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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Mr. James Bruce Swett (S)
Bruce's American Station, Pembroke, North Carolina
Interviewer:. MarilyniTaylor (I)
August 12, 1973
Typed by: P. F. Williams
1: My name is Marilyn Taylor. I am recording for the Doris
Duke Foundation under the auspices of the University of
Florida. Today is August 12, 1973. I am in mid-town Pem-
broke at a service station that's named Bruce's American
Station. And I've got a person here to interview, well,
it's no less than Bruce himself, but we'll let him tell
his full name, and would you spell that, pleasefor the
benefit of our readers and listeners? What's your full
S: James Bruce Swett.
I: How many brothers do you have? I think you have some in
this area, do you not?
S: Uh, I have four.
I: You have four brothers. Sisters?
I: One. What capacities do they serve here?
S: Well, I only have one that's living at home. He's assistant
to Dr. Johns at Pembroke State University.
LUM 149A 2
I: And his name would be?
S: Tommy Dorsey Swett.
I: Uh, he's one we hope to get an interview with if someone
hasn't already pegged him. And what was your father's
S: Reverend Tommy Swett.
I: What religion or denomination was he?
I: Baptist. Missionary or Free Will or what?
S: Missionary Baptist.
I: Missionary Baptist. Is it true that preachers' kids are
the worst kind?
S: I don't think so.
I: You think your dad did a pretty good job of bringing you
S: Very good.
I: And what was your mother's name, or her maiden name?
S: Bertha Swett.
I: Was her maiden name...?
LUM 149A 3
I: Strickland. Is that spelled s-t-r-i-c-k-l-a-n-d?
I: I know there are two ways to spell it. Bruce, are you
I: And who did you marry?
S: Peggy McGurk Swett.
I: Is she a local girl? Is she from this area?
S: Maxton area.
I: Did I ask you...I told you this was a study of American
Indian Oral Studies Program. What group of Indians'would
you identify...would you identify as a Lumbee?
S: I don't know what I am.
I: Robeson County Indians, American Indian, certainly.
S: Well, I guess we've been identified as Lumbee Indians.
I: I mean, well, how do you feel about that name? There's
some people that's...
S: Well, I'm not against it and I'm not all that much for it.
I: To you it's not that much to get up in arms about either
S: No, I just have to be myself.
LUM 149A 4
I: Very good. How many children do you have?
I: Could you...names are interesting. Could you give us a
rundown on their names?
S: Jacqueline, La Breesa,NMeecha and Bruce, Jr.
I: They are interesting names. Where did you...did you just
pick them up or are they family names or did you just like
them or what?
S: We made two of them ourselves, and...
I: Made them up?
I: Which two did you make up?
S: La Breesa and La Meecha.
I: Did you take a combination of.maybe two names or something
like this, or how did you...?
S: We just...I arrived at the first one, then we went similar
with the second one.
I: I see. Well, certainly I think they're names that you
won't hear repeats unless they name...you know, get grown,
have children of their own. What's the oldest and the
youngest? Oldest child.
LUM 149A 5
S: It's a girl.
I: CAnd what's her age?
I: Nine. And the youngest?
I: And how old is he?
S: He's just eight months.
I: Eight months. So you have how many in school?
I: Two. Does your wife work anywhere outside of...
I: She's got a full-time job at home, I know. But sometimes
the women are able to manage. Does she stay at home and
keep the family going?
I: That's a full-time job. How did you get in the service
station business? What would you call it?
S: Service station business.
I: How long have you been...you're the owner, the operator
and so on?
S: Right. I've been in the service station business about
two and a half years.
LUM 149A 6
I: And what prompted or led you into this?
S: Well, I was in the mechanic business and I just had the
opportunity to buy this out, and I decided I'd buy it.
The location is good.
1: I think now particularly in this time right we're in even
today that gas...you operate under the franchise of American,
I: American, it's a chain, right?
I: Throughout...all through the United States or is it...?
S: Well, it's American Oil dealer, just have a jobber in this
I: But the chain is throughout the United States is what I'm
asking. Is it?
I: Well, gas is something that's on everybody's mind. We're
in an energy crisis they tell us and things like that.
Have you experienced anything of this, having to go maybe
some days without having your pumps, you know...
S: Yes, I've experienced it.
I: Is this the first time you've ever felt this since you've
LUM 149A 7
been in the business?
I: Does it seem to be a threat, or how do you feel about
it? Give us some comments on what you think brought it
all about and where is it going from here?
S: I don't have any idea. I don't know.
I: What do the jobbers...are those higher-up, do they...have
they given any expression?
S: Well, they haven't gave us any reason other than just
shortage of gas.
I: Do you think this is all the way the true picture is ,
There's a shortage of gas or is it a big shortage because
they're holding back, or what? I've heard some...
S: I expect there's holding back. I don't know for sure,
I: If this is true, let's assume that it is, that they're
holding back. What reason could;-it...in your estimation
would it be to advantage or what?
S: I guess trying to get the prices in line because they've
been undersold by people that they sell gas to.
LUM 149A 8
S: I guess that's part of it.
I: Have you ever experienced a gas war as such here in
Pembroke since you've been here?
S: Yeah. Sure.
I: What's the lowest you've seen it go per gallon on regular,
S: Oh, about twenty-five cents or something like that.
I: Row long did this last?
S: It might would last a week or so.
I: And how does this affect profits and so on as...?
S: It don't affect me any.
1: It doesn't affect you any? Would you explain this? Most
people would think it would.
S: The companies support it. The oil companies support you.
I: Well, explain how this is. You're in partnership in a
sense, in one way, and then you're also...it's a...
S: No, I'm full owner.
I: Owner, but you do operate under a franchise name?
S: Well, I just buy gas from American Company. That's the
I: In other words, you can't buy from anybody else since
LUM 149A 9
you carry this name, right?
I: But as far as the station and the grounds and the equip-
ment, they're all...
S: Well, I rent the building, but the equipment and stock's
I: I see. What business were you in before you went into
the service station business?
S: Well, I had a garage.
I: And was this sort of a self-run thing, or mechanic or
S: No, it's a hobby, just something. It's not what I went
to school for.
I: Well, could I ask you...would it be too personal to ask
you did, what you were interested in when you were going
I: Machinist. Well, it sort of goes along, mechanically
inclined, anyway, a little bit, doesn't it?
S: Yeah, yeah.
I: You said you just be yourself. We're in a thing that...
LUM 149A 10
...a movement...some people believe a red movement.
We've seen a black movement. Maybe it still is, I'm not
sure. It depends on what part of the country you're in,
I guess, maybe. How do you feel, have you seen any major
changes here as an Indian towards the Indians? The attitude
towards the Indians for better, for worsein your lifetime?
S: Well, there's been some changes, yeah.
I: Could you sharefhese with us?
S: Well, I'd rather not make comments. I'll just say it's
been for the better, I think.
I: It's been for the better. Well, if there is discrimination,
this is one of the things we want to bring out in the open
if the person has felt, because part of what the program
is about is to get your story down.
S: Well, I think that people are just beginning to want to
stand up for their own, where we have capabilities for
I: In other words, you think the Indians all along have had
the ability, they just now are beginning to stand up and
and to show people.
LUM 149A 11
I: So to speak. And would you say that they're late in
doing this, maybe, or could they have been qualified
to have done it before now?
S: I think so.
I: What's held them back?
S: Well, I don't really know. I'd rather not get too
deep in that.
I: OK. We have a lot of interruptions here and I don't
want to...I mean, not interruptions, but background
noises of trucks going by and this is the sounds of
uptown. And when they get too noisy it seems that
we're interfering with the voices I just cut out for
a little bit. But this is uptown Pembroke. We're
almost right in the middle of it, you might say.
When you were going to school,was it integrated at
the time? Did you experience integration any in your...?
S: Not in high school years, I didn't.
I: How did you feel about integration when it came about,
for your own children's sakes, perhaps?
S: I don't think there's anything wrong with it.
LUM 149A 12
I: There's been times, I know, you have seen or felt dis-
crimination against you because you were Indian.
S: Not really, because I felt like I'm as good as anybody
I: What you're saying, then, is if a person has the self-
concept then they really are. Could you say this?
I: Is a person conditioned to believe that maybe, you know,
S: A person who led to believe that they are more so than
I: Yeah, or even less than what they are.
S: Yeah, right.
I: In other words, I've heard it opinionated that this is
one of the things we need in our school for our Indians
is to raise their self-concept and then they'd do the
rest themselves.of what was needed to be done.
I: Just to believe in their own ability and God-given, you
know, talents and so on. Do you see it this way? I mean...?
LUM 149A 13
S: I guess it's pretty much that way.
I: What was it like to be a preacher's son?
S: .Well, it's just, uh, just like...
I: You don't have any comparison, but did you find in your
growing up that maybe your dad was a little stricter or
that some of your friends maybe could go out and do things
that you were held back in? Did you feel like you were
held back in any way?
S: Well, uh...I didn't want to do no more than I did because
I was brought up in a good home and the way you're brought
up means a lot, well, what you're gonna turn out to be in
a lot of cases. Or how strict...we were very strict, but
our father had a good rule that he always had something
for us to do, and, you know, an idle mind's the devil's
workshop, so to speak, see.
S: We always had something to do and I think that was the
key to his success.
I: Were you required to go to church every Sunday?
S: No, we weren't required. We wanted to go.
I: Is that right? This was just instilled in you, then.
LUM 149A 14
How would you describe your father as a preacher?
I: Was he an evangelist...
S: No, he was, uh...
I: ...of the old-fashioned breed, or was he...?
S: He was a broad-minded preacher, but he's...I would say
he's popular from the time he started till now. He's
seventy-five years old.
I: Is he still preaching strong?
S: Still as strong as ever.
I: Does he always go by a written form or does he have a
prepared sermon, or...?
S: He goes from the Bible and A4 \4. "Aif j.'
I: Was he of the type where he'd just get up and you don't
know what he's gonna preach about and maybe he doesn't
know himself at times?
S: No, he knows what he's gonna preach about.
S: I expect there's some things that comes after he gets
up there he didn't know he's gonna say, you know. I
mean, that's something I can't answer, really.
LUM 149A 15
I: OK, just a minute, we'll interrupt here for a customer.
Would you say that you bring your children up pretty much
in the same way that you were brought up as a basic philosophy?
Did you daddy believe in spankings and this kind of thing?
S: Yeah, he had the Golden Rod. Instead of rule.
I: Yeah, do you still believe in this also? You know, we
went through a period there seemingly in society where
we sort of pulled away from it, but do you belive in
spankings for your children...
S: If it's needful, yes.
I: ...in terms of punishment or correction or so on?
I: Who's the main disciplinarian in your family? Is it you
or your wife? You mentioned you have long hours. Does
she wait for Daddy to get home to...
I: ...put it out, or is it just whoever's there when it comes
up, or what?
S: Just depends.
I: How is it handled?
S: Well, just depends on how important it is.
LUM 149A 16
I: Is any ever saved for Daddy when he gets home when there's
discipline to do?
I: Do you feel this is right or how it should be...?
S: Well, both of us have council, a council about it between
I: If it happens when just one is present, you're saying?
Both of you talk about it beforehand, before you decide
on the discipline or take action?
S: Well, just depends what the situation is.
I: From a man's point of view how do you feel about this
thing going on now in the world of women and it's bound
to affect men somewhat, women's liberation?
S: I don't know. I've not really been following it up, not
been that concerned about it.
I: You see it's-no threat to you, anyway.
S: Right, no-threat to me.
I: We hear of women going out and joining motorcycle gangs,
leaving their kids at home and that kind of thing.
S: Well, I don't believe in it. I figure I do good to keep
my family in line, worry about mine instead of someone
LUM 149A 17
S: In that respect, anyway. I do want to be helpful,
though, in cases, but I want make sure my motor's running
right before I try to tune someone else.
I: OK. Do you think that a woman has a place outside of the
S: In some areas. It just depends on what activities it is.
I: I was reading in one of the periodicals, magazines, I
think maybe it was Ladies Home Journal where they're having
women to be service station attendants and pumping gas and
this kind of thing. It's increased business. How do you...
in one place I think they said that the girls were required
to wear shorts or a special kind of uniform. How do you
think something like that would go over in a station like
this, in Pembroke?
S: Oh, it's probably go over fine, but...well, I don't think
there's nothing wrong with women pumping gas but I think
they should be dressed decent.
S: Because everybody don't think in the terms of hot pants.
I: True, and well said. What about women mechanics. I see
LUM 149A 18
they're coming on the scene more and more.
S: Well, if they're qualified, let them do it.
I: Women also, in the realm of talking about women, I'm not
sure but abortions have been legalized in number of states.
I'm not sure they've been implemented. How do you feel
about this, having come from a home of your background?
You're bound to have some opinion on it here. Women
argue that they should have the destiny of the control of
their own body so that they could at least have...you know,
be allowed a choice. From a male point of view, with you
coming from your experience, how do you feel about it?
S: I don't believe in it.
I: You don't think it should be?
S: I don't.
I: What do you base your opinion on? What reasons can you
give for not believing in it?
S: Well, that could be...that could get very deep. I wouldn't...
I: Well, I mean is there a religious thing? Do you base it
on religion? Is it murder or...?
S: Yeah, I think so.
I: You think it is? OK, excused just a minute. I was gonna
LUM 149A 19
ask you and maybe you consider it personal. You've told
me round about how many children you have. You're married.
Did we establish how old you are?
S: I'm twenty-eight.
I: What some of the...or one of the major changes that you've
seen most recently in Pembroke? Say for the betterment of
the Indian people, if there has been, if.
S: Lot better jobs, people's getting better jobs.
I: What do you think is the cause of this?
S: Uh, they're just stepping out, and I guess more of them's
got more education than they had, maybe. I don't know
if I could credit it all to that.
I: Let ask you this. Are you proud to be an Indian?
S: Of course.
I: Do you teach your children to be?
S: Well, I want them to be themselves, what they are.
I: Is the word Indian mentioned a great deal or much around
your house, or just the fact...?
S: Well, they know that that's what they are, and I believe
in being proud of what you areno matter what race, creed,
LUM 149A 20
I: Right. And I think on-that, this is probably one of the
shortest interviews, but you've said a great deal and you're
a very busy man, and to have given this much time we are
very grateful. And unless you can add something else or
have something to say that I haven't asked you, we'll cut
here. Let me ask you this on the Indian, if there is one
thing that you had within, your power to make happen, come
about, if you were in this position, what would that be?
S: Uh...I'd have to think that...
I: I know that's like saying what would you do if you had a
million dollars or something to a kid, but it doesn't
have to be an earth-shaking thing. It might be for .the
betterment of human relations with all races, but what
would you say?
S: Well, I try to live a Christian life and I would like for
people to live closer and love one another and try to realize
that God was the one created this universe, and...
I: That we're all here regardless of whether we're red, yellow,
white or polka-dot.
S: Right, right.
I: AndAwe have to live together, right?
LUM 149A 21
I: I agree with you on the part of love one another. If we
had a more of a divine neighborly brotherlyhood love, I
think that...and it was genuinely expressed, I think it'c
be a great advantage to all, not just to Pembroke area,',
but all over. Do you see this as being true?
I: All right, Bruce Swett, owner,Operator of Bruce's American
Service Station in Pembroke, I want to thank you very much
for this interview, the time you've given, I know you
had been busy, but we do appreciate it very much.
S: Thank you.
I: Thank you.
--END OF TAPE--