Euzelle and R.D. Smith

Interviewed by Alexander Stephens and Alex Biggers on January 20, 2011

R.D. and Euzelle Smith have lived in Potter’s Field in Chapel Hill since the 1940. 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 “Histories of Homes” initiative of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History. The interview includes R.D.’s experience in WWII and his role in constructing their current home after the war. R.D. also held educator roles at Lincoln High School. R.D. talks about using the support of friends and family to build their home. Euzelle and their experience at Orange County Training School/Northside School is an important topic. They recount living in Potter’s Field in the 1950s and subsequent changes in the neighborhood. They share memories of Smith Middle School. The “Over the Hill Gang” is a point of discussion. The interview also provides discussion of family photos and awards on the walls. R.D.’s deal with Fitch Lumber Co is noted. R.D. speaks on his mother’s role  as child caretaker and neighbor. The interview concludes with discussion on children in daycare, and R.D. and Euzelle as “work-year” students at Hampton College.

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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 1940. 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 “Histories of Homes” initiative of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History. The interview includes R.D.’s experience in WWII and his role in constructing their current home after the war. R.D. also held educator roles at Lincoln High School. R.D. talks about using the support of friends and family to build their home. Euzelle and their experience at Orange County Training School/Northside School is an important topic. They recount living in Potter’s Field in the 1950s and subsequent changes in the neighborhood. They share memories of Smith Middle School. The “Over the Hill Gang” is a point of discussion. The interview also provides discussion of family photos and awards on the walls. R.D.’s deal with Fitch Lumber Co is noted. R.D. speaks on his mother’s role  as child caretaker and neighbor. The interview concludes with discussion on children in daycare, and R.D. and Euzelle as “work-year” students at Hampton College.

Subject

Smith, Euzelle and R.D.

Type

Oral History

Creator

Marian Cheek Jackson Center

Publisher

Marian Cheek Jackson Center

Date

2011-01-20

Rights

Open for research

Format

MP3 (160000 bitrate)

Language

English

Identifier

HOH_0101

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Alexander Stephens
Alex Biggers

Interviewee

Smith, Euzelle and R.D.

Interview Date

2011-01-20

Location

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

0:53:58

Collection

Citation

Marian Cheek Jackson Center, “Euzelle and R.D. Smith,” Marian Cheek Jackson Center Oral History Trust, accessed July 5, 2020, https://archives.jacksoncenter.info/HOH/HOH_0101.

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