Mrs. Eva Lillian Goode Jones
INTERVIEWER: L. McGahran
Location: The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY
Date: December 4, 2001 (1 of 3 interviews)
INTERVIEWER: We're interviewing NARRATOR for the Black Migration Project,
where we're trying to trace the development of African American Communities
in Westchester during the Twentieth Century. And we're collecting personal
narratives and I thank you very much for coming and telling us your story.
Would you tell me your name? Your full name?
NARRATOR: My name is Eva Lillian Goode, G-double o-d-e, Jones.
INTERVIEWER: And can you tell me what part of the South you came from?
NARRATOR: I came from the little town of Anniston, Alabama.
INTERVIEWER: And can you tell me what that town was like? Describe it a little
NARRATOR: Ah, in this area now it's built up a bit, but it was a very, very,
small town. Umm, mostly residential, but uhh, very small town partly, was
not a city, a town.
INTERVIEWER: And what did you, what did your family do for a living?
NARRATOR: Ahhm (-) in Anniston Alabama (-) ah (-) we all had public jobs (-)
ahmm, in, when I was born, I was born in a small (-) ah area called Calhoon
County. And one year of my life was spent in Georgia, that's where I was born.
Ahh (-) we were sharecroppers. That was the way we made our living.
INTERVIEWER: And when did you move from(-)
NARRATOR: Ahh (-) we moved from Georgia when I was one year old into the state
of Alabama in to a little town called Roanoke - Alabama ahhh were we lived
until 1950 and then we moved to Anniston.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, and can you tell me (-) do you know why your family moved
from Georgia to Alabama?
NARRATOR: Ahh (-) when I was born, my parents ahh were share croppers, and
of course as a sharecropper, ahh, you lived on plantations. And a lot of times
when they worked, ahh the harvest the fields ahh if the crops were not ahh
plentiful so that you made an x amount of money, ahh, the owners would sometimes
ask you to go to another place, so they can get, I guess we can call them
other tenants that might be able to produce a better crop for the following
year. So that was one of our reasons for moving from Georgia to Alabama cause
I was one year old then ahhh to find a place where we could even do better
for ourselves and that's when we moved to Roanoke.
INTERVIEWER: And where are you in the line of lineage of brothers and sisters,
how many do you have and (-)
NARRATOR: Ahh it was a family of fifteen children. Ahhm three of them died
as babies, so you could say twelve children ahh being raised in one family.
I am number (-) ahh number, mmm let me see two from the bottom (INTERVIEWER
laughing) number er ten (laughing) number hmm ten
INTERVIEWER: (Laughing) That's a lot to count.
NARRATOR: Yeah there were two, two younger than I am.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, so when you moved you had a lot of older brothers and
INTERVIEWER: Okay, what was um do you remember some of the stories they would
tell you about family life? And (-)
NARRATOR: Well, there wasn't too much to tell, because the the bulk of our
living was really farming so you went to the cotton fields you picked the
cotton (-) we entertained ourselves by whatever playing in the woods, or that
kind of thing. Some people would look back and say life was very hard and
yes, I guess it was very hard because a lot of the things that we take for
granted now we did not have then. Life was very simple and ahh you spent most
of your time ahh working in the fields very little going to school at that
time because the schools were very very far away, we had to walk like seven
NARRATOR: (-) to school, there was no school bus to pick up the children
and then there were your house chores, so we just sort of, because that's
what we knew, that's the only thing we knew, we just made do with what we
had and that was very little.
INTERVIEWER: And do you remember working in the cotton fields yourself?
NARRATOR: Oh, yes, I had my little cotton sack when I was two and I can remember
(Both speaking at the same time)
INTERVIEWER: When you were two?
NARRATOR: When I was two years old very vividly I can remember that little
sack (giggles) that you would put across your shoulder and have a strap you
would pull and I was so small that the sack would drag the ground when I walked.
INTERVIEWER: Now would you wear it in the front or the back?
NARRATOR: Well you wore it on the side, it would just strap over your shoulder
and and the sack would be, if your right handed you would wear it on the right
side because that's how you put the cotton in, if you're left handed you wore
it on the left side and I would ahmm, you know, with my father and my mother
they were in the cotton field, brothers and sisters would pick the cotton
and put it in that little sack. Very seldom when I was two years old did I
get the sack full, ya know, but I'd put cotton in there.
INTERVIEWER: What about your little fingers?
INTERVIEWER: Did they get cut?
NARRATOR: Probably, yes, at sometime, but you know when you live under those
circumstances you learn how to do it. And even at that little time I learned
how because the cotton balls were sort of like this [makes motion with hand]
(Both speaking at the same time)
INTERVIEWER: A little bigger than the size of a golf ball?
NARRATOR: A little bigger and they at the end of them had very very sharp
points. When the cotton opens (-) it opens a lot so that you don't have to
really put your hands and get the sharp points, you learn that. You could
just dig right down in the middle of it where the cotton was very fluffy and
just take the cotton- squeeze it. When you squeeze it, it comes loose from
the from the ahh outside okay. So you don't cut the hands really unless by
some accident you're not paying attention and you go grab the whole thing!
Then if you did that you know you would get stuck. Although there were many
cuts and bruises, many cuts and bruises and ahmm one of the most scariest
things to me and, I look back on it now and I don't know how I survived but
I did and we all did, was the insects and I have always and still am, afraid
of worms. And of course you, the cotton was full of worms. (Chuckle)
INTERVIEWER: Sure, sure
NARRATOR: Full of worms and some of them very very dangerous ahh insects and
not little crawly things, some of them were like and you saw them pretty rarely,
but you saw them (-) ahh we had a name for them and we called them simmon
INTERVIEWER: Could you spell that for me? S or Z (-)
NARRATOR: Let me see if we knew how to spell it even then, but I would spell
it now we said simmon bucks, and its s-i-m-m-o-n, now there're two words,
b-u-c-k-s. And a simmon buck was poisonous. He would be about ahhh [makes
gesture with hands] this big a round I don't know, (both speaking)
INTERVIEWER: About three inches
Mrs.: Jones: About three inches around. And he could be as long as six inches
or maybe even longer. Okay, always green, not always green but in the cotton
field always green because the cotton plants were green so that would be a
camouflage. And he had like little trees on his back and the trees, the little,
it would cover everything but his crawling part, that's where his little feet
were and than the little trees. If those trees ever came in contact with your
skin, you know if he would ever sting you, you know, it could be very very
disastrous. And thank God that no one in my family was ever stung by one,
my father almost got it one time, but he didn't.
INTERVIEWER: So you knew to look out for these?
NARRATOR: We knew to look out for them and there were like tell tale signs
of their being on the uhm the cotton and it would be their droppings.
NARRATOR: You would see that (-) before ya know, well, you just knew to look
for it. But you would see it because they would drop they would drop down
on the ground - now if they're the one that had just come there that's the
danger because you don't see the droppings first.
INTERVIEWER: Right, right!
NARRATOR: But if he's been there a while and he's been eating the cotton,
eating the cotton there would be a lots of droppings and then you would see
it. Once you saw that, you know beware, he's somewhere around so then we'd
look for him. And we'd find him and we'd kill em.
NARRATOR: Uh hum. So it's it's like being in a jungle you learn to survive
in the jungle.
Living in the South on the farm you learn that too. And not only the grown
ups but the little children (-) learn to look for them.
INTERVIEWER: So how many brothers and sisters did you have? How many girls
and how (-)
NARRATOR: Uhm There were twelve of us I think total that lived, okay, and
uhm five boys, seven girls.
INTERVIEWER: So how long did you pick cotton for, how many years?
NARRATOR: Up until ahh we moved away from the farm which was in 1950, so for
me, it was like fourteen (-) well way wait a minute, twelve years I would
INTERVIEWER: So tell me what a typical day would be like. Would everyone
go to the cotton fields? Would some stay back in the home?
NARRATOR: No, everyone went to the cotton field.
INTERVIEWER: What time would you wake up?
NARRATOR: Ah Daybreak. There was no time it was daybreak (laugh) that was
your clock. And we would get up in the morning, ahh the first thing we had
to do was to milk the cows, ya know, the girls. Go out and milk the cows because
that was your source of milk and after we come back we would eat our breakfast,
which consisted of (-) maybe a strip of feetback. Okay and what we called
at that time a ho cake of bread. That ho cake of bread was flour, and whatever
they put in there, not like biscuits that we make now and it was done in one
big ho cake. Not cut out as biscuits, okay and each person would break that.
INTERVIEWER: And how would that be cooked (-) in an oven? Or
NARRATOR: In an oven. We had uhm the wood stoves and uhm of course you had
to get the wood, make the fire in the stove to heat it and ahmm so that you
INTERVIEWER: So who would, would your mother get up earlier or would the
older sisters? How would that (-)
NARRATOR: In the earlier part my mother was always the first up. But she would
get you up, she was the first one to get up, but she would get you up, the
children, and ahh so they could start helping especially making the fire in
the stove so she could get breakfast done. Ahh it was not like the children
are today, ya know, ahh mother did not do everything. Mother gave the orders.
And we did it (laughs).
INTERVIEWER: And did you have your own job and that would change as you got
NARRATOR: We in groups we did. If there was someone to, ahh there were always
two people. Usually we had two cows that was giving milk there were two people
to milk the cows, everybody couldn't milk the cows. So that was like a scale
so the two people that could milk the cows would milk the cows. The rest of
us would get the house together while they're out there milking the cows and
ya know make up the beds and pick up that until they came home and then we
would, uhm my mother by that time will have cooked, there's always (-) now
the boys used to make the fire in the stove for the cooking. They would go
out and get the wood and make the fires so by the time the stove is hot ahh
and my mothers' getting ready to cook and the people come back from milking
the cows and they we all sit down to breakfast. That the was the one thing
in the South, you sat down to breakfast.
INTERVIEWER: All together?
NARRATOR: All together. You sat down to dinner (pause) all together. Even
if it was a few minutes, there were no lounging around the table you sat down
and you ate (both parties giggle) cause you know you gotta eat in a certain
amount of time to get out when that sun start to come up you get out and go
to the fields.
NARRATOR: Uh huh.
INTERVIEWER: Wow, and everyone would go to the fields?
NARRATOR: Everyone, everyone. Men, boys (giggles) and ahh girls, babies (giggles)
because as I said I was two years old, so that's when I remember. Now I'm
quite sure I went even before that I don't remember but my mother would take
uhm, take us to the fields, the babies, that were too young and you know lay
them down on a quilt ahh and as they the picked the cotton, ya know under
the tree, in the shade and uhm when she would get so far let's say because
she would always keep an eye because there was a danger of leaving children
laying on the ground under the trees because of snakes. Uhm and they were
plentiful. So she would pick so far let's say maybe from here [makes gesture
with hands] to the end of that wall and then she would go back (-)
INTERVIEWER: So about twenty feet?
NARRATOR: Yeah, about twenty feet, or so and she would go back and get the
baby and move the baby farther - maybe about twenty feet ahead of her, ya
know so she could always keep an eye on the baby. Now when my sister was born
I was then the baby-sitter. She would take my sister to the field, we all
went the field, and uhm (-) then I would have to stay there with the baby
while they picked the cotton.
INTERVIEWER: And so how old were you?
NARRATOR: Then I must of been, (-) my sister three years younger, starting
from three years. That sort of got me away from pulling the little sack cause
I had to stay with the ahh with the baby. But as soon as the baby got big
enough to walk, okay, then the baby got the sack and toddled along (giggles)
with the crowd.
NARRATOR: That's why at two years I had the sack, there was the person older
than me I'm sure when I was a baby probably had the baby-sitting job. Soon
as I got big enough to walk, ya know, then graduated, she had to go back to
picking the cotton and I got my little sack. So the same with the other ahh
sister. Ahh (long pause) So, I do remember and I never will forget this (sniffs)
that I would always be so afraid (-) to stay with my sister because you hear
things, ya know, like lizards running in the grass you would always think
it's a snake, ya know, and uhm so sometime I would get my sister and get from
under the tree out into the field where it was in the sun. And my mother used
to get so angry, "get that baby out of that sun." And I would go
back under the tree and I would sit down with the baby - soon as she would
turn her back (both laughing) I would get the blanket back out in the sun.
And the reasons for that was because when you are under the tree, ya know,
there's a lot of grass, there's a lot grass a lot of weeds, a lot of stuff,
so ya know, it was frightening, it was really frightening.
NARRATOR: Uh hum. But the purpose sometime in the South ya know, most people
had a lot of children and the children were like, was like a resource I guess
you could say, because the more children you had, ya know the more cotton
you'd pick, cause that was your living.
NARRATOR: And that's where your money came at the end of the year when the
crops were gathered and ahh then it goes into the boss man, okay, and they
INTERVIEWER: And did you feel you got a fair share? Was it a (-)
NARRATOR: Uhm For that time, I think yes, well as far as I know, yes because
I know that we were (clears throat) one of the families that one time we were
pretty well off because, but, but we worked for it. We had acres, and acres
you could just stand and look, you couldn't hardly see from one end of the
field to the other and this was cotton and you had to pick that cotton. So
ahh we had a big family and my father was very strict, you did not lay down
on the job, you worked, okay, so uhm a few years when we lived on one plantation,
I'll never will forget that, the boss man's names was Mr. Foster, F-o-s-t-e-r,
and ahh I never knew his first name because you did not use first names anyway
to bosses, you did not. Ahh But last name was Foster and we lived there for
about six years and during all six years I don't know if it was the maybe
the richness of the soil where he was, ahh we did very well. We did very well.
I know some other people that didn't do as well.
INTERVIEWER: Now, how did you, tell me a little bit about the process of
uhm what you owned and what you had to give (-) do you remember any (-)?
NARRATOR: We didn't really own anything not as far as land was concerned.
Ahh It's like, it's like rented to you in a sense, that's how I can pretty
tell it. It was rented to you and you worked it. Okay, and where your profits
come in is when the harvest is finished. Okay, ahh I don't know what we got,
that I don't know, cause my father was, he was a person that he didn't really
tell the family. I guess my mother knew, but we didn't.
INTERVIEWER: Did you remember him being, like what the feeling was - was
he satisfied? Was he dissatisfied?
NARRATOR: Yeah, I do remember that and as I said those six years that we lived
on Mr. Foster's plantation he was satisfied because we did very well. We did
very well, however, (-) it did not last for you know, six years, but in the
last year (-) I don't know something went wrong. The crops did not turn out
as they had in the past and I just, I don't, I don't know what went wrong,
but I know that probably my father, my mother said, my father was not a talker,
my mother said that ahh we're gonna have to move, ahh because ahh the crops
didn't come out well and everything so we're gonna have to move. And that
was sort of the beginning of I guess I could say as they said in the Bible,
Tribulation, it really was and we did move that year.
INTERVIEWER: What did the move look like? What did you have? How did you
move? What (-)
NARRATOR: Well it was horse and wagon. Everything (clears throat) at that
time was horse and wagon.
INTERVIEWER: So you owned a horse?
NARRATOR: We owned a horse, yeah. Not the horse, mules (giggles)
NARRATOR: Mules, we owned the mules and we owned the wagon.
INTERVIEWER: And what about the cows? Were they yours?
NARRATOR: The cows were ours, yes, yes. We owned the cows. Ahmm You, what
you did was you, when you did your crop, and in that, in that time people
were very helpful to each other, the neighbors, (clears throat) the neighbors,
they never lived that near to you, maybe a half mile because every neighbor
had a different plantation, so they were ah some time in walking distance,
sometime you had to get on the mule and wagon to go to a neighbor's house
cause they were that far away. They would always help each other so, sometime
uhm a neighbor's cows would have a calf, okay and he would say to my father
ahh, which was named Robert, "Robert ah you know ahh this cow had a calf,
and if you wanna, you know if you want the calf," they would make out
some kind of arrangement, and it could be food and and and most everything
was paid for by either cotton or corn, ah food, whatever, ya know. And they
would make arrangements and they would take that calf and raise it until it
grew into a, you know, full-grown cow. So that's how it happened, even the
mule that's how it happened. You know the the owner did not furnish the animals,
he did not, ah he just furnished the land.
INTERVIEWER: Uhm, Could you describe your house for me? Your home.
NARRATOR: Yes I can. The house, ah the one on Mr. Foster's plantation, was
the nicest of all of them, but the house itself ahh was five rooms. Ahh the
houses had no inside walls (sounds from children in the background) it was
just the outside structure, okay. Ahh Like you see them build houses now for
some of the outside structure, then they put the insulation then they put
the walls. It did not have that. (Talking in the background) You could sit
in the house and you could look through the cracks and see the sun shining
in. Sometimes the cracks were big enough so you could just see outside. Ahh
You looked up through the roof you could see the sun shining in.
INTERVIEWER: Which meant you got wet sometimes (giggles).
NARRATOR: Which meant you had water leaks, yes you did. You had fireplaces
for heat, that was your heat. You were responsible for your own wood. Ahh
We had to go out into the woods and first it was the boys that would go out
with my father, in the woods, and they would do this during the time that
you weren't picking cotton, see the crops got finished like September, August
- September you start to pick the cotton - if I'm remembering correctly, August
- September you start picking the cotton. Well between that time there wasn't
too much to do while the cotton was really growing so they would go out in
the woods and cut down the trees and cut the wood for the winter. Ahh So that
was the boys and my father. The boys started leaving home at an early age.
Ahh (-) Even before we moved from Mr. Foster's place, I think there was only
two boys left at home and the rest were girls.
INTERVIEWER: So about what age?
NARRATOR: The boys must've been (talking in the background) nineteen, twenty,
maybe twenty-one, twenty-two.
INTERVIEWER: And where would they go?
NARRATOR: When they left the the farm (clears throat) one of them moved to
Atlanta, Georgia, ya know, that was the beginning of the migration of the
family, getting off the farm. He went to Atlanta, Georgia. I think the other
one ahhm finally went to probably went to Anniston were we ended up, ya know
in the later years, went to Anniston so it left only two boys home ahh for
a while with my father to cut the wood. (-) Lo and behold a few years later,
the two boys left and left the girls; there was nothing but girls. So we had
to take on their role. We went out and cut the trees and cut the wood.
NARRATOR: But was still picking the cotton and everything when the season
was in, ya know time for harvesting. It was hard at the end, ya know because
as I said the boys were gone and it was just the girls. It was harder then.
But still ya know the cohesion of the family and you really didn't know anything
else. There's a saying that you can't miss what you never had. We had never
had anything else. So we still enjoyed ourselves as kids, we played when we
could, and we worked. Ahh There was also raising the food. Ya know we had
to raise our food. The food, ahhm we would always have a big vegetable garden
and that was more work besides the crops. Ahh with all kinds of vegetables,
turnip greens, collard greens, uhm string beans, ahh potatoes, ahh peanuts
was one of the sources. Peanuts sometimes was sold ya know ahh, for money
so that you could buy things, ahh watermelons, cantaloupes uhm. As far as
the fruits, they were plentiful. That was the one thing that you had on the
plantation. I don't know if they were there by nature itself, or were they
planted, but you would have plenty of apple trees, plenty of apple trees.
There would be uhm nuts, pecan trees, walnuts, ahh usually in the yards where
the houses are. Ahhm There would be ahh, now these these were wild and when
I say wild they weren't planted, they were just in the woods, ahh plums, cherries,
you had just about any kind of fruit. So you see we ate healthy then, but
there was no such thing as getting out and going to the store, because number
one was the store was like five to ten miles away whatever little store, there
was. So nothing was bought from the store, the corn meal was raised. We raised
the corn and it was the only thing they had to take it into town and have
it ground into meal. The only thing we bought was flour and the flour would
come in those big ahhm, two-bushel bags which would last you for quite a while.
That's the only thing that we went to the store and bought. And then the flour
sack came in handy because that made our clothes, (-) made our clothes. They
used to come in flowers and prints and stripes and that kind of thing so and
my mother would sew, she was a good seamstress and she would make our clothes.
Ahh As far as food was concerned, as far as meat, you didn't get too much
meat, you did not. Ahh We raised hogs, of course, and that was common to all
the farmers. You raised hogs and you killed the hogs when the winter start
to set in.
INTERVIEWER: And would that last you through the winter?
NARRATOR: It would because if you have enough hogs, ahmm they would kill the
hogs and and of course they would uhm, the the hams and things they would
cure them. We had no refrigeration.
INTERVIEWER: How about water?
NARRATOR: Water, we had wells. We had wells.
INTERVIEWER: A pump?
NARRATOR: NO. You would draw it with a bucket. It had the wheel and then put
the rope on the wheel and had a wheel hanging up that the rope goes over so
that the wheel would roll and you'd stand up there and you turn the wheel.
You'd let the bucket down in the well, get it full with water and you draw
it up. You also had to draw water, that was your drinking water, but you also
had to draw water when you had to do your wash. I used to hate washday. (Both
laugh) Because you had to draw so much water and the well was a long ways
from the house. So you had to draw the water, we had those big round tin tubs,
and you fill the tub full enough but you leave it light enough for two people
to carry, so that you could carry it from the well to the house, so you can
do your wash. We had the pot that you make a fire so you can boil the clothes,
you know, and to get the clothes clean. Uhm I-I tell you it is just so much
that when I look back over it, uhm I remember one of the food sources was
syrup. And we made our own syrup. You grew the sugar cane and then you harvested
the sugar cane and each farmer usually built his own what they called a syrup
mill, where you bring the sugar cane to the syrup mill and you feed it into
the syrup mill and they make the syrup. They cooked and made their own syrup.
And the mill was ahh operated by a mule.
NARRATOR: So you, it had a big round thing on the top, big like a wheel, and
then it had a long stick that pointed, that reached out so far. You hooked
the mule to that stick and then the mule go around, and round, and round,
sometimes you spend days out there, making the syrup. So what it was, was,
again, the farmers learn, I mean, the migraters they learn how to live under
those circumstances, ahh because they would can (-) foods, they would can
the fruits, my mother would can the fruits.
INTERVIEWER: Now when you say can, were they using jars? What were (-)
NARRATOR: Ya, jars, mason jars. And fortunately in the later years we able
to afford a pressure cooker, okay, but before that they used to just cook
them in a, you know, like in a big pot on the stove. Ahh I never learned how
to can, but I saw many, many my mother do it many, many times. Not only would
they can the fruits, can the vegetables; they would can meat. And the meats
were rabbit, my father was a good hunter, rabbits, squirrels we always ate
cause there's so little of a squirrel, there's not much to eat but rabbits
they were plentiful. Ahmm we had uhm, we would eat just about anything and
when I say anything, I do mean anything. The opossum was a delicacy, ya know,
you didn't find them that often because they were very sneaky (INTERVIEWER
laughs) they only came out at night and sometimes they would have to, my father
and the boys would go out at night and ahh and ahh sit to wait for it. Wait
to spot one because the only way you could see them most of the times was
the eyes and they would be high up in the tree. So they would go out after
dark and stay out there until they spotted one and then they would get it.
INTERVIEWER: And then, what, how was, what was the tool? Was it a trap or
NARRATOR: No, they would just spot it in the tree and they would go up and
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my God.
NARRATOR: (laughs) They would go up and get him.
INTERVIEWER: With their hands?
NARRATOR: With their hands. You didn't shoot them because for some reason
or the other, they did not want to kill them ahh before they brought them
to the house. Now I don't know why that was, but they did not want to kill
them, so they would, when they brought them home they would be alive. And
you had to be very careful because they bite.
NARRATOR: They bite and how they would do it is the opossum would hang by
his tail, ahh when they caught him, they would put him on a stick and let
him hang by his tail but they would also close the mouth, ya know so that
he could not bite.
INTERVIEWER: And would they use rope? How would (-)
NARRATOR: Ahh, Well some kind of rope or string something just to tie his
mouth, ya know, so that he wouldn't bite and they would have the dogs. Ahh,
One thing about it the dogs were a a source of aiding in getting food. They
would (-) they would hunt, they most of the times they would spot the possum,
ya know, which ahh ahh people might not see them, but the dogs and they would
let you know he's up there cause they would start to bark. And once they started
to bark the opossum won't move.
NARRATOR: He won't move, he'll just stay there.
INTERVIEWER: How about the rabbits? By their hands also, they'd get the rabbits
by their hands
NARRATOR: The rabbits, most of the time the dog would catch, but they would
shoot the rabbit. If the dog spotted the rabbit, he would usually start to
bark and the rabbit would start to run and the dog would chase him but you
knew the dog knew that when the men get ready to shoot he'd stop chasing the
rabbit. So that he's out of the way so they could kill the rabbit, but that's
that's mostly how they would - we used to say ooo he treed a rabbit, that
means that he saw the rabbit. He spotted the rabbit and ahh then he'll start
to bark of course the rabbit then starts to run and those mens were very good
ahh, uhm shooters. Ya know, especially my father. Ahh (-)
INTERVIEWER: Did you go along sometimes?
NARRATOR: Not in the early years, that was a man's ahh thing to hunt. But
in the last few years, I think two of us girls, I wanted to go, went to, with
them to tree the possum, tree the possum. But that was not a girl thing, sometimes
you got girls that had boyish, ahhm, ahhm what is the word I'm looking for?
NARRATOR: Yeah, tendencies and and they like to try to hunt, to climb trees,
and we did that too, because we had to cut em down. We would climb them and
uhm you know there were no timid people (-) then because your survival depended
on you and what you did, ya know, and how you did it. Ahh, There were always
posing dangers, as I said snakes, (sighs) mad dogs, dogs with rabies, ahh
somehow how they got em I don't know - you had to watch out for it. So you
had your dangers. Ahh the things we didn't see (clears throat) in those days
were bears or that kind of thing. You didn't see those. But uhm very, very
dense woods. Very dense woods. Anywhere we had to go if it was a long distance,
we had to go on the mule and wagon, if it was a short distance okay we walked.
We walked. We even walked long distances, as I say, from (clears throat) our
house to the church was also seven miles.
INTERVIEWER: And how often did you go?
NARRATOR: We went to church every Sunday. It was not like (-) you find these
days where people go to church and now cause you're close. On the farm, because
you worked six days, five and a half days, ahh Saturday usually you went to
the fields a half of day, ahh and then come home in the afternoon, you'd come
home after twelve. And that was the time you did your house chores. The house
chores were like sweeping the yards, cause we had dirt yards. There were no
pavements on the roads either. Everything was dirt. We would sweep the yards,
ahh we would iron the clothes that were washed. Now, the only time we got
a little break from the fields, the girls, was on Monday cause Monday was
washday. So Monday you would wash in the morning, ya know, with our mother
and get the clothes out out and then ahmm in the afternoon we would go to
INTERVIEWER: And on Sunday would it be a full day at the church?
NARRATOR: Not every Sunday. We had one, what it was, was in the, in the country
they only had church one Sunday out of the month. Now when I say church that
means that they had actual service and the pastor preached. Your pastor had
like four churches and he would go to every church once a month. So on the
first Sunday he would go to this church, on the second Sunday it was our church,
the third Sunday was the other church, the fourth Sunday was the other church.
But we did have Sunday school
(Tape One Side A Ends)
Tape One: Side B
NARRATOR: (-) okay we had Sunday school every Sunday. The Sunday school was
from ten o'clock to twelve o'clock and that was the extent of the Sunday school.
(Clears throat) As I said, of course, we had to walk seven miles from home
to church. Ahh, Sometimes my father would hook up the wagon, but not all the
times. Ahh, We usually walked, even my mother and my father, they would walk.
We lived in an area where we had to cross a creek to get to church. That was
a short way that cut off, it cut off about one mile and we would go this way
most of the time and the only thing was that I was always afraid because ahh
of the height because they had a log going from bank to bank and that's how
you got across the creek. And I was always afraid because ahh of course, looking
down at water ahh makes you dizzy, it did me and ahh I would always be afraid
but ahh nothing ever happened.
INTERVIEWER: Good. (Laughs)
NARRATOR: (laughs) nothing ever happened. So that was the extent of the ahh
Sundays. Ahh, When you went back home on Sunday afternoon then you had your
Sunday dinner and that was the only time, ahh most of the time, that you had
meat. It was poultry. Ahh, They would kill the chicken (-) so that you could,
you would eat, that was Sunday dinner. Ahh, And just sort of digressing a
little bit back to the food, back to the meat part - ahh chickens were, we
would eat them but you would eat them only on Sundays. We did not eat eggs
even though we had loads of chickens. The eggs was a source, was a resource
used for buying things that you need. Even though we did not have a store
near, we did not go to a store maybe once a year; we would go to the town.
There was a what we used to call a peddler, and of course we didn't say a
peddler, we'd say a pedal ahh and it was like a store on wheels. It would
come around to different areas on different nights. And our night was Tuesday
night. And this was fascinating to us because, ya know, we we had never had
the experience of going to town and looking around. When that peddle come
it was like Santa Claus, ah so the eggs were used then to buy whatever you
need from that peddler. He would take the eggs as payment. Ahh, You have to
realize there was no money. Ahh Perhaps my father might have had a few dollars,
but there was no money. We used food, whatever, corn. Ahh, Anything else to
trade for, whatever you needed that you could not raise, you could not raise.
And that's how how we would buy whatever we needed from that peddler is to
give him corn, give him eggs, ahh whatever, he would take whatever (-) to
INTERVIEWER: Did you socialize at all? Did your parents socialize at all?
NARRATOR: Yes, ahh very friendly, with the neighbors. The only thing is that
the neighbors were always quite, pretty far away so you didn't see people
getting together that often. Sunday was the time that you would see your neighbors,
ya know, when they come to church. Ahh But yes, friendly. They helped each
other. When a farmer killed his hogs, okay, ahh the neighbors usually came
to help. That was how a lot of times that, you know, we were all sure that
all the families, there were no families starving. That's the way the farmers
would do. No families starving. Ya Know, when my father got ready to kill
a hog maybe two or three of them, the surrounding neighbors would come and
help him kill the hogs and when he got finished and cut up everything he would
give them certain portions of meat, so that they can have meat. They'd do
the same thing for him, ya know, when they (-) but my father, it seems he,
that's why I say I think he worked us harder than anybody (INTERVIEWER chuckles)
because he would always have more. Ahh, if somebody had two hogs, he'd have
six. So that's the way he was. Ya know (-)
INTERVIEWER: Very generous.
NARRATOR: Very generous, very generous. So, but we'll always give to the neighbor.
If they knew somebody needed something or didn't have some food and they didn't
think too much of, ya know, of what they had except for the fact that whatever
they had they would share it.
INTERVIEWER: Now did that hold true from, you said you moved from uhm Roanoke?
NARRATOR: Uh huh.
INTERVIEWER: To Anniston? Did that hold true, did that tradition follow?
NARRATOR: Anniston? Well Anniston was like a town then, we no longer were
on a farm.
NARRATOR: Okay, so (-)
INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you a question (-)
NARRATOR: Uh huh
INTERVIEWER: Where did your father learn that?
NARRATOR: The farming?
INTERVIEWER: To share and to (-)
NARRATOR: I guess from his growing up too. He grew up the same way and my
father was born in 1897, yeah, so back in the eighteen hundreds, of course,
he was growing up in someplace probably not even on the map and so was my
mother; my mother was born in 1899. So they learned that from growing up and
with their parents. (Clears throat)
INTERVIEWER: And were their parents sharecroppers?
NARRATOR: Yes. They, see some of them are going all the way back into slavery
ahh and even though maybe we were on, I guess we were in slavery too, but
I think changes, things had changed a little from what it was in the eighteen
hundreds, ya know, when my father and mother was growing up. But that's that's
how they learned.
INTERVIEWER: What was your schooling like?
NARRATOR: Our school was (-) I guess typical of schools in very, very uhm,
poverty stricken areas, well, uhm in areas where there were slavery, Jim Crow,
segregation. Ahhm, my first school I remember, we had in our church, ahhm,
from first grade, I guess through maybe third grade. And then they built another
little building across from the church, which became the elementary school.
Now, your heat source again was the little wood potbelly stove in which they
made the fire in when we got to school. We had two teachers in the school.
It was, the school was one room for all the classes, one through six. Ahh,
We had two teachers in the room. One teacher taught from first to third, through
third and the second teacher taught from ahh four through six and then after
that you went to high school. Ahhm, as I said we had, that was another thing
that uhm most people just can't imagine, the things that, you know, we went
through. We, of course, in spite of the fact that we did well on some of the
plantations, we were still poor. We were poor. You got one pair of shoes,
a year, and that was when the crops were ahh, you know, harvested and then
you turn everything in and then the boss man paid you what money was due to
you. You went to town before the winter set in and father would buy you the
one pair of shoes. That one pair of shoes would have to last. It was supposed
to last you, there were no other shoes ahh that whole year until it was time
to go back and buy that pair of shoes again. Well, it didn't always, didn't
always last. In the summer we went barefoot. Ahh, Except for Sunday you had
one pair of shoes that you wear to church. Uhm, In the winter, when the winter
set in, of course you needed shoes, they would buy the shoes so you wore that
one pair of shoes. We had to walk to school. In the winter when it was very
cold and you had to walk seven miles with (-) you didn't see much snow, that's
one thing, the years I was growing up you did not see in that part of the
country hardly any snow. Snow, if it snowed we got excited cause we had never
seen it, you know, you didn't see snow. But what you would get it would get
cold as cold and it's what we called Jack Frost. You would see that, the ground
would be frozen, caked up with ice and we would have to walk to school. Our
feet, I never will forget this one morning, my shoes, the sole had come loose
at the top but I still had to go to school and I still had to wear those shoes
and we put on socks, wrap our feet, you know to try to walk seven miles. I
would never forget this - it happened before but this time I remember because
it was worse I think then I have ever, than I ever remembered. My feet got
so cold until I almost couldn't walk. But, we still made it to school. When
we got to school we had to make the fire in the stove and what happens I'm
sure I must've had frostbite, but not the frostbite I guess that you lose
a foot or something. Ahh, I can't help but have this, it had to be an act
of God that we didn't lose a foot or something to frost bite. That is one
of the most painful things because when we got in the school and we made the
fire and it started to get warm - when your feet start to thaw, that is one
of the worst pains that you ever gonna feel. You see the kids crying, (-)
because it hurt, but you had to bear it because what else could you do? That
was the way of life. But, we got the education the best we could. I don't
know how our teachers weren't that - I don't know I think ah you could teach
then at that time if you finished high school. They didn't have to have a
college education, ya know, from from that time. And uhm, we -you had to bring,
there was nothing to eat there, we we drank the water from the wells - we
used to have a lady that would let us use her well to draw the water and bring
it to the school. You had to bring your lunch from home. And ahmm, that ah
at that time again, you did not go to town to buy anything, you would they
had a a the little truck on wheels that would come by the school once a week
in case you, needed to buy something like pencils. But there was no money.
(-) There was no money. And I do remember at that time a loaf of bread cost
a nickel, cost a nickel. A nickel was hard to come by, it was, it was hard
to come by.
INTERVIEWER: Why does that stand out in your memory?
INTERVIEWER: Why does that stand out in your memory?
NARRATOR: I just, because, you know, I -I it, because that was the foundation
of life. Those were the building blocks, you know, that we built on, that
we at that time, we built on. We we knew it taught us how to appreciate (-)
(talking in the background) when we had the opportunity to have a few of the
good things in life. (Talking in the background.) It learnt us how to, do
without, without complaining. Ahh, (clears Throat) In spite of not having
a lot of things, you know, we were still happy, we were contented. In spite
of being treated the way we were treated as Negros and not called Negros but
Niggers in the South, okay, we still lived. (Continued talking in the background.)
We still considered ourselves blessed. Even in the hard times, there was always
the hope of things getting better, even though none of us didn't know if we
would see it. Ya know, but we had the hope.
INTERVIEWER: Where did that come from?
NARRATOR: I guess from believing in God. And and, I take that back not I guess,
I know that is was from believing in God, believing in God. And (clears throat)
I tell ya, you were treated very badly, very badly it was like you had no
rights, and a fine example, I can remember two things. When I graduated from
elementary school of which I was out of elementary school earlier than I should
have been which made me even younger (clears throat) because I was very, very,
ahh they say smart, I was - I guess I was. But what I would do is I was very
curious for one thing and I would study hard and I don't know things, book
wise ya know just came easy for me. So I never went through the fifth grade.
I was in the fourth grade and as I started the fourth grade the teacher said
to me "you don't need to be in this grade, ahh you're you're too smart
to be in this grade." Okay, so at the end of the fourth grade, instead
of letting me go through the fifth he promoted me to the sixth and I went
from there. And and when I graduated from elementary school and started high
school, that was when we had to take the bus, okay to the high school. The
high school would send buses around in the country to pick up the children
and take them to the school cause the school was about fifteen to twenty miles.
INTERVIEWER: So are you living now still on the farm or (-)
NARRATOR: Still on the farm. Still on the farm. Fifteen to twenty miles, so
the bus we would have to walk that seven miles to that bus to get that bus
which picked us up. Ahh, During the course of walking, there would be buses
that were busing the white children, okay, when you saw that bus coming you
better get off the road into the ditch. Ahh, because if you didn't - you know,
depending on how the bus driver felt, he would just hit you! And nothing would
be done if he did. They would scream out of the windows at you, call you niggers,
you know, call me that and we would just (thumping sound) stand in the ditch
until it passed then we'd get back upon the road and walk. Another thing happened
was one of the young men, one of the neighbors, one of our church members
at that time (sniffle) when they'd go see their girlfriends again the neighbors
lived you know quite a bit apart. He went to see his girlfriend (elevator
sound) and he was coming home that night on a Sunday night walking, very wooded
areas, long ways, boys they had no cars. And I think it was four white guys
in a car killed him. Just killed him. That's all he was doing. He was walking
home. They got out the car and just beat him. Ran over him or whatever they
did. And got in their car and went home, just left him. He was found (-) by
some black person who was walking on the way to their home - they all sat
in the road; nothing was (-) ever done. Nothing. So you see you came up (-)
uhm, under very, very, very hard times. Times that you were mistreated. You
were treated like you were nothing. You know, you were nothing. Ahh, you had
no rights. Ahh, That was during the time, of course, when segregation, ahmm
well I could say we lived under the Jim Crow law. Black people had to go around
to the back (-) of restaurants ahh if they wanted to get something to eat.
They had their little certain place that if you went in you said this is for
colored. Some places you see would say no niggers, ya know. Ahmm, All the
water fountains wherever was colored, white, separate, okay. Ahh, The movie
theaters, colored entrance, white entrance over here.
INTERVIEWER: Now, did you, if we take the incident with walking to school.
It's very painful. Did you have anyone to talk to about it? Would you go home
and talk to your mother about what had happened or was it just not talked
NARRATOR: Yeah, ah no, yeah we would just say ya know the school bus (-) but
you know something there wasn't too much talking, simply because (-) that
was the way it was. Nobody, and you knew that, was gonna do anything. You
see and this is before that uhm the, the you know ahh Martin Luther King ahh
started, or anybody ahh from ya know in the other states started to ah you
know say now, you know, we're we're gonna fight this segregation. This was
when you knew where you stood. You knew (-) how you were gonna be treated
and you accepted it.
INTERVIEWER: Now was it much more pronounced in the town? Because you were
NARRATOR: In the town (-)
INTERVIEWER: How old were you when you moved to Anniston?
NARRATOR: I was uhm I think twelve.
INTERVIEWER: And what made your family move there?
NARRATOR: Ahh, That was another thing, ahh the the last farm, plantation we
lived on, that went sour. In other words, we had a very bad year there. So
we, by my brothers, two older brothers, which had left prior to ahh our leaving
that farm, had moved to Anniston. They moved to Anniston, they got a public
job. And they worked together and they bought a little old, three-room house.
INTERVIEWER: And what was the public job, do you remember?
NARRATOR: One of my brothers worked in the steel mill, called Anniston Steel.
I don't think it's still there now, Anniston Steel. The other one (-) ahh
worked in a chemical plant called Monsanto. And I don't know if you've ever
heard, there's a big lawsuit going on down there, yeah. Yeah and I happen
to be one of the people that grew up there cause they think they might have
PCBs in the blood. Uhm, so they bought a house. When this (-) ahh plantation
that year went sour, I mean it went bad, we really made no money - the plantation
owner asked my father to leave, and that's what they do. If you don't have
a good crop, especially if you're going for maybe two years in a row, you
have to leave. Then they gonna get somebody else to come down hoping it's
gonna do better. So the owner asked him to leave. So he, we moved to a place
but we didn't farm. This was just a house and I don't know why we did that,
I guess that owner didn't really rent the plantation. It had very little land
for farming, anyway, so we didn't farm. So what it was then my father was
living off of whatever resource he had saved, which wasn't much. He wrote
to my mother in Anniston and told her that story - I mean they knew, you know,
that things were hard and (-)
INTERVIEWER: Could your father read and write?
NARRATOR: Ahh, He could read, yeah some. He was a (-) Yes, he could read some.
Ahh, He could write a little, he could write a little. He wasn't a letter
writing person, my mother would do the writing. But he could he could read
enough to read a letter or write enough so you could understand what he wrote.
And finally ah my mother wrote and she told my brothers ah that ya know, we
needed help, ya know, had no way to make a living, and ahh she didn't know
how long whatever we had was gonna last and you know we needed to do something.
So they did. The house that they bought, the lil three-room house, one brother
got married and uhm they then helped us move to Anniston. That's how we got
to Anniston. So that was moving to the city - it wasn't a city then, it was
really a town, moving to the town. And they uhm they just really sort of supported
the family until my father got a job, and he got a job in the ahh , I think
it was a place, it was a laundry that they did, like sheets and stuff like
INTERVIEWER: And you went to school then? What grade were you?
NARRATOR: I never went to school in Anniston. I ahh, in Roanoke which was
the high school, I got as far as the eighth grade. As a matter of fact, I
was promoted from the seventh to the eighth and I went there half a year cause
we moved in uhm in (-) May, I believe it was, somewhere in the earlier part
of the year. It was March, April, May? So I went halfway. When I got to Anniston,
I never (-) went to school there. Ahhm, The only person who went to school
there is my youngest sister, God rest her soul, she graduated from Caulk??
High. I could not, I don't know it weighed on me. I could not see - I just
had to help. Ahh, My mother she was unhappy when I told her I wanted to go
to work. She said "No you need to go to school." I said no. Ahh,
I want to go to work. So actually I should have really been too young to work
but at that time a lot of the jobs for ah black girls, young age, was housekeeping.
And the families would hire you - some of them would go live with the families
for the week and then come home on the weekend. But I didn't do that, I went
to work five days a week and I would walk to work and back home. Ahh, I got
a job at the age of twelve, keeping house for this family that had two children.
And, they paid two dollars a day. So my salary was ten dollars a week. And
I would come home and most of the time I would give my mother most of that
money, ya know, to ahh help buy the food. And ah and to do that. So, then
I happened to get another job, and I got this through one day, somebody recommended,
ahh this guy was looking for somebody to keep his young baby just for a little
while. And uhm, I was recommended by the people I had worked from before,
worked for and he came and got me so I I went to work for him, I think it
was a week. And when that week finished, and the job should have been finished.
He said to me, he says you know, he says I have a job - and the guy, he owned
a dry cleaners. He says I have a job that you know, if you want to come and
work for me I would give you that job. Well, I was so happy to say that, and
do you know something? He gave me that job and that job was paying twenty-five
dollars a week! I felt like I was rich! I was making more than most people,
most people. Twenty-five and then I got a raise in a few years and it went
up to twenty-seven dollars a week. And I would come home and give my mother(-)
that money - I would keep sometimes maybe ten dollars and give her the rest.
You know so she could buy food. My mother was so grateful. At that time I
didn't like vegetables. She would always cook me something separate (laughs)
from the rest of the family cause she felt like uhm ya know I deserved it.
But I really didn't feel that way I just wanted to help. And if I may digress
a little bit, going back to Roanoke. I was five years old when I learned to
play the piano. Ahh, First I used to sit at home because we could never afford
a piano, never. I used to sit on the windowsill and play with my fingers and
make the music with my mouth. So when I had a chance to get to church. We
did have an old upright piano, which I must say is still there. On August
twelfth, I was able to play that piano from 1942 & 43.
NARRATOR: In August of this year
NARRATOR: Well, anyway ahh I went ah I would go to church and then I'd stand
up there on the piano and I'd hit the keys. I'd hit the keys, and hit the
keys. Couldn't really play anything. So we used to have at that church what
cha called the Saturday night suppers. That was the extent of our outgoing,
our social life, every once in awhile they would have a supper. They called
it the Saturday night supper where they would sell ice cream and cookies and
sandwiches and the people would go buy it and all that and that money went
to church. At this particular Saturday night supper, they would have it outside.
Ahh, We had this lady and her name was Bertha Bell. And she had one of those
old-fashioned pump organs at her house, at her house. Ahh, She went into the
church, went up on the stage to the piano and she sat down and she was playing
this song. And the name of the song was "Does Jesus Care." We sing
it some Sundays still. When she started playing I was sitting back down in
the thing. I got up and I sneaked up and don't forget children at that time
were not like children today. You did not move around, you did not. Everything
you did was, you know, your, your parents, you sat like a aha ah. What can
I say? A knot on a log cause you knew better than to run around but to make
noise, especially in church. And if you did anything, I never did it, cause
I knew my parents, but we had some children sometimes who and my mother just
turned her head.
INTERVIEWER: Give you a look. (laughing)
INTERVIEWER: That's all you needed. (giggling)
NARRATOR: That's all. So children didn't run around like children run today
- run over you, running in this place and that place. If you had to move,
you know (whispering), you got your mother aside (whispering: can I go in
) you know that kind of thing. But anyway this lady went up to the piano,
now I would not just get up and there was no services in the church. They
were all outside.
NARRATOR: I would not get up and just walk up there, that's how I was raised(-)
sneaked, very sneaky from bench to bench to bench (INTERVIEWER laughing) until
I finally I got to the stage. Ya know and I sat at the step, and I don't think
she was paying me any attention, she was an older lady who had grown children.
And she was just playing her song and playing her song. So finally I eased
up on the stage and she was sitting here and I just eased up to where she
was sitting and sat on the floor. And I watched her, every move she made,
I watched her - and she played until she got tired.
INTERVIEWER: And you were five years old?
NARRATOR: I was five, I wasn't even five then. Ahh, I was probably going
on five. Ahh, when she got tired and she got up. And she got up and put the
lid down on the piano. And she just walked from up there and left me, she
didn't say nothing. I got up and I opened the lid of the piano, at that time
I had to climb up on the stool cause they had these stools on the four legs
that you had them send up - I got up and I climbed up on that stool (-) and
from that moment I played every note that she played. (INTERVIEWER gasps)
That was the beginning of my music. And somebody heard me playing up there
one day and they told my pastor, and do you know they asked me to play for
the church cause we didn't have a musician. We had music, ah visiting people
sometimes that would come to play especially on the second Sunday when we
had service. Other than that we had no musician, ya know we had no service
anyway except for that one Sunday. I climbed up on that stool. I played that
song note by note when she played and they asked the pastor to let me play
for the church. That was the beginning in nineteen forty, I guess I started
playing for the church probably in the later part of '43, ahh early part of
'44, cause I learned to play in '43. They paid me a dollar a month and do
you know that dollar a month would buy me just about anything I wanted? A
dollar a month, so that was another one of the building blocks.
NARRATOR: Yeah, it is.
INTERVIEWER: How old were you when you started to play for the church?
NARRATOR: Five. Five and ahh. Of course it developed over the years.
INTERVIEWER: Was your father musical, your brothers and sisters?
NARRATOR: My father, singers yeah, but most of the family ahh were singers,
ya know. My father could play the guitar a little. Ah, even though I never
heard him play that much, but he could play. Now I tell you what he could
do. He could blow. Ahh, We call it now the harmonica, but we used to call
it then a harp, the little mouth one. He could blow that. And I had a brother
that could too, a brother that could too. But I was the only one that uhm
I guess out of the family that could uhm, you know, play the keyboard, you
know the piano. And ahh, as I said my father played the guitar a little bit,
but they all were singers. And we used to sing, as a matter of fact, we sang
a little choir professionally. You know when we were young, we were all young.
And that was before coming to New York.
INTERVIEWER: So was that in Anniston?
NARRATOR: Uh huh. We sang in Anniston, that's where we really started to sing,
really got a group. Because before that it was just the church choir but when
we moved to Anniston we really got a group. It was the three sisters, ahmm
and two other girls. And we used to call ourselves the Five Roses of Sharon.
That was the name. Made one record. At that time it was a seventy-eight.
INTERVIEWER: Wow, congratulations.
NARRATOR: (giggling) Yeah, made one record, of course, we did not get to be
known in the Northern part because ahh the group broke up before we left Anniston.
INTERVIEWER: And how did you get the name?
NARRATOR: (-) I think ahh, one of the other girls came up with the name,
ahh which was at that time the manager of the group. I think she came up with
the name. And and when she mentioned that name we just all loved it. You know,
and and we were very good, we were really good - we ahh, for that time we
were good (laughing).
INTERVIEWER: How old were you?
NARRATOR: I was maybe sixteen, seventeen ah, no, no, no. See I'm getting ahead
of myself because I came into New York at fifteen. I was younger than that.
This started as soon as we moved to Anniston, I must've been twelve, something
like twelve years. Ahh, We got up the group ya know, almost immediately after
we started living in Anniston. So it lasted about twelve years, twelve and
a half years. Oh, about three and half years (-) to four years. Okay and uhm,
it broke up in nineteen, early, early part of 1955. And we came to New York
in May of 1955.
INTERVIEWER: What prompted you to come to New York?
NARRATOR: I had two brothers here that had come here many years ago.
INTERVIEWER: What part of New York were they in?
NARRATOR: Both lived in New Rochelle at the time. The breaking up of the group,
because that was our, that was our outlet as girls in a very, very strict
family. (Elevator sound) Even though we lived in a town my mother and father
did not allow us to go to parties. You could go to the movie, they would allow
that, but all the things the people did for rec, they did not allow us to
do. So the singing was our way of I guess getting out because we traveled,
ahh, not places ahh, ya know, way, away. We would go to places like Atlanta,
Tennessee, places you could go leaving on a Friday night staying over the
weekend, getting back on Sunday night in time enough to get up and go to work
INTERVIEWER: Now, if you were singing in the group, what places would you
NARRATOR: At different churches, at different churches.
INTERVIEWER: And you would stay at, all over?
NARRATOR: Well we would usually go to the places during the day. They were
usually places you could drive. We had a chauffeur, and the chauffeur was
the ahh chaperone, with the manager okay cause she was an older, married lady
and the chauffeur was also a married man. Okay, they were the chaperones and
that's how we were able to go, because our parents, they trusted these two
people enough cause he would drive us, cause he had the car. Ahh, that was
INTERVIEWER: What dreams did you have for yourself, when you were fifteen?
Did you think about it?
NARRATOR: At fifteen, when I came here. And because of what I was coming out
of, cause we were all very devastated when the group broke up. So because
we, you know, we had gotten use to people. You see how people do sometimes
when the artist come to town and the fans. We had fans. And even though we
might not have been singing, when one of the Five Roses of Sharon walk in
the church you'd hear (whispering) 'Five Roses of Sharon'. (INTERVIEWER laughing)
You know and that went on for a few years if we ever had to sing. And we were
coming in and (whispering) " here come the Five Roses of Sharon."
You got used to that recognition.