Interview with Susan Wiatt Briggs, 2016 July 8

Material Information

Interview with Susan Wiatt Briggs, 2016 July 8
Briggs, Susan Wiatt ( Interviewee )
Dombrowski, Diana ( Interviewer )
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


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


Susan grew up in Gloucester Courthouse (moved to nearby Bena in 1970s). She talks about growing up in the area and how it has changed in the last 70 years. Her cousin is Alice Roberta Wiatt.
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
Resource Identifier:
TMP 116 Susan Wiatt Briggs 7-8-2016 ( 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 116 Interviewee: Susan Wiatt Briggs Interviewer: Diana Dombrowski Date: July 8, 2016 D: th here in Virginia with Susan Wiatt Briggs. Can I ask you please how to spell your name just for the record? B: S u s a n W i a t t B r i g g s. D: Okay. Thank you. Can you tell me when you were born and where you grew up? B: I was born February 26, 1937 and I grew up in the village of Gloucester directly in front of the Botetourt School. When I was living there it used be an elementary But just south of my home is a little tiny brick building that used to be the Gloucester Library. D: Oh, okay. Can you tell me about both those buildings? B: Well, the Gloucester Library is no longer used for a library. We have a bigger one down in the you want me to say? D: Did you spend a lot of time at the library when you were growing up? B: Yes, we did lunch hour. D : Oh, really? B: Yeah, that was fun. Yeah. D: What did you do at the library? Were you mainly reading or was it just a place to hang out?


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 2 B: Oh, yeah. I started reading when I was in the fifth grade really extensively. We all kept a list of how many books we read. It was mainly Nancy Drew mysteries, Hardy Boys, and I was interested in the little biography books, too. But I will tell you something about my home. D: Okay. B: forty on e and she was twenty seven. He said the reason he got married was he was getting older and he needed somebody to take care of him. He was tired of playing poker, too, so that was why he got married. He said one day to me, he said, had this house built in [19]36 if I were not planning to have a family. And as it turned out, I was the first of three, then my sister came eighteen months later, and my brother is five years younger than me. And we all three feel like we had a delightful childhood growing up in we called it the Courthouse, not the village then. D: Oh, really? B: Yeah w e said we going to Annapolis, Maryland one summer and I went to the post office to mail a letter back to my family, and the guy back there said, where are you from? And I said, [Laughter]


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 3 B: B ut anyway, since I mentioned the courthouse: the courthouse was, when I was growing up was inside the brick circle that is in the middle of the road there fine new jail think it was the commissioner of revenue, too. But anyway, the courthouse Of course, my father was a Wia tt and this was his father and he was the first president of the Bank of Gloucester and he was also a surveyor, I believe. As we around it on the right side, supposedly, you will come to what was later the Bank of Gloucester which is on the Main Street outside of the circle. Now, it is no that Bank of Gloucester. I remember that from hearing it from my father. Is there anything else down there you want me to key in on at the present time? D: Yes. Yeah, can you tell me about the house where you grew up? B: Well, did I tell you it was built in [19]36? D: Yes. B: Okay. D: Yeah. B: But it was just a mode st house. It was just a wooden house with three bedrooms and two baths. I used to ask my parents, ho w many acres do we own? And M om a very big amount of


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 4 land. But we had a good time growing up there. W e could always go skating in the afternoon on the sidewalk in front of the house, and nobody was afraid that and play all day, and when it was dark the parents would expect us to c ome home. We were not helicopter children. The parents were not always on us and making us belong to this soccer team, this cheerleading squad for midgets or anything like that. We just kind of did our own thing. I think that it was much better than it is now. D: Okay. Where were some of your favorite places to play? B: Well, we played in our backyard. We had a softball field, and we had horseshoes. We did that, and we played Annie Over, Here It Comes with a ball over the toolshed and garage. A lot of home, we would walk down the sidewalk and e, which was on the right when you we re headed south. Dr. Morgan was a very distinguished, looked up to man in Gloucester County at that time. We would go there and we would read his funny books and drink milkshakes or sodas or whatever. He seemed to not mind that we were in there and sometimes we got a little ro wdy and we would take the straw phh! and try to put it up on the ceil ing to see if it would stick. But he never seemed to fuss at us or anything, so we always chose that drugstore to go to. D:


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 5 B: Oh, yeah, and as it turned out, he was a member of the same church I am a member of now: First Presbyterian. Believe it or not, he and his wife Louise have the same anniversary date as my husband and I. D: Oh, really? What day is that? B: September 8. U: B: t know. We liked Mr. Gray because he was my next door neighbor just north of me. I told you the library was just he was my neighbor. D: neighbor. [Laughter] Right. B: D: Yes, yes. B: That Texaco station down there used to be run by a Mr. Brown from Ware Neck, information from a lot of other people about some of the buildings I do remember the Calvin Hotel because that was in the [19]50s, and I finished high school in 1955 and that was built about five years before I finished high school. It was a hotel and it was a restaurant, and it was built by Mr. Roane Booker, who owned


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 6 the Tri County Furniture Store on the same side of the street just south of it. And Mr. Roane Booker was also a very well known man in the village, and he contributed a lot to our county. He was one that people looked up to and respected. His home is just south of the Tri County Furniture Store and one of his sons lives there now. D: Okay. B: Okay? D: Yeah. I know we were talking about some of the buildings specifically, but we also talked about some of your favorite places to play, liked to hang out, and that B: Oh, gracious. A lot of time was spent on Duval Avenue. D: B: To talk to Roberta Wiatt. D: Yes. B: n. D: B: Well anyway, the reason that we spent a lot of time on Duval Avenue is I had on the left.


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 7 D: B: My mother was a Farinholt, so she was on the right side with her brothers, Bob and Brown. And Brown had two boys, Blair and Jimmy. On the other side of Duval Avenue, was Max and Jean Wiatt and they had three children, and the ones that we played with over there were mainly Nancy a little bit with Roberta because he got married early on and we waved to him when he went by on the Greyhound bus on his honeymoon. So he was not in our age bracket. But what we did on that avenue is we would play football every Saturday and it was on a the Confederates. D: Oh, really? [Laughter] B: And we would play two hand touch football. The one that all the other girls that the girls that D: Yeah. [Laughter] B: And I can tell you one thing w e used to hav e a carnival that would come every jewelry store. All of that used to be vacant land and the carnival would come every summer there. D: Wow. How long had they been coming?


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 8 B: Gosh. D: Is that something your parents did when they were younger, too? B: D: No? B: bowling alley is now. We would go to that, and that was a big thing in our childh ood: going to the movie. D: Yeah? What were some of your favorites? B: What movies? D: Mm hm, yeah. B: Well, we used to like to go on Saturday night because they had a serial that was continued every Saturday night. Of course, there was Roy Rogers and Gen e Autry and Butch Cassidy, and we liked those. I remember one thing we went to see: An American in Paris which was a musical that was very popular then. I do other than going Saturday night to see the westerns. D: I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about how Duval and how Main Street look different now than they did when you were growing up? Maybe what are some of the big differences? B: nt except more houses have been built down the way. But the house where my cousin lives now is very much as it was before. So


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 9 the drugstore we went to, remember? D: Yes. Yeah, y eah. B: them. Yo u can find out for yourse lf when you go down the street, a couple of them that are on your sheet. D: B: D: Really? B: Well, the Calvin Hot el is just sitting there, with plywood in the front for windows. D: Okay. Okay. What would you like to see people remember about it or say about it or do with the building? B: I think it was built because, when I was a little kid, we had a hotel that burned and that was on the other side of the street. This was why the Calvin Hotel was built, and we were all very excited when it came because we were getting a new bout all I can say.


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 10 D: what your dad did or what his family did around here? B: My dad was a dentist. My mother was a homemaker until she became forty seven, and before that when she was not married to my dad, she worked in the Bank of Gloucester. She was twenty seven when she married my father, and then at forty seven she went back to work and sh e went to work in the health department, which was at first at the end of Duval Avenue in the little white little white building. Then later on, the Gloucester Health Departme nt was put up behind the Botetourt Hotel. She worked in there. She had to take a typing test remember her stressing over that. D: Yeah. Yeah, I bet. B: Yeah. D: Yeah. Did they tell you what it was like to grow up here in this area at all? B: Well, my dad grew up in Ark and my mother was from a place called Pampa and neither one were in the village when they were kids. My dad was one of twelve; my mother was one of six, and Mother remembers goi ng to Baltimore on the that the water was used as the highways, ways to get around before the roads were.


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 11 D: Yeah. B: thing: my husband is really impressed about my of the twelve became educated. My father was born in 1895, so even back then. was not going to teas and playing bridge and a socialite. She worked on the land up there. The name of the home place is Hillsview. We went up there every summer, the first Sunday in go there D: B: at age sixty five and something happened. We never had it. We never had it. U : The celebrity is Harvey Morgan. B: Was he the speaker of the house? Well, we have one celebrity from Duval was in legislature of the state for many, many years. U : House. B: House, right. D: Do you know him very well?


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 12 B: Oh, yeah. D: Yeah? B: I went up there Fourth of July and h e spoke at our church. D: Oh, really? B: And Robert a spoke at our church. We had a patriotic due at our church and it was wonderful. It it was concluded with our minister and the treasurer of this county, Gloucester, pl was beautiful. D: Oh, wow. What did he have to say there that day? B: Harvey? D: Mm hm. U : He talked about the Revolutionary War in Virginia. B: Can you turn it off? D: Oh no, I can if you want to. B: He talked about the Revolutionary War and how we had real patriots at that time, July that just passed when Harvey spoke. But he told me one time, he said, I am not a poli tician. I am a statesman. And I think statesman is a finer term than think too highly of that perso n, really. You know what I mean.


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 13 D: Yes, definitely. B: He is a very, very honorable man, as his father was, Happy Morgan that owned the drugstore. D: Y eah, she has a lot of good memories just of talking to him about what it was like to grow and live here, too. Yeah. Did you ever visit or learn about Jamestown and Yorktown and stuff when you were growing up? Was that part of stuff that you did? B: Oh, yea h. I went to 4 H Camp at Jamestown. D: Oh, really? What did you do there? B: We played. D: Yeah. [Laughter] B: And we had people in bunks above us and we went to ve spers. It was just a good time. D: Yeah, that sounds really fun. B: And i t was on the James River. D: Yeah, exactly. Were you on the water a lot when you were growing up, too? B: Botetourt School, but my father, as a lot of Wiatts were, were big fishermen. He


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 14 would go down to the Ware House landing, right there beside Hodges and Brown plumbing building, and go down what we call the Ware House Road and he D: you said? B: We had this house built in [19]72, and I thought I was going to be in by Christmas, but my children were both preschool aged and it was a good thing have Chri stmas and move in this house at t hat time right before Christmas. built. I chose a man brick was very scarce. When we had l ived in Richmond, the two of us J.D. and I why I got this in my head, but I wanted authe ntic old brick. It was very hard to come by. We got the brick that this house was built from from some place in Newport News that had been torn down. D: Wow.


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 15 B: But you know, one thing that D: Yeah. [Laughter] Okay. So we talked about most of the buildings you remember, what it wa s like to grow up in this area. So I wonder, because some of this is people to know about Gloucester Cour thouse m aybe who are visiting about them to take away about w B: Gloucester, and they really should. We have a lo t of beautiful old plantations up. Most of the people that do this are not natives. They come here. We have Elmington and Exchange and Airville and Goshen, and these places are v ery attractive. We have a wonderful garden tour here every year in April. D: B: Well, you need to come in April because every time when we have that, the Garden Club of Gloucester puts it on under the auspices of the Garden Club of


TMP 116; Wiatt Briggs, Page 16 [19]40s and [19]50s, you know what we were call ed? The daffodil capital of the world. D: Really? B: below me here where I live now is Little England. D: Yes. B: I can remember as a little girl, there were fields of daffodils. That was where a lot of them came from. D: Wow, yeah. That must have been beautiful. B: It was. And a lot of the little children are pictured picking the daffodils. D: Wow. Okay. [End of in terview] Transcribed by: Jessica Taylor, July 31, 2016 Audit edited by: Patrick Daglaris, October 20, 2016 Final edited by: Patrick Daglaris, October 20, 2016

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