Euzelle and R.D. Smith

Interviewed by Monica Palmeira and Zaina Alsous on February 29, 2012
R.D. and Euzelle Smith have lived in Potter’s Field in Chapel Hill since the 1940s. Both worked as educators in Chapel Hill for decades, and R.D. served as a member of the Town Council. They then became the namesakes for Smith Middle School when it was constructed. This interview was done as part of the “A Place at the Table” Foodways initiative of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History. Topics include Euzelle’s childhood and thoughts on cooking, and Euzelle and R.D.’s partnership in preparing food. Euzelle and R.D.’s first moving in to their longtime home, and looking for places to buy food in Chapel Hill in the 1950s are special topics of the interview. They also share their experiences in joining First Baptist, family holiday meals, and where Euzelle and R.D. do their grocery shopping. The interview concludes with discussion of Euzelle’s thoughts on teaching at various schools in Virginia and then Chapel Hill, R.D. growing up on a farm and his love for growing, Euzelle’s favorite grades to teach.

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Title

Euzelle and R.D. Smith

Description

R.D. and Euzelle Smith have lived in Potter’s Field in Chapel Hill since the 1940s. Both worked as educators in Chapel Hill for decades, and R.D. served as a member of the Town Council. They then became the namesakes for Smith Middle School when it was constructed. This interview was done as part of the “A Place at the Table” Foodways initiative of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History. Topics include Euzelle’s childhood and thoughts on cooking, and Euzelle and R.D.’s partnership in preparing food. Euzelle and R.D.’s first moving in to their longtime home, and looking for places to buy food in Chapel Hill in the 1950s are special topics of the interview. They also share their experiences in joining First Baptist, family holiday meals, and where Euzelle and R.D. do their grocery shopping. The interview concludes with discussion of Euzelle’s thoughts on teaching at various schools in Virginia and then Chapel Hill, R.D. growing up on a farm and his love for growing, Euzelle’s favorite grades to teach.

Subject

Smith, Euzelle and R.D.

Type

Oral History

Creator

Marian Cheek Jackson Center

Publisher

Marian Cheek Jackson Center

Date

2012-02-29

Rights

Open for research

Format

MP3 (192000 bitrate)

Language

English

Identifier

APAT_0113

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Palmeira, Monica
Alsous, Zaina

Interviewee

Smith, Euzelle and R.D.

Interview Date

2012-02-29

Location

200 Caldwell Street, Chapel Hill, NC

Transcription

TRANSCRIPT: R.D. AND EUZELLE SMITH Interviewee: R.D. and Euzelle Smith Interviewer: Alexander Stephens and Alex Biggers Interview Date: January 20, 2011 Location: 200 Caldwell St, Chapel Hill, NC Interview Processor(s): Jamie Huffman Length: 00:53:58 [START 00:24:14] Alexander Stephens: Well could y’all, could y’all describe to me maybe-- maybe a good way to do it would be if say you, you walk out the front door of, of your house. And you, you’re walking through Potter’s Field up either down--up church street, or, maybe, down McDade over to North Roberson, can you, can you just kind of walk me through what it, what, what you would have seen back in the 1940s in this area? Euzelle Smith: It hasn’t changed that much, has it? R.D. Smith: No. ES: Over there, McDade Street-- RS: Only, only thing--only change that they made is the fact that most of the houses were privately owned. That’s the change that’s taken place is that people died- they begin to rent their property. Or their children sold their property. Just like most everything on this street. I don’t know if we’re the only house on this street that’s privately owned, right now. Everything is a rental property. ES: Mm, except there’s-- RS: All the way down, on both sides-- ES: E-Except two houses over there. Mhm. RS: Huh? ES: I said except those two houses, three houses over there. They’re-- RS: (25:20) ES: They are still privately owned. RS: It’s privately owned but it’s a rental property. ES: Yeah. RS: But I said it’s privately owned but it’s rental property-- ES: Now see this area was, was not in the city limits. We had no paved streets, no city services. The nearest traffic light was at the corner of McDade and Church. No fire protection, no garbage pickup, no city services at all. And there was long after that I remember one, one, uh, summer, we had a grass fire in this field, it was a field right out here. And the fire truck came and it, it parked right there. And people were putting out the fire and they didn’t even get out. Because we were not in the city. So we, we didn’t qualify for city services. AS: So-- ES: We had a septic tank when we first got here. Out there in the back. And, um, so when, when, when they um, annexed the city, the street to the city, then we were entitled to city services. AS: S-so when that fire happened- I’m, I’m just trying to understand. The fire department, they sent a truck-- ES: A truck came. AS: And they came but they didn’t do-- ES: And they sat in the truck and watched the people-it wasn’t a huge blaze, you know-but the people were out there, right out here. You weren’t here. [Laughter] RS: I, I, I was in service. ES: [Laughter] You were in-- AS: How, how were they putting it out? With buckets? Or-- ES: Buckets, anything they could, anything they could do to smother the flame. AS: And what-- ES: Like I said, now, it wasn’t any big, you know, blaze or anything. AS: Right, but how did-- ES: But it could have been, if, if they hadn’t been able to put it out. AS: How did people feel about that? How did you feel to see that truck sitting there-- ES: Well we were scared but there wasn’t a thing we could do. AS: But I mean were you angry that the [laughter], that the fire department wasn’t there-- ES: That was just the way things were. We were- you accepted it, you know. AS: Um, so, you didn’t have paved roads. When, when did, when did you get hooked up to the sewer system and get paved roads, up here? ES: It was long after you, long after you came out of service. RS: I was actually out of service, yeah. About, about ’50. ES: Yeah. RS: 1950 I think it was. ES: I don’t remember the year. AS: I-I read though that some, some, like some streets around here weren’t paved until ’69? Is that right? With, um-- ES: I think it’s possible. I couldn’t-- AS: Howard, Howard Lee? Is that, when he became mayor? RS: Well, uh, we were in the ci--we were paved before that time. AS: Okay. RS: I think. AS: Okay. RS: Our street, where I used to--we used to have to use oil to keep the dust out. We’d sprinkle oil on the street that day. ES: Yeah. Mhm. RS: Because we were in the city--our side of the city— ES: Oh, I had forgotten about that. RS: And see, and we’d sprinkle the street with oil to keep the dust from flying up in the summertime. ES: [Laughter] AS: Right out here on Caldwell Street. RS: Right out there on Caldwell Street, yeah, uh-huh. ES: Mhm, I had forgotten about that. [Laughter] RS: We, we, we had, we had our side--we were in the country. It was really the country, really. It wasn’t the city. [Pause] Right up there (28:26) to the petrol station to get oil. And come back and spray it on the streets. AS: Um, so you- you’d use motor oil? RS: Motor oil, yeah, uh-huh. Yeah. AS: Wow. RS: Bring motor oil, from the petrol station. AS: And that was in the ’50s, or…? RS: It was about 1950, ’49, ’50. Course it was, we were in the city-- we didn’t get into the city until about ’50. I think it was about ’50. AS: Didn’t that make the roads slippery? RS: Nah, uh-uh. AS: [laughter] RS: It uh, it was soaking-- there was so much dust and dirt down there the oil would thicken and soak it in. Because you didn't, you didn’t have a lot of cars coming by. ES: Yeah there wasn’t, wasn’t a lot of traffic. RS: Wasn’t a lot of traffic. AS: Mhmm. Alex Biggers: So, wouldn’t you guys feel like there’s a lot more traffic, er, (29:15) change? RS: Oh god yeah. You got everything; you see that that’s bus coming by? ES: Mhmm. AB: Yeah. RS: At this pace it looks like a thorough-way, a freeway, something like that, so many cars coming by. They take shortcut- they’d rather go than downtown- so they cut through here and go to Carrboro. AB: When do you, well, when would you say that change-- was it gradual? ES: Yeah, it was--you mean as far as the street being paved and that? AB: Or like, the traffic and-- ES: Oh yeah, after the street was paved, after we were annexed to the city-- AB: Okay, then there was a lot more traffic through here-- ES: Yeah, the, the traffic increased. AB: Is that when, uh, everything started becoming like rentals too? Or when did that change? RS: Uh, your grandson coming, baby. ES: Hm? RS: One of your grandsons coming. ES: Mhm. Oh, what was your question? AB: About, um, like when did everything start becoming rentals? ES: Oh as the, as the older people died out. AB: As the older people died. ES: Yeah. END [00:30:07] INTERVIEW PROCESSOR: Jamie Huffman

Duration

0:51:35

Citation

Marian Cheek Jackson Center, “Euzelle and R.D. Smith,” Marian Cheek Jackson Center Oral History Trust, accessed May 25, 2020, https://archives.jacksoncenter.info/APAT/APAT_0113.

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