|The First Settlers
Pete: I was born and raised here in Bland County.
John: OK, what year were you born - can I ask you something like that?
Pete: Yea, hey, I'm proud of my age (laughter) I was born August the 12th, 1930.
John: Alright, now how was your family's land acquired? Can you tell me about that? You were raised on a farm?
Pete: Yea, I was raised on, uh, did ya'll pass that old house that's falling down, down the road here, just a ways down?
John: The one with the shingles on the side of it?
Pete: Now that's where - I was born there. That's where I was born and raised. That's our family's. Now, my grandfather, he owned this property here and that property down there.
John: That's Mack H. Ferguson?
Pete: Yea, he had over two hundred acres in this one, and he had over a hundred acres in that one, down there, in that one. And so, what it was, when they came in here, to my understanding, listening to them talk, when I was small coming up here, they came in here and they would buy, coming out of slavery, they would buy property, and the government would let them come in here. Now, so, him and quite a few others, not all at one time, but they gradually come in and bought property, and as far as I know, he came in here, my grandfather came in here, and him and Mr. Robinson up here came in together. Now, you know how some old folks, they talk, but they didn't talk too much about their slavery days, not where we could get hold of it, and so, somehow or another my grandfather and Mr. Robinson up here, whether they was slaves together or had some kind of relatives together, I don't know. I can't get to it, it's too deep for me and I can't get into it, so I aint gonna bring it around, but. .
John: They had some kind of relationship. . .
Pete: Connection. . .
John: Connection. . .
Pete: Yea, some kind of connection there, and so they came in pretty close together.
John: Now they were originally from Franklin County?
Pete: They was from Franklin, from Franklin County. Now, Mr. Robinson, he's not from Franklin County, but my grandfather was from Franklin Co.and Mr. Robinson, I forget now where, uh, he's from, he's from. I think over here around. . .uh, what's this place, down around Fort Chiswell and around over in that area somewhere, in that area, I think that's where he was from, Mr. Robinson was. And Mr. Tynes, Lee's dad, the one that talked? They all was pretty close. Now where Mr. Tynes came from, I don't know. I never heard them say what area he came from. I don't know he come in here, I just heard 'em talk, like I say, the old people, they didn't do too much talking. They just come in here and they went to work cleaning up property, and cleaning up the land, and raising their families and kids and stuff and trying to survive.
John: Well now, who - the house that you were born in - who built that house. Do you know?
Pete: My dad built that
John: Your daddy built that
Pete: Yea, my daddy built that.
John: Ok, now your daddy was - who was your daddy now?
Pete: Ruben Edward
John: Ruben Edward. Alright so, now, then, Ruben Edward and. . . MacDaniel Ferguson were brothers?
Pete: No, no. Wait a minute now, Mac Daniel - wait a minute, let me get it straight. MacDaniel, now Mac Daniel, which was Willie's daddy, and my daddy, are brothers. Reuben Ferguson and MacDaniel is brothers - they're brothers. They's the son of M. H. Ferguson
John: OK, I got'cha
Pete: See, they's the sons. They `s brothers. And so, now my daddy bought this farm off of his daddy, M. H. Ferguson, that's how he got his property. Cause he has two properties, he has two pieces of property. He has this one here and that one down there - M. H. did. Now, he let one of his relatives have it, they couldn't pay for it, so he took it back, and let my daddy have it. But my daddy paid for it, that's how we got it. He got a hundred acres.
John: Alright. now, was, how did Reuben fit in? Was MacDaniel older, or Reuben?
Pete: Nah, my daddy was the oldest, Reuben was the oldest. . .
John: He was the oldest
Pete: Yea, he was the oldest, and he had two, three, four other brothers. They're all dead, all of 'em. All of 'em's dead now.
John: But you were the youngest of his children.
Pete: Of Reuben Ferguson`s, yes. I'm the youngest of Reuben Ferguson. And all my brothers're dead except one. I got one more brother living, He is in Indianapolis. He's still living. And I got two sisters living. All my other sisters're dead. There was about eleven of us.
John: Well, the land, you got land right here with this trailer?
Pete: Yea, now. . .
John: Was this part of your father's place?
Pete: Yea, This right here where my trailer is, this was my grandfather's place. This was my grandfather's place, and uh, Mac Ferguson, M. H., now this was his property, and then my daddy, got ready to divide it up after they all died, my daddy, uh, they divided it up, and so my daddy got this part right here. And some of them bought each other out, and some of em kept it, some of them sold it. So my daddy, he chose this place here, and so he kept this, and I asked him to give me this, and so I inherited this. I inherited this. I inherited this, and so, this was my grandfather's place, which I always did like this place right here, this bluff, we used to call it. . .
John: Yeah. Oh, remind me , I want you to walk over there before we leave. You're not gonna believe, you haven't seen this drop. . .
Bonnie: I want to
John: Yeah, it'll make you dizzy (laughter) It's a piece down there to the creek, now, isn't it?
Pete: Yea, it's a good little piece down through there, and uh, so I enjoy it. I come in, and so my daddy, after he inherited it, well we started farming it, and we farmed. . . uh. . . Now all that over there?
John: All that bottom down in there?
Mack H. Ferguson's House
Pete: All that bottom. It was clean clear - wasn't no bushes or nothing in it, it was clean. When I left here, let's see, I left here in, uh, in '52. When I left here in '52, all of this was clean, right here. Wasn't a bush. All of it was clean. All that bottom over there was clean, all the way up was clean, and we farmed it. We raised corn and everything in there. And over there where my daddy. . . that house you see in that picture? Right there? That used to be over there, on that hill, over there. He could sit there on his porch, my grandfather could sit there on his porch and look all the way down to our house where we, where I was born at.
John: Ok, the house down here that's still standing.
Pete: It's still standing.
Bonnie: We were wondering where that house was. . .
John: So that was right on, this was right on.
Pete: Where Ada is at. Now where Ada is at, that's this house, that's where this house was sitting over there.
John: Ok, now that's already torn down.
Pete: Yeah, it's torn down now, they tore it down, and he had a barn - aahhh wow, he had a barn. He had a log barn built over there, and that barn would stable. .. . two, four, six, eight mules. He would stable eight mules in that barn, and he had it built. He could put two, four, six - he could put six, he could put six wagons of hay, six wagons, I say, six wagons, on one side of it. And right up on the other side, he could pull up under, and there'd be at least three end-to-end wagons out there. And right over on the north side of it, that's where he stabled alot of his farm equipment. He could stable farm equipment in all of it.
John: That was a huge barn
Pete: He built a huge barn. It was a huge barn, and he could stable eight mules in it.
John: And it was built out of logs
Pete: It was logs, logs. They tore that down. And they tore that down, and now, my aunt, she got that, she wanted that part, she wanted that part. When they divided it up, she wanted that. So they tore the barn down. They tore the barn down, and eventually they tore the house down, and the house - back in them days, when they built a house, for a poor person, slavery, it was a beautiful home. It was a beautiful home. He had mahogany wood in there - he had mahogany wood in there. He didn't have just any old wood, it was beautiful. She had a kitchen, and her kitchen. . .her kitchen was bigger, way bigger than this. Way bigger than this room right here.
John: You can see in that picture there, they. . .I can tell, it was a fine looking house.
Bonnie: Tell me about the kitchen - what was it like?
Pete: Ah, it was a beautiful kitchen. Ok, you come in a door something like that, now that's a door going in, see that door right there on the porch? Ok, you go in that door, that's going in the hallway. That goes in the hallway, so you'd turn, as soon as you'd get up on the porch, you'd turn to your right to go into the kitchen. You could go in that door, and turn and come into the kitchen, ,there was a big, she had a big, uh, sink built by the side of the wall, over there, and around that cabinet, up the wall, ok. And right here, in the middle of the floor, she had a big stove, a big stove and with a big chimney, a big chimney. One of those big old, you seen how it is in the movies, that's how high it was built up, and she had a.. . what do you call it. . . a hearth in there where she could bake bread in it. She could bake.. .
John: You mean like an oven? A brick oven?
Pete: An oven, yea, a brick oven. She could bake bread in that oven in that chimney, in that flue, and then she also, she had a stove. She had a stove built, and all that was rocked in.
John: Ok, now, was this like a steel wood cook stove, or was it, like,
Pete: One of them old fashioned cast iron
Pete: Cast iron
John: Ok, but in the hearth, and everything, they had this built-in oven. .
Pete: Built into the rock
John: To bake bread
Pete: Yea, yea, to make bread. And you could, the way he had it built, ________ you seen how they could swing them, had them long rods where you hook your pots on, and could swing them in and out? She had that made for her. My grandfather built all that, built all that part of her kitchen. And then, over here they had their table. And you could walk, just like - this couch right here? walk around it? That's the way you could walk around in her kitchen. All her cooking, all she`d cook, you got the stove, chimney, and everything was built right here in the floor. You could walk right around it, just like walking around that chair, walk all the way around it. And on that side over there, she had a window, back door, going out the back, you could go out there, and then she had cabinets here, cabinets built up on the wall for her to put her dishes in. And oh, she has some beautiful china.
John: Uh huh. What kind of water did they have?
Pete: Spring - spring water
John: Did they have to carry it in, or. . .
Pete: Yea, had to carry it in,
John: So they got the water out of a spring on the side of the mountain there, or. . .
Pete: Well, out from the house, uh, it's setting. . um, where his house is, that's where he set his trailer, pretty much in the vicinity where the house used to be. Yea, back over, kinda like, from the house to the spring would be.. . about as far, about as far as from here, as, see that little ol' road down there?
Grandpa and the Spring Water
Pete: About that far from the house, and uh, he would call us, make us go get water - carry water (Chuckling) We had to go there on the way to school, he'd sit out there on the porch. We'd tarry by, we'd be going home, coming home from school, he'd call us. We'd have to walk down the lane, go over there, we carried two, three buckets of water, and, of course we enjoyed it cause out grandmother, she baked all the time. Gig ol` pies - cakes, pies, apple pies, cookies, stuff like that, and she'd feed us. I done got my backend tore up many a time. School let out at 3:30, 4:00, well, we had work to do. Instead of us going on home, doing our work at home, we'd go on over there to grandma's. Grandpa done called us, that's our excuse. And then we'd go over there - we had to go carry water for grandpa, grandma. Granny called us. so we'd go over there and eat - she'd cook all those cakes and pies and stuff for us kids, you know, and uh, now, he wasn't no mean man, so we'd try to stay away from him. He wasn't mean, but we'd try to stay away from him cause he believed in work - he would work you. But yet still, we'd wanta go cause grandma'd give us cake and milk and cookies and stuff like that, but grandpa made us work. We'd go over there and eat'n'd make us work, and uh, but we accepted the work for it, just to get over there to get a piece of grandma's cake. She could make some of the best ol' pound cake you'd ever wanta put in your mouth.
John: I can just see that - so ya'll would walk up to the school, up yonder
Pete: Yea, back up there by the church, and we had a little one room school and we'd come by, and he'd set out there in the summertime, he'd set out there after school and hollar at us and make us go on and get water. And he had another habit, a bad one, that was a bad one, until my mother out smarted him. She outsmarted him, and after she outsmarted him, he quit fooling with us, he quit fooling, and so, there was a spring down here, on this place next to his - now Bishop - Now Jack Tynes up here - Lee's grandfather, used to own this place next to him. Now, he owned it, and so he sold it, he let one of his relatives have it. And his relataives couldn't keep it, and so he took it back and he sold it. He sold it. And when he sold it, uh, the fella who bought it was named Bishop, he bought it. I think he was from, he was either from North Carolina or Georgia, but I think it was North, North or South Carolina down there in that area.
John: Was he a black man or white man?
Pete: Black man. He was a black man, and so he bought it, and he had some of the best tasting well - there was a spring down there on his place, a sulphur spring. There was a sulphur spring down there. You talk about some good sweet water - that water just as good as. . and cold, oohh boy, that water was good. Grandpa loved that water. He loved, he was crazy 'bout that water. He would call us, make us go down there and get it. Now, we was small. Eight, nine years old. You know how tall an eight, nine year old kid is - about yea high - alright, and the weeds, a little path on the way down there, were taller than you are. So now, we gonna go down and get a bucket of water. You know the grass is tall, you gonna be walking, carrying the water. You know the grass seeds gonna get in the water - gonna fall in the water. Alright, now, we go down there, get the water, we come back - he'll look at it, he would take one drink out of it - he'll take one drink out of it. Ugh. What do you think I am. All that grass seed in that. Think I'm a bird? Think I'm a horse, gonna eat all that grass and all that? He'd talk that junk to us. Sometimes he would pour it out on the ground, and sometimes he would take it, pour it in there for grandma to wash dishes with, and send us back. Make us go back down there and bring him another bucket of water, without any grass in it, and oh man, we was carrying water - sometimes he'd have us carrying four and five buckets of water, and then after we'd get all of her buckets filled up with water, cause we knew he'd let us go on home, he'd let us go home. See, we'd go on home, here's mamma - Where ya'll been? Where ya'll kids been? You know you got work here to do. Where've ya'll been. Playing. That's first thing gonna come out of her mouth - we're playing. Nah - We's carrying water for grandpa. That's all we'd say to get out of a whipping. We'd have to say we was carrying water cause she knew how it was. And so, uh, that's my sister and I cause we were going to school together. All the rest of them done gone on home. They would, grandpa'd get to hollering, the rest of 'em'd split - They'd boogie. And my younger sister and myself, we were small, they'd outun us. And so grandpa'd keep on hollering and hollering, and we'd, you know, we was getting out of going home and doing work, go over there and get two things - go over there and we'd get some milk, a piece of cake, whooped to death, then go home and get a killin'. We didn't get no whooping when we got home, we'd get a killin'. (Laughter) Cause she done told us, Don't stop over to grandpa's. Don't go over the grandpa's and grandma's - don't go over there. We'd go anyway, so we gonna get a whopping for going over there and then we'd go on home. Get whooped to death carrying water.
John: Well how'd she outsmart him?
Pete: How'd she outsmart him? He would call and tell us - he was watching - he would look down the road, cause like I told you, he was watching and he would call us up there to get water. And so what my mother did, she'd know where he was when he'd go to hollering and man he could holler too, you could hear him, and so she would give us a bucket, give us a bucket before we'd leave home, take a piece of cheesecloth, cover, cloth, and we'd dip that bucket down in that water, and get it full of water, put that cloth over that bucket, over that bucket, and tie that string around that bucket, wouldn't no grass seed get in it. Wasn't nothin'd get in that water, cause she'd done got a big enough wad of it to cover the bucket. Tie it around there. We'd get up to the house, we'd get up to the house, cause we had to go through the barnyard, right behind the big barn he built, so we'd get to the barn, we'd take the cloth off - take the cloth off the water. Carry it on up there, he'd look at the water, he wasn't looking through that cloth - uh uh, don't let him see that cloth, give him the bucket, you see. He'd take a drink of it, say Ohh, now, brought me a clean bucket o'water. Yea, ya'll got me a clean bucket, I can get me a good drink. Poke his head in it, get him a good drink of water, he'd sit there and say Ah, R, he wouldn't call her grandma, her name was Mary Fanny, give this boy a piece of cake, give a cookie, give the young 'uns a glass of milk, that's what he'd tell her. Then he'd go down there and get a bucket for water, he'd give her two buckets. Alright now, he gonna give her a bucket and give me a bucket. Alright now, we'd go down there and get a bucket of water - she'd get a bucket and I'd get a bucket. I got the cloth, I got it stuck down in my pocket. So she gets her bucket, she comes back. Her bucket's got grass seed in it. My bucket, I done carried it with cloth on it. Now, he'd look in her bucket, he gonna make her go back and get another bucket. My bucket's alright, he gonna go down and give me another glass of milk and cookies, that's what he's gonna do. But grandmother, she ain't gonna hold still, my grandmother, she knows what he's doing. She'd let him get away with it a little while, and then she'd stop him. She'd say, Mac, that's all she'd have to do, just say Mac, let those kids go home. Alright, Go on, go go go on. Go on down there and help your mamma. Go on. Go on down there and get some of your mamma's work, that's what he'd tell us. And we'd go on down home.
John: Well, now your grandmother, is she the one that was from Brazil?
Pete: She was. . . what do they call it, I was trying to get her name together today. Nah, she wasn't from Brazil, she was French. She was French - what do you call it, Columbian French? Yea, down there in New Orleans. She was from around down in New Orleans, down in that area. Creole or something.
Pete: Yea. You could look at her and tell she was something like Creole - that's where she was from.
Bonnie: How did they meet?
Grandma and the Ten Cent Bonnet
Pete: I never did, I never did find out how they met, only thing I heard them say is that when he come here, he brought her across the mountain - he brought her across the mountain over here when he married her - he brought her across the mountain in a 10 cent bonnet. (laughs) Only thing that was with her was a 10 cent bonnet.
John: A ten cent bonnet...
Pete: A ten cent bonnet, see, cause they laughed about it. I heard them laugh about that. How they met, I don't know. I never really heard it said, or sat around and discussed how they met. He met her, he brought her here, he brought her across Buckhorn Mountain - across Buckhorn Mountain with a ten cent bonnet. That was the laugh and talk. Now, where they met, and how they came about, I don't know. All I know is, he was a slave. He was a freed slave when he came here.
John: And so he wasn't married when he came here, I guess?
Pete: I don't know whether he was married. I don't think he was married when he came in here. He might'a been, I don't know, I never did hear said, but anyhow, I think they came in here and found what they wanted and then he went back and married. But I think they were corresponding, or you'd call it, in a relationship, before they came here. And he found what he wanted and then he went back and got her - went back and got her after he came in here. Him and a few others up through here, they came in and got what they wanted. Some of them came in here was already married and came in and some of them came in here wasn't married, and they went back and married and brought their wives in, started anew.
Inside the House
John: How many rooms were in the house? Upstairs and downstairs? Do you remember?
Pete: We had, let me see, there was a big kitchen and a living room dining room together, a bedroom - there was three. .. there was three rooms downstairs. I think there was three rooms downstairs and I think - two, three. . . either two, three or four rooms upstairs. And all upstairs was bedrooms and we had a big bedroom downstairs, and a big livingroom downstairs. But you didn't go upstairs too much, 'cause the way they had it built going upstairs. He had those steps almost straight up.
John: Really steep weren't they?
Pete: Yeah, and they were narrow. Real narrow and so we didn't go upstairs - at least I didn't - we didn't go upstairs too much. But all this big area was downstairs, on the first floor.
John: I know in alot of these old houses, the stairs are real small and real steep.
Pete: Yea, they're narrow. It was real narrow and right straight up. That's the way they built them. I don't know if it was material-wise or that's just the gravity of building.
John: Yea, maybe they just didn't plan it too well, I don't know.
Bonnie: How did they get furniture up, I wonder.
Pete: Well, actually, they didn't have too much furniture upstairs. Only thing they had up there was a bed, a bed mostly. A bed - maybe, maybe a dresser, but. . .
John: But people didn't have as much furniture.
Pete: They didn't have as much furniture. All the furniture they had was on the first floor.
John: And did they make alot of their furniture? Or did they. . .
Pete: Well, he bought most of his furniture. He made his bed. He made his bed. He was a - my grandfather was a carpenter. He knew a little carpentry, done quite a bit of carpentry work. He built most all of his stuff.
John: But, now, he farmed and did carpentry work too?
Pete: Yea, he did carpentry for himself.
John: For himself. OK
Pete: For himself.
Bonnie: You don't know what happened to those beds? Have you got them?
Pete: Well, most of them was destroyed, and like that.
John: What kind of mattresses did ya'll have on them?
Pete: Well, a straw mattress.
John: Is that what you call a tic mattress?
Pete: Yeah, tic. A tic mattress.
John: So you'd take the straw that comes from like when you'd grow wheat or something like that?
Pete: Hay, and wheat. Now, we used, my mother, she used wheat straw for her mattress, tic mattress. Used wheat straw on the bed - fresh. You'd have wheat straw, like that.
John: Did you change it?
Pete: Yes, she would change it every so often. She would change it and then sometimes maybe she would just add to it as it broke down. She would add to it - like that, and after a certain length of time, after it got real fine, you know, she would change it and take it out and burn it and dump it out, burn it. Make. . .
John: Put fresh straw in them?
Pete: She had two, oh let's say she had three beds - If she had three beds, she would have six mattresses. She'd have six tic mattresses and she'd wash one, take one and wash it after she'd dump it out, and wash it. Take it so long to dry because it was thick material, and so she had another one - fill it - you know, refill that one, put it on the bed while that other one'd be drying. It might take maybe a couple days, something like that, to really dry out, depending on the weather, you know. The sun, if you'd hang them in it, it might dry, hot weather, it'd dry in maybe a day. But she wouldn't use it til it was good and dry cause you wouldn't want to sleep on it cause account of pneumonia, or a cold, like that. . .
Pete: So she'd dry it out good and fill it up full of straw, fill it full of wheat straw, put it back on the bed, and when it wore down, you'd add to it til you got it fuller. And then, after you got it full, it was nice.
Bonnie: What was it like sleeping on it?
Pete: Oh, it was nice, it was nice.
Bonnie: Better than the nattresses now?
Pete: Well, at first it wasn't cause you had to work that straw. You had to get that straw (laughter).. . you couldn't.. .(laughs)..those sharp ends'd come through, and (laughs) you'd have to move sometimes (laughs) After you'd get it, you know, worked up, mashed down and worked up, you didn't get to sleep on the straw. You'd put a sheet on. You'd put a sheet on the bed...
Pete: Cover it over with a sheet, and, uh. . .
John: Ya'll heated your house I guess with a wood stove down there?
More Spring Water
Pete: Yea, with a wood stove. We had a wood stove. We cooked with a wood stove, heat with wood. Water - well water and spring water. Now we had, down at our other place, we had spring water and well. We had two springs down there, the lower place, we had two springs and a well.
John: Well, did you have a spring box? Did you build a spring box or did you just get it out. . . how did that work?
Pete: Well, one of them, we built a spring box, and one of the springs we had would come right out of the ground - right outa the. . .it was just. . . and how it was made? That was just the Lord's work.
Pete: Came right out of the slate. Right back in the bank, out of a slate rock. The water come right up out of the ground, come right up out of the ground, right out from the slate. It's all slate, all slate, and how the Good Lord created it - it wasn't dug. It wasn't dug, it was just created out of the ground.
John: Well, did ya'll have a spring house or anything? Did you keep your milk and stuff like that?
Pete: Yea, we had a spring house.
John: Now, how did that work?
Pete: Oh, well a spring house - you would pipe the water - We had a, right beside our house there, it was a, what we call a branch. It was a good size branch. The water ran in it all the time. Sometimes it would go down, but most the time it was always some water coming in there, so we would pipe that water from that branch. And we also had a trough built in the spring house, and the water ran through that trough and it would fill up. We'd set our milk in them big old crock jars - some of them was 2 gallons, some of them was five gallons, some was a gallon - she would put her milk in there and set it in the trough. It was, oh, about as wide as that table right there, and about as long as on up this wall, and she would set our milk in it and the water'd run through it. And then on the other end of it you'd have a little hole and it would keep the water from spilling, running up over, where the water would run out, back down into the floor and straight on out into the branch.
John: Did you keep anything else in there besides milk?
Pete: We had a shed built for a meat house. We kept our meat in it. Killed hogs in the fall and hang our meat up in it and cure it.
John: Did you have a root cellar for potatoes and stuff?
Pete: Nah - no we didn't have a - well, in the cellar we would keep some of the same stuff as we'd keep in the milk house. And when we'd get ready for our vegetables and stuff like that, we would dig a hole in the ground, and, like potatoes? We`d dig a hole in the ground and fill it up with straw, cover it over, and then put dirt back over it and then just fix a place with boards over it, and when you want to go into it, just pull off that board and go into it like that.
John: What about cabbages?
Pete: Well, we didn't keep cabbage. My mother would take the cabbages and make kraut out of it, out of the cabbages. You'd take cabbage and make kraut, and that's how she kept her cabbage. She'd can alot. She'd can cabbage.
John: Oh, so ya'll didn't keep, dig a trench or anything like that to keep cabbage in? I've heard of putting cabbage in upside down.
Pete: Yea. Yea, we have done it, but we did that right out in the field. We did that right out in the field where we had a garden, and when she'd get ready, she'd just pull the cabbage up and bury it in the same row and do it like that. But most the time she just took her cabbage and made kraut out of it - and chow chow.
John: Chow chow - yeah.
Pete: Yea, it was good. She would use the cabbage for that, most of it.
John: Well, now, your grandfather and your father were both full time farmers?
Pete: Yea. Now, my dadady, he was a coal miner. He worked in the coal mines for 32 years.
John: Oh, he did? You dad worked in the coal mines?
Pete: Yea, he worked in the coal mines, but now, my gandfather, he was a farmer.
John: A full time farmer?
Pete: A full time farmer.
John: Alright - well now, your daddy - how did he - did he stay down in the coal mines when he was working?
Pete: Yeah. He'd come home. He worked in the coal mines and he worked in the grades, that's what they called it - he called it the grades. It would be building roads and things like that. He worked on that, and he worked in the coal mines.
John: So, he didn't work under ground?
Pete: Yes, he went under ground. When he worked in the coal mines he went under ground and he worked in there about thirty some years until the doctor took him out. The doctor pulled him out of the mines, and he was, uh, he worked one day on Social Security, and they didn't have no record of it.
John: Oh, you're kidding!
Pete: He worked one day on Social Security. When Roosevelt passed a law for Social Security, he'd worked one day.
John: Well, that made him eligible.
Pete: That's what made him eligible, but they didn't have no record. They couldn't find no record.
John: Oh, so he didn't get any Social Security?
Pete: No sir, he didn't get no Social Security. He didn't get nothing. One day he got Social Security, but he got a little something, but it wasn't. . .
John: . . . wasn't based on working in the mines?
Pete: No, it wasn't based on working.
John: Well, now, so he would go down - Do you remember which mines he worked?
Pete: Ahh, he worked in several of them. But the one he worked the longest in and the one that he retired from is the one down here in Bishop, VA
John: Bishop, ok.
Pete: He worked in that one. That's the one he worked the longest in, retired from - Bishop, VA.
John: Ok, so that's in Tazewell County.
Pete: That's in Tazewell County.
John: So would he drive there every day?
Pete: No, he didn't drive every day. He stayed down there and he'd come home, in the winter time, he would come home maybe, maybe once a month. Summertime, he'd come home 'bout every two weeks. He rode with a good friend of his he met down there, and he's the one that taught ____________in the mines. You know where Nate Charleton lives?
John: Yea, I think I do.
Pete: That property right straight across over there from Nate Charleton's. Uh, you know where that old church is that fell down? Up here?
Pete: All right, well, ________ owned that. That was connected to Lee Tynes grandfather's property, and so . . .
John: So that's where Marvin lives now? Marvin Tynes?
Pete: Yea, Marvin Tynes, Lee and Marvin`s brothers.
John: Yea. They were raised in that house.
Pete: That was their grandfather's house, where Marvin is. Now, right there where that trailer's sitting on the right hand side, going up there towards where Hector lives, now that's where Lee and them was raised at. That was their daaddy's house, right there. They was raised right there - Lee and Marvin. They done tore it down.
John: That would've been Hector's grandparents?
John: I remember that house. It was torn down not too long ago, wasn't it?
Pete: Not too long ago, back here a couple years - 'bout a year ago.John: Yea.
Pete: And that was the old home place. That was where Lee and Marvin and them was raised at, and so they tore it down when Lee's sister moved here.
Pete: And so they - they just tore it down. And that______________them lived in that one______ which was my mother's sister. Lee's mother and my mother were sisters.
John: Oh, so they were both Prices?
Pete: Yea, they both was Prices.
John: Oh. well, tell me about going to school. About when you would walk to school and what ya'll'd do at school and. . .what time would school take up?
Pete: Regular school time - 9:00.
John: 9:00? How many months a year? When would it start and what time of year would it start?
Pete: What do they go to school now? Ninety days?
John: No, a hundred and ninety days.
Pete: A hundred and ninety days - we had to go there 190 days. Or if you _didn't_ go there 190 days, you was sick or weather or something like that.And we walked. We walked - or shacked ponies. (Chuckle) We walked all the way from down here where I was born at up here, we walked to school. And sometimes we would ride. Sometimes we would ride. And winter time - roads would be bad, my daddy'd have hooked up the horses and a sled, carried us to school on a horse and sled, to school. Bust the road open and one time the road got so bad, he had a scraper. What do you call it - you've seen one of those old dirt scrapers like for when they're making a road on the farm - a dirt scraper? He'd taken that and opened the road up. Take his horses and open the road up to the school so we could get to the school. Ride our horses to school.
John: The grade that it's on now, it's always been pretty much the same?
Pete: Except right out here. They've straightened this out right out here. How there used to be a curve right out here - a bad curve and a deep drop off and so they straightened that out when they came through here. Now, Belcher Lumber Company - Belcher's daddy had that saw mill up here, hauling logs out of here. He straightened it out. He got with the state and the state let him straighten it out.
John: How long ago was that?
Pete: Oh, that was back - that was back in the '40s. That was in the '40s.
John: Belcher Lumber Company?
Pete: Yea, Belcher Lumber Company - used to be over here in Bluefield.
John: They had a big saw mill?
John: How many people`d they have working there?
Pete: Oh, they had a bunch of people working. There were - at one time Belcher Furniture moved in here and bought that saw mill. He built shanties all up and down through there. He built shanties all up and down through there to house those people to work at the saw mill and then he hired alot of the blacks up in here to work the saw mill. And then right up through when Belcher moved in here, right up, hmmm, let's see. . . you know where Fred's house is? You know where Martha. . . I'll put you close to Martha. . . you know where Martha - the first brick house down on your right? Martha Cobb? Well, you know where the trailer is sitting on your left going up, down over in that hole? Yea, well that's Vernon's mother. That's Vernon's mother. Ok, well right there. Right there, now, that's where the trailer.. . now right there, coming straight down through there - where her driveway is - going up her driveway? Well, Virginia Hardwood owned from right there back down to . . . ahh. . . almost.. . you know where Murray. . .well I have to say Murray because that's closest - I tell you what. You know that little clean spot where they been, where you can see where they've been loading logs and stuff up there?
Pete: Well, Virginia Hardwood owned from Martha's driveway back down below that. Virginia Hardwood owned all of that in there. And trees. There used to be some trees in there - ah, man, those trees were standing 75 - almost 75 to 100 feet high. They were large. They was tall. I might be stretching it a little bit on the height, but they were BIG. I know they was a good anywhere from 8 feet - 6 to 8 feet in diameter at the butt. That's how big some of them was, and thick. So Virginia Hardwood owned that. And there were some people - now I'm gonna tell you what little bit I can recall of it. You mighta heard talk of the Gordons over here at Bland? You heard them talk about ___Hubert and Pearl??____ Gordon over here in Bland? They was black.
Pete: Well, anyhow...
John: Wait a minute - was he the one that lived on. . .
Pete: You know the ones that had that. . .
John: Was he a mechanic?
Pete: Yea, he was a mechanic
Pete: One was a mechanic and the other one run that tzxi cab over there.
John: Ok, I've heard tell of them. And they lived out from Bland, on 52 going up the mountain.
Pete: On 52, yes.
Pete: Yea, on the left back this way, coming from Bland on 52 over there. Now their parents owned that section of land in there. Their parents owned that section of land. They traded that property for that little piece of property they got over here in Bland, on 52.
John: Now, why would they do something like that?
Pete: Everybody wondered why, with all that timber on it. With all that timber on it, they traded it. Virginia Hardwood traded them that property for what they had over here in Bland.
John: So they originally were from over here?
Pete: Yea, and so that section down there, Virginia Hardwood owned it, and so Virginia Hardwood come in there and cut that out. They didn't cut that out until in the '40s cause they tried to keep them from cutting it. They tried to keep 'em from cutting it cause they was gonna use it for a historical site because there was some beautiful trees in there and there was a beautiful area in there. And so they were trying to save it. They tried, but Virginia Hardwood - money talks. And they were powerful and so they just walked on in. And they didn't know anything, the people didn't know how to. . .
John: . . .how to fight it?
Pete: .. .fight it and protest it and stuff and so they just stepped back, and one Monday morning, well, people came in, they was coming in and out. When they seen strange people coming in and out then they got to talking and they found out what was going on and so they stried to stop it, but it was too late. And the neighbors laid down Sunday night and woke up that Monday morning, all they could hear was chain saws - chain saws and trees falling. And Virginia Hardwood, Virginia Hardwood didn't set no saw mill in here. They hauled those logs out of here.
John: Over to Bastian where they had that big mill?
Pete: I don't know where they hauled them to, but they hauled them outa here. They hauled them out of here. They cut that timber and hauled it out of here. And the way they did it, they couldn't get around this curve with them big trailers they had. They couldn't get around with them big trailers. They come in here, right here in this curve, that curve out here, going this a'way? Going right back in that mountain and back out. That curve was sharp - a sharp curve - so they couldn't get out and so what they did, they would bring them trailers in here and turn them around. Bring them trailers in here and turn them around and set 'em, and they set a big crane back in there and they would cut them logs and bring them logs down to this curve right here. Took that crane and loaded them from one truk to them big trailers and carried them logs outa here. Carried them logs outa here on them, is how they did it.John: Oh. So they'd load from one truck to another.Pete: One truck to the other, and carried them outta here. Now, after they got all they wanted out, and the best part, that they wanted, then Charlie Taylor - he was a little saw miller. . .
John: I've heard of Charlie Taylor
Pete: . . and hauling props and stuff .
John: He's still alive
Pete: .So now, he come in here and made a deal with Virginia Hardwood. At first he started out buying props off of Virginia Hardwood. Then he manipulated around, bought the timber. Virginia Hardwood set him a saw mill in there on a percentage basis. Whatever or however he did it, set a saw mill in there. He got alot of timber 'cause Virginia Hardwood just got the best, and they left alot of good stuff - alot of good stuff. But Charlie Taylor had to go back up on the mountain to get it. But he still had alot of good stuff down here in the bottom, too.
John: Was this before Belcher or after Belcher?
Pete: This was after Belcher. It was close after Belcher because Belcher set his saw mill up and pulled all the timber. See, Belcher got all his timber back up on the other end, upper end, back up in there. Back up in there behind the Wagners'. Back up in the Wagner's area, that's where Belcher got all that timber out.
Pete: But __ Arnett???___ bought all that timber from everybody because, see now, that timber up there, my mother's niece owned it, some property up in there. She inherited it. She inherited some property up there. She had some NICE property up in there. She had a beautiful home back up in there. And so, Belcher bought Wagner's timber and all that timber from her and oh, he had, back on up in that area, all that back up in there - he bought that and so he brought people in here and set the saw mill up and timbered all of that. So when he got all that out, then Charlie Taylor bought Virginia Hardwood. He took Va. Hardwood. Then, Charlie Taylor went back and dealt with Va. Hardwood and bought the land. That's how Charlie Taylor got all this land. Virginia Hardwood owned it and so Va. Hardwood sold it to Charlie Taylor.
John: Does he still own it?
Pete: Yea, Charlie Taylor still owns all that land and see, Va. Hardwood owned all of that - all that down through here - see, that's government. You thought it was Va. Hardwood, but it was government land.
John: Because they sold that land to the government? To Jefferson National Forest?
Pete: Yea. They sold it. And so Charlie Taylor, I said, I don't know what he paid for it. I just said - cause he got it so cheap - I said ten cents an acre. But he paid more than that for it. He paid more than ten cents an acre for it. I just said 10 cents an acre instead of cheap. That's what I call it - cheap - 10 cents an acre. And that's what we used to say when you`d buy property and get it cheap. They'd say for ten cents an acre. But you know you paid more than that for it.
Pete: And so Charlie Taylor bought all that. Charlie Taylor owned all that. Virginia Hardwood - that's how he got it.
A Lot More About School
John: I want to ask you about school, ok? I want to get back to that. Who was the teacher?
Pete: Whewww, boy!
John: You remember? Now you start thinking. . .
Pete: (laughing) You gonna put my brain to work now. But oh. . . they had so many teachers in here.
John: Seemed like they had a new one every year just about, didn't they?
Pete: Just about. Just about, when they first started. Now, my mother, she used to teach school up here. She taught. She was the first after. . . I think she was the first school teacher up here, after her and my daddy married, and I heard her talk about it and that was before I was born. And then, uh, she was teaching. And then I heard them talking about, what's his name, Mr. Gray - called Will Gray - he taught school up here for awhile. And I don't know whether he taught school before my mother did or after my mother taught awhile and stopped, but they said at that time, they said all you had to do was to learn how to say your ABC's backwards and forwards and then you was classified as a school teacher. (laughing) I've heard them say that. Now, how true it was, I don't know, but I think there was a little more to it than that.
Pete: There had to be! And so anyhow, I think Mr. Gray he taught school awhile, and then, you know, substitute teachers, teacher, whatever. And then, but when I really started going to school and we had, uh, I can name off two or three of them. We had one up there we called, uh, she was out of. . .Hill Top. .. where do you call it?
John: Tip Top?
Pete: Tip Top. Uh, her name was Miss Whitney. That's which one I started going to school to - Miss Whitney. And that was the meanest woman! That was the meanest woman that ever walked upon God's green Earth. (All laugh)
John: Well, how would she punish ya'll?
John: How would she punish you. Would she whup you?
Pete: I'd rather not - I'd rather not get into that (laughs).
John: Well it must have been pretty bad.
Pete: I said - that's the meanest woman ever walked on God's green Earth. (laughing) Miss Whitney would set your rear end on fire. Miss Whitney didn't play. And then when she'd get through whaling on you, she'd write you a note and send it home and you'd better give it to your parents or you'll get another killin'. And, but she was one of the teachers, she was. . .she was nice. She wasn't say, putting that little joke aside - she was just strict. She was strict. She was strict. She wasn't, say, wasn't any killin' kind, but she was strict, she was strict. She made you do, regardless, whether it was your first day or whether you was just starting to school or you'd done been there awhile. She was strict. She was pretty much doing what she was paid to do and that was she had to teach you, and be the mamma, and whatever. She earned it. And so, after she left, there was somebody else in here. I don't know who. I can't remember all of them. And then come back down here, and there was another one in here. She was out of Blueflield. Her name was Miss Morehead. She was out of Bluefield. She was sweet. She was sweet. I realize I say she was sweet because I was her pet. She was good - she was good - Miss Morehead. She was beautiful. Not only to me, to all of us. She was just a sweet teacher. She was good. And after Miss Morehead, another one came in then. I can't think of her name. . . and then another came in. Oh, we had two or three substitute teachers in here too. And another nice one - her name was Thelma Smith. I think she was from _________ or ________ one. She was from down in Glen Lynn, down in that area, down in _____Cashew Hill???__, that area. She was from down there. She taught quite awhile. I think she taught about a couple of years. And they had another one come outa Bramwell, WV, down there. Her name was Simpson. She was nice. She was a nice teacher. She taught for a couple of years here. And then there was one from over here at Princeton - her name was. . .what's her name - her name was Miss Black, I believe was her name, Miss Black. She taught. I think we had two out of Princeton. I think we had two teachers out of Princeton who taught. And then she taught awhile. . .
John: Where would the teachers stay?
Pete: Different ones up through here would, umm, keep them.
John: Families would put them up?
Pete: Families, different families would put them up and some of them stayed with my mother for awhile. And then some would stay up on the other end, and then when they'd get tired of walking from down here to the school, then they found somebody else on up close to the school to stay with. Different families would put them up and keep the teachers. Some of them would charge them, and some wouldn't. Some would charge them, maybe six, seven dollars a month, or a dollar a month, or whatever, and then some of them wouldn't charge them nothing. Just come in and help do the housework. Just come and help cook or whatever, just. . .like family. Just like family.
Pete: So that's what they done.. .
JF: Well, People just aren't like that anymore.
Pete: No, they ain`t like that no more.Bonnie: Did a teacher ever stay with your family?Pete: Yea, we had a couple of them that stayed with us.John: Tell me, how would school start every morning? Do you remember? What would ya'll do?
Pete: We'd come in the school, when we came in the school, we walked through that door. We had one little room back there, what they call a cloak room. The girls were on one side, the boys was on the other. Girls hung up their coats and garments in their closet, and the boys hung up their coats and boots and shoes in theirs. And then, when you came in there and hung up your coats and stuff, you went to your seat and you sat there. If you got there early, you had the opportunity to play. You had the opportunity to put your head in your books and refresh yourself on your school work you had to do, whatever.
John: Did ya'll have a desk, or what did you have?
Pete: We had desks. We had desks. We never had no new desks. We always got desks from down here at this white school. After they done used them and done cut 'em up and done broke 'em up, then they'd bring 'em up here to the black kids. . .and they set 'em up and that's the way it was. And they'd make. . .some of them had desks what they done made. And Mr. Robinson, he was a carpenter and that's Layne's grandfather - he was a carpenter and sometimes he would make little desks. He'd make a desk, or my daddy sometimes would make a little box desk that the kids needed. Just bring it up there and set it so they'd have something to write on, a place to sit, like that, and they would have that. But when 9:00 comes, time for school, we'd go on in there. We would sing. We would say prayer, all of that, in school.
John: That's how you'd start the morning?
Pete: That's how we started.
John: What songs would ya'll sing? Do you remember?
Pete: Ahh, they had different songs. We had different ones. Well, sometimes the teacher would ask the kids, tell the kids to come up with a song and some of them would come up with different songs. Now, don't ask me to name none of them, cause I can't (laughs)
John: No, you're doing great, though, to remember. You're doing alot better than I could (laughing).
Pete: We'd do that and then after we'd open the school with devotion - song, prayer - then we'd get into the school work. There was all the school, a one room school, and we had from the first grade on up. Up to the, uh, 7th, I think it was, 7th or 8th grade. And then after that, that's as high as. . . and then the last teacher, the last teacher when I left there, the last teacher they had teaching then was my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law. You heard us talk of Mac Ferguson? Now his wife, Blanche, she died down here at Rocky Gap. Down there at school. Down there in the gym, I think it was.
John: What, at a basketball game or something?
Pete: Naw. She was teaching school and she was, she was teaching down there, and I don't know exactly what she was teaching, but they say she was in the gym. She was in the gym. I don't know whether she was teaching physical ed or what she was teaching, but she was, she was teaching.
John: Well now, she died before Mac Ferguson died?
Pete: Yea. Oh, she died way before he did.
John: Ok, I remember when - it was only several years ago, right?
Pete: Yea. He died in `76. Wife died in 60. . it was back in the 60's, early 70's. Yea, and she had a stroke. She had a stroke and she was in the gym. Now, what she was in the gym teaching that morning, or what she was doing in the gym, I can't recall what it was she was doing, but she was in there . . and. . .
John: So. But she was teaching in the one room school when you left?
Pete: Yea. When I left here, she was teaching in the one room school, and right after I left they closed it. They closed it down and then. . . but they was transferring the kids to Bluefield, Virginia, and Tazewell, I think it was, they was transferring to.
John: That was a long way to go.
Pete: Yea. That's a long ways - yea. But the high school kids was going to Tazewell and Bluefield Virginia. But they still had kindergarten and first graders up here, and she was teaching them. She was teaching them, cause she stopped - they stopped teaching, uh, I think they stopped teaching the 6th, 7th graders, something like that, and just went to kindergarten. And then when they started integrating, then she moved. She went down here to Rocky Gap. When they integrated, she went down to Rocky Gap and started teaching.
John: Yea. Now, when ya'll had school in the one room school, you had a wood stove, I guess?
Pete: Yea, a wood stove. Yea.
John: Would the students help? How did you get the wood and who kept the stove going?
Pete: Different families would cut wood. Lyden___???__ , Marvin and Lee's uncle, used to cut wood and bring it over there. My daddy would cut wood and bring it over there - whoever was. . . When they needed wood all the kids had to do was say, Hey, ain't got no wood. Somebody'd get busy, bring the wood, and cut the wood and stack it up beside the house up there. Stack it up beside the school building. Carry it on inside, fill up, fill it up inside the.. . they would take the boys' cloak roam, whatever you call it, hang clothes up, they would take the clothes out of there, put it in the girls' room, take the boys' room, fill it full of wood, to keep the wood dry, so when they come in, they could start a fire. Sometimes somebody would, some of the neighbors, they'd realize, might come over and start a fire, get the building warm. And then sometimes you'd have to build the fire when you'd get to school. See, everybody was farming. Everybody was working, and most of them was farming. They'd be doing their farm work, milking cows and stuff like that, feeding the livestock. And so if you didn't get a chance to get there to make the fire, then you'd make a fire when we'd get to school. So, whoever got there first made a fire, got it started.
John: What did ya'll do for lunch?
Pete: We carried our own lunch. Whatever we had for breakfast, left over from breakfast. (laugh)
John: Well, breakfast was a big meal, I guess.
Pete: Yea. Whatever you had left over from breakfast, or sandwiches. Some of them was close to school. So close they would go home for lunch. Like, alright, from school, take from school to May's house - whoever lived that close - they would go home for lunch. They would go home for lunch, and then, from our house to school, we carried our lunch. And the other kids a long ways off carried their lunch. And then, when it comes to getting warm, towards getting warm weather, sometimes . .. .We had to walk home - we had to walk from school back home for lunch, and then walk back. We was young. We didn't have nothing to do. We had a whole hour. We had a whole hour for lunch, so all we had to do was run half way home, walk the other half, sit down and eat, get up, carry a bucket of water, start out to running back. At that time, (say? or twenty?) five minutes, we'd be at school. We could run half way and still get to school in time before the bell rang, or get there, if you got there you were a minute or two minutes. . .
John: It was a mile, wasn't it?
Pete: Yea. A good mile, mile and a half.
John: Well, what did ya'll do for recess? Did ya'll go out and play?
Pete: Go outside and play ball
John: Did ya'll play - what kind? Did ya'll play baseball?
Pete: Baseball. We played baseball, shoot marbles, hop scotch. Yea, we played all kinds of games. We created games. Yea. And then.. .
John: What kind of games?
Pete: ... get to fighting. (laughs)
John: Then you'd fight, yea.
Pete: Get tired of playing ball, we'd fight (both laughing)
John: Did you ever get in trouble for that? Or did she let ya'll. . . wrestle?
Pete: It'd all depend. It'd all depend. All depend on how it come out. If somebody run and told on you, yea, you'd get punished. Teacher'd bring you in. Some of them would run in there, some of the kids, the kids never did jump in. You and I would get to fighting? She wouldn't get in it. She'd take off running down to tell the teacher on you. The teacher'd come out there. She'd get in it. She could get in it, break us up. And we'd both go at it, find out who started it, what it was about. Then sometimes she would make us make up out there on the playground. Sometimes she would make us go inside and sit down. We'd both go in, sit in a corner. Then when class time comes, you come out of that corner to your class. To your class. Not to the first grade class, and not to the second grade, you in the third grade, you come to the third grade. You stay in the third grade. That's where you was at. When you come around for your class, third grade class, it took up, say, fifteen, twenty minutes with each class, break it that way, broke down.
John: Right. How many kids were there? Do you remember how many kids there were at any one time?
Pete: Whew, man. . .we had a bunch of kids. It was a bunch of kids. That little one room school was full. It was full of kids. And, let's see...I think it was three rows. . . there were three rows of seats on each side, if I'm thinking clearly. I think there was three rows of seats on each side. Big wide aisleway to the door. And set over next to the door, they had a black, on that side they had a blackboard, a blackboard on that side over there. Now, come out about three foot, about three foot, about the length of that table away from the wall - it might not have been that far - just enough room for you to walk down to get to the blackboard. It might have been about as wide as this chair. And seats started - that row and that row - the aisleways - I think it was three rows. Three rows. Two or three rows on each side. And then three or four, ahh, it was a good size building, and the seats in the rows, I'd say about four from there all the way back to the wall back there. There's quite a few kids in there. There was about, uh, I know a good . . whew. . .there was a good thirty, forty kids in there. A good thirty, forty kids. And then they broke it down to . . about five or six of us would be in 6th and 7th grade and - most of us would be 6th and 7th grade - and then a bunch would be in the third and fourth grade, and sometimes she would take the third and fourth grade, put them together, teach those together. And then. .fourth and fifth grade, she would teach them together because they were pretty much the same. And then first and second, kindergarten, put them together, cause they was, everything was pretty much the same.And so, she had her hands full. But the kids was pretty much organized.. The kids pretty much taught themselves because they showed her respect, cause they'd know what was coming. You could mess up if you wanted to in school, and get beyond her control, all she had to do was write a note. Whatever your last name was - Mr. Ferguson, Mr Robinson, Mr. Gray, Mr. Charleton, whatever you last name was, Mr., and send it home. They better get it. Cause if they didn't get it, a day or two later, uh, I sent you a note, Mr. Ferguson, I sent you a note, Mr. Gray. Did you get it? Did so-and-so give you a . . did Johnny give you that note? Did Sam give you that letter I sent you? Did Jane give you that note that I sent you? Nooo, I haven't seen. . . Well, I sent one day before yesterday, I sent one last week. Too bad. Too bad, too bad. You come home grinning, thinking everything is alright, thinking everyone forget about it - Uh, where is that letter your teacher sent me last week? Where is that letter, that note teacher sent me yesterday? You'd better come up with it. Better not say I forgot it.Uh uh. . . you gonna get what you don't want and ain't asking for, and you gonna be shot and ain't gonna be happy. (laughter) But, the teacher, she had the kids pretty much under control. Wasn't no problem. They didn't give her. . . they had a few little mischevious kids in there, but it wasn't no big, you know, no big deal. Now, that's one thing that I liked about school then, and dislike about school now. School then - you mess up, the teacher would whup you. The teacher would chastise you, correct you. You'd go on home, you'd get another correction and chastisement. Now, kids go to school,whup the teacher, next thing you know, you look around, here's the teacher sitting up in court, spending money for a law suit, and where's the kids at? Still in the pen. Still in jail. Still don't know how to read his name if he sees it out there big as that - in letters big as that entertainment center. And when they set up there and took the prayer and devotion out of school, that's where they messed up at.
John: Well, let me ask you this, would ya'll, when holidays and stuff, like Christmas, how would ya'll celebrate Christmas in school, do you remember?Did ya'll put on plays?
Pete: Yea, we'd have a little play. We'd have a little Christmas play. Parents would come. We'd have a little entertainment. Gifts would be exchanged, like that. Parents would - sometimes parents would bring candy and oranges. Sometimes the teacher would have a little bag of candy or something like that, pair of socks for the kids. It wouldn't be a whole lot, jsut a little appreciation. Kids didn't look for no whole lot. They looked for a little something, a little appreciation or something. And then, some of them who could afford it would give the teacher a little gift. Santa would come, still celebrate that holiday, and Christmas, celebrate Christmas, had a Christmas play.
John: Would you decorate the school any?
Pete: Decorate the school, decorate the school. Halloween, have a little Halloween party at school.
John: Did ya'll tell ghost stories or anything?
Pete: Ghost stories. Tell them ghost stories and get out there and bob for apples, and witches and stuff on the windows, and decorate the school up. Sometimes they'd have a Halloween play, little something, you know. . . Go on home when it's all over with. Go on home, come back the next morning. Christmas, Santa Claus`d be up on the windows, kids done drawn them, sprayed the windows with snow. Yea, they'd have stuff like that. And sometimes they would have, in the school, they would have a Christmas play in school, and if we'd wanta put on a big play, then down the road, they'd take the church, they'd use the church for a school play, something like that.
John: Everybody in the community would come?
Pete: Everybody in the community would come in and participate, like that. Graduation time - right there at the school. More than the school could handle, then they would have it in the church.
John: OK, so they had a graduation ceremony?
Pete: Yea, yea, when you would graduate from the fifth grade, you know, pass from the fifth or sixth grade. And the seventh or eighth like that, whatever.
Bonnie: I wanted to ask you about that. Did the children. . I guess, did you have different aged children in the grades? Or like, if you were real bright would you go on higher, and progress at your own pace?
Pete: Yea, you'd progress at your own pace.
Bonnie: So you could graduate, you could leave seventh grade kind of early?
Pete: Yea, if you pursued that.
Bonnie: So you had some older kids maybe still in the third grade.. .
Pete: Yea, some of them was slow, some of the kids was slow, and they'd get their heads in their books, hey, if you was in the fourth grade, it's just like it is now, he'd stay in fourth grade til he got his head in them books. And if the teacher felt that you could pass, and she knowed you could do the work, and wasn't doing it, she would tighten up on you, talk to you. Hey, you can do it. I know you can do it. And then sometimes you'd go back for your records - You done such and such thing here last month. You done such and such a thing last year. You done such and such a thing. I know you can do it. How come you didn't do it? Now, what's the cause? What's the matter? See, everybody was just like family. She knew what you could do. She knew if you had a family problem. She knew what was happening, and so she would take up time with you, you know, just say you had a death in your family. Real small, and you had a death in your family - ok, now if she felt that was a set back, she was kindly temperamental with you. Give you a chance to recuperate, a chance to come over there. And if you still used that for a crutch, she would boost you up, tell you all right, time for you to tighten down. That's over with. Talk to you, and sometimes some of them would pull out of it, some of them wouldn't, and then she'd carry you on. They never let you repeat the same grade over two years. If they determined you wasn't going to come out of it, then they'd go ahead, just go ahead and pass you, say from the fourth, put you on up in the fifth grade, like that. Let you try the fifth grade. Cause they know you can do the work, and they'd go on and put you in the fifth grade, and you'd pull on from there. They had the same system pretty much that they got now for studying. And some of these kids would do good. Alot of kids up in here never graduated and went on and did good. They did good. Like my cousins up here. They went on - I left them and went on about my business. They stayed on here. They stayed here. Turned out to be nurses, some of them turned out to be nurses, some of them turned out for different things, go into business. I went on and did my business.
Leaving Dry Fork
John: Well, how come you were, what, you were 22 when you left here? How old were you when you left here?
Pete: I was about 22, yea.
John: Alright, and now, how come you left?
Pete: Well, I just got tired looking for a job - looking for work, see my brother and I worked - he had a saw mill. Mack had a saw mill, and I worked for him. He and I worked in the saw mill. And then I'd farm with my daddy. I was farming with my daddy, and then when daddy kindly slacked up on farming, and then I got to fooling with my brother in the saw mill, and stuff, and so it didn't pan out. So I was saying I would leave, and so I said, You take the saw mill. I went on. Him and I didn't catch up on that saw mill business, so I says, You go ahead on, you can have it. Cause I just went on for further adventure and I. . .
John: Where did you go?
Pete: I went to Ohio. I lived up in Ohio. First I left here, I went on up in - I went to Washington, D.C., went up there. Had relatives there, up there. I goofed around up there for awhile. Then I left there. Then I went on up to Pennsylvania and goofed around up there (laughs), and then I left there and I came on back, and I stopped in Ohio - and settled down there. .
John: Where abouts in Ohio?
Pete: Columbus. I stopped there in Columbus and got to goofing around there and run into some people, so I got hooked up with them, we got to talking and goofing around, and I just. . .Well, I had some money saved. I saved my money, and so I said, uh, now my money comes running short, but my daddy always told me, he said, I don't care where you go, always save your bus fare home. Said, Don't never go nowhere and spend your bus fare home. Said, always keep your fare home. And so I done got down to my bus fare. (laughter)
John: Getting tight.
Pete: Getting tight. I said, I gotta make a move. I said, I ain't gonna get stranded out here, but I did have my fare home - that's all my money. But a dollar was a dollar then, but now days a dollar is a penny, and so I said, Man, things getting tight, so I met up with some people, I said, Hey, where can a man find a job around here? So we got to talking, so he was in construction business, he was doing construction work. He says, Well, I tell you what, he said, Right now, it's bad weather, and he said, you might get a job in construction business if you can find one on the other side. So him and I sat around there and sat around there and so one day I went down to his house, and we was sitting, him and I was sitting there at the house, so the wife was, she was cooking, and they got to talking, and she got on him about something, I don't know what she got on him about, she got on his case about something, he said, Hey man, I don't want to listen to this noise, he said, I don't wanta listen to this talk. He said, I ain't gonna sit around here and listen to it all day, he said, I listened to it yester- day, cause his brother was there, and the job he had, he wasn't working. As I said, in wintertime they don't work, they looking for a job on the other side, so him and I left the house, and we walked on down to the union hall. So we get down there to the union hall, I didn't belong to the union. So him and I was sitting there goofing off. And some old guys was sitting down there, and so I'm just sitting up there, and so, this guy walks in. We looked at him when he walked in, and he went on back, when he walked in, he went on back down to the office. And he come back out, and then here comes one of the guys out of the office says, Hey! How many of you starved tigers want to work? Did like that, you know. He didn't say how many of you men want a job, I need some men, he said, "How many of you starving tigers wanting to work?" cause half of them down there, it was cold and they didn't want to get out there and work. So he looked at me and said," You want a job?" I said," Yea, doing what?", I said, Yea, I want a job, I said, what you want done? He said, This man needs four men, he said. And so I said, Yea, yea I wanta work. I said, Yeah, I'll work. And he said ok, he said Go with that man right there. He didn't ask me about belonging to the union or nothing. He said Go on, go with that man right there, he said, go with that man. And those guys sitting over there, he said Yeah, I'll take it. So, he got three guys. He got three guys. He said Well, I got four men, he said, I got four, he said I got four, and so he took the three guys, and with himself, four guys got out there to the truck. We didn't have no pickup. So we all climbed up in the cab and then we went out there and we said Woops cause we thought there's gonna be a car, we went outside out there. He says, Man, he says, Uh uh. I said I know I aint gonna ride in no back. I said I ain't riding in no back of no truck, something like that. He said, Ah, might as well all ride up in the front. So we all pile up in the front. See, it was snowing out there, so we all pile up in the front and go on back on the job. Get there and he was digging a hole, he said, to make a pit, see, to make a, what do you call it, an oil pit, and so we had to dig this hole in the ground, and build and form it. And so, I got in there and I looked at it, and I said, hand me a shovel. like working here on the farm, so I looked at it and I said OK, so I went on and worked, only thing I did, when I got there, took my name- took my name and social security number, that's all he done, took my name and social security - never asked me nothing about no union, or nothing. I was just goofing around in the union hall. I was looking for a job, but I didn't belong to no union, but I believe in the union, and so I worked on that job, I worked there for three, I worked there for three weeks. I worked on that job for three weeks, almost a month, before anybody come around and asked me about a union, about a union card, and when they did catch me, walk up on me, union steward - he come around there at lunch time, that's what it was, he come around at lunch time. And so we's all sitting around having lunch and, you know, talking, got to talking to the union stewart about, um, union dues. And so, uh, and I was sitting over here by myself. I was sitting over here by myself, eating lunch, and I looked up, and I could hear, I could hear 'em talking, you see, because we wasn't sitting that far apart. We wasn't sitting that far apart. We were sitting there something like we're sitting here now, like that speaker over there, they'd be sitting on it, you know, like that, and he says, how 'bout that guy over there? That's your new man, he said, I aint seen him on the job before. They changed the men on them jobs just like you change the caps on your head, and so how'd he know I'm a new man, he ain`t seen me before, when it changes every day on the job. Cause they was going and coming because guys, winter time, guys wouldn't have work and didn't want to work, and so uh, they said Oh that guy, that guy, he said, he come in here from union hall, he said, You're supposed to know who you sent out here, over at the union, and the stewart told him, he said I didn't send that man out here. That man ain`t never been - I ain't seen that man around the union hall. I'm sitting there eating, I ain`t - I still ain`t saying nothing. And so, he said, Hey you, he said, Come here. I looked at him, I said, Hey man, I said, I'm eating. He said, You're eating? He said, Do you wanta keep on eating? I said Yeah I'm gonna keep on eating. He said, Well, you better get up and come on over here and talk to me. I looked at him, I said. . . and I was getting ready, I was getting ready to fire back on him, and something hit me, said Get on over there and talk to him, and so I got on up and went over there and talked to him, and he said. . .he wanted to get nasty with me. I was talking to him, and he was getting nasty, and I said, Wait a minute. I said, Hold it. I said, Hold it just a minute. I said, Now, you're sitting down, I said, I'm standing up. You get in your britches like I get in mine. I said, I don't care who you are, you gonna respect me as a man and a human being, like I'm gonna respect you. I said I don't who you are. I said You're a union man? I said Who you are you for? I said I don't belong to this union yet. I said But I do believe in the union. I said Now, you wanta talk to me, you talk to me like somebody's got some sense. I said I don`t mind picking up one of these bricks and knocking your head off. And he looked at me, he said, Who you think you are? I said, Don't matter who I am, I said, but you ain`t gonna talk to me any kind of way. I said, Now you want me to join your union? I said, I'll do it. I said, You still ain`t gonna talk to me like I was some kind of dog. I looked at him, he looked at me, he said, Where you from? I said, I'm from Virginia and West Virginia. He shook his head. He said, Yeah, that's how you boys are from down in that part of the union. He said, You don't take no stuff. I said No, we don't. I said, Now you want me to join your union, I said, I'll join. I said, I don't belong to it. I said, I'm from. . ., he said, I know the place you from West Virginia, West Virginia's union men. He said, I know where you're coming from, he said, All right, he said well, we'll get along. I said, Well, that's all I want.
John: Well, is that what you did, construction work?. . .
Pete: Yeah, construction work
John: . . .for the rest of your time there?
Pete; Well I did it, I did construction work, ohhh, about fifteen years or better. .. .
John: Uh huh. . .
Pete: . . . off and on, and then I got out of construction work, and I went into the steel mill, and that's, that's where I stayed.
John: OK, what'd you do in the steel mill?
Pete: We made automobile parts.
John: OK. . .
Pete: We made automobile parts in the steel mill, and I stayed in that for almost seventeen years, in there, and I left. Well I stayed in that til they closed the plant down.
John: was that the UAW?
Pete: Yeah, auto workers. Making car parts, stuff like that.
John: You been a bachelor all your life?
Pete: Nah, I was married. I was married, I got five kids. All them up there?
John: Yeeeeah. . .
Pete: All them's my kids. And I`ve got grandkids,
great grandkids - right there - all them right there? - there's my daughter up there -
John: Ahh, she's pretty
Pete: And all them right there. Those are my great grandkids. Don't ask me how many I've got?
John: Ok, so you worked and lived in Columbus for. . . how long? Forty, thirty years?
Pete: Uh, I lived in Columbus in fifty. . , fifty three. Fifty three, fifty three, fifty three, in uh, fifty three, And I left in, ahh, eighty . . .ummm, well I came here. . . I started living here, when I moved here, in eighty nine - eighty nine so, when I left Columbus, I'd been about there in Columbus almost fifty years.
John: Yeah, that's a long time, but you came back home.
Pete: Yeah, I came back home. I lived here in the forties, and then I came back, and then I came back. . . I just. . .I just . .
John: You were young
Pete: Yeah, I was young, and I was just traveling around, running, and then I came back and stayed, and then when I left, when I left in `52, when I left the last part of '52, I didn't come back no more.Only time I come back in was to visit. And when my parents passed, then I came back for that, but I didn't come back to stay until I came back in '89.
John: Were you always planning on coming back?
Pete: I always did, I always did. Yeah, I always planned on coming back. I always planned on it. When I left, one thing that I didn't plan on, I didn't plan on coming back like this -in poor health. . . and uh, but this right here? This is my life right here. . This is my life right here, and, uh, because, uh, when my daddy inherited this, he started to farm just a little bit, him and I, and so, uh, I did most of the farming. He told me what he wanted, and I got in and did it, whether it's to plow.. . .he helped too. . . he helped, but I got in and did all the hard work, like the plowing, and cleaning up and everything. But he wanted, he decided he wanted to put this bluff, he said I want to put this bluff in corn, and he said What you think about it?~ And I said, Yeah, I said, So I went ahead and plowed it, cause I love farming, and at one time, I thought it was hard work, but I loved it after I got into it, and so I plowed this bluff, put corn in it, (laughs) I have to laugh, put corn in it, and put it in corn - not corn in it, put it in corn, and, I worked it and worked it. I worked it and he come up here, and he helped me to work it. That's when it first started coming up, getting the weeds out of it. The tallest stalks of corn - about your knees. (laughs) That's the tallest part, about your knees (laughing),and the biggest ear on it, (laaughing more) I'd say the biggest ear on it about the size of that knob on that cabinet that's right there. My daddy looked at it, and says what we're going to do with it?I says Ahh, we can cut it - I says, You don't wanta cut it, and so something happened, cause he. . .my daddy was bothered with high blood alot and had headaches and so uh, he wasn't feeling good, so I said, well, I'd go up there and cut it for him, and so I come up here and I started cutting, and, I done started cutting it and I said this corn. . ., I agreed with him after I'd gone ahead and started cutting it. Had to get down like this and cut. This corn ain't no count, and I said, I know what to do. I'll go ahead and cut it, make fodder out of it, feed it to the cows. So next day he asked me how I was doing, so I said, Ahhh, I'm pretty good, and so next day, he's feeling better so he came up with me to cut. And so we started cutting and he, (chuckle) he was down there cutting, I'm going on, you know. I'm just going on, I'm young, I'm going on, so he, he`s cutting a long way back behind me, cutting, and working and I could hear him talkin, Whew, whew (swishing sounds), (Laughter) He was working on it. . .And so finally, he said Hey, son. So I hollered, Hey, like that, he said Well, forget about this, he said, Forget about this, he says, it ain`t no good. I said, Well, I said Um, we can cut it, feed it to the cows. He said, I tell ya what, he said, What you already done cut he said, let's bring the wagon up here and throw it on now and give it to the cows now. We won't have to worry 'bout this no good corn. And I said, it was a couple days later, I brought the wagon up, and I throwed it on there and carried it on down and scattered out for the cows, he looked at me and said well, sitting on the porch, he said, I tell ya, he said, corn won't grow in there, he said, ~I know something will grow in there, I said, What's that? He said, Just plow that under, he said. Just plow stalks and all. Just plow it under. I said What you gonna put in there? He said I'm gonna sow it in buckwheat. He said, Buckwheat'll grow anywhere. Buckwheat will grow just about anywhere, so I said, well, I said, that's a good idea, I said, Yeah, sow it in buckwheat I said Well, that`s a good idea. We'll sow it in buckwheat. I'll plow it up and we'll sow it in buckwheat. I said, Well, where you gonna get the buckwheat, where you gonna get the seed at? I said Aint anybody around here. I said Mr. Bishop was the only one used to grow buckwheat around here I said aint anybody else around here grows buckwheat since he left. He said, Well, he said, I don't know, he said, but I'll find some, he said, I'll find some seed for buckwheat, he said, We'll find some, he says, You go ahead and plow it up, he says, and while you plowing it, he says, I'll be looking around. Now, he can't drive - he can't drive a lick, but he gonna find buckwheat. I says, ok, so I go ahead and go to plowing, and he's sitting down there on the porch - I don't know who he talked to or who he stopped up and down the road, I go in one day, he says, Well, he said, We can go pick up our buckwheat. How long you gonna be plowing? I said, Oh, about another day, I'll be through with it. He said, Well,, he said, you go ahead and finish the plowing and we'll go pick up our buckwheat, he said. We were gonna get a couple bushels of buckwheat. He said about four bushels that's about right ,isn't it? I said, yeah, about four or five bushels. He said how you sow it? You gonna drill it in or broadcast it. Said Ah, we'll broadcast it. It's too steep for the drill, so we'll broadcast it. I said, Oh, ok. He said, I'll broadcast it, you do the fertilizing. I said, OK, let's get that buckwheat in. I don't know where he'd get that buckwheat now. But anyhow, when we got ready to go, him and I got in the truck and we went and got it. I can't remember now where he got that buckwheat. I don't know whether he went down over here, or. . .I done forgot all these little places around here now, it's been so long, but I used to go to Athens. I don't know whether he went to Athens and got that buckwheat or what it was. . . anyhow, he found that buckwheat, he found that buckwheat through some of his friends and things riding up and down the road, sitting on that porch, and, uh, so we planted it. Buckwheat come up. Ah man, it was the prettiest stamd of buckwheat when it first started coming up, that was the prettiest buckwheat you ever want to see. All righty. So we admired that buckwheat. Ahhh, he was proud of that buckwheat coming up, and that buckwheat come up, and he looked at it, that buckwheat was about as high as the sole on your shoe (Laughter) He looked at that buckwheat, he said, That ground is too poor to grow dirt (laughing) I laughed. I said too poor to grow. . . I said, well, I said, You put the corn out I said, look at it this way. You put corn in it, I said, got up to your knees, I said, you put buckwheat in it, I said, it got up to your shoe sole, I said What are you gonna try next?~ He said, That ground's too poor to grow dirt. He said, Forget it. So I said, What are you gonna do with the buckwheat? I said, You gonna try to cut it? He said, You can't cut that, he said, Let the birds have it. I said, Well, what you gonna do with it, I said, What you gonna do with this piece of ground?~ He said, Aint nothing I can do with it, said, It's too poor to grow buckwheat - buckwheat won't grow in it, corn won't grow in it, it's too poor to grow dirt. He said, There ain't nothing I can do with it he said, just let it go. I said, Give it to me. He looked at me. So I said, When I said give it to me, looked like you quit breathing. He don't say nothing - he just stood there, and so finally, I said, I tell you what, I said I tell you what. I said, Cor.won't grow in it. Buckwheat won't grow in it. I said, Give it to me . I said, I tell you what you do. I said, If you give me this property up here, if you give me all of this up here, I won't claim none of that down at the home place.
John: The good land. . .
Pete: He looked at me, said, Nahhh, can't do that. I said, Why? He said, You got other sisters and brothers. I said, Yeah, I said, but they can divide that up down there, I said, I don't want to be down there at the other place, I said, Just give me this up here. He said, Nahhh, he said, Those other brothers and sisters, he said, You can't be greedy, you gotta look out for them. What they gonna think, you got all this up here and they've got that little bit down there. I said, Well, they all done moved away from here, I said, and they ain't coming back no way, something like that. He said, Naaahhh, that wouldn't be right. I said, I tell you what, I said, Give me from the creek to the top of Buckhorn Mountain. I said from Spencer, Spencers owned it at that time, I said, from Spencer's line to Roberta's line, which is my sister, this one right here. She owns all that, and I said, Give me that. And he said Nah. I can't do that either. I said, You can't give me . . ., I said, They've got from the creek to East River divided up like they want it, plus that down there. He said, Yeah, that's true, he said, I still can't do that. I said, Why not? He said, Give you from the creek to the top? He said, Well what's your other sisters and brothers gonna do if they want water? I said, They can get water any time they want to, I said, I ain't gonna stop them from getting no water. He said, AAAhhh, you might get mad at them. I said, I ain't gonna get that mad at them that they can't get a drink of water, or water their cows or whatever they want. And he said, What are you gonna do with it? Strip the mountain? I said, No, I ain't gonna strip no mountain, I aid, I'm gonna put a house right there. And he looked at me and didn't say nothing, and I said, Well I tell you what before he could get his breath, I said, I tell you what, I said, Give me from the middle of the creek. . . I'm thinking now, I'm getting serious now, I said, Give me from the middle of the creek to the top of the mountain. He looked at me, he says, What you gonna do with it? What you gonna do with it if I give you from the middle of the creek. Standing right there in the middle of the road, and he said What you gonna do with it. And I said, I'm gonna put a house right there. He looked at me, he says Aaah, I don't know. I said, Yea, I'm gonna put a house right there. I said, You give me that from the middle of the creek to the top of Buckhorn Mtn., I said, from Spencer's line to Roberta's line, I said, and I'm gonna put me a house right there. He stands there, put his hands up, and says if you put a house there it's yours. That's all he said. He said, It's yours. And I told him I was gonna put a house here, and wasn't gonna strip the mountain,wasn't gonna strip, wasn't gonna strip it, he says, It's yours. He didn't put it in writing, he didn't put it down on paper, and it was his word and my word and my belief and his belief and trust in each other. And so it's been that'a way ever since. And so, the old people always have taught us not to fight and argue over this property, and so, when he passed, I came home to the funeral, and my mother asked me, said, Pete, , I said, Yes maam, she said, Your daddy told me to ask you, do you still want that property up there, that bluff. And I said, Yeah, I'm gonna put a house on there, I says, soon as I retire, I said, get the money, I said, I aim to put me a house up there. And two of my brothers were standing there in the kitchen, Junie and Ames, the one is living and the one is dead, they was standing there in the kitchen, and there was somebody else standing there in that kitchen that morning. I can't recall who it was was standing in there, and she said, Well, he told me to ask you He sent for me - he sent for me but at the time I couldn't come. I couldn't get here when he sent for me, and so he told her, and so I told her, and so they told her to ask me about it, and so they said, Well? and I said, Yeah, I want it, and they said, Well, that's it, that's what you want, said That's yours. Ain't anybody gonna take it away from you. And so. . .
John: So you got it.
Pete: So I got it. And so she said he told her that if I didn't want it, wasn't gonna put my house on it, then it'd go back into the estate, go back into the estate and divide it up equally. But this is mine.
John: This is an addendum to the interview. Didn't get this story on tape, but Pete told this story as we were walking out to the car, about how the one room school house, the kids would go on hikes, and one time they hiked all the way into Rocky Gap to go to the Post Office which was in a little building next to Honaker's store. And Honakers Store, it was the old building that Howard Stowers used to have his store in that was torn down a few years ago. The post Office still, the little building that it was in, still stands down there now, but while they were walking, while the children were walking to the post office, they went by the Rocky Gap school while they were having recess, and all the white kids commenced to rocking the black kids, throwing rocks at them and everything, and so they ran on to the post office and then when they were coming back, all the black boys got rocks, and all the girls, they didn't throw any rocks, but they filled their pockets full of rocks to give to the boys, and when they went back by the school, a great big rock fight commenced, and windows were breaking and rocks were flying and everything before the teachers could separate the kids and the kids in both groups were punished and everything. But the post script of the thing was that Mr. Honaker informed the Rocky Gap school that there would be changes in teachers and principals if such a thing happened again, because his black customers' money was just as good as his white customers' money, and he didn't want his customers being treated that way. And afterwards, when the black kids would go by there, the teachers would get all the white kids and lock them up in the school so something like that wouldn't happen again.
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