Interview with Harry Corr, 2016 July 9

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Interview with Harry Corr, 2016 July 9
Corr, Harry ( Interviewee )
Daglaris, Patrick ( Interviewer )
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Oral history interview


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Tidewater Main Street Development Project
Family history
Rural life
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United States of America -- Virginia -- Gloucester


Harry Corr talks about growing up on his family's farm in Gloucester County and his career as an industrial engineer.
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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TMP 114 Harry Corr 7-9-2016 ( SPOHP )


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The Foundation for The Gator N ation 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 correct ions to transcripts will be reviewed and processed on a case by case basis. Oral history interview 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 or i ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is 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. Th e draft trans cript can also later undergo a final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam progr am specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168.


TMP 114 Interviewee: Harry Corr Interviewer: Patrick Daglaris Date: July 9, 2016 D: could begin by just stating your date of birth? C: September 10, 1934. D: Okay. C: Makes me about eighty one years old. D: Okay. Could you talk about your parents, their names and occupations? C: My mother was a housewife, a city girl from Richmond. My father was a businessman and later drifted into education. Single, married, no divorces or anything. D: When did your family come to Gloucester? C: My great grandfath er was the first Corr to come, and he bought the farm from his father in I guess it was King George. So then, one to own the farm. D: Okay. And were you born in Gloucester? C: Yes, in Hayes near here. D:


TMP 114; Corr; Page 2 C: Basye, B a s y e, Corr. D: Can you talk about what area of Gloucester you grew up in? C: Down here on the farm. D: C: Yeah. D: Can you talk a little bit about growing up in Gloucester, what that was like? C: Well, it was of course the end of World War I expecting evolved after that. And I was I guess a typical farm boy, active in 4 H clubs and had my own pig and my own feeder cattle and grew my own corn and this, that and the other. That was the 4 H Club. We had a small hig h school, only I think there were thirty four graduates in our class, and that was a larger than usual class. The previous class had been seventeen. D: Which high school was it? C: Botetourt High School. And I was not a particularly good athlete, but beca use it was so small, I lettered in three sports, the only three they had. [Laughter] D: Which ones were they? C: Football, baseball, and basketball. D: And do you remember, as a kid what would you do for fun around here? C: For what?


TMP 114; Corr; Page 3 D: For fun? C: I work ed. D: You worked. C: I worked on the farm, and I was active at school. There was a softball league. I played on the church softball team. As I grew older and began to date, we had D: Are there any memories you have of your parents, like any famous recipes or games or anything like that that you remember as a kid? C: No. We were pretty low key and low budget. Our family sport was croquet, I guess. but my mother followed me very religiously when I was in high school for all my activities. We were not particularly outstanding, but we enjoyed singing, and I was in the church choir and our school glee club and things of that nature. D: Do you have any siblings? C: I had twin sisters that were four years older than I was. D: anything you do here? C: plans but no, basically in and they all worked at home for the most part. D: I would imagine having a cornfield so close nearby that I would get into all sorts of trouble with my siblings or things like that.


TMP 114; Corr; Page 4 C: D: what kind of crops did you grow? Was corn the. C: We grew our own food. We had pigs and cows and horses. We finished up the horses we h ad horses through World War II and then, when the war ended, we bought a tractor. So, we had a vegetable garden and we used to eat a lot out of it and we used to feed our livestock pigs and chickens, mainly from the crops we grew here. It was just sort of a general farm. D: So you were pretty self subsistent in what you grew? C: Well, we were getting to the point of being dependent on Safeway and Colonial stores. But we were coming out of a self sufficient era, mainly the Second World War. D: So after high school, what did you do? C: I went to college, to V.P.I. in Black s I knew what farming was, and to make a long story short, I ended up majoring in agricultural engineering. But when I got out of college, I pursued more of a career in industrial engineering. D: Okay. What led to that decision? C: First job. Whenever you get your first job, you become a captive of that industry. [Laughter] D: Okay.


TMP 114; Corr; Page 5 C: Because to go to a different industry, you have to start at the bottom again. My wife and I had been together as sweethearts all during high school and college, even supposedly, we say, from the era of our Sunday school before we went to school. So, we had our wedding planned as soon as we graduated. That was pa get married when you get independent. But the army had its own ideas. So we got married, I think, on July the second and I reported to Fort Belvoir on July the sixth. D: Oh wow, okay! So, you were in the army. C: Meanwhile, she and I both committed to employment in Richmond, Virginia. She took teaching and she honored that, so for the first year or most of it I lived in Fort Belvoir and she lived in Richmond and we came home to Gl oucester on weekends. D: What made you join the army? C: Well, at V.P.I. I took ROTC and I had a commission in the Corps of Engineers. D: Okay. What was that experience like, being in the army? How long were you C: I had a two year active commitmen t and six year reserve. I went ahead immediately and went into the two years active and I spent about six months at Fort Belvoir training and then I was transferred to Japan. So my wife joined me. I was over there a few months before she came, but then she got a job as a


TMP 114; Corr; Page 6 honeymoon. D: What year was this? C: I graduated class of [19]55, so I was in the service from [19]55 to [19]57, and the last year was in Japan or year and a half for me. It was a year for my wife. But a year and a half for me. D: What was it like going from Gloucester, from this area, going all the way to Japan? C: Well, my Japanese experience was enlightening. It caused us to have more of a world curiosity and we have done a lot of traveling since then. Once we got our want to go. D: Whe n did you have your children? How many children did you have, I guess I should say? C: We have three, and we got married in [19]55, so it must have started about 1960. So during the [19]60s is when our children were born. We have two sons and a daughter, a nd they now live in Washington, D.C., Raleigh, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. D: Okay. And for you, did you always think you were going to stay in Gloucester, take over the farm?


TMP 114; Corr; Page 7 C: Yeah. I have deep roots here. I felt like the farm was the family j ewel that was in have to be abandoned as a farm. I think it might be this year. D: Really? C : Yeah. D: Do you still actively work on it? Do you still tend it? C: No. Unh uh. I have several tenants. D: Mm hm. You lease out the land. C: grows slow enough that I could handl e that. But I had a nursery for about twenty years, and now we have agritourism, which is corn maze and entertainment. A source of entertainment. and a few other small things. D: You mentioned that you moved to Richmond briefly, or your wife did when she was teaching. C: Well, yeah, my wife did. She had a contract to teach up there and she honored that contract, so she lived up there for a year. My mother was from Richmond, so as we grew up, when we went to the city, we went to Richmond. Later, after t he completion of the bridges to the peninsula, people from Gloucester who go to the city go to Newport News or Norfolk. But at that time, Richmond was the convenient city.


TMP 114; Corr; Page 8 D: What was that experience like, going from Gloucester to the big city, like in Ri chmond? C: Well, we had lots of cousins, so it was usually always visiting or we were going to did department store shopping. D: After your time in Japan, where did you guys li ve after that? C: I got a job in Norfolk, and we lived in Virginia Beach for about fifteen or twenty years, and then when my dad died and the farm came up for grabs, I bought out the other heirs and moved to the farm. D: What year was that? C: My dad died in [19]70 and we moved up here in [19]72. D: And have you been here since? C: Yeah. D: Okay. I was wondering, what are some of your earliest memories of Main Street Gloucester, of the Courthouse, or C: Well, for us here on the farm that was all it the city, [laughter] but it was like the city. I had a little bit of a distant uncle who sort of established our family name in Gloucester Courthouse. He had a general store and he had bought a farm, which is now a housing development up there. So,


TMP 114; Corr; Page 9 know if that answers the question. D: was going to ask you about. C: Okay. D: So when you had to go get some groceries from town, where would you go? Would you normally go to Main Street? C: I was a bag boy at which became Colonial Stores. So, I guess that was the big supermarket in those days. Then we had a country store about a mile from here. My mother made butter, and it was premium, and so she sold a little bit of it and she sold it at that store. We boug ht a little bit of stuff there, but not much. D: Drugstore? C: Oh, yeah. Yeah. The Morgan family is very well established. They were more in the era of my sisters, who were four years o lder, than mine. We were a couple years younger. Yeah, and my wife hung out there some. [Laughter] I think she used to buy limeades after school. D: What about the Gra C: go there. They sold beer. [Laughter] D: Okay, and then did you ever go to the Tri County Furniture?


TMP 114; Corr; Page 10 C: Yes. My sister in law eventually bought into that. One of her husbands was one of the offspring of that store. D: What was their name? C: Her name was Christine Wesson. D: Okay. C: County Furniture. She was active there for a while until their marriage broke up. D: Okay. What about the Tucker Store? Do you remember going C: Yeah, we went there a little bit, and when I came back here as a contractor, I the verge of falling down all my life, and I envisioned doing something with it, but I never did. D: Ca n you talk a little bit about the contracting work you did in Gloucester? C: My business in Virginia Beach was selling industrial machinery. When I went off and went in business for myself, the niche I chose was not only selling it, but also installing it. So, I had a business of installing overhead cranes and hoists and monorails, mainly in heavy industries throughout mainly Virginia, but also life commuting. So, I looked for wh at would require the same skills of steel directors basically. So, I became affiliated with Butler Buildings, so I was a


TMP 114; Corr; Page 11 Gloucester area. I think my territory included over in t he Northern Neck area that D: So, did you work on any other buildings around Main Street in that area? C: We owned one of the county office buildings at one time. [inaudible 18:46] sold their o ffice building, and my partner and I bought that, but then we turned around remember too much building from anybody in the village. As a Butler dealer, I was primarily in the area where metal building is normal, and downtown across from the Courthouse was not a normal place for metal building. D: Mm hm. Okay. Do you have any memories of the Botetourt Hotel? C: Yes, it was there. I never frequented it. But I was aware of i t, but we had no reason to be involved in it. D: What about the Calvin Hotel? Do you have any memories of C: Same thing. D: Same thing? C: Yeah. My father in law was supervisor when the county bought the Botetourt Hotel and made it into a county prope D: Mm C: logical place to go for whatever he sold.


TMP 114; Corr; Page 12 D: Okay. So I have a couple more buildings here. The Southern States C: We dealt with them a lot because we were farmers and continued to, even after I came back in the [19]70s. D: How long do you remember going there, like as a kid? C: Yeah, because when I was a mini farme r on a farm, so anything we needed for D: Did any of your children take after farming? Do any of them continue to do that? C: No, only as a hobby. Because we had the nursery, as teenagers, my two boys maybe my daughter also did a little bit of retail selling at a farm stand of plants that we were growing. We had at that time, rhododendrons were a big item, and azaleas. So, when they were in bloom, they set up a booth some where. Or if there was a festival in town we would go set up a booth. They would sell retail. That was a fundraiser for them. D: Yeah. Do you remember where the booths were set up? Was there any C: One that we were always in was the Dragon Run Festival and I think maybe we set up some for the county fair. We did some right here in the yard. This was before we opened a retail lot. D: Okay, and when did you open that? C: That was done. I guess about twenty, twenty five years ago. Our children were go ne then, and I did it as I I lost my Dutchman and Randen growing area, and I went into retailing some of the inventory that they grew in their wholesale area.


TMP 114; Corr; Page 13 D: Where was that? C: It was right here on the farm. The retail area is still open. D: Okay. I s it that area on the side of the road? C: Yeah. D: Okay. C: The growing area we closed last year. D: Mm hm. Okay. Do you remember anything about the Hudson House? C: No. D: What about the Edge Hill House? [Interruption in interview] D: What about where t he Rev It Up building is? C: The who building? D: The Rev It Up building. C: D: Okay. I believe one of those was buildings was a county building, either the Edge C: Was a what kind? D: Was a county building?


TMP 114; Corr; Page 14 C: about it. D: What about where Arts on Main is? C: Yeah, that used to be a automobile dealership when I was a kid. D: Do you remember what they C: J ohn Hunt was the Ford dealer in that building. He used to referee our high number of other uses since then. D: You mentioned how things changed once the bridge got built. How have you seen Gloucester change, I guess, since your time here as a kid into how it is now? C: Well, at one time, it was the fastest growing community in Virginia. So, it t feel like they were handled properly. But they were successful in killing the growth, and so now n thousand but it was like ten thousand blacks and ten thousand whites, and as the blacks moved out to Baltimore and Philadelphia, particularly during World War II, the whi tes moved in from the peninsula. So, now I think the ratio is more like, ten


TMP 114; Corr; Page 15 D: In your line of work with commercial properties, were you a par t of trying to bring growth to Gloucester? C: Yes. One, I was in the building business because I was a contractor and then I drifted more towards being a landlord. As a contractor, you get certain opportunities to build and lease. So, most of my retire ment now is rental income from these buildings that we built during the construction phase of my life. D: In your line of work, did you ever get involved with any kind of historic preservation of older building that you may have bought or owned? C: Yeah, w e did some of that. We would bid on it. [Laughter] We would hope that we would get it. Two things that are in the news now that we did renovations on: one was New Point Lighthouse at the entrance to Mobjack Bay. We rebuilt that place one time. And another a particular renovation type contractor. We were just a contractor who bid on the work and, if we were low, we got it. D: year, right? C: D: C: They built a dock recently. There was no dock when we were there, and we


TMP 114; Corr; Page 16 been enough of a dock to al low us to tie up. I had other people that were working for me that know more about the firsthand experience. D: What year was that, or when was that generally? C: D: Do you r emember ever going out there as a kid or C: No, only once that I was a contractor. D: Did you ever do any fishing or anything on the Chesapeake? C: out once or twice with hi of times, but that was not a big part of my life. But it was a big part of Gloucester. D: You said working in Rosewell, helping with that site. Was that with the Fairfield Foundation or Dave Brown? C : It was before the days of all these present organizations. D: Okay. C: D: Was that in the [19]70s, [19]80s? C: Yeah. It was sort of ironic. We got the job of building caps for the chimneys so got the job for pointing up the brick, but we lost the job for putting the reinforcing


TMP 114; Corr; Page 17 steel up to opposite. We should have had a different contractor doing the work we did, he nature of construction. You bid on everything, But we completed our work and those caps are still on. D: Really? C: chimney has a cap on it and we built those out of two by fours. D: Wow. C: There were a lot of yellow jackets in there. In order to get our people to work, we had to deal with yellow jackets. D: What was the state of Rosewell back in that time? C: the same as it is now, except it was deteriorating rather rapidly from the weather. The work we did was to slow the deterioration. D: Okay. Are there any other historic buildings you remember working with or being a part of? C: We did some over at a place in Kilmarnock or Irving, Tides Inn. We did some work at Tides Inn because it had to be up four stories in the air and I think we were the only contractor that was capable of doing what they wanted done. I It was just a significant building


TMP 114; Corr; Page 18 that has somewhat become historical [laughter] since then, more so than before then. D: It will be historical in the years to come. C: now But that one comes to mind. D: How has Main Street, the area down there, how has that changed over the years? C: The big change was when they put the utilities underground and tried to make it bout it now than I was then. To me, it seemed like an unnecessary expense the taxpayers had to several phases that have made good improvements to Gloucester Courthouse. I think that buying the Botetourt Building was one of them, and then when they built the. courts building, which is now an office building. They built, in effect, another courts building. That was in an era there was a couple of people who I y ever gave proper credit to, who came in. During World War II, the buildings that were built then and right after that were built right up even sidewalk into the building. They took the front bay of the buildings off and made square footage in order for it to look better, and I felt like Gloucester County should have thanked those people more than they did. They eventually [laughter]


TMP 114; Corr; Page 19 were a big asset in improving the appearance of Gloucester Courthouse. D: Are there any other buildings or stores that you remember in Gloucester Courthous e that I may not have mentioned, that you remember going to or frequenting? C: Then as opposed to now? D: Yeah. C: No, just the buildings in the court green. When I got married, I had to go up there k to the farm after 1970, restrictions on land and I have to deal with taxes and the planning department government. I fe el like freedom, pro free market capitalism, against socialism. D: or things that have. C: ming [Interruption in interview] C: After the World War II, the federal government began to do a lot of helping of farmers, and they had the Soil Conservation Service and a bunch of other


TMP 114; Corr; Page 20 people. My dad was running the farm then my grandfather had died and he went along with all the programs. If there was a crop sharing improvement, he would do it. For example, we built the farm pond, which was supposed to give us potential water if there was a fire, a place to raise fish, a place to water your cattle. T he government actually had programs that helped you and people that puddles that Moses is gonna co me out of with a new set of Ten Commandments. They worship the mud holes. So, yes, they are definitely overregulating in certain areas. That happens to be one. Zoning is another one. They adopted zoning in happen from zoning, but they had an advisory referendum before they adopted it and it was about a sixty percent against zoning and forty percent were for it. They went ahead with it anyway, and I think the reason the people who voted against it was they di want a dictatorial group dictating ridiculous regulations and they were right. D: One question I h ad: as a farmer, being part of a farming family, how have you seen, even in just your time as a child, the farming equipment change? With your father, did you see more mechanized tools? C: Yeah. Basically, there were a lot of small farms, but agriculture c hanged that they got bigger and bigger machines and the people who were gonna undertake


TMP 114; Corr; Page 21 since 1960, I gu ess, roughly. Because our little forty five horsepower tractor regular tenant So, farming has D: C: came from working for the school board. D: Okay. He ended up working for the school board along with your mother? C: No, my mother was never D: C: My wife was a teacher, yeah. D: So, when did your father get into the school board? When was that transition? C: qualify as a soldier because he was a little bit old and he had three children. So, he missed the World War II stuff, but he did go to work for the government, and he worked for a government agency, and he did a lot of traveling in the Virginia -maybe some of his work carried him out to West Virginia and neighboring states. ent, was sort of his field. I know at one time he worked for war assets, and that was apparently a government business that disposed of excess supplies after the war. But then he


TMP 114; Corr; Page 22 wanted to spend more time here with his kids and his dad died. We moved to th e farm to take care of his dad, my grandfather. That was in roughly before World War II 1940 or somewhere of that nature. So, then my grandfather died in happened, but my dad came back and, in effect, he kept the farm as a family jewel for his generation as I did for mine. But he made his income from another job. D: Okay. One of my last questions are, how do you see Gloucester, the history of it, how do you see it going forward in t he future? Do you see it becoming a more commercial area or less focused on farming or like agriculture, industry, or...? C: There has been a big change with the addition of or replacement of two supervisors who are much more growth oriented. They replaced supervisors who were restrictive the world economy and the local economy. So, the first thing to expand is the bedroom community to the peninsula, and that will continue, but there is some mo Canon plant and a few other businesses that bring in money from outside of the we get these busloads of k lived season. D: When is the season for that normally?


TMP 114; Corr; Page 23 C: weekends, October. D: How would you like to see Gloucester grow? Y ou mentioned you like the growth that happens C: enough demand to support a department store, we now that the they can get, even beginning as low as a corn maze and going as high as a more demand D: Wow. C: D: Where does she live? C: In the nursing home at the Courthouse, Gloucester House. D: Okay.


TMP 114; Corr; Page 24 C: So, we would like to be up there, too. [Laughter] Although Holland America Cruise Lines looks good to us. It costs about the same. D: Yeah, that sounds like a fun time C: we go into the retirement home. D: make before we turn off the recorder? C: you luck. Appreciate the attention. D: [Laughter] Well, thank you, Mr. Corr, for just taking the time to meet with us today. C: [End of interview] Transcribed by: Jessica Taylor, July 24, 2016 Audit edited by: Diana Dombrowski, August 10, 2016 Final edited by: Patrick Daglaris, October 28, 2016

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