Interview with Elaine Owens, 2017 October 23

Material Information

Interview with Elaine Owens, 2017 October 23
Owens, Elaine ( Interviewee )
Dupuy, Francesca ( Interviewer )
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


Subjects / Keywords:
Tidewater Main Street Development Project
Family history
Rural life
Country stores
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Virginia -- Mathews


Elaine Owens talks about her family's history in Virginia and growing up in Mathews County, Virginia. She discusses going to school, her teaching career which spanned over four decades, and her memories of Joseph "Ed" Sadler's country store in Beaverlett.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the submitter.
Resource Identifier:
TMP 157 Elaine Owens 10-23-2017 ( SPOHP )


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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 19 83 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 50 + years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 7 ,500 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP rec ommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is writte n with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. February 201 8


TMP 1 57 Interviewee: Elaine Owens Interviewer: Francesca Dupuy Date: October 23 2017 D: Hello, my name is Francesca Dupuy with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. Today is October 23 2017 and I am interviewing O: E laine Owens. D: At the Methodist Church. Okay. S o, first, can you tell me a little bit about yourself, where and when you were born? O: I was born in Mathews County right here, in 1928. I have no brothers or sisters. I [Laughter] O: I taught school for forty years. D: Wow. O: n retired almost as many years as I taught. D: What school did you teach at in the past? O: Well, I started teaching in Henrico County, Virginia, right outside of Richmond a couple years. Then, dropp ed out, gave the school the slip because a friend did and I wanted to move on, too. I found it difficult to get a job that late S o I finally got one in Tappahannock, Virginia, one year Then, I came home and came here to Mathews County and taught two yea rs. Then, the money seem ed so great in northern Virginia [Laughter] Surprise, surprise. I taught the re the rest of the time, thirty five years, most of them in high school. I taught English prima rily and then I went to French. D: Wow. Nice. O: I retired i n 1989.


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 2 D: I see. What was it like teaching back then? O: Well, it changed quite a bit through the years. Children were polite and acted like they want to learn, whether they did or not. [Laughter] O: And the last seventeen years, I think, I was paid a sa Before that, I taught in this wonderful high school over there and then that closed. Everything came together a ll the high school kids went to one s chool. It was a disaster. [Laughter] D: Yeah. O: One thing was interesting. I taught many nationalities. I said I ha d the United Nations sometimes. D: Oh, wow. O: They were nice. I enjoyed that. So many showed no interest in learning and were not well mannered, or just civil. So, i t changed, and I was glad to retire. H ad I retired after the first high school I taught at up there, Hammond High School I think I would've wept for a long time. I was gla d to finally hang it up. D: when they were born and what they did for a living as well? O: Well, my father was born here in the county and my mother was born in the adjoini ng county of Middlesex. My father was born in 1902 and my mother in 1905. He became a very good auto mechanic. He kept us through World War II


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 3 them. Anyway, my mother also taugh t, but very briefly. She left Middlesex County and came over to Mathews County and taught school here for a couple years. My father saw her walking by t hat was it. [Laughter] O: Did you want their names? D: Yes, their names. O: My father was William Ed wi n Owens. My mother was Fannie . I'm trying to think of what I should say. S he was Fannie Bette, when she was really Fannie Rob s why I have the middle name Ro bins. D: Also, do you remember anything about your grandparents, their names? O: Yes I knew them all, thank quite old when I was a child and died very young. When you think of what the ages are today, in that day she died at sixty six. My grandfather Robins was hit with an automobile goi ng to church. He died. D: Do you remember their occupations? O: were . just made out. They had a farm, grew a farm a lot of vegetabl e stuff. He did some truck work for trucks. He sold some vegetables right is what I'm trying to say. He could make certain things, things that you 'd use on a workboat, stuff like that So, h e never had a real D: What was life like growing up with your family?


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 4 O: Well, I was born into a house where all of us together were ele ven of us. My dad had a brother and his wife, and, of course, my gra ndfather and my grandmother. I don't think I'm gonna come up with eleven here, but I know there was eleven eventually. I h ad an unmarried aunt who became married, so there was another because it brings back some memories. I was an only child, like I told you. Then, m y aunt began to produce several children. When I was nine years old, my mother and father built a house. We moved there and we could be onto ourselves, more or less. That is still standing that's where I live in now. D: impressive What did you do for fun as a child? O: What did I do what? D: For fun as a child. O: I was, first of all, a tomboy a real tomboy. So, I did like to mess around. We had woods there and I loved t he woods. I had a boy who lived not a boyfriend, but a boy who lived there about my age and w e played toge ther. We played cowboys. I remember being a cowboy, jumping off our horses or jumping on, and he was on a bicycle and I was on hills in Mathews. I e were okay. Anything that a boy would do at that age. D: Was it a very close knit community, like everyone played together? O: Quite, quite close. Of course, everybody down here is practically kin to the other. It may be a little way, but it always is. [ Laughter]


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 5 D: Also, what holidays do you remember celebrating as a child? Were there any special meals that you guys had, any dishes? O: The only thing I remember is Christmas. D: What were some of your Chr istmas traditions that you guys . .? O: Well, i there. I never got one, but every Christmas Eve I was listening for the clip clop I like you do Then, my mother and dad dy and I would go over to grand parents over in Middlesex and we had Christmas dinner there and so forth. D: Sounds good. Did you parti cipate in any community activities, or like were you involved in any organizations as a child? O: No n ot reall y. I wanted to organize a Girl Scout I was interested in that, but it never did come about. I talked to the superintendent of schools and begge d him to do something, but he never did, it never came to fruition. D: What subjects did you learn in school? O: What subject, s ingular? D: No. Subjects, plural. O: Well, I loved geography. I foolishly did not like history and now I love it. I liked biolo gy. Was very good in math English of course. D: Do you have any memories about going to school as a kid that you would like to share?


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 6 O: Yeah c I walked there. There were four grades in one roo but she was a great teacher. There are just two rooms in the school left. One room was one through four and the other room was five through seven. Then, we went to what you call high school in Mathews Courtho what else you asked me about. D: Any stories about going to school? O: weather that sort of thing D: Did they ever have a school bus? O: They did when I went to high school. Mathews H igh School at that time was Lee Jackson. Lee Jackson School was a high school and had grades five through seven, so it was all crushed together. Where our new county offices are, that was bus down at the corner to go to the school. D: What did you do after school? Did you just walk home or spent time with friends? O: I walked home from where the bus stopped. Um hm. D: Was it just like spending time with your family or after school? O: No, I was just coming home. When we moved, I was coming home to mother. Daddy had his own business up here at Cornwarrow but anyway. it. H yco Corners is what we call it. B uy gasoline there's a Hyco Corner on it Gas stations w e used to have gas stations all around and I miss them


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 7 say, which is not unusual. D: Okay. Also, do you remem ber going to any country stores as a child? O: My m other left Middlesex and And so, t he neighbor, man and woman, he is the one who ran the store, wanted her to come over there and s he spent the other year over there. They had a daughter. That was a come on also of course. She M other house that she went over to board in last there the man had a store. They called him Ed, that wasn't his name but . he was J E. Sadler Company was the name He was already in business then and t hat was about 1920, [ 19 ] 22. So, h e had been in business sometime but he did now own the store. He just worked with him. They were very dear and daddy were married in [19]27. I always li ked to say "When were you born?" Well, I was born in October, mother and daddy were married in November but two years different. [Laughter] O: They were wonderful to us. At that time, there was no electricity through here. You had to supply your own water. Daddy put a great, big, old tank up in the attic and heated water through it till that came through, until [ 19]37 that the road was tarred through there. So, w hen you hung your


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 8 clothes on the line to dry, you tried not to do it when the wind was blowing and the dust was blowing. Anyway, it was rather crude in that time. D: Did you usually walk to go to the count ry store? O: Well, that was a little bit . M other and D years old when I was there. They were so good to us. During World War II, all the other little country stores had trouble getting merchandise and he would try to ice cubes because they had a refrigerator. We used ice cubes for our tea for Sunday. [Laughter] I remember that. D: How often did you guys go to the country store? O: Every day practically. Sometimes We would walk all the time. He was a man that we knew very well and his wife. Then, unfort unately, I think it was the year after M other left them that the about killed them because she was the only child they had. So, Mother came back and stayed with them for a while . t of course. I would say it carried the merchandise that most country stores had: feed for chickens and a pump that pumpe d with a handle . [Laughter] You pump ed the kerosene into the can of whatever they had bought and he also put it in his lamps so you have light lamps. Of course, he had the gas pumps. D: So, the gas station was at the country store?


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 9 O: Uh huh. gas. D: Okay. O: And he also would buy eggs and fowl and so forth from the people in the community to sell them Sometimes, people came around collecting them and sold them somewhere else because e verybody had some. D: How long did your mother stay, board with them? O: Just a year. She was there, but we were friends all our life. My poor father died while I was in college. A t errible cancer death. Then, after a bit Mr. Ed married this other woman, which we were all su D: Did the store close down or is it still . .? O: Yes. I think he gave it up after his wife died. He was only there until after W orld War II. He had a preacher whose wife was something in World War II. She was a rather large woman. Instead of stopping at the counter, which you would do and then you would ask for things, she'd go around the counter to look in his storage to see if he had the things she wanted, if he was hidi ng it from her, canned goods business then. The old post office was moved in there too som ewhere in there, and she was post mistress. I b elieve, though, she became post mistress af ter he died whether that's the reason in more recent years. But they were family friends for ever and ever. Daddy would have to drive him to Richmond to


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 10 alone. [Lau ghter] D: Were there any events held at the country store? O: Excuse me? D: Were there any events? O: Yeah. Every night the men of the community came out and sat out and dr a nk. For women, it would be called gossiping. For them, they were exchanging events and so forth And they had different backgrounds they were fishermen or farmers. D: So, w hat did the women usually do while the men were at the country store? O: Their wives, you mean? D: Yeah, their wives. O: Anything. Sewing would have to be done. How m y grandmother learned to patch something with a kerosene lamp. It gave her as much light as a dull flashlight now, what you can see They got a radio my grandparents got a radio, and Papa the country store at night because you had to wade through the men to get to the counter. I'm trying to think. Oh, h e had a brother who ha d a store, too. Had a wood stove it sat in the middle of the store, sitting on top of a box, a wood box, filled wi th s and or something like that, so the men would spit there and you'd hear "pop." It had a pipe from the roof. store and that type of thing. Sold candy o


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 11 something now f or a whole penny. I think they ought to do away with the penny. Honestly, it does no good. D: Do you remember any specific memories in the store? O: Not really. Nothing that would be of any interest to anyone. D: You can share anything. O: Well, I know I can We ll, we had a kind of divide group of people in the sense that there were a lot of Blacks who lived in there and e verybody knew each other pretty well. Mr. Ed was full of the Devil h e liked to teas e people and that kind of thing, and say crazy thin gs. D: So, were White and Black residents able to shop in the store together, or was it segregated? O: Oh, yeah. Coming and going. everything else, the people that bought it. Now every time we have an inch of We have an awful lot of trouble down here with into that? D: O: Huh? D: t O: In Florida. I thought the whole state was flooded. D: It was kind of flooded, but it was okay because it mostly hit the other coast. Not too bad. Any other stories you have?


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 12 O: Personalities, you know. Of course, all those men who came in, they all had very different personalities in the things they talked about. D: Um hm. Also, was the store open every day of the w eek? O: Well, n the store but he was his partner. Mr. Ed would run it Monday, Wednesday, D: O: Ye s George Callis I k new him very well, and he liked to do crossword puzzles. He'd grab the paper in the morning and he'd do the crossword puzzle D: Also, can you talk a little bit more about the post office in the store? O: It was across the road in this other store. When I knew it, it was used by a man and his son working with furniture. They were very good at not s o much building furniture as in restoring it and that sort of thing. That post office was over there almost as long as I can remember. Then, the other man, I think he got too old to do it. It was is wife kept it. Then, all these post offices were taken away. Everything was combined. No small post offices. D: Also, do you remember ever going to any other cou ntry stores or was it mainly that one? O: Oh, well, sure. It was similar. Some of them were smaller. One thing that Mr. Ed used to sell there was material to make dresses and so forth. Men would come in thing. I'm sure I must have gotten a dress from in there.


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 13 D: Who usually made your dresses for you? Your m om, grandma? O: Well, I think my mother made them all for the most part I had a couple snowshoes that I bought and sweaters and shoes, of course. So cks. I think she made all my dresses and that sort of thing. D: Also, in the store, did they sell fishing materials for the men? O: Well, fishing is certainly a big industry down here, but he was farther inland. I urse, there was a big store down there closer to the water that sold that sort of thing. D: O: I wish I did. D: No, you provided a lot of valuable information. Thank you so much. O: t I tell her so on and so forth." B ut I just But know of anything. I almost forgot the men coming over there was a big thing. They had stools sitting around. He had a porch. Some would sit there, sit on the I mentioned they sold chickens and stuff like that. He had a little coop. The huckster D: Very good. Yeah you p rovided a lot of good information Thank you so much. O: He served quite a good area, but nothing spectacular. Oh! [Laughter] nothing to do with this store. D:


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 14 O: He had a great garden and he had nice horses and cows and so forth. Not all at one tim e, just one at a time. So, t he last one that I remember was a Percheron, and Percheron horses are about was a Clydesdale I think it was a Percheron. He knew I loved horses and so forth and wanted a pony. So, h e comes riding up to our back door one Sunday for me to ride the horse. It had a saddle on it. Well, I could hardly get my legs across it, you know. As I tried to drive the horse off, he started off and wanted to go home. Thank the Lord at that time t he road was not tarred it was still dirt road, and threw me off. D: The horse threw you off? O: Yeah, a nd went on home. [Laughter] D: Oh, gosh. O: That's got nothing to do with the store. D: Good story. O: He was worried to death that I had broken someth ing. D: At least you got to ride it. O: That was not an example of what happened in the store. [Laughter] D: O: Well, thank you. D: Thank you so much. [ End of interview ]


TMP 1 57 ; Owens ; Page 15 Transcribed by: Mackenzie Goode April 26, 2018 Audit e dited by: Patrick Daglaris, May 18, 2018 Final edited by: Patrick Daglaris, May 18, 2018