Interview with Mildred Huey

Mildred Huey was interviewed by Britt Johnson on April 22, 2012.

Mildred Huey was born on September 13th, 1933 on a farm in Caswell County, North Carolina. She was married to restaurant owner Ralph Huey, who was nine years her senior, in November 1954. She had two children with Ralph, Ralph Jr. and Debbie. Ralph Sr. passed away in 1973, leaving Mildred with a booming restaurant empire and two teenage children. Mildred had no formal education when it came to running a business; all she had to rely on was the mentoring and information she received from her husband while he was alive. Under Mrs. Huey, the multi-state Huey’s restaurant chain flourished until she sold the last one in 1993. In her free time Mildred loves to travel the world, especially Asia, Europe, and California, and to play golf.

On Food Rationing During the Great Depression

Mildred grew up on a farm in rural North Carolina during the Great Depression but her family didn’t feel the strains of the economic downturn like many others did. She said:

But since we grew our own food, even to the meats, we didn’t worry about going hungry like some people did… As I said, the most I remember was the rationing and stuff how hard it was for people that lived in the city. We could remember the long lines that we saw for people being hungry, but it didn’t affect me because of the fact that in today’s terms, we was “poor.” But I had no idea that I was poor [laughs]. I really didn’t – because we were wealthy in that sense of the word. I had no thoughts of being hungry or anything like a lot of people were in the depression.

Listen to the audio of Mildred’s response about her experiences during the Great Depression.

On Gaining Respect in the Professional Community as a Woman

When Mildred’s husband passed away in 1973 she inherited his large multi-state restaurant empire. Mildred’s personality and determination to be successful garnered respect in an era where women rarely held business executive positions. She noted:

The only time I think that I really felt it was after he passed away. It was hard for you to walk into say, a restaurant equipment company and get the respect that you would have. They would look at you like, “does she really know what she’s really looking for?” Or whatever. It didn’t take them long to know that I wasn’t there just to look and shop; I knew what I came after. But that would probably been the only time and I never felt it too much in the business world and around here. I just never did.  Anything I ever tried to do, I done it [laughs]. They had to just tolerate me. I guess that’s what the best thing you could say for it. I didn’t feel no disrespect because they had to accept me. And what I went after, I got. Does that make sense? That’s the way it is, that’s the way it was. But no, I didn’t get showed no respect. Not in the world that I lived in.

Listen to the audio of Mildred’s response about respect in the professional community.

On Balancing a Career and Family

Trying to balance her successful restaurant empire with being a mother to two children proved a challenge to Mildred. Her children might not have liked her solution, but it allowed them time together. She said:

The hours was long. I usually tried to get there about 8 o’clock in the morning, 8:30, and it was 11 o’clock when we got home at night. That was our pattern of our life. But they adjusted [laughs], they’re fine. They might have been cheated out of some things, but they were there with me and we shared in everything that we had to do together. They might not have liked it. Ralph might not have liked washing dishes, or he might not have liked bussing tables. Debbie might not have liked waiting tables…

Listen to the audio excerpt about Mildred’s experience.

On Integration and the Restaurant

Running a restaurant in the South during the fifties and sixties could have led to major tensions in the community. Mildred reflected on her husband’s fears following the passage of new integration laws:

I think that was his fear when they made it law that they could come into the restaurant. He worried about that more than anything else because of how the white people would react. And I would say, “Ralph, it’s the law. If the white ones can’t accept it they can’t come.” He says, “It could ruin the business.” I says, “Everybody’s got to do it. We’re not just the one.” I knew that we would get the most because we had always made a place for them so they could come and eat or take out and stuff like that. Even in the early fifties and he was in business and small they always came. He always had a big black following. And they all was friends. When that happened he really worried about how to handle it. It was really bad there for a while. We had a few walk out.

Listen to the audio about integrating the restaurant.

On Advice for Younger Generations

Mildred offered advice for the youth of America:

Do anything. Do whatever you want to do, but do it well. Don’t take a backseat to nothing. I tell Ivey [granddaughter] all the time. People say, ”I can’t do this.” I say, “You can do anything you want.” Especially in today’s world. If you’re really willing to sacrifice – to do what you really want to do – because you have to spend all the rest of your life working. And if you’re working at something that you don’t like, it’s not a very pleasant life that you live. So do what you really want to, make the most of it and give it your best. That’s my advice. Good things will come, and it may be hard for you, but good things will come. Eventually you will get there. It might take you a while.

Listen to the audio of Mildred’s advice.

Interview with Theresa Greene

Theresa Sigmond Greene was interviewed by Katy Morse on April 11, 2012.

Theresa Greene was born in Catawba County, North Carolina. Her father sold Chevrolets and her mother stayed at home to raise her and her younger brother, Eugene. As a girl, she spent much of her free time working on her grandmother’s farm. While in school, she enjoyed acting in school plays. She graduated from high school as the salutatorian at the age of sixteen. She spent two years working in a nearby glove mill until she reached the age of eighteen, when she was old enough to go to nursing school. After returning home from training and working as a nurse for several years, she went back to school at the School of Public Health in Chapel Hill on a scholarship. The scholarship sent her to work in Burlington, where she has lived ever since. She worked as a nursing director until the age of sixty-five, when she retired. At the time of the interview, she was eighty-eight years old and enjoyed spending her days working in her garden.

On Growing Up During the Great Depression

We did not know that it was a depression. I was born in it so I didn’t know it was a depression. And see, all the children at school my age, we were the same way. And it was out in the country so apparently people didn’t pay as much attention to it because they didn’t starve. They had their own food, and they did their own laundry. I know they had food. They had to buy their meat and sugar and they had wheat. They could take it up to the mill and get it ground. They had corn, take it to the same mill to get their corn meal. So things were a lot different than they are today.

Listen to the audio of Theresa’s response about growing up during the Depression.

On Learning to Sew

Theresa learned to sew after her mother’s prompting:

I took a sewing lesson because I couldn’t sew. I went to the home demonstration people who taught sewing. I went to the class. And so we had to learn to sew. And the first thing she made us make was, guess what? Stretch knits came in and so we had to cut our own patterns. She showed us how to measure ourselves, cut our own pattern, and make those stretch knits. And you know, they were so comfortable. You can’t find the fabric anymore to sew that anymore.

Listen to the audio of Theresa’s response about learning to sew.

On Working in a Glove Mill

I had to wait two years to go into nursing to train because you had to be eighteen. So I got a job in the glove mill in Conover to make some money. I clipped palms. You know gloves have five fingers, well when the lady sewed them up, after they were cut, well they would sew and then I would take a little special pair of scissors and clip the palms – that’s what they’re called – and just lay them over there. And they had to be steamed after that. But I sat there like you and I are sitting and clipped palms. And you made so much an hour. It wasn’t about how many palms you clipped. Some of them are paid by how many a dozen they sewed but see I wasn’t going to be a permanent employee. I was going to leave and so I got a child’s job here. I got an easy job for a person.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Theresa’s experience working in the mill.

Later Work

After the glove factory, Theresa pursued a career in nursing:

After I graduated from training I went back home and I worked in the hospital there in surgery with the surgeons in the morning. In the afternoon I worked in the office. And then I decided I wanted something more than that so I went back to school. I went to the School of Public Health in Chapel Hill and I got a scholarship to go that year and study. I had to work wherever they sent me when I graduated.

Listen to the audio about Theresa’s nursing career.

On Being a North Carolinian:

Oh naturally I’m a North Carolinian. I prefer North Carolina because we have the mountains and the coast. And see we grew up sixteen miles from Asheville, so it was nothing after a Sunday for Dad to drive us up to the mountains and to drive up to Asheville, and coast back down the hills to home. That was fun. So we had a lot of fun. We had good times.

Listen to the audio of Theresa’s thoughts on being a North Carolinian.

Interview with Linda Curry

Linda Curry was interviewed by Lindsay Bell on April 17, 2012.

Linda Curry was born in 1952 in Lenoir, North Carolina, and she has lived in North Carolina her entire life. Her husband, Elon University Professor Bernard Curry, is the pastor at Mt. Zion United Church of God. The interview took place at the Hospice Home of Alamance-Caswell, where her mother is currently infirmed. Her father passed away in July 2011. In addition to her mother, she has one brother, who lives in Lenoir, and a daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, who live in the Burlington area. Linda Curry had been an English Teacher at Western Alamance High School, but is now retired. The interview discusses her experiences with integration, her teaching career, her love for her home state, her current family life, and her experiences with faith.

On School Desegregation

Linda described being one of the first African American children in her grade to desegregate the all-white school:

I went to all black schools up until the sixth grade. And then – I think it was 1965 or 66 – we integrated. And we had to go to the all-white school. And in the eighth grade, I think, we got the new math. So that’s when new math came out, and I was afraid because I was the only black girl. There were four of us in the classroom: three black boys and I was the only black girl. And I was scared to move. And the three boys didn’t come to school half the time. They stayed out a lot. [LB: laughs]. I was afraid to move. And I remember Mrs. Bryant, my teacher, writing stuff on the board and she was going so fast. And I wanted to raise my hand and say, “Stop! I don’t understand, go back.” And she would turn around and ask, “Any questions? Any questions?” And when nobody raised their hand, I wasn’t about to be the first one to raise. So I lost it. And that’s where my math skills went downhill, ever since then.

Listen to the audio about Linda’s thoughts about desegregation.

On Race

Linda remarked on the differences she first noticed between high school in Lenoir and college at North Carolina A&T:

I went to A&T so it was like a totally different ballgame. Because see, in high school, everything was white. White homecoming queen, white president, and I mean white, you know, of a different race. But then when I got to A&T it was like [gasps]. I was shocked because here, you had a sea full of smart black people. The black homecoming queen. “Wow!” By this time, you know, I’m brainwashed thinking, “I can’t be homecoming queen.” Because, you know, it had to be somebody white….I remember they wanted me to run for homecoming queen but I wasn’t about to run to get disappointed. Because I felt there’s no way I could win. [LB: Didn’t want to get your hopes up.] Right, Right. Anyway, when I got to A&T and I see all this, it was like, “Wow. I really can be somebody.” So that kind of encouraged me to continue on with my education.

Listen to the audio of Linda’s thoughts on race.

On Teaching

When asked about her greatest rewards as a teacher, Linda responded:

I guess that’s my greatest reward, when they come back and tell me something I’ve said that really helped them. I always say [with] good teaching sometimes you have to close the book. That’s why I don’t believe in a lot of this testing. Sometimes you’ve got to teach with your heart.

Listen to the audio excerpt Linda’s thoughts on teaching.

On North Carolina

I always say [that] I like calling North Carolina home. It’s a good state to live in. I like the climate. You get a little taste of winter and a little taste of summer – you don’t know which sometimes! [LB: laughs] It’s good. It’s still kind of a slow pace. It’s not just the fast life. Everything still closes down at ten o’clock.

I like North Carolina and I don’t think I’d ever move. If something were to happen to my husband, and I had to marry again, if he couldn’t live in North Carolina, he would have to go. [laughs] I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere else.

Listen to the audio about North Carolina.

On her Accomplishments

I think that’s my greatest accomplishment, being able to stay in my career for the duration. And then I guess my other greatest accomplishment is having Leeya, my daughter.

Listen to the audio of Linda’s thoughts on her accomplishments.

Interview with Patricia Hall

Patricia Hall was interviewed by Courtney Rafael on November 6, 2010.

Pat Hall was born on October 12, 1946, and is sixty-four years old. She was born and raised in Alamance County, and has lived there all of her life. Mrs. Hall lived with her parents until they got a divorce when she was nine. Her mother, Mary, died when she was nine and she moved in with her father, John, and step-mother, Thelma. Mrs. Hall was influenced and helped raised by many members of her family because they all lived in close proximity of each other and worked on the farms together.  She grew up farming, mostly in tobacco and continued to grow tobacco for the first couple of years of her marriage. Mrs. Hall started dating and got married at age sixteen to James Thomas Hall. They had two children, Donnie and Kim, by the time she was eighteen and several years later they had their third child, Lori. Mrs. Hall worked several jobs, including Woolworth’s lunch counter, Glen Raven Mills, Bell’s apparel store, and her current job at Carolina Biological. She has six grandchildren and her proudest achievements in life are her children.

On Equality

Patricia Hall discusses her feelings on equality between males and females today.  As Patricia said in the interview:

Well I am a woman so I should say, “I just think it’s great,” but there again I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. I mean, I remember how life used to be and it was much simpler. Now granted I think that it’s wonderful that if a woman is out there doing certain jobs that she can make what a man could make. I suppose it will never – it’s never going back – you can’t go back. So I mean if a woman is out there doing the same thing a man is doing, then she should be making what a man is making. [CR: I agree.] I know that sounds a little… [CR: No.] I’m sort of torn between that. I mean, I remember how it was, and it seems like if you are coming along today you would look back and think women weren’t treated fairly. But, you know, they didn’t have all the pressure on them that you have today. I mean it was just a whole different world. It was. Things were a lot less complicated.

Listen to the audio of Pat’s response about her feelings on equality.

On Rural Life

Well, when they were real little we were raising tobacco. And actually when your mother was born -[CR: Mm- hmm.] she was probably – maybe a year old – maybe not even a year old – when we decided we were going to move back to where his daddy, his mother, and grandparents lived. And live in this little house and raise tobacco [CR: Mm-hmm.] for this tobacco season. [CR: Right.] But we had to move back and it was probably March, it was still cold. But the house didn’t a bathroom, it didn’t have any running water. It wasn’t even wired for an eclectic stove but he had it wired for an electric stove. But we moved back in this house with two babies in diapers, and no bathroom for one tobacco season. And like I said, that usually starts in March because you’re starting to plant and everything. And it runs through, maybe, October when you’re starting to get everything sold. So we lived there and that was a experience. Going to the laundry mat, pulling water up in a well with two babies in two diapers. And we didn’t have pampers – we had diapers – [CR: Like cloth?] cloth diapers. So that was a experience. And I’d have to take them to the tobacco field in the playpen. And we would sit the playpen up, and they would be right there in the playpen while we were doing tobacco. But, you know, we made a whole lot of money off of that tobacco crop. And so we did it for that one season. [CR: Right.]

Listen to the audio of Pat’s response about rural life.

On Dating – Rules and Restrictions

My daddy had to meet everybody I dated. He had to have them come in and get to know them. And I had to double date, and I had to be home. If Daddy wasn’t there when your date come you had to wait till he got there, because you couldn’t just get in your car and leave. He had to personally see you getting in the car with who ever you were going with. And you had to be home by eleven o’clock so if you were at the movies and it ran late, too bad, you had to leave before it ended. Because you had to be home before eleven o’clock or you were going to be grounded. And you knew you better not call and say, “Is it okay if I’m coming late.” You’d be grounded even worse [laughs]. And when we came home from a date we couldn’t sit out in the car. [CR: You came right in?] Yes, you couldn’t pull up in the driveway, and just sit out there with a boy in the car. No, you didn’t do that. So yeah it was pretty strict [laughter] growing up.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Pat’s response about dating – rules and restrictions.

On Work Experiences

Okay. Well she set in front of me – in the machine in front of me. And back then, you know, people would smoke but they would take their breaks and run to the bathroom and have a cigarette or whatever. But when you were in production and you were pushing to make that money, you know. You didn’t do a lot of talking, everybody was really pushing hard. And I can remember one day I was just pushing away trying to make get them stockings sewed, and heard Peggy say, “Pat.” And, you know, I didn’t stop to look. I could hear her saying my name but, you know, I didn’t. She said, “Pat,” and I would say, “What?” [Laughter] And she had the needle – the needle had went down – she got her finger up there, and some how another that needle went down through her finger. [CR: Ahh. Oh my gosh.] And she was just sitting there with the needle through her finger. And I said, “Oh Peggy!” [Laughs] [CR: Like all the way through?] Yeah. Oh Peggy [laughs]! [CR: Oh, gross.] And they got it out. They had to take her to get her a tetanus shot. I mean, it was like a when they pierce your ear, you know? It was a little sharp needle. [CR: But all the way through her finger, uhh?] Uh-uhn. It went right down through there, and her little finger was sort of hung right there [laughs].

Listen to the audio about Pat’s work experiences.

On Southern Women

Asked about the ideal appearance for Southern women, Pat explained:

Well, you always wanted to look nice. You wouldn’t have went out in public not looking nice, you know. When I go out now, that’s one of things I’ve noticed that’s changed so much. You know, when we were growing up and coming along – when we went places and went out in public – I mean, you were dressed. [CR: Mm-hmm.] Your hair was fixed, your make-up was on, and you were dressed. But now you go out, and I mean you see people out anywhere – [CR: I know.] they just don’t take any pride in their appearance. I don’t know if I gave you a good description [CR: You did.] of a Southern belle. But you know, I think it’s a stereotype when they say Southern belle and people are thinking of somebody in a ball gown. But [CR: Yeah.] you know, a Southern belle to me is just a, you know, a lady that’s well groomed and well dressed. And in my era, when I’m saying my time – that a Southern girl was someone that took a lot of pride in their appearance, and their appearance of their home, and their family. And they took a lot of pride in their manners, being polite…

Listen to the audio of Pat’s response about Southern women.

Interview with Cheryl Jeffries

Cheryl Jeffries was interviewed by Joanna Rabiej on November 5, 2010.

Cheryl Jeffries is a primary care physician practicing at Burlington’s Kernodle Clinic.  She was born in Alamance County but moved to Maryland at seven years old when her mother re-married.  She came back to North Carolina when she decided to go Duke University for undergraduate education.  Dr. Jeffries attended medical school at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Jeffries is very active in the community and is involved with a faith-based health improvement ministry.  She has also been instrumental in helping her clinic became more welcoming to female physicians.

On being a female African-American doctor

Cheryl tends to feel there are more issues in medicine related to gender rather than race.  This is apparent in her response to some of her experiences:

Female African-American doctor?  Yeah, I have had patients, they think you’re the nurse – and I don’t know if that’s more of a gender thing. You go in the room in the hospital to take a history and examine the patient, and they’re like, “When’s the doctor coming?” “Ma’am, I am the doctor.” Or “Sir, I am the doctor.”  I don’t know so much as a racist thing, probably more of a gender thing. They assume the doctor is going to be a boy, or they did back then, just assume the doctor’s going to be a guy.  When they saw you, and they’re like, “Excuse me, nurse! Nurse!”  That occasionally happens today. When I went into private practice, I think in residency it wasn’t such an issue because you’re taking care of a lot of indigent patients at that time, so they were just happy to get any care that they could get.  There was not a lot of issues of that kind of thing, “I don’t want her taking care of me.”  I don’t ever really remember experiencing that.

Listen to the audio of Cheryl’s response about her experience as a doctor.

On Spirituality

Well, I think, from being young, I’ve always had a spiritual foundation. My theory on happiness is that you have to have something to believe in that’s bigger than yourself, you have to have something meaningful to do, you have to have somebody to love or take care of, and then you have to have something to look forward to.  Those are my four personal things that I need to have in my life to have balance. I’m finding that my daughter is the same way.  So when I’m sort of spiritually out of balance or not spiritually connected, then things aren’t going right. When I don’t feel like I’m involved in some sort of project that is helping somebody else, then things aren’t going right. I always need something to look forward to. I need a trip, or I need a vacation, or I need something to look forward to. I have kids and significant others, there’s always somebody to love and take care of, somebody always has a need.

Listen to the audio of Cheryl’s response about spirituality.

On differences between certain cities in North Carolina

Cheryl has lived in several cities in North Carolina.  Here she describes some of them:

Well, Durham is Durham. I was there at the university. Durham has really grown, and it’s become a very nice town, but at that time, it was Duke, and then it was Durham. The two just didn’t mix.  So I don’t really have much experience with Durham.  Chapel Hill, of course, I think Chapel Hill and Asheville are the two places in North Carolina that are somewhat eclectic and contemporary and are probably the most liberal cities in North Carolina.  I would say Asheville, Asheville’s really eclectic and kind of liberal and Chapel Hill, so Chapel Hill was a fun place to be and to live and to work. Charlotte is a big city. Booming, growing city, and much bigger now than when I was there, I think.  I left Charlotte in 1992, so I was there from 1986 to 1992. Incredible growth, a lot of young people going there to work in the financial industry, and so it was a yuppy, young urban professional-type place.  So it was a good place to be, socially, and when I was in training, even though you’re on call every third night, you still find some time to socialize at that point.  And all the cities are unique. I like North Carolina, I think you get a little bit of everything in North Carolina.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Cheryl describing North Carolina cities.

On her most rewarding community involvement

Community involvement is very important to Cheryl, as seen through the faith-based health improvement ministry related to her work:

I think probably the most rewarding thing has been this faith-based health improvement initiative because I think we’re going to see more and more of that. That’s been fun and rewarding. I can see it carrying on. Every once a year, the group will say, “We need to get another one of those classes! Everybody’s getting fat again! We need to do our class over!” So people, they re-do the class, and people get motivated and get back on track. We have made some changes in our communities and in our churches that alter the eating, and they’ll remind each other. They’re going through the line at the homecoming dinner, “You know you’re not supposed to eat that fried stuff!” So made some changes. We’ve actually had a nutritionist come out, had somebody go out with them shopping at the grocery store. Each week in the class, you do a little different thing. So that’s been fun.

Listen to the audio about the health improvement ministry.

Reflections on her proudest achievements

Cheryl is a very accomplished woman, as a mother and a physician.  Here she discusses some of her most significant sacrifices, choices, and skills:

I don’t know, I think you make sacrifices, and you make choices. I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in terms of career things because I wanted to have a family, and my children have always been the most important thing, most important part of my life.  I think that women in general don’t hang their self-worth on their careers or what they do. That’s just a part of who they are. Men tend to have their whole self-worth tied up in their careers and how much money they make and their successes in terms of their careers. I don’t feel that at all.  I mean, I think I’m good at what I do, and I’m probably good at what I do because of the skills that I possess that have nothing to do with medicine. The same skills that I possess that make me good at being a good mommy. So I guess those would probably be the achievements, the chief of staff and being the oldest and only African-American female partner.

Listen to the audio of Cheryl’s response about her proudest achievements.

Interview with Tammy Hayes-Hill

Tammy Hayes-Hill was 47 at the time of the interview, which was on November 8, 2010, and has lived in North Carolina her entire life.  Both her parents were farmers, so she learned the value of hard work at an early age.  She is part white, part African American, and part Native American, more specifically the Occoneechee tribe.  She has worked at Elon University for around 10 years, and if anyone ever has a problem needing solving in Residence Life, Tammy probably knows about it and is helping solve it in some way, shape or form.  She has one child, Brett, who is 22, and a husband, Gary, who works in Physical Plant in Elon as well.

Tammy on Family

Tammy’s brothers were among the first in NC to be integrated into primarily white schools as minorities.  In response to a question about whether she worried about them, Tammy said:

“I didn’t because I was so young.  Just hearing stories as I grew up, yes, I feel like there were some tense times, there were a lot of derogatory and very degrading words that I heard, that were thrown at my brothers and that were said to them.  And yes, as an ethnic person, even to this day you are in fear of your life all the time. And I know that sounds extreme, but you have to really understand, that even though civil rights are there, but it’s almost like you’re in fear that at any time they could be taken away from you.”

Listen to the audio of Tammy’s response:

Tammy on Farm Work

Since farming went back multiple generations on both sides of her family, she was always helping out one of her family members with a farm related task.

“And on the farm, it was always something to do.  If it wasn’t helping in the fields, which in the summer time was a big thing, it was the matter of taking care of whatever needed to be taken care of around the house, around the barn.  I will say at the stores we were always packing soda boxes, we would always have to wipe off counters, if someone came in and you needed to prepare an order of food, even though back then children should not have been doing that, you would chip in and do that.  If it was a time that we were out of school, going in the morning like at five and six o’clock and preparing onions and tea, and preparing the food to be served at the restaurant.  In the summer time you always had to work in tobacco. So we were at the barn, and the girls would stay at the barn to do the tying of the tobacco, and the men would go out and pull the tobacco, and that was an all-day process.  So it was never a time that you didn’t have things to do.”

Listen to the audio of  Tammy’s response about farm work:

Tammy on Work

When asked about what her happiest moment at Elon was, Tammy replied:

“Oh, my happiest moment.  Gosh, there is so many.  I think it’s just the everyday feeling of being valued.  You know, happy moments are like when I see students graduating on graduation day and remembering them as a freshman, and then they have that senior swagger, that confidence and that you know that even though they’re leaving, that you had a special time with them.  And I’ll get a little misty, when I think about that.”

Listen to the audio excerpt:

Tammy on Leisure

When asked about what she did in her free time, Tammy replied:

“Well, I work a lot with my tribe, the Occoneechee tribe, we’re based out of Mebane, and we’re a non-profit.  So, a lot of work with them, there are meetings, there’s a lot of planning that we do.  With being a non-profit we’re always in that fund-raising mode because we survive off of grants and donations and that’s really a lot of time consuming work, but very fulfilling.  You can always find something to do.  Also, I’m part of the Alamance County Astronomy Club, and that is just a great outlet if you’re interested in astronomy, whether you have a total scientific knowledge, or you’re someone just interested in what’s going on in the sky and identifying stuff.  So, I really enjoy that as well as trying my best to connect with my family, working from 7:15 and not getting home till six o’clock, a lot of times I never see my neighbors, even though my in-laws live next door, you’re lucky to get a phone call in to them maybe two or three times a week, so there are a lot things where I catch up on as far as phone calls or going to see people, and being indigenous, I have a lot of relatives around that I really like to stay in touch with.”

Listen to the audio:

Tammy on Traveling

Tammy has never been on a plane, but she still wants to travel.

“No, need to do a lot.  I haven’t had those opportunities; I would love to go everywhere.  I have never flown, and not that that I’m afraid to because I would get on a plane in a heartbeat [laughs], so if there was a space shuttle, yes, I’m there.  Now, I’m not going to go on a cruise, I’ll tell you that.  Water and with me not swimming [AB: And all that recent news anyway.] Well, yes [laughs].  You know, not that I have anything against Spam, not a meal of choice.”

Listen to the audio of Tammy’s response:

Interview with Mitchie Hall

Mitchie, born Mildred Hall, was born on November 9, 1927, which at the time of the interview made her 83 years old at the time of the interview. She was born in Liberty, North Carolina to a dairy farmer and a schoolteacher. She was the eighth of nine children born, and has a fraternal twin sister. Her mother was 47 years old when she had her. Her father raised Mitchie on the farm where she worked quite hard throughout her childhood, but her father did not let that interfere with her studies, where he put quite an emphasis for his daughters to get an education. After High School where she was Class President for four years she attended University of North Carolina Greensboro where she received a degree in Housing. Following college she married and after a short stint as an assistant dietitian, focused mainly on raising her three children, two girls and one boy. She is quite religious and that has played a major role in her development as a person.

On Her Name

She reflected on her name and being a twin:

As I said mother was 47 we were the eighth and ninth children that she had had. She had already used the name Mary in a previous child’s name, Mary Catherine, and so she was left to give another name to me thought she had chosen, Martha, Martha Sue and then Mildred Lue, so we would have rhyming name. We had a nice big farmhouse and her bedroom was large, so we had a crib in the bedroom where she and my father slept and it was a nice crib with iron rails. Both of us could sleep in that crib and then I understand that at times she would find us with my thumb in my sister’s mouth and my sister’s thumb in my mouth.

Listen to the audio of Mitchie’s response about her name.

On Her Father Growing Tobacco

Reflecting on her father refusing to grow tobacco:

All of them were separate farms. Ours was probably the largest. It was at the time people were growing tobacco. My father did not believe that tobacco would be good for you. Though tobacco was the money crop in the neighborhood, he refused, we did not ever grow tobacco. He did not like for people to be smoking, he would not allow people the smoke at our house, he always talked against people that were smoking that would cause them to die. If anybody died, it was because they smoked. That was a big embarrassment to us, that he was so vocal against that. However no one in our family smoked, you know, as long they lived.

Listen to the audio of Mitchie’s response.

On Education

Mitchie speaks on her educational experience:

Education was a very big part in our family. That was something we just grew up knowing that we would go to college. Even though we were poor. My sisters had gone to college with father selling produce; at it was then Women’s Colleges UNCG. He would furnish produce to the college for them to go to school. The pecans and at Thanksgiving and Christmas we always sold turkeys. That was how we all went to college, by his determination.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Mitchie’s about her education.

Life During WWII

Mitchie talks about her life during the Second World War:

I mean v-mails and I do remember the sugar rationing. I remember making a speech about raising money for war bond, but I don’t remember raising any money, [NF: Laughs] but maybe we did. We were concerned about the seriousness of the war in Germany and Japan, but we were busy raising the crops because that was just necessary of course most people called it “victory gardens” but ours was more than a victory garden because we were really producing a la sweet potatoes, and we were just selling corn, big things.

Listen to the audio about life during World War Two.

On College Experiences

Mitchie reflects about her experiences on meeting new people and experiences in college:

She was a Christian Scientist it just slipped me. She didn’t try to convert me but her parents did come down to visit two of three times to North Carolina, we would have them. I was so appreciative of everything they did.  I was just a friend to their daughter and so they were really enjoyed having me around, a little country girl that had never seen anything. So they had me to come up for Spring Break to see them and that was my first experience on a train and first experience to NY and it was just such a treat.

Listen to the audio of Mitchie’s response about her college life.

Interview with Augusta Garrison

Augusta Garrison was interviewed by Allie Heatwole on April 26, 2010.

Ms. Augusta Garrison is an 82 year old woman who was born in Hamlet, North Carolina.  At the age of 18, she found out that she was adopted and that she had five sisters and one brother. She lived in Hamlet until she got married and moved to New Jersey so her husband could find work.  She worked as a nursing assistant before getting married and then raised five children.  After living in New Jersey for over 21 years, Ms. Garrison returned to her childhood home in Hamlet to take care of her mother.  She stayed in that house after her mother’s passing and still lives there today. 

On Living in New Jersey

Ms. Garrison was describing the night her husband wanted to show her the progress on the plant he was working on.  She described being disinterested in the plant and generally upset about living in the north:

Anyway, we started over there, got over there near Shiloh and I bust out, I said, “I don’t want to go see no plant, I’m going back to Hamlet—where people talk to you!” Because I didn’t even have him to talk to, and you can’t talk to a baby.  You can talk to them but…you know?  I had gotten very very upset living there.  And he didn’t know it, I never let him know it.  And he turned the car around, we never did get to see the plant.   

Listen to the audio of Augusta’s response about her experience in New Jersey.

On Men’s and Women’s Work

Men made more and everybody knew that.  I mean, this was standard knowledge.  Everybody knew men made more than women, doing the same thing…could do the same things.  And now women have, I think in my opinion, have worked theyselves into a corner.  They can do the work men do, and they should get the pay men get, but the more they know how to do, the more they gonna start to do and the men’s gonna have to sit back home.  And I don’t think God created this that way; I think He created women to take care of His children when He put them on Earth. 

Listen to the audio of Augusta’s response about wages.

On How Women’s Lives Have Changed

A woman got up, and she did a job all day in the morning to wash the clothes and did the house work and all to go visiting’ in the afternoon.  And you know your neighbors.  Now, I’m not talking about doing snobby things, like playing’ bridge everyday and all that, but just interacting with other people.  And you know their families, their families know your families and it’s like you belong to a community of people that care about you.  Now, women work, they have to…They have to work now!  Two people have got to have a job now, there’s no getting around it. Because things are so high and so nobody has time to communicate or even sit down and visit.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Augusta’s description of how women’s lives have changed.

On Differences

When asked about differences in regions and races, Ms. Garrison said:

There is a difference in the way that people are made, in the way they are, and in the way they have been raised, and in the work of the south…but you still love everybody because God made them all. Like I said, they all want to be up there. The ones believe in Jesus Christ, they going’ to be right there. So if you can’t get along with them here what you gonna do up there? You gonna say, “No, I’m going’ down there?” Uh-uh. No. Uh-uh.

Listen to the audio about differences.

Moving from the South to the North

Ms. Garrison was asked why she made the move from North Carolina, where she grew up and met her husband, to New Jersey, where he husband was raised. 

We couldn’t find any work down there.  He was a Yankee.  It’s the truth.  In 1948 the Civil War was still going on down here.  And even one of the places he put in an application for told him that.  He said, “If I hired you I’d have to fire all the rest I’ve got.”  Because he said, “Northerners know how to work,” and says, “we gotta have so many blacks and blacks don’t know how to work.  They’re slow, they don’t have education.”  He says, “I couldn’t hire you, I’d have to fire everybody else.” 

And he went one place, he put an application in and put it down, “New Jersey” where he lived and the man took the paper and tore it up and says, “Get out of here you damn Yankee!” And Ed started to argue with him, you know.  And he took him out physically and put him out the door, on the street.  Then a cop standing outside there, a patrol cop, and Ed says, “You see what he did?!” And the cop told him to just “move along fella, just move along.”

Listen to the audio of Augusta’s response about why she made the move from the South to the North.

Interview with Nancy Hunsucker

Nancy Hunsucker was interviewed by Lauren Spindler on April 18, 2010.

Nancy Hunsucker is 54 years old, and lives with her husband in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  Nancy grew up in Reidsville, and was an only child.  Nancy and her husband have four children, and she is currently a third grade teacher at Aldert Root Elementary School, in Wake County.

Nancy’s Thoughts on Family

When discussing family relationships, Nancy spoke very highly of her aunt, whom she greatly admired.

My aunt who I’ve always been extremely close to, she never married, and my children were like her grandchildren because my mom worked. When my children had chicken pox my mom would say, “Well call Aunt Parilee,” that was her name, “and see if she’ll come.”  So Anna had always known my aunt almost like a grandmother because my mother died back in ’86.  So my mother never ever knew about my youngest son or Anna.  So she kind of was like the grandmother.  She was really cool because she was just a year older than my mom and she had these hot pink high heeled shoes and I thought it was so cool to go out there and just get in her shoes, get in her car and just pretend to be driving that car all over the place.  I just spent a lot of time with her, just hanging out with her and watching her get dressed, and I don’t know, just simple fun stuff. 

Listen to the audio of Nancy’s response about her aunt.

On High School 

When we discussed her high school career, Nancy described this story.

Well, I told you I was in the Bible club, which was very unusual for a high school to even have; we had Bible classes we could take.  I was in a group, I wasn’t in the popular group, the real popular group, and I wasn’t in the really unpopular group, but I was in this middle, really Christian group.  But I never exactly fit in really.  Because it was very fundamental, in that, I mean I took Bible classes, I loved learning all the stories and the history behind it all.  But they believed that woman should not be ministers and a woman’s place was in the home.  I never was exactly like that.  I didn’t see anything wrong with women being ministers.  But I dated a guy in high school for four years, well, tenth, eleventh and twelfth and part of my freshman year in college.  He was really into the Bible and all that part of the religion and everything.  So I had a really hard time with it because I questioned things, and you weren’t supposed to question things.

Listen to the audio of Nany’s response about high school.

Nancy’s thoughts on teaching

When asked if she had always wanted to teach, Nancy said:

When I was growing up, and then going to college, you went to college you majored in something. You worked for a little while, just until you found your husband then you were supposed to get married and then you could just have your children and who cared about whether you worked or not.  My goal was to just teach, have children, and then quit teaching, but I loved it.  I guess it’s the drama queen in me, I love, I just love teaching.  I love to see what I can do to change kid’s lives.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Nancy’s thoughts on teaching.

On Historically Significant Events

When discussing historical events during her lifetime, Nancy recalled this:

the 9/11 when you were just really scared because you weren’t sure what was happening.  For that one day, everybody was, well everybody was afraid that they were going to go and try to hit every capital city in America.  Teaching in a capital city, everybody was really worried about what was going on, and that was really scary because you realize something bad happened but you couldn’t act like anything bad had happened.  You couldn’t wait until there was a break so you could go talk to somebody to see what was going on. 

Listen to the audio about this event.

Advice for Future Generations of Women

When asked what her advice would be to future generations of women, Nancy laughed and said:

Listen to your parents.  I would say, soak up your experiences.  It is true that, you say you won’t turn into your mom, but you do, even though you think you won’t.  Don’t see older people as not having some kind of advice to offer you, you don’t always have to agree with everything, but don’t just discount what people tell you just because of the age they are, the age you are.  There’s wisdom from older generations, there’s always wisdom.  There’s also wisdom from mistakes that other people can help you avoid if you will just pay attention.  I think sometimes we don’t wholly think so differently, I know they don’t know what I’m going through but they really do know, they really do know.  They really were your age at one time, they really did have those feelings and those thoughts.  They really can empathize with you, even though you may not think they can.

Listen to the audio of Nancy’s advice.

Interview with Beth Turner

Beth Turner was interviewed on November 3, 2007 by Thomas “Whit” Winslow.

Beth Turner is a 58 year old mother of three. She was born and raised on a farm in rural eastern North Carolina. The oldest of her parents’ four children, Beth knows all about growing up in a large family and the pains of sibling rivalry. Beth was an art teacher for many years; she has painted several great pieces, and has recently picked up an interest in photography.

Learning Gender Roles

When asked about how gender roles are learned, this is how Beth answered:

I think it’s just picked up. I don’t remember my… well I do, I do, I take that back. I remember when I was little and they built that pool I told you about earlier in the back yard. My mother went out and bought us all beach towels for the pool and she bought some fringe.  And my brother, he was a little fellow at that time and my mother was putting fringe on ours and he wanted some fringe on his and she said, “No, don’t put fringe on little boys’ towels,” that he didn’t get fringe on his.  So I guess that was, you know, that was teaching gender roles right there; that’s one example. I don’t remember my brother washing dishes; I do remember him doing yard work, so maybe there was…. I have to check with my brother to see if he ever washed dishes; I don’t remember it.

Listen to the audio of Beth’s response about gender roles.

Dating

Beth feels that dating practices have changed since she was a girl:

Oh yeah, another thing that is different now: I could date several guys at one time and it was no big deal. As long as I wasn’t going steady, I was free to date several guys at one time. I don’t think my children would dare do that now; they ‘d date one guy at the time. That’s difference I see in my girls and me. I mean if you weren’t going steady, you hadn’t made a commitment, you could date one guy on Friday night and one guy on Saturday night and that was cool.  But I don’t think that’s cool anymore. I think when I would be dating one guy on Friday night and another one on Saturday night, today my girls would have been hanging out, they’d go hang out with their friends, but when they started dating they would date one guy at the time. As long as they were dating one guy they wouldn’t date another one. But like I said, my girls are older now too – my girls are 35 – and so I’m sure it’s even different now than the young ones coming up. I haven’t heard a young person talk about dating in a while.

Listen to the audio of Beth’s response about dating.

Changing Gender Roles

Beth talks about how she became a stronger individual:

Well, I’d say I first brought it home from work, but then my home situation got to the place where I had to become a stronger person still, I mean I had to assert myself more at home.

I think it started at work, but when my marriage deteriorated because of problems within it, I think that accelerated my becoming a more independent person, a more independent woman and more independent thinker. Well, I want to go back, I grew up in a home, as I said, where my father, he was the leader and I expected that when I got married, and my father was very responsible in his role. My husband originally took advantage of the leadership role that I entrusted him with and that caused problems in our marriage and I had to stand up, whereas my father was more responsible with being the leader in the family. Am I clear, am I making any sense? [WW: Yes.] So when my marriage started falling apart, my husband was taking advantage of the fact that I was deferring to him, so I had to stand up to my husband and I had to be a stronger woman. I saw that you couldn’t just hand your life to somebody else and say, “I married you, you’re a responsible person, and you’re going to look after me.” I found out that yes, there are men you can hand your life to and they will take care of you, and then there are men that you can hand your life to and they will take advantage of you [laughs], so I had to stand up to my husband. He was walking all over me and I allowed it, in part because of the way I brought up. I didn’t understand that all men weren’t like my father. I had to stand up to my husband in order to save my marriage and I had to become a stronger person or get walked over, and so I became a stronger person, a stronger woman.

My marriage is good now and I’m a strong person at work, and I don’t defer [both laugh] unless the job description calls for me to defer. I mean if my boss at work, my supervisor, somebody says, “You will do this,” I don’t contest it, but I just don’t automatically defer to a male anymore. I think that when I was growing up, my mother deferred to my father and I saw women defer to men and so when I went into my marriage I deferred to my husband and I shouldn’t have [both laugh] and I differed at work

Listen to the audio excerpt about Beth becoming an individual.

Work

Beth talks about her least favorite chore growing up:

Bitties are baby chickens. Okay, we bought bitties and then we raised them to be young pullets or whatever they’re called now, young chickens. And you had to transport the bitty, the young chickens from the bitty house over to the house where they laid the eggs. You had to take two birds in one hand, upside down, you know, grab them by the feet.  So you had four birds that you were carrying from the bitty house to the chicken house where they were going to lay the eggs. And I hated that more than any other job I ever had was carrying those birds from one house to the other house by their feet. And when they would curl up like they were going to peck my hand, I would let them go. I let so many chickens go that they would have to run down and catch later that they finally told me I was fired, which suited me fine because I hated that job, of all the jobs I ever had, that was the one I hated the most.

Listen to the audio about Beth’s least favorite chores growing up.

Farm Work

Beth described how many people helped work the family farm and the types of tasks that she and others did:

At different times, different numbers. I do remember a lot of people working, I think there were approximately four families living on the farm at one time that helped him, and we were always out there helping.  Let’s see, we had cucumbers one year and my siblings and I got out there every morning and picked cucumbers until lunch. We worked in the egg house. We pulled weeds out of peanuts; we’d go down the row and just pull weeds out. We never chopped. Father was afraid to give us a hoe; he was scared we’d chop up things we weren’t supposed to. He would send us down the rows to pull the weeds, so I pulled weeds, and I picked cucumbers, and I walked behind the tobacco harvester and picked up leaves when we were doing it with a harvester.  And I drove the harvester, which was a real easy job really. When we didn’t use the harvester, but we worked under the shelters, I would hand tobacco sometimes. Then when we moved to bulk barns I got to drive tractors. I also helped feed livestock.  Sometimes when we were little, we would get baby calves and we would fix up milk buckets for them to nurse off of. We worked pretty good, but we had a good time working.

Listen to the audio of Beth’s response about the farm.