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 http://oral.history.ufl.edu or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. May 2015
TMP 044 Interviewee: Helen and Charles Lee Forrest. Interviewer: Jes sica Taylor Date: July 17, 2014 T: This is Jessica Taylor on July 17, 2014 in Susan, Virginia. It is about 4:00 PM state your full name? HF: Helen M my middle is M. Do you need the whole thing? Helen Maude White Forrest. T: Okay. HF: That was my whole name. Helen Maude White Forrest, now. T: Okay, and when were you born? HF: Januar 7, 1937. T: Okay. And where were you born? HF: Here, in Susan. T: In Susan. HF: to the hospital then. The doctor came to the house. [Laughter] T: Really? HF: Yeah. T: HF : White, and he was a waterman. My he was a housewife.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 2 T: When you say your father was a waterman, did he crab or clam or oyster? CF: Fisherman. HF: A pound fisherman. T: Oh, o h, okay. So, he used pound nets? CF: Yeah. T: Okay. Sir, did you want to say when and where you were born? CF: Oh boy, I was born July 29, 1931. T: Okay, and where were you born? CF: In Susan, Mathews County. Yeah. T: CF: Forrest, Sr. T: Was he a w aterman, too? CF: Yes, he was a waterman. Set pound nets. T: So did your parents know each other? CF: Oh, yes. My parents died when I was seven years old. My father died when I was. . HF: Your mother. CF: Huh?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 3 HF: CF: Yeah, my mother died. My father when I was many years later. He died in his eighties, when he was eighty two. T: Oh, wow. CF: So, he set pound nets and had eight boys and one girl. T: o how did you two meet? CF: Well, my father married her aunt. In later years after my mother died, he married her aunt. We met going to church together. One thing to another. T: What kind of community was Susan when you were growing up? CF: Susan was fine HF: Close, very close. Everyone knew each other and they all went to the same church, mostly. Everyone would help one another when there was a need. We were supportive of each other out in this area. T: What were the specific needs of the community that required community support? CF: Well. .a lot of people had a lot of kids back there. Yeah. Different ones in the community had big gardens, made a lot of corn. Some of them shared that with other people in the community. We raised that. HF: What you ha d is T: How has the church changed over time?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 4 CF: Well, it changed along with time, I guess. A lot of people died, and left the church, you know? People die out. The children all went away to get jobs to support themselves. The church has gotten a little good. Still together. HF: Mostly, we had the church was pastored b y ministers who came here from who would come back and forth. We just went on with that in our church, because that was about your biggest recreation, to go to ch urch. Everybody get to church on Sunday. T: So walk me through a typical Sunday during your childhood. HF: My mother would get me up and we would have breakfast, and when she saw that I was dressed properly, and my father would take me to Sunday school. W e along and come to church, if she could get there early. T: How long were Sunday services? HF: Woo! C F: You went to Sunday school, and after Sunday school they had church. Church lasted about an hour and a half, two hours. HF: About two hours. T: Is there anything different about the service now versus then? HF:
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 5 CF: Everybody walked to church back then. In later years, today, people will drive. That makes it much better, but. . HF: We have more the modern ministers are from this state. Some of the first ministers some had edu cation and some had not. Some of them did not have it. But now, when you hire a minister, he has been to CF: Trained. HF: School. He has been to seminary. T: You said that the pastors were coming from other places. Where were they coming from when you we re growing up? CF: Richmond. HF: Richmond and Williamsburg. T: Did they bring with them new ideas or, you know, things that were different? HF: that came then. After we got mor e modern and got older, the new ministers then came with new ideas and new things to have service. CF: We used to have service twice a week. I had it every Sunday. HF: Every Sunday, there in that church. T: Okay. You said that when it got more modern at what point was that for you? CF: When they started having it every Sunday.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 6 HF: Every Sunday. T: d that you noticed that the ministers that came every Sunday, they brought in new ideas. What new ideas were those? HF: They were the more modern ministers, and they brought the new ideas of church styles, how church service should go and that sort of thin g. Their preaching was different because they were seminary trained. So that made a big difference. T: preaching versus the seminary style of preaching? CF: Well, the less educated, they had the Bible; they went by that. The Bible, at best they knew the Scripture about the Lord, what the Lord could do for us. strength and your faith in him. HF: [Inaudible 10:05 ] CF: But the modern people, they got these lectures and things; they can read off HF: The modern minister now has been to seminary, so he knows, he has been taug ht more about the Scripture and all of the things, the denomination and that [Laughter] You know, just whatever comes to mind, jump from here to there. istent.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 7 T: Is there more respect for pastors that have education? HF: We have a basic respect for all ministers who say they have been called. But you it, you are really resp ectful for that. But for whomsoever is in the position, you education, they have plenty of common sense and they can do very well. T: I love that. So you went to service and then you came back home on a typical Sunday? What happened then? HF: Back home to have dinner, and if there was a service that Sunday afternoon, T: [Laughter] So you came back from that service and you just went to bed because HF: No, I went to play if there were any children around I could play with, afternoon or whatever. [Laughter] T: What did you play? HF: Oh. . ball and all tha t kind of stuff. CF: Ball, kickball. T: Okay. So then Monday rolls around. Can you walk me through where did you go to elementary school? CF: Right up there where Miss Nightman was. That was grade school.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 8 HF: That was the grade school. T: What was it call ed? HF: Antioch School. T: Was that publicly funded? CF: Yes, public funding. HF: In a way. CF: T: What was it at the beginning? CF: Well, a group of men got together and built a school, and turn it into a c hurch funded school. Went right into the church we had. HF: Our church has a rich history of that. Women around here, there was no school for their children. They wanted a school. So the men built them a log cabin and they found the teacher for that and t hey were there until they finally could I guess they got some help from the county and whatever. And they built the Antioch School, and you could go there. But I began my school in Baltimore, because my parents moved to Baltimore. I went to Kindergarten in Baltimore and a little bit of first grade, because my father went to Baltimore to work. And then, after a while he was a watermen So my parents moved back to Mathews and then I went to the Antioch School un til the sixth grade. Then we went to Thomas Hunter School.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 9 T: Mm hm. I have a lot of questions. So, was the log cabin around during your lifetime? No? It had already gone away. CF: Gone, yeah. T: Did you hear anything about it? Any stories about it? HF: Nope. CF: No. T: Okay. So your family moved to Baltimore. How was Baltimore different than Mathews? HF: Just as different from Mathews as chalk is from cheese. [Laughter] Baltimore was a city. [Laughter] And this was a rural area, more rural than it is now. [Laughter] So that was a new experience for me. T: How did you adjust? HF: Fine. Fine. Where we lived, there was a family down the street from us who had daughters, and my mother made friends with that family. I went and played with their daughters. T hey actually had older daughters, and one nearer my age. I went to play with them. T: HF: We went to church in Baltimore, resumed a regular life there. Until my dad said he was tired of that, so we came on back to Mathews. T: What did he not like about factory work?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 10 HF: home. T: When you came back from Baltimore, how did you find the school was different in Mathews than it was in Baltimore? HF: [Laughter] came back to Mathews, it was a one room school. T: Were you HF: grade. And when you got to sixth grade, we went to Thomas Hunter School. T : What are your memories from elementary school? CF: My memories from going to elementary we had one teacher and they had a principal. They taught you A, B, Cs and stuff like that. Started and then went on though school up to the seventh grade. Played ball and had ball fields, kickball at that time, you know. Then they transferred to Thomas Hunter School. At an early age, I quit school at eighth grade, took a job. I went on to menhaden fishing for thirty some years. Became a captain of a menhaden fishing ve ssel, caught big Come home twice a summer and stayed home six months, from November to April. My family, they stayed here my wife and her mother stayed with her raised our c
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 11 T: [Laughter] All right. Why did you decide eighth grade was the moment that you were going to leave? CF: See, no body had no money then, and we could all get jobs. They offered a job and one of the guys get hired, thirty, forty dollars a week. So I never went to school. See, my mother was dead and I just had my father. He had eight boys in there. Understand boys as c went for it. One mistake I made. But however HF: You made it. CF: Made it. I made a new life for my family. HF: Sure did, sure did. T: What was your childhood home like? CF: Mine? We had good religion. The family all dead now except but four of us. knit brothers. Sister had one girl and eight boys. Close knit, close knit. The one helps the other all the time. HF: [INTERRUPTION IN INTERVIEW] T: We are back on. CF: T: Is your childhood home still standing?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 12 CF: Yes, about a quarter of a mile down the highway there. After the family all grew up, most of them all married, some moved away to different places. The older home was. .then we had to pay taxes on it so that we all decided to sell it to one HF: See, my brothers moved away, too. My oldest bro ther moved to, what they call Chesapeake now, and married, living there. My little brother married a lady in Baltimore and they live there. My youngest brother also married and moved to Baltimore and they live there. But I got to visit them all the time, f rom time to time, making a trip to come stay with them. T: Why did they decide to move away? HF: Because they wanted to work. CF: HF: Norfolk to graduate so he could go to c ollege. So when he came up, he was teaching in the classroom. CF: He became principal. HF: He became principal. T: What did your childhood home look like? Do you have any specific memories of the interior or. . HF: Well, we had a two story home. CF: It was a nice house.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 13 HF: The interior? I guess it was all right. It was all right to me. Compared to thinking back know. CF: HF: For a long time. CF: But they were fortunate enough to get a bathroom. He was a care takers man looking out for his family. Of course, he died at an early age. T: Do you remember who built your houses, or were they there? HF: Ours was there when I was born. T: Had your parents or your father or your mother owned it throughout their lives? CF: No, they had it built. HF: They had it built when they got back. T: Oh, they had it built. CF: They built a hou nice place. T: What about the interior of your house? Do you remember anything about your bedroom or the kitchen? CF: This house? T: The house you
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 14 HF: CF: kitchen, a living room, and a dining room. Had a three story house. Big bedroom on one floor and two on the other. So I had a place to sleep at. To eat, we got fish out the water, oysters and clams. Made a fire on the yard and had food. My sister Mama die d early sister, she kept us all together. She cooked large [inaudible 23:46 ]. Very good, done had a good life. T: Were your grandparents involved in your lives at all? CF: My grandparents was old when I was born. My daddy was forty years old, so they all moved from home. We all built our own homes. But my grandmother, I T: Did you know your grandparents? HF: born. T: Was she a part of your life at all ? No. Okay. Did you ever hear any stories about your grandparents, or even before that? CF: She lived with one of them, part time, her mother. HF: CF: She was a Christian lady. She went to church all the time. T: [Laughter] Okay. What did she tell you about your family?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 15 HF: My grandmother? Well, my grandmother had a brother that lived in Philadelphia, and he used to come down summers and stay a while. So I met him and I knew his wife. Once we went to Philadelphia m y mother went to Philadelphia to visit some of that there. I thought I had a real good childhood. Like I said, my brothers saw that I went places and they all got married. They woul d see that I got a little trip during the summertime and all that. I was happy. I thought I fared very well. T: Can you tell me about your wedding day? HF: got a new dress and d know whether or not. CF: HF: CF: Fifty some years ago. Fifty five, fifty six, something like that. T: Well, congratulations. CF: Thank you. T: [Laughter] What was dating like for young people in season? CF: ad to ask the parents, could you go out with and all that, like they would if you were getting married. You had to ask them if it was all right, okay with them.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 16 T: CF: Ms. White? Oh, her yeah. I guess she was real happy, to tell you the truth, because she was getting older and in her older days. She stayed by for her and Helen. She needed some security. She seen something in me, so that she said she was happy. She stayed with me twenty six years after that. We moved over here. T: Wow, so you moved CF: She was a n ice lady, kind of lady you want to meet. T: What kind of person was your mother? CF: She was a Christian woman I mean, a good lady. Y mother to me. HF: She really did. CF: nice woman. Real Christian woman. She believed in the Good Book. T: Did you ever go out with Mr. Forrest on the boats while he worked or help with the business? CF: HF: He worked for a company.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 17 CF: She went over with me a whole week one time when I was working in Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. She rode the boat a week. T: Wow. HF: It was really interesting T: Really? HF: [Inaudible 28:57 HF: That was interesting. I saw how it was done. T: What did you think of that? Did it change how you saw your husband and his work? CF: Plenty of hard work to that. HF: I saw that it was hard work. CF: And the hours. HF: They had to spend a lot of time in doing that and al l. He spent a lot of hours up [inaudible 29:34 ] long. T: CF: People raised a lot of rice and sugar cane. Lot of alligators down there. [Laughter] But it was all right. I stayed down there thirty years, six months at a time down there. T:
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 18 HF: He stayed down there fish for a year. T: Wow. [Laughter] W CF: [Laughter] Hard work. HF: Work. T: So what HF: CF: five hundred thousand do llar boat in 1977. Anybody that caught the most fish got that boat, so I was lucky enough to catch the most fish that year. T: CF: [inaudible 31:01 ] T: [Laughter] Did she have a name? CF: Bulldog T: Why Bulldog ? CF: Well, guy from England that owned it, had two names: they wanted to name her White Rose Big Bulldog So I took the Bulldog HF: Excuse me a minute. T: Okay, I like that.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 19 HF: You like that? T: CF: picture of her right there. T: like with the captains of the boats you worked on? CF: I had a real good relationship with the captain I worked with, and some of them were real g ood captains, good fishermen. I stayed, worked with them eight or nine years, one man. T: Who was that? CF: Captain Armistead. T: CF: tead. Where you from? T: North Carolina. CF: North Carolina, yeah. They do a lot of fishing down there. I had a buddy down there in Carolina, Willis. Lot of Willis down there. What part of Carolina? T: Not the eastern part. I live in western North Carolin a. CF: Oh, okay. T: makes you respect a captain if you are working on his boat?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 20 CF: What makes me T: What makes a working fisherman respect his capt ain? CF: Well, how the captain treats you. He treats you good, you gain respect when he gains respect. All depending on this people are real hateful and all, you know? That makes a difference. I never had that pr oblem. HF: He had to be fair. He was fair, I know that. He was a fair person. T: captain influence how people in the community saw you? CF: Well, I never changed too much. I h ad the same friends I had after I got captain as I had before I was. I hired all my crew from there in 1968, I believe it was. We foot seas. T: What happened? HF: CF: The storm come up, a storm when we were on our way to the plant. Oh, yes. A storm come up, the wind blow sixty miles an hour. It just washed all over, and sh capsized. T: Wow.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 21 CF: Mm hm. T: Were the men that were lost from Mathews? CF: Yes. Some of my best friends. T: t of luck but also a lot of death. CF: I think there was six, seven from around here. It was a bad time. HF: There were six or seven from around here. It was a very sad time in the community for everyone. T: HF: T: Absolutely, absolutely. Was that difficult for you to deal with? CF: Oh, it was at the time. But I had a Supreme up there I prayed had all these fears I was fearful in my work; I was fearful that something got going down. I got nervous and everything. one night and I woke up the night morning. All the fear was gone; I had no more fear. So somebody took that fear from m e, and I put it on the Lord. T: CF: T: Do you ever worry about him? Or d id you ever worry about him going out?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 22 HF: Yes. T: What was that like? CF: to make it back. HF: husband. That was all that I. .I wanted my husband, and I had my children to raise and all of that. I was always fearful but I always prayed for him. T: Th HF: Yeah. I was taught that. My mother and father were praying people, very Christian people. My grandma. T: And your mother also had her husband to worry about, too, right? HF: For a while. My father died when I was twelve. T: y. I was interested to know about since you were in Louisiana and Virginia at the time of the Civil Rights Movement and integration what you saw. CF: eat. You had to go through the back, get a sandwich water co oler or fountain. It was just very much different than it is now. But, I guess you learn how to live with life as it is. T: Was it different in Louisiana than it was in Virginia? CF: No. Better down there then. When I went down there, it was better.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 23 T: What? CF: Mm hm. T: Why is that? CF: Mississippi, not different down there. But I reckon everybody has certain amount of prejudice my family when I wa s down there coming in his house, had lunch, ten of us. I T: What did you hear about what was happening in other places? CF: you know, you had to: you either had yes, sir or no. When they come knocking, put a whip on you or anything to you. But I never had that. But a whole lot of them some of them did. T: People from here? CF: through them towns. . T: Louisiana HF: Me? T:
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 24 HF: T: Were there certain places you w CF: HF: CF: t bother us. We stayed out. We had to go on that side of the street, we stayed on the same side and kept going. HF: CF: Susan part. HF: Down the Susan part. CF: Where we were grew up at. HF: Because I remember as a child, my mother used to do domestic work, and she ate, I ate. You know? I was treated that way in some places. But there were some homes that were different. T: Do you want to talk about those experiences?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 25 HF: No. T: HF: T: Okay. All right. I was gonna ask about this people have been telling me these happened there. CF: 41:26 ] come from out there. [Inaudible 41:29 ] Talking about had a black family and things we re raised, lived understand now happened. Mm mm. Sure enough. T: see if maybe you had an alternative to what I had heard. Te ll me about the Wales Center and your involvement in it. HF: The Wales Center now CF: HF: That was the school, our elementary school. We went there through the sixth grade, and then from the six th grade we went up to Thomas Hunter School. Thomas Hunter School was not the building that it is now. We caught the bus.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 26 CF: Shoot, [inaudible 42:43 ] HF: T: I understand you were involved in turning it into the Wales Center. Why did you decide to do that? HF: Hmm! CF: What happened was, these people built this school down here, this Wales Center down here for the children to go to school in. So when the segregation part HF: Yes, sir. CF: And named it the Wales Center. The library and the parsonage are together now. HF: In that center, we collect all the informati on we can on Antioch and any other churches in the area, and we have pictures of graduating classes from Thomas Hunter School there. So, we have artifacts for the kids who had the things that they had back then, the things that we used back then. Some thin gs are there, kind of interesting, is what you see there. There are a few things. One of the things we have in there is the first organ that the church ever had at Antioch. Tha t was at Antioch. We had this man in the county, had married a lady from have an organ, so he had means. So he bought an organ and put it in the church
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 27 so his wife could play it for the choir and for the congregation to sing along with. I thought that was really interesting and really nice. T: What do you want younger people to learn from the Wales Center, seeing all the things that you used as a kid? HF: Well, I want them to learn that things are so different now and better than what from where we have come as a people, and try to do better for themselves so that their lives will be better than the lives bef their lives, you know? Most people, we want our children to not just graduate from high school, go to college, get an education so that you can get a better job hat much opportunity for them. T: So you want people to leave? CF: Mm mm, not really. [Laughter] HF: Not really want them to leave. We want them to leave with an idea that, never forget home. Come home from time to time. CF: But ion much in Mathews. One time, the whole bay was full of nets and pound nets. Men could get jobs and things. But later, the girls was always believing in a lot of work. We were working to get good jobs on them
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 28 can get a job. HF: CF: time everybody around here had somewhere you could go. HF: I always wanted my children to get an education. T: Do you feel like you had the same reverence for the past as a child, for your HF: Do I T: Did you when you were a child? HF: Have the same reverence? T: Yeah, t he same retrospective: things are better now. HF: Oh, yes. Things are better now. Much better. T: Did you feel as a child, though, that your generation was better off than your HF: better off than I was. But I had a good life as a child and as an adult coming up. T: term vision for the Wales Center? How would you like to see it develop?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 29 HF: e and shelf space and all to do that. Hopefully, some young person will become interested in wanting to take over and help it grow, go from generation to generation. T: Yeah, definitely. And I forgot to ask you about high school. Do you have any specific m emories from high school that you can share? HF: Went to high school, went to Thomas Hunter. I was May Queen one year. T: Were you? HF: Mm hm. T: What was that like? What does that even means. [Laughter] HF: They would have a festival in May, and activities out on the yard and on the school grounds, and all of that. The student body, I believe they picked the May Queen. Or faculty, somebody, they picked the May Queen. And they had just a day of activity, but the May Quee n they would have. You would wear a gown. I had to get an outfit and all to look like a queen. I was that one year. know how much a queen I looked like, but anyway I had the title [Laughter] T: What did your outfit look like? HF: It was white.
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 30 even remember whether I have one here or not. It might have been some time T: Is there an ything you can tell me about holidays, like Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter? HF: How we celebrate? T: Yeah, if your family did something specific that was different. CF: We have two daughters: one lives in Richmond and one lives in. . HF: Ches apeake. CF: Chesapeake. But they all come home on Christmas, and Fourth of July we go to hanksgiving? We go to Virginia one Yeah. HF: Thanksgiving Of course, everybody comes home on Christm as, you know. CF: I said that. They all come home on Christmas. HF: T: How did you HF: I T: Absolutely. How did you celebrate Christmas as a child?
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 31 HF: Family. Family got together and we had a meal together and opened presents and gifts. That was it, for here. My brothers had families. My ol dest brother usually came home Christmas. He lived in Chesapeake. He and three children always come for Christmas. The one in Baltimore had a family, too, and his wife liked to be where she was from. But they came frequently so we knew they liked us at all. T: CF: sing People come and visit you on Christmas, you know? We were always nice, much different than it is now. You ca happening u back then when we come up. grew up. T: Y ou want me to stop it? Do you have anything else you want to add? CF: Not on this but [inaudible 53:55 ] [ End of interview]
TMP 044, Forrest; Page: 32 Transcribed by: Jessica Taylor, August 27, 2014 Audit edited by: Maria Fuentes September 19, 2014 Final edited by: Jessica Taylor
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