodrow Wilson and assigned to the Oriental Squadron.
"My third son, after leaving the Academy, attended Stone Mountain and Washington and Lee. Later he saw service in France during the World War. He was active in Masonic circles and was associated with me in business until we failed in 1936. He lives in Atlanta at the present time.
"My youngest son is a dental surgeon and lives in Honolulu. He was graduated with honor from the Atlanta Dental College in 1923, and left immediately for Hawaii.
"I have left my views on the causes of the depression until the last and here they are. There were many contributing causes. You see, I am a very old man and I also lived through the panic of 1876. As to the extravagances of the government, history only repeats itself. Then there was the mistake made by many people who could not foresee that inflated property values and previously unknown extravagances would some day end in destruction. Prohibitive salaries paid to officials of the government, Federal, State, County and City, at the expense of the taxpayer was another potent factor.
Page 11
Still another mistake, equally costly, was the disaster brought about in the following manner: Instead of the government inducing people to stay on the farms, to raise pigs and chickens and plant gardens, they were told to come to town where relief stations were established for them. Almost without exception misery has descended upon them and each has become one of millions of government manufactured paupers.
"And now it is too late for me to do very much about my troubles. At least we are fairly comfortable, even though I am unable to provide what we have. However, it is vastly different with the government. It has both time and money to accomplish complete recovery."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 22 of 73
[Hopes 'at Somebody Will Come Along]
Archie George (Negro)
180 [Sampson?] St., NE
Atlanta, Georgia.
By William Jenkins
November 17, 1939
... HOPES 'AT SOMEBODY WILL COME ALONG TO TALK TO
"Yeah, I'll tell you all about myself, I got plenty ob time. I jes set right here all day long and hopes 'at somebody will come along to talk to."
"I'm from [Lithonia?]; I was born there on a farm. My dad and mother had five children, me and four sisters.
"Yeah, I called 'em Dad and Mother, but I was de only one ob de children 'at called 'm 'et - the rest called 'em Mamma and Papa.
"My dad he died about nine years back; my mother died when I wus small. I have a sister in Cincinnati and one in [Decatur?]. The rest is dead. Dey said 'at my mother died wid T.B.'s She wus sick jes 'bout one year. My dad he jes got sick and died. He wudn' sick long and I don't know what he died wid, but he didn' die wid no T. B.'s. One ob my sisters died wid pneumonia and de other 'n she got shot. She went in a room where another man and woman wus fightin' and got shot accidentally. My other two sisters is married and is gittin' along right well.
"We worked de farm in Lithonia on halves. The man furnished all de seed, [feed?], mule, tools, and ever'thing; and we got half uv ever'thing we made. Yeah, we had plenty to eat and I guess I had a right good time when I wus [er?] growin' up. I sho did want a bicycle though but I never did git none. I had 'at mule to ride though and 'at wus better 'n a bicycle but I didn' know it then. Yeah, my dad could er bought one if 'en he ['ad?] wanted to 'cause we most always had some money left over
Page 2
after seddlin' -up time. When we had a good crop we'd have about five or six hundred dollars left after all de bills wus paid.
"I never went to school much, jes about two years. I can't write none to do no good and I can read jes a little bit. My sisters went to school a whole lot more 'an I did. I done most ob de work. I don't remember much about 'at school. [We?] jes had two teachers and I don't jes know how many went but de wus a good many. [Naw?], we didn't have no playgrounds nor nothin'. It wus jes a country school.
"We played marbles most all de time when I wus a little boy. Sometimes we played baseball though.
"When I wus a pretty good size boy, I used to work here in Atlanta in de winter time. I wus a pretty [bad?] un then. I got locked up for shootin' crap or eye-ballin' most ever' [Saddy?] night. Awe, eye-ballin', [dat's?] when you aint gamblin', you is jes watchin' de game. Dey locks you up though jes de same. My boss-man he always got me out. Yeah, dey had 'at kangaroo court in 'at jail. If 'en you paid 'em a quarter though you wouldn' git no licks. Yeah, I always give 'em 'at quarter.
"I went to North Carolina to work at Big-Rock [Quarry?] when I wus about twenty-four years old. I made five-twenty er day up there drillin' rock. Awe, I worked in 'at rock quarry at Lithonia some and 'at's where I learned to drill rock. Dey jes paid me a dollar and er half er day for workin' there though. Awe, I jes made er dollar and er quarter when I wus drivin' teams in Atlanta.
"I didn' stay in North Carolina long, jes 'bout six months. I
Page 3
went to [West Virginia?] to work in de coal mines. I made eight dollars and one penny er day er drivin' er mule in dem mines. Later on, I made ten er twelve dollars er day loading coal. 'At wus hard work but de more you worked de more money you made. Awe, I could load about four er five cars er day. Dey wus cars dey use in de mines, dey holds four er five tons.
"[Naw?], we 'ad plenty ob work to do ever' day in de week. I never did git laid-off none, not one day. I'd work about three er four months though and den I'd jes stay off er week er two. Naw, I wouldn' git tired er workin', jes tired er goin' to work ever' day. Naw, when I'd go back dey would always put me back to work.
"I still shot craps most ob de time when I wudn' at work and I made money when I gambled. Sometimes I'd win two er three hundred dollars. Naw, dey don' lock you up fer gamblin' up there. They don' pay no attention to you. Naw, I wouldn' lose near as much as I'd win. Naw, I didn' save none ob my money. I wus a fancy dresser in 'em days and I spent most ob my money on women.
"[Naw?], I never did git married. I wouldn' marry no woman pig-in-the-sack. Dey might be er 'possum in 'at sack. I had to try 'em before I married 'em and when I tried 'em, well, I jes never did marry 'em. I would er married one though but she wanted to git married too quick and we fell out.
"Dey got me in de army in 1918. I wus sent to Camp Lee. Naw, I didn' do no fightin'. I jes stayed at de camp. Naw, I wudn' scared, I
Page 4
wanted to go to [France?] and fight. Some uv 'em wus scared though but most uv 'em wanted to fight. Naw, dey wudn' nothin' but colored men in my company. We 'ad some white officers though. When der war wus over dey sent me down here to Camp Gordon. Den dey let me out.
"I stayed around here [fer?] a while and den I went to Tom Creek, Va. I got a job loadin' coal at de V. I. C. mine. I worked there 'bout four years and 'at's where I got my legs cut off.
"One Tuesday mornin' I went to work and dey wudn' no empty cars on de tracks to load de coal in. I walked up to where de cars wus, and when de engine started to pushin' down to where we wus er gonna load 'em I went to swing on one to ride down there and my foot slipped and I fell under de [car?]. De wheels run over me and cut off both my legs up above my knees. I wus in de hospital for seven months. When I got out dey sent me to de poor farm. My cousin, Ethel Brown, come 'air and got me and carried me back to West Virginia to live wid her.
"Naw, dey didn' pay me nothin' fer gittin' my legs cut off. Dey aint never give me one cent. Dey give me some artificial legs but I aint never been able to use 'em. You see when you git both yo' legs cut off above yo' knees you can't git about on no artificial legs and crutches. You see when I gits to standin' up on 'em legs and crutches I can throw my legs out in front of me but, wid my legs like 'at, how is I gonna git my crutches off the ground then and how is I gonna git my legs back under me again. You can't do it so you jes falls down. If I had jes one knee joint I could git about on 'em legs all right.
Page 5
"I stayed wid my cousin [fer?] two or three years and den I went to Lynch, Kentucky, and lived wid another one ob my cousins, Doll Hawk, fer 'bout two years. Den I went back to West Virginia to live wid [Willie?] Hawk. He is another cousin ob mine.
"I got me a truck and sold produce in West Virginia. I made five er six dollars er day. I made my own livin' fer a while but then it got so I couldn' sell enough to pay the boy I had drivin' 'at truck so I had to quit. 'At boy wrecked 'at truck a while after 'at when he had it borrowed and I never did git [it?] fixed up no more. 'At truck never wus no good much nohow.
"De American Legion man got the government to pay me forty dollars er month. Den I could pay some [board?] and de folks didn' mind me bein' aroun' so much.
"When Roosevelt got in office he cut my check down to thirty dollars. I show will be glad when de Republicans git back in, so I'll git my ten dollars er month back again. Year, I's er Republican. I voted for Hoover and Landon. Naw, I won't vote next year if I's still down here. I jes votes when I's in West Virginia. Us Niggers don' vote down here.
"I think dis WPA had jes made er lot er lazy Niggers. When I had my legs I didn' want de government to give me no job nor nothin'; I could always git one fer myself. Well, maybe jobs is harder to git now den dey wus twenty years ago. I never thought about it like 'at. You is right, it wus about eight or nine years ago when I had to stop sellin' produce 'cause I couldn' sell none hardly. Will [said?] he had been ever'where for
Page 6
er job and couldn' find none. I guess he is havin' a hard time er payin' de rent and de bills. I pays him four dollars er week though fer my stayin' here and [Essie?], Will's wife, she works and makes six dollars er week, but Will he stays out of er job 'bout half de time and when he's got one he don' make nothin' much.
"Yea , I gits tired settin' here all de time. I don' think about nothin' much. You see, I done got used to it now. I can git down de steps and go down to de corner but it's more trouble 'an it's worth. I has stomach trouble and it keeps me feelin' bad pretty near all de time now. I has had it fer years. I's been aimin' to go out to Forty Eight Hospital and see if I can't git somethin' [done?] fer it but I jes keeps puttin' it off.
"Naw, I don' never go to church; I used to go sometimes before I lost my legs but not very much.
"I's goin' back to West Virginia, if I gits to feelin' better. I believe I like it better up there. Money is easier to git up there.
"Well, I guess I'll be settin' right here when you comes back along. I'll talk wid you any time."
Archie seems to be about fifty years old and would weigh about one hundred and seventy-five pounds, if he had his legs. Both legs were cut off high above his knees. His clothes were old and tattered; he had a worn-out piece of leather under him, which was laced around his hips and leg-nubs.
He moves himself along by raising his body from a sitting position with his hands, then throwing his body forward, then lowering his body
Page 7
to a sitting position again. He uses two wooden"[trowels?]", he calls them (they are made like plasterers' trowels), to protect his hands and to increase his reach about four inches.
The house where Archie lives has four rooms and is in good repair. Archie's cousin, his cousin's wife, and Archie live in two rooms on the left side of the house. Another couple occupy the other two rooms. All the furniture in the left side of the house is new and a [new?] rug is on the floor. A large console radio stands in the front room. Archie sleeps in the kitchen on a cot. They cook their meals on an oil stove. There is no bath/ room in the house; a flush toilet is in the back yard. There is no sink in the kitchen; a [spigot?] is on the back porch. Both rooms were very clean and neat, quite a contrast to Archie.
I guess Archie is still sitting in that doorway waiting and hoping "'At somebody will come along to talk to".
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 23 of 73
[The House of Flowers]
Life History
Jones Flower Shop
Miss Willie Jones
Cor. Clayton and College Ave.
Florist.
Grace McCune
Feb, 21-1939
Feb. 25-1939
The House Of Flowers
Opening the door of Miss Smith's flower shop, I entered a room which was more like aflower garden, than a room. There was flowers of every variety, the cut flowers were arranged around the room, in large baskets and pots of blooming plants were arranged on tables at the windows and on a table in the center was a long table, on which was vases of cut flowers as well as some of the pots of flowers. Several large [palms?] arranged around in the room added much to the attraction of the room. One end of the room was taken up with two large frigidaires which was filled with cut flowers of every kind. A large settee, and two large chairs was placed so that cutomers customers and visitors might enjoy the flowers as they waited.
Miss Smith was waiting on two boys, and as I waited for her to finish with her customers, I couln't help but hear the conversation. The boys wanted her prices on corsanages corsages for their girls to wear at a dance. She gave her prices on different kinds of flowers, and they finally [decided?] on orchids. Asking if she could have them ready in time for the dance the next evening. After assuring them that they would be ready and delivered in plenty of time, the boys went out.
She then asked what she could do for me. I explained my visit and asked if she would mind telling me something about her business, as I was told, she had the most popular shope shop in town[,?] "well you will have to come back in the work room with me, she replied, for I have some orders to get out that came in the morning's mail. But they are just cut flowers for their friends who are in the hospitals.
I asked if she got very many orders that way, Oh, Yes, she said, "I get them most every day, and you know I appreciat appreciate them, and am proud of these
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orders, for it [makes?] me think that my customers have confidence in me. Why some times, I get the [order?], saying just send an order for me, telling the price, but not what kind of flowers they want. For instance this one that came this morning, it is from a woman from in a near by town, and she did not even say what she wanted, except, please send a three dollar order of flowers for me to a freind friend that is in the hospital there.
"that just leaves it up to me, and I try to do the best that I [?] can, [and?] fix them as I would for myself. And for this order, which is for a woman, I am sending pink [carnations?], as I think they are lovely in a sick room, and too this is [an?] easy order to fill, for the woman that is sick is a very good customer of mine and I know that carnations are her favorite flowers.
"And very often I have new customers come in and tell that some of my old customers sent them to me. And I appreciated that, and I try to let them know that I do appreciate it. I have a very nice customer [? ? ? ? ? ?] who has sent many new customers, and through her conections with several faternal societies, has thrown quiet a bit of business my way. I had an opportunity not so long ago to let her know that I appreciated all this.
"She lost her brother in another town. I had a good many orders to fill for that funeral. But when she called me and ask me to fix her flowers, I ask if/ I might fix just [what?] I wanted to fix. She [readily?] gave consent, saying, I have never been disappointed in you yet. And the casket spray that I fixed, using all white flowers, was really lovely, and I wanted it to be that way. But I was not expecting the messages that I received regarding that spray. One was from the Undertaker in charge of the funeral. And he wrote me a card saying, that they were often asked
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bythe families that they served to order flowers for them. And that all the flowers that came from my shop were so lovely, and the casket spray was the loviest lovliest spray that they had ever handled. And he wanted to know if I could fill orders for them. And that was from a much larger town than this one.
A customer came in and she went out to wait on him. As I waited I looked around the work room. It was not a large room and a long table with high stools around it was where she was working. Built in cabinets held supplies of everything that she used in her work, and a long rod at one side of the table held both wax and tissue paper that she used in fixing up the flowers to send out. One large cabinet with glass doors held a supply of tule tulle in all colors and shades. And a large desk, [showed?] that she also used this room as her office.
Miss Smith came back in her work room laughing and said "poor boy this is the third time he has been today to look at those red roses. Tomorrow is the birthday of his girl friend, she will be twenty, he said and he wants to send her twenty red roses. But red rorses are rather exsensive this time of the year. But he will get them yet, he wants them so bad.
"Last week I had a large order for corsarges corsages for the Valintine Valentine ball, they wanted sweetheart roses. I had a time trying to get them, but finally I found one place that said that they could send me all I wanted. I ask them to send them at once. They came in the morning, that I was suppose to have them ready in the evening. And when I unpacked them, I found a card saying that they were sorry, they did not know that were out of sweetheart roses when I gave the order, but that they were sending the large roses and hoped that I might be able to use them.
"It was to late to try anywhere else, and too I had tried everywhere.
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and couldn't find any? And I just had to make the small roses out of the large ones. Yes it was a job, but in this kind of work, you come up against all kinds of jobs, and the work is when we have large orders to fill, we sometimes work day and night to get them out on time, for that is one thing we have to do, and that is to be prompt in getting out orders for flowers.
I asked her how long she had been in this business? "most all of my life she replied. But I have only been in business for myself sixteen years. It was a hard pull, but I have [?] made it from a very poor beginning to what I have now. But you know I spent all of this morning in mailing checks for every bill that I owe. Of course I should have done it yesterday, but I was jus just so busy that I didn't have time.
But [?] to get back as to how I started. I have loved flowers all my life, and we always had lovely ones at our home. My father was not what you would call wealthy, but we had a good living and a large home. There were six of us children, and we were all in school, when my father lost most everything he had except our home, by going on notes for his friends. And that has been a lesson to me in my business.
"We children had to stop school and go to work, and that is [?] when I realy really began to know that we could make money out of our flowers One of my sisters and I worked with the flowers, and we soon had a large greenhouse built for the hot house flowers. And every bit of our ground at our home was planted in flowers. We built up a good business, of [?] course there were many things that we had to learn. But we were both determined to see it through, and we are both at it yet.
"A few years later, we built a swiming swimming pool on our place and built a danceing dancing pavilon pavilion. This was soon a very popular place in the summer
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for swiming and danceing dancing as well as picnics. We kept the pool the pool cleaned out and had cemented it. It filled from a large spring. And we were making good with it as well as our flowers business. But she got to where most of the work was left to me, and the break came very soon after that.
"One after noon she was entertaining the Community Club. The boy that worked for us and I was cleaning out the pool, as we had it rented for the evening to one of the social groups for a picnic and swiming swimming. I was so tired, just give out, for we had even scrubbed the cement bottom of the pool.
"I had just finished and was sitting down on the bank to rest, when she came walking up and ask me what I was doing, resting I said, for I am realy really tired out. She said well if I hated the country as bad as you do, I would get out of it. If you don't like this, why don't you get out and go in busines business for your self. This made me mad, for I had worked so hard to build up our business and it realy belonged to both of us together.
"But that is when I decided I would get out and see if I could not do better, and that is where I started. A friend of mine and I went into the business together. I came to town and rented a small place. That made my sister so mad for she did not think that I would get out, and she she did everything in her power to stop me. Even went so far as tell the telephone Co. That they could not install a phone in my name. Or my place of business.
"I went to see a lawyer about this, he ask if the Smith Flower Co. which was the way that we listed in the directory, was incorporated. I told him it was not. Then he said, there is no way in the world or by law that she can keep you from haveing a telephone in your name. And he called the telephone co. It wasn't very long until they were there to install my telephone.
"We had built a large greenhouse together, and I thought she would
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let me use that, at least for a while, and we had a car that we bought together to deliver our flowers. In fact I had realy really paid more in the car than she had . But bless your soule soul, she went up in the air, wouldn't even let me use the car to deliver my orders until I could get one.
"I have always detested the idea of giving up anything that I had started. So the more she tried to stop me, the hardier harder I tried. But it was hard, I had to build me a greenhouse, and it cost me $2500. and buy another car, for those were two things that I had to have if I was going to stay in business. I soon started to building my own house, I would get a little done and have to stop and wait until I got more money. The contractor, said Miss Smith, let me go ahead and finish up the house, and then you can finish paying me later. But I would not do that, for I always like to see where I am at, and I did not know, they way my sister was trying to stop me, if I was going to be able to keep the shop going. This was in the fall of the year, and my parnder partner ask me if would not use some of his money to finish up the house, so that I could get in before cold weather, for I need needed some one to see that the heat was kept on in the green house. I saw that he was right, and did as he said, and I had it finished up to where I could move in before it got real cold. But I had him paid back, every cent by the early spring, and i made improvements on my home until I have a lovely eight room house, and modern in every way, except gas. Yes it was tough, but as my pardner said one day, when I was unusually blue, remember that old saying, you can't keep a good woman down.
"But I have worked and made good and my people still impose [?] on / me. I have improved my property, and have several nice cottages
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built. I have two young men working for me. One of them is my nephew. They are both married and I furnish them both a house, lights and water and I guess coal [also?], for my coal bill is seventeen dollars every two weeks. And I pay them a good salary, for this work is not like most any other kind of work. For we have to work all hours some times.
"My nephew is supposed to help me here in the shop when he he is not busy out at the house, and especially to deliver orders. But half of the Time I do not know where he is at. His wife helps me in the shop when I am busy. But I sure do have to pay her. I am always doing some thing for them, but they do not offer to do anything for me, unless I pay for it.
"They have two children, and I am always buying something for [them?] but they do not appreciate that. And I pay more bills for things that I never see, and he and the boy at the place do pretty much as they please. Why I have got in a rush and called out there for them, only to find they had gone fishing or hunting. They think that because Jim is my nephew, that they are priviledged privileged to do as they please. And use my cars to make these trips in and even charge the gas to me. I guess I am just to easy on them.
But I Own my business myself now, and have had to move twice , to have more room for the shop since I started out in the small place. I have all that I can do. My sister thinks that I should do more for my folks than I do. but I can't see it that way. And don't see hardly how I could do much more, I do not keep any of them in the house with me, I tried that, but it didn't work, we could not get along. But I do furnish a home for one of my sisters, also one of my brother and his family, and help feed them of course my father and mother are both dead, and I think I do as much, in-fact much more than any of the rest, for the ones that I mentioned.
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"And they think they keep up with what I make, through my nephew, but I have learned not to let him know, for he will take no interest in the work, will not look after the shop at all. I know that I need to get out and take a trip or rest up, but bad as [?] I need it, I can't afford to just get out and leave it by its self.
Another customer came in and as she went to wait on him, I [?] noticed some pictures over her desk. Two of them was lovely tinted pictures of little girls, and one of a little boy, that was still just a baby. But the one that attracted me most, was a picture of a small grave of a child, it was decorated in the christmas decorations, and a christmas tree all lighted up was by the side of it, with a large star in the top of the tree.
Miss Smith came back in the room smileing smiling, and said "I told you so, the boy could not resist the red roses for his girl, he came back and ordered them, and now he is happy, and I hope that she will be just as happy when she gets them, as he is in sending them.
Two more customers came in, both boys, One wanted tailsman talisman roses sent to a young girl, and the other wanted a pot of flowers for a sick friend. She was very considerate and explained about the different pot flowers and helped him to make his selection. And for more than an hour and a half she was busy with customers.
And as she finished with the last ones, a rather poorly dressed boy came. She was just as nice to him as she had been to the others showing him over the shop and all her flowers. After he left she said I wish that I knew who that boy is. I am so sorry for him, he comes in
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most every day just to look at the flowers, he is realy a lover of flowers. And I imagine he can't afford to buy them. I often give him a bunch of flowers. He is more like a child than a man.
As she finished making a record of her orders, I asked her about the pictures of the children, [?] especially of the grave. "They are my nephews children she replied, and this one, taking down the picture of the largest child, is the one that is buried in that little grave. She was my favorite, I love them all, but she just seemed to think more of me. And she was killed accidently by a truck, just a few weeks before Christmas. This was a few years ago, "And she did love her Christmas trees, and we keep one at her grave during the season, and brightly lighted, as she always wanted hers to be. She was such a bright child, and every one loved her.
A man came in and she went to see what he wanted, but he was a salesman, and she told him she did not need anything. He ask about pots, she said no, I don't need a thing. He said aren't you ever going to forget abo about that old order. I told you that I was not in need of anything she replied. He thanked her and went out.
She said, "I wish that he would stop coming in here, he gave me a dirty deal one time on an order, and I can't forget about it. It was a rather large order, just hundreds of pots for one thing, pot of every size for we use so many of them, but the order ran into several hundred dollars and he just over charged me on everything I ordered. I received a price list with the shippment of goods.
I guess I should have reported him, but I didn't, but I do not give him any more orders, and he does hate to miss the large orders that I give. For in buying things that I need all the time, I try to buy in large orders and watch to see that I do not run out of anything. For I have a
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place at the house where I can store a good many [XXXXXd?] things.
"But I am beginning to believe that I am going to have to stop that or have it changed some way. And she laughed, "you know I always buy my foliage in large quanties, not less than a hundred pounds at a time. Well I keep that at the house also and just bring it in as I need it And just before christmas, I had just about used up what I had here in the shop.
"I knew that I would need more in makeing making up my christmas baskets I called the house and told the boy to bring me in a supply. He called me back in few minutes, and siad said that there was none there. I was so sure that I told him to look again. But he couldn't find any. My nephew was here while I was talking to the other boy, but he did not say anything.
"When I went home that night, I found that the boy was right, I did not have any foliage. I just couldn't imagine what in the world had gone with it. But right after christmas, I found out what went withit. My nephew said his wife sold more than a hundred dollars worth of these little christmas pots at the ten cent stores. and I knew then where my supplies went.
"No they did not ever say anything to me about it. They never do. But still they don't pull as many things over me as they think they do. Yet they did get a cow stall built and had a cow in it before I knew anything at all about it. Jim that is my nephew, had built a high trellis between my house and the cow stall. She laughed and said "They feel so sure they will get all I have when I am gone, so I guess they think they might as well use it now.
More customers [came?] in and she went out to wait on them, and when she came back she said, "this has been a rather dull day with me,
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but I guess I need it, as I have been in a rush for several days. " She had been working on some orders as she talked, and having them ready, she called the house to see if Jim was there, so he could come in and make the deliveries.
It was sometime before any one answered, and then it was his wife, and she said he was not there. Miss Smith called a taxi[a?] [taxi?] and made her deliveries. But she showed plainly that she did not like it. [?] Finally she said that is just the way it is most of the time. They think they can do me any way, but they will go too far one of these days.
"Why last spring I had so much work that I wanted done out at the house, and I do not like to overwork / anyone. So I got a settled man to go out and help them out. And after he finished his work, he said, Miss Smith, I do not like to tell things, but you just don't know how things are going out there. When I went to work out there, they gave me some advice, and it was this, see nothing, hear nothing, know nothing. As Jim had been getting by, I must not tell on him.
Miss Smith laughed and said, "I fired both of them last fall, for going off when I needed them very bad. They didn't think that I would do it. I sent for another boy to take their place. And do you know what those boys done? Well they went and told the boy that I had changed my mind, and when I came down the next morning to come to work, Jim was there waiting in the car, and the other boy was already at work trimming the hedges. They had a good job, and couldn't do any one else like they did me. But for a while they did fine, I got more work done than I had ever got out of them before.
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"I am going to have to have Jim's wife help me tomorrow for I have to get out those orders for the dance. But I usually pay her four or five dollars a day when she helps me, but she is good help, and realy really works. But she will not offer to help me unless I ask her, and then she knows that she will get paid for it.
"And some of them are always borrowing money, but they don't ever think of paying back. No, they would not think of doing any one else that way. I guess they just figure that I don't need it. But I pay them all for what they do for me. And they have all the flowers that they want, at any time they want them. And I like to see them put flowers in their houses.
"But the children are realy really a pleasure running about the [?] house when I am at home, for it is lonesome some times, especially when I am at home on Sunday. I do my own cooking, but I do have some one to come in and do the cleaning. And last Sunday one of my friends was visiting me, and she said, 'I knew that you was crazy about flowers, but I did not know that you was bad as you are, do you know how many vases of flowers you have in your house?[.?]
"No I replied, I never count them, but I do like to have flowers every where. My friend laughed and said, well I have counted fifty-two and I don't know how many more there are. She really likes my home, and I do have a nice home, it is just out of the city limits, and I have several smaller cottages on the place that I rent, and I don't have any trouble in renting them.
"I of course have electricity, as the lines go by the place. [But?] I use an electric pump to furnish water for the houses, but we have plenty of it. And about the only thing we don't have is gas. But we can cook with electricity. We are in the country, but have all the conveniences of town. And as it is on a paved highway, we have no trouble running in
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to town.
"I come in quiet often to shows as that is about all that I have time for. And I go to church on Sunday, yet some times my work make us work on Sunday also. And some times I can get some of them to stay at the house on Sunday, then I can get away for a day, and that realy really helps for this work is so confining as you never know when some will call for a order, and want it in a hurry.
"I very often think of what our old negro cook told me one time when I was little, she was trying to make me do something, and I did not want to do it, well she jus turned me across her lap, and then gave me the only whipping that I ever had. She told me then, 'some dese days youse gwine'r has ter do, and what youse gwine'r do, less'en youse knows how.
"And how right she was, I have realy really had to work, but inspite of all my handicaps, I have made a good living and am trying to lay aside plenty to take care of me when I get to where I can't work. I have several very good inestments investments in stocks, and I like that much better than building houses to rent, for there is always something to do on them, just repairs all the time. For most of the people that rent will not take care of a place, just because it is not theirs.
"I have a time with my social securities and records, infact I [?] still do not understand them, and realy really don't know what it all means. But I do not object to it, and am willing to do my part. It was a little complicated at first to get my reports just right, but I guess they pass for I don't hear anything from them after I send them off.
"My sister wanted to know only last Sunday, how much insurance I was carring carrying on myself. Not any at all, I replied. She was shocked, and gave me a raking over the coals, as the old cook use to say. I asked her why should I? [?]that I didn't have any one to leave it to, and I thought I had enough to take care of myself. I guess they want all they can get.
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"And the first of this year, I made a resolution, not to lend any one any money during this year.
"Have you kept the resolution" I ask. She laughed heartily, "I did for one day, or maybe two, and then Jim and the other boy also wanted ten dollars each, and of course they got it. They just know how to get next to me.
She went out to the front to wait on a customer, and when she came back into the work room she said, "The rain is coming down in torrents, and I have to send out some of these flowers, guess I will have to use a taxi again for Jim is not here yet and it is most time to go home. I am sure he will be here to drive me home, for I do not drive myself.
"It is a good thing I have not been busy today, for I should have needed him. I wondered why she called it a dull day for business, for she had been working hard all the time she was talking, and as I was getting ready to leave, I thanked her for the nice story, and also for giving me so much of her time. "I was glad to" she replied, "I am glad that you came, for I don't like to be by myself.
As I went out, a man came, which was evidently Jim, for she wanted to know where he had been all day, and I bet that he had to put up some mighty good excuse.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 24 of 73
[I Ain't No Midwife]
I AIN't NO MIDWIFE - Revised Copy sent to [?? 6-14-39?]
Written by: Mrs, Sadie B. Hornsby
Area 6 - Athens, Ga.
Edited by: Mrs. Sarah H. Hall
Ares 6 - Athens, Ga.
John N. Booth
Area Supervisor of
Federal Writers' Project
Areas 6 and 7
Augusta, Georgia
June 9, 1939
March 14, May 29, 1939
Mary Willingham (Negro)
140 Cohen Street
Athens, Georgia
Practical Nurse
S.B.H. I AIN't NO MIDWIFE
"You'll have to come up on the porch and set down whilst I washes if you wants to talk to me," Mamie announced, when I found her in the backyard tending the fire around the boiling washpot. "I meant to wash outdoors in the sunshine," she continued, "but my husband and daughter got off befo' I had a chanst to get 'em to move my wash bench off of the porch for me."
"I'm surprised to find you at home, Mamie," I told her. "I was just taking a chance when I strolled around to the back after there was no answer to my raps on your front door. Have you given up nursing in favor of taking in washing now?"
"No, mam, I ain't had no nussin' job in gwine on a month now. I'se just doin' my own fambly washin', least I is this mornin'. I does have two small washin's. I means I calls myself havin' two, but the folks didn't bring 'em last week, and they ain't brung 'em so far this week."
I sat down and watched her as she worked. Mamie is a stout woman of medium height. Tightly braided gray hair framed her gingerbread-colored face, and she wore a nurses' soiled blue uniform, a white apron, black slippers, and gray cotton hose.
She spat into the tub of clothes, half-heartedly rubbed a garment across the washboard a time or two, stood up straight and said, "Miss, does you know where I can git a job?"
Page 2
"No," I replied.
"What!" she ejaculated. "Outen all the folks you knows!"
"That's true, Mamie, I surely don't know of a job you could get right now," I told her, "but the National Reemployment Service will help you to get work if you'll register in their office."
"I did try at that place. They axed me a hundred and one questions and then some: 'What did you make? What did you spend your money for? Well, why didn't you save some of it while you was makin' it?' They took all them questions and washed my face with 'em. I'll bet not a one of them folks that asks them questions saves none of their own wages, yet they goes right on askin' other folks questions they wouldn't wanta answer for nobody else. I told the one that axed me them things that the reason I couldn't save none of my money was that me and my fambly had to eat, buy clothes, and pay rent, let alone having to holp my people when they needed it. They's been a heap of colored folks gone hongry at times in these lest several years, when they own folks didn't have nothin' to 'vide with 'em no mo'.
"I sho don't know what us pore Negroes is gwine do," she grumbled. "When I first started to work I got more to do than I could keep up with. Now, folks goes to the hawspital, but when they gits back home some of they folks comes and stays with 'em 'til they's up and about again. I reckon folks just has to do that way to cut 'spenses."
"How long have you been a nurse?" I asked.
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"Lemme see now, since 1924," she answered. "You know I ain't no midwife; I'se a practical nurse. I'se holped doctors and midwives, and I'se maided and cooked. Lord, have mercy! I had to spend my money fast as I could git it feedin' my fambly, payin' house rent, and for all the things I told that man what axed so many questions at the 'Ployment Office. I got my 'stificate to do practical nursin' in 1926. It took me 2 years to git it. It used to be anybody could wait on [?] 'oman havin' a baby; they could go ahead and cut the cord and tie it if they knowed how. Now, that's all changed. If you don't have that 'stificate they'll put you in the penitentiary for life. I hopes to git my next 'stificate in 'bout another year, and then I can call myself a midwife and pull down $35 a week. Then I won't have to worry about my meat and bread no mo', leastwise not long as 'omans keeps on havin' babies. I means to save up for a rainy day when I does git to makin' what a midwife should.
"I don't know when I was born 'cause I didn't know nothin' t'all 'bout my ma. I recomembers seein' my pa all right enough. I can guess at my age, but I really don't know jes' how old I is. I tells ever'body that. I 'spect I will be 'most forty-nine my next birthday. I was born on a farm down here in Clarke County, and all I ever done in my younger days mostly was work in the field. I'se just been in town 'bout sixteen years. I used to have time and money to go see my folks, but I don't no mo'. Like I done told you, my ma died when I was a baby. My sister raised me part
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of the way, then some white people took me up and I lived with 'em years and years. I lived and worked in the house with them white folks 'til I married.
"The first real nurse I ever seed was a white 'oman what they called in to nurse one of the chillun that was took bad sick out in the country. One day that nurse went out in the yard to the lavatory - folks didn't have them places in the house to set on in the country. The lavatory was hid back of a grape arbor. She was passing under the arbor on her way back to the house when a bug got in her ear. She went to the kitchen, twisted a little white somepin' 'round on a match stem, got some warm water and worked with her ear a long time. I thought that was fine doin's. I said to myself, 'If she can do things like that, I can too.' Right then and there I decided to be a nurse.
"Gittin' my first case come so easy that I thought nursing was going to be a reg'lar job. My husband's sister that was nursing a white 'oman took sick and give me the job. I went there and liked the work and the white folks liked me. That $8 a week they paid me was a whole lots more'n I coulda made cookin', or maidin', or takin' in washin'. That was a good lady what I nursed. Her aunt said that shakin' disease she had was caused by her being a senarvis ([stenographer.?]). She had done worked her fingers so long on a typewriter that she 'most lost use of her hands and arms, and that condition spread over her whole body. 'Oh, please rub my legs,' she would say. 'Oh, please scratch my head. If you will only rub my back; I'm so nervous.' I had to be doing somethin' for her all the time, day and night."
Page 5
Mamie stopped talking long enough to spit again into the tub of clothes and to rub a few strokes on the washboard. It seemed a good time for me to ask, "Why do you spit in the clothes?" She laughed heartily and was not the least embarrassed when she replied. "They tell me if you spit on dirty clothes it'll take the spots out when nothin' else will. So ever time I sees a bad dirty spot I just up and spits on it, and it 'most always comes out without no mo' trouble.
"This nursin' business," she continued, "brings you up against all sorts of folks and things. Why, I even lost one job I had 'cause the sick 'omen told the doctor I had said her pulse was too fast. "Well, if she has to go 'round tellin' sick folks such things, we'll let her go,' he 'lowed. I ain't never told no other sick folks 'bout theyselfs no mo'.
"I couldn't git my 'stificate to do practical nursin' 'til I ob'-served at least one operation, and so I got my chanst when a white 'omen what lived in the country come to her sister's house in town to have a tumor cut out. The colored nurse what was 'to holp the doctors and the white nurse got to poutin' so I had to take a hand, and not havin' done nothin' of the sort befo' I emptied out the water with the gauzes in it and they couldn't count 'em right. That sho lern't me a lesson, for when that patient didn't git well lak they thought she oughta, they made a 'zamination and 'scovered that a gauze was sewed up in 'er. Cutting her open again and takin' it out never 'mounted to nothin', so they done that out in the country in her own house, and she got well fast enough then. Now don't you
Page 6
go blamin' them doctors. Them was grand doctors, but that little old room was too dark, in spite of that big old flashlight 'most long as my arm what her husband had bought when the doctors was fussin' 'cause they wasn't no 'lectric lights in that house where they done the first operation. Besides there was so much discharge they couldn't half see, and it was my fault for pouring out the water before them pieces of gauze could be counted. That colored nurse that pouted and didn't do her part on that case lost out with the doctors and they don't never call on her no mo'.
"Another time I holped one of them doctors remove a big tumor from a colored women that had been suffering with it 30 years. It weighed nearly forty pounds on the cotton steelyards. I have worked for that doctor many times since. He is a good man and a fine doctor, but you better watch out and not make him mad."
An Mamie rinsed the clothes in tubs of clear water, she told me something of the wide range of her experience in nursing. Maternity cases accounted for at least ninety percent of her patients, and her vivid descriptions ranked from the "pore white folks" and Negroes who knelt on the floor to give birth to their children, to the complications of a "Cessare-en" birth, made necessary by a fall that injured the mother three months before the baby was due. She had tended mothers and babies in the poorest of colored families, and in the homes of "uppity" white folks, who were able to employ a maid and a cook, in addition to a nurse to tend the mother and baby after they returned from the hospital. Patients with bladder disorders, cancers, nervous diseases - come what might - they were all accounted for in
Page 7
in Mamie's story which came to an abrupt halt as she dropped the last wet bundle into her clothes basket.
"Well, I'se done got these clothes washed, now I'se got to hang 'em out," she said, as she made a hasty excursion to the kitchen for clothespins. "Good Lord, Miss, it's done twelve-thirty! When does you eat?"
"Oh, not as long as you are willing to talk," I told her. "I can eat any time."
She went out in the yard and began to sing: " Come to Jesus Now. " Looking at me she said: "You can talk. I can hear you and ain't nobody else gwine to hear you." I assured her I did not mind waiting until her work was finished.
"Just as soon as I hang these clothes out, I'se got to go down town, so you'd better ax me what you wants to know now." She continued to hang out clothes. "So it's my schoolin' you wants to know 'bout now?" she said. "I got as far as the second grade. That's how come I can't talk proper now; I didn't have 'nough schoolin'. I went to school in Morton's Chapel. It was a church house. Us chillun went to school there during the week, and to church and Sunday School there on Sundays. That's the way colored folks done in them days. Now they's got a reg'lar schoolhouse.
"A blind 'aman come through here once and give a music singin' at that church. We paid 10� a head to hear her sing. That was the way she had to make her livin'. She said her ma had fourteen chillun, seven born with sight, and seven blind. She was one of them blind ones. After the singing was over she said the church was a
Page 8
great big Morton and a little bitty chapel, and that was sho what it was. Mr. Morton that give that chapel was one grand fine man.
"I don't hardly know how I met my husband. I believe when I met him he was with his first wife. I thought he was the prettiest man I ever seed, and he said he thought I was pretty too. He told me I had the prettiest legs; they was so big. I was just a little low squat. I never seed him no mo' in 'bout four years. Then he was separated from his wife. When I seed him he was on the job. I knowed his face and he knowed mine. Us went together 'bout a year befo' our marriage. Us got married all right but there wasn't no big weddin'; just a crowd of folks come to the house to see and hear the preacher say a little somepin' over us. Two of our fo' chillun is girls and the other two is boys."
Mamie had finished hanging out the clothes and started in the house when a large German police dog come out of a dog house and barked at her. "I just hates this big old dog. I wish my son-in-law would come and git 'im," she complained. "I has to keep 'im chained up so he can't run off." She spoke to the snarling animal, "Now you just go on back, 'cause you ain't gwine to git none of this somepin' t'eat I'se got for my hog," Picking up a market basket of bread scraps from the yard she sat it on the porch.
"Miss, if you wants me to talk to you, you'll have to come with we in my bedroom." I followed her through the kitchen. "Come in here first. I wants you to see my daughter's room. She lives in [atlanta?] and she's gwine move her furniture when she gits a room there."
Page 9
The room and its contents seemed clean but revealed no attempt at orderly arrangement. The conglomeration if its furnishings included a walnut bedroom suite which was crowded against chairs and tables of various kinds. A pink bedspread [clashed?] with the red drapes that framed the dingy [scrim?] curtains at the windows, and a cheap rug, of red rose pattern, added another wide splash of color.
We went to the kitchen where a round table, surrounded by chairs in the center of the room, was easily accessible to a small wood-burning cookstove. Pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery, as well as food, were scattered around apparently at random.
Passing through a narrow hall, we entered a bathroom which was complete with tub and other conveniences. The fixtures were cheap and crude, but they were a source of pride to Mamie. She lives in a house with a bath and an indoor "lavatory." "Do nurses knows the needcessity of these things and us does without other things, but us has to have our bathrooms," she declared.
The small hall also led to a room barely large enough for a battered iron single bed an old oak dresser. "I stripped this bed this morning," Mamie declared, "and I ain't had time to make it up yit." The mattress tick was split its full length, exposing lumps of dingy cotton. She opened another door, saying, "Come in here. This is my bedroom." The two iron beds in her room had evidently seen much use and many coats of paint, which was flecking off now and revealed more then one color. There was no attempt at orderly arrangement if the oak dresser, mahogany center table and its coal oil lamp, two rockers, and several split bottom chairs that were scattered about at a safe distance from the small heater.
Page 10
"Have a cheer," was her attempt at hospitality, "and 'scuse me whilst I fixes my hair." After several moments of vigorous wielding if the comb, she began replaiting her hair in tight braids that meandered at random about her head until the last lock of hair had been securely fastened in the braids. Few, if any, hairpins were necessary, for the hair was gathered up in such a manner that the braids did not form incipient "pigtails" but lay close against the scalp. This chore finished, Mamie put on a black hair, and said, "I'm going to git me somepin' t'eat; I can't do without food as long as you can." She returned in a short time with a plate of biscuits and stewed fruit. "I would ask you to have some of these peaches and biscuits but I knows you wouldn't eat nothin' like this. This here fruit ain't got a bit of sugar in it 'cause I didn't have none to sweeten it with.
"Workin' 'round doctors has done learnt me that you has to eat keerful to keep well, even if you ain't got nothin' much to spend on eats. Too much breed by itself ain't good for folks, and these old peaches is got somethin' in 'em that I needs. 'Cordin' to what I'se been told, they's better for me 'thout no sugar no how. One of the best doctors I works for - when they's any work for me to do - evermo' fusses down if he finds any of his patients that's old as I is eatin' sugar on grapefruits even. He says middle-aged folks ain't got no business stuffin' theyselfs with sweets and meats. Not that I'll ever be able to buy no mo' grapefruits, let alone sugar to go on 'em, lessen I can git me some work to do.
Page 11
"No, mam, us don't own this house. Us pays $7 a month for it. Us used to pay $9 a month, but times got so tight the colored 'oman what owns it had to cut the rent 'cause us wasn't able to pay that much. All her chillun got grown and she picked up and went off to Detroit with 'em. Lord knows I couldn't pay no proper rent for a place like this with a lavatory and plastered walls. I sho couldn't. I'se been livin' here five years this last gone August, long enough to own it.
"Sho, I belongs to the church. I'se a good old Baptist, I is. Why, I wasn't nothin' but a gal when I jined up with Morton's Chapel Baptist Church 'most nigh 30 year ago.
"Now I knows I'se told you just about all the spe-unces I'se ever had, and I can't stay no longer. And this is sho 'nough; I 'spects you to gimme five cents to ride to town on the bus, 'cause I'se too tired to walk. I knows you'se '[bleeged?] to be hongry, for one thing sho, you stayed right on here till you finished what you come for 'thout nothin' t'eat. That beats me how you done it, for I'se got to have my eats on time. It's 'bout time for that bus. I thanks you for this nickel."
On my second trip to Mamie's house she saw me before I reached the front door. "Just open the door and come on in," she called. "What's the use of knockin' when I'se lookin' right at you. You sho does look hot, so have thet cheer over there by the window. A good breeze is comin' in there. What'd you fetch me? Seem's like to me if the government's payin' you for this story, you oughta pay me part of what you gits outen it."
Page 12
Mamie was ironing. Her ironing board was resting on the backs of split bottomed chairs. Large field rocks were placed on the seats of the chairs to keep them from tilting under the vigorous onslaught of her heavy iron. She was ironing a white uniform of the type usually worn by nurses, and did not make any further attempt to talk until the garment was carefully folded and placed across the back of a rocking chair. Then she unfolded a tightly wadded piece that proved to be a ragged pillow case and spread it out on the board. "If you'se noticin' this pillow case you might as well know it's mine, for I wouldn't wash nothing for white folks that was as ragged as this for fear they'd charge me for it claimin' I tore it up. Colored folks has had things like that to happen, but don't ask me no questions, for I ain't goin' to tell no tales like that. They's apt to get Negroes into trouble, no matter how true they is.
"Did I tell you when you was here befo' that a lady that works at the college brought her washin' back to me lately after she done took it away from me and give it to somebody else. She pays me 75 cent a week for it now and it sho is worth ever cent of it and mo' besides. It tickled me for her to find out that other folks don't wash as good as I does, and 'sides I just bet she had to pay mo' to them others she tried out.
"The most I ever got in one week was $14 and that was on a nursin' job. I'll never forgit what the man said that hired me after my $14-a-week patient got to where she didn't need me no mo'. He didn't offer me but $10 a week, and I didn't want to take $4 lose than I had been gittin' and I told him so. 'mamie,' he said, 'I don't
Page 13
make much myself, but whatever I promise to pay you you'llt git it and you won't have to wait for it.' When I goes on a job I gives my whole time, night and day, 'cept for 4 hours a day rest period, that any doctor'll tell you a nurse has gotta have if she is to stay on the job and be able to do what the patient needs her to do. Now you knows $10 a week ain't nothin' to pay for day and night services, and white folks wouldn't think of expectin' white nurses to work for such a little bit, and them white nurses does a heap less than me.
"On my last job I didn't git to take no 4 hours off ever' day, for the patient told me she couldn't stay by herself a'tall. I was on that job day and night two weeks without no extra pay for over-time. These days, nursin' jobs is so hard to git that I'se home more'n I'se off nursin'. I never had but three jobs of nursin' all of last year; at one I stayed two weeks, three weeks at the second, and I was on night duty six months straight at the last place. Them first two places paid me $10 a week, and I got a dollar a night for the night duty.
"Ellen - that's my baby gal - got as far as the eighth grade in school. She works just any place she can git a job. Most of her work's been cookin' and maidin', for that's all she knows how to do. Whenever a colored girl tries to git into some other sort of work they's allus asked, 'What 'spe'unce is you had?' If the new work is dif'rent from what they's been doin', they don't git it. How's they gwine to git 'spe'unce if nobody gives 'em a chanst? Answer me that!"
Page 14
"I don't know," I told her, unless they take some sort of training for it."
"My gal ain't able to pay for that," Mamie answered. "Her baby goes to the WPA nursery school, and that's a big help when I'se off nursin' and that baby's ma's off huntin' work. She 'most allus gits around three dollars a week when she's got work, and I reckon she might work for less if anybody would hire her. But now ain't it a shame for folks to have to work for less then it takes for 'em to live on. she ain't got no work, she lives on me and her daddy; that's all she can do. Then when she does git somepin to do it takes all she can make to feed and clothe her and her child and to pay her part of our rent. When she ain't workin' she just mopes around here with me and her daddy. She ain't got no work now, and I reckon she's out huntin' a job, for she left out bright and early this mornin'.
"Our baby boy ain't married - not yit - and he's workin' his way through a school at Macon, Georgia. I don't know what he's gwine to take up. The school gits work for him to do. Right now they're tearing down old buildings on the campus and rebuilding 'em. My boy cleans them bricks and does anythin' else that comes to hand. I promised to pervide his clothes, but I ain't been able to give him nary a garment this year, 'cause I ain't had no money to pay for no clothes with. This is his first year off from home, and he gits mighty homesick. He writes us they don't give him enough to eat down there. You see, me being a nurse, I knows 'bout diet and things like that and I has to know how to feed folks so as they [eats'll?] do
Page 15
the most good, and that's how come eatin' away from home don't satisfy none of my fambly.
"My oldest daughter went to the tenth grade, and since she's been out tryin' to holp make a livin' she's done 'bout ever'thing that come to hand. She ain't never been able to give us much towards payin' for eats, and rent, and the like, for it's allus took all she made to take keer of her own self. All my chillun holps me and they daddy with the fambly 'spenses when they's home and workin', but more'n often we has to holp them. But it was this oldest gal of ours I was tellin' you 'bout. She done maidin' at a big furniture and undertakin' store here and made $4 a week long as she could hold out at it, and lemme tell you them folks had lotsa furniture for her to keep dusted and cleaned up. She was about the onliest one of my chillun that ever kept a study job. Since she got married her health's been so bad she has to stay in bed most of the time, and she don't give me one nickle no mo'. The doctor says she won't never be well no mo'. 'till she has a operation. She ain't able to pay for that and the Lord knows I ain't able to give it to 'er.
"Our oldest boy lives in this town but he can't never seem to git nothin' much to do. He had to stop school to go to work in a drug store at $1 a week. He's got less schoolin' than any of the others, for he never went further'n the fourth grade. His wife gits two dollars and a half a week cookin' for a white 'oman that just keeps her half the day. She ain't borned but one child since she and our son got married, and that little boy ain't big 'nough to do nothin' but go to school yit.
Page 16
"All our chillun worked ever' day after school was out, soon as they was big 'nough and could git the work to do. The girls nursed. The most I ever got from their workin' after school and all day Saddays was a dollar and a half a week apiece, but as a rule I just got a dollar apiece. I took the money and bought books, tablets, pencils, and shoes and clothes. School supplies wasn't furnished by the State then, and by the time I paid out for all them things, there never was enough left to dress 'em right. They allus worked in vacation times if they could find the work to do. It was lots easier for 'em to find summertime work than it was in school time, for folks wanted workers that could stay all day on the job. Both the boys done most of they work 'twixt school hours at drug stores, carryin' packages, waitin' on curb trade, and doin' all sorts of odd jobs 'bout them stores.
"When I first come to this town to live I didn't have no nursin' job, so I started out takin' in washin' for the mill folks. My prices was all 'cordin' to how many was in the famblies, 'bout a quarter of a dollar for each person in the fambly. Where a fambly had a papa, a mama, and one child, I usually got 'bout seventy-five cents a week, and if they was five folks in the fambly they had to pay me a dollar and a quarter for a week's washin'. Takin' it all in all, by and large, I'se spent mo' of my life washin' than nursin'. There ain't been no rest for me only on Sundays, and not then when I'se got a nursin' job, for I [has?] to work to feed my fambly.
Page 17
"My husband mixes morter. When he can git 'nough work to do we can make as much as $5 or $6 a week, but he don't hardly ever git more'n two weeks work in any month, and oftentimes not that much. White folks won't give 'im no other sort if work, and no mo' of it - just a week or two, now and then. Folks is tellin' 'round here that the white folks is done passed a law not to work middle-age men. That may be so, but they don't give colored folks no jobs no how, 'cause if they would give my son a job, he could holp take keer of us. My son knows the mortar business just like his daddy; yet and still, he'll do anythin' he can find to do, but then he can't git a job.
"Now, you may not believe me, Miss, but I'so gwine tell you the truth, when us don't have no work to do, us just sets 'round here hongry. Right now my house rent is way past due, and that rentin, agent is talkin' 'bout puttin' us out iffen he don't git $10 to go on back rent right quick. Us used to pay our rent 'direct to the 'oman what owns the house. She lives in Detroit, like I done told you when you was here befo'. She got so tired foolin' with us gittin' behind so often and payin' in little old driblets, that she turned it over to a hard-boiled agent that'll set yo' things in the street in a hurry when you don't pay like he tells you to. We knows now we's got to git the rent cash from [somers?] and give it to 'im on the dot.
"Right now, our water bill is on the cut-off list again, 'cause us owes somepin more'n three dollars on back bills. They ain't cut it off yit, but they's apt to any minute. A notice come in the mail this mornin' from the 'lectric light folks, sayin' iffen us
Page 18
don't pay that $2.66 us owes for lights they's gwine to cut 'em off. Well, if they does, I'll just start using my old kerosene lamp again.
"I'se tellin' you what's the truth; things is in a worser condition now than they's ever been in befo', since I come on this earth. When I was first married, 'bout thirty year ago, it wasn't no effort to step out and get a job. If things got tight in town a person could go to the country and git work in the fields to holp out. Now you can't git nothin' to do in the country, for what few white folks is still runnin' farms ain't able to pay out much for wages. My cousin that lives in the country has a wife and eight chillun to bed, feed, and clothe, and he don't git but sixty cents a day. His wife has two little washin's. Come springtime, the chillun totes cotton seed and guano and draps corn. They chops cotton and in the fall they picks it, but none of them little jobs pays 'nough to pay for the clothes they rots out with sweat whilst they's doin' the work.
"It used to be 'most any fambly could grow 'nough corn, wheat, potatoes, and sugarcane for syrup, to last 'em all winter. Now them folks what carries out government orders has cut down on 'em so, they don't have 'nough home-raised victuals t'eat. I will say for 'em, they ain't cut down on potatoes and other vedibles yit - just mostly corn, wheat, and sugarcane, and, Oh, yes, I mustn't forgit, they's got hard-boiled 'bout how much tobacco a man can raise. I reckon the folks that's at the tiptop head of the government knows what they's doin' when they fixes up they plans, but I don't believe they meant for the folks that carries out the orders to run things
Page 19
like they does. If things was done just like our President wants 'em done I don't believe there'd be no hongry folks, or no folks sufferin' for lack of fire to warm by in cold weather, and no little chillun stayin, out of school, 'cause they ain't got no clothes to wear to the schoolhouse in winter weather.
"White folks in gen'ral don't have no idea how us colored folks is sufferin'. If us was to try to carry our troubles to 'em, like us used to when ever' colored fambly had some white fambly to look to, they wouldn't listen to us now. We wouldn't git nowhere with our story for they's got troubles of they own. Since freedom come, the colored folks is done come so far from what they was befo' the war that white folks don't feel 'sponsible for 'em no mo'.
" 'most all colored folks in town tries to carry insurance to holp out when they gits sick and 'nough to bury 'em with. I'se got one polish I pays 25� a week on. But country folks don't have no way to make extra twenty five cen-ses to pay on no insurance polish. It used to be they could bring chickens and eggs, vedibles, or whatever else they might have - sometimes melons and fruits - to town and swap 'em at the stores for coffee, sugar, and other things they needed. Now they don't have them things to bring, and if they does bring 'em, they can't swap 'em for nothin'. When a person that ain't got no insurance and no money dies, they's buried like a cat or a dog without no embalmin'. You can't 'spect them undertakers to do embalmin' for nothin'; It's 'spensive.
"When us first come to town to live, for a 'oman to make
Page 20
$4 a week washin' was con-sidered big money. It took a heap of work to make that much; I knows, 'cause I done it. My husband worked for the city till he fell off of one of them city trucks and broke his collar bone. After he got well they wouldn't take him back, even if he did git hurt doin' they work just like they told him to. Up to the time of his fall he was makin' $9 a week, but since that time he makes whatever folks is minded to pay him.
"Let me tell you the God's truth! Since 1932 lots of colored folks has died hongry. Look! See how big this dress hangs on me. I've lost ten pounds, and ever' pound of it was lost 'cause I didn't have 'nough t'eat. I'll be glad if I ever see the day again when I can put my foots under somebody's table and eat a belly full one more time.
"Not long ago I axed a white 'omen why colored folks couldn't git no work to do. She told me the Negro race had brought it on theyselfs. She said that when times was good and white folks would go to hire a cook or a nurse they would be told: 'Us ain't workin' out no mo'. Us is lookin' for a cook, a washerwomen, or a nurse ourselfs.' She say our sassy ways like that is why the white folks don't pay us no mo' heed since times is done got so tight they ain't no jobs for us.
"It ain't been long since I axed a white 'omen to loan me $5 to holp me out of a awful tight. She lied when she told me with a straight face that she just didn't have it. I knowed she did have it 'cause some of her folks had just died and left her a sight of money. The only way she could make be believe she ain't got it now would be to git the Good Lord to come down as a natural man, and tell me she ain't got that much money she don't need that she could loan me. One thing
Page 21
sho, these folks that's got so much can't take none of it with 'em so all right, I say, let 'em keep they old money. Say, listen, now ain't the government got some sort of office in town where they can loan out money to holp pore folks to git back on they foots after they's done got down and out? No, I don't mean no Rural Rehab's business; I means just a straight out loan? Well, iffen you don't know 'bout it, I don't 'spect they's no such place here; but if they was they sho would do a big heap of business.
"A little flour and a very little coffee is all they is in this house t'eat today. Soon as I gits the 75� for this washin' I aims to take it and buy us some meat. My husband ain't had but one day's work this week and he won't git no pay befo' Sadday, and that day's work don't come to but a dollar.
"The older doctors used to look out for us [practical?] nurses, but these younguns what's doin' the doctorin' now don't do that no mo'. And I liked the ways the older doctors had of lookin' after sick folks lots better'n I does the young doctor's ways. Befo' one of them old-time doctors would leave, they'd ax you lots of questions 'bout how you meant to handle the patient till they found how much you knowed, and then they'd tell you how in much a nice way that it seemed like they was just offerin' suggestions, but you knowed better'n to fail to do what they suggested. These here young doctors rushes in and out like bats out of torment, and befo' you knows it they's gone without tellin' you nothin'. Yet, if anythin' goes wrong it's sho to be all your fault. They ain't quite all of the youngsters that bad. I marked for one young
Page 22
doctor here lest year that advised with me plenty and allus axed me questions till he was satisfied I knowed how to treat his patient. Take them old doctors; when one of them come to see a patient and saw he was sufferin' he allus give somethin' to ease the pain if it was needed. These yere younguns just stays long enough to take the temperature, feel the pulse, and tell the nurse to slap a [ice?] [cap?] on the patient's head till the ambulance can git there to take 'im to the hawspital. Then the pore nurse is left without no job, and the patient is feeing the expense of a operation. Gimme them good old doctors - do you hear me? - any day in the week.
"When a doctor takes a patient that's got money to the hawspital, he's charged like '30 going North,' but if sick folks and they famblies ain't got nothin' the charges is sometimes reasonable enough for operations and sich like. I ain't never had to pay for none of them things for myself, 'cause I ain't never been to no hawspital to be cut nowheres, and I hopes I never will have to go.
"I known I axed you the last time you was here, but, Miss, in all your gittin' 'round and talkin' to so many folks, don't you never hear of no job you could pint out to me? I ain't only a good nurse and a washerwoman, but I can cook good too. I don't like cookin', but I can do it, and do a fine job of it, if I do say so my own self. One thing sho, I ain't able to do no mo' big heavy washin's like I used to, but if I can't git me nothin' else to do I'll have to git another small washin'. Now, why don't you lemme try your washin'? I knows you'd
Page 23
like the way I does washin' and ironin'." Remembering how often I had seen her spit on the clothes when I was taking her first interview, I hastily told Mamie that mine was a heavy washing, for my children in school needed so many clothes that it would be too much of a burden on her.
"You sho don't need me to tell you no mo'," she grumbled, "for I'se done told you all I ever did know, and 'sides I'se hongry now and I wants to hurry through this ironin' so I can go after my money and git me somepin t'eat." Recognizing her intention to end the conversation, I gathered up my notes and prepared to leave.
"If you ever does have to come back, tell them government folks you works for to send me some money for this talkin' I'se done for you." As I started out of her room, Mamie said, " 'scuse me, Miss, for not stoppin' to go to the door with you, but I can't play with this yere 'lectric iron, like I could them old flat irons us used to heat on charcoal buckets." She stuck a finger in her mouth and then applied it to the iron. I could hear the sizzle of the spittle, which proved to her that the iron was hot enough to work on starched cloths. I thanked her and left. She called after me, "Don't you forgit to write it down straight that I ain't no midwife yit. They puts folks in jail that says they's midwifes and can't show no 'stificate."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 25 of 73
[I am Reaping in Tears]
[Life Story]
I AM REAPING IN TEARS WHAT I SOWED IN FUN
A Depression Victim Story
Written by: Mrs. Ada [Radford?]
Augusta
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7
Augusta, Georgia
[Mrs. Mary Louise o'Keefe?]
[1902 Savannah Road?]
[Augusta, Georgia?]
Mar. 22, 1940
[A. R.?]
[I AM REAPING IN TEARS WHAT I SOWED IN FUN?]
"What, again! I don't think you should drink so much wine. Why aren't you at work?"
"I worked last night; some new parts of the machinery had to be installed and I'm off today."
"Go home and go to bed, boy! You look like a ghost.
The foregoing conversation was a great surprise to me. I had known of Frances Carter for years and thought her absolutely indifferent as to what became of anything or anybody.
She turned to speak to me as the door closed behind the young man and after we had exchanged greetings, I remarked upon the unusual situation of a storekeeper refusing to market her wares. At the same time adding a word of commendation for the stand she had taken.
She looked at me rather strangely and said:
"Oh! I guess I'm not so bad at heart. Of course I'm in business to sell and also for the money I can get out of it. However, I'd much rather not sell to a young man like him for I know his physical condition."
Frances Carter and her son, Sam, were busy waiting on an ever-increasing stream of customers that poured into this combination grocery and liquor store. At one time this was one of the outstanding businesses in Augusta's environs.
I had arrived at a very unpropitious time. It was pay day
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at three of the nearby manufacturing plants and everybody seemed eager to spend money.
My client was much too occupied to pay me any attention and my interest centered upon a negro boy who walked in briskly and asked for a package of Chesterfield cigarettes.
"There stands the machine, boy." Mrs. Carter said a little impatiently. "Put your money in the slot and learn to operate it. What you got?"
Very much [crestfallen?] over the ordeal of manipulating the machine, the boy said meekly:
"I'se got two nickels and a dime."
"Put your money in the slot and pull the lever where you see 'Chesterfield cigarettes.'"
"All right, Miss Frances. But which one of these holes does I put my nickel in?"
With a much kinder manner than I would have thought possible she explained the [intricacies?] of the machine. He pulled the lever very lightly with an almost terrified expression on his face as though he expected something to jump out and grab him. How relieved he appeared when he saw the cigarettes in the opening.
"Look and see if your change is in the pack." said Mrs. Carter. He looked and so did I. Sure enough the correct change was there. I couldn't help remarking.
"Why that machine operates with almost human intelligence."
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"It certainly does," Mrs. Carter answered. "It also hands out matches, but we are out of them at present. And say, does it save me dollars! I don't sell cigarettes. The machine handles all of the sales and nobody can ask for credit. That device's motto is 'no money - no cigarettes.'
"Before I bought it people would come in, buy a pint of whiskey and after they paid for it they'd want a package of cigarettes on credit. As most of them never remembered to pay, there went my profit as well as some of my principal, for I haven't ever learned to say, 'no.'"
The influx continued. Some were paying bills and all seemed to be buying drinks. In the center of the room a large pool table with its two players was surrounded by spectators.
Mrs. Carter came over and started to talk to me but only for a moment, for her attention was attracted by two men who had come in.
"Will you excuse me?" She asked hurriedly. "When they come in we always play cards for coca-colas."
I watched as they played. She lost and the drinks were on the house.
Mrs. Carter just laughed and said:
"Just my luck, boys. What will you have?"
She turned to me and explained. "We play cards four or five times a day for drinks."
"Do you always lose?" I asked.
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"Oh no! I win quite often and enjoy the fun of playing."
Here another group of customers arrived and she was off to serve them. By this time I realized that pay day was the wrong time to try to talk to anybody who was doing such a rushing business, so I asked if I might return on Monday.
"Yes, I really think it would be better for on pay days we are very busy."
I had had quite some time to look around the old store with its adjoining residence. One corner was petitioned partitioned off for a liquor store, whose fixtures included a foot-rail, so [prevalent?] in the saloons of previous years. In the rear of the store a stairway led to what I learned later, was a large dining hall, where Mrs. Carter had formerly operated a night club. She [had catered?] to parties who made reservations for an evening of dancing and fun. Because of ill health she had been forced to close it. The entrance to the residence is through a long hall that leads to the dining room and kitchen on the first floor. Another stairway gives on to a second floor where there are thirteen rooms and a bath. The entire floor is handsomely furnished and [represents?] an outlay of many dollars.
Bright and early Monday morning I was there again. This time Mrs. Carter was seated by an electric heater, crocheting a bedspread for her niece, who is to be married in June. Mrs. Carter is rather attractive with her wavy, blonde, bobbed hair and smiling, blue eyes.
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She continued to crochet as we talked.
"I was born February 9, 1882, at [Macksvilla?], [Avoryeles Parish?], Louisiana, oldest in a family of six children. My father, Wiley Cain, was a farmer and my mother, Terresa Cain, taught a private school which had an enrollment of 48 pupils. I received such a good foundation by studying for my first three years with my mother.
"When I was nine years old my parents moved to Augusta and my father secured a job with the city which he retained until his death in 1898.
"My parents were Catholics and I attended the Sacred Heart Academy.
"No, I didn't finish High School. Six months before graduation my father died and I had to stop and go to work. I worked at the Augusta Bee hive until I married Herbert Carter in 1903.
"My husband, who was a cotton buyer for the Planters' Compress Company at the time of our marriage went to work the following year for the Georgia Railroad. He didn't like railroad work and in a very short time he got a job as warehouseman at the Atlantic Warehouse. He was manager there for a number of years.
"I conceived the idea that I would like to launch out into the business world about the time my husband went to work for the Georgia Railroad, so I opened a grocery store on [Wrightsboro?] Road.
"From the very first I had a thriving business and before very long I had to enlarge my store. When I had been in business for about three years my son was born.
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"Up until that time my business was purely an experiment - something I just wanted to do. I already had a good bank account, but now I wanted to swell it. My boy must have every advantage money could give him. Then I began to study and plan for big business. I had three clerks and enough business to keep two delivery trucks and several bicycles busy. My sales averaged $75. a day on week days and from $150 to $200 on Saturdays.
"In 1907 fire destroyed my place and I had very little insurance. The owner decided to build an apartment house on the lot and if I opened again I would have to find another location. My husband was still at the Atlantic Warehouse making a good salary and I decided to just keep my home.
"I longed to be in business again, however, and in 1911 we bought this corner and rebuilt the place at a cost of $16,000. We put in $2,000 worth of groceries and installed a barroom in the rear. We had a room for games behind the saloon.
"We had a prosperous business from the beginning. Our customers, white and colored, worked in the plants nearby and they bought their groceries and drinks from us. On pay day the managers would collect and we never lost a dime. It was just the same as a cash business.
"Our bank deposits were from $400 to $500 a month. This represented clear profit and was from the grocery business alone. My husband handled the finances from the bar. Those were indeed days of prosperity.
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"It was nothing for my husband and me to go on a party and spend from one to two hundred dollars in a single evening. In 1919 my husband was worth $200,000, and we were still going strong when the 18th Amendment was passed. The bar had to be closed but we continued in the grocery business. Our trade decreased about 50%.
"Then the serpent entered my garden of Eden in the form of a woman. I know my husband loved his boy and me but he just couldn't resist. He was weak enough to fall for their line and just wouldn't see that his money was all they were after. Finally we separated in 1920 and I got this place in the divorce settlement.
"Herbert was still at the warehouse, but he wasn't interested in my business and I began to lose money. He refused to take the money due me out of the men's pay.
"I became so worried that I was completely unfit to run a business. One day I checked up and found I had lost $8,000. I rented the store, sold my stock at a loss and moved to The Hill.
"The man who operated the place made expenses and a small profit, but after four years he was more than willing to turn the business over to me and I reopened with a complete stock of groceries. I tried to operate a cash business but soon learned that a part at least would have to be credit.
"For a while my business was fair, I was breaking better than even and living well. After two to three years of comparative ease - along came the depression!
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"One by one the plants closed. Then the International Agricultural Corporation closed and the farmers couldn't get a dime. People were out of work with nowhere to go and nothing to eat. The only plant that remained open was the Buckeye Oil Mill and a number of their employees were cut off and the the rest of them worked only three days a weeks.
"I had a mixed trace, some of the folks had spent their money with me for years and I couldn't refuse to help them now that they needed me. We all thought the trouble was only temporary and that the plants would open again in a few weeks or months at the longest, and then business would adjust itself.
"I never dreamed it would last until my shelves were empty and my drawing account dwindled. Still hoping against hope I kept on buying and selling on credit until my last dollar was gone. I had $6,000 in diamonds; one ring alone was worth $3,300. I sold all of them with the exception of my engagement and wedding rings.
"Then one day my husband wandered into the store and asked me to lend him a dollar. I complied gladly but he never lived to spend it. He just sat down in one of the chairs and died - a broke, disappointed man.
"Yes, I buried him and I had to do that on credit. You see, he was still my husband and the father of my child, regardless of divorce laws."
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"What happened to him, how did he lose all of his money?"
"Well, it's a long, painful story that I don't like to think about. When the warehouse closed he had nothing to employ his mind. He married one damn crook, quit her and went to California with another. For this last offense he was put in jail for violation of the White Slave Law. This cost him plenty before he was free to return to Augusta.
"Then he got in with Barrett and Company and we all lost this time. I had [$8,000?] invested and had endorsed notes for him amounting to [$16,000?]. I am still paying on them."
"How is your business at the present time?" I asked.
"Rotten! I take in around $200 a month and my overhead is approximately $300. I am nearly crazy and don't know which way to turn. The chain stores have just about ruined the independent ones. During the week people buy from me on credit, then when they get their cash on Saturday they go and spend it at the [A & P and Rogers?].
"About two years ago I opened a night club and installed a heating system that cost me $700. I really made good and would have soon paid my debts, but it came near killing me. I couldn't burn the candle at both ends. I tried to work in the store all day and in the club at night."
"Why couldn't your son help you?" I asked her.
"You see, he is far from well and then, too, he is not dependable. He stays drunk for weeks at a time."
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"That's terrible for you. It must keep you worried all the time."
"Yes, It does." She said somewhat sadly. "But I had it coming. When he began to talk, we would sit him on the counter of the bar and give him wine and sometimes whiskey to drink. We also taught him to curse. It was funny then, but I have lived to regret it and am reaping in tears what I sowed in fun a few years ago.
"No, he has never married. He has been going with a girl for eleven years and she is fine. I like her and she thinks a lot of him. But he will never marry her. She is the only child and her mother is a widow, who dips snuff and is absolutely ignorant. My boy just couldn't marry and mix me up with a woman like that."
'Mrs. Carter, you have a liquor store here. How did you get the license? Do they issue liquor licenses to women?"
"No, the license is in my son's name.
"What do I think caused the depressions? Well, I don't know, I haven't give it much thought. I was too busy trying to fight my way out and make a dollar for myself. [We?] all owe President Roosevelt a tremendous debt for pulling us throught this far and we want him for another term. If we don't get him, or someone like him, if that were possible, who will carry out his ideas and plans, we are headed for plenty of trouble.
"And you say the final question is what I think of women in
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business. Well, I think they make good managers. As a rule they use more judgment and are much more considerate, especially in the liquor business. About 75% of the homes were saved during the depression by wives, who planned and sacrificed in order to keep a roof over their heads. When a man gets in trouble it takes a woman to pull him out. Take me for example. My husband came to me for help and died under the roof I had saved for myself and my boy.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 26 of 73
[I Been 'Voted to Horses All My Days]
[??]
I BEEN 'VOTED TO HORSES ALL MY DAYS
Written by: Miss Minnie Stonestreet
Washington, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7
Augusta, Georgia
January 25, 1940
Henry Rogers, (Negro Janitor)
Washington, Georgia
January 16, 1940
[M. S.?]
I BEEN 'VOTED TO HORSES ALL MY DAYS
I ain't never seen a horse ;yet that I couldn't do nothin' with if I wanted to, and I can make friends with any dog I ever saw." Said old Henry Rogers, who is 77 years old, a great lover of animals, a keen observer, and a philosopher.
"I moved to Washington from Sparta, Georgia, 45 years ago. In them years I has been, hotel waiter, lot man, livery [stable?] "[ostler?]," furniture store and undertaker assistant, and janitor, at one time or another.
"I is almost too old and [feeble?] now to have regular work, and I has a lot of trouble tryin' to manage my 'feets,' but I is still on the job and I has been the 'joniker' (janitor) of the Bank of Wilkes building for 17 years."
From Henry's description he suffers with [loeomotor ataxia?]. A short time ago the Bank of Wilkes County building changed hands and the old man was replaced immediately by a spry young Negro. The office renters instantly refused to let their keys be given to anyone else, so faithful and reliable old "Deacon" as he is affectionately called, comes each morning and cleans up, for no stated salary, just what his white friends give him.
Henry has a neat, well furnished little home on Lexington Road quite a distance from his work. The night watchman at the building usually makes it convenient to be in that part of town about the time Uncle Henry is ready to come to work and
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calls by for him. Almost every afternoon one of the town's most prominent citizens carries him home on the way to his farm farther out on Lexington Road.
"I'se comin' to work just as long as I is able." Said the old man. "Some days when I first wakes up I feels as if I can't make it, but I gets up and makes some good hot coffee and when 'the Law' (night watchman) blows for me, I reaches up and gets my hat and stick and comes on, and then it ain't long 'fore I feels better. If I'd give up and stay at home in bed I'd soon be where I couldn't go. Yes, Mam, I'se comin' down here and do what I can just as long as I can stand up."
Uncle Henry has lost very little time on account of sickness during his long service at the bank building. In fact if he doesn't show up, somebody hurries to find out the reason for we know something very unusual has happened. Throughout my long acquaintance with Uncle Henry I have known of his great love for horses and dogs and at this point I asked him to tell me some of his experiences. He agreed readily.
"I been 'voted to horses all my days - just plumb 'voted to 'em.
"The [Hunt?] and [Alfriend?] families raised me over in [Hancock?] County. They lived on a big plantation and raised pretty much of all their stock.
"When I was nothin' but a kid boy, I went with the men to feed the stock. I couldn't do nothin; but get up in the
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fodder loft and throw down roughage but I done that 'til I was big enough to do the feeding. After that/ when my [Marster?] saw how I loved the stock and what good care I took of 'em he called me in one day and said:
"'Boy, I want you to look after these horses, and nobody else but you, do you hear?'
"I told him 'Yessir, thank you' and from then on I was in complete and entire charge of all the horses and rules on that plantation. I got up 'fore day and fed the stock and had my Marster's saddle horse at the rack all ready for him by good daylight.
"I broke in all the colts. I'd take one 'bout big 'nough to break and put a bridle on it then lead it up and down the long [lane?] 'til it was use to the bridle. Next I'd put a harness on it and lead it awhile. After it got good and use to the harness dangling around, I'd hitch it up to an old buggy I had there and then I'd ride in the [lane?] awhile, then take it out into the road a mile or so. I broke all the colts that way and never had no trouble with 'em.
"When I was 16 years old there came an Irishman out to the place from Sparta, we all called him 'Pat'. He had race horses, and he trained horses too.
"He watched me what I was doing with the colts and after a little, he said to me:
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"'Let me give you instructions 'bout horses'.
"I said 'Yessir, I'd thank you.'
"So he brought one of his fine racers out there, he did, and told me: 'Here, take [Nick?] and play 'round with him, he'll learn you a heap.'
"I took [Nick?] and jogged him 'round, and I did learn from handling him sho' 'nough.
"Some time after that I went to Sparta and worked in a livery stable. I and another '[ostler?], Charlie Hooks, worked together. One day he said to me, he did:
"'Brit - (that's what everybody in [Hancock?] county called me) - let's take these horses out to the fair grounds and jog 'em 'round the race track.'
"So us did. We went 'round three times then started home. Well, sir, when us went out the fair ground gate, my horse dropped its head and lit out. We went through town a-flyin', right on to the stable. When my boss man saw us comin' he waved his hands and hollered: '[slack?] your lines! [slack?] your lines!' I done that and you know that horse stopped right dead still in its tracks. If he hadn't told me that I'd a gone bustin' right through that stable and me and the horse would have been killed. I ain't never forgot that when drivin' a race horse.
"I learned to drive horses good and then I went to Macon
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and drove race horses. I stayed with Pat and he learnt me more about horses than anybody ever did.
"I've never seen a bulking horse or mule that I couldn't move. All I do is stand a little ways in front of 'em and talk and gesture this way - (Here the old man waved his arms beckoning the imaginary horses that wouldn't move, to come on. It was so real to him that his voice took on a soft persuasive tone) and they will come to me or break a wheel.
"When I come to Washington, Wilkes County in 1896, I first was a porter in a hotel, then lot man for several families here. But it wasn't long 'fore I found me a job in a [livery?] stable where I could handle horses again. Different mens here [what?] [watched?] me, used to say!
"'deacon, how come you can manage horses, Drive 'em and all, and not whip 'em?'
"I always told 'em that horses was like children, they wanted to be petted and loved, and you had to let 'em know that you was their friend, and never let 'em be scared of you. Let a horse know what you want him to do, make him understand that, and he'll do it and not give you not trouble, but you got to be [paciable?] (peaceable) with 'em and never scare 'em.
"I was out with a [drummer?] on a trip when a new horse come to the stable. They wanted to see how she worked, so they hooked her up and she wouldn't go a step, just laid right
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square down in the harness. They couldn't make her do a thing. They worried with her 'til my Boss man said:
"'take her out, and don't bother her - wait 'til Henry comes, he'll 'tend to her.'
"When I come in they told me about her. I went in and rubbed her down good, petted her up, and hooked her up to a two horse wagon with a good old mule. She laid down again. I took me a wet sack and put it all around her head. She got up, and I hauled all day long with that sack on her head and I never hit her a lick. Us sold her next day, she was all right and didn't give no more trouble.
"It wasn't so long after that 'fore we got in another hard horse to handle - we bought it in Athens and he was a goofy horse. Soon as I [got?] my eyes on him I said:
"'Huh, this is a goofy horse, and somebody is liable to get kilt by him.'
"My boss asked me how I know he's goofy. I told him jest like I know a man soon as I look him in the eyes I can tell what kind of a man he is, same way I can tell 'bout a horse.
"I went on 'bout my business but sayin' to myself: 'Uh, um, this is another job for me with that horse', and [sho?] 'nough it was.
"But in a day or two, we got a notice there was a carload of corn at the depot, so I hooked up that goofy horse with a gentle mule and broke him good hauling that corn.
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"My boss went out of town on business in a day or two after that, and a man on an apple wagon come in. I traded him that pretty [bay?] goofy horse for his old chestnut sorrel with one eye, and [$100?] boot. When my boss come in and I told him what I had gone he give me $10 for doing it.
"Not long after that I had to drive a traveling man over to McCormick, South Carolina. I drove in a stable there and was rubbin' my horses off, when I happened to look around and there I saw the [bay?] goofy horse I had swapped not long before to the apple man. I stopped still and asked the white man what run the livery stable:
"'Where'd you get that [bay?] horse?'
"He said: 'Why? Have you ever seen him before? Where you from anyhow?'
"I said: 'Yes sir, I'se seen him before. I'se from over in Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia, and I know that horse.'
"He said: 'Well, if you have seen him before where'd I get him?'
"I said: 'You got him from an apple wagon man, didn't you?'
"He said: 'that's right, this horse was walking along behind the wagon. I can't work him - can't do a thing with him.'
I said: 'Well, I can, ain't nothin' the matter with that horse, he'll work good as any horse if you know how to treat
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him.'
"You know he said if I would show him how to work that horse he'd give me [?] and my lodging and not charge me a thing for my team staying overnight. I had to spend the night any how, so I hooked up the kickin' horse and a good gentle mule together to a big two horse wagon and got in. Well sir, when I said 'Hey' that horse pulled off just as pretty as anything you ever saw. I drove the wagon on to where the man wanted it to go.
"When I got back that white man looked at me, and looked at the horse and asked the boys that went off with me if the horse give us any trouble and they all said, 'None.'
"He looked right hard at me and said: 'What do you do to make horse like that work?'
"'treat 'em nicely, don't whip 'em, and don't let 'em get scared of me.' I said.
"After we took the second load he was satisfied that the horse would work. Then I hitched him to a buggy and the man got in an I drove him all around the town.
"That man was so happy, he said he would give me $10 a week, a house to live in and board, if I would come live with him and work his horses.
"I told him, no sir, I had a good job back in Washington, Wilkes County, and had a family and we was gettin' along all
Page 9
right over there, so I didn't want to move.
"Then he asked me to drive him around one more time and let him see the horse work, so I did, but I charged him an extra dollar for that."
Deep in thought for a few moments, the old man said half to himself:
"I never whipped but one horse in my life, and I never give it but one good lick. That was enough though, for the whelp stayed on it for a long time.
"Goodness, Uncle Henry!" I said. "What in the world made [younhit?] it so hard?"
He smiled a little, as he answered:
"Well, I'll tell you, that horse needed it, it sho did. It was this way.
"We got in some horses and I took a pair and hooked 'em up to try. Well sir, they run away, one of 'em did, and knocked me down and drug me clean across that square out yonder. Two white [gentlmans?] there at the corner runned out and stopped 'em or they would have kilt me.
"Dey helt 'em for me to git in the buggy. I got in and took the whip up and give the one what started the runnin' just one pop with that whip, I did. That was a plenty took, for that took him off his feet. They started then and I let 'em go hard as they could down Main Street to Lexington Avenue,
Page 10
then I turned them there at the old drinking fountain and up the street they come back to the stable.
"A drummer was waiting there to go to [Tighall?]. I told him to get in and I would take him right then. He got in and I drive that distance (12 miles) over bad roads in 40 minutes. When we driv up to the hotel and the drummer got out, he said to the hotel man who was there to met him:
"'I don't know which is the durndest in this outfit, the horses or the driver.'
"Well, sir, that was enough for me, I let out a good whoop and let the horses rest awhile and then brought 'em back to town.
"Nobody in the stable ever could handle them horses but me. They was beauties too and I loved to drive 'em, they was fast as the wind. A man in Athens saw 'em and wanted 'em. He finally 'suaded us to let him have 'em and I driv 'em over there to him.
"I cautioned him they was dangerous and whoever driv 'em would have to mighty careful or they would get out from under him. In three days they run away and tore up his carriage and one of 'em cut itself all to pieces.
"They had to be used every day or they would get too fiery. I used to hook 'em up on Sundays and go out in the country to church somewhere just to keep 'em in trainin'.
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"I stayed in the livery stable business 'til automobiles come and took possession of this country. When we crossed out me and my boss went out friendly and lovely to each other so far as I know.
"There's one other thing I wants to tell 'fore we leave this part of my paper.
"All right, let's hear it." I urged, and from the merry twinkle in Uncle Henry's big bright eyes, that have a way of seeing much in life that is worthwhile and amusing, I know it would be something good.
"Course I never said nothing 'bout it, but I knowed my boss man was havin' trouble with cotton [?], they was going down and he was miserable. So right after dinner one day he said to me, he did: 'deacon, look after everything. I'se going home.'
"I told him all right, and he went on.
"After he left, I took a [fork?] and went to cleanin' up [the?] mule pen. All at once I caught something on my [fork?] that struck hard. I looks at it and it was a great big brown leather pocketbook. I put it in my pocket right quick and said nothing. Me and the boys got through cleanin' up so I went in the office and locked the door and counted the money. It was exactly [$531?] and a note. I didn't do nothin' but put it back in my pocket where I couldn't lose it. I told the boys
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to go home, and I locked up for the night and went home.
"Next morning when the boss come down, I looked at him out of the corner of my eyes and saw he wasn't lookin' well a bit from some cause. He come on to me and said:
"'deacon, how's everything?'
"'All right, all right.' I answered. 'How is everything with you?'
"'I lost my pocketbook somewhere - had $500 in it, and I haven't slept a wink all night.'
"'Urh, urh, I'se awful sorry.' I said to him.
"He went in his office and took a drink, then when he come out he said he was a-going to breakfast.
"I hollowed to him as he left, 'All right, eat a big breakfast and don't worry.' I knowed he was deep in them [?] and was about broke.
"Way long after awhile he come back and I saw he looked a little better. I let him go in his office and said nothing to him. After awhile I went in and handed him his pocketbook.
"He was the worst surprised man I ever did see and said, 'Where did you find it?'
"I didn't say nothin'. He kept looking at it - opened it to the money and counted it.
"'Why there is over $500 here and I thought I didn't have but even $500.'
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"I told him where I found it and he give a five dollar bill and said:
"'Yes, any other Nigger that found it would have kept it too.'
"He told everybody about that pocketbook up to the time us went out of business."
Here the old man paused, apparently deeply lost in thought. In a minute or two, he spoke slowly and with a note of sadness in his voice.
"In them days I had plenty of money. I bought my home, paid for it and done a good part by my children. After the livery stable went out of business I went to work at [Harwell?] & Moore where I was in charge of the colored undertaking. I driv the hearse for 'em and worked around the store. I made a good salary and got extra for every burial I made. I furnished my house nicely then, and bought among other things a nice upright piano for my children.
"Now I thinks about them good days when I have come down to where I don't have but a little, not enough to go on. And Annie (his wife) sick all the time and can't get about and I has to have somebody to wait on her. I sho misses them good days, I tell you. But I must get on now about the dogs I promised to tell you about.
"I'll start my story with my stealing four hound puppies
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from the Gypsies that camped one winter down on our creek over in Hancock County.
"They come down there and I use to go to their camp and one day I saw these puppies, four of the prettiest puppies I ever did see. I wanted 'em and I got 'em.
"One evening another little boy was helping me to get up the cows; I told him to take the cows on home for me and I went by the Gypsy camp and stole them puppies and took 'em to a old ginhouse in an out-of-the-way place where nobody ever went only in ginnin' time. I kept them puppies over there for months, sneaking food to 'em every day and [tending?] to 'em.
"One day Mr. Alfriend went to the ginhouse for something and found my puppies. He said: 'Whose dogs is these?'
"'I and Benny's' I said.
"'Where'd you get 'em?' he asked.
"'stole 'em from the Gypsies.'
"'Why, Brit, don't you know the Gypsies are looking everywhere for 'em?'
"They was too, but they never did find 'em and went on and left me with four of the finest hound dogs ever seen in that country I always did think they had greyhound blood, cause they was so fast.
"I raised all four of 'em, Redbone, Pinky, Nelly and Slipper. Redbone was the fastest dog I ever saw, he never
Page 15
took but one and three-quarter hours to catch [a fox?] or run it in it's hole. When he was runnin' his feets looked like nary one of 'em touched the ground.
"One day Mr. [?] come out from Sparta to run his dog, [Alto?]. My Marster [?] my dog, so he called me in.
"Mr. Hill say: 'Here Brit, I wants to see them dogs.'
"I went to the well and brought 'em a [fresh?] bucket of water and set it down. While they was drinkin' Mr. Hill asked me if my dog was as fast as they said he was. I told him 'no sir, he not so fast, but he secn a good dog.' My Marster just laughed and said:
"'Wait 'til in the morning, he'll show you.'
"Next morning way before day he had a race. I set my dogs out, all four of 'em. Mr. Hill say if his dog Alto don't catch that fox he won't take him back home.
"When we saw the fox go by my dogs was close in behind him, old Redbone leading all the rest. I turned back and told the white mens to go on when they caught him and if my dogs caught the fox they would be standin' over him nippin' at the other dogs.
"Well, sir, a man [what?] lived further up from us heard the race and come out to see it. He said he was standin' near a high rail fence when he saw the fox jump over, and right behind him was Redbone and he jumped under the
Page 16
fox and grabbed him 'fore he landed. He said that beat anything be ever did see.
"When they all come up to where the fox was, so they told me, my dogs was all standin' 'round him, and Mr. Hill's dogs (he had 8 but Alto was his brag dog) was standing way back and if one of 'em moved toward that fox, my dogs nipped at 'em.
"Soon after that I sold Redbone for $50 and a Texas pony. In less than a year he come back to me all et up with mange and I never let nobody know he was back. But he never was much more good but I kept him 'til he died.
"That dog would tree possums all night long, but he wouldn't bother to run a rabbit for nobody, you couldn't make him get after a rabbit.
"Once I took him down to Sparta and entered him in a drag race, he got the $10 prize, and a man offered me $100 for him, but I wouldn't take it. He had a keep sharp mouth and I almost know he was part [greyhound?].
"I used to keep some kind of wild game to eat all the time. My mother was the cook at the big house and us all et there. They looked for me to furnish wild stuff to eat.
"One day in April I and Benny went down to the creek to catch a coon. We caught a wild cat, so I took and cut his head off, skint him, and hid the skin. I took him on to the kitchen to Mamma and told her he was a coon. She took
Page 17
and cooked him up nice, she did, thinking all the time what a fine coon it was. All of us et him and enjoyed him too.
"Nobody didn't think nothing about it until a little while after that up comes a rainy day. I went down and got the wild cat skin and was having a fine drag race with my dogs when the boss man saw it. 'What kind of skin is that, Brit?' he asked me.
"'Coon skin,' I told him.
"'Let me see. No it ain't, it's a cat skin.'
"Well sir, Mamma took me in and said 'yes and that's what you brought here and I cooked it for a coon too.'
"Gentlemen! With that she got a whip and took me to an outhouse, took all my clothes off me and what she done for me with that whip was a plenty. My young mistress come up and called her off me and I jumped out the window and got away."
Here Uncle Henry gave a hearty laugh and continued:
"But you know one thing; after that I took everything I caught straight to my Mamma and let her see what it was, and if my dogs caught a rabbit and bit up tis head bad, I let them have it for the head had to be on everything I took to that kitchen after that. Mamma never trusted me no more about the game I brought in.
"I had another smart dog, his name was [Taro?]. He was the worst dog I ever did see, he wouldn't let no kind of animals nor [fowls?] stay anywhere near him, he kilt everything. And
Page 18
Mamma could go way from home and leave the house open and tell him to stay there and not let nobody come in. He'd take his place before the kitchen door and it was worth a man's life to try to get in. He would let my young mistress in, but she had to talk mighty nice to get by.
"One day he was asleep out in the sunshine when a little black fice come up and bit him on the ear. He got up and killed that fice (it was mad) and I cut his ear off and treated it, but one year to that very day old [Taro?] went mad. I couldn't kill him, so I got a young white man to come over and shoot him for me.
"I had two little black [??] fices once that was smart. One day I got on my horse and was riding over the plantation after a big rain. They went along with me, and after we crossed a little spring branch they took out across the field after something. They made so much racket I rode over to see what it was. They was on something big and black, I didn't know what it was 'cause I had never seen nothing like it before.
"I sicked 'em on and kept talking to 'em, and they finally kilt this [thing?].
"I took it up and went on back to the house. I took it in and asked my Marster what it was:
"He was so surprised, and said 'Brit where in the world did you get this otter?'
Page 19
"I told him and he said it was the first and only one he had ever seen anywhere around. It was always a mystery to him where it come from.
"He had me to save the skin and he took it and had it tanned and sent off and made his wife the prettiest cape out of it. It was so black it just glistened. But you know that otter had the worst claws I ever saw, they was just like needles they was so sharp.
"Then another day I was hunting for possums down on our creek and my dogs treed something. It went up a little bit [of a?] tree and I saw it was a [baby?] something. I got it and it turned out to be a little coon. I put it in my pocket and carried it home and raised it. I named it Minnie and kept it two years. It was crazy about me, would eat everything I eat, and slept on my feet every night.
"But you know that devilish little old thing would steal everything it could put its claws on. I had to be careful where I put my socks at night when I took 'em off or next morning, I would have to get out another pair for she would have 'em hid somewhere.
"And clean, she would wash her face with her paws like a cat does. And catch mice and rats, she kept the house free from them as long as I kept her.
Page 20
"I took her to the Macon State Fair one year and a man offered me $5 for her. I sold her, but I sho' did hate to do it. She was so cute and loved me so. She would get up in my lap every time I come in the house and [sot?] down."
Thinking a moment, Uncle Henry looked up with a smile.
"I've covered lots of territory in my life - different things I've done, lived a long time, I have."
And he has, he has crowded much into his 77 years; he has lived long and well as all who know him will agree. He is tired now, and dependent, but he has been such a friend to all who needed him, and now that he needs [loyal?] friends, they will stand by him.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 27 of 73
[I Got a Record]
Molly Kensey (Negro)
Restaurant Operator, Nurse & Washerwoman
610 Fair Street, S. W.
By -
Geneva Tonsil,
December 1, 1939.
I GOT A RECORD.
"You say you want me to talk to you 'bout the experiences uv my life, is this somethin' 'bout 'Gone With The Wind'? Oh, I thought maybe it was,, I've heard so much 'bout the Premiere of 'Gone With The Wind' I jes' know'd when you axed me to talk with you it was somethin' 'bout that. Well, that's alright, I wouldn't have mind tellin' you nohow ef it was, fer I got a record and I don't mind tellin' it to nobody.
"I was ten years ole when set free and I wus set free with a blind ma. Dey sold my father in 1858. I nevah 'member seein' him. See I wus three years ole and I don't 'member him. Dey sold him from ma and five chilluns.
"My home life was 'bout lak the ordinary chile's in them days and I guess I wus 'bout lak the chilluns is today. All I can say wus jes' a little bad gal. 'Course, I was nevah a very small girl in stature, wus very large and when I wus only a small girl people always called me 'woman' because uv my size. I don't 'spect I wus no diff'nt to the chilluns' terday fer I notice they do 'bout the same things I did when a chile.
"I was born and raised in Washington, Georgia, rat in town and I nevah saw the country or cotton grow till I wus 'bout grown. I don't know whether I know'd whut it wus or not befo' then, I may have.
"My father uster b'long to Mr. Sam Ellington. He sold him to Dick Petite, a spec'later, from Mississippi. I don't 'member it but my ma tole us chilluns 'bout it when we grow'd up.
Page 2
"Dey had slaves in pens, brung in droves and put in dem pens jes' lak dey wus cows. Dey sold dem by auctionin' off to the highest bidder. I wus only a chile and nevah went 'round much. Dey put girls on the block and auctioned dem off, 'What will you give fer dis nigger wench?' Lot of the girls wus bein' sold by their master who wus their father, taken rat out uv the yards with their white chilluns and sold lak herds uv cattle.
"My sister was given away when she wus a girl. She tole me and ma that they'd make her go out and lay on a table and two or three white men would have in'ercourse with her befo' they'd let her git up. She wus jes' a small girl hone. She died when she wus still in her young days, still a girl. Oh! You is blessed to live in this day and don't know the tortures the slaves went through. Honey, slavery wus bad, but I wus so young I missed all the evil but chile I know'd 'bout it.
"My master whipped me once and he never jes' whipped me fer nothin'. It was somethin' I'd done. I wus scared uv him too. I see chilluns doin' things they shouldn't do, but I can't say nuthin' fer I 'member I wus a chile and did the same thing once. I got a lot uv whippings from my ma for I wus a bad chile. My master would tell me to do a job and I'd do it, willingly, but I went 'bout it slow lack and he'd holler, 'Concarn it, get a move on yer.' I'd say, 'I make hase terreckly, Mars George, I make hase.'
"My ma's fust owner wus Marse Hamilton and he give her way to Marse Dison. Then Marse Dison give ma and us chilluns to Marse George. When I wus named I wus named for Miss Woodson Calloway, our mistress' sister.
"I wus born in Washington, Georgia, on February 28, 1855, and when I wus set free with a blind ma, she took me to Sparta, Georgia.
"I had ter work hard fer with a blind ma it wus nothin' she could do to
Page 3
earn money. I didn't have nobody to help me but ma's brother. I'd go ter him ter git a little somethin' fer food. I stayed in Sparta until 1928. I got lots of work there.
"I married in Sparta and wus very happy. My husband took care uv me and life wusn't so hard. He died and in a year or so atter that I married agin. My fust husband wus good to my blind ma and when she died he come home from work to stay with me and console me. He wus a good, Christian man. My fust husband drove a carriage for drummers 'round through the country. He loved me. He supported me and our chilluns, and my blind ma. The white folks he worked for lak'd him and they wus nice to me too. After my husband's death, I worked and made a good living. I cooked, washed and ironed fer the white folks. When I married my second husband I sho'ly married a wealthy man. I 'member I went into the smoke house and when I saw all that meat, hams, shoulders, lard and sausage in dat house, I said 'Lawdy, is all dis mine?' He had turkeys, geese, guinea and ducks. He had a lot uv chilluns and when I married him the white folks said a quorum uv us got together and asked ourselves, 'Whut did a woman lak you marry ole man Kensey fer?' I tole them 'cause I wus jes' lonesome, I wus tired uv living by myself.
"After my husband, Mr. Kensey, died, I opened a restaurant in Sparta and I din't run no shoddy place either. The best people et at my place. Mr. Britt, a business man there in Sparta and for whose wife I'd nursed, would tell people to go down to eat at 'Mollie's' place. I fed white and colored. I had a place in front where I served the white and they liked my victuals too. Soldiers, railroad men, and drummers come to eat at my place. I stayed in Sparta until 1918, when times got so bad.
Page 4
Mr. Britt had a friend, a Mr. Kaufman, dat lived in Atlanta and he et at my place at times. Mr. Kaufman said he saw I wus a smart woman and asked me why I didn't come to Atlanta? He tole me he'd get me a job there as a nurse. See, he'd seed how I nursed fer Mrs. Britt and saw I wus a good nurse.
"I come to Atlanta in 1928 and got a job lak Mr. Kaufman promised me. I've worked for Mrs. Stephens, Mrs. Adams, and a lots uv other white folks since the job with Mrs. Kaufman. When I 'plied fer my ole age pension they all signed my papers and recommended me high.
"I'm ole and I've nevah done nothin' to nobody. I nevah did lak a lot uv other ole women, run places of vice. I nevah run no bad house, I've lived right. Honey, I've a history and I'm proud uv it. I'm glad fer the world to know I've lived and I feel proud to talk 'bout it.
"After I worked fer different families, I started washing and ironing fer the Chevrolet Company. I washed fer the men workers there and I made $17 and $18 a week. Honey, I always worked and made my living after my husband died and did it till I wus too ole. I nevah asked a soul fer a penny. Peopel have given me small change after I tole them my pension had been taken away from me. I didn't ask fer a penny. I guess my eyes jes tole them uv my condition. See I had to work fer myself. All my chilluns had died.
"My last son died and left a chile. The ma had died befo' him. I took the chile to live with me. I know'd he'd be lonesome widout his ma and pa and I wus so alone and wus glad ter git him to stay wid me. Well, we wus gittin' 'long well and then God took my grandson and lef' me alone - all alone wid nobody, no relatives. No one ter do a thing fer me. I washed and prayed 'cause I know'd God know'd what he wus doin' and that I'd never
Page 5
be alone as long as God lived. He would always be my company. I thanked God and stayed in the straight and narrow path. I got tired, my back ached, my feet got sore, and my legs would give 'way sometime but I worked on and on, thankin' God dat He'd spared me to stay on heah. Honey, I know'd he kept me fer somethin' and I wus thankful.
"One day, in 1930, when I'd lost my grandson I wus so burdened and sad, I met a white woman in the street. She looked at me and must've seed my heart, fer she said, 'say, you look worried and burdened. Well, I've taken your burdens, I have them all now and, listen, you go home and read the Ninety-first Psalm and read them three times a day.' I went home and time I got there I got my Bible and I found the scripture she tole me to read and there I saw, 'He that dwelleth in the secret places of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver me from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence... Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and on I read and chile, I got 'lief, I felt light and wusn't burdened and chile, I've read that Psalm three times a day ever since. I have learned it by heart. It has been a prop for me. It consoles me, chile, and I want you to go home and read it. Get your Bible and read it, read it three times a day, and ask God for what you want and he gwine ter hear you. Read it, chile, won't you?
"I'm glad I know how to read. I read everythin' I get my hands on.
Page 6
Oh, it's sich a comfort. I did know how to write but I got sick once, and after I wus well, I couldn't write, I'd forgot how to make a 'D' even.
"You wants ter know how I made out after my grandson died and I got too ole to work? I went and asked fer my pension and them white folks sent in some good rec'mendations fer me. I got it. They sunt me $13.50 every month. Honey, I needed it. I didn't have nobody to get me a mouf'ful of vittles. But let me tell you this before I tell you 'bout my pension.
"Befor' I moved from Washington Street ter come ovah heah I wus washing one day and I wus so weary. A chile dat I know'd since he wus knee high to a duck - he wus my best friend's chile and he played 'round my do' steps wid my grandson - honey, you may not believe it but dat chile come up. He wus grown then. I was there washin', singin, and prainin' God dat he had let me live. He later tole me that he stood ther watchin' he said to hisself, 'God, fix it so I can take care of Miss Mollie.' He said I had my head tied up and I seemed so happy. He said he kept that thought in mind and, atter his mother died and only him and his brother lived in the house, he come for me. His mother had left a big house with nobody in it but the two boys. Everybody 'spected him to go out and bring in high-fer'lutin' people to live with them, but he din't. Chile, he went out atter Lazarus - he bro'ght in pore me. He said he watched me wash, wash, evah day that he come to see me and his desire wus to do somethin' fer me as he watched me, suds flyin' and body bent, singin' wid the sperit of God in my soul, because I looked so tired and alone. He made up his mind then and there, 'I'm goin' to take Miss Mollie home wid me and she won't have ter work so hard.' Chile, when he said, 'Miss Mollie,
Page 7
come on and stay with me and my home will be our home,' I could hardly believe my ears when it did go through my haid, honey, I fergot them suds and them clothes. I throw'd up my hands and shouted fer joy, 'cause there wus God showerin' his blessings on me. Chile, I'd been singled out and God wus givin' me a home. I know'd all 'long that God wusn't goin' ter let me stay ther by myself. I stayed with God. I worked for him. I got a record with God and he was 'wardin' me fer that record. He took me out uv the mirey clay and put my feet on higher groun', he brough me outa that tub, Honey, I wusn't able to stay there nowhow, but 'Miss Mollie' jes' had ter keep gwinin'. Honey dats the fruit of havin a record wid God.
"I jined the A.M.E. Church in 1871. I crossed ovah on the Law'd side then and have been there evah since and I'm so proud uv it.
"Did I tell you that God called me to preach? Well, he did in 1914. I wus in Sparta, in my restaurant, and I wus tired, I went out on the front steps and sot down. While I sot there I saw a young boy that I'd know'd since he wus a baby in his ma's arms, and some more mens, in stripes, chained tergether, from the chain gang. I sot there, my heart bleedin' fer that boy, my heart wus so heavy and I had so much sorrow in my heart fer him, and I prayed for him. I couldn't get him offa my mind. I went home that night and read my Bible, honey, I got wid the Lawd. I turned page atter page and read. I got down on my knees and prayed. I said, 'God, I don't want to go to the chain gang and I don't want to go to hell, I want to be your servant, take me and use me as you will.' That mornin', jes' befo' day, I had a call. God Almighty put a seal on my right hand, this hand, chile, this hand, and he lifted me in a airplane and carried me through the sky and landed me down in my church yard. Honey, I wus preachin', preachin, tellin' what God
Page 8
had done and uv his blessings. When I landed in the churchyard some uv my sisters and brothers uv the church wus there. Some uv the sisters said, "Heah you come wid a new 'ligion.' I tole them, no this is the same ole time 'ligion and God had called me ter preach, go out and tell the worl' uv his great love and I wus preachin' and wus gwine ter do service fer Him. He had put a seal on my hand, markin' me fer his cause. I tole my husban' 'bout it. I said, 'Mr. Kensey, a woman that had the call I had 'fo day did morning would nevah squeeze another dish rag agin but would take her grip in her han' and go out to preach.'
"I still didn't go out and preach on the highways and byways but I tell you I preached and I'm still preachin'. I'm preachin in my home.
"I've stayed in the A. N. E. Church since I was sixteen years old. Both uv my husbands wus Baptists but I stayed in the A. M. E. Church. Some people have gone from church to church but I stayed in the faith and I'm gwine ter [hebon?] some day. Honey, I'm gwine ter put on my robe, my crown, my golden slippers and gwine ter heben, chile I'm gwine ter walk them golden streets and I ain't gwine ter study war no more. Honey, I has fought a battle heah.
"I gits happy ovah heah sometime and I can't keep quiet but I soon come to myself and say, "I'll have to stop this, people uv terday don't shout any more and they might think I'm crazy. They'll say Roy got a crazy ole woman ovah there.' So I keep quiet sometimes, but I jes' want ter shout and praise his name. But chile, of this ole world would take off some uv these airy ways and the people would come back ter God, on bended knees, shoutin' and lettin' the world know they wus living right, this would be a bettah worl' honey, a better worl' to live in. I read about the war all ovah this
Page 9
worl,. Chile, that is a fulfillment uv the Bible. Chile, we is livin' in the Revelations, the last days. The end is not far away, fer this ole worl' is gwine ter be destroyed agin. God tole us, though, he wusn't gwine ter 'stroy it by watah this time but by fire. Honey, he'd gwine ter do that too. He tole them words years and years ago but they is fulfillin' 'cause with all these airplaines flying through the air, they droppin' bombs down on people, 'stroyin' hundreds and hundreds at the time, you know that's how God's gwine ter 'stroy this worl'. Honey, won't that be a pitiful day?
"I tole you I wus once gettin' my ole age pension and you wanted ter know why I ain't gittin' it now. My visitor jes' took my pension 'way from me. How did she do it? She did it 'cause she had no feelin' fer a pore ole woman. My visitor tole me she had to take it 'cause I had a stepdaughter in the city. Yes, I have a stepdaughter heah, but she ain't able to 'sport herself. She is sixty-seven years ole herself. She ain't nothin' ter me. I only married her father. She wus 'bout grown then. I'm jes' a ole woman, without nobody to give me a thing and of I hadn't taken in by Roy heah, I'd be in a bad fix and I tell you I'm thankful. I have another visitor and I've seed her only once since she's been on in the place uv the one that took my pension away from me.
"When the visitor come to tell me that they'd cut my pension I tole her she did me wrong and that God wus gwine ter make her suffer. She wusn't gwine ter prosper. God ain't goin' ter bless her, fer heah I wus with nobody to keep me and she cut me off. Heah I wus unable to git about on my feet. I tole her everything and tole her the truth. She kept sayin she cut me off because I have a stepdaughter, jes' think uv it, she took my pension fer a little somethin' lak that. I tole her I'd tole her 'bout my stepdaughter and I [???????]
Page 10
there the same thing and evah thing I know'd from the birth of Jesus Christ to the birth of the devil. My stepdaughter is ole and unable to do fer herself, let 'lone me. I tole all them white folks that when I first went ter dat 'leaf office and 'plied fer the ole age pension and what did she want to cut me of fer. Them white folks had seed from all the recommendations sent them that I wus in need and that everybody said I wus in need and that everybody said I wus a hard worker long as I could. I wus no skinflint. I worked and I'd do it now ef I wus able. Well, they saw that and give it to me and I felt so good. I didn't feel a burden on Roy heah 'cause I give him pay fer half uv the coal I use and the vittles I et and I felt proud ter do it, but what did that nigger do, she took it away from me. Honey, you see me standin' heah, a pore, helpless, God fearin' critter. Jes' as she as I stands heah she's gwine ter reap it. She's flyin' high now, but, mind you, God's gwine ter punish her fer that. Honey, you see I ain't got nobody and I's too ole to work. I have ter inch along till I git outa a chair atter I set down. I ain't no 'count. That's why I wus so long letting you in. I jes' couldn't git up time I heard you knock. Honey, but I'm proud ter tell you, I didn't rust out, I'm jes' plain worn out, chile. give you my his'try, yes, I'm glad ter give it, I'm glad fer them all ter know that 'Miss Mollie' is got a record.
"Honey, Listen, ain't you from that 'leaf office? [Cain't?] you do somethin' 'bout gettin' my pension back. I know you'd know how ter go 'bout it and you seed me, you seed that I'm a pore ole woman and you'd know jes' what to tell them white folks. You could git to see them. I can't. I went down there two or three times. I nevah got ter see nobody but them niggers and they always tell me somethin', but they jes' won't let me see
Page 11
them white folks. Do somethin' 'bout it for me."
I explained to 'Miss Mollie' that there was nothing I could do to have her pension restored. I made it clear to her that I wasn't connected with the department that handled her pension. I did, however, try to explain clearly and convince her that her visitor didn't willfully take her pension as she thought and by no means had she done it because of malice to her. She had to obey orders handed down from higher authority and I asked her before she got too far obsessed with the idea to go and talk with her visitor, because I felt her pension would be returned to her as soon as money was available and that as far as I could understand it had been taken, not only from her but many many others, for the sake of reducing the overhead expense the department was running into daily. I also explained to her that in suspending the pension a reason for that suspension had to be given and that is why her visitor said she had a stepdaughter in the city, although she knew the daughter was doing nothing for her. It was a thing the department had to do immediately and the workers just snatched at anything so as to give a reason. She was so happy that I explained it to her. She said, Honey, I know'd you'd know 'bout it and would tell me, and it wus providential you come heah this day. I see it clearly now. I'm gwine ter do jes' lak you said, wait, fer I do believe from what you say, I'm gwine ter git it back.
"Honey, you fixin' ter go? I'm glad God sent you heah. Come back sometime and talk with 'Miss Mollie'. Ef you want ter know anything else 'bout me come back, I wus glad to give you my record, fer 'Miss Mollie' got a record, honey, I got a record and I ain't ashamed uv it and I'll tell you the truth, I got a record with God too."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 28 of 73
["I is a Baptist"]
"I IS A BAPTIST"
Written by: Miss Minnie [Stonestreet?]
Washington, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7
Augusta, Georgia
December 13, 1939.
December 13, 1939
Wesley Anthony (Negro)
Augusta Highway
Washington, Georgia
Preacher and Laborer
"Yes 'um, here I is!" said Wesley Anthony, a venerable Wilkes County Negro, as he entered the office in response to my "come in." A perfect picture of auto bellum politeness he made as he stood, hat in hand, his snowy white head slightly bowed in respect; with coat and tightly buttoned vest of shiny black, gray trousers and much worn shoes, all neatly brushed. From under a frayed white shirt collar a rather sober tie was knotted, and a gay studded pin stuck in as an afterthought completed his carefully made toilet. At his wrists there peeped stiff white cuffs. His eyes twinkled and there was a broad grin as I asked him in and remarked upon how dressed up he was.
In a softly modulated voice he replied, "Yes 'um, I put on these Sunday / Clo's kase you is to take my picture - that was, you said ef'n it warn't cloudy, but it is gittin' clouded up powerfully bad, an' I don't 'spose you kin do it now?"
The disappointment in his answer as it ended in a question, was almost childlike, so I hastened to promise to take the much coveted picture sometime soon on a pretty sunshiny day. Greatly' pleased he sat down somewhat stiffly in the offered chair and said, "I'se ready to talk to you now like you asked me to."
As I was writing "Wesley Anthony" preparatory to taking the interview, I said, almost to myself, "A good old Methodist name." "I is a Baptist though , " quickly corrected the old man, straightening
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almost rigidly in his chair, "and a Baptist preacher at that."
"You are?" I exclaimed with feigned surprise. "that is fine. then I'm sure you have something interesting to tell of your religious experience."
With the question as to denomination settled satisfactorily , the aged shoulders drooped again and settled back comfortably. With dignity and an air of grave importance he slowly started his story, carefully choosing his words:
"I'se goin' to start at the very beginnin ; Mistess, and tell you all that is 'portant."
"That is just what I would like for you to do" I replied.
Thus assured, he cleared his throat: "I was borned the middle of a January on a Thursday ,so I was told. the Bible what had the dates in it got burned up, and it was endurin' slavery times. I was borned belongin ' to Mr. Marse John Anderson, a big merchant in Danbu'g, Wilkes County, Georgy.
"He, Marse John, bo't bought my Mother from his Pa's estate, givin ' one thousand dollars in money for her, and she not but 11 years old! Yes 'um, $1,000! He [?] bought my Father from Mrs. Anthony after she ceasted. She left it so her darkies could choose out who they wanted to buy them and he choosed out Marse John kase he such a great man - the greatest thing of all was that he was a Baptist and had a christian heart and he proved it to the whole world. He was as great a man as was in all Georgy, and he was a big merchant and it was natural he had 700 customers at a time, and over 4,000 acres of land when he died. When he finished his days on yearth he left for the Glory Land, he did.
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He didn't believe in ever owin' nobody nothin' , and he raised me like that. Why I been goin' all 'round on the streets this evenin' lookin' for Mr. R. Wynne to pay him my house rent for last mont'." He laughed heartily over this, as though the idea of having to go out and find someone he owed these hard times amused him.
Thinking a minute with his head bowed to find the right place in his narrative, he continued: "My Pa was a fine mechanic. Him and his brother made the buggy Mares John went a co'tin' in. He use to make buggies and do all kinds of work like that for peoples in Danbu'g.
"I was a little boy big enough to keep in memory my young marster gettin' ready to go to the Confederate War. Then he come back I 'members I saw him a comin' a long distance away, but he had on strange clo's, not his uniform; and I runned to meet him, and he said afterwards that I jumped up on him, I was so glad to see him, but I don't 'member that part of it. After he come back from the War he called up all the darkies and he stood on the porch and talked to 'em and said: 'you all is free, just as free as I is.' But they wouldn't leave him, they all 'mained on kase he was so good to 'em.
"In the year one-1874 - Marse John put me on a wagon to haul freight every day from Washington to Danbu'g, 12 miles, 24 miles , 'round trip. I went every day 'scusin' Sundays. At first I driv two mules and then I got up to four. I had to get up 'way 'fore day to make the trip on time. 'Long 'bout that time the stagecoach quit runnin' from Washington, Georgy , to Abbeville, South Carolina , and the folks in Danbu'g missed the mail that the stage brought 'em. So one day Marse John and some more white gentlemens from Danbu'g got in they buggies and come all the way here to Washington and had me sworn
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in to take the mail every day. They had me prepared, Mistess, so I could take it for 'em. After that I took the mail every day and I was thus the first daily mail carrier in the County of Wilkes. Yes 'um, that I was, and I is proud that the white folks trusted me that way with their mail. 'sides all that the men use to give me big sums of money to bring to town for 'em, mostly to buy things for 'em. I 'members onc't, Marse John give me exactly $303.00 to bring to a man here and I brought it to him that day, I handed it to him and told him Marse John Anderson sont it to him. I waited respectful like and he counted it and said, 'that's all right , Wes ley, tell John you fetched it to me.'
I said 'Yes, / Sir, but I wants a riceipt.' He said 'No need of one . you brought me the money.' And I waited with my hat in my hand, and be fretted like, 'What you waitin' for?' I said , 'My receipt.'
"With that he tore off a piece of brown paper and wrote on it and stuck it at me and didn't say nothin'. I thanked him and went on. But I'd a waited there all night but what I'd carried back a receipt. I warn't goin' to have Marse John havin' to pay that $303.00 again on my account. You see , I knowed that man and Marse John did too.
"Marse John axed him next time he saw him what made him write on brown paper. He laughed and said, "Well, that boy you sont here with that money has got sense.' 'Nough times I have come to this town with over $500.00 in my vest pocket pinned up in a envelope. I would count out what it would take to buy what was wanted at one place and
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go in and buy that, and then go 'way off out of sight where nobody could see me and take out enough money to pay for what I had to get at another place and buy that. No, / Sir, I never did let nobody see me handle all the money I had on me! Even in them times somebody mought have knocked me out and took the white folks' money 'way from me. I use to bring cotton too and sell it for the men. I have brought 4 four and 5 five at one load many a time.
"Sixty-three years ago, come this Christmas, I married Peggy Booker. Us married the Christmas of the year one-1877 - and been livin' together ever since."
Here he broke into a marry laugh and said, "Yes 'um, I married Peggy and then I quit co'tin'. Marse John let us have his nice buggy and we [drive?] over to Marse Preacher Fortson's - he was a brother-in-law of Marse John's , and he married us standin' up in the hall of his big house. I could have married lots more gals if I had wanted to kase I was black and nice lookin' and have been well brought up and knowed how to work and make a honest livin', but I loved Peggy and I have took good care of her since. We had 15 children born to us, but didn't raise but 11 of 'em. Peggy is paralyzed now and can't do nothin' to help herself, but she been good to me and took care of me and the children . now I takes care of her. I 'members the vows what I took there 'fore Preacher Fortson when he married us, and I 'tends to do all I can for her as long as she lives. I goes to the druggists here and buys physic for her and they all knows me and if I don't have the money it is just the same, I kin get what I needs kase they knows I'se goin' to pay 'em when I gets it.
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"I hauled freight and carried mail to Danbu'g, Wilkes County, Georgy , for 10 ten years and would have continued on, but Peggy wanted me to give it up. She worried over it so, me havin' to make that long trip every day and in all kinds of weather, so to 'blige her kase she loved me and wanted to take good care of me, I live it up. But I couldn't tell Marse John I wouldn't haul for him no more, so to get out of it I told him I'd continue on if he would pay me $300.00 a year and furnish me a whole lot of rations every week. I knowed all the time it was too much and that he warn't going to do it, but that was my way of gettin' 'round hurtin' his feelin's by quittin'.
"I come off the wagon and went to farmin'. I'se a good farmer, I always could make money out of the ground. I lived 'round first with Marse John and then with Mr. Walter Sutton, there in Danbu'g. I kin 'er 'vided my time twixt 'em like."
Here the old man paused as though pondering in his mind just what to say next. Scratching his head a time or two, very slowly as though to speed up his thinking, he resumed his story.
"I reckon 'long 'bout here is where my 'ligious 'sperience come in."
"Yes, yes," I said, "do tell me about that."
Thus encouraged he settled back in his chair, his face wreathed in smiles as he thought back on the "greatest thing" that ever happened to him.
"On a Wednesday, when the yearthquake was 'bout 1886, I was shook up and stirred up in my heart more greater than anything 'fore
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that, and I raised up in bed that night while the yearth was a-shakin', and I promised the Lord secretly, if he would jest not kill me then I'd serve Him long as I lived. Mistess, I made a contract with Him that night. I went and jined the Church that year the yearthquake was, and I felt called to preach, and I prayed secretly to get rid of it, but God had work for me to do like when he called Moses; and I took the job. So I prayed on and the more I prayed the more the call come down on me, the more I was 'prest that I had to preach, 'till on a second Sunday, when Peggy had dressed up and gone to her church, and the children had gone over to they Grandma's, and I was at home by myself, I took up the Bible - it was my steppa's Bible - and I opened it like this to the first Gospel of Matthew at the 2nd chapter."
Here the old man reached over and took a book from my desk, opened it and straightened up to his full height, holding the book at a distance from his face, closed his faded old eyes and with a look of rapture upon his kindly wrinkled face, he started at the beginning of that chapter and repeated it through without hesitating for a word. Having finished, he closed the book and laid it back in place, saying:
"And, Mistess, that was my evidence, kase I had not been to school nor college. No'm, all the schoolin' I had was in the year one-1873. I went on Sundays that year to learn to read and took my old Webster's blue back spellin' book and all the farther I got in that was 'baker', and about all I learned was my letters
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and figures. So when I, the first time I looked inside of a Bible, found I could read, I knowed I was spiritually called, but I kept prayin' and reading secretly, still I didn't know about trying preachin' and I tried other things - playin' 'round like Jonah did, and like him, I didn't get nowheres - lost everything most I had. So finally I give up and went before the / Church and asked to be 'zamined to preach. They wouldn't try me, and for fifteen long years I was laid on the table of that church - they wouldn't 'mit me kase I had never been educated, they said. They said they wanted finished men - one what went to collage college - one what knowed how to preach. Mistess, I come like the inch worm, little by little, [?] til till I got there, and they wanted mens what come the grasshopper way, all in one jump. I didn't have no collage college wings, that is when preachers gets up and uses big words what goes flyin' ever folks' heads, and debates the Bible and goes on all such foolishness as what half what hears 'em don' know what he's talking 'bout, but they likes that kase it sounds big, but there ain't nothin' to it, nothin' but sound, that's all.
"I kep a-waitin' so they sent far me at a conference. They took me off down to the schoolhouse, two preachers and a whole passel of deacons did, to 'zamine me to find out if I knowed anything - they didn't think I'd make the grade so they took me off to myself. The first question they asked me was: 'What is preachin'?'
"I answered: 'Preachin' is the power of God unto / Salvation unto all that believeth.'" And here the patriarch threw his head back and closed his eyes as he repeated his answer to his 'zaminers
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of so many years age.
"Yes 'um, I made the grade by answerin' the first question they asked me, they was 'stonishad then and stopped right there. They put a Bible and a hymn book in my hand and said: 'As you have received these - go preach and teach.'
I didn't say nothin', but I sought wisdom by prayer and readin' my Bible, and now I been a member of the Baptist Church over 50 years and a preacher a long time, and then I been recognized and appreciated as a man of God all that time. The yearthquake did shake me up and start me off right. I preaches right now when they calls on me. But I ain't one of these new fangled preachers what uses big words and has a collage college education - collage college wings I calls it. They think if you been to collage college you got everything - can jest spread your arms and fly on, but I'se here to tell 'em they can't. That ain't the way - you got to pray and that secretly, for the wisdom and the power. They all cranks up and goes ridin' off to Sunday School and Church now and don't pay no 'tention to them what can't go. Why , I had to lecture some of the preachers and members 'bout 'glectin' Peggy, I did. Now they comes to see her and brings her the Lord's Supper 'count of her can't go to church on 'munion days like she use to. Yes 'um, I told 'em good 'bout it and stirred 'em up. I tells 'em when they don't do their duty, I'se a preacher too and so I can talk plain to 'em. "
After telling his religious experience , Uncle Wesley , as he is affectionately known to all his white friends, came down to earth again , and sat lost in deep reflection. After several
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minutes he spoke quickly as though he had just thought of something he was about to overlook.
"Oh, yes, there is one thing I want to tell you 'bout, something most folks don't know happened. I recollect it good, and that was jest after the Confederate war , there come a lot of men and camped there below Danbu'g, and they done lots of mischief,[?] stealin' all the horses they could lay hands on. Why, the folks that heard they was there took all they horses down and hid them out in the Broad River swamps - 'bout 35 or 40 fine horses was hid out all 'long down the river. These folks tooken a rail fence down what was 'round a pasture and moved it right smack 'cross the big public road. They done all kinds of bad things like that to pester the good peoples of Danbu'g, Wilkes County, Georgy.
"Danbu'g folks wouldn't have nothin' to do with 'em, no sir, they wouldn't, they was above [soch?] as that. But one day they come ridin' up with great pistols on they saddles and they had fine saddles too, and they had horses shod but wouldn't pay for it. Marse John Anderson and some more gentlemen was at the blacksmith shop, and Marse John was fixed for 'em, kase he warn't scared of 'em. So he went and shook his finger at 'em, nothin' but his finger like this." Here he got up and threw his shoulders back and took a step forward and vigorously shook the index/ finger of his right hand at the imaginary marauders, and said:
" 'You all is goin' 'round doin' all the mischief you can, prowlin' and stealin' and everything like that. you is mean and low down and you ain't nothin' but Wheeler's old cavalry, that's all you
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is, jest his mean old cavalry, I know.' He quarreled with 'em and they didn't say nothin' back to him, they took what he said and jest laughed kase they see he warn't scared of 'em. So one day right after that they picked up and left, and as they passed through they was singin' loud as they could:
'Here's Wheeler's cavalry,
Wheeler's in the field
If he gits wounded
It'll be by a wagon wheel.'
"Lots of darkies went off with 'em, and they went a whoopin' and a hollerin' and a singin' that song. I 'members that jest as good and how glad everybody was too that they had gone."
This incident reminded me of the wagon train loaded with gold that started in 1865 from Washington-Wilkes, where the gold had been safely stored during the dark days of the war, to Richmond, and got no farther than a little beyond Danburg before it was robbed. Thinking Uncle Wesley might know something about it , I asked:
"By the way, can't you tell me something about the wagons of gold that were robbed right after the war ? it was near Danburg, wasn't it?"
I soon found that I was not to find out anything about this robbery that has remained a mystery for the 74 years since that dark night in May when it happened.
Slowly shaking his head and in almost a whisper he said: "I 'members when that wagon was robbed and jest where it was stopped, but I couldn't tell who got the money. It was stole down there below Danbu'g most to the line of Lincoln County, right at a old


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schoolhouse what use to stand there. No'm, I don't know 'bout who got the money, but it sho was took. I recollects the big stir it caused and how wild folks did talk."
Seeing that he did not wish to talk about this unfortunate happening nor anything connected with it, I changed the subject by asking him what work he was doing now.
"I'm doin' regular farm work, but ain't farmin' for myself. No'm, the good white man what I worked with last wouldn't rent me no land, said I was too old to plow. That sho did hurt my feelin's. I'se old I know, well up in the eighties, but I'se goin' to work jest as long as I can. I walks 3 three miles to my work every mornin'. I gets up, eats my breakfast and reaches up and there is my dinner bucket the children has fixed for me the night before and I takes my stick and off I go and am at work 'fore the hands on the farm I helps on is there. I lays younger mens than I is in the shade too, I can do more hard work now than these ordinary Negroes what has come on since slavery, they not taught to work, Mistess, they not bred and born good as us what come 'long way back yonder when folks knowed how to work and how to take care of theirselves.
"The Government started givin' me a old age pension, $5.00 a month, but 12 twelve months ago come this January they cut me off and said I would have to wait a while and let some of the other old folks have some help too. I need it mighty bad, 'specially since Peggy is sick, but I goes on and does the best I can and trusts the Lord. [Pshaw?], I'se goin' to work as long as I live - I got three homes I can go to any day, 3 three good white mens what knows me and wants me
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to come live with 'em. But I rents a little house down here on the Augusty Highway, 4 four miles from town, and I stays there and pays my rent every mont'. It makes me in-de-pendent to live like that and work for my livin' - it is more 'spectable." Rising as he said this, He stood up, and I knew the interview was at an end. As I was thanking him for coming and telling me so many interesting things, I noticed crepe on his left sleeve, a heart cut out and sewed on his coat. I asked him what it meant.
Looking down at it, he said slowly and in a voice almost too low to understand: "That is for my boy what died not long ago. he was such a good boy to me and his mother and it hurt us so to have to give him up. He left us for a better world though."
I hastened to say a word of sympathy, and the first daily mail carrier of Wilkes County, bowed low and passed out into the hall where he gathered up his overcoat and cane and, reminding me that I was to make his picture one day soon when the sunshine was bright, he went on his way.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 29 of 73
[I Managed to Carry On]
Eugenia Martin
1028 Westmoor Drive, N.W.
WPA Worker - Housekeeping Aide
By
Geneva Tonsill Nov. 1939
I MANAGE TO CARRY ON
"I am the offspring of Thomas and Lucy Collier. Their parents were slaves. Mother and father were also slaves. My mother was a descendant of the Cherokee Indians on her mother's side and Anglo-Saxon on her father's side. Mother's father, Dr. Virgil A. Cillar, was well educated. He taught school and practiced medicine. As far as could be ascertained he was a bachelor and mother was his only heir.
"My grandfather on my father's side was Rage Wooten, who was called a free man because his master was his father. Being a free man he was allowed to have privileges that were not accorded slaves. He was permitted to go and come at will. He was fisherman and spent quite a bit of time away from the plantation. He'd visit his wife and children every fortnight and he was never molested by those is in authority. He had eight sons.
"Father's mother was of pure African descent. She was healthy and strong and , having come from Africa where more or less she was free and not curbed as she was forced to be as a slave, she never would take floggings from her master. Mother often told us how she would fight like mad when they attempted to whip her.
"Father was owned by a rich planter, R. M. Collier, whose name he had to adopt. Mother was owned by the Frix family and, therefore, she was called Frix. You understand the slaves always took the name of their master.
"Several years after the reconstruction period, Thomas Collier and Lucy Frix were married. She often told us of her marriage to my father. Being owned by very cultured and wealthy whites, both my father and mother assimilated some of that culture.
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They were also well liked by their master and, when they were married, they were given a wedding with all the attendants. They were married by a white Baptist minister, a Rev. C. T. Jackson. There were twelve children born to my mother and father, six boys and six girls.
"Father was a prosperous farmer. He was successful and accumulated very rapidly. Of course, he didn't have the handicap of most slaves, that is, starting out without anything at all. Instead , his master , being quite fond of him, gave him a start and , being industrious and energetic , father made good. He knew all the herbs of the forest and their medicinal value. He spent quite a bit of his time, aside from his regular routine, compounding herbs into medicine. Both white and black came to him for his medicines.
"Mother was an industrious farmer's wife and a devout Christian of the Baptist faith. She was very artistic with the needle, designing any pattern of lace, quilt, spread, or garment that she saw. As a housewife her work was never done. She looked after her children, kept the house and helped father, toiling, toiling[ ,?] from sun to sun.
"Father taught his children to work, to be honorable , and make good citizens. He believed in education, although he wasn't permitted to get an education. He was, however, able to learn more than the ordinary slave and knew the value of an education for any people regardless of color and to this end he worked and sent four of his children to college. Two of these children completed the college course and two married before reaching the end toward which father had worked so hard. Father's great desire was to see his race share the blessings of other people, equal rights, similar working conditions, decent
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living conditions, and educational advantages
"Mother and father have died. He did, however, live to see some of his dreams realized. For he lived to see some of his children through college and see the race enjoying some of the things for which he had worked, and prayed. Also eight of my brothers and sisters have died. Some of them died rather young and others later in life.
"After finishing elementary school I was one of the four who entered college. I worked part of my way through school. It seemed that father felt that one accomplished more when he too had to help secure it and, according to him, 'He could appreciate it more.' I was able to complete six years study, and then decided to come out of school to work. I succeeded in getting work as a teacher in an A. M. A. school. I worked here three years and was quite successful in this work. Being a person who liked diversion I resigned this work and accepted a job as clerk in a photograph gallery. I learned quite a bit about pictures, re-touching, developing , and mounting. One of the most interesting things I noticed while working here was, watching the homely types come in to be photographed and when they would come back for their pictures their vexation at the photographer because he didn't make them 'beautiful' on the picture. And although the picture would be a perfect likeness they wouldn't want that picture because it was 'ugly', or 'it doesn't look like me.' I gave up this work to get married.
"I married a young man who was a minister in the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. I entered heartily into this new life - a minister's wife. I took an active part in his church work, helping wherever possible. I worked from one place to another in the church. Sometimes I was a prayer leader in class
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meetings; other times I was working with the Missionary Society, or with the choir as organist. In fact, anything that was to be done, I did it cheerfully to help my husband succeed in his work. I enjoyed every bit of it. Being a Methodist minister we were often moving about. We served both small and large charges, sometimes in the rural section and then in the city. In fact, we went joyfully wherever the bishop sent us.
"Husband's work in the early days of our marriage was filled with hard work and many sacrifices but he was a hard worker and promotions came rapidly. He went from the pastorate to district superintendent and then was elected was a general officer. As general officer we went to Nashville, Tennessee, headquarters for the Sunday School Department of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. His duties in this office were to edit all Sunday School literature for the Colored Methodist Church in the United States and this consisted of Sunday School Quarterlies and Periodicals. In the early days of this work, while still in its infancy, husband had to travel everywhere to make the work a success and I worked as secretary, assistant bookkeeper , and looked after the business side for him. Finally, after several successful years, the general conference changed the location of the Sunday School Department and we were transferred to our native state, Georgia, and the editorial office was established and maintained in Atlanta.
"After coming to Atlanta, and after much of the former duties had been displaced by the fact that only the editorial office was in Atlanta, I didn't have to spend any of my time helping husband. Instead he hired young women to do the office work which I formerly did. I was then able to give my, attention to other things. I had more time to look after household duties
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and oversee the work done in the home. Husband hired someone to do the heavy work in the home for me.
"The annual conference, of which husband was a member, was in session and he left home just three weeks before Christmas to be present at the conference roll call. He was stricken ill soon after reaching the conference and died before he was able to be brought home , and so he was brought back to me a corpse.
"Since his death I was compelled to work. It was very difficult for me to readjust myself because he'd alway looked after everything. He even purchased my clothes and shoes. [?] It was so hard at first but I came to realization that I had to go it for myself. The responsibility was mine and I took hold.
"When we first came to Atlanta husband had a home built, and at his death he hadn't finished paying for it. I had to take hold and try to pay for it for I didn't have any children or anyone to help me; the job was mine. I had the notes readjusted and they/ were cut down to $36.00 a month. [this?] was as low as I could get them because the house cost a lot , and when he lived he was able to keep up the high notes. His salary was good and , being a general officer of the church , he was paid [?] and regularly. With notes on the home of $36.00 , plus my living expense and the general upkeep of the house I found it next to impossible to live. Of course husband left me a little money, very little however, at his death and this was soon exhausted. I then tried to get work to maintain myself. I made every attempt to get work in private industry and , being unsuccessful, I was compelled to get work on WPA. I was reluctant at first to go to WPA, for heretofore it had seemingly been the consensus of many that only the shiftless, lazy , and lower types resorted to relief agencies. The need of work was so great that this barrier was soon eradicated. Of course, as many, many others, I'm sure, I experienced the
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humilities that go with the process of securing this work and it was disappointing at times but I was growing more and more in need and this caused me to keep on trying. I finally succeeded in being certified and then was later assigned to work.
"I was assigned to a project known as the Survey of White Collar and Skilled Negroes. This was a most interesting work. We first went out and found all the white collar and skilled workers among the Negroes here in Atlanta. This was done through a house to house canvas. These workers were interviewed as to [?] their father's occupation, their schooling , and their occupation. We found those who had followed their father's occupation and those who had deviated. We checked on how many who had migrated from rural to urban localities, occupations trained for , and whether they were engaged in those occupations [?] or whether , because of employment conditions , they were forced to work at occupations not trained for. I enjoyed it so much. After we got all of the information together, it was then compiled in tables and and put in book form.
"I worked hard every day and went to school at night , where I took a two-year commerical course. I completed the course as prescribed by the Board of Education, City of Atlanta.
"After that project ended I was sent to the sewing project , and here too found the work interesting. I had a knowledge of sewing and because of this experience I was put over a group of women as 'floor woman', and like the former project I enjoyed it much. After this work I was transferred to the Housekeepers Aid Project. This was a most unusual experience for me. I had worked in the church, coming in contact with the poor and needy, the / sick and suffering , but it was nothing compared with that which
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I found or experienced on this project. I never realized before just what was out there in those alleys, in the slums, the poverty and illiteracy that existed there. I am glad I have had the opportunity to work on WPA, first because it has provided me a livelihood and second for the experience I've gotten, which I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. It enabled me to keep up my notes on my home. I haven't been able to save anything since working on WPA but it enabled me to carry on. I simply could not have held out this long had it not been for WPA. The experience caused me to care for the sick [?] and the old age pensioners and performing their household work which they were unable to do. In fact, all sorts of human suffering has been witnessed in my work.
"I have enjoyed working among those unfortunate people, and also the pleasant contacts of my supervisors, and I feel in this work I have been able to cast a ray of sunshine and gladness in homes and hearts doomed without.
"In working in the latter job, where I worked until the recent law was passed that all workers who have done 18 months service on WPA be released, I was able to learn much about the families and some of their backgrounds.
One of the families, an old woman, whose house I looked after and whom I nursed, was a remarkable old soul. She was a hundred years old. She told me that she lived in Atlanta when it was called Marthasville. She had lived in that little cabin on London Lane for forty-six years. She told me of the many rich white families she had served before she became too old to work. She loved her neighbors and when she was able to work she cared for the sick and needy in her neighborhood and helped whenever she could, and everybody in that alley loves her and calls her 'Mammy.' She is unlearned but very intelligent and was a nice old person to work with.
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She is unable to do for herself now and has to be dependent upon her Social Security compensation and WPA. She gets her pension and surplus food. She doesn't have any relatives at all and descends solely on relief. She cannot read and gets pleasure out of hearing someone read to her. It was a pleasant duty to read to her, she was such an interesting interested listener.
Of course, I couldn't say the same for another old woman I cared for. She was just the reverse. No one could stay with her long at the time. She didn't have a neighbor that would come into her home to do a thing for her and it was because of her attitude toward them. I think I stayed in the home longer than any other did. I was with her six weeks and after that time I too was compelled to leave her. I was transferred to another case.
"This old woman had been a good liver, owned the six-room house in which she lived. She was under the impression that everyone who came around her was stealing her possessions. She made it miserable for those about her. After six weeks, when I was forced to leave her , I did hate to leave, because I knew the attitude of her neighbors. I knew they would leave her there in that house alone. I knew this because on my weekends, when I was not working, I would go around before I left and try to get someone to promise that they would go in to look after her from time to time, but no one consented to do so. Hers was a pathetic case. After I was transferred, some months later, I learned that she had in some way during the night turned her lamp over in the bed on herself and was a human torch when entrance was made in the home. She died from those burns. I made, of my own accord, three visits to the undertaker's establishment where she was. I went to see if anyone ever came to
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take her body in charge, any of her relatives, and found to my dismay that no one ever did and finally the little neighborhood church, the Church of God, sent some of its members who had cars to the funeral and cemetery and she was buried in a pauper's grave no doubt. I felt quite sad for that old woman, although I felt she died as she had lived, alone. She had often told me while I waited on her that she had a cemetery lot out on the Tobie Grant estate and that her two husbands were buried there. She wanted so much to be buried beside them. It seemed I wanted so much to see that wish granted but it was nothing I could do and so she was buried, in Lincoln [cemetery?], alone.
"I'm telling you of these instances that you may see just what I experienced. I don't know whether it is of interest to you or others but I tell these experiences that you may see just what I witnessed.
"I also went into the superstitious and very illiterate homes. I cared for another case, a woman, who was a believer in witchcraft. Of course, I realized that this old superstition was handed down from the forefathers, and didn't try to change her views at that age. I have no belief in it and really don't want to discuss it because we as a race are trying to get away from those old superstitions and beliefs and , I'll be perfectly frank , it galls me to know that it really exists in the present day. So great was her belief in this sort of thing that she would do waht what she called 'dress her table' once a week to prevent evil from befalling her. She would also 'dress the table' for others who would come in to see her. Of course, it was all foreign to me and I had no encouragement for such a thing but I pray the day is not far away that all of that old fogism is entirely erased from our race.
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"I had another woman who believed she had been conjured by her husband and that her suffering for many years was caused by him putting a 'spell' on her. She was suffering from a sore leg and hadn't been able to walk for many months. She had gone on suffering, not seeking medical aid, because she believed her husband had 'tricked' her. She had, however, been to different people who practiced witchcraft and they had failed to do her any good. A little old white man came along one day and told her that he could cure her. He used some medicine which he made from herbs. She believed he was a conjurer and permitted him to treat her. That man told me that he had to treat her according to her belief, so she would take the medicine. He told me she was a victim of social disease. He really cured her. I was with her five months. She hadn't been able to walk about [?] or do anything , but when I left the leg was cured and she was able to walk. The man told me he had to work under the guise disguise of a root doctor because of the medical profession for he would be prosecuted. He didn't want his identity known. He told me he could surely cure any case of social disease.
"You asked how I accustomed myself to working in such homes and how I managed to protect myself. First we were taught hygiene and the necessary precautions to take. I had to use rubber gloves, in fact, this was required of us all. We all wore uniforms in the homes and when we were finished for the day we changed into our street clothes, after cleaning up. There were trained nurses who would lecture to us on sanitation and we were instructed to carry all personal needs and use nothing else. All problems affecting the aides were worked out in conference in the office with the supervisor.
"Sometime the person we were sent to wait on resented us
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using gloves or other precautions. They'd say we thought ourselves better then they. Of course, we would have to be diplomatic to get those things out of their heads. I always had some logical excuse and so I was always able to get this out of their mind and everyone I came in contact with seemed to like me. I never ate at the homes. I would eat my breakfast at home and also dinner. I never carried any lunch. I found some of my clients would do little things to help relieve me; others I found, although able to do a little something, would just be satisfied to wait until the aide came to do everything, even the little things that could be done by that individual.
"Our clients were made up of recipients of relief, those people receiving aid from the Department of Public Welfare. The visitors of that department would turn the cases over to the Housekeeping Department for care whenever the individual was unable to do for himself or herself. Aides were assigned to those people by the supervisor. I was, along with all other aides, trained in our department and taught just what to do and how to handle those cases.
"I can't describe to you just what going into those homes has meant to me. It taught me many things and greatest of all are tolerance and appreciation. If I were ever inclined to be unappreciative of what I had I am really cured of that now. For you come to wonder just how people really exist and how they have made themselves stay in those places. I really came to realize the logic of that statement, 'One half of the world doesn't know how the other half lives.' That really applies to a city or community for that matter. And to be frank, the experience was really an education, for I was always guarded, so to speak. Husband always kept someone to assist me with my
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house work and the heavy duties about the home were done by women he hired - washing, heavy cleaning , and the like. Of course, you know it was a bit strange at first for me but I adjusted myself and the experience has been another education to me.
"I have looked froward forward to being reassigned to WPA or getting work in private industry , and something must come up soon for me or I don't know what will happen. The notes on my home are getting behind. See, I haven't been able to pay anything since I've been out of work. The holder of the notes gave me four months grace and I have been off three months already. I have made every effort to secure work that I may not have to go back to WPA but I have failed. There seems so little work for Negroes. We have so few places and they are all overcrowded. I am beginning to get afraid for I had only my earnings to depend on but I guess I'll be able to carry on somehow , but something will just have to turn up for me soon. It must, I just can't give up here. Each new day brings me new hope and courage for that day and I can feel the presence of a good spirit with me, and so I go on like that each day."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 30 of 73
[I Saw the Stars]
John Wesley Dobbs (Negro)
Gr. Master, Prince Hall Masons
Pres., Atl. Civic-Political League
Retired Railway Mail Clerk
Of. - 239 Auburn Ave. NE
Res. 540 Houston St., NE
By Geneva Tonsill
December 2, 1939
I SAW THE STARS
"When I was two years old my father and mother separated. There were two children, my sister, four years old, and myself. We went to live with our grandparents while my mother went to Savannah, Georgia, to work. My father went away too. Scattered in another direction.
"I was born March 26, 1882, three and a half miles north of Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia, at the side of Kennesaw Mountain. Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis was named for the mountain. Judge Landis was a Federal judge and an outstanding figure in baseball. His father was killed in the Kennesaw Mountain. I was named for my grandfather, who had fourteen children, of which my father was the oldest.
"For seven years we lived with our grandparents who had, as I told you before, fourteen children. A good many of them were grown and at times they would have other children. For instance the oldest boy married, brought his wife and children there, and there was also an aunt whose husband took down sick and died and they came out there with their family to live with my grandfather. This aunt and her husband had seven boys living and one more child was born after the husband died. I merely mention this to give you an idea of what a large family ours was. And all of these people lived in two log cabins that had three rooms and a hall. The family was very, very poor and with so many you can perhaps imagine
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that we merely existed. This is about all I can remember about the family.
"Of what I can remember of life for these first seven years is that we went to a country school three miles in a year, walked several miles to this school, and I was in the first reader. One teacher taught all of the pupils from what we considered the first reader to the fifth reader and that was about as high as they want.
"Most of the things I remember learning during that seven-year period were things about nature and its surroundings. I became interested in birds, animals, cattle, trees, and even the mountain that was close by. I doubt that I learned anything in a literary was during those seven years, except such things that were in the first reader. I remember that.
"My mother never forgot us. She used to come once or twice a year and bring us clothes. She was only twenty years older than I was. I was very fond of my mother and cried after her all of the time. I think it touched her heart and she hated to go away and leave me.
"When I was nine years old she came and took us, my sister and me, to Savannah, Georgia. I was put in the second grade in Savannah. As I remember it was kinda hard for me to catch on to the things in the second grade. At the end of the school term I was promoted. I was then thereafter leader in the class, from the third grade on up.
"One of my early impressions of things that linger was that my mother dressed me very nicely, put clean clothes on me, and took me to Sunday school and church. I still remember the impressions that were
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made upon me by the church influence. When I was about eleven or twelve years old I found out that my mother wasn't going to keep me in school as she was unable to buy me clothes, shoes, and keep me in school. There was a white lady who had a job for me. I was in the fifth grade then. I was willing to work but I couldn't help but break down and cry when she told me she would hire me, as I wanted to go back to school. She watched me sympathetically and then she told my mother to let me go to school. I found out if I went back to school I would have to go to work to buy my shoes and clothes. So I began to sell newspapers on the streets in Savannah, and I got one or two odd jobs. The first job I remember getting paid me $1.50 a week. This was in the summer time and I worked in a barber shop awhile, shining shoes. My job started when I began to carry a regular route for the Savannah Press, the afternoon paper.
"The paper put on a contest and gave as a prize a watch to the boy that made the best record for collections and distributions over a certain period of time, and I won the watch. This was the first watch I ever had. Because of the showing I made I was given another route. This made me carry two routes: the first in the business section of town and after that delivery was made I would go back and take on the last route, which was on the outskirts of town. I forgot to tell you that this was in 1891 when I went to Savannah to live.
"After getting these two newspaper routes it kinda solved my financial problem. I was able to buy my own shoes and clothes, which I did the rest of my life. Nobody bought me anything from that time on. I cannot recall
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anybody buying me one article of clothes or shoes from that time.
"I remember I always kept a job. I was never idle, nor have I been since that time. I remember a man coming in to tell me about his not having a job and said he couldn't find one. I couldn't understand it then, nor can I understand it now that men go around saying they cannot find work. It is just something I cannot understand because ever since I first worked as delivery boy for the newspapers in Savannah, I have had more jobs than I could do. If it wasn't one thing it was another; if it wasn't the kind of work I liked and was all I could get, I did that until I could do better and I usually found a better one.
"Now in buying me clothes I would go into a store, pick out a pair of shoes that suited me for $3, $4, or $5 and then I'd pay $1 down on that pair of shoes, let them wrap them up, and give me a bill for them, then I would pay $1 until I got them out. I did the same way with my suits. I began to buy my suits of clothes at B.H. Levy & Company, a firm on Broughton Street, in Savannah. As I tell you this I am reminded of the fact that I have two daughters who are teaching at the Georgia State College there in Savannah and they go to the same store and get any amount of clothes they want. They get them on their name and this because of my record I established there. They trade at the very same store.
"Well, I worked for the Savannah newspaper until I finished grammar school, completing the elementary course at the West Broad Street School in June 1897. After that I came to Atlanta. My mother had moved back to
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Atlanta, having preceded me. I worked in Savannah until I finished school and then came to Atlanta to join my mother. I wanted to go to school some more but there wasn't much visible opportunity at that time. After I got here I went out on a farm in the summer of 1897 and worked. Although I was only fifteen years old, I worked in the field as a farm hand, chopping cotton, picking peaches, and any other work that was done by the farm hands. I was paid fifty cents a day like the other farm hands for such common labor. I remember I was working out there barefooted, with nothing but a cap on my head, out in that sunshine all day long and I worked right along keeping up with the men and received the same they received for the work.
"I saved my money that summer and came back to Atlanta, expecting to go in school that fall. My mother took down sick and I had to use the money I had saved for my mother. Then a thing happened which you might call a 'break'. Reverend E. J. Fisher was pastor of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church here in Atlanta. He later went to Chicago as pastor of the Clivet Baptist Church, where he remained until his death. This is the same church which Reverend L. K. Williams, President of the National Baptist Convention pastored. Well, Reverent Fisher was a wonderful character. He was a great humanitarian. Reverend Fisher took me along with his children out to Morehouse College, which was at that time the Atlanta Baptist College, in the fall of 1897. He paid my tuition to enter the first year academy. It was my academy then. I was able to get a job with Dr. J. F. McDougail, college physician, who also ran a drugstore in the city. I worked in the drugstore, opening up in the morning at six o'clock
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and working until eight o'clock. I would then ride my bicycle to school and come back and work in the afternoons until ten or eleven o'clock at night. I did this for four years - through academy. I won a scholarship which paid my tuition for the other years. I finished the academy in 1901. I went back to school that fall in the Freshman Class. I stayed a few months and because of My Mother's failing health and many needs I dropped out of school and went to work to help her.
"I took a civil service examination, was certified for an appointment as a sub-railway mail clerk in September of 1903, and I remained in the railway mail service for thirty-two years, starting in at grade '1' and for the last eight years in the service I was clerk in charge of my crew at grade '6', highest grade in the railway mail service, which carried with it the maximum pay.
"June 1, 1935, I voluntarily accepted optional retirement from the railway mail service. This was optional retirement after thirty years or more of service.
"The fact that I stopped college didn't stop my thirst for knowledge. I went to the libraries and read intensively along three lines of my choice: literature, history, and philosophy.
"I married, in June 1906, Miss Irene Ophelia Thompson, a native of Columbus, Mississippi. To this union were born six daughters. All are living. After their birth I was determined that they should have every advantage, every one I missed, and more. I guess my denial of many things during my youth caused me to be more determined. The first four daughters are graduates of Spelman College. Two of these girls were graduated from
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Spelman as valedictorian of their class. All four of them have earned masters' degrees - two from Columbia University, one from Atlanta University, and the other from European universities. This daughter, my oldest, became head of the French Department at Spelman College, a position she kept until her marriage. Another of my daughters was head of the English Department at Jackson College, in Jackson, Mississippi, and she held this position until her marriage. One of my single daughters is head of the English Department and Dramatics at the Georgia State College, Savannah, Georgia, and the other is head of the Home Economies Department at the same school. My two younger daughters are in high school. One of my daughters finished Spelman College at the age of nineteen years and held her masters' degree at twenty years. She was able to get a job because of that right away at the age of twenty years.
"Well, let's see. Another phase of my life I forgot to tell you back there is that I joined the church early, at the age of fourteen or fifteen years, in Savannah, Georgia, and have since been continually identified with some Christian church. At the present time I am trustee of the First Congregational Church in Atlanta.
In 1911 I joined the Masonic Order and became greatly enthused in the working of this fraternal organization. In three years, in 1914, I was made a Grand Lodge officer which position I held for ten years. In 1924 I was made secretary-treasurer of the Masonic Relief Association, which was the financial department of the Grand Lodge. This position I held eight years, until 1932. That position paid me a salary which was larger than the salary I was getting from the government as a railway mail clerk. I
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held both jobs jointly and satisfactorily to all parties concerned. My work was satisfactory to the government, and the fraternal order was satisfied with my work. I needed this increase in income in order to give my children the type of education I wanted them to have. I would frequently go directly from my office to the train, where I would work all night as a railway clerk.
"My run was from Atlanta to Nashville, Tennessee. All of my service for the thirty-two years was spent on that line between Atlanta and Nashville. I don't know whether it would be interesting or necessary to mention here that all of the workers on this line, except me, were white me. When I was made clerk in charge there was never any friction between me and the white men. Our relations were always pleasant, and whatever difficulties arose were ironed out between us to everyone's satisfaction. We worked together beautifully.
"Speaking again of my position with the Masonic Order as secretary-treasurer, I held this position until 1932, when Dr. H. R. Butler, Grand Master for thirty-one years, died and I was elected to succeed him as head of the order in the State of Georgia. Having prepared myself for a public career through my activities and reading, I found myself circumscribed because of my work in the railway mail service, and because of a desire for a larger sphere for usefulness in order to help my race secure a ballot, I resigned from the railway mail service in June 1935, accepting optional retirement. I was then free to give my full time to the activities of the Masonic Order and to civic and political affairs.
"On February 12, 1936, I called a public meeting at Big Bethel [A.M.E.?]
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Church and organized the Atlantic Civic and Political League, and became its first president which position I still hold. This organization, founded on Lincoln's birthday, has for its goal, or ambition, the intention to awaken the Atlanta Negroes to their civic and political consciousness, mostly the benefits to be derived from the exercise or use of the ballot. At the time of the organization of the Atlanta Civic and Political League there were less than six hundred registered Negro voters in Atlanta, Georgia. In the three years that number has been increased to nearly three thousand.
"In the fall of 1936 I accepted an invitation to join the campaign for the re-election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President of the United States. I filled speaking engagements in the states of Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, under the Speaker's Bureau of the Eastern Division with headquarters in Washington, D. C., working under the Democratic National Committee, Honorable James A. Farley, Chairman. I accepted this assignment and duty because of my sincere belief in the progressive principles advocated by the New Deal Administration, especially as they related and are interpreted toward the uplifting and betterment of living conditions for poor people regardless of race, color, or creed.
"I might add that I'm devoting quite a bit of my time to the platform as a public speaker. I was Emancipation Day Speaker for 'Wings over Jordan', a radio program heard every Sunday morning over the CBS, through station WGAR, Cleveland, under the direction of Dr. Glenn T. Settle,with the [Gethsemane?] Choir of Cleveland, with [orth?] Kramer its conductor. This is a
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distinct honor granted my people through the CBS as it gives our ministers, educators, and leaders an opportunity which otherwise is not granted us. I would like here at this point to tell you some of the things I said in this address, that is, if it won't take too much of your time.
"The subject was 'the Negro in America'. I explained the significance of Emancipation Day by saying: 'to the twelve million Negroes of America this day has a higher signification - to us it is Emancipation Day. On January 1, 1863, in the City of Washington, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which freed 3 1/2 million slaves. Today their descendants pause to commemorate that historic event with profound gratitude to God and to Abraham Lincoln.
"'We first came to the New World with the early explorers. Black seamen were with Columbus in 1492. Alonzo Pietro, a Negro, was in charge of the pilot house on one of the three ships of the crew, the Nina. They were with Balboa in 1513; Cortez in Mexico in 1518. Estiveneco, a Negro, led the expedition of [1537?] which opened up the region now known as Arizona and New Mexico. A Negro member of the De Soto expedition of 1540 remained in this country and became the second settler in what is now the state of Alabama. The twenty slaves landed at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, arrived a year ahead of the Pilgrim fathers at Plymouth Rock. For the next 240 years Negroes were forcibly brought to America against their will.
"'the sweat from the brow of our forbears fell in railroad cuts, cotton fields, rice plantations, in the forests and along the mountain sides. Negro labor became efficient and dependable by the way in which it helped to build America.
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"'the first man to fall in the Boston Massacre of 1770 was Crispus Attucks, a Negro, who died for died for American ideals six years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Peter Salem was another to distinguish himself at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Five thousand Negroes saw service in the Continental Army under General Washington.
"'In the Civil War, 200,000 fought in the Federal Army for their own freedom and the preservation of the Union. Three million slaves made crops by day and protected homes by night, of their masters who were fighting to keep them in bondage. Such loyalty and devotion have never been surpassed by any people in any period of history. In the World War 380,000 were enrolled - 200,000 of whom saw service in France. The Negro has fought valiantly in every American War and has yet to produce a traitor to the flat!


"'In this short time our race has accumulated two billion dollars worth of property, including 22 million acres of farm land, an aggregate area larger than the five states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
"'In the midst of slavery, the Negro accepted from his master the Christian religion with the faith of a child. Today he counts over 40,000 churches with a membership of 5 1/2 million souls.
"'In 1860 90 per cent could neither read nor write. By 1930 this illiteracy was reduced to 16 per cent. Today 2,500 are finishing American colleges annually. Considering this achievement, we cannot give too much credit to the white Christian missionaries who came South
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following the Civil war to help educate the Negro. Their task was one of sacrifice and consecration. The memory of these good people should never be forgotten.
" 'In turn Negro men and women became teachers themselves. Quite a few, like Booker Washington, rose above tremendous obstacles to become useful educators. J. B. Watson, reared on a Texas farm and unable to finish high school until 25, worked from more years, entered Brown University at 29, and graduated at 33. Today he is the honored President of the State College for Negroes of Arkansas.
" 'Professor Fletcher Henderson, father of the famous band leader, has been teaching continuously for 58 years at [Cuthbert?], Georgia. Professor George H. Green, Douglas High School, Lexington, Missouri, has been teaching continuously for 59 years. During the past 52 years be has not been tardy or absent a single day from his post of duty. These are but examples of many others. In South Carolina alone there are 14 Negro teachers with wore than 50 years of service.
" 'today man, white people of the South, where most of the Negroes live, are seriously interested in his education. Accredited high schools and colleges are being rapidly equipped and financed from public funds. The results are both encouraging and gratifying.
" 'Over the doorway of the nation's Supreme Court Building in Washington, D. C. are engraved four words, 'Equal Justice Under Law'. This beautiful American ideal is what the Negroes want to see operative and effective from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf - nothing more or less. They want equal rights and protection
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in the courts, in the streets, and on the farms; they want equal opportunities to work at every honorable trade and profession; equal opportunity to cast a ballot in all elections, everywhere. These fundamental rights and privileges, guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and its amendments, constitute the aims, the hopes, and the desires of the Negroes of America today and tomorrow! '
"I'm the guest speaker for the Emancipation Proclamation Celebration to be held in Baltimore, Maryland on Sunday, January 14. At the same time the Governor, Honorable Herbert R. o'Connor of Maryland, and the Mayor, Honorable Howard [W. Hackson?] of Baltimore, will be present to extend greetings.
"I tell you these things because I got a great deal of pleasure out of coming in close association with the leaders of our great country, and it gives me opportunity to let my race benefit by these associations.
"I have a great love for people's human rights; I believe in equal opportunities for all mankind. I am a great admirer of the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Booker Washington, and Frederick Douglas, because they portray the lives of poor boys who believed in human rights and brotherhood of all mankind.
"I forgot to mention that one time I [did?] insurance work. This was after my family began to grow and I found I needed more money. I wrote insurance for a while and then I became a stock salesman for the company. These things happened before I took the job with the fraternal organization. From this work I learned a lot about people and earned money enough to help me along. So you see I believed that there were many things
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one can do to help himself. I am a great believer in self-help. All I wanted was an opportunity to work. To further bring out just how I have always felt in this matter, I will give you an expression, an original saying I wrote down twenty-five or thirty years ago, and I have used somewhat as a motto:
"I cannot conquer death; all other fights I win.'
As yet I don't recall having lost any. They way have been hard fights but I won them eventually. Another thing I've kept in mind and have made a part of my thoughts:
'You sow a thought and reap an act,
You sow an act and reap a habit,
You sow a habit and reap a character,
You sow character and reap destiny.'
Another expression I got a great lesson from is:
'two prisoners looked out from behind the bars of their cell; one saw mud and other saw the stars.'
That is true in life. One sees what one permits his eyes to see. If he looks down it's the mud and if he looks up, it's the stars. I have always tried to look up.
"My most favorite poem is one by Edwin Markham, 'the Man with the Hoe', said to be written by him after he saw the world famous painting by Millet. I repeat that poem over and over from time to time and throughout my life I have gotten so much from it. (He recited the poem and he drew a beautiful mental picture of that man who stood there leaning on his hoe. He quoted the poem, every word of it, which proved that he has a most unusual retentive memory).
"I don't see where I've done so much and, too, to talk about one's self it takes away the actual thing and purpose for which it is said - too many I's detract but I will say I came from a very, very poor beginning
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with very little to back me in my ambitions and whatever I have accomplished, if there is anything, I have done if from sheer determination and because I looked up and saw the stars. I have struggled to be useful to mankind. I say often, 'It's what one sets his mind to accomplish that he accomplishes and one cannot just sit by and wait for opportunities to be poured in his lap. He must go out and help make them and then take advantage of all that pass his way. That in what I did. I went out and looked for my opportunities, with my eyes on the stars, and took advantage of all I found. I didn't sit idly by and wait, just because I came of very poor parents who separated when I was still a baby, and left me with relatives who were too poor to give but the barest necessities to the members of the large household. I made up my mind at an early age to do something and I guess I can sum it all up by saying I can compare myself with the two ships:
'One ship sails east, the other sails west by the same wind that blows. It's the set of the sail and not the gale that determines the course as she goes.'
I sat my 'sails' to rise above poverty and ignorance and whatever the 'gale' I still kept my mind on what I wanted to accomplish in life, and each day I have tried to do those things that would reflect credit on me, my family, and my race. I have devoted my life and my talents to helping pave the right road for my people."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 31 of 73
[I Want to Die in Peace]
[Life Story?]
I WANT TO DIE IN PEACE
A Depression Victim Story
Research by: Mrs. Ada [Radford?]
Augusta
Edited by: Mrs. Leila R. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7
Mrs. Maude Pate Bridges
306-8th Street
Mar. 7, 1940.
I WANT TO DIE IN PEACE
I paused for a moment in the doorway of the French Dry Cleaning Company's plant to watch the woman with whom I had an appointment, at work. Mrs. Sarah Harman, owner and operator, was busily inspecting garments prior to delivery.
While she still maintains a receiving office in the downtown section it is purely utilitarian and in direct contrast to the elaborate reception room or former days.
For 25 years the office of the French Dry Cleaning Company was located on one of Augusta's important corners in the downtown business district. A leather-upholstered merry-go-round was placed just inside of the entrance. The built-in cases were all equipped with mirrored doors and the counters and racks were painted white. Large artificial palms and pot plants added greatly to the attractiveness or the place.
On the outside an electric sign operated with flasher sockets, displayed a life-sized, beautifully dressed woman, that was visible blocks away.
Today the office is located a few doors down the street and she shares it with a tailor in order to out overhead expenses. Only a few cases and the merry-go-round recall more prosperous days.
Sarah Harman took over the management of the business in the latter part of last year after the death of her husband.
Page 2
"You seem so busy this morning, Mrs. Harman," I said, "Do you think you'll have time for our interveiw?"
"Well I don't see why not, if you have patience enough to put up with all the interruptions." She answered. And with the air of bravado she affects at all times she continued.
"Just what do you want to know?"
"I would like to know everything about you right from the beginning. Of course," I said playfully, "that would let out how old you are. Do you mind?"
"Hell, no!" she said with a grin. "I am 61 years old and was born near Stapleton, Georgia. I was the fourth in a family of nine children, but only 3 girls and 1 boy lived to grow up. My fathers, Joseph Franklin White, owned a plantation and ran a two-horse farm."
"Was your father's place near a school?" I questioned.
"Yes and I started at the age of seven. For the ensuing 6 years I averaged about 2 months out of each term. Finally my father engaged a private teacher to come to our home for the next year or two. I can tell you I really studied hard for I wanted to go to the Stapleton High School, and I made the grade.
"No, I didn't get a chance to finish. I had to stop in my senior year and go to work. You see my father had become a cripple and wasn't always able to secure sufficient help."
"Do you mean to tell me you worked on the farm?" I asked dubiously.
Page 3
"Hell, yes! I did everything there was to do an a farm from plowing to building fences. The whole damn burden of the place was on my older sister and myself.
"We bore it as long as we could and after a great deal of persuasion my father agreed to sell the place and move to Augusta. This was in 1898 and in a very short time I got a job at the Augusta Steam Laundry. I stayed there until my marriage two years later.
"We set up housekeeping and I thought all my troubles were over. My husband was a fine cabinet maker and his salary was a small fortune to what I had made. I soon learned, however, that life was an up-hill climb in which you take 2 steps up and fall back one.
"My husband was working for the Augusta lumber Company at the time of our marriage and two years later he was offered a better job at Valdosta, Georgia.
"Well, we moved and stayed there only one year when he decided to try out a job at Staunton, Georgia. One month of that was quite enough. We went back to Valdosta then we moved to Griffin, and in two more years we moved to Atlanta.
"I thought then that we were settled for life but the damn bug bit him again."
"What bug, Mrs. Harman?" I asked, when I could stop laughing.
"The moving bug, and we were off like a shot for Gadsden, Alabama. One year there and back to Atlanta. In another 18
Page 4
months we hit the road again, this time for Tampa, Florida. In 6 months it was Mobile, Alabama, then Montgomery, back to Atlanta, then Montgomery again.
"By this time I had enough of that dawn moving and I told my husband, 'If you want to move it's all right by me, but I'm staying in Montgomery and going in business.' That was in 1910.
"Then I rented a small store for $17.50 a month, bought a 16 pound iron, and hired a boy, who had a bicycle, to call for and deliver the garments. I ran an advertisement in the newspaper and opened for business."
"Did you dry clean the garments?" I asked curiously.
"Oh, no! I scrubbed and spotted them."
"And you did the work yourself?"
"Hell, yes! Who else do you think would do it? I had to get started, but it wasn't long before I hired 2 men to work in the plant, and I solicited business.
"Tragedy had stalked into our lives quite sometime before this. Two years after I was married I developed cancer in some of my female organs. An operation was compulsory and they were all removed. This brought about a highly nervous condition and my husband and I had anything but a happy life together. I have been told that he told others, I was hell to live with.
"Many were the rumors of other women that came to me. On one occasion I learned that he was going with a woman, whom he met in Allen Park. I went to my lawyer and asked him what I must do about
Page 5
it.
"'Why not give him a good scare,' he told me. 'It might help a lot.'
"So I loaded my pistol with blank cartridges and hid in the park. My mind was fully made up that when I saw them together - I'd fire away.
"I did just that, never dreaming that it would create enough publicity to get in the papers. It was funny, though, the way the papers printed it. They stated that when I shot, the two of them ran and up until the time the paper went to press - they were still running.
"But it didn't stop him. He was from one woman to another, until he met the one in whose house he finally died.
"He picked her up out of the gutter, her and her children, put her in a house and lived outright with her.
"I made him leave home and he threatened my life. For the last 5 years of his life I lived in constant dread of him.
"And now to get back to the newly established business at Montgomery. My husband became interested when it began to look as if I might make a go of it. He gave up his job and came to work with me. We really did a good business and were able to save quits a bit of money.
"In 1912 I bought the first steam press machine to be used in Montgomery and when we moved to Augusta it was also the first to be used here. That was in 1913."
Page 6
"Why did you leave Montgomery?" I asked. "Which of you was bitten by the moving bug this time?"
"Well this time it was I who wanted to move. My mother and sister were here and after all this was home. After a year of business on Eighth Street near Greene, we moved to the corner and were there for 25 years.
"No, ours wasn't the first dry cleaning plant in Augusta. Stark had a plant which bore the name; 'stark, The Cleaner.' We were known as 'Augusta French Dry Cleaning Company.' Business was very good in Augusta. Our first small cleaning plant was located on lower Fenwick Street and the pressing was done in the office.
"This method was very unsatisfactory, for the steam and dust made the office very untidy. I had a complete mental picture of the kind of a place I wanted and I began to look about for a lot. Soon I found this place. I have a lot 100 x 150 feet and a plant fully equipped for dry cleaning, rug cleaning, and dyeing. All of this was bought in 1921 at a cost of $25,000.
"We built a $7,000 home on Hickman Road. It was much easier then to meet the heavy payments on the equipment and the home, than it is to meet a note for $100.00 due at the bank today. "I never saw so such money as poured into our place then. I had 5 girls and 2 men to wait on the trade. It took all of them for every garment had to be folded and I can tell you, that took a lot of time.
Page 7
"Whoever invented the hanger and bags was a life saver for cleaners, financially, as well as from a time-saving standpoint.
"I worked 2 tailors besides 15 other men at the plant. My business averaged $150.00 a day and my income tax was fairly heavy.
"Our first dry cleaning was done with gasoline. It would hold up to [65%?] for a time but after it was distilled the strength would decrease and it could only be used a few times. Then someone discovered a fluid called [solvent?] that could be bought for 14 cents a gallon. This fluid cleaned much better and could be used many times. It came much cheaper when bought in larger quantities.
"Then came the depression! At first I thought it was just one of those things' and that it would soon pass. I figured that after a few months of readjustment business would be normal again. Well I thought wrong, all wrong.
"For awhile my business was fair, but it wasn't long before I had a plenty go worry about. I had to start letting my help go and each week brought a cut. Finally, there was only one girl and myself in the office.
"My husband was running the plant with only 3 men. About this time the other local cleaners got panicky and began to cut prices in order to increase their business. One of them opened a Cash and Carry. I got a large beach umbrella and placed a boy on the curb to catch the cars as they came down Greene Street. In this way my patrons were offered an extra service. They didn't even have to get
Page 8
out of their cars.
"I tell you it was one hell of a fight to make a dollar. Then the bottom fell completely out. It seemed to me that nobody was having any cleaning done. I began to look around for a reason and found that the majority of women were wearing cotton dresses and were washing them.
"I had to have money from somewhere to stay in business. I just couldn't close and lose everything. There was nothing left for me to do but to mortgage my home. But let me tell you, don't you ever do that, it is much better to sell it outright. That damn mortgage has really kept me awake nights. Almost every night I see $3500 and interest, in my sleep. No! don't mortgage anything. Give it away, if necessary, for your peace of mind.
"At one time I had 5 trucks and a nice Buick car for my own use. Now, I have a piece of a truck and I think the damn thing will have to be junked. The garage man just called and said he would overhaul the motor for $80.00, and fix the wheels for $15.00 or $20.00. But the body will still look like hell."
"How is your business now?" I asked. "Are you beginning to feel the recovery that has come to so many?"
"Well, I can't complain. There has been a steady increase in my business for sometime now, for the first time in years I have been able to pay all operating expenses and have even been able to take up some of the back debts, and my taxes that were two years behind.
Page 9
"I'm working hard to got my business back on a paying basis. Then I'm going to sell out, pay off my mortgage, and make my home into 4 apartments.
"I am planning to live in one of them and rent the other three. As you know I don't have chick nor child to leave anything to. I'm alone in the world and I want to get out of this struggle and die in peace.
"Living too high and having too much money to spend was the cause of the depression. People didn't realize that a pay day was coming. I even, expected business to make a quick comeback after a very short recession. If I hadn't I would have been better prepared to meet the crisis.
"What is my opinion of women in business?' She asked sharply.
"Why, they make much better managers than men. They are much more observant. Men look out for the dollars and women take care of the dimes. In other words men are too confident and never find the leak until the well runs dry.
"Roosevelt is the only president we have had for many years that tried to do anything for the people of our country. Some of the things he tried failed, but at least he tried. All this criticism about the WPA was not brought about by his ideas or is it his fault.
"Polities is responsible for most or it, for much or the money has found its way into the pockets of the politician and the so-called
Page 10
higher ups. Most of the poor devils who needed it, need it still.
"And to go back to my husband and me again. He was on the receiving end at the plant and I stayed downtown at the office. He kept all he took in and I had to meet all operating expenses.
"And this woman that he hauled up out of the gutter! Do you know he bought her an automobile, sent her children to school, and she had $6000 in a safety deposit box at the bank. No wonder I couldn't take up the mortgage on my home.
"Not long before my husband died she had some dental work done and he stood good for the bill.
"When he died a very short time later, the dentist sent his bill to the French Dry Cleaning Company.
"Well, I took the bill and walked into his office and told him that the Company didn't owe him anything. He said: 'I'll put the matter in the hands of an attorney.'
"As I flounced out of the office I threw back at him:
"'to hell with you! If you haven't any better sense than to do work for a damned crook, you just try to collect it.'"
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 32 of 73
[I Wanted to be a Merchant]
I WANTED TO BE A MERCHANT
A Depression Victim Story
Written by: Mrs. Daisy Thompson
Augusta
Edited by: Mrs. Leila A. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Augusta, Georgia
February 2, 1940
L. R. Allen
451 Telfair Street
Augusta, Georgia
January 23, 1940
D. T.
I WANTED TO BE A MERCHANT
"The past few years have brought many changes in my way of living." John Robson said thoughtfully. "But all of these readjustments came after I had realized my lifelong ambition of coming to the city as a merchant.
"I was born and reared out in the country, where the sun shines brighter, the air is purer and where one gets in closer touch with nature and God. My father's farm was located near Louisville, a former capital of Georgia, which prior to the War Between the States was a great slave market. The old covered stand from which the slaves were sold is still standing in the center of the square. One of the town's civic organizations has beautified the old relic by surrounding it with flowers and shrubbery.
"My father and mother owned the farm. There were five children, three boys and two girls. Only two of us are living now - one sister and myself.
"I don't recall anything very eventful or exciting during my childhood on the farm. I helped my father and my brothers with the farm work and did chores around the house. The principal event of the week was dressing up in my Sunday clothes and going to Sunday school and "preaching," which
Page 2
was held once a month.
"Of course, the young boys and girls' had some social gatherings. In fact, we always had a get-together after Sunday school. There were really not many other opportunities for seeing the young people.
"All during my boyhood my ambition was to get grown and go to a city and become a merchant. Fame and fortune kept constantly calling me to the bright city lights. When I was 21 yours old I launched out for Augusta and got me a job as clerk with a retail grocery store at a salary of $10 a month.
"Wanting to be near me, my father and mother moved to Augusta and opened up a boarding house. Thus I was able to continue to live with them.
"After one year the firm doubled my salary and I stayed with them for another year. Then I received an offer from a wholesale and retail grocery company which carried a salary of $45 per month. I worked on this job for seven years. Then I resigned without hesitation at the end of that period to accept a position with another grocery concern which would pay me $85 a month. I worked at that salary for two years.
"By this time I had saved a little and was making a fair salary. I went to Thomson, Georgia, married the girl of my dreams and brought her to Augusta. The firm raised my salary to $100 a month and we were getting along very nicely. Our
Page 3
happiness was short-lived, however, for my wife died within less than six months after we were married.
"I stayed in the same position for several years longer until in 1921 I accepted a job that paid me $125 a month. I worked for this grocery firm for seven years, during which time I re-married. My second wife had some money of her own and being very economical and thrifty she managed to accumulate quite a nice savings account. Another offer from a grocery firm with a $50 increase came at this time and for the two ensuing years I received $175 a month for my services.
"my wife had continued to save and after several years she had quite a nice nest egg in the bank. It amounted to about $18,000. With this and my good salary we felt that we were very comfortable indeed.
"Then along came a man named Johnson, who had previously operated a grocery business. He asked me to enter into a partnership with him on a 50-50 basis, each of us to put up a certain amount of cash. My wife did her best to get me to reject his proposition but after several conversations with him he over-persuaded me and I consented.
"In 1930 we opened a wholesale and retail grocery business under the firm name of Robson and Johnson. Our capital stock amounted to about $10,000, including fixtures, etc. The first year our sales amounted to $125,000, and the business continued
Page 4
to prosper for several years. My partner looked after the office, bookkeeping, making deposits, etc., and my wife duties were to look after the buying, the stock, and the sales.
"I had complete confidence in Johnson and left all of the financial part of the business to him. It took three years for me to realize what a terrible mistake I had made for, when I did examine our affairs the firm had become heavily involved. I exerted every effort to pull out of the hole we were in. I, personally, borrowed $2,100 but it wasn't long before I realized that in spite of this we were going further and further in debt. We were finally forced into a receivership. I then persuaded the Miller Brothers to buy out the business which they did in May 1935. They changed the name of the firm and retained me as manager for two and a half years. At the end of that time one of the Brothers became dissatisfied with the return on his investment and they decided to close out the business.
"There I was, left high and dry without even a job. After a short time I secured employment with one of our large cotton firms. They paid me $20 a week for one year. At this point the government took charge of the cotton situation, with a resultant general slowing up of the cotton business and my salary was reduced to $15 a week.
Page 5
"The long seige of worry and trouble had taken its toll and my health began to fail. I was compelled to undergo an operation on my leg.
The trouble was caused by varicose veins. Of course this hampered as and as I was unable to get out in the country and collect bad accounts as I had always done, I lost out altogether.
"Then the depression really got in its work for as I was unable to meet the payments on my home, which was valued at $8,000, I soon lost it. We moved to a downtown apartment and we are still living there.
"My come-back has been only nominal, but despite being handicapped by a lame leg, I am selling merchandise on a commission basis. My income is sufficient to support myself and my wife and the two boys whom we have practically adopted.
"We have been able to even save a little money, for my wife never lost her thrifty ideas. After my health became involved we decided to go on one of the personally conducted Canadian tours.
"We left Augusta by train. The rest of the party had left the day before and gone to Savannah. They were going by boat to some seaport along the way. We didn't feel that I could stand the water trip, so we waited and joined the rest of the party later.
"We spent a day and a night at the National Capital, then
Page 6
went on to Philadelphia, and on to Atlantic City. Then we went back to Philadelphia and took the train for New York City. Next we sailed up the Hudson River to Albany and from there we entrained for Niagara Falls where we spent a day. From the Falls we went to Toronto, Canada. Then we took the train for Buffalo, New York. As we had been away from home for 26 days, we felt that it was long enough and so we started back to Augusta.
"It was really a wonderful trip and a very inexpensive one. We bought two tickets for $196 apiece. I had $35 in my pocket, and I went down and drew $300 out of the bank, six 50-dollar bills.
"We soon found that everything was planned so completely that it would be unnecessary to spend any of our money except for the personal things that we might wish to buy. We didn't even break one of the 50-dollar bills we had drawn from the bank.
"During our stay at Washington, D. C., we were registered at the Chaselton Hotel. After we had lunch we inquired of the clark at the desk if he knew anything or the whereabouts of Colonel Clark, who had been stationed at bus Augusta Arsenal for a number of years, but had been transferred to Washington. Without hesitation, the clark informed us that we would find the
Page 7
colonel almost directly across the street at the George Washington Hospital. We went over immediately to call on him.
"During his assignment at the Augusta Arsenal, his family and mine had became very good friends, but we hadn't heard from them for a number of years. He gave us a very hearty welcome. Then he called his wife over the telephone and told her to come down as soon as she could, that he had a very pleasant surprise for her and that she must be sure and bring the car along. Mrs. Clark arrived in a remarkably short time and after exchanging greetings, they drove us all over the city. We enjoyed it to the fullest.


"My wife and I were never had any children of our own but, in the course of our wedded life we have partially raised and educated 10 children, and of them relatives of ours. Four of these children were brothers who had lost their mother at a very tender age and for a number of years their father had drunk heavily. Since that time he has stopped drinking and has married again. However, we still have two of these boys and, as I said before, we have practically adopted them.
"When the four brothers I have already mentioned were making their home with us, two of them have us quite a bit of trouble. They used to run away and get into petty difficulties,
Page 8
etc., causing us a lot of anxiety and quite a nice sum of money. When their father lived with us and drank so much, we were greatly embarrassed at times, and paid out lots of money trying to keep him out of trouble.
"This man was a splendid shoes salesman and could get a job almost any time he wanted one. However, when pay day come around he would almost invariably get drunk and in this way he lost many a good job.
"I recall one instance when he went to Atlanta and got in jail. He sent for me immediately. I went up and got him out on bond and employed a lawyer for him. This lawyer charged me $150.00 when I employed him and another $150.00 in a few days. I considered this very unfair. Another lawyer, a friend of mine from Augusta who was visiting in Atlanta, told me that it was illegal, and that I should demand half of my money back.
"Before I even got to see the man he lost his life when his home burned down. The chances of my getting my money back burned up with it as I had no way to prove that he had gotten it from me.
"During all the years of misfortune and depression, my wife's courage and faith had never failed. She met each now trial with great fortitude and cut her garment to suit the cloth she had. She is always bright and cheerful. Sometimes
Page 9
I get a little despondent, but she always manages to lift me up again. We lost our nice home and are now living in a rented apartment, but we have learned to be thankful that we can have a fairly good living."
"Do you hold membership in any of our fraternal orders or clubs, Mr. Robson?" I asked.
"No." He replied. "I have never joined any clubs or lodges because I have been a very busy man, and in the days when I could have done things like that, my work kept me closely confined at my store."
"But you are a church member?" I inquired.
"Oh, yes," he answered. I have been a member of the Methodist Church for years and I have endeavored to be a good one. I have also given as [?] to charity as my income would permit, and you may rest assured that every merchant on Broad Street has many and varied calls for money.
"I am also a member or our Bible class and am intensely interested in the work they are doing.
"I never missed a Sunday until my health began to fail to such an extent that walking became difficult and the use of a stick imperative."
"Did I understand you to say that you have never attended High School, Mr. Robson?" I asked him.
"Yes, I did say that, because in those days children on
Page 10
the farms were fortunate to get a common school education. At that time there were no [consolidated[?]] schools in the country and sometimes we would have to walk several miles to school. There were no such things as school busses in those days.
"I have noticed all through our conversation that your English is good and I know you write a beautiful hand." I told him.
"Well, it was this way. After I closed the store at night a friend of mine, who was also a merchant, allowed me to come to his place of business and he taught me for quite a while. That man wrote the prettiest hand I ever saw. Then when I secured a better job with another firm, the proprietor taught me practical bookkeeping, letting me learn by posting his books at night after closing hours. He would stay at the store and teach me, for which I was indeed grateful."
"I feel that the World War was the primary cause of the general economic depression. As soon as war was declared prices began to rise and when our country finally became involved, salaries increased and naturally, people had more money to spend. Those who didn't have the money, anticipated their wants and borrowed it. At that time the banks had ample money and were eager to lead it. People spent lavishly and wanted luxuries in addition to the necessities. Prices
Page 11
soared and credit was easily obtained. While this period of inflation lasted everything went well, the rich became richer, and the poor had many things previously unknown to them.
"Then came deflation. The mother banks in New York [climbed[?]] down on the smaller ones, refusing to let them have any more money; they were unable to carry on and were forced to close their doors. Stocks and bonds hit rock bottom, prices took a drastic drop, businesses failed and then came the general depression. As a natural result many people lost their jobs.
"General Motors, the steel plants, automobile industries, the sugar market, Coco Cola, and even the pepper market suffered. When the market broke people had no money with which to meet their obligations and even many millionaires became paupers overnight.


"During the inflation period, cotton soared as high as 42� a pound. Those who had cotton anticipated 50� and held their cotton at these high figures, then when the market collapsed they lost everything they had.
"The small banks that had made loans to farmers and others suffered terrific losses and the majority of them were compelled to close.
"The government finally stopped in and took over the cotton situation. Farmers were allowed to plant only a
Page 12
certain amount of cotton, and an a result many cotton factors were forced out of business.
"During the war when prices rose so high it was often necessary for merchants to contract for ahead. When the crash came we were loaded up on a great many commodities that we were forced to sell at a terrific loss.
"White meat that was bought for 32 and 35 � was sold for as low as 12 � and some of it for 4 and 5 � per pound. Sugar was another commodity that brought heavy losses to grocery firms. Manufacturers held merchants to their contracts, forcing them to pay and in many instances brought suit against them.
"At one time we bought a lot of syrup for 35 � a gallon and had to sell it for [17 1/2 [?]] �. At that we considered ourselves lucky to get half price for it, because later we found that it was fermented.
"Another firm bought two carloads of corn about the same time. It was found to be [weevil[?]] eaten and instead of realizing a profit on the cost price of $1.55 a bushel, they were glad to sell all of it for 55 �.
"Of course there were many contributing causes to the depression, but it is my firm belief that the World War was the main one/.
"And so, while it has left many [scars[?]], I still have much for which to be thankful."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 33 of 73
[I'm Planning to Make a Come Back]
Life Story
I'm PLANNING TO MAKE A COME-BACK
A Depression Victim Story
Written by: Mrs. Ada Radford
Augusta, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Area 7
Augusta, Georgia
February 23, 1940
James Jackson Butler
1369 Broad Street
Augusta, Ga.
Feb. 23, 1940.
I'm PLANNING TO MAKE A COME-BACK
Even in the face of all that has happened to me," said John Clarke, "I still believe I'm man enough to take a man's place in the world and have sense enough to make my own living."
Those of us who have known him for many years and watched with interest as he built up a small fortune by arduous labor, believe that although he is 71 years old he will again make a good living for his family.
My quest for the Clarkes led me to one of the oldest residences on upper Broad Street. While this section no longer enjoys the prestige of former days, several of Augusta's prominent families still maintain residences there. The rain was pouring as I stepped warily up the walk in order to evade numerous puddles as I stepped settled in the low places.
Mr. Clarke came to the door in answer to my ring and asked me to come in.
"My wife is back in the kitchen," he said graciously, "Excuse me while I call her." He looked at me with a very puzzled expression as I said:
"I'll be glad to see Mrs. Clarke but my real business is with you."
I explained to him that we were making a study of people who had seen their financial security vanish completely during the economic recession of the past few years.
"Well," he said thoughtfully and with amusement, "If you think I have anything interesting enough to help you, fire away with
Page 2
your questions and I'll do the best I can.
"So you want me to start at the beginning. Well, I first saw the light of day May 17, 1869 in Oglethorpe County not far from Athens. I was fifth in a family of eight children. My father was a farmer and had two plantations. All during the Civil War rumors were rife that all land was to be confiscated by the government. Trying to evade such a calamity my father sold his property for Confederate money. Of course, when the war closed he was flat broke and had a large family to support. Those were indeed hard days.
"I have often heard my mother tell of the days of privation that followed the war. They rented land and my father worked so hard trying to get another foothold. He was unsuccessful and finally, broken in health and spirit he died when he was only 48 years old heaving my mother with eight children.
"Where did you obtain your education Mr. Clark?" I asked.
"Well," he answered. "This will no doubt surprise you, but my entire schooling was crowded into about six months. This was scattered over a three-year period, two months out of each year - between crops. Then we would get up at 4 in the morning, feed the stock, eat breakfast and take our tin pails and walk about three miles to the one-room log house that was used for the school. Most of the time our lunch consisted of bread and syrup.
"When I was 14 years old I went to Florida and got a job at a sawmill, that paid me 33 1/3 cents an hour. When I had been there
Page 3
seven months I had saved $250. At this time my mother was in desperate need and I could hardly wait to get home to give it to her.
"My father was sick for about seven months. In those days farmers were extended sufficient credit by the landowners to furnish commodities for their families. This was called a grocery run and was payable when crops were gathered. With all of the extra expense brought about by father's illness we were unable to pay for our run and they took everything we had. Included were a yoke of oxen and two horses, which deprived us of the means to cultivate our land. They also seized four cows and six hogs that had been killed and salted ready to cure. These constituted our winter meat supply. You can readily understand what my $250. meant to my mother just at this time.
"Next I got a job with a cousin of mine who was a contractor. He promised to let me start at 75 cents a day and as soon as I had learned enough so he could leave me with a job he would raise me to a dollar a day. Somehow he never paid me but 75 cents a day. I got tired of waiting and left him. I got a job with a railroad foreman, who was building trestles, at $1.50 a day. As soon as my cousin heard of it he went to my boss and told him that I was only an apprentice and that 75 cents was all I should be paid. So the foreman laid me off.
"I was 23 years old now and decided that advancement was too slow in the country, so I made up my mind to come to Augusta. My first city job was in a grocery and bar at $25 a month. After a few months another man offered me $15 a week to take charge of his
Page 4
place at the corner of Eleventh and Broad Streets. I worked with him for more than a year and then became ill. I soon realized that a boarding house was no place for a sick man and I wanted my mother. I think a part of my trouble was homesickness so I went home to stay until I was well.
"When I came back to Augusta my employer had put someone in my place and then, too, he was planning to sell out. Before very long I got a job with the Bell Telephone Company. The work was hard, the hours long and the pay was very small. I had to run lines and tote polls.
"When someone wanted a phone cut in, we had to walk with a big coil of wire over the one shoulder and carry our tools and the phone. After doing all of this when we arrived at some of the places the people would say they had decided they couldn't afford a phone. This was very discouraging as we were paid on a commission basis.
"Often, when I would get up in the morning my hands were so sore I couldn't close them until I had bathed them in hot water.
"Later on the company furnished a horse and wagon and the work was a little lighter. I had the privilege of listening in on the first long distance call from Atlanta and was filled with wonder. I can still recall how proud I was to have had a part in bringing it about although I was only a lineman.
"Inside of another year I agreed to do carpenter work for a man who was building one of Augusta's large hotels. To obtain
Page 5
the prevailing $1.50 wages I had to join the union. In just a short time there was a strike that delayed the hotel's completion for more than five months. I wasn't keen on strikes and as the union was either on a strike or planning for one, I decided to take up another line of work.
""This desire led me to a livery stable and I got a job selling mules and horses in Richmond and the adjoining counties on a commission basis. I saved a little money and bought a pair of mules for myself for $50. Then I bought a 2-mule wagon, paying $5.00 down and agreeing to pay tao balance as I could.
"Now I was in a position to work for myself. I secured a contract to haul poles for the city. I worked early and late most of the time and did the loading alone. Every morning I just had to roll out of bed I was too sore and stiff to raise up. But I soon paid for my mules and wagon.
"I was trying to get enough money ahead to open a barroom for I know there was good money to be made selling whiskey. After a few more months I bought an established business for $400.
"I had a mixed clientele but as the liquor the man had on hand was no good trade began to fall off. Knowing what the trouble was helped a lot and I got busy immediately. First I tore out all of the old fixtures and replaced them with modern ones. I fixed the place up generally and restocked it with good whiskey.
"'the man from whom I had purchased the business advanced the money taking a mortgage on the place. Trade began to pick up at
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once. Within three months I took up the mortgage and then believe me, I really started to make money.
"But my troubles were not over. You see, I was buying my labels from the former owner and I found out later that he was selling me printed labels when I should have been using lithographed ones. When the Upper Ten Wholesale House found this out they prosecuted me. Upon learning that I was purchasing them through someone else they wanted me to turn State's evidence. I refused flatly to turn against the man who had set me up in business so it cost ne me $1400. I didn't mind, however, for at that time my sales were averaging from $900 to $1000 a month and 50% of that was clear profit. ln those days you could really make money selling whiskey. You can't do much now because there's too much revenue.
"Shortly after this I moved to the corner of Jackson and Ellis Streets, and opened one of the best barrooms in the city. The fixtures cost $1500 and I carried the very highest grade of whiskey, wine and beer. My stock was valued at from three to four thousand dollars. It was at this location that I was honored by having Ex-President Taft come into my place for refreshments during an intermission at the old opera house, which was just across the street.
"No, he didn't drink whiskey he had a ginger ale and when he finished he told me that I certainly had a nice place. I thanked him and he went back to the theater."
Page 7
"Were you hard to get along with after that honor Mr. Clarke? Did your hat still fit you? I asked.
"Well," he laughed, "I admit that I was proud of the honor but I was still Jack to my friends.
"And then came the 18th Amendment! I had to close up and the fixtures wouldn't have brought a quarter at a forced sale. I had to fall back on my side-line which was a job as caretaker for the Savannah River Lumber Company. This firm owned a lot of land along the river and they told me I could use all of it I wanted.
"'so I started to farm. I bought 4 mules and for the next 2 years I made good crops of corn and other produce.
"Then war was declared; all my Negroes left me, and I had to make another change. I made a bid on clearing the land for Camp Hancock and got the contract.
"I had 8 mules and 4 wagons. I received $9 a day for each team and the same for myself. For a time I rode a saddle horse and superintended the work but later I bought a car. The work lasted for six months.
"When this was over I received an appointment as labor agent for the government. I got $9 a day for the use of my car with gas and oil furnished and my salary was also $9 a day.
"Just what were your duties in this position?" I wanted to know.
"I went through the country employing help for the camp.
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I tell you I never saw so much money. I had one little Negro that I paid $3 a week just to carry water. I stayed until the camp was dismantled and the last nail was pulled.
"I had saved a good part of what I made and a friend and I went into partnership operating a concrete contracting business. We paved many of the streets of Augusta.
"Then I graded fairways for the Forest hills, Municipal, Country Club and Bobby Jones Golf Courses.
"Next people began to talk depression and work of any kind was hard to get. Those who had money were afraid of their shadows.
"By a good turn of fortune, about this time I was awarded a contract to build 5 miles or roadbed for the Georgia and Florida Railroad. The work was centered around Keysville, Georgia.
"In some way the news got out among the Negroes and even before I was able to secure bond they came by the hundreds asking for work, saying they would take it for anything I would pay them. I could hardly understand it for up to this point it was hard to get a Negro to work for less than 50 cents an hour.
"I selected 50 from about 300 of them and set-up camp near Keysville. I took this job with absolutely no experience. I had never even seen a wheeler before. I just believed I could do it and I did.
"But let as toll you I had more than one kind of experience on this job. Just about this time the road went into the hands
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of a receiver. When next pay day came there was no money to pay off the hands. I really believe the men would have worked right on for we were feeding them. However, I knew that wasn't the proper thing to do. I had $2000 on hand and I offered it as a loan to the road. They accepted and I deposited the money to their credit in the Georgia Railroad Bank.
"The rest of my money was in the Merchant's Bank. Just a few days after I had made the loan to the Railroad, the Merchants' Bank closed its doors and I lost every penny of my $42,000 that was on deposit there.
"This was a terrific blow but it was no-time to give up. I kept on with my work and when the job was finished I had paid for my 6 mules and wheelers and had cleared $2500.
"Within the next few weeks I got a job with the Charleston and Western Carolina Railroad at [Hattiesville?], South Carolina, grading and working gravel pits. I cleared $400 but while I was in camp I took malarial fever and came near dying. I had to come home and it was several weeks before I was able to work.
""When I had recovered fully I worked with one of our local construction companies, just taking jobs when I could get them, which wasn't very often.
"There is an old saying that trouble never comes singly and it certainly was the case with us. My wife took sick just about this time and she was ill for more than a year before she passed away. The loss of my companion and the extra expense came near
Page 10
putting me out of business.
"I owned 28 mules. We had no work and they were eating their heads off. I had made several unsuccessful attempts to sell them so there was nothing to do but keep them. Shortly after this I lost 19 mules that had cost $200 apiece. Some of them were killed and the others got sick and died.
"Then the Savannah River went on a rampage and while I lost three more mules, it netted me a job. I bought 3 trucks and got a contract to help repair the levee. The weather was bad, we couldn't work regularly and when the truck payments came due I couldn't meet them. I lost the trucks and the $500 I had paid on them.
"In order to complete my contract I was forced to hire trucks for which I had to pay $1.00 an hour. I finished the job in four months but did not realize any profit. In other words I lost money and was down to my last dollar when I learned that the Gulf Refining Company had bought the house and lot on the corner of 13th and Broad Streets and that the building would be torn down.
"I got in touch with the manager immediately and offered him $200 for the building. This was his answer.
"'Clarke, if you will move the building, it belongs to you.'
"I got a bunch of Negroes together, tore it down and sold the salvaged lumber for $1000.
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"About this time I married again. My second wife was anxious for us to try a soft drink and sandwich shop and with the little cash I had, I think It was about $150, I rented a place on the 800 block of Broad Street for $75 a month.
"It wasn't long after we opened that my health failed completely and we were forced to close. I stored my fixtures and went home for treatment. It took 3 months for me to get on my feet again and we reopened the shop and stayed there for 2 years. My wife and I both worked. We managed to make a living but very little extra money found its way to the bank.
"I decided my overhead was too heavy, so we moved to the 500 block on Broad Street. When we were there just a short time our place burned up. We only had $200 insurance and we thought it was about time to quit the soft drink business.
"And now we only have this 10-room house. We rent furnished rooms and furnish meals to those who want them. Yes, we are making expenses but the chief responsibility is on my wife and I want to make the living for my family.
"I'm planning to make a come-back. Just how I don't know but as I said in the beginning, I believe I'm still man enough to take a man's place in the world and also have sense enough to make my own living."
"Well, Mr. Clarke," I told him, "I am sure that with your spirit and determination, you can't fail."
"You don't need me to tell you that the World War caused the
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depression. It was only a repetition of history. You see, I suffered terribly from the effects of the Civil War, but it was a whole lot worse this time because I had so much more.
"People in general felt it more because they didn't realize what they were up against. Most of them thought it was only temporary and would soon pass. Prior to the depression folks bought automobiles and lived far beyond their means.
"Suddenly money ceased to flow like water. Then people were unable to pay their debts and of course they couldn't buy anything. The merchants were overstocked and couldn't meet their notes when they were due. Property values dropped and as many of the banks had exhausted their reserve, they had to close. You couldn't borrow a dollar from your own mother and I believe the country was on the verge of a revolution when President Roosevelt was inaugurated. He has saved the people in one way and in another the W.P.A. ruined them.
"Take as for instance, I am a contractor and my business is excavating, hauling, /and grading. I can't even get one contract! Why? Because every city and county contract is awarded to the W.P.A."
"Well," I said, "You will have to admit that while the W.P.A. has hurt you it has at the same time given employment to thousands of people who without that work would have been hungry."
"I do know that,' he said, "And I am glad. I may be forced to ask them for work myself some day, but not until I have tried everything else first.
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"I will be 71 years old in May. And get this again, I am coming back! And soon. Some day before very long I will again be able to write a fair-sized check and the bank will honor it."
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 34 of 73
[I'se a Fast 'Oman]
I'sE A FAST 'OMAN
Written By:
Mrs. [Leela?] Bradley
Research Worker
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens -
Edited By:
Mrs. Maggie [B.?] Freeman
Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens -
WPA Area - 6
October 10, 1939
September [18?], 1939
Lisa Johnson (Negro)
[180?] Newton Street
Athens, Georgia
Midwife
Bradley I'sE A FAST 'OMAN
The ascent to Maria Jones house was the most precarious [feat?] I ever attempted. The main road leading to the foot of the hill was bad enough, dusty, rocky and full of ruts, but when I began to climb, my courage almost failed me. There was a narrow beaten path leading to the top. On each side were woods and grass, while the path itself was nothing but rocks, stones, and washouts.
Finally I reached the top of this incline which brought me to a long flight of steps. These were very rickety, almost hazardous. Finally I reached the top and found myself on the narrow porch.
Maria met me at the [end?] of the steps, "Good evenin', Miss, come right in. Youse had'er hard climb, ain't you?"
"Yes, Maria, but I feel fully repaid for it, for look at that beautiful view you get from here."
And indeed it was lovely. The city spread in the distance like a panorama. The hills and valleys made you feel you were in the mountains, while the breeze
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[reminded?] you of the seashore.
The house was a ramshackle affair. It was divided into two apartments, and the [two?] rooms on the right were the ones in which Maria and her family, four in all, lived. The front room was the living room and bedroom combined, while the back room was used for sleeping, cooking, and eating. These were both scantily furnished and in great disorder. The room which you [entered?] first contained an iron bed and two pieces of worn carpet for rugs. At the windows were lace curtains that at one time had been of good quality but had seen their best days. The only very noticable thing in this room was a radio, turned on with such volume I [could?] scarcely hear my own voice. In this room slept the good-for-nothing daughter, Lisa, and son-in-law, Jake, who was at home hiding from the "vancy" (vagrancy) officer. Jake was very much opposed to work.
Maria and John, her husband, slept, cooked, and ate in the other room. In the beck yard, smoke was rising from around the pot where clothes were boiling, for this was wash day.
We sat on the front-porch to enjoy the breeze while we talked. Maria was fifty-five years old and in appearance she was not very [prepossessing?]. On her head was an old felt hat of Uncle John's, the brim almost
Page 3
completely gone, and through the torn crown bits of her kinky hair were peaking up.
"Honey, please pardon my looks, I'se been washin' ter-day. I don't looks lak dis when I'se on a job. I dresses up den-you know I'se a midwife. Yes, I heps ter bring little babies inter dis world. I ain't had no cases lately, makes me wondah what folks is doin'. Makes me short o' money too, case now dey ain't [sech?] a turrible mount o' money in dat, but its bettern nuthin'.
'tell me something of your life, Maria, and how you happened to become a midwife?" I asked.
"Well", she began, "I wuz born down here in Washington, Georgia, Wilkes County. I lived there a long time. Den I wanted to git ter a bigger place, so I moved to Athens. Jus been here fifteen years. I married when I wuz twelve,yes, Lawd, I did, dat is to my fust husban. You know I'se had two, Honey. Yes, I'se been married all mah life. I had a baby when I wuz [thirteen?]. Den I didn't stop til I had fohteen chillun. Tell de trufe, Miss, I wuz sorter fast like all de gals and boys ter day. Guess dats how I had chillun so fast. No, I ain't slo' 'bout nothin' I do's.
"You know, I quit mah fust husband. I wuz sorter crazy 'bout him at fust, but aftah awhile I found out
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married life wusn't whut I thought for, so I quit 'im. I stuck wid 'im til all [dese?] chillun wuz growed up. Den I lef'. No when he jound me, I didn't hab no chillun, and he sho to God won't goin' ter lef' me wid none. I and him just couldn't git long. I couldn't sarve de Lawd stayin' so worried up, so I just quit. Mah chillun finally died, 'scusin' Liza [heah?]. She's mah baby, and she is twenty-foh.
"I didn't have no spechil trainin' for mah wuk, 'scusin' whut I got from de doctors and 'sperience. Dat's de best anyhow, all de teaching in de world don't hep you none lessen you sho 'nuff catch a baby. De fust time sorter scites you, but aftah day hit comes easy. Why, Miss, I cotched mah fust baby when I wuz fohteen years old, and hit wuz my mammy's, and a gal. I allus wuz curious bout things lak dat and as I done told you I wuz sorter fast like, and I got ter followin' doctors round and just thing youse know I wuz cotchin' babies too.
"I don't never has any truble, well not but once. I had a white gal patient. Lawsy, she wuz a sight. I wrasseled wid her fer twenty-foh' hours. De baby did come though, and hit wuz all right 'cept sorter slo' bout ketchin' its bref, so I holds it up and spanks, and, God, how it did holler. Dat galls pa, he sont fer me. We lived on his place and he thought dey
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couldn't do nothin' witout me.
Looking down at herself, she said, "Miss, I'se sho don't look lak dis when I'm on a case. I has white uniforms, and I wears them when I knows head o'time. Sometimes though, dey don't give you time to hardly git anything on. Hurry calls,you know. Most in general dey speaks ter you and engages you when dey has been cotched 'bout foh months.
"Dey pays you five dollars down in 'vance. Den when de time comes dey is sposed to pay de [balance?]. Course now if anything happens for instance, I gits sick or go away -- den I's sposed to refund de five dollars. No, I don't [evah?] send fer a doctor, less ob course sumpin' happens dat I ain't spectin'. Fust thing I does when I goes on a case, I 'xamine dem ter see if de baby is coming straight, if it ain't I sends for de doctor. And I allus keeps a doctor spotted in case ob trouble.
She paused in her conversation to pick up a little baby who had come from an adjoining apartment.
"Here comes mah baby" she said. "She thinks I'se her mammy." And still talking to the child she said, "Honey, tell whut yer been doin' a'day. Been havin' ter cook and wuk hard. Well, lay yo little [haid?] down and take yourself a little nap while I holds yer. "
Gently shaking the child on her knees, she continued, "I loves chillun, but, Lawd, ain't dey lots ob trouble.
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Yer nevah know whut yer bringin' 'em in dis world fer. Der's Liza in dere, she's just out ob de stockade, and dat sorry husband in dere too. Dey wuz sont up fer fightin' each odder.
"Goin' back ter whut I wuz sayin', my biggest trouble in bein' a granny is I'm fast and I wants things to move off fast too. Why, when I had mah fohteen, I didn't have ter hab but a pain or two and dere de younguns wuz.
"Dey ain't lak dat though. Some haf' ter be coaxed and petted long - but for me - I wuz allus rarin' ter go. I sho had a time wid my last patient. She wuz young and high-strung and look lak she won't nevah gwine haf dat baby, but atter while she calmed down and got ter work. Most ob my patients is been dere befo' so dey knows how ter do.
"Law no, Honey, I don't fool wid politics, don't knows nothin' bout dem. I guess I'se religious long as folks don't make me mad. I goes ter church once a month, but jus let somebody cross me up and I cusses lak hell.
Looking up the street, Maria suddenly became alarmed. Quickly she called to Jake. "Better git back in dere quick, son dere comes de vacancy cop." Then to me - "Dem cops is jus been runnin' wild roun' here ter day. I thinks dey is wrong, but we had to have laws, and it's de cop's place to enforce 'em.
"And so Jake hasn't a job?" I said.
"No, mam, he ain't been out'er de stockade very long for beatin' his wife." And speaking again to Jake in an
Page 7
anxious tone of voice, "Son, don't you speck you better git out and git youself a job? I don't wants yer in any mo' trouble". Maria rambled on about the trials and tribulations of married life and raising a family of no-count chillun.
"John, I b'lieve I told yer is my second husband. He's lots olderin' than I is. He's seventy-six. Oh, I likes him very well. He ain't able ter do any hard wuk. He jus sorter wuks de garden and piddles round de house a little. He had foh younguns himself when he married me, but I couldn't fall out bout dat, case I had fohteen myself. I has to do de thinkin' and wukin' at dis house, but den dats my life. John's old and harmless. Den, too, it's sorter nice ter have somebody ter ball out when I gits mad.
"Dere comes de polishy man and I ain't got no money fer him. I declare if de storks don't git busy I don't know whut is ter become ob de grannies.
"Good evenin', " she said to the insurance collector. "No, sir, I jus ain't got you no money dis time, but jus gimme til next week. I think I got a case dat I hopes will pay me well. I'll sho hab yo'r money next time.
Seating herself again, she began to express her sentiments in no uncertain terms about the young people.
"[Young?] folks is so [trifin'?]. Dey oughter be prayin', gittin' ready ter die, but dey ain't. Dey's live wires, jus runin' round de country gittin' babies who don't know
Page 8
who's dey daddies, causin' so much trouble.
Speaking to the others, she said, "Say is anybody listin' to dat radio? Turn it off. Dis lady cain't hear her ears.
"Don't turn it off on my account, Marie", I said. "I must be going."
"Well, I sho has enjoyed talking to you, and say, Miss, if you knows ob anybody who needs a granny, please ter let me know.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 35 of 73
[In Lieu of Something Better]
IN LIEU OF SOMETHING BETTER
Written by: Miss Minnie Stonestreet
Washington, Georgia
Edited by: Mrs. Leila H. Harris
Supervising Editor
Georgia Writer's Project
Area 7
Augusta, Georgia
January 9, 1940
Minnie Stonestreet
Washington, Georgia
December 19, 1939
IN LIEU OF SOMETHING BETTER
it is so near Christmas and everybody, even depression victims, are in too great a rush to give me an interview. So, as Georgia Writers' work, like the show must go on, I'll just tell my own story for want of a better one. I certainly belong in the list of hard luck folks, yet I have the best there is in life - the best mother in the world, health, a cozy little bit of a home even if it isn't quite paid for, a circle of loyal friends, with always the best Friend who seems much nearer at Christmas time when all heaven and earth join in celebrating His birthday.
To begin at the beginning, I was born, which, according to some who came into the world before the birth certificate law, is about the hardest fact of all to prove. But I have my own mother's word for it, that I was really born on the stroke of midnight in the middle of a very hot summer. She said I started out in life with an indefinite birthday and a lusty yell.
My father was the eldest of three children and was the only son. When he was 8 years old his father died of tuberculosis; four years later his mother passed away with the same disease. In those days it was believed that tuberculosis was inherited, and everyone who was at all interested in the "Howard orphans" made it their business to warn the poor little things that they were doomed, that every cough was a sure
Page 2
symptom of the terrible white plague. They grew to be of age somehow, surprised that they had escaped that far, but with the deep-rooted conviction that they were living on borrowed time; that in a few short years they would succumb to their inherited lung trouble. Although not one of then died of the trouble their whole lives were shadowed by its fear.
On her deathbed my grandmother had a lifelong friend called in. He was a prominent man in the community, known for his kindness and goodness, and she asked him to take her children, and their property and raise the little ones as though they were his, providing for them out of their property, and giving each of them a good education.
Everything that could be sold was turned into money, even to my father's pony that his father had given him went on the block while he cried, begging through his sobs, to be allowed to keep it. Only quilts made by their mother, handmade coverlets and spreads, one each, were given the children of all the handsome old furnishings of the home. The estate, all told, amounted to up in the thousands, a big estate in those days. The guardian took the children into his home, reared them and managed their property. It was so well managed (?) that when my father was of age there was only several hundred dollars and not one thing extra had been spent for him, not even a college education as his mother had requested. He refused his share saying he would wait until his sisters
Page 3
were of age and then each would receive the remnant of their inheritance. This they did, but where the money went was never known for there was no one to investigate and the standing of the guardian in the county was so high no one would question his actions. To his dying day my father had the tenderest feeling for orphans and gave all he could afford to the support or orphanages.
Despite his bitter experience when growing up, Father was one of the most trusting persons I have ever known. And I would be much better off today, and maybe not so great a depression victim if I had not inherited that trait. But I am thankful that I still have faith in my fellowman, and have no fear of tuberculosis, although I have received hard raps financially from some, and have been warned all my life by old friends of the family, against taking cold, "for you must remember" they said, "that both of your grandparents died with tuberculosis, and that is the way it started - with colds."
After the death of my grandfather Howard, when I was a mere baby, we moved to the old house in Wilkes county. Here I was the center of attraction for my parents, my grandmother, two bachelor uncles and a young lady aunt. The mystery to me is, how in the world I ever lived through childhood with such close attention! I was my grandmother's shadow after we moved into her home.
Page 4
She told me all the wonderful stories of her life when she was young, all about plantation life before the war, and during the war. About "Old Abe Lincoln", the "damn Yankees" and all the hardships our family endured during those trying days. Early in my life the family found they had a little rebel on their hands, and no one as yet had succeeded in changing me along that line. I love the old South with all of its charm and tradition, romance and beauty, and if I could have been consulted about living, I would have chosen to live my whole life just prior to the War Between the States in the very heyday of Dixie.
Some day I hope to write some of the things my grandmother told me as we used to sit on the long front porch of the old home, she with her quilt making, and me sitting in a little chair at her feet begging for more stories. She almost lived an the porch and could tell time by the sun. The house fronted East and in the morning she told time by the rows of nails in the old-fashioned plank floor. When the sun got to one row of nails it was time to go in and see about dinner; in the afternoons the sun was in the walk, a long walk it was to a gate that was never fastened. The boxwoods on the walk were the clock numerals, it was time to feed the chickens when the sun was at a certain boxwood; the rural mail carrier was due when it stood at another one, and so on. I have never known any other person that could tell time so accurately without a clock. Not that there were no timepieces in our family, there were plenty
Page 5
of them, but my grandmother was such a busy person she did not like to have to get up from her sewing on quilts long enough to go inside the house to see the clocks so she studied the sun's progress close enough to tell time by it.
We were, I suppose, what was known as the middle class of that day, although in our community our family was looked up to by the neighbors.
We lived in a historic old house, one of the oldest in this section of the state. My grandfather an eccentric, spoiled, youngest child of a large adoring and wealthy family, got cross when he started an addition to the house and never finished it, and, strange to tell, that portion of the house remains unfinished to this day, although all of his large family was born and reared there. It is a delightful old place, sitting back in a large grove of magnificent oaks. I played in the big front yard in the shade of the most beautiful white oaks I have ever seen, and allowed my imagination full rein. I had a whole town laid out there, streets, houses, and everything my over-active fancy could think of except a cemetery. When I suddenly realized that every town that was any town at all had a cemetery, I set about having one in my town in a hurry.
How, did not long remain a problem; I got a big basin of water, and in a moment it was a lovely lake with boats made of large leaves, sailing on its mirrored surface. In the boats were passengers, men, women, and children created with straws of various lengths all dressed with flower petals.
Page 6
All went well for a little while, then there was a terrific collision, two boats went down carrying every passenger to the bottom. Lo, when the sad task at finding the dead and interring them was over, there was an up-to-the-minute cemetery, a credit to any town!
My father taught school and when I was seven years old I started to/ his school. I was so tiny at six that it was decided to let me grow a little more before I started on the long hard task of getting educated. Among my very sweetest memories are the early days in school when my father was the teacher. We had to go two miles and rode most of the time, but in nice weather we walked through a beautiful wood and in the spring he would stop and we would get wild flowers and heart leaves on our way. I feel sorry for the children of today who are picked up at their doors and whizzed along to school; they miss so such by not having to walk a little way through the woods where all nature is smiling and restful both to mind and body.
Those perfect days changed, however, My father's health failed and he decided to move to Washington, 10 miles away. He accepted a position as bookkeeper in one of the big mercantile places here and in February we moved so that he could take over his duties on March 1st. He was taken with Lagrippe soon after moving, and was never well again. He died early in July. During his illness and at his death all the family savings had to be used.
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My mother's family begged her to move back to the old home in the country in which she had an undivided interest. She would not do this preferring to make our way and keep me in school here. She started sewing the fall after my father's death and her work pleased her few customers so much that it was not long before she had more work than she could do. She kept busy day and night. Many nights I have waked up past midnight and there she was sewing, unaware that I was awake. I have seen her dry her eyes, grieving for my father who died so young, just 44. She was 12 years younger than he was.
I was doing well in school after my father's death when I was taken sick following a mild attack of German measles. For three years the family physician gave Mother no hope of my recovery. But finally I won the fight against disease and very gradually got back to fairly good health. In the meantime my school work had to go undone. This distressed us all, but the wise old physician said that my health was worth more than any education and he was sure I had ambition enough to study at home and learn for myself. This I did when I was able. My mother was not able to have a private teacher for me and much too busy to teach me herself. I soon found myself almost living in our city library where I had the best of books of every kind, and I studied night and day.
When I was in my late teens a former Washington woman came home after having taught for years in a business college.
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Her family prevailed upon her to teach here. This she did and I enrolled at once. In class one day she said that the course was a hard one and that it took high school graduates to complete it. After I finished I told her I was not a high school graduate and she was amazed. Later I taught shorthand and typing and my pupils have been most successful in the business world.
After finishing my business course on the 31st of August I went to work on the 2nd of September in the office of a young attorney whose practice was not large enough to warrant a secretary's services, but his father who was very wealthy had died and the estate had to be settled.
This made it necessary for someone to be in the office constantly. I worked for four months here, the attorney paid as $30.00 and a cotton buyer who had desk space with him paid me $20.00 for writing cotton checks for him. Fifty dollars a month and all of it mine! After the fall was over there was no more work for me for sometime, only odd jobs occasionally. All of those precious dollars saved had to be used until finally I landed another job. This time I received $50.00 per month and all went well for a long time. Then the honorable attorney felt he could no longer afford such a luxury as a stenographer (and he really couldn't judging from the small number of cases he had and the way his wife spent money), so I was called in his private office and was told the story I dreaded so to hear: "I have decided that I must do my own work since business is off so much. I would
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like to keep you on but this will be the last month I can possibly afford it." So there I was again out of work. For several mouths I worried as I saw my second savings account dwindle lower and lower and no prospect of a job.
Help finally came through the close friendship of an elderly woman who almost adopted me. She kept me with her for a large portion of the time and took me on many pleasure and research trips. In this way I learned much of the history and tradition of our town and county and to greatly appreciate our old records. I had a great desire to work among the old records in the courthouse, but how to land a job there I did not know. But one day I had an inspiration to apply to the Clerk or Court for a place in his office. Not waiting to go downtown to see him, I slipped down to the telephone when no one was in the house and called him up. He was very sorry, but he did not have an opening, but would keep me in mind should a vacancy occur. A little while later, just when I was beginning to despair, I was called to the phone and it was the Clerk saying that the man who was working for him had resigned, so would I call by the next morning to talk about the position. I was so happy I could hardly speak but some how I told him I would be there. How long that night was; I could not get to the courthouse fast enough when morning finally came. I walked into the Clerk's office
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with the greatest dignity and a calmness I have never understood to this day. I got through the interview and walked out with the job. I reported for work on the 1st day of November 1917.
I remember my first assignment very vividly. It was to record a deed and in a big hurry for the owner was in town for only a short time.
He lived so far out in the country that he could not wait long for the paper and would not trust it to the mails, so he had to wait for it.
I have always had a sneaking suspicion that it was his first paper for record.
So there I was faced by an old model Elliott-Fisher book machine such as I had never seen in fact never even knew that such a contraption was manufactured. Since, I have decided it was the very first one made. My employer very kindly brought the large bound current deed record out of the vault and put it in the machine and started me off. There I was perched up on a high stool, my poor little stumpy arms reaching their full length and then some over to the keys up at the very tip top of the page. I was so excited I couldn't strike the right key looking at it, but somehow I finally finished that paper. At the end of the record I was instructed to write "Recorded November 1st 1917." Ever since, whenever I feel I am about to get the "big-head" over anything, I quietly go over to the Clerk's office and
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get out that book, turn to the page and take one good look at that piece of work. I come out, almost on tiptoe greatly taken down and go on about my business knowing I haven't a thing in the world to be stuck-up about.
But with the next recording I was not so excited and did a better job. My work was satisfactory for I stayed on as recording clerk until 1923 when I resigned to take a position in a private office.
The 6 years of service in the Clerk's office meant much to me. I came in contact with many of the county people and made friends among both white and black. I liked the work and hated to leave. Those years at the courthouse covered two entirely different periods - the first of great prosperity, the last the hard days leading to financial ruin - the "depression" as it is known now. At one time during the days when money was easy, there were 4 banks in Washington and 3 in [Tigsall?], making 7 in Wilkes County. They all had a great deal of surplus currency.
I have had over [500?] papers on my desk at one time for record, mostly bills of sale from these banks. For weeks I worked from early morning to late afternoon, never catching up with the papers that streamed in faster than I could put them on record.
A practically unknown person with almost no financial standing could get $50.00 from a bank or an individual, by putting up a hog or two or a bony old cow, that died long
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before the paper was due, as collateral.
Everyone was buying automobiles on paper. Why, I even went so far as to try out a car and figure on buying it, but my more sensible Mother said "No" so emphatically that I know I had better not go against her, as we were among the very few who walked in little old Washington-Wilkes where almost every known make of automobile was on sale in those palmy days. The nearest I ever came to owning one was to buy the Kodak that was included in the equipment of one of the highest priced ones as the buyer already owned a Kodak.
Land prices were soaring at this time. Men who had heretofore acted with wonderful business judgment seemed to throw all discretion to the wind and bought ordinary Wilkes County land at enormous prices. Some made down payments of cash for as much as the land was worth mortgaging the place for the balance. Others mortgaged good homes and land for money to buy high priced farms. I recorded all those papers. Later, when prices began to drop, suits were filed for huge unpaid amounts then in due process of law. I recorded judgment against these good people, and the sheriff's deeds to their lands. I have seen on public sale days, strong men stand with tears in their eyes and with quivering lips as they heard the sheriff's "All bids in - blank Hundred Dollars, once; blank hundred dollars, twice; blank hundred dollars three times, sold to Mr.
So-and-so for Blank Hundred Dollars."
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This price in most instances being about 1/10 of what it had sold for a few years before.
As I saw so many victims of the crash following the prosperous years of 1918-19-20 - I thought I sympathized with them feeling that we were fortunate indeed. Mother had 100 acres of as good land as there was in the county and a nice bank account. I had two Liberty bonds and a savings account besides a job with a sure salary. Hard times were something behind us - we had gone through all we would ever have. Then too, all these people who were having such trying times now were poor managers, that was all - poor managers. Better believe I could manage better than that, I'd never lose what I had, no sir, not I! Well - let's see.
During these prosperous times I have been talking about, my Uncle Ben refused $40.00 cash per acre for his 190 acre farm. And he had sold the timber on about 200 acres of the home place for $9,500.00 cash. Out or this amount Mother received her one-fourth share.
I accepted a position with a prominent insurance agent, on July 1st 1923. He had observed my work and offered me the place at a considerable raise over what I was getting, with the promise of promotion as I earned it. My poor back was well-nigh broken with the lifting of heavy books in the Clerk's office, and too, I was constantly reminded that
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there was no future to the job. I tried for a raise time after time, but always met with the same story - "paying as much as I can", when the truth is I was by my own work, making more than my salary in 3 to 5 days every month, not counting costs of suits, cancellations, salary during court and much else that did not come to my desk, and I was the only help in the office.
I was delighted with my new work from the first and received a raise in a few months. In October after I changed positions, my bachelor uncle, failing in health, wanted to come live with us. We lived in an apartment without a spare bedroom. So he fixed himself up a nice room in the garage that had been used a short while/ before as a home by the family while they were building the house. He had been with us only a few weeks when he was taken seriously ill.
On the following Thanksgiving eve, my mother went to bed feeling a little tired, but as well as usual. The next morning she was too sick to get up and the doctor said she was very ill; he feared pneumonia. This dread malady did develop and for days three doctors and two nurses did all that was known to medical science, but at one time it seemed of no avail. One morning they all gave up hope and said that the end was only a few hours off. However, they did not stop their brave struggle to win against the enemy. After an hour or two there was a slight change for the better - the crisis was past and then started the long tedious period of convalescence. In May of
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the next year she was pronounced well enough to be dismissed by the doctor and was allowed to dress for the first time since her illness.
For two or three months I had to be at home for my uncle grew so much worse that we did not expect him to live - in fact I had given up hope of my mother and uncle - it seemed they were going together. But all this time my employer kept my place for me, but of course, I lost the pay for all the time I was out. When mother got better and all expenses were paid, the family savings had about reached bottom again - timber money and all.
In July of that year my uncle died. His will was read and to my surprise he had left me his little 190 acre farm and ny mother a big portion of his estate. This all did not amount to so very muck after his last expenses were met and the inheritance tax, ordinary's and attorney's fees were paid. Mother straightened up all affairs and opened a savings account in the Exchange Bank, the oldest bank here and the one we had always used.
How proud I was over owning a farm - a plantation all my very own. Immediately I had dreams of a fortune made farming, and sat about to make those dreams come true. Right away, as though to spur me on, a local lumberman wanted a small tract of timber. I sold if for $600.00, that was just the pines, not the land. This money I took and invested in fixing up the houses on the place, buying farming equipment
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and hiring a farmer. An old Negro man and his wife whom he called "Pig" were highly recommended to me, but the man he lived with wouldn't let him go until he finished paying him a debt, the balance being $35.00. Oh, yes, I would pay it gladly, so the check was given him and all arrangements made. Why the first time my tenant came driving my mules to my wagon, I felt like a millionaire! At last, I was farming, and I could hardly wait until fall when I would have many bales of cotton to sell!
Everything went well all spring - for the Negroes and the mules. The first of every month I wrote a check for their rations for 30 days, besides incidentals. Then came the summer - still everything was gong along nicely on the farm for all, except me, including the boll-weevils which had moved in on my cotton fields.
At last the long looked for fall came. With corn, cotton, peas, potatoes - all to be gathered in, and I, the newest farmer, was to have 1/2 of all that was grown on my 190 broad acres. I could hardly wait.
One day, Lee Slakey, the negro farmer, came to the office with the gin certificates for all the cotton grown on my place that year - 2 bales weighing less than 500 each! From them had to come pay for the fertilizer bill, the year's run, and the price/ of cotton almost negligible.
I settled up as best I could, but instead of the dreams
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of a fortune made on a farm, I had nightmares of acres and acres of cotton with all the people I owed standing in the middle of them.
The Negroes pleaded with me to let them stay on, just let them try one more year, they would "'deem everything" and make some money - "Yassum, some big money." So disobeying one of those hunches that an astrologer told/ me always to heed, I agreed to let them stay.
Winter came on and I received news of the death at one of my mules. I was trying to decide whether to got a one-horse wagon and plow, and do the best I could with half of what we had the year before, or to buy another mule and try it all over again in a big way. Before I could decide this all important question, someone came asking that I send the doctor for Lee, my farmer. I went out with the physician who is a kinsman of mine. When he came out to go home he said the man's illness was critical and he did not think he could recover. He died in a day or so, I did have sense enough to see that he kept up his insurance so there was enough from that to pay the doctor and the burial expenses.
I had bought hogs and chickens and they were to be raised on halves. When poor Lee died and his widow "Pig" was moving away, I sent down for my half of the pigs and chickens. Oh, no, there wasn't a one for me, my pigs died and the hawks done catch eb'ry las' one oo' your chickens, Miss Minnie." Of course they expected me to believe it - and
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I guess I was so confused over the sudden turn of events I must have looked simple enough to make them think I really did.
All of this seems bad enough, but there is more. While I was trying to work out some way to get my farming venture out of the red and see about starting over, news came that fire had destroyed the house on my place. For several years I had carried insurance on it - good insurance for it was a very nice house, old but well built. Soon after I had sold my cotton and found how very much I lacked of meeting expenses, I had let the insurance expire - so the house just up and burned from sparks from a forest fire that went over the place destroying much timber in its path. It went on across to Mother's place too but spared her houses.
With this last blow, like the drinking man who was several times thrown out of a party he had gone to uninvited, I picked myself up with the conclusion that fate did not want me to farm, so I just wasn't going to do it. I gathered up what was left, sold all equipment and then had to mortgage the place to help pay the debts made in the grand failure.
At the same time while I was doing all of this, Mother was doing the same thing only on a bigger scale on her adjoining place. She didn't lose any mules, hands or houses, so it took her several years longer to be convinced that it was a losing proposition.
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About this time, came Washington's first bank failure. And of course it had to be the Exchange Bank, the one where our money was deposited.
After about ten years Mother got $12.00 from the over $300.00 she had there.
During all this time I was working at the Carrington Insurance Agency at a very nice salary. However, in 1928 things were very bad financially and my employer got behind with my salary. Times were so hard there was not another opening so I stayed on and kept up as best I could, ever hoping better times would come. "Prosperity was around the corner" in those days, so said everybody.
In 1929, the friend who owned the house we lived in had a splendid opportunity to sell it. He gave us the refusal but it was a larger house than we needed and much more expensive than we could afford after our big losses. We had always wanted a little home, so we bought the small lot next to where we lived and started a home on the unit plan - building only a small portion of what we hope to have some day.
Before starting on our house I had a talk with Mr. Carrington and as assured me that he would have money in hand to pay all he owed me and that my salary would go right on. He then told me glowing stories of his prospects, and I foolishly believed it all. We went ahead and built our house and then everything went to pieces. The bills were
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due and we paid out as far as we could. There was no money to go any farther, Mr. Carrington had failed in his contract and I could not collect anything. Creditors were urging payment and the plumbing man was most especially insistent and ugly. One material man was hard up himself, and through his attorney made things very difficult. He, however, owned an immense plantation down near ours, so as he thought well of my little place, he suggested taking a second mortgage on it. I gladly did this feeling very safe for then neither of them could foreclose without paying the other. With a note signed by both Mother and myself, we satisfied the other material man.
In the office things went from bad to worse. Mr. Carrington had failed completely. He suggested that I take over his recording fire business as part payment on what he owed me and that/ he would pay me $10.00 per week to stay on to do his life insurance office work.
This I agreed to do - having no other place to go.
His fire insurance business was scattered over several counties and most of it was very undesirable - but I was like a sinking person, I grabbed at anything. I thought I could weed out the bad risks and gradually build up a good business. This I started out to do, but I did not reckson/ on the town's keen fire insurance competition.
Before I could make any headway there were fires one
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after another bringing terrific losses to the companies I represented. Then to cap the climax, Mr. Carrington forged my name to some policies, collected the premiums and spent them. He collected some others and used the money, leaving me liable to the Company. I had to take legal steps to stop him, but is was too late to save me from financial embarrassment such as I had never thought possible.
About this time I was a physical and financial wreck I could neither eat nor sleep from worry and dread. I had an indebtedness of something like $1,700.00 or more with nothing to meet it and living expenses going on at home for my mother and me. Besides the $500.00 that Mr.
Carrington had collected in premiums and used, and for which I was responsible to the fire insurance companies, he owed me over $700.00 in back salary. I appealed to his brother in Atlanta, a very prominent merchant there. He promised to aid me in every way saying that he would see that his brother paid me and that if he didn't that he would see that I did not lose a penny if I would just let him manage it. Since he was a big churchman, an official in the Presbyterian denomination and a great Billy Sunday Evangelistic Club member and worker, I believed him.
In fact the first time I ever saw him was some years before when he came here with some members of the Atlanta Billy Sunday Club to hold services in this little country town. He spoke in the morning at our
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Methodist Church and in the evening at the Baptist. I was not working for his brother at the time but I heard him and thought what a Christian gentleman he was. Little did I think that some day I would have a perfectly good opportunity to find out for myself. What a lot of difference there is between saying and doing.
Well one day a friend who had a dental office next to the Carrington set-up came in and offered me room in his office. I accepted, borrowed a desk, an old broken down typewriter and brought a chair from home. I had nothing to move across the hall but some insurance blanks and forms.
But that move proved to be the most fortunate one I ever made, and now that I look back on it, I feel sure that it was a kind Providence who directed it.
In 1933 I applied for work in the office of our Government County Administrator here. I was called in every few days for several hours work which helped immensely. Later as the work expanded I was given more work until a family connection of the Administrator was taken in, then I was transferred to the re-employment office for part time work. This I had for sometime, owing the money to meet our obligations and only taking a little out for living expenses. Then came notice that this office would be closed so I registered for work the last thing I did before leaving. I registered for general office work, typist and historical research.
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Right away I applied to the Administrator for work. She did not give me anything nor even encourage me, although my application showed how very much I was in need of work. In the meantime there was a shakeup in the administration here and a young man was sent to replace the county administrator. I went to see him and laid my case before him. My mother had never fully recovered from her lung illness and was unable to do anything so the entire financial burden was on me.
After waiting as patiently as prevailing conditions allowed for a reasonable length of time, I borrowed the money and went to Atlanta to put my case before someone in the State Office. Miss Shepperson was not in the city so I was interviewed by Miss Jane Van de Vrede. When I finished my story, I asked: "Is there a place in the program for me?"
She replied kindly and emphatically, "There certainly is you will be put to work at once."
She wrote the local office to that effect and very soon I was indexing the oldest records in the Clerk's office. That project expired about the time Federal Writer's was started and greatly to my surprise and delight I was given a job an that project, which I have retained until the present time and I am still liking it more and more.
In 1935 my former employer passed away without paying me. His brother, when time came to make good his promises failed on same slight pretext. Which goes to snow, as the old Negro
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preacher said: "You sho' can't believe every thing folks promises you."
Being so deeply involved, I could not pay but in a very long time, if ever, and a dear friend stepped in and took charge of our affairs in 1935. He sold all of our land at $3.00 per acre, paid up as far as it would go and helped us get the tangled strands of our financial affairs in better order. We had been unable to pay State and County taxes for 5 years - they amounted to nearly $400.00.
All of this happened over a very short period of time but I feel like I lived a lifetime. My mother is frail and I could never let her know how bad our condition really was. She would ask me to bring groceries home when needed and many a time I would not have the money so would conveniently "forget" them. I remember once she told me among other things to bring some coffee that day. I hadn't the price so I "forgot"
it thinking surely the next day I would got the money. I didn't get it, nor the next and so on for several days. We had to drink tea, it was in the winter time, and neither of us liked it. Finally Mother said: "I'll declare, your memory is getting as bad as mine and if you don't think of what coffee today, I'm going up town and get it myself." I laughed with her over the "joke" she thought it was, but my heart sank fearing she would find the real reason why I had kept "forgetting" the needed groceries.
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Sometimes I was so panicky I almost collapsed when I heard the sheriff's voice in the building, I was so afraid some of my creditors were foreclosing and would put us out - every week I feared looking over the legal advertisements lest our land was listed among the tax sales.
My good friend, who took me in his office, and his wife have meant everything to me - he was always so jolly and helped me not to give up.
He gave me a desk and helped me buy a re-built typewriter. In exchange I helped him all I could. He was an elderly man partially retired, so that there was not much office work to do. He died last October but even in passing away he thought of me and provided an office for me/ for as long as I needed it.
Sometimes when I think of the hard time and terrific strain I have had, and still am having for that matter, I am reminded of the lines from an old hymn:
"Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come."
But I do not like to think back too much, for I am so thankful that I did not go down completely; that there were kind friends who stood by me, and that I live in a land under the administration of such a great humanitarian as our noble President, who feels for those who were caught in the terrible depression and lost almost all they had. Who in his wonderful
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kindness of heart has made it possible for us to have the high and rightful privilege of working out our financial difficulties and winning back our rightful places in the world, and still keep our self respect and our faith in God and man. And I can say with all the earnestness of my soul:
Thank God for America!
Thank God for Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president with a heart!
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 36 of 73
[It Wasn't So Easy]
Madison County, Georgia
By Mrs. Ina B. Hawkes
IT WASN't SO EASY
I was out riding one day, out on a long stretch of a beautiful highway. I noticed a man and woman, not poorly dressed but dusty as if they had been on the road a good while. The man threw up his hand and asked if we would give them a lift. We stopped and let them get in the back seat, although we told them that we could not go very far.
I turned around and looked at the people for a minute, and they both said, almost together, "Why I remember you and I am sure you ought to know us." And then I did remember them, because we had given them a lift once before on another highway. I began to ask them questions.
Mr. Bryant said, "Well, we have been in a few ups and downs since we saw you last. We went to Atlanta that day and we was lucky. We both got work and saved up everything we could, so we took all the money from the bank and landed in New York.
"We had to have something to do so we kept a hotel. We enjoyed that so much because we could be together all the time. Well, we made plenty and had the hotel furnished real nice. We've taken lots of people that we didn't want, and we have taken care of a lot of men and women that we didn't think was married. But when they come and registered as man and wife what else could we say if they were quiet and not noisy? And too, we have had to call the law and have them put out. But we were after the money, and we tried to not know anything unless we just had to.
"One of the biggest troubles we had was once a girl came running up the stairs and said to save she and her husband a room, that they would be back after the picture show closed. She was bareheaded and had on just a little silk print dress.
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We asked her where her husband was and did she have any baggage to bring up? She said, "He is downstairs talking to a man and won't bring up any baggage tonight". We said, "All right then". Of course, we rented several other rooms in the meantime and played several games of Chinese checkers. Around eleven-thirty o'clock they came in. I showed them to their rooms and gave them a pitcher of cold water. After everything got quiet, someone knocked on my door. It was two or three of my regular roomers and some man that was kinder settled wanted to know 'what kind of a place he had gotten in'. 'I guess we had dropped off to sleep', I said. 'Why?' 'Well, just listen', they said. 'We don't know which room, but that woman is screaming her head off. I think the man is killing her, and if you don't do anything about it, we are'. So I asked them to go back to their rooms and I would see what I could do. They did so.
"So I went to the couple's room and knocked. I found the bed completely torn up - I mean the cover all over the floor, pillow cases torn up, and the girl lying on the floor. I looked around, and a pint bottle of whiskey and a empty ginger ale bottle was on the table. I said, 'What does this mean? I want this place put in order and for you two drunks to be quiet or get out. You are disturbing my roomers'. I asked the girl if she was hurt. She said, 'No, we were just playing'. But I know that wasn't so. She was afraid to say anything else. I didn't hear anything else out of them though and they left early the next morning. They were just pitching a party.
"I have often had people to beat me out of room rent. Some has gotten by with it, too, but not many. Once a good looking young man left owing me seventeen dollars. I told him I would hold his baggage until he paid me and that I have had so much of it to do that I would hold them just to a certain time. Well, when that time was up he didn't come, so I sold his things. People have left and didn't have anything to leave for security and some have left things that no one would have.
"I had a little Jew girl and her husband staying a while. I never could find
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out what kind of work he was doing, but the bill got around thirty dollars. I told them one day that I would have to have some money before the bill got too high. Well, that night they got the porter to go outside the window three stories below. They took my sheets and made strings strong enough to hold their baggage and dropped it below to the porter. They had plenty of it, too. I heard a noise. Of course, it didn't sound like any ordinary noise, and I went around and caught them right in the act. I got my gun and made that porter carry every piece of it back and I fired him. The couple left, and I don't know what became of them."
Mrs. Bryant said, "Be quiet, Mr. Bryant, and let me talk awhile". So she started, "This was one time I was sure scared. One night a couple came in and asked if I had a porter to bring up their baggage. I said "Yes". He came up with two of the heaviest suitcases I ever saw. Why, that boy just could get up with them. He tipped the boy, and he asked the man if he wanted those other bags brought in. He said no, that there wasn't anything in them, that they were just some he had bought. I had to give them one of my best rooms and I had nice expensive spreads, pillow slips, blankets, and four new towels.
"The next morning they checked out. The porter said, 'miss, dose bags aint near so heavy dis mornin' as day wus last night, but day is heavy enough'. Well, luck was with us again. This time it just happened that the maid was ready to go in this room when they checked out. She came running to me saying, "Lawdy, Miss, dem folks done put six half-gallons of water in dat closet and done took all de bed linen, towels, blankets, even took de scarfs off the tables and just everything'. Of course the porter was putting the last bag in the car. Mr. Bryant ran out and jumped ont he running board just as the man was driving off, but Mr. Bryant hung on. Up the street they went. He finally told him to turn around and put those things back where he got them or go to jail.
"Well, I was scared to death. I just knew Mr. Bryant would kill the man or
get killed, but he didn't. He brought them on back and the porter carried them upstairs. All the time he had their clothes locked in the car in the other bags and the fruit jars with water in the ones be brought up.
"Oh, so many things happened while we were there. A hotel is interesting work. It is never the same. Something different is always happening.
"Mr. Bryant's mother died in Alabama, so we had to go. And we decided to not come back to New York. So we packed everything we could in our car and left for Alabama. After all we could do for Mrs. Bryant and everything was settled, we was restless again so we packed and started back to New York. Mr. Bryant was offered a job as mechanic in a mill.
"Everything was fine and it seemed that our car had never run any better. Just before we got to Atlanta the car caught on fire and burned up everything we had. When we left Alabama we took all the money we had and put it in the car door, thinking maybe if anything happened that the money would be safe. Mr. Bryant had just a little change in his pocket. All we saved was the clothes on our backs.
"We had to hitch-hike then. It was not long till a man came along and carried us to [Ila?]. Georgia. We asked everybody we saw for some work because we didn't want to be beggers. This man had heard about our bad luck, so he carried us to Mr. Wilson. He gave us a job picking cotton. We were so glad to get anything, but my feet were so sore I just had to rest a day or two, but they got better. We picked cotton and made enough to pay for our board and to get bus fare to Augusta, Georgia. Mr. Bryant got a job paying him $25 a week in a store. We bought some clothes and shoes a and some new traveling bags and went to Virginia.
"There we both got jobs. I worked in the same store with Mr. Bryant. We made good, too. We got a nice place to live, a house and good furniture, as pretty a living room suits as anybody wants, maple and walnut bedroom suites, a two-hundred-dollar radio, a general electric refrigerator, and a beautiful dinette suite.
"Well, we have gotten back on our feet as some people would say, but we got tired of Virginia and it looked like there never would be any one but me and [Jake?] here. We never did have any children and sometimes I get so lonesome for one, too. So we packed up again and came back to Madison County. We have a small cabin to live in and a nice car to drive. And I know you are anxious to know what we are doing out here hitch-hiking again. Well, we just wanted to get the thrill of it once more. But I think we are through hitch-hiking now, cause I ain't as young as I once was and Mr. Bryant ain't either, so I think we will be happy now just as we are."
"I wish you would go home with us", she said. But we just had to turn around and come back home.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 37 of 73
[Janice]
WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION
Col. F. C. Harrington. Administrator
Maj. B. [M?]. Harloe, Assistant Administrator
Henry S. Alsberg, Director of the Federal Writers' Project Life History
Interview with:
Miss Carolyn Bell
Katherine Court Apts.
Macon, Georgia
By:
Annie A. Rose
Federal Writers' Project
Macon, Georgia.
WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION
Col. F.C. Harrington, Administrator
Maj. B.M. Harloe, Assistant Administrator
Henry S. Alsberg, Director of the Federal Writers' Project.
Miss Carolyn Bell
Katherine Courts Apts.
Macon, Ga.
written by
Annie A. Rose
Federal Writers' Project
Macon, Ga.
Jan. 9, 1939 Janice
Up the two long, steep flights of stairs in the building used by the WPA in Macon, to the little partitioned off space in which she works, came Carolyn Janice jauntily this morning. She carries her rather tall, beautifully developed body in a queenly manner. Auburn curls frame her smiling face, the beauty of which is greatly enhanced by a complexion any woman would envy. Soft, large brown eyes, a well shaped mouth and gleaming white teeth--- all these points add up to make a girl much above the average in appearance and personality.
"Come on over and have a cigaret, Carolyn Janice, before you start exercising your typewriter," I called. "All right, I guess I can," was her answer. "All my reports are finished, and Mr. [Lepzer?] Upshaw won't be in till this afternoon." So fortified by Lucky Strikes and cold, bottled Coca-Colas, I asked Carolyn Janice a few questions and she told me of her life.
"I was born in Moultrie," she began, "the youngest of five children. I have two brothers and two sisters. When I was only nine months old, my father, who was educated to be a lawyer, decided to move to Macon. We lived in a house on College street and it's been on that street that I've lived practically all my
Page 2
life. My mother and Abbie Tommy (her father) were always devoted to each other and we all had a happy home life as children. That is, until my father's serious illness came. Since then, we've only known privations and hardships. When I was young, Abbie Tommy was jolly and good-natured, but he's been sick so long that now he's nervous and irritable. I can't get along with him. That's the reason I don't live at home. As long as I can go by and spend an hour or so with him every few days we respect each other and things are swell. But I tried living there after my divorce and he was eternally criticizing me every time I had a date. I don't do anything wrong, I only went to have a good time; I'm only twenty-one, you know, but I guess he's afraid that I'll make a fool of myself again by marrying somebody else like Duke. Clyde. I'm not going to repeat that mistake, but he doesn't trust me, so [Florence?] Davis Annette Gray (another WPA girl) and I rent a room together. I'm not at home to irritate him and we both are happier." Carolyn Janice speaks highly of her father's intelligence, has a great respect for his training in legal matters, and [having?] heard her say that he was an invalid, I asked her to tell me about him.
"Well, it happened when I was a little girl about six years old," she began, Margaret Katherine, my oldest sister, was a senior at [Wesleyan?], the other children were in high school or grammar school. Abbie Tommy was desperately ill; he had a tumor on the brain and no one thought that he would survive the operation. He did, of course as you
Page 3
know, but in performing the operation, the surgeon cut a nerve and so he has been paralyzed ever since. That was when our hard times began. There was my mother with five children and a sick husband. My father had some insurance but it wasn't enough to take care of all of us, much less pay for the care and attention that Abbie he needed. Mother didn't know what to do; she was not trained for work outside the home, and if she had been, she couldn't have made enough to hire a nurse for Abbie Tommy and take care of us. So after much thought and worry over the situation, Margaret Katherine borrowed enough money to finish her work at [Wesleyan?], the boys got jobs delivering the Telegraph so they could continue school, and in some way we managed to live through that year.
"When Margaret Katherine graduated at Wesleyan she got a position as teacher and was able to help us all. She's always been fine, never a thought for herself--just always planning how she could help us. The other children did their part, too, but Margaret Katherine always been like another mother to me. Just as soon as one or us would finish school, he or she would get work and help the rest of us.
"When I was about sixteen I graduated from high school here, and Margaret, Katherine, Mother and Abbie Tommy decided that I should go to Winthrop College in Rock Hill, S.C. Margaret Katherine was teaching there then still is, in fact, and I was thrilled to go.
Page 4
"That was where I met Duke, Clyde, the boy I married. He lives in Rock Hill; his father is a merchant there. He was a cute boy and lots of fun and I fell for him like nobody's business. We were together lots but nearly always there was a crowd and Margaret Katherine didn't suspect that we were in love and planning to marry. When school ended Margaret Katherine and I came to Macon where we spent the summer. But by September Mother and Abbie Tommy were planning to move to Rock Hill, too. All the other children were gone from home and they decided that it would be cheaper and better for the four of us to live together in Rock Hill. And was I glad to see Duke Clyde when we arrived in Rock Hill!! We decided to marry during the Christmas holidays but he didn't tell his parents and I didn't tell mine or Margaret Katherine till about the middle of December. We delayed telling them because we knew there'd be plenty of fireworks when they heard the news, and believe me, we were not a bit wrong. Honestly, I think if [Mother?] hadn't been so fat she would have gone up in the air and Abbie Tommy being paralyzed was all that saved him, I'm sure. But Duke Clyde and I were firm, we just kept saying that we were going to be married and that was all there was to it. They never did give their consent but at Christmas they all gave me pretty underclothes and I knew by that that they wouldn't interfere very much."
"Did you run away, Carolyn Janice," I asked. "No, Duke Clyde wanted me to", she replied, "but I refused.
Page 5
We were not doing anything to be ashamed of and I insisted on being married at home. We married two days after Christmas; Duke's Clyde's father and mother were there, Margaret Katherine, Mother and Abbie Tommy and two or three of our young friends. Our parents accepted the situation and tried to make the best of it. Duke Clyde and I lived with his father and mother. Duke Clyde was working for his father, who was very nice to us but his mother didn't like me one bit. I think she must have been jealous. Duke Clyde was her only child, just nineteen years old and I don't blame her for not wanting him to marry; but I do blame her for making my life unpleasant. I loved Duke Clyde; he loved me. I wish things had been different.
"I quit school when I was married and I had nothing to do all day. Duke's Clyde's mother wouldn't let me help her with the house and since I have always had too much energy and intelligence to be contented with nothing to do all day but fix my hair and my nails, I was very bored. So I decided I'd go back to school when the new semester opened in February. Duke Clyde was willing and gave me the money for my tuition and books. But things got so unpleasant at home that I told Duke Clyde I thought we ought to be by ourselves. We rented two rooms to live in and moved out. When I'd come home in the afternoons I'd clean up and cook supper. But Duke Clyde and I soon got to quarreling. He'd be real late for supper and if it was cold when he got home he'd throw the dishes on the floor and march out and perhaps stay all night. I know a lot of it all was my fault;
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my hair's not red for nothing, you know, and I guess he had lots to take from me. I won't bore you by going into all that. He was the most selfish, unreasonable, spoilt person I ever knew. He wouldn't let me go to see Mother and Abbie Tommy at all; he said their being against him was the cause of all our trouble. Maybe part of that was true but his Mother's attitude certainly didn't help us a bit.
"By the time I had finished my Junior year at college I knew we just couldn't continue living together the way things were between us. So I told Margaret Katherine I wanted a divorce. She arranged for me to go out to Little Rock and live with my brother while I was getting a divorce. She gave me money and I was down at the station ready to leave when Duke Clyde heard about it, so he came racing down to the station and made a terrible scene. I was terribly embarrassed but I didn't go back home with him. I told him I was through and I meant it. There was no use in spoiling the rest of our lives just because we had made the mistake of getting married.
"Well, for a while I was pretty miserable out in Little Rock. I kept wondering if I was really doing the right thing and Duke Clyde wrote letters all the time, begging me to come back which kept me upset. But I stayed. We had already spoiled everything that could have been beautiful in our marriage by that everlasting quarreling. My brother and his sweetheart were so good to me; they never offered advice or interfered. They just took me places and tried to make me have a good time. And I
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did. After a while I stopped worrying; I felt that what I was doing was for the best and I enjoyed the rest of my stay there.
"I don't know how I would ever have managed without Margaret Katherine though. She gave me money to come on to Macon. Mother and Abbie Tommy had moved back here then and I lived with them and went to G.A.B. (business school.) After I finished my course at G.A.B. I got a job with Moffett Sims Transfer Co. for $10.00 a week. I managed to live on what I was making and would have stayed on with Mr. Moffett Sims if he had been willing to pay me more after I had worked for him long enough to expect a raise. I surely worked hard for that ten dollars a week. I was there at 8.30 in the morning and had to stay until the trucks were in at night, which was often as late as 8 or 9 o'clock. I was supposed to have Saturday afternoons off but just as sure as I made some plans for that time Mr. Moffett Sims would keep me real late. When I heard about this place at the WPA I went after it with all my might. Mr. Moffett Sims raised a commotion about the WPA hiring someone who had a job, but since he refused to raise my salary and the WPA officials knew that what he was paying me was not enough they gave me the place. I get $80.00 $75.00 now and have been able to get a few clothes that I badly needed. My main fear now is that the WPA will fold up and then where will we all be?"
Since that question is the one over which countless thousands of WPA workers are worrying, and since I was unable to give a satisfactory answer, Carolyn Janice
Page 8
closed her visit, saying that she must get back to her job while there is a job there for her.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 38 of 73
[Jilson Littlejohn, Preacher]
Jilson Littlejohn
950 Fair Street, S.W.
Preacher
by
Geneva Tonsill
THE VOICE OF GOD SPOKE TO ME
"I can recollect before the War with the States. I have a good memory. I can remember far back, even when I was four years old. I was my mother's third child. She was the mother of thirteen children, three girls and ten boys. My mother was a half Indian. My father was mixed with Caucasian and Spanish. He didn't have much Anglo-African blood in him. I remember seeing his mother one time and this was when she was dying. I was looking through a crack in the wall, for I had heard them in the house say she was dying and I wanted to know what it looked like to see a dying person. She had a turkey wing in her hand, fanning slowly, back and forth, as if she was barely able to muster enough strength to take the next stroke. She looked so pale and feeble. This was in the house where my aunt used to weave cloth and cook.
"My family was poor, hard working people and slaves. They were healthy, robust people and considered very good slaves, and their owner was considered quite wealthy due to the healthy bunch of slaves he had. For you see in those days slaves were considered property, or resources.
"I was born in Union County, South Carolina, in January, 1855, on a farm, or rather a big plantation. I remember the old boss, old man " Dick ", who had several boys on the place. He had all of us chopping cotton. He told me to put a hickory switch in my belt and see that the boys chopped the cotton right. He then said, 'If you don't I'll lick you to a frazzle." After he had gone from the field, my cousin, who seemed to want to try me out to see if I would really use the swith as the boss had told me, started playing and half chopping the cotton. I spoke to him but
Page 2
he didn't [pay me?] any attention. I struck him once and he turned [quickly?] to hit me with his hoe and the handle struck his nose and it started bleeding. One in the crowd got very angry with me because the boss had made me somewhat an overseerer over them and said for the boy to go the house and tell the master. The master sent for me, but I wasn't afraid of him and told him just what happened. When I first walked up he said, 'If you want to fight, fight me.' As he said it he beat on his chest with his fists. I stood up there and told him [really?] what had happened and he told me to go back to the field to work. I didn't get a beating. I always tried to keep from getting a whipping for I'd rather they kill me than whip me. I was trying to carry out his wishes if is why I attempted to strike the boy at all with that hickory.
"The first year after Emancipation the woods were full of run-a-ways. We were afraid to get out. They didn't have any place to go and couldn't come out before [Emancipation?] because they were afraid of being captured. Being unable to make a living, honestly, they were desperate. for that reason everyone was scared to go out at night, and in the day too , for that matter , for it was dangerous. My boss told me one time to go down to the cornfield to see about things and to see if there were hogs in the corn. I had to go through the woods to get there. I was afraid to go but I knew something must be done so I took one of the boys with me. We didn't go near the field, nor the woods , but hid ourselves and played marbles. About the time it would take for us to go there and back I told Clifford, who was with me, to put mud all over his feet and roll up his breeches legs. When we got back to the house my master asked me, 'Well, Jils, did you get around the cornfield?" I told him yes. He said, 'well, did you see any hogs' tracks?' I told him
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plenty, but not in the field.
"My father lived at this plantation for many years, in fact he was living there when he died. That was the first time I felt the spirit of the Lord. It did something to me to see my father dead.
"Then later there came to our vicinity an old man, George Waters, a most devout colored man and Christian. I heard him sing many songs, and one especially stirred me most and caused me to think much about my soul. I would join in and help him sing:
'If I had died when I was a child
I wouldn't have had this race to run
I'm going home to heaven in that morning, in the morning
God bless mother, God bless father, why not I
God bless a trusting child
I'm going home to heaven in that morning, in that morning.'
"I joined the church after hearing that song. I was very devilish but not mean. I tried hard to get religion. My brother, Junies, was older than I. He would tell the people that I was trying to get a religion and I got ashamed and [quit?]. I got religion when I was twenty-one years old, after I was married. Anyhow I lived a Christian but the devil would overtake me, but I would overcome his temptations. After I stayed in the church I heard people tell their determination and testify. I wasn't that way. I would never get up to talk in these meetings. I would, however, ask those who were Christians to pray for me.
"Now for over nineteen years, if I have committed any sin I don't know but one. That was four years ago when I lived on Chestnut Street. My daughter lived in Los Angeles, California. She wrote me to sent send her some numbers , for the 'bug' and she sent me a lot of numbers and told me to pick out the ones she was to play. I picked out the numbers and sent her. Then I knew I had sinned. I prayed and asked Go God if I was wrong to speak to me. Out of a clear, blue sky, after
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I had asked him to show me that I was wrong, a clap of thunder sounded in the heavens and as surely as you sit there in that swing that thunder seemed to say, 'You have sinned against God and the Holy Ghost.' After that prayer and that clap of thunder I knew then that God was displeased with me for joining in the works of the devil, for the voice of God had spoken to me in that thunder. I received a letter from my daughter telling me she had played those numbers and had won on both of them. She later sent me another letter asking me to send her more numbers but God had spoken to me in that thunder and showed me it was wrong, that I had sinned , and I wouldn't send her another number. God told me this was wrong and the [massage?] came to me where he said, 'If your right hand offend you, cut it off' and I was cutting off this sin.
"Lady, God talks to me. I am going to tell you of a vision that I had. Last May, four years ago, I saw a number fourteen and it was in the sky. To the right of this n;umber was written 'years' and then I heard a voice telling me in fourteen years Gabriel was going to put one foot on the ocean and the other on the land and declare by him that love God that time would be no longer. Well, you will find in Revelations where Gabriel was going to put on one foot on the sea and the other on land and swear the coming of the Lord, and the end of time. Now , tell me what is the difference between declare and swear?
"I've lived in Atlanta eight years. I lived in Florida just before coming to Atlanta. I lived with my son there. Since I have been too old to work. I go from one child to the other and they are all very good to me.
"You see, I'm cripple. Well, its because I was getting off a train near Jacksonville soon after it pulled up and stopped in a [place?]
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that I thought was where I was to get off. I picked up my baggage and walked off the train. It was a longer step than I thought from the ground [?] and as I stepped my foot and leg were badly crushed. I didn't know [I was?] hurt so badly and walked three blocks or more to try to get someone to take me to the station It wasn't a station at all that I got off I was mistaken. I found the people quite nice to me and I was taken to a doctor for treatment. I remained unable to walk for six months.
"For [thirteen?] years now I have been unable to work but, thank thanks to God , I'm still living and not any the worst off , for my children are wonderful to me. This daughter and her husband are nice , and I haven't anything to worry about. She has [had?] me treated here at Grady Hospital for the injury. Let me show you my leg. See how bruised and purple it is? It was a bad looking sight for many , many days after it happened. I have to walk with the aid of a cane. Everyone thought I was going to loose lose the leg entirely. I had never been to a city hospital before going to Grady and when I got there they asked me a thousand questions. I felt like walking out and going back home. When they got through with me, a very nice doctor came to look at the leg. He examined the leg thoroughly and then bandaged it up with gauze, with layer after layer , and as I sat there watching him wrap I noticed the skill with which he worked . I thought of what a wonderful profession he was engaged in, healing the sick and how near Christ he should be. I said, ' do you know you are working on a Christian - a man of God? ' He just smiled, as if he understaood understood thoroughly what I meant. When I got home I took that bandage off my leg and through faith in God I'm healing nicely. I have to walk with a stick.
I told you of the run-away slaves. They had what was called run-away-dens.
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When the Klu Klux Klan first started in Tennessee , right after the war, they were called the '[White?] Cappers' and then 'Buskwackers ; and later they took the name of Klu Klux Klans. A lot of the wrong done the slaves was not done by the Klu Klux Klan but it was laid to the Klu Klux Klan. They would get darkies out of the dens and beat them and sometimes they would kill them. [no ∥?]
"Once they whipped my father. I dreamed that morning before he got whipped that he was being beaten and so scared was I that I jumped out of the bed and ran out in the yard. My brother was standing there looking like death. He said, 'they have just whipped father and brother [Hamlett?].' I wanted to know how he got out of getting the beating to too, and he told me he had slipped out unseen and hidden. My brother that was whipped left home , [/He?] was so frightened. He went to Columbia, South Carolina. Soon after that, around morning, my mother and sister looked out and saw a crowd of men coming. Mother yelled, 'there are the Klu Klux Klan coming for us again.' They swarmed around the house like black-birds. I could have gotten away but I could couldn't leave my mother and sister to face those horrible men alone. I stood in the chimney corner. I had rather they kill me than whip me and the way I felt that morning I was quite sure they would have had to kill me , for I wasn't going to permit them to whip me. The leader came to the door and talked with mother. Told her they weren't going to bother her , or us , and they came to tell her they weren't the ones that whipped my father and brother. They had learned about it and learned that the sentiment was that they were beaten by them. They said they knew my father was a good slave and he was liked by everyone in that country and for us not to fear longer they would protect our family. But it was too late, some of the family had already
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left home. They asked for water and wanted to know where my father was. Mother told them she didn't know. The Klans had spread terror among the slaves and we couldn't believe, although he said he [was?] going to protect us, that they are telling the truth.
"The Klu Klux Klan whipped a man, Bill Mathis, with a thorn bush. That was a most brutal beating. God wasn't pleased with the treatment given us by some of the whites and he sent a people down to protect us. Lordy, after the Yankees began picking up every [man?] that was a [KKK?], we had a little peace of mind and rest from them. Scott was the governor then and , upon investigation , it was found that this organization had bought up the rights to ride for a large sume sum of money. They had paid $ 60,000 for this right. The governor cut off communication and sent Sam Knuckles or they said Sam slipped out and went to Washington and was introduced to Grant and Sherman and then Grant sent a committee South to see if he was telling the truth about their treatment. He sent the Blue Coats down and they protected the [saves?]. I am fully convinced that God was in all of this. I was always shown, by a voice, or sign, that he was working for us. Governor Scott sent a militia there and they protected the people. They never killed one darky. The yankees took the men they rounded up as Klu Klux Kland Klan and put them in jail. They took all of their names. I don't know how they were in the state of Georgia but I was told they would go from state to state. They would take people out and whip [them?] for the least thing. One night after there had been about nine put in jail for protection, they were taken out and killed. The militia didn't know anything about it until the next day. everything was done to round up those men but they failed. The Klu Klux Klan went their way , continuing , wherever they could without running into the militian, militia to scare the slaves.
Page 8
The men thought they had killed all of the nine men , but one lived. Chile, it was unexpressable. But I lived through all of of [that?]. I slept in the woods, awoke to find the rain falling in my face. There were many darkies sleeping in the woods. We belonged in the South. as we had been brought here as property and had worked as slaves to further enrich our [masters?], amid horrible conditions. still we were faithful to our master. Even when the masters went away to fight to keep us in slavery we slaves were left behind to watch after the mistress and children. We stayed there, loyal to our trust. we didn't bread our trust. I say we, and although I was [quite?] young, I too realized the responsibility placed on the men slaves. We looked after our mistress as a dog would watch after his master: we didn't let one thing happen to the children. we protected them all. God saw fit to send the Northerners down to free us . they were good people. We weren't afraid of them as we were the Southerners. I remember telling them in Spartanburgh Spartanburg , that ' we are afraid of you but not the Northers people they are good. ' " I think of the [tale?] of the rattlesnake and the bear. The rattlesnake was in the fire and a bear came along. The snake asked the bear to take him out and the bear promised , if he would say he wouldn't bite after getting out. The bear took the snake out after his promise , and they walked on down the road. The bear noticed the snake was continuously licking out his tongue. He'd think of his promise and then draw in his tongue. On down they the road they went , and again the bear Mr Bear noticed Mr. Snake licking out his tongue. Mr. bear said, 'Mr. Snake, I'm afraid, I'm afraid you aren't going to live up to your promise.' Mr. Snake said, 'Well, Mr. Bear, it is my nature to bite. I can't help it,.'
"My father in heaven has spoken to me five times. On the farm where I have spent most of my life, in Spartanburg, I took one plow
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and made twenty-seven bales of cotton with it and never hired a furrow plowed plowed. In [18?] cotton went down to 5�. I got up out of my bed one morning, went to the door , and a voice spoke to me and said, 'You a re 'You're going to make 8� cotton.' I told my wife it was the voice of God. Bless your soul, I made thirty bales of cotton and got 7 1/2� for it. I told the buyer that he / was going to get 8�. He told me if /it were true he would give me $5. Two weeks later I went to see him and I saw him standing there in his office. He said, 'Jils, I got the 8� and 1 owe you [$5?] as I promised.' I told him he need not give me one penny , that I did didn't [?] tell him anything. he owed me nothing , for God had told me what cotton would be and , if he owed anyone, it was God he owed, not me. [?] Later I ran a three-horse farm. I owed [$905?] and in August , when that cotton was in its bloom, I hired two men to help plow. In August I thought I would get about 75 bales of cotton. I went to the door and as I stood there a voice said, 'If you pay your debts you wont won't pay out of cotton. you will pay out of work done in a brick yar.d yard.' When I had finished picking cotton I had less than seventeen bales. The army [worm?] had eated it. In [190/] I got a job making brick, paid the debt [ off. I had bee gums. The bees got upset, seemed like they were mad about something , and I [?] went out and started to put my hand in to see what the trouble was. My father spoke to me again and said, 'don't put your hand down there. a snake will bite you.' I stopped there and then and killed a water moccasin.
"I was in Ashville Asheville when Vanderbilt was putting up his mansion. a man saw me and jumped off the veranda and came down to speak with me. I stayed in Ashville Asheville eight days, trying to secure work. People gave me money, people I didn't know. I'm saying this that you may see how God takes care of those he has set apart. I saw Will Neal, a man I had known for many years. He told me he got broke gambling and asked me for a
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dime. I told him I didn't gamble and I didn't encourage gamblers by making contributions to them. He continued to ask me for the dime. I finally gave him the dime. After giving Neal the ten cents, a voice spoke to me: 'You aren't a gambler but you are just as guilty. You let him have money to gamble with, You will have to stan stand before the bar of justice just as he.' I prayed then as I never prayed [before?] for God to forgive me.
I didn't get right until I got home. It came to me one night just before daylight. [?] Big white man came and stood before me and I saw him just as plainly as if he was flesh standing there. I know, though, [that I had?] locked the doors and none could come in. I felt a strange feeling [come?] over [me and?] I knew it was the works of God. He spoke, a calm sweet voice, 'Go, Jils, into the highways and hedges and preach God's word. I will prepare you.' I began to think of this, for as suddenly as the figure had appeared, just as suddenly he had gone. I wasn't frightened for it seemed I had gotten used to God telling me what he wanted. I didn't go on and start preaching, though, right away. It was about fifteen years before I agreed to preach and that was after God had stricken me down with fever. I promised God if he would [heal?] me I would preach his word. I went to God just as I was, without one plea , and the fever left me. I was very [low?] that day . my wife was near the bedside, walking up and down the floor. I told God, ' you made me. [I?] am nothing but mortal man . I'm born to die, I know, God . I treated [your?] justice wrong and I'll be ready to atone for it if you will raise me from this bed . I will preach. ' After that my soul was happy. God touched me and killed that fever. I told the doctor when he came that God was healing me, that I was not going to die. I was happy. The doctor admitted he didn't know what had come over me but he had been very upset over
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[my?] condition and didn't believe that I was going to get over it before he came to make that visit but I was so much better it was a miracle.
"After I was up from that bed I got in the pulpit. I got a license to preach and have been preaching his work since."
As Mr. Littlejohn sat there telling his story, he made a beautiful picture with his hair hanging to his shoulders , A most beautiful silky , satiny blonde hair. I had to comment on it. He told me, "Yes, people, white and black, stop to admire this hair. I've worn it long for years. I remember once a woman stopped me on the streets and said she admired my hair so much and it was so pretty that she wanted to put her hand on my head. She had never seen hair on a man's head like that. I was going from South Carolina to Florida. I went in and sat down in the coach designated for colored where I belonged. The conductor came in. 'You don't belong here. go in that coach right there.' I got up and did as he told me. When I got to where I was to change, I took my baggage and headed for the waiting room , marked 'For colored ', and as I was about to go in a white man said, 'You don't belong there . come right around here. ' He ushered me to the white waiting room. I went on in and sat down. I didn't fail to trust God. He had told me, 'My presence shall [go?] with thee, and I will give thee rest.' And I've found that he was [always?] with me. I could sit here and tell ;you about the workings of God the rest of the day. I love to talk about him. You've been so kind to sit here and listen to me and I surely want you to come back to see me. I will always preach and tell people about God and when I find someone who will talk with me I overflow with joy and talk, talk. I shall always keep close to God for he has told me in his work, 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 39 of 73
[Life During Confederate Days]
LIFE DURING CONFEDERATE DAYS
Written By:
Mrs. Ina B. Hawkes
Research Field Worker
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens -
Edited By:
Mrs. Maggie B. Freeman
Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens -
WPA Area 6
October 18, 1939
October 3, 1939
Mrs. W.W. Mize (White)
198 Elbert Street
Athens, Georgia
Housekeeper
I.B. Hawkes LIFE DURING CONFEDERATE DAYS
Mrs. Green's house completely fitted the description given me by a delivery boy about 15 years of age. Located on a hill with a front yard practically covered in green grass with the exception of the front walk, shrubbery here and there and a few blooming flowers about the yard, trees whose leaves are beginning to show various colors, presented quite a pretty picture with a two story frame house painted white with green trimmings in the back ground, seemed a typical place to find just such a lovely old lady as I found occuping this home.
In answer to my knock a lady appeared in a printed frock, rather spick and span with quite a puzzled look on her face. She probably took me for a book agent since I carry my writing material etc. and book agents are not given a very cordial welcome by most people. "Good morning," she said, "won't you come in?" Introducing myself I asked, "is there an older Mrs. Green who lives here than you?" "Yes, come in." I accepted her invitation quite readily and on entering the living room there was an old lady with white hair, rocking to and fro with glasses on and knitting something that seemed very interesting to her.
Page 2
The heater was of medium height, well polished and displayed cleanliness itself. On this heater a kettle of water was boiling furiously. Over the mantle was a picture of very old style with wide frame. In the corner an old spinning wheel, a settee covered with worn silk tapestry and little silk balls dangling from it in another corner. The chairs of antique style were showing their wear and a large artsquare with a few rugs covered most of the floor. "Howdy," said the elder Mrs. Green, before I could tell her my name. The young Mrs. Green following behind said, "Ma, this is Mrs. Spence, she wants to see and talk to you a while." "Yes, yes, I am just knitting some lace for some pillow cases, I am allus busy at something."
"Don't you want to tell me something about your life history, Mrs. Green?" I asked. At first she didn't know what to say, but then she said, I can generally tell whether I like any one or not time I see them, and I believe I will like you fine.
"Well, Honey, my troubles and my joys might not be very interesting to you, but they have proven to be both interesting and sad to me. I shall be glad to tell you something of my life history if you care to hear it, do you?"
"Of course I do, Mrs. Green."
"Well, I was born 87 years ago, June 22, 1852. My father was shot in the arm while in action during the first
Page 3
year of the Confederate War. He was sent home later because of illness and finally died with typhoid fever. He left ma with six chilluns, three boys and three girls. I was the oldest and I had to help ma raise the chilluns, but we worked hard, everybody had to work hard then. I have seen people cry and beg for something to eat. But I took those chillun and sent them to school, and I made them help me when they got home. We did all kinds of field work. Mother and me had to make all our clothes, spin the cotton and weave the cloth. Child, we have had to sit at night, spin cotton and weave by a light'ood knot for light a many a time. Our salt we got from the smoke house. We have had folks to come to our smoke house a many a time and get the dirt and boil it for salt. And we didn't have no sugar either. Ma never let the syrup barrel get empty, unless, she was cleaning it out to fill it again with fresh syrup. We sweetened pies, cakes and coffee and liked it as good as we like sugar today. Yes, sometimes now I make some old fashion sweet bread, ginger bread and I like it to this day for coffee. We parched wheat or rye. We didn't make enough wheat to have biscuits every day, we just baked biscuits twice a week. My mother would never let us cook on Sundays, we had to cook enough Saturdays to last till Monday.
"We was raised to go to church. I allus saw that my brothers and sisters had good enough clothes to go. You see my oldest brother was a preacher and a fine Baptist preacher
Page 4
he was.
"My mother's father was a preacher, she had three brothers and one son that was preachers. I ain't bragging but my people on both sides were good.
"Well, I began to think that I was grown about this time, and I married Mr. Green, a fine young man, too. His father was the richest man in Franklin County. His land was five miles long and he owned two big stores. About the time we married, this land was in Franklin County. It was decided that Franklin County was too large, so it was divided, and the house that my husband was raised in is now the courthouse in Stephens.
"I married in 1869, one night by candle light. Times was a little better now, we could afford candles. Carnesville was the nearest town to the Green place. There was a lot of talk about the Greens them days. Don't get me wrong, hear! I mean when they put the courthouse at the Green's place. My mother was with us, and she wanted to go back to Tennessee. Mr. Green said he came through Tennessee on his way back from war, and he thought it was a beautiful country. I could not let Ma leave me, and we went back with her and stayed four years. I had two chilluns while I was out there. Mr. Green was in the war too, and he would sit and tell me lots of things that happened.
He said, 'one time him and one more of the men hid behind what they called the breastworks, he says it is
Page 5
something built of sticks and brush, just anything to keep the Yankees from seeing and killing them. One night it was raining and the trenches was full of mud, him and this man got sticks and rails and put one end up on the fence, the other was down in the mud, but they rolled up in their blankets and stayed till day light on these sticks, so they could see. Then they crawled out and saw a mother cat with three little kittens behind the breastworks. Well, he said, they had not had a bit to eat in three days, and they was so hungry that they got the little kittens, but they noticed that a mule had been shot and they cut a plug out of him and cooked it and ate it.'
'Oh, he said, he had to do so many things like that,' but he got back all right and we married.
"Well, Honey, I kept on till I had fourteen chilluns, eleven boys and three girls. We went back to Franklin County and Mr. Green's father died. So all his land and stores had to be divided up in eight parts. I took Mr. Green's mother to live with us. We was not so well off and I had to work. Our wheat was not so plentiful either, but his mother had to have her biscuits three times a day. She had always been rich, you see, and she had to have anything she wanted. You see, when Mr. Green's father died, his mother just got a child's part, but I didn't mistreat her. Mr. Green thought sometimes that she was overbearing, but she was getting old, and we both looked over it the best we could. She lived with
Page 6
us and was 97 years old when she died. My husband was her baby, too.
"Well, Honey, as I told you we had fourteen healthy chilluns, and we were proud of every one of them. Some of them married before Mr. Green died, in good families, too. Well, after Mr. Green's death, I lived with my oldest son till he died. He was taken sick with pneumonia fever. Then I moved to Athens and have been here fifteen years. I got settled here and still sew, and do most anything that I could do, to help out as a boarder. I get $30.00 a month from Mr. Green's death.
"I had a daughter to die last year with appendix, but her husband has plenty, so he and the chilluns are very comfortable. My son had a bad wreck not long ago in his car and broke his neck. All this has caused me a lot of sorrow, but now I take my pension, and rent this house, because all we had has gotten out of our hands with all these hard times. My daughter, her husband and son, and his wife, and grandson and his wife stay here with me. I could not live if they didn't stay with me. You see they are here to take care of me, if I get sick, and look after everything. We have a cow, hog and chickens. My baby boy lives just a little ways up the road. He comes every Saturday night or Sunday morning to hug my neck, and my grandchildren are so much company to me. There are five generations.
"I have forty grandchildren and fifty great grandchildren.
Page 7
I am always getting some kind of little present because there is Mother's Day or Christmas and my Birthday's too. Last birthday I had 116 here, that's why I like roomy houses. We have right big rooms and two big porches to sit on."
Her daughter said, "here Ma, here's your check". Mrs. Green's face brightened. The young Mrs. Green says, "Ma's always glad when her check comes, she wants to go to town right then and get it cashed."
"Do you go about much [,?] Mrs. Green?" I asked.
"Why yes, I don't give up for little things such as a touch of rheumatism."
The noon train went by so I decided I had better get to lunch. Mrs. Green got up to go to the door with me and she said, "I am sorry we didn't know you was coming out, we would have had our house a little more in order." " That's all right, everything look's very nice. " It was just fairly furnished but clean.
 

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 Item 40 of 73
[Making the Best of It]
MAKING THE BEST OF IT
Written By:
Mrs. Leola T. Bradley
Research Field Worker
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens -
Edited By:
Miss Grace McCune
Editor
Georgia Writers' Project
Athens -
WPA Area 6
January 5, 1940
January 3, 1940
Mr. and Mrs. James Lewis (White)
120 Springdale
Athens, Georgia
Merchants
Bradley - MAKING THE BEST OF IT
"That coat fits as though it had been made for you. It is a wonderful value. You see it has been marked down below cost and you will be making the mistake of your life[,?] if you don't buy it." The customer viewed herself from every angle in the long mirror.
"Yes, I do like it but even at that price, it's still more than I feel able to pay."
"Well," said the saleslady, "since it is almost Christmas and we are trying to cut down our stock I'll make another reduction in price."
This seemed to satisfy the customer, so slipping off the coat, she said, "Wrap it quick before I change my mind."
"Now can't I show you something else?" said the clerk.
"No, I think I've spent enough for one day."
"Well, I hope you will like your coat, and you certainly have a bargain. Come to see us again soon."
The clerk was Mrs. Hattie Lawton. She and her husband own the J.M. Lawton Cut-Rate Store on Maple Street. It was late one afternoon and near closing time for the day.
As she handed the customer the package, she looked up and saw me.
"Well, hello. Just find a seat over there in the shoe
Page 2
department, and I'll be with you in a minute."
As I seated myself, Mr. Lawton come from the rear of the store after finishing with a customer.
"We [are?] having a little rush of trade right now. We almost always do at the end of the day. When Miss Hattie gets through, the clerks and I will straighten up stock so she can talk to you. She is a better talker than I am." With this last remark he looks around to see if she is listening.
"Now, Jim," said his wife, "I heard you, but that's all right. Somebody has to talk for the family. I don't know which is worse - to talk too little or too much. My gift-o-gab has certainly helped, more than once, to get us out of a bad situation."
While writing for Mrs. Lawton, I glanced around the store. It was small, but everything was new, up-to-date, and very neat. On the right was an [ar ay?] of ladies' hats, while in the rear of this department was the ladies' ready-to-wear. Racks of dresses and coats were displayed. On the left were gents' clothings, hats, etc. There was a shoe department where gents', ladies', and children's shoes were 'fitted to satisfaction.' While it was not a large department store where you would find the most exclusive patronage, yet the general atmosphere denoted thrift and good management.
The rush of trade being over, Mrs. Lawton came and sat down.
"It has been like this all day," she said, "one steady stream of customers. Yes, trade is real good. Of course, we don't bother with Christmas goods, but it is surprising how much ready-to-wear
Page 3
and shoes we sell for gifts."
Mrs. Lawton is a handsome woman, tall and well proportioned. Her almost white hair, always waved and in place, gives her a rather distinguished appearance. She is kind and obliging, but is decisive in her manner. She enjoys talking and, as she says, is not afraid to speak her mind. Mr. Lawton is the [opposite?]. He is not very tall, nor particularly good looking, but is agreeable and gracious to every one. He never talks much, but always smiles and gives [accent?] to everything Miss Hattie says. It is very obvious that she has the stronger personality and more initiative of the two.
"We've had lots of ups and downs, and while lots of people might not like to talk about theirs, I don't mind a bit. In fact, I rather like it. It makes you feel braver and more like you could weather the storms if they should come again. It takes a lot to get me down. I get that from my parents. Oh, I went to tell you about them, and Jim, he never gets tired of hearing me tell of days way back before he knew me. I came from fine old [staunch?] stock who started their married life on the bottom rung of the ladder and built up. I think one thing that's wrong with married people today, they want too much. They don't know a thing about struggling to get a start like our parents did. That's one reason there's so many divorces.
"I was born in a big, two-story log house down in Emanuel County. It would be a valuable house now, since everybody's so crazy about log houses.
"Right after the war my father came down from Virginia to
Page 4
teach a little country school. His ambition was to be a lawyer, but he had to teach and study law awhile. My mother went to school to him. I used to set by the hour and hear them tell about the funny things that happened.
"In those days, they used slates, and he would write notes to her on her slate and put it on her desk. One day he wrote "Miss Florida, I want to take you home after school.' A little boy saw it and yelled out, 'I can't read writin', but I'll eat the devil whole, if that's writin'.' The school trustees heard about it, and told him they would have to quit going together or he could give up his job. So they married.
"We built this log house where three children were born. He carried her there the day they were married. Oh, yes, too, he drove a gray horse, hitched to the first buggy ever seen in that county. He gave an [enfare?] and seventy-two people sat at the table at one time to eat. Sometime when you are out at my house I want to show you some of the exquisite silver sent them from relatives in Virginia. They were heirlooms and my mother left them to me. My father's wedding gift to her was a lovely rosewood square piano. That's at one of my sisters in South Georgia.
"After he built this house, he bought 1700 acres of land around it. Got it for a dollar a acre. Today its the richest farming land in that section. He gave the land for Mt. Pisgah Church near [Covena?]. That's the first church I ever attended.
"After they had been married awhile [fater?] decided he would take up his study in law again. So he went to a law school in Virginia. Mother stayed at home and held things together and,
Page 5
young as she was, she ran that farm. Three of us children were born while he was still in school. Mother wove all the cloth we used and even made father's suits of clothes. When he finished law school she made him two suits, one was blue and the other brown. He began his first practice at [Swainsboro?], so mother moved there to put us in school. Father had his first bought suit when he opened his office.
"Until Untill father got established in his practice, mother opened up a little store and also had a little sewing shop in the back. She was certainly a fine, smart woman with plenty of backbone. I guess that's one reason I've been able to stand up under adversities like I have.
"Three more children were born while we were living at [Swainsboro?].
"People back in those days were co-operative. Nobody had much cash money, so when we couldn't pay our bills in cash we paid in produce. I remember my mother sewed to pay for my music lessons. I wanted to get out and make my own living. I always was independent and thought I had good business sense. I had a decided talent for millinery and thought I would take that up, for my lifes work. Someone told me about the [Regensteins?], a wholesale millinery house in Atlanta and suggested that I try to get a job with them. Well, I was fresh from a little country town and had never even been to a place as large as Atlanta but once before in my life. You can imagine how I felt. I had lots of nerve though as was not easily discouraged. The first morning I was there I went around to see what my prospects were for a job. I asked for the
Page 6
bossman, went in, told him my name and stated my business.
"Well, said he eyeing me from top to toe, why do you think you can get a job here, have you had any experience?"
I told him I had not but had a love for the work and was willing to learn.
"Well," he said, "We will take you on and give you a chance, but I tell you now you will have to work hard."
"I did work hard and thats no joke. I started at the bottom. My first job was to clean up the work-room and be general handy-man to the other workers. After I had been there awhile, I was allowed to help make hats. Then I was put on the floor as a saleslady. You see Jim, that was another time my ability to talk came in good. My bossman said I had perfectly good sales talk. When they thought I had sufficient training, I was sent over to Athens to take charge of a shop here.
"I had a fine job and saved my money. I was working in Athens, at Smith's at the time of the fire. I don't suppose you were living here then. Well, this whole end of business section was burned to the ground. Of course, my job was gone too, so I went back to the wholesale house in Atlanta. I stayed there a year; then they sent me to Greensboro, North Carolina, to oper a hat shop. I really had a swell shop and while I was only on a salary, it was a good one. My living expenses were paid too, by the company, at the very finest hotel. So I managed to save most of my salary.
"I forgot to tell you, when I worked in Athens, I met Jim and was practically engaged to be married. Well, Jim got tired of having to come to Greensboro to see me, so after about a year
Page 7
and a half he persuaded me to give up my job and get married.
"Jim was well fixed in a financial way so I had nothing to worry about. We had a nice home and for awhile I was happy as could be, just to be a housekeeper. Well, after the novelty of that wore off, I became dissatisfied. I wasn't accustomed to living that kind of a life and was simply dying to get back to public work.
"Finally I persuaded Jim to put our savings together and go in business. We did, and I want you to know we had one of the finest stores ever owned in Athens. We were successful in every way. We didn't owe anything and were able to discount all of our bills for merchandise. We did a credit business, and for long time that worked well. Everybody seemed to have money then and paid their bills.
"We had no children of our own, but that isn't saying we haven't had plenty of experience raising children. You remember my brother Milton, and the trouble he got into down in South Georgia. Well, he ran away and left his family and has never been heard of since. He had three little children, who somebody had to take care of. So we took them, reared them, and gave them good educations. They have turned out well; one of them, the boy, has gone right on up in the business world. He holds one of the finest salaried jobs in this town. I guess it's a blessing we never had any children of our own, since we had these three to rear.
"Jim and I never did go in so-called fashionable society. We don't drink, play cards, or dance. We did, though, belong to the Civic Clubs and were always ready to help with our money any
Page 8
enterprise that was for the good of the town. We are [Staunch?] Methodists and at one time have held responsible offices in the church. We didn't have to work as hard then as now, so we attended church and Sunday School regularly but now I'm so tired on Sunday I've gotten in a terrible habit of staying at home.
"Going back to our business, it prospered and we saved our money, until soon we had a substantial bank account. Then we began making other investments. We bought another home on Bloomfield and moved in it and rented out the one we moved from. Then my father had a stroke of paralysis and my mother was quite old, so I moved them to Athens and bought a small home for them, and took care of them until the died.
"The war came on, and like everybody else, we prospered. Merchandise prices went up; in fact, everything was higher but then there was more money.
"After the war was over there was a terrible slump in prices. We had stocked our store with high-priced goods. [Soon?] we realized that it was the same condition with every one. Sales began to fall away and we were faced with the appalling fact that our business was not making expenses. We could not hope to continue unless something was done to tide us over. We lay awake one night, almost all night, trying to decide what we could do. We finally came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to draw all of our savings from the bank and get our business in better shape. Up until then we had tried to let the store pay its expenses without this.
'the next morning we went to town with our minds made up.
Page 9
When we reached the business portion we noticed an unusual number of people on the street for that time of the day. They were standing in groups talking in an excited manner. There was great [consternation?] and agitation written on everyone's faces.
"Jim," says I, "what in the world so you suppose has happened? Pull over to the curb and park. I just must find out. We stopped the car and almost the first words we heard were 'Jim, the bank's closed - where did you have your money?' Jim looked at me and I'll never forget the expression on his face.
"Hattie, what will we do?" he said.
"Do", say I, "we'll do like everybody else. We'll do the best we can. Now listen here, Jim Lawton, if you think I'm going to let one bank failure get me down you don't know your wife. I'm not so old but what I can make more money. Let's get on to the store.
"Well, that was easier said than done, as I soon began to find out. You know bank failure news spreads like wildfire. Soon our creditors began calling on us. They were nice to us though, and we went ahead with everything almost against us.
"There followed other bank failures and soon the whole town was panicky. People were losing their homes, savings, and investments, and no one seemed to know which way to turn.
"The excitement was too much for Jim, for his heart had been bad for sometime. The next day he had an attack of angina pectoris and the doctors put him to bed for a long period.
Page 10
Not only did I have the strain of the business alone, but the anxiety about his condition was enough to floor a braver person than I,but I didn't weaken. I wouldn't even let myself think of my problems, but just lived a day at the time.
"Jim didn't improve very fast, so after talking our problems over with some of our business friends, who were capable of advising. I decided to let the store go. I hated the thought of bankruptcy. I guess I would have profited more in one way by taking that store. I didn't though. I liquidated, and decided to start another business on a smaller scale. We started at the bottom again, but I was willing to do anything to get rid of some of our responsibilities and keep Jim from worrying. Before this, father and mother had both died, so we rented out our lovely home ready furnished and moved into this little cottage I had bought for them.
"This house was not very pretentious but was comfortable and was in a desirable section. We were anxious to get another start in business but where was the capital to come from. We had lost everything but the house we were renting out and this one we were living in. We could not borrow any money for the whole country was shaky. We decided to see if we could sell one of these homes, which was doubtful. The better house was bringing good rent so we thought that was too good an investment to let go. We really hoped to be able to live in it again some day. As luck would have it, we heard of an old couple who had a little money and wanted to [buy?] a small house for themselves. We thought our little house would just suit them, so I went to see them.
Page 11
"Well, the long and short of it is we made the [sale?] and that is how we got a little cash for our next business venture.
"That sale really left us without a roof over our heads so we had to get busy then and get [?] a place to live. Well I never did have any false pride about me and I was determined that somehow, someway, we were going to get on our feet again. The best beginning I thought was to cut our living expenses down to a [minimum?], so I rented one room right close down town, and moved in. I stared our furniture that we were not using and took just a bed room suite, a few dishes and cooking utensils. In this one room we slept, cooked and ate. Now this [sounds?] mighty poor doesn't it? but you would be surprised to know how comfortable we were and how much we had to eat. I put the car away and didn't use it except to take Jim to the hospital and to [places?] he had to go. He couldn't walk much on account of his heart.
"There was talk then of Athens needing another curb market, so I rented a place and tried that until I could get another start in business. That didn't pan out so well, as there was one here and the competition was to great. So I soon closed that out. Then I conceived the idea of a second-hand clothing store, and that was really the beginning of our recovery from the depression. I rented a building down in a section where rents were cheap and at first [hired?] no help, so there was not much over-head expense to it. Well, my story is getting long so I won't go into detail about that. It was surprising how much I made though. People took to that like wildfire. The better class of people liked it
Page 12
because they could sell off their old clothes and the poor liked it because they could buy cheap. I bought and sold everything from [hose?] to evening dresses. I had some real good things too. You would open your eyes if you know how many college boys would come in and sell off their clothes. Perfectly good clothes too. They would get in a tight for spending money. I would hate to buy them, for I couldn't begin to pay the worth of them.
"I bought another store on Main Street. It was not a second-hand one but only catered to the poorer class of people. Jim had gotten able to work again. so he took charge of that one. We had both stores then. After about four years, we sold out both of these stores and invested in this one. We are really proud of this store and we feel that we are really on a good solid foundation once more.
"Of course it cost more to operate this store than it did the other ones. When we first opened up Jim and I tried to run it without any help. Now that was real work, and at times I would get so tired I could hardly go. I was still preparing our meals at home. That soon proved to be too hard for me, so we began eating our lunch down town. Jim would go out and get his and have mine sent here to the store.
"Trade soon got so big we couldn't handle it, so we got us one extra clerk for Saturdays. Then another, a man in the men's and boy's side. Soon we took on a regular full time clerk and she has been with us a long time. Of course there are busy seasons, like Christmas, Easter and the fall when we have to have lots of
Page 13
help but we are trying to keep down over-head expenses as much as possible. I certainly do work hard though. I still can't let Jim be worried with much responsibility so I go ahead with everything and don't worry him much.
"[Business?] prospered so, we decided we could begin to live a little less crowded so we moved back into our home on South Street. We have the second floor rented out and that helps to pay for the upkeep out there."
About this time Mr. Lawton walks up.
"Well, Miss Hattie," he says, "have you told it all. You have been talking a long time."
"Now, Jim, maybe you had better talk awhile, I may have left out something."
"Not me," he replied, "you know I'm not much of a talker."
"Look, Jim," said Mrs. Lawton, looking out the door, "[see?] that woman passing out there with her arms full of bundles - she is the one that owes us that great big bill. That's why she doesn't come in [here?] any more. I bet she didn't get those packages on credit. There's not a soul in this town I would credit again.
"Back to my story - I wasn't so popular when I had my second-hand store down on a side street. Not even in the church. Success certainly does make a difference. People's eyesight must be improving since we opened up this new store. They seem to see us at further distance to speak to us than they could before. That doesn't bother me though as long as we can pay our debts.
"Oh, of course now that we are getting on our feet and have more money to spend, our so-called friends are coming around to see
Page 14
us more. We are invited to join this, that, and the other [organisation?], but I can't be bothered. I hope I'm not getting selfish, but I [have?] had such a struggle, not only financially, but other ways, I'm just tired I think. I'm not dependent on other people for my happiness anyway.
"I have a lot to be proud of. We are out of debt, we have a nice growing business, and even though Jim is not entirely well, if he takes care of himself there's no reason why he should not live a long, long time. Why, I've paid out over a thousand dollars in doctors bills and medicine in the past two years. I have good paidup insurance too that will come in mighty fine in our old age. We won't ever be wealthy as the world counts money, but we have enough.
"We are public spirited too and always vote our [convictions?]. We do our part in our church, and our pocketbooks are open for every worthy cause.
"I think a lot about that song you sing for us so much. Jim, you know the one you are so crazy about. The name of it is "Heart O Mine" - and the last verse goes.
'For we know not every [sorrow?]
can be sad,
So forgetting all the sorrow
we have had,
Let us dry away our tears,
And put by our foolish fears,
And through all the coming years,
Just be glad!'
Well, that's what we are trying to do now, Just Be Glad."