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 055 Interviewee: John & Rebecca Brown Interviewer : Patrick Daglaris Date: October 24, 2014 D: This is Patrick Daglaris at the M JB: John Brown D: John Brown. T oday is October 24, 2014. So sir go ahead and tell me about where you were born or your birthday actually. JB: Born May 8, 1941, in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. D: Tarentum? Can you spell that out for me? JB: T a r e n t u m D: JB: Well I moved here when I was about three months old. My mother had to come. S he was a nurse. My grandfather was a minister and had heart problems, and they suggested he come down to the coast. Of course my mother being a nurse followed him. S o myself and older brother and older siste My father was teaching P.E. at Harbor creek High S chool in Pennsylvania. After a year he decided that living by himself was not a whole lot of fun so he came down and got a job at the local high school, Mathews High School teaching P.E. went to high school here, left, went t o college, taught seven years D:
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 2 JB: In Salem, West Virginia. Salem College, s ame college my father went to college at, a nd in time the same college that my older brother and sister were attending. So of course gh school coach went to Salem. S o they had a scholarship at Salem. D: So y ou moved here when you were a couple mo nths old. Are you considered a come here ? JB: here, you can interview her later. [Laughter] Both her grandparents and great grandparents on both sides are natives of Mathews. So m standards. D: So y ou mentioned that you came to Virginia the coast to get closer because of your grandfather s health. Was there anything about Mathews that stood out? JB: Of course, I was an infant at the time. O f course dad bought three acres down in Redart I can remember growing up without electricity, with the lan terns and the outside facility. Obviously I can remember the well and a hand pump. Dad was drafted. O f cour se that was around World War I I. H e was drafted in the Navy so he left for four years during the episode. D: Do you know what front he was on? JB: No, he never went o verseas. He was lucky. B ., the one that goes in and builds buildings for the military. So I can remember when he got
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 3 back, obviously I was six seven years old. I mean, I can remember one of the things he acquired somehow was a battery operated radio, and as a young kid I can remember the local guys in Redart came down to listen to I believe it was even have a radio. This was a dry cell radio we had. I remember growing up experienced that. D: Did both your parent come born raised Pennsylvania? JB: randpa being a preacher he obviously traveled if she was born in Pennsylvania. I hear stories he had a ot sure exactly. Maine, New Hampshire, what ever. D: JB: Yes. D: JB: Father was born in Pennsylvania. D: Was there like a line of ancestry in there? JB: No actually at that time . some of the things that I should remembe r but I grandparents were from Ohio . So I went to school here, graduated in 1959 and obviously I went to Salem and got my teaching
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 4 certificate. I taught seven years at Christc hurch School two years at Kecoughtan and twenty eight years here. I taught math. I was head football coach for se ven years and track coach for twenty eight years, assistant basketball coach, and then I was D: You di d a lot. JB: We were very fortunate. I almost won three hundred games in fifteen years, I had good people. D: I wanted to ask you a little bi t about growing up in Mathews. W hat was just childhood like? JB: Well I tell somebody that I never put shoes on fro m the last day of school until the first day of school in September. D: JB: Except to go to church. I would wear shoes there. Of course my feet were growing. I always hated putting my shoes on because you ne ver bought shoes until just before you went to school, so you were cramming your feet into your shoes. S o going to church was not a lot of fun wearing shoes. We would go out running. I mean I just never wore shoes in the summer times D: Wha t were some of the activities? W hat did you do for fun as a kid around these parts?
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 5 JB: For fun? As I was growing up? Hmm. I can remember as a kid playing marbles, fishing, and later on hunting, ride a bicycle. D: Did you ever interact with the watermen at all? JB: Well my uncle, who lived oh, about a five minute walk from me, he was a crabber. When I was growing up I used to go out and help him pull his crab pots. Back then the y never set them in mor e than twenty five foot of water because they had to use three times the depth of the water the amount of rope so you had to pull in seventy five foot of line for each pot. A morning and most of the time you were finished by eleven. So it took you that long to pull in a hundred pots. The amazing thing is back then the buoys were not as large as the ones today. tide was running in the bay the buoys wou ld be completely submerged. S six feet underwater. So I crabbed. A neighbor of mine when I was in grade school raised goats and he had about fifty goats. A nd I used to go down and help him milk the goats every evening and my pay would be a quart of goats milk, which I used to take to school for my lunch. I would have a quart jar and take it to school a time, was D: I was wondering, so you did some activities on the water but that kind of career or lifestyle never really appealed to you personally?
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 6 JB: Well it always intrigued me. When I reti red in 2000 from teaching for thirty seven years I have my commercial waterm cense now and I fished seventy five crab p ots which I pulled by hand. A fter a year I thought I was making pretty good money until the state of Virginia and the federal g overnme nt got their share. S o I king for the state of Virgi nia and the federal government. S o after that I on ly fished ten or twelve pots. I sell some now w ell not the last two years; been to o expensive to sell. So that was my great introduction to commercial crabbing. I do fish gill nets recreationally and friends. D: So I was wondering as a kid were there any ghost stories or any folklore that you remember or any haunted areas? JB: Yeah, t here was a place in Mat hews called Old House Woods and . they have a lot of history. lived in the old ouse and he told me experiences that he and his wif e would be sitting and reading. T he fi rst time th ey were reading they heard foot print s upstairs, somebody walking. Tom thought somebody was up there and he hollered and he went up there looked around and nothing. He went back down and they were reading and it was quiet. He heard the foot prints again. He got his flashlight and went up and looked every place and never . saw . anything. D: Gave him a good spook though?
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 7 JB: Well I guess he was known a friendly ghost because he never bothered anything They would just hear activity up there. D: Was that near the woods? JB: No that was not. That was down here on Stutts Creek. Which I guess is not that far for a ghost to go. [Laughter] D: D id you ever tr y to find the hauntings or the ghosts? JB: No I did not. I did not want any part of that. [Laughter] in ghos em either. I would just as soon as they stay where they want to be and I will stay where I am. D: Are they any other haunted areas or anything else that you can remember? JB: No I just heard of an area in West Point that people used to go over there and sit and look for this red light that would be moving. But I think it was more just to be s itting there with your girlfriend enjoying the night life. [Laughter] As I grew up, y ou asked me if anything I did, Dad being a coach I used to go I went to Lee Jackson Elementary S chool, the one where the court building is now up there. So a d go up there and help dad prepare for ba ll games. A t that time he was the only coach. In fact he was also the Ken Brown S enior that the football field was named after.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 8 D: Still focus ed on just childhood and traditions, I was wondering about holidays around here. I ere there any Halloween traditions or pranks or anything that went on around here, at least as you were a kid or growing up? JB: The only one I used to pull would be, you use and you take a thumb tack and a piece of thread and you put it in the windowsill above the window. T hen you come down about four feet and put a washer and then you take that s pool of thread and you go back about a hundred feet and hide behind a tree And you would tap it on the tight, and they wo uld come out and look around. Of course after dark they em. I got some people t hat actually came out with shotguns A t that point I quit I went to D: ber any like egging s or any other just delinquent stuff? JB: No, D ad being a coach and later on my principal, I tried to stay as much out of trouble as I could. Now I may have don e a few pranks. Thank goodness I we had a neighbor down there that used to make plaster, Mr. Vanderweil The boys in the neighborhood, we would take his sign down and put it o d go take a ratc het and take it down and take it and put it on his porch The sheriffs and the deputies would come down and question al l the kids in the neighborhood. A nd of course
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 9 D: Of course. So Mrs. Brown how long has your family bee n in the Mathew s area? RB: which you know i n d e r and they at some point were granted some land up close to Gwynn s Island. T here is a Winder Cr one of never actually gone to look for that document to be sure been told. I grew up in the lower end of the county down at New Point, down by the lighthouse and was born in 41. So a ll through World War II I lived down there D: Can I just get the date of the birthday? RB: September 27, 1941. I was born in the hospital in Newport New s and my dad was at the time and forth like people do today. We had one car and he would drive down on a Monday morning and stay the whole week in a boarding house which was pretty common at that ti me. The lady at the boarding house provided them with a breakfast an d dinner and they slept there. T afternoons. When it was time for me to born, I was late and my mother was afraid that she was gonna go into labor while my dad was in Newport News. So she went down and stayed with relatives in Hilton Village, which is a little suburb of Newport News.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 10 JB: Let me interject one thing. One of the big problems back then was at the York River there was a ferry crossing the York River and so if you missed the ferry especially late a o that was a crucial thing of travel. RB: I guess lots of people must have done t hat somehow. worked for other folks whose husbands were home with a car. So I was born in Newport News and weeks later came back to Mathews. D: Okay. You mentio ned the steam boat or the ferrie s. D o you guys have memories of hop p ing on to get to Williamsburg or Norfolk? JB: Yes. RB: That was the only way to get across the York R iver. JB: If you went to Norfolk you had to get on the York River ferry, you had the Hamp tons Road ferry, then you had a Willoughby ferry RB: If you were going that far. Just a short ferry across the Willoughby. JB: It was just a short ferry across the river and so to get to Virginia Beach you had three ferries you had to travel. D: How long until that changed? RB: The bridge across the York River was built in the 50s. JB: The late 50s, yeah. RB:
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 11 JB: Because 59 was a bridge at Piankatank. RB: There was even a bridge across the Piankat ank River in to Middlesex County in the 50s. Pr ior to that you took the ferry. A about the ea rly ferries a the Twig g ferry came from. g fella D: So another one of the things I was talking to him about is folklore. So growin g up as a child in Mathews I asked first about any haunted stories or haunted places or any ghosts that you experienced or heard about? RB: Outside of Old House Woods Woods. The county at that point was very seg r egated by communities because ne car in the family and many times the women JB: And where we grew she went to New Point Elementary S chool which is down where the firehouse is and Gwynn had its own school and both of those schools had slanted auditoriums, stages, and both were on the second story. RB: No, New Point was on the fi rst one, I never went in the Gwyn auditorium JB:
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 12 RB: But that scho ol pictures of it at all was a huge building, had two steeples, two big bells, and it was built by the people of the neighborhood T hey were fisherman. They would go out in the morning and fish their nets, come in cut the timber from their property haul it up to the school and eventually they built the building. I t was gigantic, I mean really and truly there were lots and lots. A nd it served as the high school. Then there were little neighbo rh oods t here was the post office and y ou bought the groceries at the he Courthouse often. Maybe on Saturday s it was a big deal to come to the Court house. D: You mentioned your ancestors that signed the agreement, and they were maritime people, was there a line o f watermen in your family? RB: Oh yes. Yeah. My grandfathers on the Hudgins side, t hey were farmers and fisherman. They fished, they had nets and the Peggy which is the current water maritime historical boat. Have you seen it? D: RB: Oh you must. Actually there is an Gazette Journal. T hey and it belonged to my grandfather and his half ow they would earn their living: the y set nets and they fished them. On the oth er side my grandfather was the o yster inspector on the Ra ppahannock River. JB: He actually did a lot of survey ing on the R appaha nnock back then Otis.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 13 RB: Otis, Otis Allen Winder. D: I mentioned the ghost stories, but for traditions for like Hal loween are there any growing up? D id you hear about any pranks or did you pull any pranks or were there any delinquents that you could remember? RB: a school at what they call Catt ail a s a place in the road that gets down kind of low and kind of marshy and that was called Cattail because the cat tails grew there in the marsh. The elementary school that he attende d sat there. One year the children all went out and broke down the cattails, stuffed th em in the chimney. S o the next morning when the schoolmaster e school for a couple of days. T As far as Halloween traditions in my neighborhood the children would all get together anxiously await for it to start to get dusk and trick or treat. A nd we were just allowed to walk anywhere we wanted to go because th e neighborhood was very safe and everybody knew us. W e would take our little bag of can dy JB: I guess b obbing for apples was the most exciting thing we ever did. RB: I never did that. JB: Big old wash tub and they put a bunch of apples in there and the o nly way you could actually bite one would be to put your head far enough to go all the way to
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 14 the bottom so you would push against somethi ng to take a bite of the apple. T hen you go t to eat it. RB: One year we put a tub on the front porch when our children were little. Do you remember that? And put apples in it. D: Are there any other traditions or stories you remember from your parents, either down more? RB: Okay. Lots. I was telling someone yesterday when were up here for the dedication of the garden and we were standing back there looking at all the buildings that were connected by that little garden. My grandfather who fished with his half brother they would all week long f ish and on Saturdays they would split profits with the money they had made. My grandfather would then come up ank for a dollar a share. My grandmother who wanted the money for groceries and dry goods and those kinds of things oing to see any of that money. A B ut you and the child armers and eventually they merged with Nati onal and whatever and those shares are now Bank of America stock. Course at this point, after the decline with the stock Bank of America stock. D: Are there any stories or fo lklore even, tales you remember from your folks?
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 15 RB: About Mathews. JB: Well cause like I said they really moved here D: JB: No I can remember on e story that your dad us ed to . where he lived on Cricket Hill he said he would name one gate post when he walked in his driveway. One mother would ask him what time he came home or when he came home he says, I came home between ten and eleven. [Laughter] RB: So then he never JB: D: He was always on time. RB: Di here the Coast Guard station stands now there was an old Billy Marchant ran this store. Daddy always said that Billy Marchant was a gruff man and not particularly friendly but over the door of this store there was a half ship model that my daddy wanted very much and his uncle would never give it to him. Years later as a young adult when the store had decayed and fallen my dad was walking along the shore and he stepped on that boat. It had fallen down with the deterioration o f the building. S o he brought it According to folklore it was the
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 16 working model of the schooner Milford that used to sail from Anna polis to the West Indies and bring back slaves and molasses. Often time and it would come in behind Gwyn Island for protection from the storm. T herefore they always called it Milford Haven, which is now the name of that body of water. At the time that my dad and his brother found it, it still had the original markings on it that they used to then transfer it to plants. T they built ships in those days: they built a small model and they took the lines from it and enlarged them to build the bigger ship the actual ship. But my dad being very emphatic about the fact that wood should always be clean and shiny sanded all those lines off. B beautiful. JB: D: Fairly big. JB: Yes, it is. RB: Half of the ship and the wood in it is just gorgeous. My da d built model sail boats as a hobby and would sail them. H e rigged them, they had sails. I n fact he would often bring the boat in and lay it down on the table so that the mast went up and put paper under it and he would draw what he wanted the sail t o look like. Then I would se w it at the sewing machine. He would rig those and from the mast there was a rubber band and the rudder there was a rubber band that kept the sails tight so the wind would catch and fi ll them and he would sail them. S ometimes he would sail six or seven at a time just out across the creeks and
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 17 the rivers here in Mathews. That was one of his favorite things to do. A nd he made homemade wine. D: Really? RB: Yes. H e worked on a tugboat an d was gone four weeks and home two. So when he would come home and the grapes were ripe he used scuppernong and muscadin e and the vines grew up trees. A nd we would go in the woo ds and he would take old sails because he loved to sail and he would have all these old sails. S o he would take ol d sails and spread them down on the ground under the tree and then he would climb the tree and shake it. It would be my job as a child to run around and to keep the sails pulled out so t he grapes would fall on the sail s. Then he would put them in bushel ba there was an ice plant right up the road where the apartments are now and the pi zza place and the Laundromat. H e would take them in and the man who ran the ice plant wou ld let him put them in the room where they stored the ice so they would not spoil while he was gone. Then when he would come back and there were more grapes we would go through the process again until he got enough grapes to make the wine. JB: Two ice plan ts then: both of them were named Green, the guys that owned them. RB: JB: And then one on Cricket Hill where Sockos is now. I n fact my uncle married one of the Marchant people
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 18 RB: Who lived in the big yellow house. Willis. JB: And his job was to when ice was made in big, two or three hundred pound blocks. A s a kid ometimes to help him these and the ice would ice pick and divide it up into hundred pound blocks and then pull it back into a room and then he would make more ice. RB: And those things where like huge rectangular boxes big tall and they made a block of ice that was that siz e, but no one would buy a block of ice that size had to break it up into smaller and there was an ice man that drove his truck. I guess at some point I guess it was a horse and buggy but I remember the truck. I had one aunt who did not yet have electricity because the electricity was rural and it came down the road and it would go so far and it would stop and this aunt lived way on down the road and on the water. A nd the ice man would come to her hous e and bring ice. She had an icebox, like you would think of as an antique : a wooden icebox. Y ou open the door and you put the ice in there. The food was kept cold by that block of ice. A nd he would come to bring them ice. You would buy whatever chunk yo u wanted and put it in there. But his truck was full of sawdust; they would put these huge blocks of ice on the sawdust that would protect it from melting as he drove down the ro ad. When I grew up in New Point, there were two big docks really there was one out at Bayside tha t was out by New Point Light where the steamboats stopped. but I remember he aring my mother talk about it. T
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 19 by horse and buggy to Bayside and catch the steam boat and go from Norfolk from there. The other dock was down beyond I.P. Hudgins store down by the New Point campground now. It was owned by a Mr. Garrett who bought fish from the local fisherman. So the fisherman would come in in the morning with their f ish and he would pack them in wooden boxes that were about the length of this table and put ice on the top of them. T hen there was a truck that would take them to Baltimore to sell them in the fish markets. As the truck went out of New Point, of course th e ice was melting and coming out of the truck on hot summe r days. I t would come out and fall on the road. T he cool thing to do was to be on your bicycle and to wait till that truck came by. T hen you could get behind it and ride and the cold water would hit you in the face and it was just the most wonderful thing to do. But sed to do it, none of us were. T here were a bunch of us tha t would wait on our bicycles. I think our mother will never know. So we would ride behind this truck and the d go home for lunch and you at the table and my m other would go [sniff sniff]. S he would know right away cause she could smell the fish that were in the water. That was a fun thing to do. I would get up in the morning and have bre akfast and you would leave. Y ou it started to get supper time because whichever house you were in in the middle of the day that mother would feed you and all the mothers k new that there was a mother somewhere in the neighborhood feed ing the children. So unlike today when children go out and o know exactly where they are. I t was a great time. We grew up as teenagers here too. That was fun.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 20 JB: I can remember when we bought milk from Captain Davey Call is. It was ten cents a quart. D: JB: Captain Davey Callis it was a farmer in Redart and I used to go get four quarts of milk. Of c ourse back then y was glass quart jars with a paper stopper. I can rememb er i t was ten cents a quart. I was o ld enough to ride a bike so that had to be 1951 or 52 something like that. RB: county. Have you see r at the vi D: RB: you what part of the county. I t would help you get this in your mind. I grew up in one end of the county down by the lighthouse. John grew up in the other e nd of the county, ironically part of the county. If y ou look at the map, there was Gwyn d, there was New Point, there was Hallieford which ran out around by Gwyn land but not accessible by land took quite a while to get there even though you could s ee each other across the water and then there was Mobjack that is west. To get to the C our thouse which was the county seat it was much easier for the people of Mobjack to come by water and they did. They came up Pudding Creek which is
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 21 now not navigable really has very grown up behind by the fire station where the C ourthouse is. They would com e to do their weekly business and handle c ourt matters and pay taxes. T hose kinds of things was much easier for them to come by water, because by road if you could look at the map you could see how far they would have to go to do that. JB: Well for example from Redart to New Point Beach are at the southern end by the lighthouse if we would get in a car it would take us forty fiv e minutes to drive to New Point. N ow it probably takes you about fifteen. The roads we re so higgly piggly crooked. L ike when you come in past the high school it goes around by ell that was the main road. RB: That was the main road. JB: It was a lot of those li ttle things that yo u had t here was but one stretch and five miles an hour. I mean, the road was just too crooked. Once you got below New Point S chool a lot of those roads were dirt then RB: I remember the day they tarr ed the road in front of the house where I grew up. All the children took their chairs out and we sa em all day long, tar the road. It was fascinating and they came by with the truck that let out the hot tar and then the truck that had the gravel would come behind i t and throw it on. We waited. T he carnival would come to town, do you remember? One week e very summer the fire department would sponsor a carnival and they
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 22 set the Ferris wheels and the merry go r ounds and everything up rig ht down here across from the parish h ouse in a big empty field there, was Twig g Motor Company at that point My parents would take me one night and I cou ld pick one night I wanted to go. So when the carnival came you wanted to go the first night beca use you were so excite d about it, but if you went the first night then it was over. The rest of the week all the children in the neighborhood were going and because you o we would all try and go on the same night. We real ly wanted to wait until the end because the anticipation was so great. Many times we would go on a Wednesday or a Thursday night. You money in there to buy tickets and the ticke ts were probably a nickel. how much they were, I forget, but it was so exciting. D: you certain questions. For one, RB: You want to tell it? JB: Go ahead you tell it. [Laughter] RB: At that point we had elementary schools all around the county and we had a consolidated high school which is right up here. ohn and I met in the eighth grade at the consolidated high school. I came out of science class
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 23 and J ohn was standing there and he said, your books look heavy ; can I carry them? Smooth, smooth. We dated all t hrough high school and Mathews C o unty was a great place to be in the 50s as a teenager. JB: Well, one story is grade school when we were growing up like I said there was New Point Elementary, Lee Cobb s Creek Ac tually in the fifth, six th grade we used together every now and then and we would play our baseball games one elementary school against and it was a big thing to go play, get out of school and go play a baseba ll game. When D ad first came here I think there were seven high schools. D: Really? JB: In fact when I was coaching I found a Lee Jackson High S chool class rin g, I still have it, it says Lee Jackson and the year and if i dance and they researched it. W e could not find, the initials were there, but we could not find anybody with those initials from that class. Well the Lee Jackson S chool had burned and so a lot of the RB: We should probably do something about findi ng out who that ring belongs to
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 24 JB: I know the superintendent of schools when he consolidated all the high schools into Math ews High Scho ol which built in 1939 . was it 39? RB: The school was built in 39. JB: he came to the new high school in 41. RB: He came to the new high school. There was a cannery up there. During the war, peo ple could take vegetables up there or peaches or whatever and can them, actually. T hey were processed and canned. I can remember my grandmother buying peaches from Mr. P atterson we woul d sit at home but JB: I remember going up there and seeing it was intriguing. Everybody would take whatever they had and you could can them in small cans or gallon cans or whatever, what ever you wanted they would do that. RB: See, Johnny got to see a lot of that because his dad was on the faculty at the high school. S o he would go with hi s dad. Growing up in New Point, went to the high school. I mean that was just a long ways a way. JB: All t he schools at that time had coal furnaces. A the only thing they had was fossil fuels.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 25 RB: Wh en I was a student at New Point S chool in the first and second grades we bathroom inside. W e had an o uthouse down at the end of the baseball field. JB: By the coal pile. RB: No, the coal pile was right beside the school. Then you had to run, the outhouse w as back here and it was a pit. T he y had dug a pit and put two seats. If i t was raining you just ran r eal fast. I remember when we had flush toilets in this school, how exciting it was. They took one of the classrooms and turned it i nto a bathroom. W ; we had a library. T books in it at all, but the librarian w ould come from the public library up here every other week in her old little black car and she brought books in cardboard boxes. The older boys would get to get out of class and go help her haul her books up. We could go to the library by our classroom and check out books. That was so exciting cause I loved to read. JB: One little s tory, when dad was in the navy my parents talking about it h e was on leave came home and his big project at that time w as to have indoor plu mbing for M other. Indoor plumbing meant he ran a pipe f rom the well into the house, which they had a pitcher pump in the house. So instead of Mom having to go outside to pump the water he could pump the water insid e the house with a pitcher pump. O f cours e I can remember the hat I know Saturday nights was the only night that we took a bath. As kids there were four of us, my
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 26 brother and two sisters, and I was lucky be cause I was the second youngest. T he way they did it was they had this metal tub, and they would heat the water and put it in there. S o the youngest child go t to get the bath first, then I was second, then my sister, and then my older brother. Because your older people obviousl y they got dirtier a nd they had more body odor. S o all four of us bathed in the same water. But I was lucky I was the second one. RB: You have questions you want to get done. Ask us because we could just sit here and talk to you. D: was going to ask, what year did you get married? JB: 1963. D: So you just celebrated fifty years last year, congratulations. RB: Thank you. We finished high school in 59 went off to college for four years and then were married. JB: After school. D: Did you go to college together? JB: No. RB: I went to what is now J M U and you went to school in West Virginia. JB: In fact I would hitchhike. F rom here to Salem, it was 365 miles A nd I would hitchhike from Salem to Madison which was probably about a fo ur hour drive
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 27 over the mountains. In t he 50s and early 60s, if you wanted to go someplace you just hitchhiked. RB: That was common. D: So you went to school for, was it teaching? JB: Yes. D: And then what were you doing? RB: I was a teacher also. D : Both teachers? JB: Yes. D: Just a question about schooling, born in 41 both of you I believe, what was you experience any well for one at all in Mathews ? JB: Well Mat hews had a where Thomas Hunter S chool is now, the re was a wooden building there. I t was an all effect until we were teaching. S o it was about 68, 69. RB: When we started to teac h, when we finished in 63 no hen oral things, Forrest Morgan, he was going to school in Norfolk and integration was pretty rampant down there and they closed his high sch ool.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 28 JB: Instead of integrating they closed it. RB: the school system just closed. Well I guess they refused to integrate and therefore the state took the money away so they had to close. He came here because he had an aunt who lived here and t aught at Mathews High School. So he came and lived with her and finished high school with us w hich was pretty cool, brought integration to this little county and made the kids aware of what Forrest was experiencing. B ut then when we started teaching in Hampton in 63 JB: Some yes. You still had an all black hi gh school but then by I guess 68, 69, was when they really integrated here I believe. RB: We were not living here at th at point. W e were in Middlesex. D: So did you notice I g uess by then you were teaching a lot of opposition or backlash? You said by choice. W as that the general consensus you think? RB: Well years because the children were born. You were teaching at Christc hurch which was a private boarding school, white students. So by the time we came to Mathews it was pretty much over JB: Yeah, but I think early on the b lacks had the option of going to Mathews High School or going to Thomas Hunter. RB: I think every place did.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 29 JB: So there were a few kids that went at first. A nd then of course during that general period all of a sudden it was . big problems when I came back to teach her e in 72 . RB: I think there was total integration by then. JB: Yeah RB: Rapport with the two races. JB: Most of the black parents had good jobs. I know as a teacher when you had to fill out forms on how much money you made, whether you qualified f or free lunch or reduced lunch t he students did and very few of the blacks got free lunches, said, m D: many, names? RB: We have three sons: John Jr. was born in 66, Douglas Mark in 68, and Kenneth Michael W inder in 74. Two of them live in the county raising their D: A l l right. Now to go bac k to traditions for a moment, were there back to holida ys, any things that you did growing up or even now about holiday traditions that stood out to you? Or may se em like not the normal that someone not from here would expect
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 30 RB: Well tmas and Thanksgiving, Easter JB: Course a s a teacher we really look forward to holidays cause we got a little respite from teaching. RB: You think about turkey being the big Thanksgiving thing, we never had turkey at my house. Now you guys always did a t ug boa t, he was the engineer on a tug boat and he was gone for four week s So his being home for holidays time. M y mom and I usually rak ed leaves on Thanksgiving Day. T did. JB: It was a holiday every time we came home. RB: Oh yes, whenever he came home it was holiday. D: Are there, w ithin those holidays any traditions you remember that stood out to be just a little different? JB: Methodist minist er: he would have a heart attack and then be out of preaching for a while and next thing you know d be preaching again. As a kid it seemed like G randpa was always either having a heart attack or back to work. B ut one of the things we had to do as a fa mily, w Christmas. RB: When I started dating you that was something we just did.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 31 JB: That was a mandatory performance : you had to go to G RB: Even when we were married and had c hildren you still had to go to G hous e on T hanksgiving. JB: When he had his thing to do, you had to be there. RB: avid hunter, so he would be hunting Thanksgiving morning. I would take the children and meet you. I can remember you truly standing bes ide the car getting out of your hunting clothes putting on respectable clothes. We would go to G you would bac k into the woods, but you had to be at G randpa randpa s. D: The food: y ou already did a little mention about it. Were there any recipes or things brought down just through generations or any unique meals that you ve had? RB: Oh I don every year. When the children were little everybody would have a different type of fruit to chop into the pan and John wou ld mix it up. Christmas time you always had hams and turkey s and fried fish and cornbread. D: So being close to the coast was fish a more customary part of these? RB: Absolutely.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 32 JB: Growing up, fish was probably our mainstay. RB: And chickens because you could raise them and pigs of course. Lots of pork and h ams. B ut not beef, I rarely ate beef as a child growing up. JB: One of my projects when I was d buy a hundred baby chicks. T his was obviously in the late 40s early 50s before refrigeration was in grocery store s. E verything was ice. The word just got around chicken and I would say, you want the head on or head off? And if they wanted me to decapitate the chicken I would go out there and chop his head off and let it run around the yard a little bit till it died. Blood would spurt every p lace. I forget em, but I did it year after year after year until . . I know when the first A&P came to Mathews. RB: Right down the str eet down there . JB: It w as the building right beside where the restaurant is. RB: Southw ind s ? No. JB: It was up by where the economy store was next to the drug store. RB: They used to have a little jewelry shop in there. Are you guys gonna be a part of the walk? The walking tour on the C ourthouse on Sunday? D: s actually the day we hav e to leave.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 33 RB: D: That was actually my next question I have about two more and a lot has changed o bviously, I know you are a come here to her, but for me your n arrative is more in Mathews so you ca n still fit in this narrative. H ow much has changed? When you look at your kids or your grandchildren growing up here wha t are the main things you see either? let you talk, you tell me. RB: Well transportation family now. JB: Well the first phone we had was a part y line. Everything came to the C ourthouse and then you had to operate it like you used to if you watched the Mayberry just a typical small town. RB: Both of the drug stores in town had soda fountains. You could order ice cream hen we were in high school the basketball te am won the state championship. R unner up, we were runner up. D: Was your dad the coach? RB: No he was on the team. JB: I was on the team, it was 1959. RB: When the basketball team came back home, Hudgins Drug store treated the team and the chee rleaders to ice cream sundaes. T hey had tabl es and chairs and we
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 34 all went in I was a cheerleader and they treated us afterschool free. So bo th drug sto res had soda fountains. The Halcy on building across the street was a dep artment store with setback free standing display cases. JB: t ell just one little quick story: when we were dating, f or two dollars, I would go take a dollar and put five gallons of gas in the car, and then with the other dollar t was a movie theatre. So we could buy two tic kets and a box of popcorn. Then a enough money left to go next door to what we called Sutt ext door to the theatre was a little teen joint, and you could buy a limeade for ten cents. So for two dollars. M ost of the time I made that money by selling soft crabs, I used to sell them ten cents apiece. I had people in Redart that would buy all I could catch RB: Now when he says catching soft crab do you have any idea what he means? D: RB: He would s tand on the bow of this little skiff with a dip the shore and see them and just ca tch them. W a fabulous place and still is, but it was a wonderful place to be a teenager in the 50s. D: I was going to ask speaking about the crabs, just the watermen culture does that seem to be fading away a little?
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 35 JB: O bviously you have to make a lot more money per year to pay your taxes and buy a house. RB: Well do you think money being relative and the price of groceries and the price of what a person was making just seem to have go ne up together. B ut when we were growing up there were lots and lots of people in Mathews who were e dedicated just really working the water. I JB: You have to have more techno crabber. You gotta be a crabber, a fisherman, or oysterman, or whatever. So it tough. RB: It is tough. B ut they always seem to have new cars and nice houses. Evidently but they work hard. JB: you asked them if they were mak ing a lot of money but they always have a lot of nice thi ngs. [Laughter] RB: A lot of money in their pockets. D: My last question is, is there anything else that you would like to share a story or I should have said this? RB: ve made a list. Oh, I do JB: D: I know it s hard to condense your whole life to like an hour.
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 36 RB: y mother and dad of course grew up here, so the stories that they would tell me I can remember. Walking to school of c ourse, carryin g their lunch in little tin pail s. But Mathews was just a fun place JB: Like I told you basically you wore the same britches all week You played in em em on because your parents when they washed your cloth es they had to do it by hand. I can remember my mother when we finally got electricity her first washi to RB: But even at that they put the clothes in the side where the agitator was and then they had to take the cloth es out and put them through the ringer and that rang them out. A nd then they went in a tub of clean water and you saved the soapy water over here for the next load. I mean it was hard to get that water in there and have it be hot to wash the clothes. D: A nything else? RB: We could s it here with you all day long. [Laughter] T he stories just come. JB: I know yo u have other people you need to . D: I just wanted t o say thank you. It was a pleasure being able to talk to you guys. RB: Well we thank you for doing this. [End of interview]
TMP 055 ; John and Rebecca Brown ; Page 37 Transcribed by: Zubin Kapadia, May 2015 Audit edited by: Jessica Taylor, June 2015 Final edited by: Jessica Taylor
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