Nate Charlton

March 15, 1998
Interviewer: John Dodson
Bonnie Dodson
Location: Tynes Chapel, AME Zion Church
Transcriber: S.L. Viers


John: I’m John Dodson and this is Apr--- March 15, 1998 and I’m interviewing Nate Charlton in the Tynes Chapel, AME Zion Church

Nate: Uhmm-hmm

John: That is correct? Ok.

John: Mr. Charlton, what year were you born?

Nate: July 12, 1918.

John: 1918. And who was your father?

Nate: Willie Charlton.

John: Willie Charlton?

Nate: Mm-hmm.

John: And what was your mother’s name?

Nate: Elizabeth.

John: Elizabeth. And what was her maiden name?

Nate: Lizabeth and before she married she was a Stevenson.

John: A Stevenson?

Nate: Uhm-hmm.

John: Now, where was your father from? Was he born back here?

Nate: I don’t know. I don’t even know where he was borned at.

John: You don’t know?

Nate: No.... my grandaddy, don’t know where he was borned at.

John: Okay. Well do you know--- what about your mother?

Nate: My mother was borned down here at Elgood. Down here to uhm... Elgood.

John: Uh-huh. Okay, now do you remember your granfather?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Your father’s father.

Nate: Yeah.

John: And he moved back here.

Nate: Yeah, he used to live right here in this spot.

John: Right here in this spot?

Nate: Yeah. But he— this was the last place. He just moved from one place to another.

John: Okay. He just moved from one place to another? What did he do for a livin’?

Nate: He worked with white folks. That’s all he did.

John: Now, what was his--- this was your grandfather. Now what was his name?

Nate: Noahy Charlton.

John: Noahy. Now how do you spell that?

Nate: N-O... n-o-a-h. NOAH. How do you spell Noah?

John: Oh, NOAH. N-O-A-H. Noah Charlton. Okay. And he used to do work for people up and down Dryfork here?

Nate: And in Rocky Gap, and uhm... Honaker’s and...uhm, see there was Honaker’s and then the Stowers’. He worked all up and down DryFork. My daddy, too. He did the same thing.

John: He did the same thing?

Nate: Yeah.

John: And what kind of work would they do? Just farm work or...?

Nate: Yeah. My grandaddy was a butcher. My daddy was too, and I took it after them. Me too.

John: Okay, so they would help people and they would— in the fall when they would---
butcher hogs and beef and that sort of thing?

Nate: Yeah.

John: And they’d help people do that?

Nate: Yeah.

John: How many brother’s and sisters did you have?

Nate: I got uhm... 8. One got burnt up. Eight countin’ myself. And uhm— now, I got 4 sisters and well I had 3 brothers which was 7, but I ain’t got but one brother and three sisters now.

John: Okay. And you’ve got 2 of your sisters living with you?

Nate: All three of ‘em.

John: All 3 sisters.

Nate: [tch]... stays up there— just stays a little bit up at uhm, her house.

John: Okay and, you’ve got a brother that’s still livin’?

Nate: Yeah he lives in Bluefield.

John: In Bluefield?

Nate: Yeah in Tiffany Manor.

Born in a Log Cabin

John: Okay. And uhm... do you remember the house that you were born in?

Nate: Yeah, old house. The old logs down the road here now.

John: Is it still standing?

Nate: Uh-uhh. He sold them to another guy for a house and he never did build it. They laid ‘em up there in the moutains.

John: Oh, okay. He sold them and someone was gonna build a house with the logs. And they’re still layin’ up there?

Nate: Yep.

John: So they went ahead and tore it down.

Nate: They never did build the house.

John: Okay.

Nate: He didn’t build ‘em outta that log house. All of us, we was all borned in that same house. Didn’t have but 3 rooms.

John: Three rooms?

Nate: Log house daubbed in mud. Yeah.

John: And this was just one story?

Nate: Hmmm? It had an upstairs.

John: Oh, it had an upstairs?

Nate: And a livin’ room and a kitchen over there... yeah. They was---

John: Okay—

Nate: It was terrible. [laughs] Yeah, when it rained on the outside it rained in there too!

John: It did?

Nate: [laughs]

John: What kind of roof did you have on it?

Nate: Wood shingle roof.

John: A wood shingle roof, and it used to leak?

Nate: Yeah.

John: What was it like in the wintertime?

Nate: Same thing. Wind blowed, that there cold snow come in there [laughs and coughs]. We’d be, laying there with our arms in snow but we kept warm, but it was rough.

John: Uhmm-hmm.

Nate: Yeah...

John: What kind of heat did you have?

Nate: Fireplace.

John: Just a fireplace?

Nate: Uhmm-hmm.

John: You never had a stove?

Nate: Yeah, a cook stove.

John: A cook stove.

Nate: Uhm-hmm.

John: But you never had another wood stove?

Nate: No, not in there. There wasn’t no place for it. We had a chimley.

John: And what was your chimley made out of?

Nate: Rock

John: Rock?

Nate: Rock daubbed in mud, yeah.

Bonnie: Is the chimley still standin’?

CCC Camp and Noah

Nate: Uhm... they tore it down when I went in the CCC Camp. Do you remember the CCC’s?

John: At Bastain?

Nate: That’s where I signed up— where I went in at. And I went to Yorktown and my daddy he started [tch] houses and they kept on till they rotted down. This last one was started— my mother died in ‘35--- and uh... I left home after that, and I put my age up to be in the CC camp and I was sendin’ him the money. I just kept five dollars until I got raised and then when I got raised I was a foreman and a truckdriver and I would send him 25 and I kept 8. I told him to build his house. He built it and put the top on it— my dad was always the kind of man, he never stayed at home--- he stayed with white folks. My mother would [tch]....for the French’s y’know? Right down the road at that empty house...? Right down the road--- Billy French. He stayed down there, y’know.

John: Oh, French. Okay.

Nate: Yeah, he stayed down there.

Bonnie: Uhmm-hmmm.

Nate: He was sick and he stayed down there. He stayed down there with [tch] White and them. He stayed down there with the Slaughter’s. He stayed down there with them and come home on the weekends. He’d go back on Sunday evening. He didn’t stay at home.

John: Hmmm. He was working down there? How old was your mother when she died?

Nate: Uhmm... 49, I think.

John: 49?

Nate: Uhm-hmm.

John: That’s pretty young.

Nate: Yeah.

John: I guess maybe he was farmin’? Did you farm at all??

Nate: He farmed down there. He farmed down there--at them people.

John: But you all didn’t...did you all own any land up here?

Nate: Owned what we got. Yeah, 60 acres.

John: Okay... but you all--- did you ever farm that?

Nate: I farm it now. Daddy never farmed it.

John: Oh, your daddy never farmed it.

Nate: He went to them peoples house. Lets see... they had cows and horses up there, and hogs.

John: Okay.... but.. uhm... so how old were you when your mother died? I guess you were---

Nate: Me, I think I was around about 18.... lets see... 17...18.

John: Okay. Lets start--- I wanna talk to you about the CCC camp and all of that also, but, uhmm... do you remember going--- you went to the one room school house didn’t ya?


Nate: Huh?

John: You went to the one roomed school house, didn’t ya?

Nate: Yeah, right down there.

John: Right down there.... now do you remember a sch--- a school that they had before they had that one?

Nate: No, that was a---- they had some up here, but I didn’t know nothin’ about ‘em.

John: Okay, they had some BEFORE they got that school... because I’ve got a picture that I wantcha to look at.

Nate: YEAH. We used to have this TOO.

John: Which--- what is it? Is it one of those older schools?

Nate: That’s the one my sisters went to.

John: Okay.

Nate: Right there---- there’s the one I’m taking care of right now.

John: Oh. Which one?

Nate: Eveline.

John: Alright, that’s Eveline?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Right there.

Nate: And right there is my brother what died. Cecil.

John: Okay.

Nate: Yeah, and that--- there’s Mar--- right there’s his daddy and he don’t know it.

John: Ah, yeah. I gotta get all of this down. I’m gonna stop the tape and----

[Tape Paused ]

[Tape Resumed]

The Hard Life

John: Okay.... uhmm.... so the snow used to blow in between the logs?

Nate: A it would come through the house--- from up in the top. Uh... it would rain--- and my mother, I know when she could, she’d start getting buckets and things at set them right down there.... but we lived--- that’s the way we lived. My daddy and Cecil Webb took care of us. We had it the worst in the world. That’s the reason why I’m working hard now. And---

John: So you all were the poorest people up here, is that what you are sayin’?

Nate: Yeah

John: You and who?

Nate: Sam Webb.

John: Webbs...

Nate: Yeah, they’s dead and gone. [tch] They lived in the last house... [tch] somebody else’s house— the Wagner’s house. Yeah.

John: And... okay, so you all had it pretty hard growin’ up.

Nate: Yeah.

John: So you--- I guess you might... did you all--- did your mother have a garden? I’ve heard you talk about how you all had a garden and everything. And your mama used to put food up ?

Nate: Yeah, my mother worked it. My mother took care of me.

John: Yeah.

Nate: To tell you the truth, my mother--- she died... I was too young to know it, but it’s right. Charlie tell us she used to go and grind meal... y’know that stuff sitting down there on the road... where the Tolbert’s live--- over in there--- my mother worked with them. Y’know that rock house sitting right over from your school house?

John: Yeah.

Nate: .... with.... uhmm.... the Caldwell’s. She worked there. That’s when my mother died--- working for them.

John: She’d go in and do housework for them?

Nate: She’d wash... she’d do anything. We got an old organ up there now, what we got off the old Tolberts. [tch] Tolbert. Dave Terrence Tolbert [tch]. We pick 5 gallon worth of blackberries, and it’s up there right now— our organ. Yeah... I would go back and meet her in the evenin’ and help her carry groceries home. Worked. Yeah.... you.... people LIVED...

John: Yeah.

Nate: But it wasn’t my daddy bringing nothin’ up there--- cuz he was bringing stuff up there on the weekends. He’d bring enough to eat on the weekends and then he’d leave on Sunday. Nah, he’d... I don’t guess he hated us or nothing like that, but he was a man just like grandaddy. He just lived with white folks all his life. He was right here at home and he was staying right here in [?Mason?] French’s house. Mason had a store up on the hill and Him, Andrew and Wheeler Boyd... four...3 families was living down there in that house. Well, they moved out, all but daddy... and, uh... Eveline was down there. I stayed up there in that old house until I got the top put on, and after I got the top put on that new house, I went into the new house. Yeah daddy wasn’t--- he wouldn’t stay at home. Now, I took care of Eveline and I sent him my money, and he went and built a house after so long a while and somebody wrote me a letter and told me... said uhmm... Nate, says, your daddy ain’t finishin’ your house. Said he got somebody else to spend his money on. So, I stopped him from gettin’ it.

John: Yeah.

Nate: But y’see... when the war broke out, they cut the CCC out and I come home.

John: Uhmm... okay. So you.... well, your mom I guess she raised all of you all and you came to the one room schoolhouse up here that used to be right in front of the church. And uhmm, do you remember.... what time would school start?

Nate: It would start round about 8 or 9. Somethin’ like that---

The School Bell

John: And how would you know? Didn’t they have a bell?

Nate: It’s up there now. The bell is settin’ up there in the church. [tch]... ?give fur? to little Bill for that big one. That bigger bell--- you could hear it down Rocky Gap. Yeah.

John: Okay, so it’s in the old church building over here?

Nate: Yeah. Sittin’ in the basement now.

John: And that was the one they had in the school house?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Okay--- you all just storin’ it down there?

Nate: Hmmm?

John: You are just storing it down there?

Nate: Well, we was gonna put it up, y’see... the church Ferge give that to the church and we had a little one, and Ferge took the little one. I don’t know what he done with the little one.

John: Now Ferge was...

Nate: That was Marvin’s daddy. The schoolhouse belonged to them. They give the church this here. [tch] And that’s why they called it Tyne’s Chapel.

John: Oh, so okay---

Nate: Uhmm-hmm.

[Tape Paused?]

John: He... he--- so that’s the original school bell and he got----

John: You got that? I’d like to see it sometime...

Nate: Anytime.

John: And you can hear it all the way to Rocky Gap.

Nate: Yeah. That thing got a clapper that big.

John: Oh really?

Nate: And it takes two good men to handle it.

Bonnie: Where did they get the bell? Is that where it came from?

Nate: Uhmm... I don’t know, but... uhmm... whatchacallit... the school had bought it and the church had given it to them or what the church had bought it. I don’t know who bought it... I know I’ve ringed it a many a times.

John: Did ya?

Nate: Yeah, that thing went and swinged me up off the ground. [laughs]

John: [laughs]

Bonnie: I guess that was a kind of reward if you were good or...?

Keeping the School House Warm

Nate: Yeah, I guess... uhmm... well, the church never... y’see I was their janitor at the schoolhouse. I’d make the fire--- see I was right up there. I’d make the fire in that school house and then I’d ring the bell. Yep.

John: Y’know, Marvin used to do that too. He told me.

Nate: Yeah, uhmm-hmm.

John: So, you’d get there first and get the fire going so it would be warm when everybody got there.

Nate: Uhmm-hmm. Yeah.

John: And... uh...

Bonnie: Was there a great big potbellied stove in the school house?

Nate: It was an old tank heater— made out of tin, but didn’t last.

John: Right, but it’d burn hot tho wouldn’t it?

Nate: We stayed warm.

John: Now where’d you get the wood for it? Did you have to haul the wood in?

Nate: Sometimes they’d have a [tch] Ferguson and he’d cut the wood up there in the woods and I’ld help him, and uhmm.... a lot of times we’d go up on the hill. The teacher she’d let us go up on the hill.

John: I guess you used a cross-cut saw and an axe...?

Nate: Yeah, an axe.

John: An axe?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Now that was work.

Nate: That was real ?hiking?, y’see... get out of school. Shucks yeah. [laughs]

John: [laughs] Ah.

Nate: [laughs] We got out of school and went up there--- right in the hollow up there--- we found a still.

John: Found a still?

Nate: [coughs] Found a still and we got in that beer [laughs]. We drinked that beer [laughs]. We had a time, buddy!

John: [laughs]

Nate: Yeah, they stopped us from getting wood up there for a loooong time.

John: Now, who’s still was it?

Nate: I don’t know... I know, too.... but I can’t tell. [laughs] (This was most certainly the double still that Ferge Tynes was working up in the hollow behind his house,)

John: [laughs]

John: I think probably that the statute of limitations has run out. [laughs]

Nate: Yeah.

John: So you all got into the... beer?

Nate: The mash. You make liquor out of it. That stuff was workin’ and boy that stuff was rollin’.

John: [laughs] Well, how many of you all--- who else was up there with you?

Nate: All them ol’ Ferguson boys. They all dead now... all but one, Pete Ferguson. The one that lives right down there on top of the hill.

John: Pete was up there with you?

Nate: Nah, Pete was too little.

John: He was still little.

Nate: Yeah.

John: So this was his older brothers? This would be Rubin’s sons?

Nate: Yeah. Uhmm-hmm.

John: Alright... and did you all get in trouble when you came back?

Nate: Uhmm-umm.

John: No? They just wouldn’t let you go back up there anymore?

Nate: Uhmm-umm.

Bonnie: Well, did you stay up there all day?

Nate: No, we didn’t stay up there all day. These people told that woman to keep us outta there for some reason. Yeah they told---

John: [laughs] Ok. Well did you go home for lunch or did you take your lunch to school?

Nate: We’d go home.

John: You’d go home? Okay.... and uhmm... would you all have recess at school?

School Programs

Nate: Yeah, we had everything. We had... programs....

John: What kind of programs did you have?

Nate: Ahh, just like them on television. Buddy we were tough.

John: Really?

Nate: People from Rocky Gap would come up there [laughs]. Yeah, we’d have a time with those programs.

John: What did you do in your programs? Did you have plays...?

Nate: Just like on television--- Amos and Andy and everything.

John: Oh, so you all----

Nate: Just like those shows on television. Yeah... and I was just thinkin’ the other day, that’s where it come from. You’d have--- show a program in your school and people starts out and never stops. That’s exactly where it came from. Yeah.

John: Okay, so you all would do like little plays and skits---

Nate: Yeah.

John: --- like Amos and Andy. What else? Do you remember anything else about this?

Nate: We used to have what you call plattin’ the May pole. Yeah... Did you ever do that?

John: Uhmm-hmm. The May pole.

Nate: You could do that.

John: And I guess you did that on May Day, right?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Alright. Anything else you can remember?

Nate: Oh, I don’t know... [tch] everything.

John: Well, when you would do these programs, would you do them at night?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Would you do them in church or would you do them in the school house?

Nate: In the school house? Yep, sure.

John: And people would come from...

Nate: Yeah.

John: All around.

Bonnie: Did you advertise or have signs?

Nate: Nah, they’d find out. They’d find out where the programs were going to be at and what we was gonna have, and they’d come up here. The Frenchs and Tuggles and all of ‘em would come up here.

John: Yeah. I’ll bet that was somethin’.

Nate: Yeah.

John: And do you... uhmm...

Bonnie: Did you charge admission?

Nate: Uhuh-Uhmm.

John: What would you all do at Christmas time?

Nate: We’d have Christmas Trees.

John: And did you all put on Christmas plays and stuff?

Through the Low Gap to the Hospital

Nate: Yeah, we’d have plays all the time. Yeah... we had--- we had a whole lot of plays. We... lets see... my first teacher--- I juse to go with my sisters to school, but I would be little. But I went with ‘em. We had one teacher.... Miss [tch], when we got sick, and the only way we got to go to the doctor was right through this deep gap in the mountain, we’d carry ‘em— I didn’t, I was too little--- but the others would carry ‘em and take ‘em to Princeton to the hospital. I ain’t... I ain’t for sure, but I think Marvin’s grandaddy died on that mountain. Maybe... it wasn’t.... Nah, he didn’t. It was ... one man died up on top of that mountain.

John: Oh, they were trying to take him to the hospital?

To Rocky Gap for Doc Davidson

Nate: They had to carry him across there. You could--- when you ride down there, you’d have to stop when a car come by or walk. That’s about how narrow this road was. Down here at Akers’... that road used to go back up behind there. And when we’d go down there on a horse and we’d see--- that horse we had was scared--- we’d see a bus comin’, we’d have to get off that horse. That horse cut a dusty... but you can ask my sisters... my brother was livin’ right here, and Doctor Davidson done give him up--- said he was gonna die, and they told me.... said that I had to go get the doctor. And they told me to take my horse and put get it--- put it in Mr. Gibson’s barn and walk down to Rocky Gap. And buddy, I git that horse--- I rode it till you couldn’t see nothin’ but the fire flyin’. I rode that horse all the way to the doctor’s office. She’d see a car comin’ and she was so tired she didn’t pay it no mind. I went down there and told the doctor that my brother was sick, and he said “Ahhh, I can’t go up there tonight!” I was [coughs and clears throat]--- I said “Well, SOMEBODY’S a goin’!”. And there was another doctor named Dr. Bogle. He lived a little piece up Wolf Creek. And he said “Where ya goin?” I said “I’m a goin’ to get him”. He said “Go on back home! I’m a comin’!”. He passed me on... you know where [tch] Benny Lockhart? He passed me right there on that hill and then told daddy and them that I rode that horse all the way to Rocky Gap. That horse was so tired, buddy, she wasn’t gonna do nothin’.

John: Yeah.

Nate: I thought for sure that my brother was gonna die. He told me--- the doctor done put him on soup--- and he told me “Nate, I’m hungry!” I said “okay.... what do you want?”. Do you want somethin’ to eat? I went up to the house and my sister had a little cookin’ [tch].... I told her I was a goin’ huntin’ to make me some bread. She made me 6 biscuits and put apple butter and butter on it, and I put it in my bosom. I come right in there, my brother was laying there in the bed--- his hair done fell out and he said “did ye bring it?” and I said “yeah”, and boy, he covered his head up and in a few minutes, them biscuits was gone. And the next day my momma and his wife heard him in there in the bean pot. Now, I was a big boy and my mother was living then. And I don’t know why I say that, but I said “if you die, don’t you tell nobody!”. He said “I ain’t gonna tell nobody” [laughs].

John: [laughs]

Nate: He couldn’t tell nobody if he was dead, but I wasn’t thinkin’, y’see.... but he got better. He come out a millionare.

John: That’s great.


Nate: But him and Sadie--- the one there in that picture--- ain’t no chapel on Dry Fork that had more than what we had for Christmas... toys and everything. We had--- we.... none of these chapel’s around here got what we got. Yeah. I had stuff to give to my nieces and nephews after they got big.

John: Well... wh--- what would you all get for Christmas?

Nate: I got a steel bus [tch], but it was steel . It wasn’t no more than about like that, but you could fit 10 passengers in it. And I’d get wagons and things like that.

John: Uhmm-hmm.

Nate: My daddy--- he didn’t buy us nothin’ like that. He got us our first shoes. I slept with them shoes for about a month [laughs]. I took ‘em off and wiped ‘em off I was so crazy about ‘em. I don’t know....

John: Where would--- now where would you get all this stuff for Christmas, since your daddy didn’t....?

Nate: They— my sister--- Sadie. Sadie and Cecil, they would buy it for us. Now what did... what did they do for a livin’?They was working in Bluefield. And my brother--- he’d been in the mines... he’d [tch] and workin’ in the mines, he left home when he was a teenager, too.

Family Tragedy

John: Well now... your little sister that got---- now, what happened? Did her clothes catch on fire from the fireplace?

Nate: Yeah. My mother ran... when water from the spring got there....Where the water ran out from the ground, they ran out there to get some water.... and she just run by the fireplace and it caught her on fire... and she swallowed the blaze, and before they could get her out, she died.

John: Oh.... that is such a shame...

Nate: Yeah.

John: Uhmm-hmm.

Bonnie: That happened to my grandfather’s sister too. [tch]

John: I knew there was something like that...

Bonnie: But she was much older.... she was a woman. In her twenties.

John: Yeah.

Nate: Uhmm-uhmm.

John: Now, that’s terrible.... [slight pause] Okay [sighs] So how far did you go... in school y’know.... did you just go through the seventh grade... say they don’t get recess in school nowadays.

Nate: Now I was good, but I lost it. I got so’s I couldn’t read [tch] My teacher, she just ruint me. Instead of taking my time, I was just running over that paper like it was nothin’.

My horse, it was barefooted

Blacksmith, blacksmith, I come to you.

My little gray pony has lost a shoe.

I’ve brought some coal for you to heat

so that you may shoe my pony’s feet.

I runned all over that thing just sayin’ everything. I was alright, but the teacher.... I may get you right now and call you YOUR... the’s.... that.... I gotta stop and think. Vialee and them used to be above me and I was tough on ‘em in school. Yeah, that’s cause we had spellin’. I used to turn ‘em down.

John: You were quick, huh?

Nate: Yeah, I used to turn ‘em down. Me and them Ferguson girls. We’d turn ‘em down.

John: Well.... what was your favorite subject?

Nate: I liked.... I liked spellin’... and I liked arithmetic. Yeah... I didn’t like those others too much.

John: Yeah. Now, when you finished school, what did you do? I guess you were still just a boy.

Nate: We didn’t have to go to school if we didn’t want to, y’know. And I worked for Mr. Tynes over here for 25 cents a day.

John: Which Tynes?

Nate: Lige. [tch] [tch]. They all dead now. I thought that was somethin’, man... they paid me and I’d take my money up there and give it to my momma.

John: Yeah.

Nate: I thought that--- I was a big man, givin’ my mother money. My brother would come to me “Nate, you got any money? I wanna get me a pint of liquor”. [laughs] I said, I ain’t got it, but I can get it from my momma. I said “Momma, I want 50 cent”. She’d let me have it. I’d give it to my brother. Yeah, I thought that was somethin’--- givin money to my momma like that.

John: Yeah, well it was. [laughs] It was.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah.

John: Ah, now what other kinds of jobs did you do after that?

Nate: Railroad.

John: You worked for the railroad?

Nate: I worked for the railroad in Fort--- I cut timber most of my life. Ah, I cut all of that timber--- all the way back to the head of Dry Fork.

John: Alright now... did you go to work for the railroad BEFORE you worked for the CCC?

Nate: Yeah. I was workin’ in the CC camp when I was round about.... 19, I think it was.

John: Okay.

Nate: I was in there in ‘38, and July the 12th I’ll be 80 years old. Comin’ July.... I went into the railroad--- it was ‘43. I don’t know what day it was, but in ‘43, they called me into service.

John: Okay now---- so you worked..... so what did you do for the railroad?

Nate: Laid track.

John: You laid track?

Nate: Uhmm-hmm.

CCC Camp and the Army

John: Okay. And then you signed onto the CCC camp.

Nate: Nooo. I was done come out of the CCC camp.

John: Oh, okay.... let me get this straight. So you worked back here, I guess helping people on their farms and then you signed up on the CCC? I guess you were about 18 or something like that...

Nate: Yeah, I was about 19 when I went into the CCC.

John: And you went over to Bastian and signed up there. And... what year was that, do you remember?

Nate: It might have been in ‘38.... I stayed in there almost 3 years. Y’know... they bombed Pearl Harbor in ‘40 and that’s when I came out.

John: Yeah, but you signed up over there, but they sent you somewhere else.

Nate: Yeah.

John: Okay.

Nate: Well I signed up.... they got a... post office there right now. And there was a woman over there... she... she was an insurance lady, and she’s the one that signed me up, but I.....

Bonnie: Zareda?

John: Zareda Earnest.

Nate: I believe... I believe it was, but I can’t think of the name. She type me up and said that she worked on insurance for [tch] down in Kentucky.

John: It would have been Zareda Bruce, then...

Nate: And it was right there that I signed up at.

John: So... I see.... so I guess you got on a train and went where?

Nate: Back up there to the CCC camp. They took me down there in a truck.

John: In a truck. And what--- to Yorktown?

Nate: Yep.

John: Okay.... how come they took you all the way to Yorktown? How come they just didn’t put you on there at Bastain?

Nate: I don’t know----- they wouldn’t.... they wouldn’t let the Blacks in there. There wasn’t no whites in mine.

John: Okay. There were white CCC camps and there were black CCC camps....

Nate: Yeah.

John: Okay.

Nate: Just like when I went into service.... the bus camed down here and I got joined up with the whites, so’s I had it made then. A black man... me and him couldn’t get along... we couldn’t get along at all. We’d get them Jeeps--- we’d go out to the front and get them Jeeps that had almost been destroyed and bring ‘em back... we had a time.

John: Yeah.

Nate: We was scared, though. It was scary. You wouldn’t know what you’d be seein’. You’d see somethin’ red flyin. We in [tch]. We’d get them things and [tch].

John: Oh, okay... so you were in the CCC when Pearl Harbor happened?

Nate: I’d done come out.... Yeah, I was in there. I was in there.

John: Alright. And did you come back home before you went into the army?

Nate: Yep. Yep....

John: And you came back home to Dry Fork... and how long were you here before they...

Nate: Well, I was here in ‘43.

John: In ‘43.... so you were back here for a couple of years, I guess.

Nate: Yeah.

John: Alright, and when you got drafted in--- when you went into the army, where’d you go?

Nate: Where’d I go?

John: Yeah, for your trainin’.

Nate: Camp ?Bland? In Florida.

John: And what did they train you to do down there?

Nate: What did they train me to do? They trained me to fight.

John: Okay, and where did they send you? Did you go to Europe?

Nate: Yeah. I took part of my trainin’ in Florida and the rest in California.

John: Okay, and where did you go in Europe?

D-DAY +36

Nate: Uhmm... we went from Scotland, all the way into Austria... I didn’t go into Austria, but most of them went to Austria. I got five battle stars.

John: Do you? So, were you in on D day or....?

Nate: Nah, I was D+36. I didn’t go D day. 36 days after D day.

John: Alright. D day + 36. Okay... and so were you--- were you in on the liberation of France?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Okay. Did you go into Paris?

Nate: No. I didn--- I could have. I passed. Yeah, I didn’t wanna go.

John: Okay. Alright, so you ended up in Austria? Is that what you’re sayin’?

Nate: Yeah, as far as I went was the Rhine River.

John: Okay.

Nate: That’s where we was discharged at.... but my other outfit went over there and see we got the--- we... we get the star for that because the other outfit was over there. I was in the 3rd Army.

John: Okay, and who was your commander?

Nate: Lieutenant Landers... and we had one that, uhm... [tch] was a... he was a German. He was uhm.... I can’t think of his name....

John: And what happened to him?

Nate: They went and sent him on... he got promoted. And uhm...

John: Now, were you in a black outfit?

Nate: Yeah.

John: And you had a white officer?

Nate: Nah, we was mixed up. We had white officers... we had one black. One black officer, yeah.

John: But there were whites in your unit, also?

Nate: No.

John: No, just blacks.

Nate: We were connected to it. Our white outfit was the 79th Infantry [tch]. We worked with them.

John: Okay. And you were an infantryman? A rifleman?

Nate: No. No. The thing I was in was Bed Check Charlie, comin’ around. At night and up before 5 o’clock. They was bombin’ all night long. I didn’t use no gun. Ah, the only thing I used was these things [his feet]a runnin’! [laughs] ... And I liked to have killed my own self! Going from England to London.... got there in the night time, they had done dug net trenches. Well we didn’t know it. And then there come that there flyin’ saucer over. I runned down there, buddy, and fell in a hole. My danged feet and my head just scrape the side of that thing going down thru there--- been a little bit further, it would have broke my neck!

John: Alright, now what was it you were runnin’ from?

Nate: Runnin’ from that flyin’ saucer! The German’s would send that thing---

John: V-1 rockets? Is that what you are talking about?

Nate: Yeah. They’d pour--- they’d put gas in it. They knowed about how far that thing would come with the gas and they’d cut off and she’d come straight down.

John: Right. It’s a buzz bomb.

Nate: And they’d hit in a main field and burn up a haystack... Buddy, you don’t know where that thing is gonna fly! Yeah....

Bonnie: Pretty scary!

Nate: Yeah it’s scary... over there at night time... Bed Check Charlie ... he’d come over and he’d bomb all night long. Until we got some outfit, y’know... I’ll just tell you this, one black outfit over there on them guns... there was four of them... back out there somewhere... one here, one here, and one there... they would zero in on them dudes, but at night. He--- they didn’t miss him, they’d get him. A whole lot of times they didn’t want ya to shoot ‘em down, they didn’t want you to shoot because when one falled, it was liable to fall down on a bunch of people... and kill them.

John: Yeah. Alright.... so you were at the Rhine River when the war was over? Alright... did you all celebrate and everything--- when you heard that the war was over?

Nate: Yeah, sure did. We celebrated right there where we was at... it was uh....whatchacallit... that place didn’t have nothin’ but champagne in it--- German champagne... That’s all--- when you captured a German, the only thing you would get was his champagne. He’d break his gun up and everything [laughs] but he’d have that champagne. We’d be drinkin’ that champagne, and there was a hundred of ‘em down in there--- that’s what they say they was, I don’t know--- and we’d... you’d go on down in there, you just wouldn’t go down in the bottom--- they got hungry, they come out. We just hanged tough. First, we’d tell him to go on down the road, he’d find a place, but we was drinkin’ that champagne. And uhmm... after we left [tch] over there in that building where we eat at, but we didn’t bother ‘em, but we knowed what they was. A black guy come out there and was... raised the hood on his car... and they blowed him half into--- comin’ home.

John: Oh my... that was sad.

Nate: Bad. That was bad.

John: Yeah... well were you glad to get back home?

Nate: You don’t know what you’re talking about. When I hit--- when I went over that... uhmm... Boston, Mass.... you’d better believe it, I hit this ground and laid right down. I knowed it had been spit on and everything, but I didn’t care... I kissed the United States, buddy!

John: Yeah.

Nate: Yeah, I was glad to get back. Too glad. You could have stayed in there if ya wanted to...

John: So you came back home to Dry Fork.

Nate: Yeah.

John: And what did you do? Did you go back to work for the railroad?

Nate: I was discharged New Year’s Day. New Year’s Day, I was discharged.

John: 1946?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Uhmm-hmm. Okay... and say... I guess you got on a train to come back?

Nate: I rode a train into Bluefield and got a cab and come on over here and messed around till I got broke. [laughs] And then I went on the railroad.

Working on the Railroad

John: You did? And how long did you work on the railroad?

Nate: I’d go there and quit, and I’d go down to Norfolk and work on the railroad and I’d come back... I just worked on the railroad--- they’d take me anytime I’d go back.

John: And you laid track?

Nate: Yeah. I run the motor car the last time I was on the railroad.

John: Okay... what’s a motor car? What did you do?

Nate: It’s a car you haul men out on.

John: Where you take them to work sites and like that? So, were you----

Nate: That’s where we stayed at. They got pump cars... they got ‘em up in Bluefield right now. Have you seen them white cars? We slept in them. We slept right in the middle of the railroad track. [tch] cars would come by so fast, it would shake them pump cars just like that! We got used to it. Eh, we liked that.

John: So you’d be gone a while, and---

Nate: They come home ever week. I didn’t come home but about once ever two months. Yeah, I wanted to stay out in those cars and go different places... get a pass and go anywhere you want.

John: You got like a railroad pass and you could travel if you wanted? Where— where would you go?

Nate: [tch], Williamson; Portsmouth, Ohio....

John: Have you--- were you ever married?

Nate: Yeah.

John: Okay, how long were you married?

Nate: [laughs] Long enough to eat up a five pound bag of flour.

John: [laughs]

Bonnie: [laughs]

Nate: [laughs] Maybe not that long! [tch] One day and she walked off and left me, and I didn’t go back after her. She was just right there in Bluefield. I had that house right over there. That’s the reason my brother’s got a house. My brother was just like my daddy, he didn’t have no place... he just lived here and there. He used to live right here, too.

John: Oh, now... what place are you talkin’ about over here? Where you’re livin’ now?

Nate: Right there where the church used to be. It was a white... it was a house sittin’ right over there... I got that for a hundred and fifty dollars and three acres of land. My brother in law let me have it.

John: Is the house still standin’ over there?

Nate: Yeah, but it’s about to fall. So, my brother went and give it to Dad, and I told him I didn’t want it, and uhmm... he bought it. I think he bought it for three hundred dollars.

John: So anyway, you got married and she--- you were married for what? A day?

Nate: No, I was married for a month maybe... a month or somethin’ like that.

John: Sometimes these things just don’t work out.

Nate: I didn’t get no divorce until I was married about 30 years... And somebody told me... said she had a baby, and that boy told somebody that “I got a daddy” down here, and somebody told me that boy--- that woman’ll take some of your land. I went over there and I got my divorce. She had one before I married her. And she got another one after I married her. I got two of my own up in Florida. It didn’t matter to me.

John: Eh... okay... So you lived back here all your life?

Nate: I been right here all my life.

John: Now what--- what is it about here that’s kept you here... do you think?

Nate: Well, I worked hard and built a house. Wasn’t nothin’ to do but for me to stay here. Daddy never did finish the house. I’m the one that ends up workin’ on it now. People over to Bland built me two rooms up there, and they messed it up. Well, I built the bathroom. I didn’t have no bathroom till here about.... last year. Yeah, we didn’t have no bathroom. I’ve been havin’ it tough all my life, but I ain’t now! I ain’t like another guy that was here, told--- he was braggin’--- used to, I couldn’t get what I wanted, but now I can run my hand in my pocket and get anything I want. I can say that same thing now, cause I don’t be wantin’ nothin’, but somethin’ to eat. I got my truck. That’s all I want.... and taking care of my sisters and part of that money is theirs. We ain’t wantin’ for nothin’.

John: I mean back here on Dry Fork.

Nate: No...

John: You don’t think he was? Well he, uhm... when your grandfather moved back here, I guess your father had already been born.

Nate: Yeah, my grandaddy.... my daddy used to take care of his mother. He said he paid 50 cents a month for that land up there. Fifty dollars an acre or fifty somethin’... Yeah, he paid for that land up there [tch].... y’know... my grandmother was here... my grandmother was the first one buried up there on that hill. She was the first one buried up there.

John: By the church, up---

Nate: Right up on top of the hill there.

John: What’s... what’s that cemetery called?

Nate: Naw... the Charlton and the Ferguson’s.

John: Alright the Charlton and the Ferg---

Nate: Ferguson’s and my mother was the first one buried up there and then our sister... when I was comin’ up, there wasn’t but 5 graves up there.

John: Okay.

Long Ago Homocides

Nate: My mother... my grandmother... and then there was a guy that killed a boy up the road up there... he was an old man.. He asked the boy... that boy told him that his shotgun wasn’t no count. He said if it ain’t no count, let me have it and I’ll try it on you. [laughs] He killed ‘em!

John: Are you serious?!

Nate: Yeah! Killed ‘em. And they buried him right up on the hill. He was a Showalter.

John: A Showalter? And this was a Showalter that was killed?

Nate: Yeah. He was a Black.... a Black. Yeah, killed ‘em.

John: Was a black? What do you mean by....?

Nate: That was his name just like my name’s Charlton.

John: Oh, okay... yes. Alright... the... the boy that was killed was named Black. And the guy that shot him was a Showalter?

Nate: Cy Black. That was his name.

John: Cy. Alright, now what happened to the Showalter for shootin’ him?

Nate: Nothin’.

John: Nothing?

Nate: Killed him right there at the wood pile and he didn’t get nothin’ out of it.

John: They didn’t arrest him or anything? How long ago was this?

Nate: Well, that happened before my time.

John: Okay, and so they just buried the... Sly Black... Sly Black was buried there? Cy.

Nate: Yeah. And there was a man down the road that shot through the door and killed his sister... and that was after I was borned. And he didn’t... he didn’t mean to kill her. He shot through the door— in the stomach--- it was the shotgun that killed her. He left and never came back, and it ain’t been too long ago that he died. He went up in Ohio and died.

John: So, why did he shoot through the door?

Nate: Well, he just had a shotgun, and I guess he figured that he wasn’t gonna kill her.

Bonnie: So the gun went off by accident? That must have really upset him...

Nate: Yeah. That was his sister. Uhmm-hmm.

John: And he never did come back?

Nate: No.

Powell Saunders and his Mills

John: Well, do you remember when you were growing up back here was Mr. uhm... Saunders sawmill... was he... uhm... did Pal Saunders have a sawmill?

Nate: Yeah, he had one a sittin’ up the holler— his daddy sold it to him. He had it sittin’ up there... he had a sawmill that took 6 horses to pull.

John: Okay, you say...

Nate: They had one sittin’ right up there on the side of the road. That was the same one from up in the holler. It was sittin’ up there and then they moved it on up the road... and they had a saw mill and a thing you grind corn on connected up together. And then they had a mill on down there... y’know with water... how they use that water to turn that thing...?

John: Okay, do you remember that?

Nate: No, but I remember this one up here. And one that, when he died, he had one that----

[End of Tape, Side A]

The Devil Up Dry Fork

Nate: Marvin’s uncle liked to have drowned out there... and another guy [tch] got him out and [tch]. Yeah, he said he seened the devil. [laughs] Yeah, he seed the devil while he was drowned.

John: [laughs] Now, that must have been a pretty good sized pond. Was that up there when you were growin’ up?

Nate: Yeah, yeah. They’s a whole lot of it up there now. Old rotten logs and things lays in there. You ain’t never seen this’n that was down there, did ya? It’s got a great big old wheel. And... uh... I don’t know if it is wood or tin, and then they’d open up those [tch] and the water hits it, and it turns just like that, and it makes it grind.

John: Oh, its got a big stone inside of it to grind the grain. Did you all use to take corn down there--- grain--- and grind your own flour?

Nate: They didn’t grind flour, they’d just grind corn.

JD and Bonnie: [tch] Taylors?... Yeah, I guess that was [tch]...

Bonnie: [tch] a lot of the old people. Do you remember Pal... Pal Saunders... ?

Nate: Yeah, I remember him... he was a strange.... he was a strange man... he didn’t know nobody but Vialee. Vialee was borned. He had to set up with her, and after she got a big girl, she’d wake up in the night time at one or two o’clock, so they said... and he had to carry her out there to see the horse. [laughs] After she went and seen the horse, he would bring her back and sit her in the house--- and people used to sit up with her... and I’ve seen Mr. Sanders comin’ up the road he’d have his head down and wasn’t payin’ no attention to nobody... “How are you, Mr. Sanders?” He’d get about as far as it is to that building and he’d look around... “Oh! How are you, Vialee?!” And [laughs] it’d be Nate, and he was callin’ him Vialee! Yeah, he— he was a good man... he was a good man and didn’t bother nobody, but ... uhm... he was the first man that got a car— right here on Dry Fork.

Bonnie: ‘cause she was real special to him...

Nate: Hmm? No, he didn’t know nobody else on Dry Fork on account that she cried so much and he had to sit up with her and he didn’t know nobody on Dry Fork except Vialee. He’d call you Vialee... anybody...

John: Well----------

[Interview Ends]

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