Interview with Kenny Garrett, 2018 November 3

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Interview with Kenny Garrett, 2018 November 3
Garrett, Kenny ( Interviewee )
Alvarez, Henry ( Interviewer )
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Oral history interview


Subjects / Keywords:
Oral history
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United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua


In this interview, Kenny Garrett discusses his family's history in the county and his experiences growing up in the Bohannon area of Mathews County, Virginia. He talks about going to school, what he did for fun as a child, and his involvement in the Mathews Volunteer Fire Department. He also provides an extensive overview of the country stores in the county, especially focusing on Bohannon and Mobjack. He also shares his experience working at Newport News Shipbuilding and Best Value Supermarket.

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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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This item is licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution License. This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon this work, even commercially, as long as they credit the author for the original creation.
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TMP-140 ( 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 14 0 Interviewee: Kenny Garrett Interviewer: Henry Alvarez Date of Interview: November 3, 2017 A : Hello, my name is Henry Alvarez with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program Today is November 3, 2017 and I am interviewing Kenny Garrett over the phone at the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office. So, Kenny, we can start with where and when you were born? G: Okay. I was born in January the twenty six th, 1953. I was born in Riverside Hospital in Newport News, Virginia, at the old Riverside on 50 th Street. I've lived in Mathews County all my life. For the first fifty years, I lived in the Bohannon section of Mathews, which is on East River Road off of Route 14 as you come in to Mathews from Gloucester County. A: Okay. So, what were your parents' names and what did they d o for a living? G: Okay. My parents' names was Calvin and Lois Garrett. My fath er worked for the Southern States Corporation in the Gloucester office, and he died in 1984. A: Okay. And do you know where they were born or where they grew up? G: Yeah. My father originally grew up in Cobbs Creek, Virginia. He moved to Miles, which is ab out two miles up from Bohannon, when he was a teenager. And my mother was born and raised in Bohannon, Virginia, and she lived in the same house her entire life at Bohannon. A: Wow. Okay. I know you just mentioned it. Your father worked as what again? I'm sorry.


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 2 G: As an employee for Southern States Corporation in Gloucester. It's a farm and seed place that sold farm supplies and stuff of that nature for farmers. A: Okay. Do you remember anything about your grandparents, maybe their names and what they did? G: Yes. My mother's parents w as Charles and Mabel Hill. My granddaddy was born in Richmond, Virginia and his mother died at birth. He was a twin, and him and his brother were fostered out. He was fostered to a family that lived in Bohannon, Virginia T he name was Minter. My grandmother was born and raised in Bohannon, next door to the house that my mother was raised in, and she was originally a Bassett. She lived in Mathews her entire life. Probably the farthest place she ever went away from home, from Mat hews, was probably Richmond, Virginia. A: Wow, that's incredible. So, you said you grew up your whole life in Mathews, right? G: Right. Right now I live in Mathews close to the little Courthouse of Mathews County. A: So, when you were growing up, what was it like growing up in the community? G: I started school when I was six years old, and a school bus would pick me up and take me into Mathews, to Lee Jackson School, which is about ten miles away. I stayed in that school, that was elementary school, from g rades one through seven, and then I went to Mathews High School from grades eight through twelve. When I graduated from high school I went to


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 3 Newport News Shipbuilding and worked for thirteen years. And then, I got a job here in Mathews at a grocery store where I still work today. It's Best Value Supermarket, and I work as a stocker. A: Okay. That's amazing. G: And, as far as my growing up, one of the things that was pretty neat that I did on Saturday afternoons, I'd go out and pick up Coca Cola or Pepsi Co la bottles. I would clean em, take m to the store, and get two cents apiece for em. And then, somebody in the neighborhood would take a group of kids and we'd go up to Mathews up to the Hudgins area of Mathews to Donk s Thea ter and we'd watch the d ouble feature on Saturday nights. We'd do that basically every Saturday night. A: Wow. That's amazing. G: Yeah. A: So, how often would features be shown in Mathews like that? G: Well, when I was a child and grew up until it closed in the middle [19]70s, th ey would have a movie on Friday night, a double feature on Saturday, a movie on Sunday night, and a movie on Monday night. There w as four nights in a row they would have a movie, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, with Saturday night being a double feat ure. A: Wow, that's awesome. G: Yeah a nd that movie theater then became the Li Ol e Opry of Virginia. A family ran it as a country music place, and that did that until the year before last. In January, we had a snowstorm come through and the


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 4 building col lapsed. So, they're now trying to get money to rebuild that and they hold their shows every other Saturday night in the high school, in the auditorium in the high school. Hopefully, in a few years they'll have enough money to rebuild Donk's Theater But th at's gonna be a few years off. A: So, besides selling the bottles and going to the movies, wa s there anything else that you can remember that you did for fun as a child? G: Well, one of the big things that I did and I still do today was my daddy was a station chief of the Mathews Volunteer Fire Department Station Number Two. When there was a fire, when I was a child, I'd go out and blow the big siren and tell the firemen where the fire was and we're write it on a board. As I got older, from the seventh grade until this day, I would ride on the firetruck to the fires. And then, when I graduated from high school in 1972, I joined the fire department I've been a member ever since. So, I've been a firemen now for forty five years. That's something that lot of the people in Mathews take pride in being able to do, is to join the fire department or the rescue squad. It's all volunteer here in Mathews. We've got five stations. We've got a main station in Mathews and then four outl ying stations. It's a very inter esting thing to do. You go through the same training that anybody else would and it's something that I've really enjoyed in helping other people. And, the other thing that's real big in my church we've got a lot of churches in Mathews County, and a lot of Methodist churches. Just about anywhere there's a Methodist church in


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 5 Mathews, about a half a mile away from one church is another one. Our minsters usually, when they come to Mathews, have two churches that they're ministers of. Then, of course, we hav e a lot of Baptist churches and we have a lot of other denominational churches. But, at one time, there w as more Methodist churches in Mathews than any other kind. I joined the church when I was ten years old and have been a member ever since. A: Wow, that 's amazing. G: Yeah. A: So, as a child, were there any special holidays that you remember or special meals that you would have on those holidays? G: Yeah, our family my daddy, like I said, he was born at Cobbs Creek and then moved to Miles, which was abo ut two and a half miles away from where my mother lived. And they met and they went to school together, and he went in the army, came back, and they got married in 1948, I believe it was. His family would have dine ins, as would my family. Like, at Christm as, you would start the first Sunday in December and you'd go to one aunt's house and then the second Sunday another aunt's house. By the time Christmas came, you probably put on ten or fifteen pounds. [Laughter] It was very neat growing up in Mathews in t hose days. I mean, I really feel like the [19]50s, [19]60s, and [19]70s was something that was really neat to grow up in. When I was five years old, they found out that I had a hole in my heart and went to MCV in Richmond and a doctor by the


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 6 name of Lewis Boucher [ inaudible 8:25] performed the surgery and he sewed the hole up in my heart. I was the first one in the Medical College of Virginia to live through that operation. I've gotten along fine with that until the last couple of years I've had some issues In fact, I just had a pacemaker put in three weeks ago. That's how come I'm off work now. The Lord has blessed me and modern medicine has blessed me, too. Anyway, t he other thing that, you know, our grandparents . in fact, when I was a small child, i t was my great grandmother, my grandmother, my granddaddy, and my mother and daddy and my brother all lived in the same house. That was kind of like a mini Waltons growing up, if you bear with me there. And then, ten years after I was born, my mother and d addy had their third child. And then, a year and a half after that, they finally got what they wanted a girl, and that was the end of their children bearing years. There was four of us that grew up in that house in Bohannon. A: And what were your siblings names? G: Okay. My oldest brother's name was Dale, and he was a very good athlete. I loved sports but he was the athlete in the family. He scored a goal up in Vero n a [inaudible 9:47] Vir ginia one night and beat West Poin t 51 to 49 A s the buzzer went off the ball went through the net and we beat em 51 to 49. All of my friends was coming up, patting me on the back, like I was the one that made the shot. All I did was just watch. So, I kinda had advantages of having a good athlete as an older brother. But I never was the athlete. He was and everybody expected me to be. So, I never made


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 7 teams because I never really got a good chance because I wasn't Dale. My younger brother's name was Steve and he lives here in Mathews. And my sister lives up in Gloucester, which is about probably twelve miles away from where I live. So, all four of us still live around here in the area. My brother died about five years ago. A: I'm sorry to hear that. G: Yeah. He worked in the shipyard and had asbestos is and then he got lung cancer. Once he found out about that he lasted less than a year. Anyway, h is two children still come to see me and we go to see them from time to time. A: Yeah. So, I want to cause you spoke about being a volunteer firefighter maybe if you have some s tories or people you remember from there. G: Well, yeah. I can remember one of the first fires that I ever ran out and blew the big siren for. We went down to the place and I was about eight, nine, or ten years old. I got to go in the house and take some f urniture out. So, I thought I was doing a whole lot. But they had the fire knocked down at that time. Another interesting fire we had was one night all the men were away, they were at a church meeting. My mother and daddy and everybody was at a church meet ing. My uncle lived about a half a mile away from us, and his son had his motorcycle in his daddy's garage. And something happened and it caught on fire. And he come down to get one of the other firemen, and when the siren blew, I ran out to see where the fire was. So, I came back and told my grandmother. I said, "We've got to


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 8 go to the fire." "Well, you're not going to no fire, son. You sit down in that cage ." [ Inaudible 11:57] I said, "Nanny, it's Lorraine's house," which is her other daughter's house. Sh e goes, "Get in the car boy," and I think that's the fastest I ever went to a fire was with my grandmother driving. So, I thought that was pretty neat. A: That's awesome. G: Yeah. You know, my wife and I were just talking about it a minute ago, that some of the tragic accidents that I've been to where you get there and you know somebody's dead. We had one the first day of this year where we had one person dead and another person we had to cut out of the car and then fly her away to the hospital. My little grandson is twelve now and he was here for Christmas Eve. He got to go with me. And I parked far enough away where he couldn't see any gory stuff. But he could see the helicopter and saw me cutting the woman out of the car. He just . you know, he loves coming and going to fires with me now, too. That's the big thing about a volunteer fire department anywhere : it's a tradition. My daddy, two of his brothers were firemen. Two of my brothers were firemen. And we've got firemen in the department now that th eir daddy was a firem a n, they're firemen, and their son is a firem a kind of hand it down from one child to the other. We had one man that had been in the fire department for fifty years. And his son was in the fire department an d his son's wife is in the L adies A uxiliary. So, it's a tradition thing.


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 9 A: Yeah. That's incredible, just that history behind it is unbelievable. G: It really is, it really is. I would like to get a book or something up about the history. West Point, I wen t over there back in August. Me and my grandson went to an association meeting and I bought a book for twenty dollars on the history of their fire department, and they've done a real good job doing that. The worst thing about it is in 1975, I had been in t he fire department two or three years then. They had a one day convention, and there's only four members of the Mathews Fire Department that is still in there from 1975. You know, you can go on pas t service after twenty years. But a lot of us stay in. Like I said, we've got one man that was in it sixty and he passed away last October. We've got another man coming up on his fiftieth anniversary, and we've got several that's been in fifty years. I'm gonna try to stay in five more years so I can get my fifty y ear pin, you know. Yeah. A: Oh, no, c ontinue, sorry. G: Yeah. Well, going to the county stores, I'll start at Mobjack and just . Mobjack, if you're coming into Mathews on Route 14, you can turn at either North, which is Route 617, that road goes down i n circles and comes back out on 66 0 and goes to Foster. So, you've got a five mile radius. And I'll just give you an example of how many stores that was. At North, which is North Post Office, and the post office was in the great big old two and a half stor y house big old store. And Gerald Jones' daddy and he run that store. In 1961, they tore that down and b uilt a more


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 10 modern self service type building. It had a grocery store, and the son and the daddy cut the meats daily there. They had the post office and then they had a little place where Texaco was the gas distributor they had. It was a little shop where you could . it wasn't a garage but it was a little shop that carried oil and things. You had somebody to pump your gas, and when he wasn't pump ing g as he would be inside bagging groceries. And, when I graduated from high school in 1972, that was the first job I had from June until February of the next year when I went into the shipyard. In Mathews, everybody knows everybody. And one of the good t hings about Mathews, that I think, is the Blacks and the Whites get along better probably here than they do anywhere I kno w When we totally integrated in 1970, we didn't . it was probably one of the smooth est trans itions of anyplace I know. I just wen t to my forty fifth class reunion last Saturday night, the thing that I enjoy so much is the Blacks and Whites get along so good here. It was a very smooth trans ition here, more so than anywhere else that I know. Even in Gloucester, the next county over, i t wasn't as smooth because it was a lot of prejudice over there in different parts of the county. But that's one of the things I'm proud of Now, if you're at North and go down 617, the North Store Market, now as it's called, was one of the original countr y stores in Mathews. Like I said, they tore it down and made it modern in 1962. If you're heading on down and you stay on 6 17 and you get to Mobjack, which is at the waterfront. If you're coming up by boat you can see Mobjack. And back in the day,


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 11 when I w as a small child, I can remember we'd go down there sometimes on a morning and get fish as they came in, or we'd go fishing ourselves and get em and have em. But they had two long docks that went out. One of the docks met an oil tanker that supplied the oil for the storage area. And there was a guy by the name of George Phil pott s he kind of more or less built Mobjack and he built a lot of the little small service stations in Mathews. And he was a distributor . one of the first oil distributors in Mat hews County. He and a guy by the name of J.C. Brown out of Gloucester County down in Ware Neck, they called em the Old Men of Oil. There was a general store down in Mobjack that Mr. Walker owned. There was also a great big old three story post office that was right on the county line. The guy I told you abou t yesterday Ralph Anderton, his granddaddy was the first postmaster there. And then his mother was a postmaster, she was postmaster at Bohannon. And he ended up being postmaster at Bohannon. But the Bo hannon and Mobjack connection there is between the Andertons because his granddaddy was the first postmaster at Mobjack. And, if you leave there and come up about an eighth of a mile, there's a fork in the road that takes you . one road takes you down to the end of Whites Neck, and there was no stores down there that I can remember. But a man down there used to be a fisherman, his name was Robert James. He would bring fish and stuff in there and crabs and he worked on the water all his life until just a bout he died. At the fork of this road was a little store called the Community Store, and that


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 12 was a place that the last man that I remember running that was a guy by the name of Mr. Loving. Him and his wife ran that store. If you come up about another e ighth of a mile there's another fork in the road and the church I belong to is in the fork of that road between 660 and 618. From that church, in walking distance, was a store run by Eugene White. It was kind of like a general store but it was also kind of like a little beer joint. A lot of the children w asn 't allowed to go in there. I talked to a girl . the girl that you talked to, Danette, she was telling me just yesterday that her daddy would never let her go in that store. She never got to go in the re. And her uncle actually run it. It was her uncle . I mean, her husband's mo ther's sister ran that store. So, he was an uncle in law is what he was. His name was Eugene White and he ran it until he got too old to run it, and he sold it to another man He even mortgaged the house and the store for the man to run and the man couldn't get his beer license. So, that was the key to that store, was selling the beer and stuff. So, the store folded up from that man. Then, if you come up about another eighth of a mile, that's the Bohannon area. There w as three stores in Bohannon. On the left was the fire station and then across the field was Jack and Earline Clements. They ran one of the stores across th e road for a while then sold it. But he had his store that he ran groceries and sold appliances and things like that. And he was also a fix it man. He had a place where he worked on cars and he . the old saying was that, "If Jack Clements couldn't fix it, it was just broke." He was


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 13 also the first station chief of our fire station. He got a 1945 Ford given to us that we made a firetruck out of when we formed our station back in 1951. He would fix things. Now, you're talking about one of the accidents I w ent to. Right in front of my same aunt that her garage caught on fire that night. We were coming home from a Sunday school picnic and there was an accident. And that man was coming home, he had stopped at one of the other stores up the road and got his wif e some ice cream. And some guys were trying to chase women down and run head on into him and broke his hip. Yeah. And my daddy had to take his station wagon and fold the seat down because there were only two ambulances in the county then. It was five of e m that got hurt. So, they took two in each ambulance and one in my daddy's car and had to go all the way to Riverside in Newport News, which is about fifty miles from here, to get everybody to the hospital. So, Jack was like the mayor of Bohannon, or the m an everybody went to to get something fixed. Right across the road from him was the store that him and his wife used to run, and they sold it to a man named Roland Anderton somewhere in the [19]50s. And Roland had two children and he raised his family off of running that store. The store next door to him was where my uncle kept and it was an official old country store. Now, prior to it being a country store, it was about a tenth of a mile up the road at a place called Mill Lane. And that store sa t [inaudibl e 22:26] it was a school. And I know it was there until 1913 because just below that the county built what they call the Peninsula School. There were five of


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 14 those schools in Mathews. There was one in Bohannon, one on Gwynn's Island, one at Cobbs Creek, an d one at New Point. And all those schools had been torn down now except for this one, and they're redoing it. And the community . it's turned over to the community league. Now, that was a school form 1913 until 1946, when they moved all the students to Lee Jackson. And the Odd Fellows Lodge inherited that building and they used it until the 1990s when the civic league purchased it from the Odd Fellows League. And now, they're at different stages of fixing it up. The sad thing is they're fixing it up mod ernly and didn't fix it up the way it was. But I remember going to Bible school there. Our three churches in the neighborhood would have Bible school and we would have it there. And I remember going to Easter egg hunts there. And one of the funny stories a bout me and my Easter egg hunt was I didn't pay attention to what side of the building we were supposed to go on, and I found a whole bag of eggs real quick. But the funny thing was that was for the smaller children. So, I dropped the eggs and went around to the other side and all the eggs had been found and I didn't get any. And one of those kids got all my eggs and won a prize. [Laughter] So, anyway, when I say that this store was an old country store, that's exactly what it was. They moved that store ab out a tenth of a mile down the road by ox a man had an ox in the neighborhood and they hooked it up on skids or rollers and rolled it down the store and moved it to where it was. Mr. Charlie Raines, who was my great grandmother's brother, ran that stor e. It was one of the few


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 15 places in Bohannon, in the early days, that had a phone. I can remember going out there and you'd go in there and he'd have a counter. And you'd ask him, "I need a half a pound of sugar," and he would get it out of a bag and give i t to you, or the old cart on [inaudible 24:40] of molasses was in a pump, and you cranked the pump and got your jar of molasses. And everything was in boxes, nothing was on shelves. He knew where everything was and he'd go to the box and get out what you wa nted. Like, if you wanted a can of green beans he'd go to the box with the green beans and get your beans for you, and candy bars and things like that. One of the funny stories about my mother, she went up there with her mother one day to get something n ow, this is her uncle, her great uncle. She stole a candy bar. And she took a bite out of it, she looked at it, and there was a worm in it. But she was getting ready to throw it away when my grandmother caught her. "What are you doing with that candy bar? You didn't pay for that." She looked at it and she made her eat the whole candy bar. [Laughter] She ate it all. In 1961 or [19]62, my mother's sister, Lorraine, and her husband Rob Roy, who worked in the shipyard, bought it. And he was going to fix it up a s a self serv e store. He took everything out, even took the chimney out and put another chimney on the back to have heat in there. My daddy and him would work at night and get the store. And they finally got it opened and it lasted about ten years. But see at this time, it was about this time in Mathews County that a lot of the country stores were closing down because we had gotten an A&P store in


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 16 Mathews, and they had enlarged it so people could go to the one store and get everything they wanted at one pl ace. Because a lot of these country stores in Mathews would . like, for example, my uncle at that time, you could buy paint at the shipyard. He would come home and sell shipyard paint to people. Then, he went down to a store at New Point, which is I. P. Hudgins', he was big on selling wire and fishing nets and stuff like that. And he would bring all the wire and stuff back up here and have a little place on the side. In fact, he added on to the store, he was going to make that a barbershop. But he neve r quite got the store going good enough to where he could retire at the shipyard and run his store and cut people's hair. So, that part of it became the place where you'd sell chicken wire, because a lot of people had chickens in those days, and fence wire and stuff like that. But somewhere around 1972 or [19]73 that store closed, and the other one stayed open. The man, Roland Anderton, died somewhere in that neighborhood. In fact, he died in 1967 and his wife just died last January, and I went to her funer al and was one of her pallbearers. He used to run the store and he'd also drive the school bus. And I used to go up to the store in the afternoon, when they let the children off at Bohannon, and get on the bus and ride around the neighborhood and come back and "help him park the school bus every day." So, it was a 1946 Chevrolet. And a big thing happened in 1958, we got a brand new school bus. So, that was my school bus when I started school. He had to stop that because his father in law was one of the boar d


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 17 of supervisor's member, and he died and they appointed him to be on the schoolboard, and he couldn't drive the school bus anymore because it would be a conflict of interest. So, the guy up at North, that his mama and daddy run the store, and he helped bu ild the new s tore he drove my school bus the first year I was in school, Gerald Jones. And then, a little lady down in Tick Neck, which is an area in this five mile radius, she drove it And her mother, she was a Sadler, she had a little country store in Tick Neck, which is up the road about seven miles from Bohannon. Now, if you leave Bohannon and head ing out towards North and Foster, there was a little store at a place called Big Store [inaudible 28:31], which was up just on the other side of Miles. And my daddy's brother's wife's mother and daddy ran that store, Ellis [inaudible 28:41] White and they had a little small country store. At Miles, there was a bigger store that sold hardwa r e and feed and fertilizer and that kind of stuff, run by Carol [inaud ible 28:53] Miles' daddy. And my daddy, when he was twelve years old, worked for him and drove a truck around the neighborhood and delivered feed. And then, there was a little country store right beside that and that was called Miles Post Office, and the p ost office was in the store like most of the post offices were in those days. Then, if you leave there there was another J.C. Wormley's, that was run by a Black couple. They had a country store too with boxes and they was sitting around [inaudible 29:21] Then, there was one more little store at Cardinal. In fact, Cardinal Post Office was a three story building. The man and his wife lived in the top story and


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 18 the postmaster run the store and run the thing there. In fact, there was another little store tha t was built right across from that after they tore that down and moved the post office, by a guy by the name of John Blake Grant. And that lasted about five or six years. And then, if you turn right and head for Foster's down at Tick Neck there was the Sad ler's s tore, and then Foster Post Office, right on Route 14, had a store that was a little country store and a man and his wife lived behind the store. And inside the store, you go through some curtains, and that was their living quarters. And they raised three children in that little store there. So, that's just a five mile section of Mathews. That's how many stores it was. And it's like that all over there. There was a store at a place called Moon. Which, when the astronauts went to the moon in 1969, a wo man by the name of Shirley Snow ran the post office and the store, and they sold more postmarks within the week of people landing on the moon because everybody wanted to get mail postmarked from Moon, Virginia hey had gone to the moon. So, whether you believe they ever went to the moon or not, I don't know. But a lot of people did because they got their postmark there. There was Diggs Post Office, down from Moon there was Diggs, and then there was Beaverlett and then Onemo. Onemo had a post office. If you go down 14 towards New Point, there was two stores at Port Haywood. There was a big store down at New Point Post Office, which had the post office run by I.P. Hudgins, and his daddy run it before he did and then he did. And after he died, t hey tried to run it but it closed after


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 19 that. His son he raised his son and sent him through school and his son became a doctor in Mathews. So, these little country stores it was in every little hole and corner in Mathews County. Each made enough to sup ply their family. They wasn't trying to get rich but they made enough to supply their family, and their families ate. It was a very unique experience. A: So, was your uncle's store, was that his own store or was that what you were talking about with your d ad running the store? G: No, my dad just helped him modernize it. My dad actually worked in Mathews for a Southern States outlet and he got transferred to Gloucester in 1967. But I used to go with my daddy on Mondays, cause he would deliver feed to all pa rts of Mathews. And on Monday he would come back and he'd eat lunch with Mama and I would ride with him in the truck and watch him deliver feed and then he'd eat lunch and I'd stay home the rest of the day. But he would deliver to one part of the county on Monday, another part Tuesday. Friday, he would take the biggest what they ha ve [inaudible 32:25] and he would go to Richmond or West Point or Portsmouth or Suffolk and get stuff and bring it back. And it's funny because there was a Black guy that worked w ith him named Frank White. And I graduated with his son from school and didn't know that was his daddy that worked with my daddy. His daddy left about the time I started school in 1959 and went to the shipyard and worked. And not until I started working da ys in the store that I'm working at, that man came and said, "Are you Calvin Garrett's son?" I said, "Yes." "Well, I used to work


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 20 with him. I'm Frank White." "Oh, yeah, I remember you." That was a really neat thing In fact, t he store that he worked at in Mathews is now Sutton and Kline, and my basketball and baseball and football coach in high school bought that store and run it, him and his wife and his son did. So, a lot of things get handed down, some things keep going. One of the big things that hurt t he store that I work in, we were the big store on the block. And they tore the little A&P down and made a Food Lion. And the Food Lion does a whole lot more business than we do. But we just had a new owner come in and he's bringing a lot of stuff in like g arden supplies, and his wife does a little outside floral shop. There goes my rescue tones passed down. And this man's gonna try to build the store up and he's bringing a lot of appli ances and things in to help the business, and the business has increased since he bought it. Mathews, b asically, everybody knows you That's one of the hard things about being a firemen in Mathews is because somebody's house catch on fire, you know em, yo u know their mama and daddy, or somebody gets killed in an accident. You usually know em. And one of the saddest things, one of the saddest fire calls I ever went to was one morning a boy just went in the ditch and he didn't have his seat belt on and his door came open and then when the car hit the ditch it mashed his head in the door and he got killed, and that was one of our firemen's sons. You had fifteen firemen standing around crying that morning because we all grew up with this boy. So, it's hard. An yway,


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 21 now, as far as a lot of the country stores, if you call I did talk to Ralph last night and told him you might call him. I did give you his number? A: Yeah, and I gave it to my coordinator so he's definitely gonna try to get in contact with him. G: Okay, good. Yeah, I talked to him last night, he was very interested in helping you all. Anyway, any more questions you have? Did I answer your questions? A: Yeah. I mean, I think we covered most of it. But I did want to get a little bit because I know h ow important shipbuilding is in that area I wanted to see if you had some experiences working at the Newport News . G: Okay, right. I started working there in February of 1973. Everybody talked about how cold it was in the shipyard. So, I wore long underwear and a long sleeve shirt and a t shirt and sweatshirt and coat. And they put me in a real warm area of the ship. So, I said, "Well, shoot. This is a piece of cake." I figured that's where I'd be working every day. But, the next day, they put us up in the ballast tanks. They were building the ballast tanks I was in the pipe department and we were running the pipes that would blow the air in the tanks to take the submarine down. And then, of course, when they come up, they let the air our and it helps the ship rise. Well, it snowed that day, and I didn't have nothing but a long sleeve shirt and a coat, and I like to froze to death. [Laughter] So, that was one of the things I learned. And I was in the pipe department from [19]73 until [19]77. And t hen, I got into the welding department and I was the coordinator of getting


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 22 the equipment hooked up for the welding department on a unit. The big thing about the shipyard is they had this great big shop, it was called a steel production facility. And that' s where they started the units. They built the unit about the size of a room of a house, and they would build it and get everything in it. And then, they would add another unit to it and then they would put it on these big transporters and take it out to t he plat en [inaudible 36:54] And they would put more two units together and then they would ship it over to the buffer zones, kind of like an assembly line. They had this great big crane that would lift nine hundred tons and that crane would come over and pick up these units and set em in place in the ship and they would set em up close enough. Then, they would weld em together. It was like a big jigsaw puzzle. One of the things that I learned about the shipyard that really blew my mind . when they launched the John F. Kennedy I was working for a woman just down the road, and I was raking leaves and things. It was in the fall. And she, "Come on inside and eat some lunch, they're getting ready to launch the ship." So, they had all these people there and the ship went in the water. I thought they would turn it over to the navy at that point. At my age, I didn't know any better. So, when I went to the shipyard, I went there in February, and they had this big sign up: April the seventeenth, launching of the L. Mendel Rivers And I said, "How can they launch it ? T here's nothing here but what it i s When you launch the ship, you get it seaworthy. You get it so you get everything in there that you can, you weld everything up, and they test to


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 23 see if the shi p will hold water. And they take it to a pier and then that's when they put everything in there like they met the galley, put all that in. They put all the parts to the engine in. It was something that really did blow my mind. When a ship is launched, espe cially an aircraft carrier, after they launch it it's another sometimes two to four years before it's turned over to the navy. So, that really blew my mind. I worked on this ULCC ships, which is Ultra Large Crude Oil Carrier. And an aircraft carrier is 1 ,092 feet long. These were 1,187 feet long. An aircraft carrier comes up from the bottom and the flight deck makes it look real wide. These ships were just as wide as that great big dry dock they had in the North Yard. When I went to the shipyard the Nort h Yard wasn't there. The shipyard started at 50 th Street and went to 32 nd street. They docked everything off, diked it off, and stuck the water out and filled it all in with land. And they made from 50 th Street to 74 th Street was the North Y ard, and that's where they built these great big ships. Because the biggest dry dock they had in the shipyard at that time would just fit an aircraft carrier. These dry docks were actually big enough to fit these Ultra Large Crude Oil Carriers. Plus, they diked it off an d could start a second ship in there. Now, they're doing that with the aircraft carriers. They're actually building two aircraft carriers at a time by diking it off and flooding one end of the dock and then flooding the other end and flipping that part bac k and then they start another ship. So, it's a very interesting thing and I enjoyed the time in the shipyard. But I was offered this job in Mathews to work at this grocery store, which was


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 24 ten miles from home compared to the fifty nine miles. I worked nigh ts o f the first ten years I worked there. Now, where I live, it's a three minute drive to work compare to an hour and a half, and that's just if the traffic was good. I'd leave home at five o'clock and, if everything went well, we'd get back home at 5:30 t hat night. But when it s nows sometimes it'd be as much as seven o'clock before we get home. So, it was interesting. I met a lot of good people. In fact, a lot of people from Mathews when I started in the shipyard there were seven Newton buses taking peop le to the shipyard from Mathews, Gloucester, and Middlesex. And now there's only one, because most people drive. If I had had to dr o ve to the shipyard every day I'd have gotten a job a lot earlier somewhere else. [Laughter] Because I would've fell asleep a nd killed somebody, believe me. [Laughter] It was interesting working there. It's a city within a city in that shipyard. A: Yeah, I can imagine. So, I guess the last thing I want to ask is how you met your wife and when and where you were married? G: Okay. That's a good question, that's a real good question. How I met my wife, I met her through her son in law. He and I worked he started working shortly after I did at the store. We went to a store party one night and his wife came in and she kinda took not ice to me and liked me and she introduced me to her mother. We had our first date in January 17, 1995. Then, we dated and then we made a comment one night, she made a comment to me, "You know, there might be some other people I wanna


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 25 date." I said, "Yeah, me too." So, we kinda left it like that. When I got home the red light on my answering machine was blinking. She said, "Give me a call." She says, "I decided I don't want to date anybody else." [Laughter] So, in June the first, 1996 we got married. She had two children. Her oldest daughter has two children, Shannon and Savannah. Her youngest daughter has three children, Aaron, Ethan, and Lydia. When Aaron comes they used to live right next door to us. One of the oddest things I ever had to do was when the y moved. But he comes up and he spent like two and a half weeks this summer up here. And whenever there's a fire, he gets in my truck and turns my red light on and we go to fires together. I take him to parades and things like that neat. I was around two brothers and then we had a sister, and then we worried her to death. How she stayed home with us, I don't know. I always wanted my sister to have boys and my brother to have boys. But when my grandchildren come along, the first two were g irls, and I found out they were just as much fun and maybe more fun than little boys. I've had a good time with all my grand kids A: That's wonderful. That's amazing. So, yeah, I think we've covered everything I needed to get. G: Okay. A: I want to thank y ou as well for being able to do this. G: Oh, that was no problem. Yeah, I enjoyed it. A: I learned a lot myself.


TMP 140; Garrett ; Page 26 G: If you're ever in Mathews, look me up. A: All right. Well, we were in Mathews just recently for the trip. I think we're going to be going ba ck next year. So, we'll definitely get in touch. G: Were y'all the ones that came up here to the churches and did interviews? A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. G: Yeah. I had just had my pacemaker put in and I was gonna go. It ended up Danette didn't go because she had to do a crown on her tooth. And believe me, if you ever had a crown on a tooth, that will wear you out. A: Well, I think we should be there next year. So, if we are I'm definitely going to get in touch with you and maybe we can do another interview. G: Ye ah, come by Best Value and look me up. I should be working. I'll be working. I got one more week and then I go back to work. But it was nice talking with you and good luck to you. A: Absolutely. You, too. Thank you very much. Have a great day. G: Yes, sir. Take care. A: Bye. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Patrick Daglaris, March 13, 2018 Audit edited by: Jessica Taylor, May 18, 2018 Final edited by: Patrick Daglaris, May 18, 2018