Lola Nelson Orr

Mrs. Lola Nelson Orr was born abt. 1886 in Emory, Virginia. Her father was an overseer of a local farm, and in her interview, she discusses her childhood growing up with former slaves, the founding of the Blacksburg community, and her experiences living with the African American community in the segregated South. She also reminisces about local events like the Commencement at Emory & Henry College and the first car in Emory.

INTERVIEW WITH MRS. LOLA NELSON ORR

Interviewed by Darrell Lewis January 10, 1973

  • LNO: I was going to tell you. I’m eighty-six years old, and I was born in Emory. I have lived within two or three miles of Emory all my life. I’ve lived right here in Blacksburg most of my life. I know all the old colored people. Of course now, all the old, older ones are dead. I knew all these young people’s fathers and grandfathers, you know.
  • DL: Yes.
  • LNO: Any special one you want to find out about, or no?
  • DL: How did this community come about here; in other words, why are all the Blacks in Blacksburg down here?
  • LNO: Well, they originated it because their grandparents were slaves. They were owned by Col. Byars down in here, and they are all gone now. All of them were old slaves and then when they freed the slaves, I believe the Byars gave every one of them a little piece of land – all the slaves a little piece of land – and deeded it to them down in here. That’s what made Blacksburg. There is a cemetery up there too, where all the slaves done been buried up yonder on the hill, and that is what started Blacksburg, and of course, you know, it just went down from generation to generation. Of course the old slaves – there was one old colored woman in there that could remember being she was a slave, but she’s dead now. I tell you; she was Jim Foster’s aunt [Aunt Lily]. You know Jim, at Emory? That’s Jim Foster’s aunt, and she could remember she was a slave, but she is dead. But she hasn’t been dead for too long though. And then they must have given a cemetery. The Williams, [no] the Nyes, the Nyes gave them a cemetery, and they are all buried up here. First the older slaves were buried up here right where that hen house sits. My father used to own that, and that’s where I growed up, right there. The house is gone now that new house sits there, but that’s where I grew up was right there. They’ve worked over and plowed that meadow and graveyard too. [There was an Indian grave yard], and it had two, some, white soldiers buried in it. But they’ve worked it over now and tore it up. But as long as we owned it, why, my father never touched that cemetery. But of course, it’s all worked over now, and I reckon Ed, Jim, and Charley, and old Aunt Carie (she’s old) are the oldest colored people in Blacksburg anymore.
  • DL: Aunt Carie?
  • LNO: Aunt Carie, Aunt Carie, oh what is her name? You know Carie has a pegged leg. I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen her or not, but she’s Dr. Hillman’s nurse. What is her name? I can’t remember like I used to.
  • DL: Is she any relation?
  • LNO: Hill, Hill. Aunt Carie Hill. She’s still living down here in Blacksburg.
  • DL: How old is she?
  • LNO: Well, she’s way up in the eighties, I imagine. But she wasn’t a slave. She was old; she’s the oldest woman down there. And Jim, Ed, and Charley are the oldest men down in there. Now I remember when Jim, Charley, and Ed was born. They are still down in there. And, of course, it just went from generation to generation, and more population, you know, and quite a few population too.
  • DL: Yes. Do you know a fellow down there by the name of Luther Smith?
  • LNO: Luther Smith? Down here in Blacksburg?
  • DL: Yes. Lives in an old log cabin up there by himself.
  • LNO: You mean Charley Smith; we call him Charley.
  • DL: Well, he signed his name as Luther.
  • LNO: Real old?
  • DL: Yes – a real old color fellow.
  • LNO: Well – oh yes – I know him. He came here – I don’t know where he come from; he wasn’t a Blacksburg darky.
  • DL: He wasn’t?
  • LNO: No. He come here when they were building these roads through here, years and years ago. He came here on a chain gang. He married a Blacksburg girl, and he has been here ever since. But, now, I don’t know where he originated from. He’s not a native of Blacksburg.
  • DL: He was in prison was he?
  • LNO: Well, he was a trusty, you know. They were building the road with convicts. Charlie [Luther] was a convict; he was a trusty, and they let him come to Blacksburg on a visit, and he married down in there. I reckon his time was about out or something, and he stayed.
  • DL: He stayed here?
  • LNO: He’s been here ever since. He wasn’t an old Blacksburg darky. I don’t know where he’s from.
  • DL: Most of these people down here have been here for generations and generations?
  • LNO: Oh yes! From one generation to another.
  • DL: Getting back to the slave thing. Can you remember anything about the people – hearing your parents talk about slavery, about how many there were around here?
  • LNO: Oh yes! I can remember, you know. I can remember how the slaves were free folk, but lots of the slaves stayed on, you know. With their owners, you know then. Lots stayed on with Byars, and I’ll tell you where they lived. They lived in the big house where the Buchanans live now. You know the big Penn house? Now that was where they had slaves. And old Brook Hall. They had slaves there and lots of them stayed on after they were freed until they died. Of course, most of them were old. Several of them came to Blacksburg after they were freed and built them a little home. Stayed down there, but I can remember quite a few of the old slaves.
  • DL: So, most of the slaves didn’t go anywhere when they were freed?
  • LNO: No, they didn’t have nothing; they didn’t have no place to go to. Now about Blacksburg, it comes from right up there in the graveyard. And up there in them woods right on the top of the hill. There’s a great big piece of land there. It goes from that fence for miles down in there. It was all willed to the old slaves, you know, to make homes out of it, and deeded to them. They would have the deeds to it. Jim Foster, his wife is a descendent of one of the old slaves, you know. She’s got the land down there toward where Jim lives. Of course, she’s just one of the great grandchildren or something another. But Blacksburg all owns their own homes now.
  • DL: None of those houses down there were bought outright? Nobody had to put out any hard cash for them?
  • LNO: No. Just the younger generation, you know. Some of them down there got trailers, and built pretty nice homes. But the old homes – I guess the people who owned them had to build them. They had to settle them, and then they went back to work for their owners, you know.
  • DL: Well, there was one gentleman telling me that there used to be a way to get land from somebody if you paid the taxes on their property. Then you could confiscate the land after so long a time. Can you remember anything about that?
  • LNO: I don’t remember anything about that.
  • DL: He said that the people were old and dead and gone, and he didn’t want to get into it any further. He didn’t remember. It was just what he had heard.
  • LNO: Well, I don’t remember that far back, but I remember when Blacksburg was, you know, when they moved there and settled there, lots of them. Lots of them I can’t because I was too little to remember. I can remember Emory when there were about two buildings over there. This was Emory and Henry College.
  • DL: There is about three buildings over there now.
  • LNO: Yes. I remember when there were about two or three buildings over there. They had a place where they cooked and fed the students, you know. I forgot what they called it, what kind of hall they called it. They’ve remodeled it, but it is still standing there yet. Then they had a little house on the right in the corner next to the railroad; it was just a little building down there this side of the railroad. They have been there as long as I can remember. When they had their commencement, everybody came to that. That was the big thing. We fixed dresses for months for the commencement at Emory. Everybody took their lunches and spent the day on the campus, you know. Where they had their exercises was under a big tent something like a circus tent, you know. They would have wooden benches and put sawdust on the floor. That’s where they had their commencement exercises. I’ve been to many of them, and I have pictures of them. I’d say about seventy-five years ago when I used to go to them when I was young. I had a big time. I remember when the first automobile came through here was at Emory commencement.
  • DL: Is that right?
  • LNO: It was just a little thing with a seat on it and a handle to guide it, and everybody was having their picture made in the automobile. It just cost you a little something to have your picture made. I have a picture of my oldest son, and he would have been about sixty-six. He was a baby when the picture was made in the automobile. They would make lemonade in wash tubs and sell it by the glass. They would sell it for five cents a glass. We thought that was the greatest thing that ever was, you know.
  • DL: That was about the only thing at that time?
  • LNO: Yes, the commencement.
  • DL: Once a year?
  • LNO: It was once a year, and just a few students there. Of course, it’s growed up now that its a huge place now, isn’t it?
  • DL: Well, what did they raise around here? What kind of crops?
  • LNO: They raised just about everything about here. Until these big farms got divided up and sold out in small pieces. They raised wheat, corn, soybeans, buckwheat, and cane, cane sugar, to make their molasses. I’ve followed an old horse around a cane mill many a time.
  • DL: Is that right? I didn’t know they made sugar cane in this area.
  • LNO: Yes. They had sugar cane here, and people made their own molasses, you know. You could hardly get sugar, you know; sugar was scare, and they had big orchards. I can remember the first twelve fruit jars I ever saw. My father went somewhere. My father drove an old hack then, which had three seats in it. He drove it by horse, you know. He would haul people like a taxi does now. He went somewhere and saw some fruit jars and brought my mother back twelve half gallon fruit jars. I’ve got some of them yet. They were green, and they had mason on the lid on top.
  • DL: Had a wire thing on the top?
  • LNO: No, that was later on. They had rubber ring you put on top, and you screwed the lid down on that rubber thing. I can remember when we used to live up there. We had a big vineyard. My father was the overseer over the big farm, and we had a big vineyard, peach trees, apple trees, and grapes, and we had a kiln made. I don’t know if you have ever seen one or not. But they made it and put some mud – it was not cement then – on top and baked it hard, you know. And in place of canning, you placed your berries, grapes, and peaches, and pears on that kiln and dried them out. Apples and pumpkins and everything.
  • DL: Dry and store them.
  • LNO: Beans, and then they would sack them up in cotton sacks. Great big old sacks full, you know, and that’s the way they got through the winter, you know. They didn’t know what fruit canning was. They lived good, but it was hard work.
  • LNO: They got the beans and fruit jars, all different kinds of fruit jars. Now they don’t even use fruit cans. People don’t can anymore.
  • DL: No they don’t. My mother use to can a little bit, but she doesn’t anymore. And my grandmother doesn’t fool with it too much anymore. Every once in a while we get [cans] from my grandmother, which is a little bit different, and it’s really good too. You almost need your own garden, but no one raises gardens anymore.
  • LNO: Well, I live here by myself. My children are all married and gone. I’ve lost four of them here, lately, or in the last six or eight years. They’re married and got homes of their own and live away from here now. Then, my husband died about five years ago. They just left me here by myself. I stayed on and my oldest daughter – she lived in Florida – and her husband died, and she had one child. She got married, and she couldn’t make it down there and come home. Now she and I live here by ourselves. Just the two of us. We are getting along fine. We had a little garden last year and she canned some: beans and corn. I first decided not to try, but I just love the garden. I love to see it grow, but it is so hard to get anybody to do anything for you anymore – to work in a garden. I believe there she comes right now. I want you to meet her. Well, we just live here by ourselves. She don’t work; she gets a little pension because her husband was a veteran. I get my social security, and I got five acres of land here. We have owned it in our name since I was five years old. Eighty, eighty-one years we owned this land.
  • DL: Do you remember the name of the man your father worked for?
  • LNO: Sanders, he was overseer of the Sanders’ farm. Later on they sold it, and it went into the hands of – well, anyway, the owner lived right down the railroad from Emory. Peters. They sold it to Peters. It went into the Peters family, and he still worked the farm over there. When he was a young man, he was a carpenter and worked at Emory & Henry College. He was a handyman. Like you have now-a-days. He carried his tools on his back and walked back and forward home.
  • DL: Things have changed a lot.
  • LNO: I’ll say it has. There are still things around here that have been around here – this old, big tree, sycamore tree, up here along this old road. That was a tree when I was five years old. I think someone said it was twenty-three inches around. That’s old!
  • DL: Do you know what they used to mark off these farms with for surveying? What did they use as marks?
  • LNO: Markers?
  • DL: Would they use a creek, or would they use a tree, or would they use a house?
  • LNO: They used a tree or something like that, you know. I can remember when this old Lee Highway came through here. This old road up here is really the old Lee Highway, Robert E. Lee Highway. This is still called the Robert E. Lee Highway – number eleven. There is a strip from the Ham House up there that is really old; it is still on the same ground it was eighty years ago. I reckon when Robert E. Lee made the trail through here, you know. Yes, that’s where it got its name. Robert E. Lee made the trail through here. Lots of them settled down in here. Abingdon’s got a lot of old places where they settled. It’s an old, old town.
  • DL: I know there are a lot of really old buildings down in there.
  • LNO: Yes. There are old buildings down in there that have been there for hundreds of years, I guess.
  • DL: When they gave these people the land down here in Blacksburg, did they build houses on it?
  • LNO: I just don’t know. I imagine they did though because – But it is all gone now. It is still in Blacksburg hands, you know. It went down from generation to generation.
  • DL: Can you remember your parents talking about or worrying about any slave uprisings against the whites?
  • LNO: I can’t remember anything like that. The only slaves I remember were peaceable slaves, you know.
  • DL: Well, about how many slaves were on that farm?
  • LNO: I don’t remember. I knew some of the old slaves that were really slaves, you know. Then I knew some like Jim’s mother and sister. Now they were young slaves when they were freed, you know, young girls. I heard them talk about the slaves lots of times. Then there was old Kitty Jackson. She was a slave. I don’t remember who she belonged to. She died down in Blacksburg. She was buried up here at that hen house. She was really a slave. I can’t remember now when there really were slaves; I’ve heard old people talk about it, about the slaves and how they treated them and all, you know.
  • DL: They probably didn’t have very many slaves on the farm, did they?
  • LNO: Yes. I think they did. Yes. There were some awful big farms around here, and I heard them talk about the slave trade. I’ve had these old, old colored women and men to sit down and talk to me about it. How the traders used to come through and buy up the young slaves. They drove them in droves and would come through at one farm and buy two or three from the owner, and they drove them like cattle on the way out.
  • DL: You’re talking about around here, not about Africa?
  • LNO: I’m talking about right here because there was an old man, Nye, whose house is still standing over here. He used to tell us when we were young about how they came through to buy slaves. I think his family owned some slaves. He told us about seeing them come through and buying slaves. He said he could remember seeing them take a drove of slaves that they had bought through here. They had bought this old woman’s son, and he had made his footprint in the mud up there about that old sycamore tree that I said was so old. She built a house over it, you know. Kept it as long as she could, you know. That’s how I know how old this big tree is. Of course, when I first could remember it, it was a good size then. He used to tell us how they wept and went on over their children. Of course, that happened before I was born. It was true because he lived right there in that house, and the old barn is sitting right there where he lived. Tom Hutton (Judge Hutton) owns it now.
  • DL: The slaves did get married then?
  • LNO: They did, but not much though because these slave owners just wanted them to have children, so they could have more slaves. They just had these children among themselves. They married after, you know – a few of them were married.
  • DL: They knew whose children was whose?
  • LNO: Yes. They know whose child was whose, but there wasn’t much marrying in these because the tales they used to tell us, the white slave owners were awful mean to their slaves and the slave girls. The old, old slaves used to tell it.
  • LNO: This is my daughter. I forget what you said your name was.
  • DL: Darrell Lewis. I’m going to Emory & Henry College. I’m talking to your mother about some things she remembers about history. I’m taking a history course.
  • Dau:Dau: Are you taping it?
  • DL: Yes. You can talk to it; it doesn’t make any difference.
  • LNO: I made a record for a boy who went to Johnson City, and he got a big grade on it. They have it down at the college yet.
  • DL: That is what the lady across the way was telling me, and I can see what she was talking about. Usually all I get is something close up, but you get back where it is interesting. This is the kind of thing that is interesting to me.
  • LNO: Yes, made a record and put it in the college down there. He told me he was married to my niece and went to college in Johnson City. I made a record for him and another student; I just sat down and told them what I knew, you know.
  • Dau: It was old traditions and things like that.
  • LNO: Just old things. They made good on it they said. They put it in with the records they have at the college.
  • DL: Speaking of traditions, were there any traditions among the slaves as far as religion is concerned – like you said they wailed over their children or their burial rites or something that could be traced back to Africa?
  • LNO: Well, I don’t know too much about that. I don’t guess the slaves (except what they had among themselves) had much of a religion because slave owners were just like people who buy cattle now-a-days. They would be friendly with them, but they would whip them. You know this old Brook Hall place up the road – the Garnand place. It sits up there on the bank and used to be a stage coach stop in slave times. When I was a little girl, we used to go up there and play. There was one closet up there that traditions said they killed a slave there. There was a stain on the floor. We all played hide and seek up there in that big house, but we never bothered that closet. As far back as I can remember was the tradition that the owner had beat a slave to death in that closet.
  • Dau: It seemed to me that the closet was larger than this kitchen.
  • LNO: I was a little girl when I played hide and seek up there in that old house. But that stain was just as plain. They used to say that you couldn’t get blood stains up, you know. That closet, the floor and walls was covered with blood. I guess it was blood, too, because that’s what they said.
  • DL: It is highly probable that they did do that kind of thing. The problem is to find out how much. You know: once, twice, or three times and then blow it up a lot.
  • LNO: That might have been a room where they just took them to whip them. They did whip them. Awful mean to them, and starved them you know.
  • DL: Did you ever hear of a revolt against the whites?
  • LNO: No. I can’t remember them talking about anything like that. Now through here and all the slaves were peaceable, and I reckon they were pretty good to them. Lot of them stayed on with them. The Cobbs and, I believe, the Byars who owned that big old house where they had so many slaves (the stage coach station), and the Mac Byars farm down in there freed their slaves. They and the Nyes just laid off so many acres of land (it was wood and not cleared out) and deeded to every one of their slaves enough for a little home. Some just got a little piece of land and some bought out others for a home. Had a space for a little school house right there on the corner where this little house sits. It was built later on in the years. Right then they didn’t have a school house. I can remember when they built the little school house (I was pretty well grown by then), and got teachers for them and started them in learning.
  • DL: You don’t know where they got the teacher do you?
  • LNO: Well, they were just local people, you know, from the neighborhood.
  • DL: White people?
  • LNO: White people that had education enough to teach them. You didn’t have to be a college graduate, you know, if you just knew enough to add, subtract, read, and write. And then they got on old, one old – well she was young then. She had pretty good education. She taught down there for years. She was partly white. She had been a slave though; she was a descendant of some slaves. I don’t know if she was a slave or not. She was more white than colored. She had more education and knew how to teach them. She taught for years and years and years down there until she just dropped dead. She taught the little colored.
  • DL: Do you remember her name?
  • LNO: Kate – Kate – Kate Mason was her name.
  • Dau: I didn’t know that.
  • LNO: There are a lot of things you don’t remember. She owned a little piece of land in front of Frank Buchanan’s place. She had a little home, and her and her brother lived together: an old maid and an old bachelor. I don’t think she had ever been a slave, but they were descendants of slaves. They were more white than they were colored, you know. The really old colored people didn’t have much. They had sense and all, you know, but no education and never had any way to express it if they had had sense, you know. You know slaves just had to work like dogs in the field and everything.
  • DL: Did they work the slaves in the tobacco fields around here?
  • LNO: Well, I don’t know if they raised much tobacco down in here or not, but, oh yes, they worked them in the fields and everywhere.
  • DL: This stage coach stop down here where they kept them. Could that have been some place where they sold them?
  • LNO: Well, I don’t remember, but they could of. But they kept them there when they came through with a drove. They drove them on this old road. This old road up there – just like cattle. Like you would drive a herd of cattle. You know they don’t drive cattle anymore, but they used to have to drive them. Well, we used to have to drive our turkeys to market on the road, but they just had people surrounding them with whips and…
  • Dau: That must be where the big room comes in then, but it was closed off. I was never there but one time, and I remember that room, and I never wanted to go back.
  • LNO: Well now, they would come through here buying slaves. Bought slaves and sold them – they sold just like they do cattle now. They would buy them for so much and take them somewhere and sell them for a big price, you know.
  • DL: You don’t have any idea how much a slave was worth?
  • LNO: No. No. But a slave was worth a smart amount in them days and time. Of course now, they would come here, and it wouldn’t matter whose child it was. If the owner wanted to sell it, they sold it. Just put it in with the drove and drove it off and that was the last of it.
  • DL: Was there any difference between male and female in price?
  • LNO: Yes. The males brought more.
  • DL: Male brought more than the female? So maybe they didn’t do as much breeding around here as they might have because, you see, the female would bring more money. You would have more cows than bulls. Not a very good way to put it, but that’s the context we can think of it in.
  • LNO: Well now, I guess where the white and the colored got mixed up together was with the white owners and the slave women because you know the old time slaves were black. You don’t see any whites at all. Gradually got whiter and whiter, you know. I know they didn’t marry because they didn’t want them to.
  • DL: Didn’t want them to get attached and that way cut down on the breeding?
  • LNO: Yes. The breeding.
  • DL: How did they know whose slave was whose?
  • LNO: I think they had a way of marking them, but I just don’t know. But I don’t remember now. I guess I have known in time, but I don’t remember now what it was.
  • DL: Do you remember any whipping posts for punishing slaves?
  • LNO: No. they never had anything like that on the place around here, unless they did up here at Brook Hall. I have an idea that they did there.
  • DL: How did they keep the slave on the land? Did they lock or chain them up at night?
  • LNO: I just don’t know what they did, but of course, the slaves were afraid. They didn’t have a place to go to. They were scared, of course, and they had them cowed just like animals almost, I reckon.
  • DL: I guess when someone gets treated like an animal that’ what you turn into.
  • LNO: Well, they didn’t know nothing, just work you know, and being whipped and mistreated. But I guess sometimes there would be some family that would treat them right. But slaves didn’t know anything, but just being treated like animals – whipped and cowed and made to do anything they wanted done.
  • DL: You don’t remember any slaves being on your father’s place then?
  • LNO: Not owned or anything. But there was one old slave buried up there on my father’s place after we moved there. She was old and died up here in Blacksburg. That was a Black cemetery there, a great big cemetery there, and this was an Indian camp ground, too, right out here on my land. On my land, when you plot it up, you can still find arrowheads and things around here. It was an Indian and a slave cemetery. There were a lot of slaves buried up at the edge of those woods. There are no markers; they were just buried. Blacksburg takes care of it and keeps it mowed. It’s not laid off in squares or anything. You can’t tell where a grave is now. They just dug a hole and buried them side by side until they filled it up. Blacksburg cemetery is on down this way above Jim Foster’s house. It’s cleared off and has markers in it.
  • DL: They didn’t have any churches around here for the slaves then?
  • LNO: No. Never let them go to church. If they had any church, it was among themselves. The first colored church I ever knew was this little church right down here. Course now it was just small, but they built more and more on to it. Blacksburg themselves built this little church down here.
  • Dau: Momma, wasn’t Ed Foster’s mother a slave?
  • LNO: She was a young slave. She had never got old enough – but she could remember – and her sister, old Aunt Lily, you know. Now she was a slave. She was old enough to have to work, and she was the one who used to tell us how it was. Ed Foster’s mother used to tell me – Ed, Jim, Charles were just little bits of things then, just little kids not big enough to go to school. I used to do all her writing, you know, corresponding, and she would come and maybe stay all day long, and she would tell me what to say, and I would write letters for her and just spend the whole day writing letters for that old colored woman. She used to tell me so much you know. She was a young slave girl – that’s Jim’s mother, Ed’s mother – and she used to tell us how her owner used to treat her. When she was a young girl, and how they would take her in a room and whip her. It was just heathen, just awful. Do you reckon that could be what is causing all this trouble with the colored people now, and the whites are causing just as much?
  • DL: I don’t know really. It’s hard when it is in your own time to know what is going on. There are a lot of stereotypes: like Blacks won’t work. Well, I know some of them that will work; I know some that won’t.
  • LNO: There are some white people that don’t work.
  • DL: [Interviewer content omitted from original transcript, but is available in the audio file.]
  • LNO: In the old, old, old, that’s older than me – now many of them were just as black as coal and has that curly, kinky, black hair, you know, like the Africans really. Later on till they got so mixed up with the white people.
  • DL: You notice it more with Black girls that their hair isn’t kinky. I wonder if that is something they put on it or does it just grow that way?
  • LNO: Well it’s just naturally there. I don’t think every kink gets out. A certain part of it. I never saw a colored person…
  • Dau: Well mother, they are not what you would say – uh, what would you call it – a crude nigger. They are not just interbreed until they more or less…
  • DL: American?
  • Dau: Yes.
  • LNO: Until right recently, colored people tried to straighten their hair, you know. They put everything on it to try to get it to lay down and hang straight. Now they got so they bush it up and all, you know.
  • DL: That’s what I was thinking about that [omitted due to fast talking]. Not all of them had kinky hair. The people in Africa are different; they are all dark, but not all are the same and not all of them have think lips, and they don’t have…
  • LNO: Big noses, you know.
  • DL: Big nose, not all of them. I’m staying at Blakemores with Felix Methumba. You know Felix; he was a thoroughbred from Kenya. All of his features were more or less Mediterranean. He’s got this thing nose, thing lips, and right around his eyes here, he was almost white. I don’t know why, but it just was, and he had kinky hair. But there are some that don’t have kinky hair.
  • LNO: Of course, now, Blacksburg almost takes care of me.
  • DL: Is that right?
  • LNO: I reckon there is not a one down there that wouldn’t do anything in the world for me. Because I live right here with them, I went to them when they died, and I helped doctor them. I been there when their babies were born. My father made caskets and buried them.
  • Dau: Even made Ed Foster’s wife’s wedding dress.
  • LNO: I always been a neighbor to them, just one of them. They were all welcome at my house; they came here and if we were eating, they sat down and ate with us.
  • Dau: We were never allowed to call them – niggers.
  • LNO: They were more neighbor than they were…
  • Dau: Never. We never called them nigger.
  • LNO: My children…
  • Dau: We had to say colored people or colored folk.
  • LNO: …grew up with these young nigger boys. Why, my yard used to be – I don’t have so much, but pretty yard and all – and on Sunday evening, the yard out there (I had six sons too) and four of my oldest children were boys, and my daughters liked to play football just as well as they did. And Sunday evening or any evening after school or anything, my yard was just as full of kids, the colored and black mixed, you know. Our children just played with them like they did with the whites. I just grew up with them and was one with them. When things happened around here, this house is full with colored people before anybody else gets here.
  • Dau: You know I had a brother that was bedfast for eighteen years, and they would come and help put him outside on the porch in a cot. And regardless if it was twelve o’clock at night, if he didn’t want to go in until then, they would sit right out there and wait until he was ready to come in. Then they would carry him in. There has never been a death in this family I don’t reckon where they didn’t come in and take over the kitchen. They come to visit, and we really had a lot of respect for them. I mean, some good and some bad, but in whites just as – well the same thing. They realized it too when you have respect.
  • LNO: I know, during the depression – you don’t remember much about it – after the war, World War II. During the depression, I had three sons in service. One in Germany; he is the one that drives the light truck through here now. It was here this morning; he is working for Appalachian. I had one who went West, and he was graduated to be an airplane mechanic, but he never went across, and then I had one in the south Pacific in the Navy during the war: in Okinawa. He was on a ship. I had a nephew who was on the ground in the Marine, and they lived right among each other until the war was over, but they never met. [During the depression], you just didn’t have hardly enough to eat. We had ten children. Of course, they were all home then, and jobs and money were so scarce, and we had a garden and raised our own chickens. We had eggs and everything and a cow and raised chickens. I had one son who wasn’t in service because he was too young. There was a colored boy down there in Blacksburg just his age, and Charles somehow managed to get one pair of shoes – just really heavy coarse shoes. He was about seventeen or eighteen years old, and this colored boy was the same age. This colored boy was courting, and I know my son would sit right there by the fire and pull off his shoes and loan them to that colored boy to go courting. When he came home, he would stick them right at the door, so Charles could find them the next morning and walk home barefoot. That is the way we’ve been with the colored people in Blacksburg. Of course now, not everywhere, but that was the way in Blacksburg.
  • Dau: There are some you couldn’t do that way with.
  • LNO: Well, I’ll just tell you about this young generation down in Blacksburg. They are spoiled because they just won’t work. They are on this welfare and going to school. You know I don’t blame them if they go to school, but you can’t get one of them now days to come up here and do a little job for you and pay them. If you do, they want two dollars an hour.
  • Dau: I asked one of them not long ago to come up here and work just a little bit. I said I’ll pay you good, and he said, "I got some money." He had some money.
  • LNO: If there was a ball game going on at the college over there, they would run up here about half an hour before the game and ask if there was something I can do for you. You know, is there anything you want done.
  • Dau: This is the same one that I asked if he wanted to work. I’d say thirty minutes would have done the job, and he said he had money. Well, he was the one not long ago who wanted something to do right quick. I told him no.