Title: Interview with Onnie Dial (December 16, 1973)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007143/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Onnie Dial (December 16, 1973)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: December 16, 1973
Spatial Coverage: Lumbee County (Fla.)
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007143
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lumbee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: LUM 156

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Full Text


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and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

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SUBJECT: Onnie Dial

I: This is December 16, 1973. I am Lou Barton, recording for

the-History Department of the University of Florida. Today

I am in my home at 114-C Dial Terrace and with me, kindly

consenting to give me an interview- is Mr. Onnie Dial, who

is quietly sipping away on a cup of coffee, or as we say in

popular &tfcff .' around this part of the woods T .

We all like coffee very much, don't we Ben?

SMr. Onnie Dial is an old friend of mine. I've always called

him "Ben" as a nickname, so if I call him "Ben" on this

recording, you'll understand why. It's an old nickname--sort

of a pet name because we've always been very close. That's

O-n-n-i-e D-i-a-l, and before we get started talking, we

might say right here that Dial Terrace, which is the Pembroke

Housing Authority, was named in honor of his son, about whom

we will talk a little while later on.

Ben, how does it make you feel to come to a beautiful housing

authority like this and sepeople living in housing, that weren't

able to have nice houses to live in before, and know that your

son started this whole darn thing, and it was named for him?

S: Well, it's wonderful. I'm glad to see it. I'm glad to know

that I had a boy that was able to do something like this.

I: Well, that's fine. Now we're talking about Sam--Samuel Dial--

his son. How old is Sam now, Ben?


(S:)He's 42, I think. J&el -^LA W -

I: That's good. I want to introduce& too, later on. Sam, by the

way, is a young man who thad polio when he was young, didn't he?

S: Yes, sir. He got polio when he was three years old--he got it

when he was three years old.

I: And in spite of this he's gone on and he's been councilman for

the town here; he knows everybody in the world. He's done all

sorts of wonderful things. But we'd better talk about you first,

because you're wonderful too. You've got a wonderful family.

Now, Ben, how old are you now?

S: I'll be 74 this coming March.

I:: 74.....Who was it you married?

S: I married a Clark--Lisa Clark's daughter.

I: How old is she?

S: She'll be 74 next May 18.

I: Her name is Mary Jane, isn't it?

S: Yes.

I: How many children do you have?

S: We raised eight children and lost two. I had one to get burned

up at 2 year and five months old, and the other one--it died

after birth.

I: Uh huh (affirmative). I'll bet you anything you can't tell me

all their names and ages. Do you think you can? / '

S: I can tell you some of them. Myitodest boy is 54; iASV the

second boy is 52; and Jim--the third boy--he's 44, I believe.


(S:) And Naomi's about 32; Jack is 40; Lou is about 29--the baby

girl. William Leslie--the aby boy is 40.

3: Hey, you did better than I thought. Usually guys don't remember

the age of the children as well as the mother. I have trouble

because the ages are always changing, you know. But you have

a wonderful family, and Ben it's such a pleasure to have you

over here, visiting with me, giving me this interview.

S: Well, I'm glad to be here with you. I think I've got a wonderful

family. I did my best my best for them to be A If

educated them all...sent them to school and never had to borrow

a nickel from nobody and I'm certainly proud of my kids.

I: Well, I know you are. You have every right to be. Now let's

talk for a minute about Uncle Jim--Onnie and I are first cousins

by the way--so I hope we won't be accused of nepotism; that is,

families getting together.. .we do get together.. have a lot

of interesting relatives too and I'm very proud of them. I

wanted to talk about Uncle Jim--that was James Dial, Sr.--because
"k A we no4t
he was one of the first members of the Board of TrusteesAfor

what is now Pembroke Universityh I think there were just three

of them in the beginning. I knew....Ben, I know Uncle Jim's

name was included in that petition to Congress, in 1888, amongst....

there were 54 Indians who petitioned Congress for help for their

schools. So he was active in education....he was working to try

to get an education for our people way back then, wasn't he?

S: He furnished some of the money to start the building, and there


(S:)three on the committee at tha time, under Reverend Moore, who

was our pastor of the church. He was one of the men to anticipate

and help get the college built. We didn't have no school at that

time worth anything. I was born in 1900 and fj and we

didn't have no college--no school to amount to nothing at all.

And those who were trying to teach--they wasn't equipped to

teach cause they didn't quite finish nothing but the seventh

grade and teaching ptlt o^.&I(%i Even when I went

to school A and the teachers didn't know nothing.

What I learned I had to learn myself. And so I said if I lived,

I'd educate my kidsA And so I'm proud of what I done. Even

tthkigh I didn't do as much as I'd have to like to done. Some

of them have Masters degrees and others have college degrees,

and so I feel very good over it.

I: Now what is Mr. Stanford Dial--the oldest son--where is he

working at now?

S: He works in Raiford, North Carolina, in a public school up there.

I: He teaches English?

S: e. He teaches English class in Raiford.And the man says he's

one of the best he's ever had.

I: Well, he worked as principal for many years. Do you know how

many years he was principal amongst our schools?

S: Twelve years. He was principal at Prospect.

I: He was principal at Prospect school for twelve years. By the

way girls, that's spelled P-r-o-s-p-e-c-t. Well, he's certainly


(I) a wonderful person. Now we talked about Dan very briefly. Now

who's the one next to Dan?

S: JamesJ 4

I: Okay, he can stand a little talking about too, can't he? Because
I, \04e
he.A.he was named for Jim, wasn't he? And he's just like yhim

in some ways, wouldn't you say Ben?

S: Yeah. He's one of the sweetest boys as I've ever seen; I give

him $25 when he went to the last world war--II--and today he

owns about 300 acres of land--farm land--and he has a nice home.

And he's bought another farm here, last week or so. And he's

one of the smartest boys that you could ever meet. You talk

about making money--he makes it.

I: It seems that money flows to him and I've always heard that about

Uncle Jim. He had some sort of gift about earning money....money

just seemed to flow his way, didn't it?

S: Yeah. He always was scheming to make money and he was thought

a lot of, and people always helped him n--rn V g deals for him.

I: Right. And unfortunately, Uncle Jim died many years ago. How

old was he widn he died, Ben?

S: He died in '22, and he was 45.

I: In 1922, he died....at a.....

S: September 22.

I: 1922. That's a very early age. I've heard some of the business

men in this county say that if he had lived, he'd have been one

of the most wealthy men in the country because he had this knack


(I) for business and earning a buck. They didn't exagerrate, did


(S: No.

I: And now we've talked about Jim. Let's go on and talk about some

of the others. How did the girls do,-Ben? I

S: Well, the girls is doing well. Naomi teaches inrvNorth Carolina,

at a public school there and she's doing extra good. And her

husband works for B( L Ar- Nort Carolina. He makes

over $800 a month.

I: Well, that's great. By the way, we forgot to say awhile ago

that Jim teaches school....he's a good school teacher. Jim's

been principal too, hasn't he?

S: Right, he was principal in Hoke County for a year.

I: Uh huh (affirmative). But he's certainly a shrewd businessman,

and a good teacher. He's good at anything he tries...Jim just

has a command of anything that he lays his hand to, doesn't he?

S: Yeah. He's very shrewd.

I: Is M Iy at home with you now?

S: Yeah, he's at home now.

I: Uh huh. Now he's the third oldest...

S: Second oldest.

I: He's the second oldest......What do you think we ought to do in

the way of ting to bring changes in the county? You know

there have been a lot of changes made in the county in the last

five or six years, and your son has been a part of that change....


(I:)all of us have been a part of that change, haven't we?

S: Yeah.

I: Do you think there are some things that needed changing and still

need changing?

S: We still need some more things done....some more things changed.

If we all stick together, why we could do a great part about it.

We could do whatever we'd like to do. We've had a lot of things

changed, like our Election. ..Board of Election. The Indian

people have took it over t ey're doing a good job and they're

thought very much of for what they havetone since they took over

the board.

I: And we have other things too that are changing. We had a little

trouble about our school system, especially over at Prospect.

Ben, tell.....let's talk for a minute about the old home community

of Prospect. What do you think of Prospect anyway? Is it a

no-good community (chuckle) or is it the best in the world?

S: Why, I think it's one of the best communities in the world.

Only one thing....we have somebody at the head of our school

at the present that's not capable of carrying it out like it

ought to be carried out. That's the only thing we have that's

not right, right now. We need a better school now than we've


I: Well, that's one thing about we Prospecters. We try to improve,

and when we move away we still remember ourselves as belonging

to Prospect. Why do you think people are so closely knit, and


(I:)so friendly and cooperative in the Prospect community, Ben?

Because I think it's generally recognized that Prospect is...f ,

they're closer than anybody else, and it's more Indians.

S: Well, one reason why we're closely knit together....when we get

ready to put on a project or do something, if it costs us 10,

15, $20,000, we generally raise $10,000 at one time, or fifteen,

easy. And it don't make no difference what we're getting ready

to put on, or why we put it on.

I: Well, that's certainly true. You know, I remember when you were

building Prospect Methodist Church over there--it's one of the

finest churches in the county, isn't it?

S: Yes. We have one of the nicestchurches anywhere; it's a rural

church and we have about 650 members in it. We have a large

educational building....120 some feet long. And then we have

a fellowship hall hooked onto it....50 foot w"Ie nd about

90 foot long. And so we have a nice placerProspect Church.

One of the most...biggest Churches there is in the community,
k rufrA dis+-fri
and as anywhere.

I: Uh huh, that's fine. I know this is rue. Now we'd better tell

who's pastor over there, now. Simeon used to be pastor,

but who's pastor now?

S: We had a pastor we used for.....he stayed with us for twenty

years, and he's over in Raleigh now working on...with their...

l_ 4_6 and going from one place....... going

from one place to the other, and looking after the Church Of o .


(S:)I don't just exactly what they call it....

I: Well, that's the United Methodist Church that this church is

a part of, isn't it?

S: That's the United Methodist, and we have now a Mr. I IV W ,

a college graduate, who is our pastor--been our pastor for this

present year,'72, since June. And he is well-educated, and he

knows his Bible, and he's quite a,/ood speaker. And we still

have a large attendance.... .We miss ou"pastor-we miss him

very much--but he's coming back.l Q ibb6 4 S 0EIrjI L SSe f) ( sS

i L r&O lcarces, as a general rule. We had the bishop with us three

weeks ago and he preached for us that Sunday; we had a fine time.

I: Wall now Ben, Prospect is a community' the late W. L. Moore--

the first teacher in the Indian schools.....this was his home,

wasn't it?

S: Yeah. That was his home, and he was the first schoolteacher

we had amongst us. And that was away back in 1905 and 1906....

I started to school, and we had one little ole building there--

it was a log building and had a fireplace in it about 5 foot long.

Then they built us a little 16-by-20 schoolroom, and we had about

20 kids. And from hrelT on, we built a larger building....we had

three teachers. And it grew and grew until we have over 1000....

well-over 1000 students now--about 1150.A.1200.

I: Ben, I don't guess you're old enough to remember Hamiltoni l.1

Did you ever hear your father......did you ever hear your father

talk about Hamilton McMillan, 'cause they must've been close.

S: Yes, I've heard tell of him, but I never did know him....he was


(S:)here before my time And I heard a lot of talk about how

he done...how he treated the Indian people of our community.

I: Were those good things, Ben?

S: No! they wasn'te)'O!

I: Well, there isn't....that's interesting because there isn't,

on Pembroke State University campus, a single building or a

single street or a single anything in memory of Mr. McMillan,

although we know that, you know, he was the one that passed

the legislation establishing schools for our Indian people in

this community. What....do you think there's a reason for this,

Ben? I'd sure like to know. lem

S: I wouldn't know myself. I haven't read up on --I couldn't tell /

you but from what I could understand he was ndian name )
-7r:A- r- 15 A f -? C /r Carn (
I: Well, what do you feel.....how do you feel about him having a C ice

building named after him? D-

S: I don't think there should be one named after-him.

I: Is that right?

S: Yeah. WL.Moore, Mr. Anderson Locklear--we have a building on

campus named after them, each one of them. And so they were

people who tried to help their people and make something out of

them, and do all the good for them they could. Of course, they

wasn't too highly educated--they was as uneducated as all.... they

just had a, what you'd call ty. ysgS

,JST enough education to get by with. It wouldn't hardly take you

by these daysWVS A'av i*t

I: Well Ben, tell me....you know this is a farming community.


(I:)Prospect is a very rich, rich farming community. And I've

heard it said that the Lumbee River valley--this valley that

we live in here--is the second richest soil in the world. And

that there's only one other soil richer than it, and that's the

soil in the Nile River valley. Do you think Prospect is a

better farming community than most of the county?-although the

county is a rich farming county....

S: We have a wide area of farming--really good farming--but this

is one of the greatest farming communities in....the finest

farmers which you'll have ever met...have ever seen. And they

try to have everything that they use--all their dairy products,

chickens and eggs and everything. We get our.... furnish our

own beef....raise our own beef,most of it. And that's only one

reason why we can liveA...do the things that we always try to

do. It's because we try to look out for ourselves, and not

have to spend all we make on something to live on.

I: Uh huh. In other words, there's a saying that goes around "Live

at home and _born at* the same place".

S: That's right. And that's what we try to do. I suspect if we

make a crop and we make good money, the only thing we have to

pay for--the only expense--is the fertilizer bill. And I done

bought my fertilizer for another year and saved $15 on q


I: Ben, if you had to buy an acre of land, and you had to have it

around Prospect, would you be in trouble--about getting it?

S: You sure would. You couldn't get an acre of it for $1000.


I: People really hang on to their land, don't they?

S: Yeah.

I: I wonder if there's a reason for that--well, I know there's

some reasons--but have you ever thought about the reasons

behind this?

S: Well, yft can't find another community as good as this one to

live in. And that's one of the reasons 4'WfOn d and

the really good land--you can't get that kind of land everywhere.

I: Right, it certainly is. And this is soitof the center of the

Indian settlement, wouldn't you.....do you consider this about

the center of the Indian settlement?

S: Yeah, that's one of the biggest centers we have in Robeson

County...along Prospect. And that's why we always can turn out

the things we want to turn out....do whatever we put forth to

do. We have our own fire truck up there, right by the church,

so if anything happens, and we need aid and assistance, we

don't have to call the town or somewhere to get help.

I: Right now. We have to remember that we're talking about a

rural community...this is, you know,......You expect to have

those things in town, but when a rural community goes to the

trouble and expense to establish their own.....this is something

unusual and admirable, isn't it?

S: Yeah.

I: Ben, you could travel in almost any direction from Prospect,

and you could travel for miles and miles and miles without


(I:)seeing a white or black home. About how far do you think you

could travel without coming across anybody except Indian homes?

Would you......have you ever thought about it?

S: You could travel anywhere from 4 to 5 miles before you'd ever

come to any white homes. There is a colored home in about three

miles, I guess.....is the nearest colored homel h1

I: How about the nearest white home?

S: About 5 miles..

I: And t used to be even larger than that, didn't it? .. solidly


S: Yeah. We used to have several colored homes and several whiteFlk

homes, but we bought them all out. And we've got a large

community where there ain't nobody lives but the Indians--all


I: So you can really call the Prospect community "Indian territory"

and be telling the honest-to-gosh truth, can't you?

S: Yeah. 'Cause nobody lives in that territory, for 5 miles nearly,

but Indian.

I: Uh huh. Are people very proud of their Indian-ness....of being


S: Oh yes. We are proud of each other and try to do for one

another the things we should do, and help one another. We

have about as many brick homes in our rural district as you

find in any place in the country.

I: Uh huh. Ben, people used to think...you know people used to


(I:)misunderstand the Indiansand they thought that the Indians were

clammering to try to get into non-Indian schools.....that we

were trying to break down somebody's doors. And people were

very surprised when we didn't do that--we went in the other

direction. What do you think of this, Ben? Is that part of

the old Indian pride, or what is it? For example, you know

when integration--such as it was--finally came along I imagine

that the opposition to integration was stronger in the Prospect

area than anywhere else. Wouldn't you think so?

S: Yes, I think it was. And I still think today that they should

go to school to their selves. I don't have nothing' against

them, nothing' of the kind, but you sure can't take them and

educate somebody and train them along with them--the most of

them; there are some of the. hK) U But I think

as a whole, they should have their schools all to theirselves.

And give all of'em a chance that want to be anything--to make

anything out of themselves, like anybody else--give them a chance.

I: All right. You're talking about the non-Indians?

S: Yeah. And we feel like we can learn just as good as anybody

else, and can do just as much as anybody else in the school,

and just as capable as anybody to do anything in the world.

I: We've sort of had to bring ourselves up our own boot straps,

though, haven't we? I mean, we had to start at scratch.

S: Yeah. We done the very best we could.....we've been mistreated

and pushed aside so much it's pitiful, but we've about got out

of that now.


I: You think we're making headway in that direction?

S: Yeah, we're making progress now. We have about 6 or 8 Indians t(C r

at Washington, working in the White House up therej\A 4 "

And we have a boy down here, living in Tennessee, but he got

his education here at Pembroke. He's a lawyer and he's up

there. And we've 3 or 4 Indians lawyers up there in Washington.

When we didn't have a....I know when we didn't have but one

4-year college student in the whole community for 25 miles square.

I: Who was that, Ben?

S: (name)

I: (name)

S: Yeah, he was the first 4-year college graduate we had.

I: Now, is this the gentleman who was Postmaster here in Pembroke

for so long?

S: Yeah. And he was our first 4-year college graduate.

I: I didn't know that. Do you know who the first teacher was at


S: 0 0th/MOfr

I: He taught at Prospect too?

S: Yeah. But you see, he didn't have a good high school education.

I: Uh huh. He was largely a self-taught man, wasn't he?

S: Yeah. And what he knew, he pretty well learned it at home.

I: So how about your grandfather and mine--the late Marcus Dial.

What kind of guy was he? Level with me now, Ben. Tell me the

truth about him.


I: This is side 2 of the interview with Mr. Onnie Dial, of Prospect.

Ben, we were talking about my grandfather and your grandfather--

the late Marcus (M-a-r-c-u-s) Dial, and I was sort of kidding

you about him.....asking you for your honest opinion as to the

kind of guy he was--my grandfather and yours. He was widely-

known and a prominent man in the community, although he never

had an opportunity to get an education.

S: Well, he was a fine man but he wasn't educated. He had to dig

out and live the best he could. And he was a blacksmith in

my day, when I can first remember. He was a veteran....a soldier

in the War of the '60'sAand I don't know how long he stayed in

the army--he never said. And he helped ,, buil .

"Worked on it---I don't know how much he helped build, but he .. --`~--iA

worked on it for a year or two.

I: I wonder.... you know, sometimes people said that none of the

Indians fought in the Civil War, but Grandpappy--as we called
Wo!; I/ ( 'osi 15 ive sees
him--he .Jed t, -ab E -A actual combat duty....on the

side of the South, wasn't he?

S: Uh huh. Yeah, he fought on the side of the South. And CW &O

I __ on that for awhile--I don't know how long.

I: You know Grandpap was.......he looked almost pure Caucasian,

didn't he? He looked like a.....you know, he looked very white.

S: Yeah, he was full Caucasian....he was fully a white man.

I: Is that right?

S: Yeah. And there's Elizabeth--she was also white.


I: Do you think she had Indian blood? 4,

S: I think she had a little of the in her--not too


I: Or at least it didn't show too much, did it?

S: No. It sure didn't.

I: Now, of course, they always considered themselves to be Indian,

whether they looked like it or not. Ben, a very tragic thing

happened to Grandpap. Do you remember that--what happened to

him in later life? When he was lost?

S: Well, when he got old--he was 100 years old--he had ason and
&imw kcrTAv AwIoy s#e-A
he'd always go to see him and he got off--got lost

in the woods and stayed sv a week before he was fou d. It

was hard to keep up with him A when he was 100. He

could walk 2 or 3 miles before you knew it.

I: And he was lost out in the.....when you say "in the woods", of

course, you mean what? What's the name of them?

S: The name of the woods where he was lost,down side the bay,was

Beckeson's Bay.

I: I wanted you to say that because I have never known how to spell

"Beckeson's Bay". You know, this is a vey thick, deep swampland

which is near the Prospect community, andr times--this has

always fascinated me, even as a boy, Ben, because people would

get lost in those woods. They were so deep and so thick, and

you could walk......people said you could walk for hundreds of

yards without ever touching the ground...the foliage was so


(I:)thick--the bushes and the, you know, the growth, the trees and

things. It was almost totally impenetrable. You just couldn't

get in there, hardly, it was so thick. And that fascinated me

as a child. Oh my gosh, I'd like to know what's inside of

Beckeson's Bay, but I've never learned,,,.Do you know why it's

called "Beckeson's Bay"?

S: No, I sure don't. That's what I first was told they called it.

And my grandfather, (name) bought it for $50. He

bought 400 acres of it.

I: Uh huh. It's still a large thing, isn't it?

S: Yeah. And now they've put a road across it, you know? 'Built

"a highway.....a road across it that's just been paved....It's

"a regular highway,just been paved, and they're building homes

down in there.

I: They finally drained it then, didn't they?

S: Yeah. They put a canal right down through the middle.
I: You talk about a dismal forest....that was it. I mean, you

could walk.....Ben, you know, I'm not exage a-ng You could

walk and walk and walk and never hit the ground, it was so thick.

S: Yeah, it was very thick. And the bottom of....... the roots on

the ground and theJ in it was about half-a-leg deep.

I: Now, let's see. I'm trying to remember where the old fish hole

was. You know, the fish pond--we called it the fish hole.....

e d grandpap's place...Grandpap Marcus's.

S: That was back down from the house--it was north frxo the house

down around the woods, where we used to go and catch all them


(S:)fish--real young trout, and perch .....and attah one thing 4mrto-f

another.....we'd catchaplenty of fish. Now it's as dry as

a ship.

I: Of course, people have to understand that the whole valley

here was swamp land originally and it wasn't possible to have

many farms until they ditched it and drained it, was it Ben?

S: No.

I: Well, what do you think about the changes that have taken place

on the farms, Ben? You know, what they call "industrialization"

of farming? There have been changes, haven't there?

S: Well, it's such a great change, you couldn't imagine. Of course,

my daddy--in 1911, 1912, and'14.....it was no strange thing for

him to raise 2 bales of'' .And then he'd take this cotton

seed, and swap this cotton seed for fertilizer, and get 2-tons

of fertilizer for 1 ton of seed. But they don't want to pay

you anymore for your seed now.

I: Ben, when you were coming up-Jcourse you didn't work for other

people, you probably worked for your father or your grandfather.

But what did people get, who did work for other people.....what

did a day's plowing bring in?

S: Well, you'd get about 50 a day. )Q.later on it went to a dollar.

You didn't get much I know when a man used to work, and

he'd get 50 a day, or a dollar a day.

I: And you were pretty darned lucky if you could make that 50,

weren't you?


(S:VYeah. Well, they generally did get paid, but they dAfTt get


I: Yes, of course, that was during the geat .pression....

S: That was a-way before ha.

I: Yeah. Do you remember the days they refer to around here as

the "Hoover Days"? I '

S: I ought to.....I was 32 years old then. was 32. I remember

-i. aiet good. /

I: Did you ever see a'Hoover ?

S: Well, yes, I seen what they called a "HooverP a lot of times.

But I thought them was the best days that I ever remember.

I: Is that right? You remember 'em, Ben, with nostalgia--and that

is a good feeling, instead of a bad one.

S: You see, I was just beginning to come along with a family--about

Le 4 children..... ye about 4 children. And I could raise more
ctaoenrMQ A.. yP St I
crops and it didn t cost me nothing. And when I my crop

a'--whatever I got, it was mine. I didn't have to worry. I

went to town one day in --the spring of '@L--and I had a dollar

and sixty-five cents......I got 22 pound-and-a-half e,'+ 'f-7

a sack of flour, and a pound of coffee....$1.65.

I: Ummmm. That sure was a bargain.

S: I paid for what I got as I went along, and it didn't bother me

one bit. /1

I: Well, what we call fat-back meat, or farmer's today

around here--even if it would be a chain store--will bring about....

well, about 69C, or is it more than that?


S: I don't know what it is a pound, but I know it would cost you


I: What's the cheapest you ever seen fat-backs sell for?

S: Four cents.

I: You've been able to buy it for four cents?

S: Yeah, I bought it that day for four cents.

I: Ben, do you still grow your hogs, and stuff like that?

S: Oh yes, I've got .....I killed three)L y the other day and.....

no one but me and my wife ff "i it 3 S

And I've got an old ham and a shoulder from last year and if t

^^oK eAod4fe. /,ivdl

I: I think I.....I think I'd better go over th re whn you cut that

ham from last year and get... 16/'sgg a slice of it.

'Cause, you know, the older it gets, the better it is, doesn't


S: Yeah, that's the reason I always try to save me one from one

year to the next year. I had a cut for three years, and the

older it got, the better it was. You see, after you save it

the first year, nothing' don't ever bother it no more.

I: OJ course, it's quite a trick to save it in the first place,

but if you do, it gets better with time, doesn't it?

S: Yeah. The older it gets, the better it gets. When it gets

three years old, it is really good.

I: Now, did the Indians have a special way of, you know,.preserving

meat--saving it--that works better than most peoples Ow

S: No more than just take it and put it in a smoker--a smokehouse--

and pack it down And lots of them have.... make


(S:L-V boxes, you know, and put in the place and salt it down....

to save it.

I: Ben, did you ever drink any persimmon beer? What they call

'simmon beer?

S: I sure have.

I: That was good-tastin' stuff. But people have forgotten how to

make it now, haven't they?

S: Yeah. Well, they don't.... they don't have no persimmons around


I: Well, there used to be more 'simmons around than anybody could

possibly 'chec doing a thing with, didn't there?

S: Yeah, there was plenty of 'em.. had plenty of 'em, but don't

have 'em no more.

I: Of course, persimmon beer was something, I understand.....I

remember how it tasted as a child. It had a tangy taste and it

was good. It tasted strong, but it wasn't alcoholic, was it?

S: No.

I: You'd eat it with potatoes......

S: Take your potatoes, and take you a quart of 'simmon beer, and

you had it made.

I: Oh, that was good-tastin' stuff. I'm sorry all the 'simmons

are gone. But if you get....if you happen to bite a persimmon

before it's ripe, and try to whistle,....what would happen, Ben?

S: Your lips will stick together.

I: (chuckle) It sure does pucker you up.


(I-tBut they were certainly useful things, and I can remember, Ben,

when there were persimmons everywhere.

S: Yeah, we used to have a-plenty of 'em. WT:A"e t-og- gotezn themV

trees, you know, at night, and we'd see a possum most any time.

I: Yeah, those possum really love 'em, don't they?

S: Sure do.

I: And by the way.....you know, the very word "persimmon" and the

very word "possum"--those are Indian words; they're A ItOp k e

words, Irr- 14 'k.

like the Ftr, Indians and the __ p(eJL came

later. Well, it's certainly a fascinating community to me and

it's that way to a lot of other people, Ben. I've had people

come and express interest in our community--in our people--from

all over the United States. C I 4 141 qkrJ t1l

since I wrote my book, and published it, in '67. And even a

man from as far away as South America, who was an anthropologist,

came all the way over here to talk about us. And aman,cae

all the way from Tokyo, japan--a TIfa-- to talk about

our people. Now, if we've got that much interest in our people,

then there's something unusual about us. Tell me what it is...

why are people interested in our people?

S: Why? Because...one reason is because people knowfwe're aowee"f

and ''in America.

I: A-Df Mc ?

S : Sure. 'Had to be to survive and live, and to try to help our

children do something. We had one old man--used to ride all

over the United States, and he had a mule, you know.


(S:)He'd show movies in the school. And he said we was the smartest

people he had ever seen, and the workingest people he had ever

seen in his life. And he had travelled all over the United

States. Mr. Tucker--do you remember him?

I: Mr. Tucker..... C\. (- 4 -I

S: Yeah, he drove a 2-horse wagon... .afemaii.A'h a wagon.... y_&

I: No, I don't think I remember him, Ben.

S: It wasn't a 2-horse wagon......was more-or-less a 1-horse wagon.

And it had a covered top, you know?

I: Uh huh. Our people were kind of strict in raising childreig reAriJ

Now all your children.....you didn't have....you never have had

a child to get in any trouble in your life, or anything like

that. Now Ben, that's just good rearing, raising, upbringing--

whatever you want to call it. Did you use Indian methods to


S: No, I never had a child to get in trouble in my life. I was

trained to do what I was told to do, and do it when I was told.

And so, I trained my children the same way, and I never have

had any trouble with them, and never allowed them to interfere

with other people and other people's business. And I never did

have any trouble with none of mine.

I: Well, that's good. You have a lot to be thankful for, and

they've got a lot to be thankful for, for having parents like

you But, the older Indians were stricter than the

Indians today, weren't they?


S: Sure was. When they told you to do anything, they meant for

you to do it then, not after awhile.

I: No arguing with thenabout it....

S: No argument at all.

I: What do you think would've happened if yo told your father when

he said "Onnie, go do so-and-so" andw.amiewm d "Why?". I wonder

what he would've told you. t

S: He wouldn't have told me nothing. He would've r0 i

and knocked me down. J Q if you hadn't got

that, you'd know pretty quick ,k .'* "

I: How about the teachers and the discipline in the earlier school?

Like Mr. Moore.. ..was he a very strict disciplinarian, do you


S: Yes. In my early school days--what little school I went to--

we had to...... ril eA was very strong.

I: Would they punish you if you didn't learn your lesson?

S: Yeah.....if you could get it, you'd better get it. If there wasn't

some special reason_ you didn't get it, you'd find out


I: If you got a whipping, as we called it...if you got a licking

in school and went home and told about it, what would happen to

you, Ben?

S: You'd get another one.

I: awJLfcl3N L-) ^ 7

S: NO.

I: Oh, they were strict. DO...you remember grandma.... she was 6e


(I:)who....she'd take your pants off, you know. She whipped me once,

as a child. She said she didn't like to whip pants, and she

d ^'( & She got her a keen switch and 9_ _;_ict-

all over the darn floor, and I'll bet you whateverI had done,

I never did it anymore. Mamma got very angry about that 'cause

I was the only boy in the family, and Mamma sor of petted me,

you know. And she didn't like it at all. She didn't say one

word to Grandma.

S: She knew better than to say anything, cause if she had've, she

would've ound out what was wrong with her right quick (?).
M 114-1kV4tO" I k whP
I: Uiv some of it too l h. "

S: Yeah.

I: Even if she was married. They were.....they were very strict.

I guess we're getting away from that, Ben.

S: Yeah, people don't try to raise kids anymore....not many of them.

Theylet'em do as they please, and mostly tell 'em what they

want them to do, and get them to do what they want them to do,

rather than right.

I: Do you think it's a good thing that we are modifying some of our

bq vior patterns, you know, A li(C'5 4 1t *')

S: No I don't think it's good. ATrain a child in the way you'd

want it to goj raise it up to do the things it should do.

-..-.. e--- pi-pe. from you. Butif you raise a child

at home like you should raise it, as a general rule, if it ever

gets h and takes the notion to hotmMe,

x W________. hen-you raise them at home, and


(S:>raise'em like you ought to raise 'em, and if they are ever

to part, and take a notion to marry and get out and raise

children, they'll raise them.

I:; In other words, you sort of set up a chain reaction, don't


S: Yeah, that's the good thing about raising children like they

should be raised. So when your childrenp.ever gets out and

has the notion to marry and start raising a family, they'll

raise them just like they were raised, as a general rule.

I: Now,we-mentioned Dial Terrace here, where I'm living here in
I.l A
one of these apartments. Living in so-called low-cost housing

unit. And you can just sit here, Ben, and you can see the

other houses and I know this makes you feel good about your

son. Dial Terrace was named after Samuel Dial.

S: That's right.

I: You go in another direction, you get up with your son Danford,

and --' : his work. Go a little bit further

and _'_'l ll_1- o __ All your children did so well,

Ben. Do you think it was just G i i ?

S: Why sure. If you train a son and raise him like he should be.

You know he'll never amount to nothing--never do nothing. And

no man should ever want to raise a child, and he ain't no

benefit to his community, nor nobody, to his state, nor to his

nation. A child ought to be trained so if he's needed at any

point in the nation, that he can respond.


I: Ben, we've talked about changes having taken place in the

county. Suppose--it may beimpossible to do this--but suppose

that it was possible for you to change anything in this world,

that you'd like to change in Robeson county. What do you think

you'd like to change most? And you just have one thing to

change, not a lot of other things.

S: Well, you see there's so much that needs to be done. I couldn't

tell you D--- l IA'-I ...because I don't travel the

county wide and I don't know too much about what goes on in

the county as a whole. Like I was in the clerk's office in

Lummock, and I looked at their /" for the fiscal year down

there, awhile back. It was nine million, nine hundred-thousand

dollars ($9,900,000). And I said," Frank, I say, "you know

this is too much money to spend here on the county for what you

got here." I said "I see a lot of places in this area--you

ought to be giingX..-.e-seme." He said no. He said'1e could

hardly get along with that."I said "it's because you don't have

the right management, and _S l ______ I said,

"You know, no business ever amounts to anything cause it ain't

got no head to it." That-e-the-reason I went tothe hospital

and had my little operation. I told the doctor down there at

the hospital--it's a fine hospital down there, and it's a

pretty good staff of doctors--but I said, "you, got no management

here." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Nobody knows how

to carry out nothing and look after a hospital." I said,

"You can go anyplace that ain't got a manager.....and any business

that ain't got a manger.." I said, "..and it don't mean nothing."

I: Uh huh. Miiw-ir--.r ..it's all important, isn't it?


S: That's one of the most important jobs there is in any kind of

business.Its someone knows how to operate the business and carry

it on.

I: Ben, what do you plan to do with yourself from now on, because

I know you always find something to do,'cause you've always been

active......are you as active--about as active now as you ever


S: Yeah, I plan to work Christmas.......go to work sometime

during....about the first of January; go to work in/february,

and work next Spring and Summer; and maybepin the Fall. And so, and

thenafter that, I think I'll retire and quit. I don't......only

whatAf do at home. I don't think I'll work anymore out.

I: Do you think you ever really will retire, Ben?

S: Yeah, I'r1 retire from public....

I: Public work?

S: ....work, yeah.

I: Now, of course when we say 'public work', we mean "working away

from home'.

S: Yeah. I think I'll goback and stay at Bethlehem Steel next -

year, and that'll be it.

I: Where is Bethlehem Steel?

S: Up Air Base---- Air Base

I: Well, after all the changes that have taken place.......and the

farms have become so large.....I mean, a small farmer can't -make


(I:)it anymore, can he, Ben?

S: Oh yes, he can make it if he tries. If, raises (/^ 4 s

S-- v i and not have to go to the store every day, why,

you're all right.

I: Don't you think the farms are getting larger and larger?

S: Well, there's too many people quitting farming. You see, people

can't farm anymore and make the money like they do in the public

jobs Uaw You take,.......like Elliot Laurenberg at the glass
plant. ao u Is ^o"
plant. luabout your lowest average A $750 a month. You

can't make that on a farm. But still, at the same time, if they

don't spend it right and use it right, they ain't done nothing

then. You just live and that's all. I, myself......when I'm on

a public job and I make $125 a week--that's $100 a week I've

got to put away. It don't mean I'm going to spend that money.

I: You don't have to spend it, do you? You don't have to spend

that money to live on.

S: No. I worked eight months last year. I made enough money to

do me.....to last year, two year and eight months.

I: Well, that sure is good. And of course, you don't need it any

way, all that bad, Ben.

S: Well, I don't mean to work for the money.....I just mean exercising

myself, you know. Just work because I feel good and want to do

a little something. When you quit work, you get old.

I: And you might as well get a little pay as you go along, right?

S: Yeah. When you quit work, you get old, you know. And then when


(S:)I quit work, and want to do nothing but mess around the house,

I'll have the money enough to take care of me.....travel around

and go visit, and go anywhere I want to go. Go to the beach or

somewhere.....go fishing, or something. And it always costs

you a little extra to do things like that, you know, and you'd

better be prepared.

I: Ben, I guess you and I just about have the same philosophy about

getting old, don't you think so?

S: Yeah.

I: We're not going to get old, unless we can't help it, are we?

S: I ^ IF we live to be old, if we live OJdt

not be old, until we get old.

I: Right. And we're not about to do that yet, are we?

S: No.

I: I love your spirit, Ben.

S: It's a pleasure to get out and work. You know, I don't care

how old you get....if you feel good and man-enough to do anything,

and work, so you'll always have something to distribute out, and

give somebody or help somebody that's in need. That's the good

part about it. You don't know.....you may come to be- in need

some day when you get A or something, and need help. Well,

if you ain't tried to provide and help somebody, people will

always look at you and say well, the man wouldn't ever give

nobody nothing and never would help no one!. And so the same

thing would be turned back to you, you know.


I: Yeah that's possible. Our people are pretty neighborly)

though) to help each other) aren't they?

S: Oh yes. It ain't no trouble if somebody's in need. We call

a collection in Church on Sunday for 'em to get a little help:

it ain't no trouble to get 'em up $100 or $200 or something.

e, A "C xoi mt' t] badly 0

need.it you know. If they're in really bad need, why, they

get the money. See, they send this lady.....what's her name....

down in Pembroke? They send her ....it costs over $3,000.

I: Is that right? It's better to help....to be able to help other

people. Well, Ben, I want you to know how much I've enjoyed

being with you. and did you know the time's gone by in a hurry?

S: Yeah.

I: Do you know I talked....do you know how long we've been talking?

S: An hour and a half.

I: It sure has gone by in a hurry. It's always that way when we get

together. You and I have just talked throughout the whole night

many times. 'Just started talking, get together and sit around

and talk. And maybe forget the time, and just talk over into....

far in the night...maybe all night. I wouldn't be surprised.

Have we?

S: Yeah. We've spend many hours together at night, and never would

be in a hurry to get away..in fact.

I: We acted kind of like we were on Indian time didn't we?

S: Yeah.

I: Well it certainly has been a delight talking with you. You're

very kind to come over here and give me this interview. I've


(I:)been looking forward to it for a long time. I got so excited,

you know......so interested in what you're saying, and everything,

that I don't know how well organized it is, but I certainly

have enjoyed it, Ben.

S: Well, I've really enjoyed being with you ""

THE END'.".'!

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