TRANSCRIPT: R.D. AND EUZELLE SMITH Interviewee: R.D. and Euzelle Smith Interviewer: Hudson Vaughan and Santiago Beltran Interview date: February 10, 2011 Location: Smith Residence 200 Caldwell Street, Chapel Hill, NC Length: 1:24:52 Interview Transcriber: Hasan Bhatti NOTE: Segmented transcript. Segment 1: On doing something to improve the neighborhood [2:49] Euzelle Smith: You see, I’m curious. You’ve found all this [information] and what we can do, so how can you help? How can you help to implement some of these suggestions? Hudson Vaughan: Yeah so and a lot of what we’re hoping to do-- so we’ve now reached out and network with lawyers who can help work around property taxes and wills projects and other issues around affordable housing in the community. We’ve charted ta map out of what’s happening around ownership and how much ownership has changed in the last ten years, twenty years, thirty years, but especially in the last ten. And about how many student rentals and how many of those cookie cutter houses over on Longview are going up. ES: Oh yes. HV: And pushing, you know even two years ago when I was--. RD and Euzelle Smith 2 ES: You called them cookie cutter houses? HV: Yeah. ES: Why do you call them that? HV: Oh because they’re the little plastic houses that are just put up to, you know. They’re big and they’re all the same and none of them have any character. None of them have any history. So we’ve just really struggled with a lot of those and what is happening and one of the things that we’re trying to do with this is collect a lot of the stories, but not just to put them in the university as a whole, but actually use them. Talk about why these houses need historic preservation, why it’s important that we talked with the town about the way the developers are interacting with it. And not just for this community for other communities who are a little bit less, you know, along that line of change. You know there are a lot of communities in North Carolina that are just beginning that process of gentrification and change that are in college towns and in urban centers. So we’re just really hoping that some of this--both the sharing of stories and we’re having a big political meetings. We’re having a meeting with the town around the redevelopment of Chapel Hill and try to really figure out what’s affecting not only the Northside but--. ES: So what do you do? When you go to these meetings and you get all of this information, you go back and you discuss it. Then what? HV: And that’s what we’re figuring out [ES laughs]. A lot of things. Well we’ve started a public history center that has youth interns, so African American Youth from high schools that are now learning about the history of the community and doing their own documentary work and also how to do college prep work and how to also interact with church folks and bring people together around economic and social justice issues. So RD and Euzelle Smith 3 we’ve started that center which is up at St. Joseph’s. We’re having community forums that are then saying that the town has to do, you know, making some public demands around what the town can do around development in the area. We’ve formed a collective of small businesses. ES: Do the town officials listen to you? HV: They have started to listen because there’s been a voice for five years now. ES: Yeah and are they doing anything? If they’re listening that’s good, but are they following through? HV: Slowly. Slowly. That’s one of the things I want to get your advice on because you were on the town council for a number of years weren’t you? R.D. Smith: Twenty-four years. HV: [5:00] Yeah so we need to get some of your advice for what you think can actually, can actually do something. Because one of the things that both Santi and I are both interested in is now what do people also think that this gives us the impetus to do, not just be talked about? ES: Yeah. HV: Because we’ve talked a lot. But one of the things that we want to get your advice on is what can be done? ES: Yeah that’s what I’m interested in. We certainly have done a lot of talking, not just in the last few weeks but for several years. And different groups come in and they talk about the same things and then they move on and somebody else comes in and they talk about the same thing. Before you know it they go on and we don’t see a lot of results. RD and Euzelle Smith 4 HV: Yeah and that’s one of the things that we’re trying to do differently. As much as we can. [END OF SEGMENT, 5:47] Segment 2: On town council, neighborhood, their house and Orange County Training School, [6:47] HV: Could I get you to talk a little bit about your experience on the town council and also what you learned that might be relevant to a lot of the town plans? ES: It’s hard for him to pick up, if you have a specific question, you know? Can you remember some of the activities that you went on to help smooth relations or anything like that? RDS: The main thing we did was, well what I did, was listen to the public, you know, reacted to their requests. Back then years ago when I was on the council twentyfour years ago, I was the only African-American on the council at the time… My concern at the time was animal control at the time. We had dogs all over town and I was afraid that some child would get bitten by a dog or get mauled by a dog… [one minute aside about his and I thought the owner of the dog should be responsible for their confinement. ES: Was that when the leash law? RDS: That was the leash law that I introduced at the town council to make sure that if your dog was loose in town, he was on a leash, he was on a leash. Every dog you see should be on a leash. ES: We even had lots of dogs here. How many beagles? RD and Euzelle Smith 5 RDS: Well I was hunting then. I did a lot of hunting so I would just bring a dog. ES: And we had, you know, dogs for pets and all like that. But when they passed the leash law, they either had to be in a pen or on a chain and I don’t like to see animals confined like that so we got rid of all the dogs. I like dogs but I don’t want them running around in the house. But I like them. HV: Mr. Smith, were there things that came before the council that you think were also about the beginning processes of some of the changes that happened in Northside? RDS: Not necessarily. Well I guess it was all the taxes, we used taxes as we got privilege to the University. The University never comes to us. When I built this house near the college, it was a rural area: dirt streets, no police protection, no fire protection, nothing like that. Course as a result of things that happened in town, always we were next. We got a garbage carrier, fire protection still it stalled. The street, I used to [10:00] cover the dirt street with art that got thrown defenestrated there in our town. We paved all of it to keep the dust out because we didn’t have no church to give us services at all or law or court of no kind. You couldn’t even get a policeman over here at that time. Of course as I said that time grew and the police force and other services became available. Course you had to pay for them. Cause I started out making a hundred fifty-five dollars a month as a teacher here. I was the highest paid teacher in the system, on a hundred twenty-five dollars a month. But I was living in a single-family house right across there and it provided everything we needed. It had one room in there and the two of us lived in it. Didn’t touch any of the big RD and Euzelle Smith 6 houses over the hill. We walked to school over here in Northside. We would walk to school in the daytime. HV: Was that when it was Orange County Training School? RDS: Yes, the Orange County Training School. That’s right. That’s what it was when I started teaching over here. ES: That was a union school, you know what that is? RDS: I’ve heard of it but tell me a little bit. ES: A union school is a school that housed all of the grades, so it’s grades one through eleven in that one building. The elementary department was on the front and the high school department was in the back. And students everywhere--North Carolina, Virginia and all that--all graduated at the end of the eleventh grade. Both of us graduated at the end of the eleventh grade. And he grew up in North Carolina and I grew up in Virginia. And it was after I came to Chapel Hill that the school year was extended, one year was added, because typically a student was graduating from high school at seventeen and at seventeen you couldn’t get a job and you couldn’t go into service, so there was nothing for them to do. And then they added the twelfth grade was added to it. RDS: I came here in ’42 and I started working at the Orange County Training School. In ’43 we got married. And so I got her a job over here [all laugh] HV: And then you went on to the Navy right for a little while? RDS: In the Army. HV: Army. Twenty six months right? RDS: Army in twenty-six months. HV: And you’d spend fifty bucks back a month, right? [ES laughs] RD and Euzelle Smith 7 RDS: She saved it. I think she saved every penny of it. We used it when we’d get out of 1946 to buy furniture for this house. HV: How did you guys get this land? Who owned this land at the time? RDS: It was the Caldwells. ES: The Caldwells. HV: It was the Caldwell family? ES: Yes. RDS: They talked cool with me when I was teaching there. She lived right back in that house. The family home was right back there. HV: Was it something where different plots of land were up for sale or people just knew what was for sale through the families? RDS: Most there ever was a sign that was up for sale but there was one woman who was a daughter of a developer… Mr. Caldwell stayed over there, owned all this land over here. And Junior Caldwell was a teacher, a social studies teacher at the high school over here. HV: Now when did the Caldwells come to own all that land? RDS: I have no idea of where they came by it. Mr. Caldwell worked in the University. HV: This is Ed Caldwell right? RDS: No not Ed Caldwell. What was his daddy’s name? Do you know? ES: I’ve forgotten. I never knew it but I’ve heard of it. RD and Euzelle Smith 8 RDS: Ed Caldwell was his son. He’s right over there. We’d lived across the street from him in a lady’s house whose husband had died in service. She was a nurse. So we moved into that house when we got married and lived in there when I came out service. [END OF SEGMENT 2, 14:34] Segment 3: On development and reasons behind it and its effect on the neighborhood [16:57] ES: So what about this building that’s coming up there on the corner of Franklin and Church now? That’s not what you call the green building. HV: That’s not Greenbridge but it’s a similar type of development. They call it 154. ES: Right. And I just, you know, after a while when we look out of our window all we’ll see is tall buildings. At least that’s, what, going to be about a, what an eight story building? HV: It’s five or eight or something, yeah. It’s up there. ES: And so when we go out on the porch, when we look up there’s going to be a big building sitting right over there. HV: Are y’all able to see that big building over there on Rosemary over here? ES: Not from here because that’s down further. HV: Yeah. ES: I know that’s part of progress. HV: Well I don’t think it’s very progressive. ES: But there are some things I don’t like. HV: I agree. RD and Euzelle Smith 9 ES: And I suspect before too long you know they’ll be moving. People will be buying up in this area. Like those large houses--what did you call them cookie cutter houses? [SB and HV laugh] HV: Why do you think that change has taken place? Like how did it happen? RDS: Well the University didn’t have enough space to house all the students. So different developers they would come up over there and buy whatever there they could buy. They build it up, going up there and then go out. They going up, these houses that you’re talking about over there. That’s why they’re building over here. HV: But how did they, so much of what I hear the stories of are the cohesiveness of this community and how people looked out for each other and even from y’alls interview we had the Hargraves and the Caldwells and all these folks living on the block. ES: The older people have died. HV: And the younger people just didn’t step up? ES: A lot of the younger people left because there wasn’t--. HV: Jobs. ES: Anything for them to do. HV: There weren’t jobs. ES: And so you have ripples and that’s how it gets away from it. HV: Yeah they don’t have jobs. Santiago Beltran: Do you think the University could have been more responsibility if that’s what you think helped create what is happening now? ES: I don’t know that--. RDS: They had to build more dormitory space. RD and Euzelle Smith 10 ES: Yeah. RDS: They house most students on campus. But the University is tied to a certain area. They are restricted to how much they can go out. Then they begin to go up more and more. You look out on [highway] 54, all of those buildings there. It’s ridiculous. They’ve got everything out of there. I was just reading the article that they are about to build a--. HV: Yeah to start a new development. RDS: Somebody’s trying to develop the--the library is trying to buy land in the University Mall. It says Town Grant Land down there. [20:00] I was on the board when that mall was built. The guy that built that mall lived in Raleigh. My concern was you’re building a building and there are all these buildings. The worst part is that you can’t see out of it. Come here come here see what I’m looking at. Well they’re bank walls! I’m going to see some glass up there, you know. [ES and HV laugh] In other words I wouldn’t be able to go in and out of the store and see what’s out there. But what you’re doing, you’re building, covering it all with brick walls. [END OF SEGMENT 3, 20:45] Segment 4: Neighborhood Changes, Keeping Home-owned Deeds, and Rental Subsidies [21:30] RDS: As we grow older, you know, we have four children. Two girls and two boys. Now they’re all married and they have their own family. They have good jobs right now. The question is how long will it last? They’re laying off people every day. The only place to get hired is the University and the hospitals. There are limited people that they RD and Euzelle Smith 11 can hire. So what happens to the young people who want to keep their families together? They have to move! They have to move and then the property is up for sale. If we ever leave this place right here, people will be rushing to buy this house because why? It’s close to the university, petty parking. They got buses over there. I don’t know about you but they were settling out. All of them move in there themselves. ES: And then one reason why the students are moving in this area is because of transportation. A whole lot of them walk to and fro and they have free bus services. And it’s not too many places where you can live where you have free bus services. So that’s just another drawing card. SB: Have you talked to your children at all? Do your children have plans to live in this house? ES: Yeah. They say don’t ever sell it [SB and ES laugh]. It’s left to them to the four of them. HV: You know at one point we were thinking about, especially with Broad Street, one of the things you know over in Carrboro, Broad Street still has a decent amount of home-owners and residents. You know, you probably know Neville, the Nevilles that still live there. She still, you know, she’s ninety-five so she’s got a year or two on y’all [all laugh]. And she still lives there and one of the things they were thinking about doing at one point, there’s a thing that you can put on the deed of your house that says that it always has to be a home-owned house. ES: Oh really? HV: And it’s most useful if you have other people that are on the block that will do it too so then it doesn’t leave one isolated home. RD and Euzelle Smith 12 ES: I remember in some larger city where this widow would not sell her home and they just built--. ES and HV: All around it. ES: You know, and she was boxed in. So the value of her home is probably zero but she still has it there. [END OF SEGMENT 4, 24:11] Segment 5: Neighborhood and passing the house to children, black businesses, integration, and RD’s teaching experience [25:02] RDS: Everything on this street is rental property except this house and one other house. ES: Let’s see, the house across that duplex over there, and these two houses over here, down to the brick house. The brick house is rented. SB: Can you speak more about what Hudson said about putting that stipulation on your deed or it has to be passed down? Why don’t you think that’d be a good idea? Or not such a good idea? ES: As far as we’re concerned, we’ll leave it to them. And I have told them, you know, if I were the last one, I would sell it, you know, to somebody and just go ahead and get a smaller place but they say that they didn’t want to. So that’s entirely up to them. And I expect that if everything is built up all around here, eventually they’ll have a different opinion. HV: Yeah you can only hold on so long to the--. RD and Euzelle Smith 13 RDS: Particularly since they all already own houses, already have their houses and they still go out of town and they’re here in Northside. Now all my children live outside of Northside. But they do come in here for ten minutes. But they’re outside of Northside. ES: We do have one daughter here. The oldest daughter lives two doors down, and that’s a rental house. But Patrice lives out on Rogers Road. HV: Ok, yeah. ES: Pam lives in Chatham County right over the county line and Reggie lives across the lake off of Old School Road. HV: Are there other areas of Chapel Hill where you feel like African-Americans are more welcome to have a vibrant community and they haven’t been kind of replaced and turned into student housing? ES: Oh like on Graham Street? And I’m not that familiar with the neighborhoods in Carrboro but I know where Broad Street is and I knew some of the people who used to live on Broad Street. But those that I knew are not living anymore, so I don’t know whether their relatives or who lives over there now. RDS: Of course Graham Street is, there are very few people who are living--the big one over there. ES: That’s right. But their homes are there. RDS: But who owns it? Course who owns the house? I have no idea who owns the Prairie house, who owns the--what’s that house?--where the McDougle’s live? ES: The McDougles lived on--. HV: They lived on Graham? RD and Euzelle Smith 14 ES: They did. RDS: They lived on Graham. Farrington lived over there. HV: He still lives there. RDS: He and old Terrence still live right there. ES: Ok that’s what he said. He still lives there. RDS: Yeah he still lives there. HV: And so does Delores Bailey and her mother. RDS: Who? HV: Do y’all know Delores Bailey’s mother? I don’t remember what her last name is. ES: I don’t know her last name. HV: And Ms. Thompson? I can’t remember. But she lives there. RDS: Who is that? HV: Do you know Delores Bailey? She runs empowerment. Her mother lives there still. ES: We lived on Graham Street for four years. We rented. HV: Well it’s not just rentals. You know some rentals are, you know there are some rentals on Graham Street that are rented out to families and low income families and I think that that’s not, you know, especially if there are ways to do rent-to-own, you know, it’s not a bad thing to have rentals. But it’s just the way in which the rentals have just swapped to like we’ve seen. ES: Yeah. Terrence. RD and Euzelle Smith 15 RDS: Well Graham Street, North Graham, South Graham, would be the area that you would have more of neighborhood tape, you know. Down in that section, where Jerome is, Second Baptist. Those would be available for people to go there. Merritt Mill Road. ES: Yeah Merritt Mill. RDS: Course a lot of that property--. ES: I think Merritt Mill is probably mostly rental now too. They have a few owners still there. HV: They still have Gladys Pendergraph and Marian Jackson. They’re still holding up shop down here. RDS: They’ve been there before he died. ES: Who’s that? RDS: Zip. Pendergraph. Zip Pendergraph. ES: Oh yeah oh yeah. HV: Did y’all go to any of these churches down here? Were y’all members of the Women’s First Baptist? ES and RDS: Yes. HV: So y’all know Reverend Manly well? ES and RDS: Yeah [ES and HV laugh] ES: We know Reverend Manly. HV: He’s been there about the whole time that y’all have been here haven’t he? ES: He came shortly after we did. Yeah he’s been there I think sixty years. [30:00] RD and Euzelle Smith 16 SB: Wow. HV: For the pastor of that church, sixty years. RDS: We didn’t always see eye to eye, most of the time. HV: Why is that? RDS: Well that’s a long story [all laugh]. A long story about that. Years ago he--. ES: Well we won’t go into that [all laugh]. HV: Well now one of the things I listened to was that y’all had, your home mortgage was with NC Mutual, was that right? ES: That’s right. HV: And I’ve learned, so NC Mutual is one of the black Wall Street, big black owned business in Durham right? ES and RDS: That’s right. ES: It was a big business area for colored people. HV: What was the significance of those, how did those businesses, I mean what do you know about those businesses and how they developed and what they were able to mean for this community? ES: They were there when we came here. RDS: And the folks at, the Devonda lady whose husband ran North Carolina mutual was a graduate of where I started college… I met here then, years ago, after I graduated, or was it after I graduated? I graduated in May of 1940. She graduated what ’41 or ’42? ES: ’41. RDS: ’41. RD and Euzelle Smith 17 ES: I was just thinking that North Carolina Mutual helped a whole lot of people get loans because that’s how we financed our house, through North Carolina mutual. I think North Carolina mutual is like the only place in Durham-- RDS: To do that, that’s right. ES: To get home-owners insurance. RDS: Sure. ES: And mortgages. RDS: Because I was paying mortgage, I would literally pay $129.90 a month for our mortgage [ES chuckles]. That’s the highest I’ve ever paid for a mortgage on this house. HV: So they gave y’all a really good mortgage? RDS: Oh yeah, a really good mortgage. HV: So did they have, I mean, how were they able to, because I’ve been and that’s what I’ve heard. Do you know how they were able to do such an incredible job? Because a lot of these houses I think were mortgaged by NC Mutual and they did this across the state. ES: Yeah, I think that was the only business around here that we could have gotten a loan. RDS: It was the only business where even I could get a loan from, because I knew several people that work there. I had a classmate of mine who graduated at the same time as I did and he worked for Mutual. Cary (Rodman, 32:51). ES: Cary? Yeah. RD and Euzelle Smith 18 RDS: He worked for Mutual. Course he hadn’t had no help. Course then he had over the years, he helped me, I’m sure, get in the door for a loan. HV: Yeah and the ability of those businesses that were so vibrant to enable people to own their own land I mean was a huge, a huge thing at that time. RDS and ES: Oh yeah. HV: And really helped fight some of the, I mean especially coming out of such a period where ownership of land was such a hard thing for people to have access to coming out of slavery and reconstruction and all of that. It’s amazing that some of those businesses did. ES: To be able to do for themselves as well as to help other people bring their lives. RDS: We had a lot of black business people on Franklin Street at the time who could--. HV: Yeah tell us more about those. Like the Bynum, you were talking about the Weavers and folks like that? RDS: The shoe shop, Weaver. ES: (Groton, 34:01) had a taxi stand, taxi cab. HV: What was that? Who owned that? ES: Who were the folk that owned the taxis? RDS: Atkins. ES: Atkins? RDS: They were the Atkins ES: The Atkins, Atkins. RD and Euzelle Smith 19 HV: Wasn’t there a Mason grocery store too? ES: Mason grocery. RDS: Mason had a beauty parlor on Graham and Franklin. ES: And he had a little club out there on the corner. RDS: I can’t remember. It’s been so long! ES: It was a barbershop by day and a club at night [HV and ES laugh]. Yeah that was a very vibrant business area. HV: What made it, like what made that vibrancy possible? ES: Well that was where we went to shop, you know. There were no, let’s see Belk’s eventually had a store on the corner of Church and [35:00] Franklin. It was a big store there. RDS: Grocery stores out right over there on Franklin. Culinary store. ES: Fowler’s, Fowler’s had a big store. RDS: Who? ES: Fowler’s. RDS: Fowler had a grocery store that was about over right here inside of Franklin Street. ES: And A & P. A & P had four large grocery stores in town. RDS: That was basically the shopping center. Course they had shopping out of town. On Franklin you could buy a bunch of stuff here. Chapel Hill was at that time, it still is, considered a very liberal community. Yeah, a lot of people moved here because of that. I took a job here because I heard (Bertrand Grill, 36:04) came there after, Charlie Joe came there after. And I said to myself being a North Carolinian, I’ve never been the RD and Euzelle Smith 20 Chapel Hill, never been to Durham. But these people are telling me what a beautiful place it is, a nice place to work and all that stuff. So as soon as I got a chance to get a job, I jumped at it. I sent a telegram to the superintendent who was Allison Honeycutt and I accepted the job as teacher at Orange County trading school, let me know when to report. She sent me down a telegram and I said, “Tell me when to report.” I think I came home from Hampton to Goldsboro. From Goldsboro I drove up here to Chapel Hill. There the superintendent had put me as a hallway teacher at the high school, which was right across from the university at that time. HV: Would you say at all that one of the things that has been kind of challenging to learn about and kind of frustrating for me in a way is that when, and I’m just going to throw something out but I want you all just to press back some. One of the things that I’ve listened to is that when desegregation happened because of how it happened in Chapel Hill, it was actually in some ways--. So having segregation and desegregation was a great thing, but the way it happened in Chapel Hill was not really positive because they tore down Lincoln and they didn’t integrate well, the students. And also McDougle, the assistant principal instead of the principal, and just a lot that didn’t help the pride that had been so vibrant in this community. I mean would you all say, what would you say is the legacy of desegregation in this area? And like how would y’all reflect on that? Does that make sense? RDS: It doesn’t make sense because I never had a problem with the segregation or integration. I was, I don’t know. But when I started seeing integration, course, I was well established in the school system. And where they tore down Lincoln, they moved me to the new Lincoln, and from there to Chapel Hill High School. RD and Euzelle Smith 21 HV: Chapel Hill High School? Right. RDS: And I’ve never had a problem with race relations within the school. I worked there already. In fact, I’m one of the only teachers that students, frankly both black and white, have asked me to be their commencement speaker [ES and HV laugh]. I was a commencement speaker for the class of 1980. RDS: Because back then in those days, when I first became assistant principal of the high school, you were given a grade level. I was assistant principal for the tenth grade. I picked those kids out in 10th grade or 9th grade as their assistant principal. I mean we developed a relationship, black and white. And they began to believe that I was on their side, you know, because I didn’t take no mess. I had a set of rules and regulations that everybody went by. HV: And you were equal to everybody right? RDS: Everybody went by those regulations. If you broke them, you paid the penalty. And they realized that because that’s what I emphasized. If you break the rules, you’re going to have to pay for it. I hope you accept your punishment, that’s men and women of good faith. So they would tell you I was crazy, [40:00] “RD would throw a book at you in a minute” [HV laughs]. Because I had a book with all the rules in it [HV and SB laugh]. SB: That big? RDS: Written out, I swear that, let me tell you. Every student had a book of rules. I learned it by heart by choice at the grade level that I had. When I left the 9th grade I went to the 10th, same students. When I went to 10th I went to 11th, same students. Then 11th, then you went to the 12th grade when the 12th grade was initiated in the school RD and Euzelle Smith 22 system. And they knew the rules and the penalties for breaking the rules. And that would be the territory--. ES: And he was very well liked. RDS: And the parents were there too. HV: I mean both of y’all were from what I hear. ES: Uh-huh. RDS: Whenever y’all break a rule, you had to pay for it. Don’t you get at me, you get mad at your child because I’m going to administer the rules. That’s what I’m there for. Because if you don’t want me to be strict to your child, you can take them out of the school. ES: Well integration was a good thing and it was inevitable. HV: Well yeah and I definitely would say that I would agree. I’m not arguing that it was a bad thing, I was just wondering about how it happened in Chapel Hill. ES: And it was not easy on black students in a number of cases. You probably have heard the story of one of my daughters who had a very prejudiced teacher. The schools were totally integrated and she was in third grade and so she had a hard time that year. That same year when it was totally integrated, I was teaching 1st grade at Frank Porter Graham and a lot of the parents, white parents, were curious about what kind of teacher I was, how I would handle different things. So I had more volunteers from the parents than I ever had. Before integration I was accustomed to doing everything. All the teachers, you know. The black parents were not available. Either they were either working or they were taking care of families and what not, or did not have the transportation. So that first year RD and Euzelle Smith 23 of integration was when I had all of those people wanting to do things and I knew from the beginning that their interest was more in me as a teacher than coming in helping me. And I had an art teacher to come in and after two or three times she said, “You don’t need me.” Well I knew that at the beginning [HV laughs]. And then we had a music teacher to come in and the kinds of songs and things that she was teaching the children, they were below what I was teaching them, the kinds of songs that I was teaching them. And it was all curiosity and once they were comfortable with me and their students, you know. Then they were students themselves or they were doing various things and they really didn’t have the time. And the same thing was true about other teachers in the system. I think a lot of the white parents didn’t feel that the black teachers were as well qualified even though you had your state qualifications. SB: How long would that time period last between the parents coming to you and asking to volunteer and them feeling comfortable enough teaching their children. ES: Oh it was just a few weeks. SB: Oh really? ES: Yeah. And that aquarium that I have over there in the corner, that was the first year of integration and I had bought the aquarium and I had bought what I had needed in the aquarium and I bought three or four little fish, little puppies in that twenty gallon aquarium. And one of my parents that came in and said, “Would you like to have more fish in your aquarium?” And I said, “Yes but I can’t afford it.” I said, “I bought the aquarium, I bought everything I needed in the aquarium and a few fish.” I said, “That’s all I can afford to live.” And she said, “Do you want more?” And I said, “Yeah.” The RD and Euzelle Smith 24 next day she must have come in with a hundred fish [HV, SB and RDS laugh]. I don’t know where she got all of them but that’s the most fish that has ever been. And that was in the 60s since I’ve had that aquarium. HV: Wow, that’s a good aquarium then! How long have you had it in your house? RDS: Since we bought the house? [HV and SB laugh] ES: No not since we moved in here. I figure it was probably when I changed schools because I didn’t want to haul it out [45:00]. I went from Northside, from Orange County Training School--the name was changed to Northside--and I went to Lincoln. From Lincoln I went to Frank Porter Graham, and from Frank Porter Graham I went to Culbreth. And then I taught summer school at Glenwood. So I’ve been at almost all the schools. HV: Yeah all the schools, wow. Where were y’all’s grandparents from? RDS: My parents are from Goldsboro. I’m from Goldsboro. ES: Mm-hm. My parents grew up in New Kent County, a little place called Quentin, and . HV: Did y’all know your grandparents? ES: I saw my maternal grandmother one time. My mother’s parents separated when she was two years old and I remember her mother came to visit also one time. The only thing that I remember is that they looked so much alike and my grandfather, my grandfather was a teacher. And he had a little store out on the highway, so he was the community merchant [laughs]. Just a little store right on the highway. But they were from New Kent County. HV: And they had grown up in that area, your grandparents? RD and Euzelle Smith 25 ES: As far as I know. RDS: My grandparents were farmers out in a little place called Dudley outside of Goldsboro, about two or three miles outside Goldsboro. I worked on the farm for years. Until I finished high school I was living on a farm. My mother was a nurse and she married a guy whose wife had died while she was in by the church. After she died, she and my daddy decided that they were going to get married. So they got married and we moved further out of Goldsboro to till the farm. I plowed and chopped cotton, drove things in the tobacco barn and worked in the farm. I went to school and I worked on the farm. After school I’d come home and then I’d be working on the farm until about the time we eat dinner. I spent most of my time as a farm boy and it would be that good to have and we left and took out the cotton [ES laughs]. Typical ag[riculture] teacher, we would learn some about farming. Go back to the community and teach ‘em to till some of our farm. ES: [ES laughs] He told me once that, listen, listen, because his goal was to have this farm, you know. And I said, well you sure hadn’t wasted a whole lot of time because I’m not going there or on anybody’s farm! [All laugh] HV: Now did your grandparents own that farm? RDS: Oh yeah. HV: So they had never been sharecroppers? RDS: Yeah my grandparents owned the farm. (Robedel Allease, 48:17)-- ES: Well go ahead because I never knew him! RDS: I didn’t even know him [HV laughs]. He owned the farm. Yeah. HV: Did you know how he came to own it? Had his parents owned it too? RD and Euzelle Smith 26 RDS: I have no idea. I have no idea how he got his hands on it. All I know is that he and my grandmother praised me for all my work. I was working very good for nothing. She was working with doctors in the community in the town and they would get them time in case someone would have a baby. My mom would be the nurse that they’d call to take care of the nurse and the neighbor. ES: But she worked at the hospital too, didn’t she? RDS: Sure. She worked at the Dix Hospital. It wasn’t every year because my father, my step-father was in charge of the laundry of Dix Hospital for every year every year until he died, he passed. He had pneumonia because he worked in a hot room and would come out of there and he caught pneumonia. Anyway, my mother was a nurse and she worked up until the baby was born. And she said it right there, “No one will take any better care of your children but me.” So she left Goldsboro and moved to Chapel Hill to take care of our children. My daughter who lives down the street is our first child. We were teaching but there were times when it was tough for teachers to take care of children. So my mother came in [50:00] and we didn’t have to worry about that, worry about a thing. She lived across from the church, the First Baptist Church. She would get up in the morning and walk down to Graham Street and we would go to work, be away all day and not worry about a thing. And then when they get home, we’d take care of our baby. HV: And then you also knew that you had neighbors who if your kids did anything they would report it to you right? [ES, HV and SB laugh] That’s what everybody tells me, is that everybody on these blocks knew each other and they’d tell, RD and Euzelle Smith 27 you know, you’d have more than one mother in the community [laughs]. I’m interested in--. ES: He said-- he ain’t never heard this kind of conversation before have you? SB: No I have, but I didn’t get a chance to listen to the last interview that you had so I’m trying to not repeat what you guys have told a thousand times. HV: Yeah but feel free to jump in at any point. So I know that we seem like we’re jumping around but I’m just trying to piece together the different pieces of this. Like what would y’all say, I mean did y’all have a lot of, so we’ve talked some, so you talked before about how you built the house and about this home in about 1950 right? ES: We moved in here 1950. HV: Into here. So what did y’all have a lot of gatherings in this house? Have you had a lot of gatherings or community gatherings and parties in this home over time? ES: No, we’ve never been--the biggest crowd is family. But then we would have like cookouts sometimes, either here or the neighbors across the street would have cookouts. But nobody, everybody, the adults around here did something, they worked. HV: Ok so you’re all pretty busy. ES: Yes very busy. RDS: When I came out of service, the first thing I said to her was I want a car. I want to buy a new car. She said to me, “I want a house.” I said, “Ok, I’m going to build you a house, and I’m going to buy you a car [HV, ES and SB laugh]. So I built this house, except this right here where there’s an attached garage. I figure as long as they got one in the house, a garage so I could drive in and I get wet. Or she could come in and I get wet. We could come in, go in that door right there, and go in the house. When our RD and Euzelle Smith 28 kids were born, then we began to have their friends come in, and we’d need a place for them to attend their friends. So we tore the garage down and built this room, this family room, see. And they used to have all their friends right here. And we can go ahead and go to bed and go to sleep. We’d be done with that noise. We could close that door right there and go to sleep and they could come in the house, through that door there. But we could go to sleep and not worry about it. HV: What would you like done with the information and your life stories? ES: Not our life stories in particular, but from the information that you have gotten from us and people that we have interviewed, to get it together in some way that anyone who is interested can pick it up and get a sense of what the town was like, how it is now, and what is projected for the future. And so that person can come in and read it and get an overview of the whole town was and is like and probably get some perspective of where we’re headed. SB: What do you think that projection for the future is? ES: I don’t know, I don’t [ES, SB laugh]. That’s what I want to know. HV: Well y’all have seen how the changes have happened over the course of time much more than we have. Having seen that change and lived it, what would you say? What would y’all’s projection be? Or at least what would y’all hope, maybe what would you like that projection to be? RDS: Well I would like to see more of a job opportunities coming into the community, because right now we don’t have many opportunities except the University and the hospital. That’s the main source of the income. I think somewhere in this RD and Euzelle Smith 29 community, in this town, in this county [55:00], there ought to be some job opportunities that open up. ES: You mean like businesses or, you’re talking about some businesses or something that may help people to. RDS: Yeah, you know businesses, or manufactured goods in the county, you know? Sooner or later they will come to hire a lot of people. In other words, the young people need the opportunity to work once they finish school, whether it’s high school or college, they have to have the feeling that when they go home, they’ll have job opportunities for which they might qualify. But all of that should come out as part of a recommendation to the University. [END OF SEGMENT 6, 55:55] Segment 7: Life lessons, caroling, Euzelle’s family, mentors, Hargraves, proudest moments, Caldwells, and the house [58:36] HV: One of the things that I’m really always curious about is that what are some of the advice that y’all would have for us, or just that you would have for your grandchildren about your life that you’ve learned? And some of the things that you would reflect upon and say these were your life mottos, or these are some things that you came back to when times were hard? Like what were some of those things that really allowed you to sustain the kind of energy and passion that you’ve had throughout your lives? ES: Well you have to have self-motivation, you know. No doubt about that. And I think first of all you’ve got to be motivated from early childhood before you can be self- RD and Euzelle Smith 30 motivated. So a lot of, well all of it starts in the home and the kind of exposure that you’ll have and will have and of course it’s far better now than when our children were growing up because, well we kept them. And you know we would take trips and take them places and we would take them when we would go and visit relatives and stop along the way and see things like that. But the movie, they had one theater up there on Franklin Street where there’s a car shop or something, not Franklin. Main Street in Carrboro across from St. John’s Holiness Church [60:00]. That was a colored movie. So they could go to the movies. Later on, of course, after integration, they did. But then and then Roberson Street eventually, you know, they got a swimming pool there and they could go over there to go swimming. But when they were growing up, it was more up to the parents to expose them to different types of things and to, you know, to push for them to excel. So certainly things are far better now than when our children--. Our youngest is fifty. So many things have improved since then. And it was a close-knit community because there were several children. And they played together. And of course if they were here, there was always an adult here. We never let them go to another person’s house unless there was an adult there and the Caldwells over there had a swimming pool for a while and so they required a parent to be with the children when they were. But yeah. There are many more for kids to do now than they did then. HV: And so your advice would be now to keep up the self-motivation? That would be your hope? ES: Mm-hm. HV: What about you Mr. Smith? RD and Euzelle Smith 31 RDS: Well, let’s put it this way. When I came to Chapel Hill in 1942, I came with one thing in mind: to make a difference. That was my objective to make a difference in the lives of the people that I dealt with one way or another. I came upon a poem that Dr. George Watson Carver left with me and-- I’ll let it speak to it so I don’t have to. It’s called “Equipment.” It says right there, let me get a copy of it. ES: Can you put your hands on it right away? RDS: Yeah I’ll put it on right away [HV and ES laugh]. It’s that right there on my book. HV: Great. RDS: It says: “Figure it out for yourself, my lad, You have all that the greatest of men have had, Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes And a brain to use if you would be wise. With this equipment they all began, So start for the top and say, “I can.” So I’ve been with a lot of students who were in my classroom who say they can’t do this. Don’t tell me you can’t do it, because you can. I’ll tell them myself. I came here with the idea of raising children that you can do what I do, that you can do what you wanted to do. Let me see if I can find a copy for you. I’d like for you to have it. ES: See and with him in the high school and all like that, he drove the activity bus. HV: Yeah they called it the “Tiger Bus” RD and Euzelle Smith 32 ES: Yeah and the students nicknamed him the master [HV laughs]. HV: That was also because of his crafts right? ES: And he did, you know, things with them. You know at Christmas time, he had a quartet to go around caroling. And things that were not required but would bring the boys together, you know. HV: They’d go around caroling to older folks? ES: Yeah and around in the community. Christmas Eve we’d get things straight around here and then he’d say that he had to go caroling. HV: I love caroling. It’s one of my favorite things. ES: He was in a quartet at Hampton. He had a beautiful baritone voice [SB laughs] and our son has a beautiful voice, yeah. HV: Did you sing as well? ES: No. I can’t carry a tune! HV: Did you play any instruments? ES: No, I wanted to play the piano, the violin, and even the accordion. HV: The accordion would have been cool. ES: My family couldn’t afford it. And my oldest sister took music lessons, piano lessons for a while. And when we were growing up, the oldest child usually had more privileges than the younger ones. So she had piano lessons for as long as she wanted them. And my second sister had piano lessons for a little while but she wasn’t too interested. I didn’t have the opportunity to do that. HV: Who were the most powerful mentors in your life? ES: My parents. RD and Euzelle Smith 33 HV: Your parents? Why were they such good mentors? ES: Parents and we had some relatives, a few relatives, you know? [65:00] And they were--most of the adults in the community would kind of oversee the children in the community in the sense that they saw you doing something that you shouldn’t be doing, they wouldn’t hesitate to not only correct you but to go to the parents. And I was fortunate to be in a really good elementary school because we had some after school activities even back then. And in the summer we had some summer groups, like we had craft classes and I always liked school so I would do anything, you know, that they offered for you. HV: So that’s where you learned about the importance of early childhood education! It became part of your life. ES: [laughs] Yeah. HV: What would you say that you’re most proud of from your life? ES: I think my family life. My parents who were always, one of them was always there with us and they were no nonsense parents, you know, do what you’re supposed to do. Daddy would take us places. We didn’t have a car, but we lived in Newport News, right. So sometimes in the summertime, our outing was to go to the boat harbor and get our own boat and just ride on the river about an hour and come back. And sometimes daddy would take us, he liked to walk, and sometimes he would take--well one of my brothers and I would always tag along, “Let me go,” and I would just walk through the woods and come back. And we always went to Sunday school and church and I had a lot of preachers in my family, a lot of preachers and a lot of teachers. [to RDS] Is it in there? RDS: Yeah. RD and Euzelle Smith 34 ES: Can you find it? RDS: Oh yeah. I can find it. ES: You want to take it out? RDS: See that’s the Caldwells, and all this area. ES: You were looking for the poem. RDS: I read the poem right there, see? HV: Oh yeah! Old Reginald Smith. ES: He didn’t write it. RDS: I didn’t write it but George Watson Carver wrote that and said read it and see what you say. HV: Ok, you want me to read it out loud? RDS: Yeah. HV: All right. It says “Equipment” “Figure it out for yourself, my lad, You've all that the greatest of men have had, Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes And a brain to use if you would be wise. With this equipment they all began, So start for the top and say, ‘I can.’ Look them over, the wise and great They take their food from a common plate, And similar knives and forks they use, RD and Euzelle Smith 35 With similar laces they tie their shoes. The world considers them brave and smart, But you've all they had when they made their start. You can triumph and come to skill, You can be great if you only will. You're well equipped for what fight you choose, You have legs and arms and a brain to use, And the man who has risen great deeds to do Began his life with no more than you. You are the handicap you must face, You are the one who must choose your place, You must say where you want to go, How much you will study the truth to know. God has equipped you for life, but He Lets you decide what you want to be. Courage must come from the soul within, The man must furnish the will to win. So figure it out for yourself, my lad. You were born with all that the great have had, RD and Euzelle Smith 36 With your equipment they all began, Get hold of yourself and say: ‘I can.’” SB: [ES laughs] That was nice. RDS: That was my philosophy when I came here, right there. HV: These are all, so you’ve saved all these clippings? RDS: Oh only seen little that I have saved [ES and HV laugh]. HV: You have a lot of saved materials? RDS: Oh yeah, oh yeah. All back there. One of the first things that I did when the school and all them, when it came to the school, to Smith Middle School collection of black history week. HV: Now Hargraves was a pretty vibrant community center especially when your kids were growing up right and when you all were here? ES: Our children didn’t go over there to that many things. They went where we took them. They didn’t have a lot of activities [70:00] for the students like afterschool like this. They didn’t have it then. HV: Mr. Smith, I asked Ms. Smith the same question which is: what would you say in your life that you’re most proud of? RDS: [laughs] Well the fact that we’ve been married 67 years [all laugh]. We have been married for 67 years. And I sat there looking at the TV sometimes and all the cases that come on TV, and wonder, “Why in the world people--?” Shoot we ain’t never had a serious argument in our lives to the point that we get upset at each other! SB: That’s incredible. RD and Euzelle Smith 37 RDS: What do you have to argue about? I’m married to the most perfect person in the world! So why would I have an argument with her? I’ve always said, and excuse the expression, but we can solve all our problems between two sheets. In our bed, we solve all our problems. ES: We’ve only had one argument [HV and SB laugh]. HV: Really? What was the one argument? ES: Well it was right after he came out of service and I think he was accustomed to telling people what to do and what not to do. So when he told me what I was going to do and what we were not going to do, I balked, you know? That’s not it. That’s not it. Don’t tell me what I’m not going to do or I’m going to do it. So that was it. HV: And then after it’s just been really-- [RDS mumbles]. ES: He said he didn’t remember it [HV, ES, SB laugh]. HV: He blocked it out. You know, 67, sixty years after that. RDS: Yeah the important thing is to keep it out of your mind. Forget about it. If you’ve decided what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do. So let’s live together with that in mind. HV: And this has been a good place to live for you all? ES: Yes, yes. RDS: We lived right in this area ever since we’ve lived in this area. HV: What’s been best about that? ES: The neighborhood itself. SB: Do you guys still keep in touch with a lot of the people who have moved away? RD and Euzelle Smith 38 ES: Yes when they come back. A few of the younger people are still in the area and when the others come back, a lot of them will come back, you know, to see them. Or we will see them in the community or in the church or what not. RDS: One young man come by, what was it, day before yesterday? ES: Yeah, Reggie’s friend. RDS: Yeah my son’s friend who had a stroke twelve hours ago. And he came by just to let us know that he was doing good and see how we were doing. Mostly was concerned with how we were doing than how they’re doing. But he had a stroke and he had a problem. All: Mm. HV: [Pause] Do you know where this picture came from, when this article was written? It says: “Residents of Chapel Hill Oldest Black Community Fear Change for the Worst as White Students Move In.” Do you know where that was from? ES: What paper, do you know? RDS: It was from the Chapel Hill Newspaper I think. HV: And then on the next page you have an article about Caldwell, Wilson Swayne Caldwell? RDS: Yeah he was the guy that owned all this property over here. And his son was over here. We lived right across the street from them. That’s the guy who, what’s it called, he worked for the university for years. Let me see if I can find his picture. HV: Mr. Smith, what do you like about best the house that you built? RDS: What I like best about it? Well I guess the best thing I like about it is that it’s mine [all laugh]. It’s ours. Put it that way. RD and Euzelle Smith 39 HV: And when there’s a problem you know how to fix it right? RDS: I’ve spent most of my life fixing it. ES: When something would go wrong, he would say, “Well I know what to do about that,” you know [HV laughs]. He’s Mr. Fix-it when things go wrong in the house. RDS: That’s Ed Caldwell right there. HV: Is he still alive? RDS: Nope [pause]. This was at the colored school long ago. [END OF SEGMENT 7, 75:09] Segment 8: Saving clippings, Obama’s win, Smith Middle School, Chapel Hill High School Riot, and Town Council [76:28] RDS: All this stuff here is what I gave to Seawell for black history month. HV: How do you decide what to save? RDS: Well this was for black history. But anything of interest to me, to my life in one way or the other. Oh that one there [picks up book, long pause]. HV: Oh you got a lot of Barack Obama. RDS: Oh yeah HV: How did you feel the day that, what were you doing the day that he got elected? RDS: What was I doing? HV: Was that an exciting moment? RDS: A very exciting moment. RD and Euzelle Smith 40 HV: What was that like for you? RDS: You see when Obama won--there it is right there. See this picture here? See this picture here with all the young men in it? It was for young men who call themselves the “Chapel Hill Gang Members.” They were my former students, every one of them. That one killed himself. These three are still living. They come by every now and then just to bring or pass or something for my birthday or our anniversary and all that stuff. HV: So how did you and Euzelle react when, were you surprised that Obama won? Did you think that you’d see that in your lifetime? RDS: I never thought that we’d see it in our lifetime, but we worked together and people gathered in his favor. That’s my father in law and mother in law. These are things that, and that’s the school right there. HV: Yeah there’s Joe Biden over there isn’t it? RDS: Yeah. That’s my son right there shaking his hand. That’s in Research Triangle Park where my son lives. All of this is part of memory. Let’s see. This is in the black history thing. HV: What do you think it will mean to have Barak Obama as president for youth, especially black male youth? RDS: I think it will have a positive impact on youth today. I got one here with a bunch of menus here in it [HV laughs]. Here you see. They were my former students. HV: Oh yeah. So you’ve stayed in touch with a lot of your former students. RDS: Oh yeah. They’ve stayed in touch with me. All this is more for the black history program. See all of this? We saved it and then we give it to the school. HV: Oh great, so you pass on that legacy. RD and Euzelle Smith 41 RDS: That’s what I was going to say. I give them this book and they’ll put it in a library [80:00]. HV: Were you excited when they named Smith Middle after you and Euzelle? RDS: We were excited but we didn’t know anything about it. Our children had gone before the board and suggested that they name the school after us, but we didn’t know that the kids had suggested it. And we come out and said, “Where in the world did you get the idea that we wanted a school named after us?” [HV laughs] They said, “Well you deserve it daddy, mom and dad.” HV: Well y’all have dedicated your lives to--. RDS: We’ve dedicated our lives to teaching them kids. HV: Were you there for the day of that big riot that happened at Chapel Hill High? RDS: If the riot happened, I was there [ES laughs]. HV: The one that was over the mascot and the school colors and all of that? RDS: Uh-huh I was there. I was right there. And they finally decided, the kids made the decision. They ought to decide which way are we going to go, let them decide what the mascot would be, and what the school colors would be. Lincoln High School colors were one thing, black and orange. Chapel Hill High School was different. You’re coming together so you need to decide what your colors would be. The combination of the two or what the mascot would be. Our mascot was tiger. Now yours were the, I forgot what the mascot was at Chapel Hill High School. As far as I’m concerned, let the kids decide what it was going to be, not me! Let them decide. This would be the color this would be the mascot. RD and Euzelle Smith 42 HV: So you were on the town council while you were still teaching? RDS: Yeah. HV: Y’all were really busy weren’t you? RDS: [ES laughs] Oh yeah. Never stopped until I retired in 1980--when did I retire? ES: You retired sometime in the late 80s. RDS: ’83, ‘84. HV: So was that hard to balance? Working on the council? RDS: It wasn’t that hard to balance. I just, you talked to somebody and you go and talk to them before meeting time. Get an opinion, “What do you think about this?” You don’t go in there--when I go into a meeting, I was ready. HV: Did you let people know in this community when things were concerning them in the town? RDS: Oh yeah, oh yeah. No question about that. HV: So you helped distribute information? RDS: Not only in this community, but in this town, because it concerned everybody in this town and everywhere. I would find the time to pick somebody out in the community who I could talk to. [END of SEGMENT 8, 82:54] Segment 9: RD on the house and on him and Euzelle [PART TWO RECORDING] RDS: And then she wanted the house. RD and Euzelle Smith 43 HV: So you wanted a house that you could be proud of. RDS: I wanted a house that she could be proud of, and she enjoys living in. I say that we get along together like two peas in a pod [all laugh]. As long as she’s making her money and I’m making mine, put it together and we get stuff for the both of us. I bought something for her for Valentine’s. [END OF SEGMENT 9, 0:39] END OF INTERVIEW Hasan Bhatti 4/22/13 12:39 PM Comment : Continuation of children’s book from the saving money, to building house, and then providing for each other like two peas in a pod!