Interview with Catherine Brooks, 2014 July 13

Material Information

Interview with Catherine Brooks, 2014 July 13
Brooks, Catherine ( Interviewee )
Taylor, Jessica ( Interviewer )
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


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


Catherine Brooks talks about her family history in Mathews and what it was like growing up on a farm during the Great Depression. She also discusses what her parents were like, her experiences growing up as a member of a strict church, and the time she spent at her uncle's store. She talks about the store she opened with her husband and how development in the area affected her business. Mrs. Brooks also talks about her experience going to school during segregation and what it was like sending her children to school during integration. She concludes the interview with a review of the history of Mathews County and the surrounding region as far back as Captain Smith’s journey.
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To access audio version of this interview, click the Downloads tab at the top of the page.

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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
Resource Identifier:
TMP 034 Catherine Brooks 7-13-2014 ( 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 Digital Humanities Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 35 2 846 1983 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 acc ounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 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, S POHP recommends 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. Suggested corrections to transcripts will be reviewed and processed on a case by case basis. Oral history int erview 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 i s written 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 final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and form at 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 abo ut SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. May 2015


TMP 034 Interviewee: Catherine Brooks Interviewer: Jessica Taylor Date of Interview: July 13, 2014 T: This is Jessica Taylor interviewing Catherine Brooks on July 13, 2014 in Onemo, B: Catherine Callis Brooks. T: Okay, and when were you born? B: July 15, 1926. T: And where were you born? B: T: Okay. Whose home were you born in? B: T: Okay, and what w ere their occupations? B: Well, Mother was a full time housekeeper and took care of the house inside; Daddy worked on the water, went fishing in the spring and oystering and pa y anything. He says, well, what about what you eat? Where does it come from? Because just about everything we ate came from what we raised. So, that was profit; that was our food. Our eggs bought the rest of the groceries. T: So you kept his books. B: Afte r I was in high school. T: After you were in high school. Did your mother keep the books beforehand?


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 2 B: the morning to T: Well, tell me about that. B: Well, Daddy, when he was working on the water, had to get up early to leave before daylight to go get started in the boats and so on to go out. He was working with his father in the beginning and before he got oystering boats. She would get up with him and he would go out and milk the cow and feed the animals with a lantern. She would be in the house with the lanterns burning, making biscuits and cornbread, biscuits for his lun ch and cornbread for breakfast. He ate a big grown bacon that was not very tasty. He liked it. Maybe two or three pieces of cornbread with plenty of butter on it, country butter. Then after he l eft to go to work, she packed his lunch with things from the farm: ham a lot of times in the sandwiches, and sweet potatoes, different things that we grew. She would have w h en we children were little the lamp chimneys, which we had four of five of them at had to fill the lamps ready for night with kerosene and wash the dishes and get everything put up for meal. Back then, most people washed Monday, ironed Tuesday, Wednesday was sort of either a free day or catch up on sewing or other work, and Thursday was baking cakes or pies, and Friday was cleaning the house, Saturday was big cooking for weekend. So, we lived in a ten room house around, so there was lot of cleaning


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 3 and that house was cleaned top to bottom, of the rooms that we were using. en floor and get anything dirty. So it stayed clean. When Daddy came in, his work shoes came off and went back in the door. He put slippers on in the house; he never wore his work shoes in the house. Wash was no washing machines, no electricity; everything was washed with a washboard, rung out, and hung out in a line. In cold weather, she did it in a room in the house that we rotated. You could took a bucket and pans and moved from one room to another in our house. In winter, she would take the summer kitchen and turn it into a utility room and washing room because it was so cold outdoors to take me and later my sister have nylons back then. All my clothes, she made most of our clothes, were little cotton suits with a flap in the back and the button across the back. Clothes have changed quite a bit since then. All the petticoats and the dresses had to be ironed. We had outfits every day. [Laughter] If we could keep them clean, we wore them more than one day. When I started to school, I had two dresses for school, or maybe three. But I would have to come home, take it off, hang on across the chair t on a hanger in the closet, and put old clothes on so that could be worn the next day. All of us children back then had about three outfits because it was during the Depression. Some had patches, and boys especially on their knees had big patches. They wo


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 4 my clothes, either she made them or she paid someone a few dollars to make at a picture from the newspaper and made them. They look a little d start all over. [Laughter] But on weekends, we went to church; we were going to the Methodist church then, and one pastor pastored four churches so we had church every other Sunday. One Sunday of the month, it was in the afternoon, which I sold his car when he got married. He owned one with his half brother, and he had to give up his half so he had money to get married and get ready to buy a home for us. He would walk a mile to back. So it was about four miles walking he had to do to take us anywhere. Then, on Sundays, Grandpa and Granny my step grandmother would com e and Hampton, and they came up every week to Mathews. They had two daughters: one on one si ways down the road, maybe an eighth of a mile apart. But they each had to walk a lane. But one weekend, they stayed at one house, and one at the other. So, we saw a lot of Granddaddy a nd Granny Richardson. But, our roads were dirt and


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 5 sand, some people say. But it was dust in dry weather. In the summertime, we had to put the windows up because there was no other way to get air. When it was real windy, and days that the steamboat came in steamboat wharf we would have to put all the front windows down so the dirt four years old, I began to walk the half a mile from my house to meet the st eamboat and pick up the mail for the day, and groceries then mother made more But I liked to go then because the passengers would get off the steamboat and some chewing gum and candy and different things. I always got one year I had a white sailor suit that my Grandmother Richardson bought me. If I wore the sailor suit, I got double as much So I always begged that that be clean and every time because the steamboat came in three times a week . Anyway, that was quite and the wharf! I have a picture in one of my books of the wharf when the people were just there. But when they unloaded the boat, that was just wagons and lots of Afri can Americans did most of the unloading. They were everywhere, pulling barrels off and unloading them, you name it. It was in the [19]30s when we had not [19]30 because we were still in deep Depression but [19]35 or [19]37, they tarred the main road, but t almost 1940. Lot of changes there. There was no electricity in the county at all electricity made a big, big difference in life. We had


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 6 a big ice chest that sat on what we called the side porch that was about all that was ever used for was storage and the ice chest there in summer. It was always hot. The ic e would go in the bottom and the milk and butter would go nearest and the other foods would go over on the side. And later, mother got an ice refrigerator. We thought that was wonderful; that old refrigerator was beautiful. But you still had to put ice in it, so the ice man had to come two or three times a week in the summer. And then, Montgomery came out with kerosene refrigerators that were as good as electric, they said. So Mother bought one, and she used it about two days and came down one morning and the whole kitchen was black where it smoked all night. So the refrigerator had to be shipped back on the steamboat to Baltimore. We had to scrub that room; I helped scrub the kitchen, the ceiling I know. And that was a big kitchen, not a very s mall one. It was twelve foot by fifteen foot. I remember the size how big it was that day [Laughter] all smoked up. [Laughter] Then, when we got electricity in [19]39, one of the first dump because it would melt and you would have to pull the pan out before it ran over with water inside. So, lots of changes. After I was married we moved down six miles to Canoe Yard Trail That was a canoe yard, right grandparents, our second Christmas we were married. That still had dirt roads, so again, I battled with putting windows down on days there was going to be lots


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 7 of traffic coming by until 1956, I believe. We started our business, which was The Craftsman Shop, was what we named it. My husband did woodworking and made furniture for peop le. We finished vehicles Catherine was gonna keep books, but Catherine ended up working as many hours in the shop as he did, just to make a slipcover. I worked about forty hours for five dollars for my first slipcover. [Laughter] But then my sister saw it and she thought it was so beautiful, she went and told some of the general and colonels th at had moved in the county that our business had added slipcovers to the work we did. I think she wanted draperies, should have been, but they turned out to be some of the customers said they were much better than Miller & Rhoads in Richmond came down there and did, because I spent so much time to get everything perfect as I could. One day, our Rexy sh h as a nice home but they have a home here now. And she would like you to make her draperies. I had never done what paisley even looked like. I asked her wh at she wanted. So I went to the library and checked out every book there on making draperi es and came home and studied them. It was very hard chintz to work on because it was stiff, old fashioned chintz. But I made the draperies and some windows were lopsided going around the steps, and I got them all just like she wanted them. She says they we re b had made. But they were every one


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 8 learned. Later, I went to Richmond and took classes, on especially slipcovers. The draperies I had conqu ered. We had a lot of Pittsburgh customers, people come to the county for this after the war. The waterfront property people had left to go to Norfolk and Newport News to work, and so it was vacant and they they had their jobs there. So they sold their houses pretty cheap. What sold for twenty thousand then sells for two hundred to five hundred now. So, quite a difference. It was a lot of those people began to bring work in to do, and they would brin g draperi es for me to remake, which was a blessing to me because I saw a lot of the fancy stitches they were because one man was a German man who had come over to this country, and set up a sh op. I copied his stitches and used them the rest of the time I was in business and made hems. A lot of things changed in the county after the war. Up at Hudgins, which is now still businesses such as the beauty parlor and two or three other small businesse s. The school has a sort of secondhand store there that people buy from regularly. One day a week they sell everything for a dollar the electricity I know has to come out of it. from this building or whether they have to pay rent. But at one time, Hudgins was like a little village. They built a movie theater, which now is only open on Saturday night. But then, every night a thing about going over the river to see a movie; they wanted to see it at home. I


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 9 or any of businesses on Sunday. They built a barbeque I guess a barbeque it was actually a store that they made their own barbeque and sold it, was the first building they put up. That was the first time we ever had anything like that, which sort of like fast food but it grew to be a regular restaurant in th where the young people would go, so they had a jukebox. They had lots of things there. And from that, he put up the theater, then our appliance store, and it was just like a little village around his house, with the house sitting back off the road. [Laughter] Across there were three car dealers, I believe, there at that time. They had Plymouth, they had research it better. There were different dealers, and in front of every business ther had a gas tank. The grocery store, which was the post office, was in that for thirty five years, that had gas tanks. You just chose which gas tank you wanted to use to buy your gas. Th ey all kept busy. Of course, gas was like ten cent in the beginning to twenty things. Bread was ten cent back in my child hood. T: What was dating like? B: And Sundays, they went to church. Sunday night they all went to church, so the churches all had Sunday night services back then except the Methodist churches; they never did. But the Baptists and the Friends We had two Friends


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 10 churches in the county and some other smaller denominations. They all had and get something to eat, and some would go home and just sit with the family or sit in the parlor because they used to have the family sat in the dining room if they had a big one like we did. Another smaller sitting room, like, and then they had parlor wher e the young people courted or you entertained a special guest, like if the pastor came or something. He liked to come at mealtime and get a job bu t in the summer months, so he had to stretch his money out. He could come and then we would down from our house rf and watch the boats go by and the wildlife. Unless it was mighty cold, we always enjoyed those T: Wow. He was in the war? B: He was in P.T. boats like John Kennedy was, in the South Pacific. He was over there for eighteen months. But six of that was after the war closed; he shut down bother him, even though he wa s in battles, as much as the boringness of just waiting. It was more waiting than it was anything else. You had to stand in chow line one to two hours just to get something to eat each meal. So a lot of times, he ate one meal a day and had crackers and som ething to drink at night and


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 11 stand it. It was raining all the time in the Pacific when he was there. He said you to halfway of your shoes in mud. You would get wet, and they had to go in sand rain or shine. T: How did you meet him? B: We went to school together, and we were going to church together but we really met in school. At least, he came and talked to me in the school mornings, when w e got there before the time. My bus got there faster than his, and he would always come down and start talking to me. I guess we did as much courting in inside, we had to walk around the sides when the school was new. So we met and well, we wrote for two years and I have all his letters. He had thrown mine away, but I had all of his to use when I wrote my books. T: B: Very simple. It was the first wedding in our little church, which is going to be a big building now. I wore a suit; most all the girls did at that time. The man just wore a blue suit. My sister was my attendant, and I had two: his cousin and my best friend light the ca ndles rather than in the usual way. We sort of made up our own wedding program plans. Everybody was doing that in those days. [Laughter] His best friend was away in the service still. He got this other boy he was friends with to be usher. His cousin was be st man. So there was nowhere to have a reception


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 12 You never heard of punch in that day in Mathews. I know they served it in the a bakery make my cake. Daddy gave him money to pay for it, but they coul wife w ould come to buy eggs and sometimes chickens, especially eggs and butter, every weekend. She asked how the wedding plans were going and went to Miller & Rhoads, found just what I wanted, brought it back, and gave it to decorations, most of them on it were candy until it was several years old and it cake. [Laughter] But I still have the two little pe well, I had a store in town beginning in 1963, and that grew from a little small store to a big one before I closed in 1998. My husband kept on d oing some of the things he upholstery done up by myself I had like eight women working, sewing. We were on the road delivering and we worked as


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 13 far away as Boston, Massachusetts. I flew up there twice. They sent me my tickets and I measured the house and took the things back and shipped them back. They sent me another plane ticket to come have someone install. Then I worked in Edenton, N orth Carolina. I did two houses in Edenton the colonial place You know North Carolina better than I do. But one was people that had them done and owned a bed and breakfast in town, a little section that tourists used to stay overnight and so on. But they had large homes on the water, most of them, and I definitely loved those houses. So that was quite interesting. T: How did you see your business grow over time? B: Well, it was a gradual thing When we started down at our home and built a shop there, like that little office we were working in and we had moved to one room of the house to do the sewing. I wanted material to make clothes with, and other people wanted it, so I began to bu y a bolt here and a bolt there from a warehouse in Richmond. Then people began pouring in the house wanting fabric. It was taking got to move my business. So went to town and s earched all the buildings available, rented one that turned out to be cold as ice in the winter. We were there just a few months in the cold weather and hot in the summer. But in six months, we moved to a building on Main Street that later we bought. That was when I sold, in [19]98. But it grew until we profitable as I hoped, but we had put a second store out near Gloucester Point with fabric. But they wanted what a friend of theirs that had a business in


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 14 Williamsburg had, th out to be as profitable, because I had put in a lot of the best fabrics by then. They told me I needed ten thousand dollars to start the business in Mathews. I started it with two thousand fi ve hundred plus the rent on the building. It grew. I went to the mills in North Carolina, which were you could go and buy pound goods. So, When I closed the store, it was $2 .98 at least a yard, instead of three. I saw prices soar. I had anything from raw silks to I carried a lot of European wool. I liked them better than Pendleton, and Pendleton was in several stores, so I carried the unusual. People came from Richmond and No rthern Virginia, lots of places to buy fabric from me. T: Wonderful. B: It was fun. It was interesting. Lot of hard work. I worked sixty hours a week most of the time after my husband died. He was killed in an accident in 1973, and I had some rough years a fter that finishing his business, closing the store at Gloucester Point area. We had a warehouse we were renting for carpet and vinyl; I closed that. I took out the paint that I had to go mix mornings for painters, because it was just too much for me. It w as big, but then I got it down to where I could handle it. T: Yeah. Wow. How did you see the businesses around yours change over time on Main Street?


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 15 B: They began to close. We had a wonderful department store, and it went on after the first owners who bu ilt it died. Even after the first one died, they sold it to Williams Reed. Well, they kept it open with a good stock until people began to go to town to shop. Cars became more plentiful, gas became easier to get, and everybody went to the city to buy clothes and the odd goods and so forth. So it woman who worked as far away as New Yor k and Baltimore. She stayed open on a side street by the big store, and became other things through the years. It still changes. It seems like every year something else is there. The drugstores remain the same until Mr. Richardson got feeble in maybe the l ate [19]80s. He closed that and then what is now Mathews Pharmacy opened with two of the girls that had worked for him going there. Back in my childhood, there were two banks in the county. They merged in the early [19]30s and became one. That outgrew its building and they built a new building outside of town, and eventually the little changes. Of course, it was a local bank until they built the new building and then they needed more money to finance their own selves, so they had to go with T: I also wanted to ask you, going back to your childhood, how old was the house that you grew up in, and what did the inside look like? B: The first four rooms were built in about 1850. Then, Mr. William came here and married a local person that h e met coming in on a steamboat. He sold for a nursery out in the Midwest. He was from above Richmond. He bought and added


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 16 room on bec ause he had a big family. Even some of the wallpaper and all he had the windows. In the front, he put all four pane windows; on the sides, he put all the eight pane windows. S sure how you spell that, but it had like a whitewash finish to it. You could scrub and scrub and scrub and it would look like you were scrubbing paint off every time. So it h ad to be mix painted if you used that paint quite often. Eventually, Mother got it all off. I scrubbed many a wall. I said, to redone. The floors she kept, but the way they were done in those days, they put a border around they varnished and then they put either rug s or [inaudible 40:30 ] And linoleums in the bedrooms and kitchen, dining room. In the summer, some people would take up a heavier rug in the center of the bedrooms where your feet went and put down matten which was hard, and dirt would go through because I um cleaner at the time I had to turn it up as far as I could and clean around the edges every day. T: So, you grew up in this house. Where did you go to school for elementary school?


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 17 B: Elementary school, I went to Milford Haywood School T: Okay. What di d that look like? What was it like for you? B: It was three rooms for six grades in them, and we had two grades to a room. We had four toilet was a pump and the some of them to cut the wood, bring it in, make the fires. The older ones would make the fires, and every room had a water bucket and a dipper to get some water to drink. So all the children drank out of the same dipper unless they had their own cup . We had two to a desk. You had to keep always easy. I walked three miles to school and two miles home, and those days, it was safe to walk on the roads and not worry about your childre n. In the fall, it was fun going home, but it never was fun mornings to do that walk. But in the winter, it was a cold walk and you did it as fast as you could. But when I was ten years old, fifth grade, my Grandmother Richardson gave me a bicycle. So from then on I rode a bicycle, and took my sister on the back when she was this little. T: [Laughter] Do you want to talk about what your teachers were like? B: Well, my first grade teacher had been to school six weeks. And they could go to school I forget all of the names they had for those schools, but they could go to school six weeks and teach first and second grade. I had her the last year she taught, but she anymore unless they had a break. They had to stay home and keep house, raise their own children. My teacher was never able to have children, but she loved


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 18 children. I loved her until her las t days, was friends with her. After her, we had teachers that finished college. The oldest teacher and the one that had been the the things we had when we got to high school, but we had good teachers. You mythology. It was called Ancient History but it was Greek mythology, and I still [Laughter] T: Do you remember the Rosenwald schools or th e African American schools at all? B: I remember some of the African lived. So, the children, we would meet the one family lived down Diggs, which was below the Milford Haywood School, which was between Diggs a nd Milford Post Offices. It was thirty four post offices in the county through the years, and thirty eight opened at once. So there were a lot of names. My first book tells about all of those . T: We were talking about the black family that lived in B: We met these two children that I later knew. In fact, one of their wives worked for me in the store. But they were the only ones that I know of. I was always taught I back at us and one the other, but they had seven miles to walk to school each day, each


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 19 T: You said your parents taught y ou to speak to them? . Okay. So what were other interactions that you had with the African American community? B: Well, my daddy always had an African American man working for him on the small farm. As far back as I can remember, he did until just befo re he died. The like when my sister was born and she had surgery and time. Someti mes that would be a five mile walk, counting both ways. We walked. wagon. T: Do you remember what their houses looked like when you went to go pick up the wash? B: They we smell like. Though in later years, I worked in some beautiful homes that belonged to African Americans. fact, the man that did the plastering in the area was African American. We called him Uncle Joe, and I thought the world of him. He had a beautiful home. T: What was Uncle Joe like? B: Jolly fel low. Was grandfather like, I guess, to children and always joking with you. Did a good job. He was very business like to my parents, but with us he was just a very nice gentlemen.


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 20 T: B: . My children were in school when that took place. It went well. My son was the one that was h igh in school, and he felt the effects of it more than my daughter. Really, it was just a mixture here because I was friends with some of the African American chi office was across from the road sign. One of them named their child after me. But we were friendly. T: Okay. B: each one was going to Baltimore that was my age, and another one had already gone to Philadelphia and gotten a job. We were friendly. T: Great. So I wanted to ask you, independently of your research which there is a lot of that B: T: about your family and about Mathews? B: Diggs I learne d the people at Diggs there was an African American woman that did the wash, her aunt, right east, she and her two sisters for several years. Granddaddy would


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 21 too so Mother would take the clothes down to her last name was White; I then come pick the m up the next week at lunchtime, or dinnertime, we called it then, because she always had such good most of the time she thought of it as black eyed peas and cornbread, the best she ever ate, if not, soup and cornbread. She wanted to eat lunch with her My Daddy, of course, lived in the county all his life. His mother died when he was ten yea rs old. But before she died, she was sick there a lot and she had four boys plus two that died. So, she always had, they called them black then, old black girl working in the house. She would play pranks on her, like, and they would play pranks on each oth er. So it was a good relationship. T: What kind of pranks? B: Well, for instance, one time she was in bed sick for a few days. And, she felt lothes and they were both small built so she could get them on and g et by with it. He was a little bigger. Put his good suit on and his hat, and stole downstairs and ran out the front door, and knocked on the door. [Laughter] The girl working for them came to the door and went to see she disguised her voice Mrs. Callis. Sh e went and called Grandmother; she called her Miss Maggie, I think. Miss Maggie, got company! when she came back down to the door, Grandmother had shook her hair down and taken t about. They said she was playing pranks all the time on people like that. I mean,


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 22 just little funny things. I have a quilt made out of her dress material and my cedar chest now. Some blocks need replacing, but . T: B: Daddy loves whistled and sang all the time. Mother had learned to play the pi T: What would he sing? B: his mother, in ten years, influenced his entir e life. Because I was thinking this even mor ning, on a Sunday school class something was discussed. Well Daddy said his mother had taught him that when he was a little boy. And it was something nobody had thought of all these years. So it was a different type life. Of course, she attended the Methodist church. Well, there was an independent t abernacle down the road not far from us, and she attended every service that she could get to. Daddy said that she and Grandpa would go to service when he was little. He was the youngest boy, of buggy and go to sleep. He get out at they did back to the was down the road not far from the tabernacle at Grandpa and Grandma . Gus


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 23 [Laughter] T: Wha t is the oldest story of your family that was passed down orally to you? B: Oh, me! I guess about courting days, one of the main things I can remember. picture with him on a Sunday afternoon sitting somewhere around the Courthouse we called the village the Courthouse back then where they had traded hats. Daddy loved Halloween. They dressed up in just old clothes or he and put a stocking on their face and go different places. He said one house he went to was his man or woman. [Laughter] So, that was nice. One thing they enjoyed, and I enjoy ed in my childhood, too, was sugar pulls in the winter. My Daddy was good at pulling the sugar out. You ste wed sugar and water, and you pour a little bit of vinegar and there was butter added, and made taffy. I think I have a recipe been trying for ye when it got to so you held the spoon up and it dripped a solid drip, it was time to take it off. Then you beat it real hard, then you took it out on the cold porch outside and pulled it in th e cold, back and forth with your hands until it got so you knew you could twist it. You made like long twists, then you take it in, and you burn your hands. They said it burn butter flavor. Then they would take a knife. You hit it just right and it would make your length. I used to love it when it was new


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 24 T: What time of year was that done? In the winter, but B: Yeah. T: Okay. B: they knew that I enjoyed it. I guess Daddy did, too, and probably Mother. My Daddy did best. T: What kind of person was your father? B: ground, and the green grass grew all around. And on that tree there came a limb, and the green grass grew around. And it when on and on with birds and nests and all. The young people, they had to take us young people to meetings, the co unt ry you had to go a long ways, walk ten miles about. The young people t. But he was just he liked fun. Mother was more serious. T: Did he make your Halloweens and Christmases fun?


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 25 B: a lot for Halloween. We dressed up in some of his clothes and wore them around the neighborhood. Christmas, he always went out and cut a special tree. They never put it up unt il after we went to bed Christmas Eve night. We never saw it until Christmas morning. We may see it sitting out in the day by the smokehouse. to the strictest church. He smoked a cigar each Christmas before that. The associated with cigar smoke with Christmas for many a day. [Laughter] T: B: anddaddy Richardson was the one that made our Christmas, because he had a steady job all through the we needed and just ten cent store toy, but we had a good Christmas. T: That a child? The one that you dad got the cigar from? B: T: B: Mm hm. T: Okay. What did the insi de of the store look like? Whose store was it?


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 26 B: wait on yourself. They had long reachers they got the cans off the shelf and you called what you wanted. It started out you pr obably can remember hard enough if I tell you later, the store still looked the same; the post office was, of course, in law, my uncle on her side, was running the store. My mother sent me with a bucket a dozen, I guess of eggs and gave me a list of things to get with them. What change was left over, you could buy t I was determined to steal them to buy candy for quite a few months. [Laughter] T: stories about Mathews? B: Daddy did. T: Yeah? Did he make them up, though? B: Ghosts of . Old House Woods A lot of those he would tell.


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 27 T: Well, what do you remember about ghosts he would tell you about? It doesn have to be Old House Woods. B: thought much about them, because ghosts never were a big thing well, actually, this change came in his life when I was nine years old and he stories. He would tell us Bible stories. Quite a difference. [Laughter] T: Yes, yeah. B: brother died with s trep throat on a they lanced them back in those days. We had penicillin and other antibiotics, and the poison reached his heart before they could get to a doctor to take care of the getting the poison out and h e died. He had one little girl, year and a half old, and another on the way. Mother was very close to his wife because Daddy thought so much of him, and Grandpa and Granny Callis took us there and Mother packed a suitcase for my sister and me Daddy went b ack home, but we stayed for a week at the house to help. Of course, Aunt Louise was expecting another baby in I forget how many months. But at the time, she was right sick. It was all she could do to keep up, plus the grief. But I lay on the sofa to sleep that night in the room where all the men sat that was sitting up with the body. They had the body sitting in the living room, and that was the dining room, sitting room area. And it had a day bed with I think it


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 28 was the old type chaise lounge with a headre st. I could not sleep because those men told down and look and come back and they were just having a ball. I was so tired and sleepy, but I was scared of everything for a while after that night. T: B: answered your q uestions. Of T: even if there are local heroes that are larger than life, that kind of thing. Things that sort of blend into fiction. B: Well, after my ninth birthday and then at twelve, they changed churches, I got involved. People were much more serious then. It was prayer meetings and all, Toots Morgan was living, who I went to for a lot of information in my first book, she could tell a and laugh! But Toots T: Oh, wow. B: She was in her sixties when it happened.


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 29 T: Oh, my goodness. After your father found God again, how did that affect your life beyond church? B: another thing. Of course, the more I began to date the only one I really dated -I had people come and ask me for dates, but I never went anywhere with them eithe r. [Laughter] We had a wonderful life, but it was simple. T: love to hear anything else you want to talk about. B: Let me just . a lot of my love letters are probably som ewhere in there. This is the last year or two and looks beautiful. T: B: Oh, I know something I wanted to tell you about. This is a third cousin of mine, but he seemed more like a first cousin. He finished school the year after I did, with my husband. Looking serious as they could, when I know both of them ready to burst out laughing when the picture was taken. They went out a lot more than I did on Sunday afternoon, places. But anyway, this cousin of mine, when he finished want war in the Navy or anything, so you could do that because they did just as


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 30 much as others. That book tells about that. Anyway, in doing that, he came into Norfolk a lot and he met Mr. Paxton that owned Paxton Company, and sort of fell in. Interested in ropes and things used on ships. After the war was ove r, he got a job with Mr. Paxton and worked for him for quite a few years selling sam son r ope. Well, he was very creative, had some Callis ingenuity for business. Well, to the other, stores in Baltimore and Mathews. Bobby just decided that he could do some different things with rope, and he did. And then he got involved with some of the : the general, the admirals, what have you, if he could get a chance. He came up and gave them some of his ideas. Well then they got him to make things. Then during the Vietnam War, we were losing battles because the helicopters would fly over our ships to pick up things and do things. It was a big metal end that they picked it up with, and it would knock them out and hurt people. Some were even killed, I think, during, because it was just a dangerous thing. They had to hook whatever had to be taken up on t he helicopter onto to that and lower it down. They took food, even, and lowered it down, it had to be unhooked and things it was in. Well, they asked him to make a rope that did not have any metal on it that they could use to do that. He and his wife sat i n the kitchen and worked on that for hours and hours. She would count the right thing and it helped win the Vietnam War. I have a picture of what he made in here, which you can


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 31 of windmills in Mathews. And Mathews is the biggest boatbuilding county in the state for a long time, before my day. I was talking more about my day. T: Well, should I turn this off? B: Yeah, you turn that off. T: Okay. [Interruption in interview] B: All right. Mathews was part of Gloucester until the late 1700s, 1798. So it would be Kingston Parish, Gloucester, in your history books. Well, Captain John Smith made some tours of the Chesapeake Bay with his men and all and several boats. When they got to a place in Norfolk they thought was wonderful for boats to come in, they named it Point Comfort. So as they came on up the bay, they came to New Point, what was later named New Point. They said, we ll, this is just Then, Old Point became Old Point. Later, the lighthouse was put on it. It was so large interesting, some of the things he did. He tells about Stingray Point tha Middlesex how he got stuck with a stingray there. Anyway, he stayed a while and got better. Then Hugh Gwynn, some years later, who Gwynns Island is named for, he owned land there that Pocahontas would come up and she cal led it her island. Her daddy had given her that island, but she told him he could live there. I he ard a story about him saving


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 32 her life. He saw her drowning and he went out in a boat to her and rescued her and brought her into shore and saved her life. T: Where did you hear that story? B: T: Oh, it is. B: Gwynns Island love to tell it, one of my friends [Laughter] over there especially that loves history. There was some interesting things that I was thinking about. Most of the post offices, when I did my post office book, I found were in the right hand corner of the general stores. But a few were in warehouses and other places in the neighborhood where it was. One of these was named Dixie, first post office, the building it was in was the Dixi e Ware Doing the post offices, that was quite interesting. Auburn and S hell were the place. Shell was first and then they called it Auburn because the house had been built at Auburn. That was a warehouse. Then I had never heard of one post office that I had the name of, and so I was just looking for some information about the re. I had been calling a girl that had lived in the neighborhood, because I made draperies and did covers and things on the left side of her road, went down to where this post office was. But I never even seen an opening in the woods on the right side. So


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 33 returned my call She gave me the whole history of the post office, and the owner. I called him and he let me go there. And sure, he still has the post office set up as a gene ral store and the post office part, most of T: I wanted to ask you if you had heard any stories about colonial Indians or B: No. Well, the stories about the Indians I know best, my cousin was a historian for Mathews for years. He told me that they were friendly in this area. In fact, I know families that intermarried in the Diggs area, which is off Milford Haywood lk about about it, they had the coloring and the high cheekbones and so on. But in this area they were known as being very friendly. Now, I understand know this until a fter my book was written that up at Blakes, which is on past Hudgins and the post office is closed now going towards Cobbs Creek they had a fenced as they did in this area. They wer e like slaves for a go od time, which upset me because everything I had heard is that Indians in the area were friendly. T: Hm. Interesting. Do you know at what point that occurred? B: l ursing home in law that remembered it, and father in


TMP 034; Brooks; Page 34 T: Okay, great. Thank you. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Jessica Taylor, December 23, 2014 Audit Edited by: Kyle Bridge, January 25, 2015 Final edited by: Kyle Bridge, January 25, 2015