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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
LUM 156A TYPIST:M.FRESE
INTERVIEWER: Lou Barton.
SUBJECT: Onnie Dial
I: This is December 16, 1973. I am Lou Barton, recording for
the-History Department of the University of Florida. Today
I am in my home at 114-C Dial Terrace and with me, kindly
consenting to give me an interview- is Mr. Onnie Dial, who
is quietly sipping away on a cup of coffee, or as we say in
popular &tfcff .' around this part of the woods T .
We all like coffee very much, don't we Ben?
SMr. Onnie Dial is an old friend of mine. I've always called
him "Ben" as a nickname, so if I call him "Ben" on this
recording, you'll understand why. It's an old nickname--sort
of a pet name because we've always been very close. That's
O-n-n-i-e D-i-a-l, and before we get started talking, we
might say right here that Dial Terrace, which is the Pembroke
Housing Authority, was named in honor of his son, about whom
we will talk a little while later on.
Ben, how does it make you feel to come to a beautiful housing
authority like this and sepeople living in housing, that weren't
able to have nice houses to live in before, and know that your
son started this whole darn thing, and it was named for him?
S: Well, it's wonderful. I'm glad to see it. I'm glad to know
that I had a boy that was able to do something like this.
I: Well, that's fine. Now we're talking about Sam--Samuel Dial--
his son. How old is Sam now, Ben?
LUM 156A (p.2) TYPIST:M.FRESE
(S:)He's 42, I think. J&el -^LA W -
I: That's good. I want to introduce& too, later on. Sam, by the
way, is a young man who thad polio when he was young, didn't he?
S: Yes, sir. He got polio when he was three years old--he got it
when he was three years old.
I: And in spite of this he's gone on and he's been councilman for
the town here; he knows everybody in the world. He's done all
sorts of wonderful things. But we'd better talk about you first,
because you're wonderful too. You've got a wonderful family.
Now, Ben, how old are you now?
S: I'll be 74 this coming March.
I:: 74.....Who was it you married?
S: I married a Clark--Lisa Clark's daughter.
I: How old is she?
S: She'll be 74 next May 18.
I: Her name is Mary Jane, isn't it?
I: How many children do you have?
S: We raised eight children and lost two. I had one to get burned
up at 2 year and five months old, and the other one--it died
I: Uh huh (affirmative). I'll bet you anything you can't tell me
all their names and ages. Do you think you can? / '
S: I can tell you some of them. Myitodest boy is 54; iASV the
second boy is 52; and Jim--the third boy--he's 44, I believe.
LUM 156A (p.3) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:) And Naomi's about 32; Jack is 40; Lou is about 29--the baby
girl. William Leslie--the aby boy is 40.
3: Hey, you did better than I thought. Usually guys don't remember
the age of the children as well as the mother. I have trouble
because the ages are always changing, you know. But you have
a wonderful family, and Ben it's such a pleasure to have you
over here, visiting with me, giving me this interview.
S: Well, I'm glad to be here with you. I think I've got a wonderful
family. I did my best my best for them to be A If
educated them all...sent them to school and never had to borrow
a nickel from nobody and I'm certainly proud of my kids.
I: Well, I know you are. You have every right to be. Now let's
talk for a minute about Uncle Jim--Onnie and I are first cousins
by the way--so I hope we won't be accused of nepotism; that is,
families getting together.. .we do get together.. have a lot
of interesting relatives too and I'm very proud of them. I
wanted to talk about Uncle Jim--that was James Dial, Sr.--because
"k A we no4t
he was one of the first members of the Board of TrusteesAfor
what is now Pembroke Universityh I think there were just three
of them in the beginning. I knew....Ben, I know Uncle Jim's
name was included in that petition to Congress, in 1888, amongst....
there were 54 Indians who petitioned Congress for help for their
schools. So he was active in education....he was working to try
to get an education for our people way back then, wasn't he?
S: He furnished some of the money to start the building, and there
LUM 156A (p.4) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:)three on the committee at tha time, under Reverend Moore, who
was our pastor of the church. He was one of the men to anticipate
and help get the college built. We didn't have no school at that
time worth anything. I was born in 1900 and fj and we
didn't have no college--no school to amount to nothing at all.
And those who were trying to teach--they wasn't equipped to
teach cause they didn't quite finish nothing but the seventh
grade and teaching ptlt o^.&I(%i Even when I went
to school A and the teachers didn't know nothing.
What I learned I had to learn myself. And so I said if I lived,
I'd educate my kidsA And so I'm proud of what I done. Even
tthkigh I didn't do as much as I'd have to like to done. Some
of them have Masters degrees and others have college degrees,
and so I feel very good over it.
I: Now what is Mr. Stanford Dial--the oldest son--where is he
working at now?
S: He works in Raiford, North Carolina, in a public school up there.
I: He teaches English?
S: e. He teaches English class in Raiford.And the man says he's
one of the best he's ever had.
I: Well, he worked as principal for many years. Do you know how
many years he was principal amongst our schools?
S: Twelve years. He was principal at Prospect.
I: He was principal at Prospect school for twelve years. By the
way girls, that's spelled P-r-o-s-p-e-c-t. Well, he's certainly
LUM 156A (p.5) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I) a wonderful person. Now we talked about Dan very briefly. Now
who's the one next to Dan?
S: JamesJ 4
I: Okay, he can stand a little talking about too, can't he? Because
he.A.he was named for Jim, wasn't he? And he's just like yhim
in some ways, wouldn't you say Ben?
S: Yeah. He's one of the sweetest boys as I've ever seen; I give
him $25 when he went to the last world war--II--and today he
owns about 300 acres of land--farm land--and he has a nice home.
And he's bought another farm here, last week or so. And he's
one of the smartest boys that you could ever meet. You talk
about making money--he makes it.
I: It seems that money flows to him and I've always heard that about
Uncle Jim. He had some sort of gift about earning money....money
just seemed to flow his way, didn't it?
S: Yeah. He always was scheming to make money and he was thought
a lot of, and people always helped him n--rn V g deals for him.
I: Right. And unfortunately, Uncle Jim died many years ago. How
old was he widn he died, Ben?
S: He died in '22, and he was 45.
I: In 1922, he died....at a.....
S: September 22.
I: 1922. That's a very early age. I've heard some of the business
men in this county say that if he had lived, he'd have been one
of the most wealthy men in the country because he had this knack
LUM 156A (P.6) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I) for business and earning a buck. They didn't exagerrate, did
I: And now we've talked about Jim. Let's go on and talk about some
of the others. How did the girls do,-Ben? I
S: Well, the girls is doing well. Naomi teaches inrvNorth Carolina,
at a public school there and she's doing extra good. And her
husband works for B( L Ar- Nort Carolina. He makes
over $800 a month.
I: Well, that's great. By the way, we forgot to say awhile ago
that Jim teaches school....he's a good school teacher. Jim's
been principal too, hasn't he?
S: Right, he was principal in Hoke County for a year.
I: Uh huh (affirmative). But he's certainly a shrewd businessman,
and a good teacher. He's good at anything he tries...Jim just
has a command of anything that he lays his hand to, doesn't he?
S: Yeah. He's very shrewd.
I: Is M Iy at home with you now?
S: Yeah, he's at home now.
I: Uh huh. Now he's the third oldest...
S: Second oldest.
I: He's the second oldest......What do you think we ought to do in
the way of ting to bring changes in the county? You know
there have been a lot of changes made in the county in the last
five or six years, and your son has been a part of that change....
LUM 156A (p.7) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)all of us have been a part of that change, haven't we?
I: Do you think there are some things that needed changing and still
S: We still need some more things done....some more things changed.
If we all stick together, why we could do a great part about it.
We could do whatever we'd like to do. We've had a lot of things
changed, like our Election. ..Board of Election. The Indian
people have took it over t ey're doing a good job and they're
thought very much of for what they havetone since they took over
I: And we have other things too that are changing. We had a little
trouble about our school system, especially over at Prospect.
Ben, tell.....let's talk for a minute about the old home community
of Prospect. What do you think of Prospect anyway? Is it a
no-good community (chuckle) or is it the best in the world?
S: Why, I think it's one of the best communities in the world.
Only one thing....we have somebody at the head of our school
at the present that's not capable of carrying it out like it
ought to be carried out. That's the only thing we have that's
not right, right now. We need a better school now than we've
I: Well, that's one thing about we Prospecters. We try to improve,
and when we move away we still remember ourselves as belonging
to Prospect. Why do you think people are so closely knit, and
LUM 156A (p.8) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)so friendly and cooperative in the Prospect community, Ben?
Because I think it's generally recognized that Prospect is...f ,
they're closer than anybody else, and it's more Indians.
S: Well, one reason why we're closely knit together....when we get
ready to put on a project or do something, if it costs us 10,
15, $20,000, we generally raise $10,000 at one time, or fifteen,
easy. And it don't make no difference what we're getting ready
to put on, or why we put it on.
I: Well, that's certainly true. You know, I remember when you were
building Prospect Methodist Church over there--it's one of the
finest churches in the county, isn't it?
S: Yes. We have one of the nicestchurches anywhere; it's a rural
church and we have about 650 members in it. We have a large
educational building....120 some feet long. And then we have
a fellowship hall hooked onto it....50 foot w"Ie nd about
90 foot long. And so we have a nice placerProspect Church.
One of the most...biggest Churches there is in the community,
k rufrA dis+-fri
and as anywhere.
I: Uh huh, that's fine. I know this is rue. Now we'd better tell
who's pastor over there, now. Simeon used to be pastor,
but who's pastor now?
S: We had a pastor we used for.....he stayed with us for twenty
years, and he's over in Raleigh now working on...with their...
l_ 4_6 and going from one place....... going
from one place to the other, and looking after the Church Of o .
LUM 156A (p.9) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:)I don't just exactly what they call it....
I: Well, that's the United Methodist Church that this church is
a part of, isn't it?
S: That's the United Methodist, and we have now a Mr. I IV W ,
a college graduate, who is our pastor--been our pastor for this
present year,'72, since June. And he is well-educated, and he
knows his Bible, and he's quite a,/ood speaker. And we still
have a large attendance.... .We miss ou"pastor-we miss him
very much--but he's coming back.l Q ibb6 4 S 0EIrjI L SSe f) ( sS
i L r&O lcarces, as a general rule. We had the bishop with us three
weeks ago and he preached for us that Sunday; we had a fine time.
I: Wall now Ben, Prospect is a community' the late W. L. Moore--
the first teacher in the Indian schools.....this was his home,
S: Yeah. That was his home, and he was the first schoolteacher
we had amongst us. And that was away back in 1905 and 1906....
I started to school, and we had one little ole building there--
it was a log building and had a fireplace in it about 5 foot long.
Then they built us a little 16-by-20 schoolroom, and we had about
20 kids. And from hrelT on, we built a larger building....we had
three teachers. And it grew and grew until we have over 1000....
well-over 1000 students now--about 1150.A.1200.
I: Ben, I don't guess you're old enough to remember Hamiltoni l.1
Did you ever hear your father......did you ever hear your father
talk about Hamilton McMillan, 'cause they must've been close.
S: Yes, I've heard tell of him, but I never did know him....he was
LUM 156A (p.10) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:)here before my time And I heard a lot of talk about how
he done...how he treated the Indian people of our community.
I: Were those good things, Ben?
S: No! they wasn'te)'O!
I: Well, there isn't....that's interesting because there isn't,
on Pembroke State University campus, a single building or a
single street or a single anything in memory of Mr. McMillan,
although we know that, you know, he was the one that passed
the legislation establishing schools for our Indian people in
this community. What....do you think there's a reason for this,
Ben? I'd sure like to know. lem
S: I wouldn't know myself. I haven't read up on --I couldn't tell /
you but from what I could understand he was ndian name )
-7r:A- r- 15 A f -? C /r Carn (
I: Well, what do you feel.....how do you feel about him having a C ice
building named after him? D-
S: I don't think there should be one named after-him.
I: Is that right?
S: Yeah. WL.Moore, Mr. Anderson Locklear--we have a building on
campus named after them, each one of them. And so they were
people who tried to help their people and make something out of
them, and do all the good for them they could. Of course, they
wasn't too highly educated--they was as uneducated as all.... they
just had a, what you'd call ty. ysgS
,JST enough education to get by with. It wouldn't hardly take you
by these daysWVS A'av i*t
I: Well Ben, tell me....you know this is a farming community.
LUM 156A (p. .) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)Prospect is a very rich, rich farming community. And I've
heard it said that the Lumbee River valley--this valley that
we live in here--is the second richest soil in the world. And
that there's only one other soil richer than it, and that's the
soil in the Nile River valley. Do you think Prospect is a
better farming community than most of the county?-although the
county is a rich farming county....
S: We have a wide area of farming--really good farming--but this
is one of the greatest farming communities in....the finest
farmers which you'll have ever met...have ever seen. And they
try to have everything that they use--all their dairy products,
chickens and eggs and everything. We get our.... furnish our
own beef....raise our own beef,most of it. And that's only one
reason why we can liveA...do the things that we always try to
do. It's because we try to look out for ourselves, and not
have to spend all we make on something to live on.
I: Uh huh. In other words, there's a saying that goes around "Live
at home and _born at* the same place".
S: That's right. And that's what we try to do. I suspect if we
make a crop and we make good money, the only thing we have to
pay for--the only expense--is the fertilizer bill. And I done
bought my fertilizer for another year and saved $15 on q
I: Ben, if you had to buy an acre of land, and you had to have it
around Prospect, would you be in trouble--about getting it?
S: You sure would. You couldn't get an acre of it for $1000.
LUM 156A (p.l2 TYPIST: M.FRESE
I: People really hang on to their land, don't they?
I: I wonder if there's a reason for that--well, I know there's
some reasons--but have you ever thought about the reasons
S: Well, yft can't find another community as good as this one to
live in. And that's one of the reasons 4'WfOn d and
the really good land--you can't get that kind of land everywhere.
I: Right, it certainly is. And this is soitof the center of the
Indian settlement, wouldn't you.....do you consider this about
the center of the Indian settlement?
S: Yeah, that's one of the biggest centers we have in Robeson
County...along Prospect. And that's why we always can turn out
the things we want to turn out....do whatever we put forth to
do. We have our own fire truck up there, right by the church,
so if anything happens, and we need aid and assistance, we
don't have to call the town or somewhere to get help.
I: Right now. We have to remember that we're talking about a
rural community...this is, you know,......You expect to have
those things in town, but when a rural community goes to the
trouble and expense to establish their own.....this is something
unusual and admirable, isn't it?
I: Ben, you could travel in almost any direction from Prospect,
and you could travel for miles and miles and miles without
LUM 156A (P.13) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)seeing a white or black home. About how far do you think you
could travel without coming across anybody except Indian homes?
Would you......have you ever thought about it?
S: You could travel anywhere from 4 to 5 miles before you'd ever
come to any white homes. There is a colored home in about three
miles, I guess.....is the nearest colored homel h1
I: How about the nearest white home?
S: About 5 miles..
I: And t used to be even larger than that, didn't it? .. solidly
S: Yeah. We used to have several colored homes and several whiteFlk
homes, but we bought them all out. And we've got a large
community where there ain't nobody lives but the Indians--all
I: So you can really call the Prospect community "Indian territory"
and be telling the honest-to-gosh truth, can't you?
S: Yeah. 'Cause nobody lives in that territory, for 5 miles nearly,
I: Uh huh. Are people very proud of their Indian-ness....of being
S: Oh yes. We are proud of each other and try to do for one
another the things we should do, and help one another. We
have about as many brick homes in our rural district as you
find in any place in the country.
I: Uh huh. Ben, people used to think...you know people used to
LUM 156A (p. 1I) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)misunderstand the Indiansand they thought that the Indians were
clammering to try to get into non-Indian schools.....that we
were trying to break down somebody's doors. And people were
very surprised when we didn't do that--we went in the other
direction. What do you think of this, Ben? Is that part of
the old Indian pride, or what is it? For example, you know
when integration--such as it was--finally came along I imagine
that the opposition to integration was stronger in the Prospect
area than anywhere else. Wouldn't you think so?
S: Yes, I think it was. And I still think today that they should
go to school to their selves. I don't have nothing' against
them, nothing' of the kind, but you sure can't take them and
educate somebody and train them along with them--the most of
them; there are some of the. hK) U But I think
as a whole, they should have their schools all to theirselves.
And give all of'em a chance that want to be anything--to make
anything out of themselves, like anybody else--give them a chance.
I: All right. You're talking about the non-Indians?
S: Yeah. And we feel like we can learn just as good as anybody
else, and can do just as much as anybody else in the school,
and just as capable as anybody to do anything in the world.
I: We've sort of had to bring ourselves up our own boot straps,
though, haven't we? I mean, we had to start at scratch.
S: Yeah. We done the very best we could.....we've been mistreated
and pushed aside so much it's pitiful, but we've about got out
of that now.
LUM 156A (p.l1) TYPIST: M.FRESE
I: You think we're making headway in that direction?
S: Yeah, we're making progress now. We have about 6 or 8 Indians t(C r
at Washington, working in the White House up therej\A 4 "
And we have a boy down here, living in Tennessee, but he got
his education here at Pembroke. He's a lawyer and he's up
there. And we've 3 or 4 Indians lawyers up there in Washington.
When we didn't have a....I know when we didn't have but one
4-year college student in the whole community for 25 miles square.
I: Who was that, Ben?
S: Yeah, he was the first 4-year college graduate we had.
I: Now, is this the gentleman who was Postmaster here in Pembroke
for so long?
S: Yeah. And he was our first 4-year college graduate.
I: I didn't know that. Do you know who the first teacher was at
S: 0 0th/MOfr
I: He taught at Prospect too?
S: Yeah. But you see, he didn't have a good high school education.
I: Uh huh. He was largely a self-taught man, wasn't he?
S: Yeah. And what he knew, he pretty well learned it at home.
I: So how about your grandfather and mine--the late Marcus Dial.
What kind of guy was he? Level with me now, Ben. Tell me the
truth about him.
LUM 156A (p.19l TYPIST: M.FRESE
I: This is side 2 of the interview with Mr. Onnie Dial, of Prospect.
Ben, we were talking about my grandfather and your grandfather--
the late Marcus (M-a-r-c-u-s) Dial, and I was sort of kidding
you about him.....asking you for your honest opinion as to the
kind of guy he was--my grandfather and yours. He was widely-
known and a prominent man in the community, although he never
had an opportunity to get an education.
S: Well, he was a fine man but he wasn't educated. He had to dig
out and live the best he could. And he was a blacksmith in
my day, when I can first remember. He was a veteran....a soldier
in the War of the '60'sAand I don't know how long he stayed in
the army--he never said. And he helped ,, buil .
"Worked on it---I don't know how much he helped build, but he .. --`~--iA
worked on it for a year or two.
I: I wonder.... you know, sometimes people said that none of the
Indians fought in the Civil War, but Grandpappy--as we called
Wo!; I/ ( 'osi 15 ive sees
him--he .Jed t, -ab E -A actual combat duty....on the
side of the South, wasn't he?
S: Uh huh. Yeah, he fought on the side of the South. And CW &O
I __ on that for awhile--I don't know how long.
I: You know Grandpap was.......he looked almost pure Caucasian,
didn't he? He looked like a.....you know, he looked very white.
S: Yeah, he was full Caucasian....he was fully a white man.
I: Is that right?
S: Yeah. And there's Elizabeth--she was also white.
LUM 156A (p. 1) TYPIST: M.FRESE
I: Do you think she had Indian blood? 4,
S: I think she had a little of the in her--not too
I: Or at least it didn't show too much, did it?
S: No. It sure didn't.
I: Now, of course, they always considered themselves to be Indian,
whether they looked like it or not. Ben, a very tragic thing
happened to Grandpap. Do you remember that--what happened to
him in later life? When he was lost?
S: Well, when he got old--he was 100 years old--he had ason and
&imw kcrTAv AwIoy s#e-A
he'd always go to see him and he got off--got lost
in the woods and stayed sv a week before he was fou d. It
was hard to keep up with him A when he was 100. He
could walk 2 or 3 miles before you knew it.
I: And he was lost out in the.....when you say "in the woods", of
course, you mean what? What's the name of them?
S: The name of the woods where he was lost,down side the bay,was
I: I wanted you to say that because I have never known how to spell
"Beckeson's Bay". You know, this is a vey thick, deep swampland
which is near the Prospect community, andr times--this has
always fascinated me, even as a boy, Ben, because people would
get lost in those woods. They were so deep and so thick, and
you could walk......people said you could walk for hundreds of
yards without ever touching the ground...the foliage was so
LUM 156A (p.18) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)thick--the bushes and the, you know, the growth, the trees and
things. It was almost totally impenetrable. You just couldn't
get in there, hardly, it was so thick. And that fascinated me
as a child. Oh my gosh, I'd like to know what's inside of
Beckeson's Bay, but I've never learned,,,.Do you know why it's
called "Beckeson's Bay"?
S: No, I sure don't. That's what I first was told they called it.
And my grandfather, (name) bought it for $50. He
bought 400 acres of it.
I: Uh huh. It's still a large thing, isn't it?
S: Yeah. And now they've put a road across it, you know? 'Built
"a highway.....a road across it that's just been paved....It's
"a regular highway,just been paved, and they're building homes
down in there.
I: They finally drained it then, didn't they?
S: Yeah. They put a canal right down through the middle.
I: You talk about a dismal forest....that was it. I mean, you
could walk.....Ben, you know, I'm not exage a-ng You could
walk and walk and walk and never hit the ground, it was so thick.
S: Yeah, it was very thick. And the bottom of....... the roots on
the ground and theJ in it was about half-a-leg deep.
I: Now, let's see. I'm trying to remember where the old fish hole
was. You know, the fish pond--we called it the fish hole.....
e d grandpap's place...Grandpap Marcus's.
S: That was back down from the house--it was north frxo the house
down around the woods, where we used to go and catch all them
LUM 156A (p.l) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:)fish--real young trout, and perch .....and attah one thing 4mrto-f
another.....we'd catchaplenty of fish. Now it's as dry as
I: Of course, people have to understand that the whole valley
here was swamp land originally and it wasn't possible to have
many farms until they ditched it and drained it, was it Ben?
I: Well, what do you think about the changes that have taken place
on the farms, Ben? You know, what they call "industrialization"
of farming? There have been changes, haven't there?
S: Well, it's such a great change, you couldn't imagine. Of course,
my daddy--in 1911, 1912, and'14.....it was no strange thing for
him to raise 2 bales of'' .And then he'd take this cotton
seed, and swap this cotton seed for fertilizer, and get 2-tons
of fertilizer for 1 ton of seed. But they don't want to pay
you anymore for your seed now.
I: Ben, when you were coming up-Jcourse you didn't work for other
people, you probably worked for your father or your grandfather.
But what did people get, who did work for other people.....what
did a day's plowing bring in?
S: Well, you'd get about 50 a day. )Q.later on it went to a dollar.
You didn't get much I know when a man used to work, and
he'd get 50 a day, or a dollar a day.
I: And you were pretty darned lucky if you could make that 50,
LUM 156A (p.43) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:VYeah. Well, they generally did get paid, but they dAfTt get
I: Yes, of course, that was during the geat .pression....
S: That was a-way before ha.
I: Yeah. Do you remember the days they refer to around here as
the "Hoover Days"? I '
S: I ought to.....I was 32 years old then. was 32. I remember
-i. aiet good. /
I: Did you ever see a'Hoover ?
S: Well, yes, I seen what they called a "HooverP a lot of times.
But I thought them was the best days that I ever remember.
I: Is that right? You remember 'em, Ben, with nostalgia--and that
is a good feeling, instead of a bad one.
S: You see, I was just beginning to come along with a family--about
Le 4 children..... ye about 4 children. And I could raise more
ctaoenrMQ A.. yP St I
crops and it didn t cost me nothing. And when I my crop
a'--whatever I got, it was mine. I didn't have to worry. I
went to town one day in --the spring of '@L--and I had a dollar
and sixty-five cents......I got 22 pound-and-a-half e,'+ 'f-7
a sack of flour, and a pound of coffee....$1.65.
I: Ummmm. That sure was a bargain.
S: I paid for what I got as I went along, and it didn't bother me
one bit. /1
I: Well, what we call fat-back meat, or farmer's today
around here--even if it would be a chain store--will bring about....
well, about 69C, or is it more than that?
LUM 156A (p.24) TYPIST: M.FRESE
S: I don't know what it is a pound, but I know it would cost you
I: What's the cheapest you ever seen fat-backs sell for?
S: Four cents.
I: You've been able to buy it for four cents?
S: Yeah, I bought it that day for four cents.
I: Ben, do you still grow your hogs, and stuff like that?
S: Oh yes, I've got .....I killed three)L y the other day and.....
no one but me and my wife ff "i it 3 S
And I've got an old ham and a shoulder from last year and if t
^^oK eAod4fe. /,ivdl
I: I think I.....I think I'd better go over th re whn you cut that
ham from last year and get... 16/'sgg a slice of it.
'Cause, you know, the older it gets, the better it is, doesn't
S: Yeah, that's the reason I always try to save me one from one
year to the next year. I had a cut for three years, and the
older it got, the better it was. You see, after you save it
the first year, nothing' don't ever bother it no more.
I: OJ course, it's quite a trick to save it in the first place,
but if you do, it gets better with time, doesn't it?
S: Yeah. The older it gets, the better it gets. When it gets
three years old, it is really good.
I: Now, did the Indians have a special way of, you know,.preserving
meat--saving it--that works better than most peoples Ow
S: No more than just take it and put it in a smoker--a smokehouse--
and pack it down And lots of them have.... make
LUM 156A (p.2X, TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:L-V boxes, you know, and put in the place and salt it down....
to save it.
I: Ben, did you ever drink any persimmon beer? What they call
S: I sure have.
I: That was good-tastin' stuff. But people have forgotten how to
make it now, haven't they?
S: Yeah. Well, they don't.... they don't have no persimmons around
I: Well, there used to be more 'simmons around than anybody could
possibly 'chec doing a thing with, didn't there?
S: Yeah, there was plenty of 'em.. had plenty of 'em, but don't
have 'em no more.
I: Of course, persimmon beer was something, I understand.....I
remember how it tasted as a child. It had a tangy taste and it
was good. It tasted strong, but it wasn't alcoholic, was it?
I: You'd eat it with potatoes......
S: Take your potatoes, and take you a quart of 'simmon beer, and
you had it made.
I: Oh, that was good-tastin' stuff. I'm sorry all the 'simmons
are gone. But if you get....if you happen to bite a persimmon
before it's ripe, and try to whistle,....what would happen, Ben?
S: Your lips will stick together.
I: (chuckle) It sure does pucker you up.
LUM 156A (p.23) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I-tBut they were certainly useful things, and I can remember, Ben,
when there were persimmons everywhere.
S: Yeah, we used to have a-plenty of 'em. WT:A"e t-og- gotezn themV
trees, you know, at night, and we'd see a possum most any time.
I: Yeah, those possum really love 'em, don't they?
S: Sure do.
I: And by the way.....you know, the very word "persimmon" and the
very word "possum"--those are Indian words; they're A ItOp k e
words, Irr- 14 'k.
like the Ftr, Indians and the __ p(eJL came
later. Well, it's certainly a fascinating community to me and
it's that way to a lot of other people, Ben. I've had people
come and express interest in our community--in our people--from
all over the United States. C I 4 141 qkrJ t1l
since I wrote my book, and published it, in '67. And even a
man from as far away as South America, who was an anthropologist,
came all the way over here to talk about us. And aman,cae
all the way from Tokyo, japan--a TIfa-- to talk about
our people. Now, if we've got that much interest in our people,
then there's something unusual about us. Tell me what it is...
why are people interested in our people?
S: Why? Because...one reason is because people knowfwe're aowee"f
and ''in America.
I: A-Df Mc ?
S : Sure. 'Had to be to survive and live, and to try to help our
children do something. We had one old man--used to ride all
over the United States, and he had a mule, you know.
LUM 156A (p.2* TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:)He'd show movies in the school. And he said we was the smartest
people he had ever seen, and the workingest people he had ever
seen in his life. And he had travelled all over the United
States. Mr. Tucker--do you remember him?
I: Mr. Tucker..... C\. (- 4 -I
S: Yeah, he drove a 2-horse wagon... .afemaii.A'h a wagon.... y_&
I: No, I don't think I remember him, Ben.
S: It wasn't a 2-horse wagon......was more-or-less a 1-horse wagon.
And it had a covered top, you know?
I: Uh huh. Our people were kind of strict in raising childreig reAriJ
Now all your children.....you didn't have....you never have had
a child to get in any trouble in your life, or anything like
that. Now Ben, that's just good rearing, raising, upbringing--
whatever you want to call it. Did you use Indian methods to
S: No, I never had a child to get in trouble in my life. I was
trained to do what I was told to do, and do it when I was told.
And so, I trained my children the same way, and I never have
had any trouble with them, and never allowed them to interfere
with other people and other people's business. And I never did
have any trouble with none of mine.
I: Well, that's good. You have a lot to be thankful for, and
they've got a lot to be thankful for, for having parents like
you But, the older Indians were stricter than the
Indians today, weren't they?
LUM 156A (p.2f) TYPIST: M.FRESE
S: Sure was. When they told you to do anything, they meant for
you to do it then, not after awhile.
I: No arguing with thenabout it....
S: No argument at all.
I: What do you think would've happened if yo told your father when
he said "Onnie, go do so-and-so" andw.amiewm d "Why?". I wonder
what he would've told you. t
S: He wouldn't have told me nothing. He would've r0 i
and knocked me down. J Q if you hadn't got
that, you'd know pretty quick ,k .'* "
I: How about the teachers and the discipline in the earlier school?
Like Mr. Moore.. ..was he a very strict disciplinarian, do you
S: Yes. In my early school days--what little school I went to--
we had to...... ril eA was very strong.
I: Would they punish you if you didn't learn your lesson?
S: Yeah.....if you could get it, you'd better get it. If there wasn't
some special reason_ you didn't get it, you'd find out
I: If you got a whipping, as we called it...if you got a licking
in school and went home and told about it, what would happen to
S: You'd get another one.
I: awJLfcl3N L-) ^ 7
I: Oh, they were strict. DO...you remember grandma.... she was 6e
LUM 156A (p.2) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)who....she'd take your pants off, you know. She whipped me once,
as a child. She said she didn't like to whip pants, and she
d ^'( & She got her a keen switch and 9_ _;_ict-
all over the darn floor, and I'll bet you whateverI had done,
I never did it anymore. Mamma got very angry about that 'cause
I was the only boy in the family, and Mamma sor of petted me,
you know. And she didn't like it at all. She didn't say one
word to Grandma.
S: She knew better than to say anything, cause if she had've, she
would've ound out what was wrong with her right quick (?).
M 114-1kV4tO" I k whP
I: Uiv some of it too l h. "
I: Even if she was married. They were.....they were very strict.
I guess we're getting away from that, Ben.
S: Yeah, people don't try to raise kids anymore....not many of them.
Theylet'em do as they please, and mostly tell 'em what they
want them to do, and get them to do what they want them to do,
rather than right.
I: Do you think it's a good thing that we are modifying some of our
bq vior patterns, you know, A li(C'5 4 1t *')
S: No I don't think it's good. ATrain a child in the way you'd
want it to goj raise it up to do the things it should do.
-..-.. e--- pi-pe. from you. Butif you raise a child
at home like you should raise it, as a general rule, if it ever
gets h and takes the notion to hotmMe,
x W________. hen-you raise them at home, and
LUM 156A (p.2 ) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:>raise'em like you ought to raise 'em, and if they are ever
to part, and take a notion to marry and get out and raise
children, they'll raise them.
I:; In other words, you sort of set up a chain reaction, don't
S: Yeah, that's the good thing about raising children like they
should be raised. So when your childrenp.ever gets out and
has the notion to marry and start raising a family, they'll
raise them just like they were raised, as a general rule.
I: Now,we-mentioned Dial Terrace here, where I'm living here in
one of these apartments. Living in so-called low-cost housing
unit. And you can just sit here, Ben, and you can see the
other houses and I know this makes you feel good about your
son. Dial Terrace was named after Samuel Dial.
S: That's right.
I: You go in another direction, you get up with your son Danford,
and --' : his work. Go a little bit further
and _'_'l ll_1- o __ All your children did so well,
Ben. Do you think it was just G i i ?
S: Why sure. If you train a son and raise him like he should be.
You know he'll never amount to nothing--never do nothing. And
no man should ever want to raise a child, and he ain't no
benefit to his community, nor nobody, to his state, nor to his
nation. A child ought to be trained so if he's needed at any
point in the nation, that he can respond.
LUM 156A (p.2w) TYPIST: M.FRESE
I: Ben, we've talked about changes having taken place in the
county. Suppose--it may beimpossible to do this--but suppose
that it was possible for you to change anything in this world,
that you'd like to change in Robeson county. What do you think
you'd like to change most? And you just have one thing to
change, not a lot of other things.
S: Well, you see there's so much that needs to be done. I couldn't
tell you D--- l IA'-I ...because I don't travel the
county wide and I don't know too much about what goes on in
the county as a whole. Like I was in the clerk's office in
Lummock, and I looked at their /" for the fiscal year down
there, awhile back. It was nine million, nine hundred-thousand
dollars ($9,900,000). And I said," Frank, I say, "you know
this is too much money to spend here on the county for what you
got here." I said "I see a lot of places in this area--you
ought to be giingX..-.e-seme." He said no. He said'1e could
hardly get along with that."I said "it's because you don't have
the right management, and _S l ______ I said,
"You know, no business ever amounts to anything cause it ain't
got no head to it." That-e-the-reason I went tothe hospital
and had my little operation. I told the doctor down there at
the hospital--it's a fine hospital down there, and it's a
pretty good staff of doctors--but I said, "you, got no management
here." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Nobody knows how
to carry out nothing and look after a hospital." I said,
"You can go anyplace that ain't got a manager.....and any business
that ain't got a manger.." I said, "..and it don't mean nothing."
I: Uh huh. Miiw-ir--.r ..it's all important, isn't it?
LUM 156A (p.2f) TYPIST: M.FRESE
S: That's one of the most important jobs there is in any kind of
business.Its someone knows how to operate the business and carry
I: Ben, what do you plan to do with yourself from now on, because
I know you always find something to do,'cause you've always been
active......are you as active--about as active now as you ever
S: Yeah, I plan to work Christmas.......go to work sometime
during....about the first of January; go to work in/february,
and work next Spring and Summer; and maybepin the Fall. And so, and
thenafter that, I think I'll retire and quit. I don't......only
whatAf do at home. I don't think I'll work anymore out.
I: Do you think you ever really will retire, Ben?
S: Yeah, I'r1 retire from public....
I: Public work?
S: ....work, yeah.
I: Now, of course when we say 'public work', we mean "working away
S: Yeah. I think I'll goback and stay at Bethlehem Steel next -
year, and that'll be it.
I: Where is Bethlehem Steel?
S: Up Air Base---- Air Base
I: Well, after all the changes that have taken place.......and the
farms have become so large.....I mean, a small farmer can't -make
LUM 156A (p. ) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)it anymore, can he, Ben?
S: Oh yes, he can make it if he tries. If, raises (/^ 4 s
S-- v i and not have to go to the store every day, why,
you're all right.
I: Don't you think the farms are getting larger and larger?
S: Well, there's too many people quitting farming. You see, people
can't farm anymore and make the money like they do in the public
jobs Uaw You take,.......like Elliot Laurenberg at the glass
plant. ao u Is ^o"
plant. luabout your lowest average A $750 a month. You
can't make that on a farm. But still, at the same time, if they
don't spend it right and use it right, they ain't done nothing
then. You just live and that's all. I, myself......when I'm on
a public job and I make $125 a week--that's $100 a week I've
got to put away. It don't mean I'm going to spend that money.
I: You don't have to spend it, do you? You don't have to spend
that money to live on.
S: No. I worked eight months last year. I made enough money to
do me.....to last year, two year and eight months.
I: Well, that sure is good. And of course, you don't need it any
way, all that bad, Ben.
S: Well, I don't mean to work for the money.....I just mean exercising
myself, you know. Just work because I feel good and want to do
a little something. When you quit work, you get old.
I: And you might as well get a little pay as you go along, right?
S: Yeah. When you quit work, you get old, you know. And then when
LUM 156A (p.3f) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(S:)I quit work, and want to do nothing but mess around the house,
I'll have the money enough to take care of me.....travel around
and go visit, and go anywhere I want to go. Go to the beach or
somewhere.....go fishing, or something. And it always costs
you a little extra to do things like that, you know, and you'd
better be prepared.
I: Ben, I guess you and I just about have the same philosophy about
getting old, don't you think so?
I: We're not going to get old, unless we can't help it, are we?
S: I ^ IF we live to be old, if we live OJdt
not be old, until we get old.
I: Right. And we're not about to do that yet, are we?
I: I love your spirit, Ben.
S: It's a pleasure to get out and work. You know, I don't care
how old you get....if you feel good and man-enough to do anything,
and work, so you'll always have something to distribute out, and
give somebody or help somebody that's in need. That's the good
part about it. You don't know.....you may come to be- in need
some day when you get A or something, and need help. Well,
if you ain't tried to provide and help somebody, people will
always look at you and say well, the man wouldn't ever give
nobody nothing and never would help no one!. And so the same
thing would be turned back to you, you know.
LUM 156A (p.3W TYPIST: M.FRESE
I: Yeah that's possible. Our people are pretty neighborly)
though) to help each other) aren't they?
S: Oh yes. It ain't no trouble if somebody's in need. We call
a collection in Church on Sunday for 'em to get a little help:
it ain't no trouble to get 'em up $100 or $200 or something.
e, A "C xoi mt' t] badly 0
need.it you know. If they're in really bad need, why, they
get the money. See, they send this lady.....what's her name....
down in Pembroke? They send her ....it costs over $3,000.
I: Is that right? It's better to help....to be able to help other
people. Well, Ben, I want you to know how much I've enjoyed
being with you. and did you know the time's gone by in a hurry?
I: Do you know I talked....do you know how long we've been talking?
S: An hour and a half.
I: It sure has gone by in a hurry. It's always that way when we get
together. You and I have just talked throughout the whole night
many times. 'Just started talking, get together and sit around
and talk. And maybe forget the time, and just talk over into....
far in the night...maybe all night. I wouldn't be surprised.
S: Yeah. We've spend many hours together at night, and never would
be in a hurry to get away..in fact.
I: We acted kind of like we were on Indian time didn't we?
I: Well it certainly has been a delight talking with you. You're
very kind to come over here and give me this interview. I've
LUM 156A (p.3$) TYPIST: M.FRESE
(I:)been looking forward to it for a long time. I got so excited,
you know......so interested in what you're saying, and everything,
that I don't know how well organized it is, but I certainly
have enjoyed it, Ben.
S: Well, I've really enjoyed being with you ""