Interview with Harris Sharpe

Harris Sharpe was interviewed by Alexandra Sharpe on April 14, 2012

Harris Wade Sharpe was born in the Carr Community in North Carolina in 1935. She had two parents, Jessie and Will, and four older brothers, Jack, Bill, and James. Her family owned a tobacco farm in Carr. She worked on the farm, and at a dress store in Burlington, Belk-Leggett’s department store, banks in Durham and Mebane, the Post Office, and the contracts and grants department at the University of North Carolina. Mrs. Sharpe and her husband Victor Thomas Sharpe have three boys, Tommy, Bob, and Ed. Her husband passed away in January of 2000 after battling an undiagnosed form of lung disease for 27 years. She is also a breast cancer survivor and has been cancer free for five years. Mrs. Sharpe is currently 76 years old and lives in Efland, North Carolina, where she has lived since getting married.

On Being Southern

Oh me, prim and proper [sighs]. You dressed for the occasion, where so many times today I think we dress so different from what I would have dressed – not everybody, but some people. Even back then, I don’t think I can remember ever seeing my daddy go to church in overalls or blue jeans or whatever. He always had a suit. I’m not saying he’d have two or three, but he always had a suit and he wore that to church. Well people today are different because you and Taylor were taught your manners, and when you’re supposed to use them, and how you’re supposed to use them. Now those were taught as well when I was growing up, but just like now all parents didn’t teach them then, and all parents don’t teach them today. There’s a lot of changes, but there’s still a lot of things that haven’t changed.

Listen to the audio of Mrs. Sharpe’s response about expectations in the South.

On Household Work

Mrs. Sharpe was asked how she and her husband divided up the work of their household.

Well, because of the husband I had, I think we did real good. Papa was always willing to help and do his part. When we got home from work it wasn’t, “This is the household – you do it.” He always helped me. Even when the boys were little he would get up at night with them just as much as I did, when we had to get up with them. All I can say is I was very fortunate in that respect.

Listen to the audio of Mrs. Sharpe’s response about gender and work.

On Leisure

In discussing her hobbies, quilting and cooking, Mrs. Sharpe described:

As much as we want to help our children, sometimes our help is more of a hindrance than it is help. I think that night I learned for myself, “I can’t just be a soft pillow for him to fall on.” Sometimes you have to be a hard rock. That’s hard for the parent to accept and I know it’s hard for the child to accept. I think our theory for years is, “Momma’s going to be there,” and momma will be there. But sometimes not in the respect you wanted her to be, but that’s life. We can look at somebody else and say, “Oh my Lord, don’t they know what they’re doing to that child.” You just have to believe inside that if they don’t really know what they’re doing, somebody else is going to come along and show that child the right way.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Mrs. Sharpe’s leisure.

On Raising Children

As much as we want to help our children, sometimes our help is more of a hindrance than it is help. I think that night I learned for myself, “I can’t just be a soft pillow for him to fall on.” Sometimes you have to be a hard rock. That’s hard for the parent to accept and I know it’s hard for the child to accept. I think our theory for years is, “Momma’s going to be there,” and momma will be there. But sometimes not in the respect you wanted her to be, but that’s life. We can look at somebody else and say, “Oh my Lord don’t they know what they’re doing to that child.” You just have to believe inside that if they don’t really know what they’re doing, somebody else is going to come along and show that child the right way.

Listen to the audio about raising children.

On High School

When discussing her high school experiences, she remembered one experience which she really missed out on:

Well, I remember in high school I wanted to play basketball. Oh I wanted to play basketball so bad. Momma and daddy said no because of my knee that I had broken. I begged and I pleaded and finally they says, “Okay we’ll go see your doctor and see what he says.” He looked at me and he says, “No. You cannot play basketball. That’s too much of a risk of doing damage to that knee.” And he said, “Next time it won’t be as easy as it was the last time.” I thought to myself then, “Lord if it’s not as easy as it was the first time, I sure don’t want anything to happen.” I was a cheerleader, not like cheerleaders today. We didn’t throw each other up in the air and all of this. We just led, you know, sayings or little songs or whatever. And then when I wasn’t being a cheerleader, at most of the games I helped keep score.

Listen to the audio of Mrs. Sharpe’s response about her school experiences.

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