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Title: Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 15, 1979. Interview C-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Turner, Viola, interviewee
Interview conducted by Weare, Walter
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 304 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-03-05, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 15, 1979. Interview C-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0015)
Author: Walter Weare
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 15, 1979. Interview C-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0015)
Author: Viola Turner
Description: 424 Mb
Description: 88 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 15, 1979, by Walter Weare; recorded in Durham, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Dorothy M. Casey.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Viola Turner, April 15, 1979.
Interview C-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Turner, Viola, interviewee


Interview Participants

    VIOLA TURNER, interviewee
    WALTER WEARE, interviewer
    UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
WALTER WEARE:
I thought we would begin, then, maybe at the beginning. You were born in Georgia, is that correct?
VIOLA TURNER:
Macon.
WALTER WEARE:
In what year?
VIOLA TURNER:
1900. February 17, 1900.
WALTER WEARE:
Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your family. I remember your father was a cotton sampler, wasn't he?
VIOLA TURNER:
God, you do remember things! Yes, he was. Which I, even yet, don't quite know what that was. I know what I saw him do. My mother was sent to Macon from a very small place—I don't think you'd even call it a town—Clinton, Georgia, to go to school, to live with an older sister. I don't know whether she had been there a year or so or not. However, I do know that my father had come up from Fort Plains, Georgia, a young boy, really. And somewhere along the way they met. He was not in school. At fifteen, at some point in fifteen, let's see am I right? At the age of fifteen they were married. At the age of sixteen I was born. Isn't that something? My grandmother must have been thoroughly disgusted at the whole thing. But, at any rate, they were really two children, so-to-speak, with a daughter. My father was, I suppose, a cotton sampler then. I don't know. But the two things that I knew about him and making a living was that he was a cotton sampler from early spring through the late spring. . .I'm still wrong. From the early fall to the late spring. Then he was a hotel man, a waiter, from the spring through the summer.
WALTER WEARE:
This was in Macon?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's in Macon. That's when I grew up. I knew him then as the hotel man in the summer and the cotton sampler through the fall and winter.

Page 2
And my mother was a very smart little lady. I look and think of her even today, and wonder how she could have been as smart as she evidently was. Evidently it was just born in her. She was aggressive, ambitious, determined, and, probably because she had a child so early, she came to realize how unfortunate it was not to have continued in school. Because, I think she was about the sixth grade when she married my father. But that's all I heard all of my life, as far back as I can remember, "You've got to go to school; you've got to stay in school."
WALTER WEARE:
[unknown]
VIOLA TURNER:
No, my mother. "You've got to be a school teacher." That was all I heard. "Go to school. Stay in school. Be a school teacher." My mother was a sweet, loving man. Nobody had a dearer father than I had. He gave me lots of attention, both of them did. I had a lovely childhood. Poor—I didn't know it, however—but very lovely. But my father, I'm quite sure, he didn't see the point in all that education my mother was talking about. It was O.K. If she wanted me to go to school it was O.K.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you have any brothers or sisters?
VIOLA TURNER:
No brothers, no sisters.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think he would have felt the same way about a male child?
VIOLA TURNER:
Probably not. Probably he would have had a little different feeling because there was certainly this sort of feeling in the family. But the mother chastized. The father didn't touch. You could speak to the child, but you could not whip the child, not the girl. But if you have any boys, then you can whip them. That was the law in the house, and it seemed to happen because at a very young age—something like three—my mother had stepped out somewhere and she came in just in time to see my father whip me, because I had been making noise outdoors and he was not

Page 3
feeling well, and he was in bed. She got up and came in just in time to see him evidently about to slay me, I don't know what, and the law was laid down then. So I grew up knowing that my father would not strike me, because a man did not strike a girl. But if there was a boy, a brother—that I always hoped I'd have—that dad would whip him.
WALTER WEARE:
Did your mother whip you?
VIOLA TURNER:
Interestingly enough, my mother whipped me just about every day of my life. [laughter] And my father only had to look at me and I didn't give him any trouble at all, knowing full well that he wasn't going to whip me. Only once in my span of living did he almost whip me and I liked to die for it. My mother was not as large as I am. She was always hoping to weight a hundred and ten pounds. Oh boy, that little lady was tough [laughter]. But she whipped me every day of my life about something.
WALTER WEARE:
Did she ever work outside the home?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Some of everything and anything. Because she was determined that I was going to have things that she wanted me to have. Maybe things that she'd wanted, I don't know. She was from a farm. My grandmother had a little country home. But my mother could sew. She sewed beautifully. She kept me very well dressed. She took a great deal of pride in that. I'll show you one of my pictures that I think is just precious. It's the only one I have.
WALTER WEARE:
She wasn't a seamstress?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, she only sewed at home. She tried to stay home as much as she could. But when she decided that there was something that she wanted—and when I look back on it, everything she really wanted was something that was for my benefit—she worked out. I think she would have done

Page 4
anything. The thing I remember most: I remember two jobs out of the home. One was with a doctor. Ear, eye, nose and throat specialist. A [unknown] Dr. Cunningham from Virginia—strange I can remember because I was quite young, but I do remember him. I remember him so well. But I know now that my mother probably went to work there as a maid. At that time, I didn't know. All I knew was my mother was working with Dr. Cunningham.
WALTER WEARE:
He was a black doctor?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, no, no. He was a white doctor.
WALTER WEARE:
In Macon?
VIOLA TURNER:
In Macon. Interesting about the things blacks and whites did when I was growing up that many young people today could not imagine or believe. But anyway, he was a marvelous man and he was a very fine person, apparently. My mother worked with him to the point where I feel quite sure she was assisting him in his operations. He operated in that office which he said. He took my tonsils out there. I remember, and I was small enough that my father walked me out of his office on the elevator, in his arms. `Course that doesn't me that I was so young, because I was a small child, you can imagine. But at any rate, I was small enough. But he took out my tonsils right in his office. My mother worked for him for a number of years. The way I space that: I was going to school and I would come from school, very often, straight downtown to this office and stay until my mother left to take me home. And that went on a long time.
Then, the other job my mother had out of the home: Dr. Cunningham had a patient, a baby. And I don't know what was being done. But something about a very young child. And when that child went home, I don't know whether Dr. Cunningham wanted my mother to go and help with

Page 5
that child for a while, or whether the people, when they met her there, they wanted her; but some way or another, before too long, my mother went with that family to take care of this boy. I remember the names, because the last time I went home in the sixties, that family was still in Macon, and I hoped that I would get a chance to stop and see anybody in that family that was still living. [unknown] was a Jewish name. So, I know now they were Jews. This kid was named P.D. I don't know what the initials were. P.D. [unknown] . But anyway, my mother nursed that child through the illness, and evidently she endeared herself to them to a point that they kept her on, and she stayed with them. She worked with them for a good while. Again I [unknown] time, because I don't know if it was two years or one year, four years or five, but long enough for me to know that family as such. Because then I would leave school and I would go to that house and go home with my mother when she worked.
WALTER WEARE:
[unknown] morning and put in a full day?
VIOLA TURNER:
Not a full day. She didn't ever leave home before I [unknown] to go to school. Mother always saw me off to school. And Mother always saw me back home, one way or the other. Then she would work at intervals. For instance: she wanted a piano, because she wanted me to take music lessons. My father saw no point in a piano. Now, of course I can understand. [unknown] [C.B. interference] [unknown] But my father was making ten dollars a week, and that's all he was earning. But my mother was determined that I was going to have a piano. So whenever she was determined to have something, she got a job. And then I got the piano. And I took music lessons. Because that's what she wanted her child

Page 6
to have. She did that sort of thing off and on until I was a good-sized teenager.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember any other jobs that she took, other occupations?
VIOLA TURNER:
The only thing that I know about is the one with the doctor, and the one with the [unknown] . Because, now, for instance, with the [unknown] . With the [unknown] she worked through a period then she come home. Then I suppose [unknown] she might go for a while then come back to that. After that she [unknown] , she sewed. [unknown] I know now, and of course I've known this a long time, but I didn't know it then: my mother was not a well person, she was not a strong woman, and my mother died at thirty-two. Sixteen years. I was born when she was sixteen and she died when I was sixteen. So, no doubt, she did not go out any more for working because, possible, she couldn't, she wasn't able to do it. So people would come and bring sewing, and she sewed [unknown] . I have my own opinion of what she died of. After what the doctors said, I guess I will never know, because at that age, the father did all the talking and that sort of thing. I always will feel that my mother had a heart condition. Now the reason I feel that now: when I was a kid growing up, my mother seldom was able to go to concerts or exhibitions, where the school would have these big affairs at the end of the year. [unknown] my mother would be sick when it was time for me to get there—and I was in everything. My father usually had to take me. And my mother would be talking with me or something in the afternoon, and that night she would awaken me, and she'd be deathly ill. I guess a part of my nervous temperament is because I'd be a nervous wreak. Now and then that would be when my father was out of town on his job—see, his job as a cotton sampler took him out of town all of the time; going around to the various places, cotton centers. And

Page 7
the neighborhood had just one telephone and I'd dash out of there and run over to the Johnson's to use the telephone. [unknown] And we'd call the doctor and he'd come. And all I ever heard was that my mother had acute indigestion. That was always the diagnosis. Then, of course, when she referred to her illness, "I'll have to be careful of that; I don't know whether I'd better eat that; that may not be fit for me; you know, I have acute indigestion." I don't believe [unknown] `Course I don't know what it was. In later years, before her death, during her last illness, we couldn't get her to take the medicine. As a matter of fact, that was why she was in the hospital: she wouldn't take the medicine the doctor gave her. She didn't do anything anybody prescribed for her. So [unknown] took her to the hospital. She was in the hospital a couple of weeks, maybe ten days. I can recall going there two [unknown] The last Sunday was [unknown] before Christmas. We walked in and the very first thing she says, "Want to go home. Take me home; I'm going to die." And she would not cooperate with anything but, "Take her home." We did, and she was dead a couple of days after that
WALTER WEARE:
Was she treated by a white doctor?
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
VIOLA TURNER:
No, she was the head of the business department. And, you see, even all of that was brand new. I didn't have in mind to go to school for any business training. I was going to college to go to college, not that I knew much about anything more. But I found out that I wanted to go to Morris Brown, and I saw this school of business administration, and I decided that that's what I would do: I would go away to that school the old-day business school. And then, the only thing I had there: I'll go over there and I'll teach business. I'm still working on this thing that I'm going to be a teacher. But when I got there, Morris Brown was really lucky for me, and for anybody who came in that time. Because this woman who headed up that department—oh, for about four or five years, not much longer than that—she used to say to me (we became very close) that she wanted me to come back and assist her after I graduated, with the understanding that I would further my education. She said, "You haven't got enough, but you've got enough to get started." So that was the way my program was started. Didn't any of it go in that direction long.
WALTER WEARE:
You went from Morris Brown, then, to Tuskegee; you said that was your first job?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Actually what happened, I graduated. They were going to have summer school at the Morris Brown in the business department. So she kept me there that summer to assist her in the summer school. With the understanding that I would be put on for the winter, with the further understanding that I would immediately start making application to go to

Page 9
Oberlin for further training. I had to have more education, and I understood that. I'd heard that all my life. So she was just picking up my mother's theme song [laughter]. But, I was in Morris Brown, say, for about two weeks, of the business school. And I was staying with this Mrs. Thompson, and I got a telegram signed, ‘R.R.Moten, president’. And Dr. Moten was the president of Tuskegee Institute, and the telegram said, ‘Report for work at Tuskegee such and such a time.’ I hadn't made application. I don't know anything but R.R. Moten's name and Tuskegee. So I carried it to Mrs. Thompson, and she said, "Did you send it?" And I said, no I hadn't done anything; I didn't know where it came from; I didn't know how they knew my name; I didn't know anything. How did he send it to Atlanta instead of to Macon? So she says, "Well, accept it. Oh, yes, accept it. You need the experience. Experience there will be better for you than the summer here. So accept that, get the experience, then we'll work out the program for the fall."
WALTER WEARE:
It's intriguing that you mentioned there was a woman teaching at Morris Brown. Were there many women teaching there at that time? Was she exceptional?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, she was exceptional, but not because she was a woman. There were other women teachers there. At that time, they were really—I didn't recognize it then, but I did later—trying to get their college department going. I think maybe that year I went there—it was certainly not more than the second year—they had their first set of graduates from their college department. And they had a woman there, a Mrs. Hill, that I am quite sure she must have been the driving force in that area. Because she tried very hard to get me to come out of the business school into the

Page 10
the regular academic, four-year degree. Of course, she was really just talking to thin air. `Cause all I wanted to do was get out of Morris Brown when she appoints me. Then of course, after a while, I fell in love with the woman who was heading up the business department. And before that year was over, I had really been caught up in business, and had evidently found where I should be. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I spent all of my extra time with Mrs. Thompson and in her other classes. So much so, that before the end of the first year, I was helping her in classes like single-entry bookkeeping, that sort of thing. I really had found the right thing for me, but purely accidentally.
WALTER WEARE:
Was the faculty mostly black or white at that time?
VIOLA TURNER:
At Morris Brown, it was all black. However Mrs. Thompson, you would've believed she was white. She was a highly trained woman and she used to say to me, "This is only a stepping-stone for you. You won't stay here too long. I won't stay here too long." And of course, I couldn't understand why. She said, "Well, the first thing, I'm not Methodist. The second thing is, the first time a presiding elder gets somebody who graduates from one of the colleges, they're going to take me out and put them in. And the same thing is going to be true with you. This is a stepping stone and you'll go from here. That's why you've got to get the additional education, so you will be able to move on."
WALTER WEARE:
Do you know where she was from, or where she went?
VIOLA TURNER:
She was a South Carolinian; Charleston, South Carolina. And one of the other regrets of my life is: when you're young, there are so many things you look back on and wish you had done them. I wish I had really kept in touch with her as I should have. Youth will not do it. You'll do it for a little while. Now, I kept in touch with her long enough for

Page 11
her to reach the point that you knew that she was going to have to leave Morris Brown. Because somebody was going to finally be trained to the point that one of the good old presiding elders or ministers were going to be able to do their politics and get them in there. So, she left there and she went to Fort Valley, Georgia, a school there. But while she was there—and incidentally her husband was a minister, who had always given her a good deal of trouble, but she had taken it through the years. And she used to say to me after she got to the place she would talk with me confidentially, "I'll stay and I'll take this sort of thing so long as he never makes a false move about Lula." Now that little girl—I think it was her sister's child, and the mother died in childbirth, and Mrs. Thompson took that baby—was a kid then, I guess, ten or eleven. And she always felt that her husband would probably at some time, make the wrong move towards the child. Evidently he was one of those sort of people from the various experiences she's had. And another little bit on the society in Georgia: she belonged to the elite of Atlanta society. And Atlanta society—the black society—maybe they took the cue from the white. Usually you found that to be true. But they were very sedate people. They had status that was very important. If you made their society you had to have made it for some very specific reason. No doubt hers was that she was a highly trained woman. She was heading up this department and her husband was one of the ministers in the city.
WALTER WEARE:
Where did she go to school?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, she went to Temple University, and, what is the female attachment to Harvard?
WALTER WEARE:
Radcliffe.
VIOLA TURNER:
Radcliffe. She had gone there and to Temple, those two places.

Page 12
She was quite a lady, golly! But anyhow, she made the society. Now, among the things that you could not do in Atlanta society: you could not leave a husband, no. You could suffer and everybody would rally around and help you to go over it. But these little pecadillos, you had to accept and ignore, because it was not done in the Atlanta society, that you could leave a husband. I knew that simply because she was a member of the society [laughter], and I was very close to her. She used to take me out to her home and I'd stay out there with her. On one occasion I was helping her to entertain the group of very delightful ladies.
When she finally got to the point where she could talk to me about these things, that she couldn't have talked to with her own group of people, or wouldn't have, she said that she was trying to stay. And she would. She could take, and would take anything, unless at some place this minister made the wrong move in the family.
WALTER WEARE:
This Atlanta society: was it color as well as position? Was there a correlation between lightness and darkness?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well that, of course, I'm sure was a part of it in the earlier years, and maybe even at that time, because that was in the twenties. Yes, I imagine you did have to be certainly a few shades lighter than black. If you were very talented and your husband or your father or some member of the family had managed to rise above the average level, you probably were accepted. But it always was to your advantage if you were fair, or at least light brown, or you didn't have too much curl in your hair, that sort of thing. All of those things had a great deal to do with status.
WALTER WEARE:
If you were very dark, though, and you had considerable achievements, would the darkness keep you out?
VIOLA TURNER:
I have an idea. . .you see, at that age, I can't really speak with authority. But with feeling and emotion, I can say it very likely

Page 13
would've kept you out. You might even make the edges, the fringe, but to the very inner circle, you probably still were shut out some. Because I lived through enough of that to recognize that it was important.
I had my dearest friend—her portrait is on that second shelf up there—same age, I think there's a week's difference in our ages. We started in ballet together in the second grade and we went through twelfth together. I loved her better than anybody in the world.
WALTER WEARE:
Is this the public schools in Macon?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, I never went to public school. American Missionary Association, connected with the Congregational Church. They set up schools all over the South, and they were schools that originally started with the first grade and went through twelfth. They were called normal schools. And you had black teachers from the first grade through the eighth. And from the ninth through the twelfth you had white teachers from the North. They were usually Yankees. Our principal, when I was going through, was a German, Von Tobel. And your tuition was a dollar a month. Of course, you had to have that at least to be able to make it. So my mother worked, because I was going to the end. I never went to public schools at all. When I got there, they had cut off the first grade. They only had the second to the twelfth.
Each year, after I went in in second, they dropped a grade until they got to the sixth grade. And, of course, in those early years, every year I went home and told my mother, "I passed from second grade, and my teacher passed, too." So I thought that my teacher and I were passing together [laughter], until we got to sixth grade. Now, all Macon had for blacks was from the first grade to the sixth grade in public schools. No more. They didn't get a high school until I left Macon.

Page 14
WALTER WEARE:
What year was that?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, let's see, that must have been. . .I'm trying to remember whether it was when I left to go to Morris Brown, or whether it was while I was in Morris Brown. I went to Morris Brown in the fall of '17. We'll say they got the first high school somewhere between '17 and '20, somewhere in there.
WALTER WEARE:
You were talking about your friend, that you went to school with, and the color difference.
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. This girl, May, was big. I think buxom would be the word, where you're not fat but you're big-framed. So, she was twice as large as I was. But we were the same age. She could play the piano far better than I could. She had a lovely voice; I didn't have any voice, a little wee voice. I could read music and I could carry a tune, but all I was good for was to fill in, you know. I was dramatic. I'd been reciting all my life; I was great on recitations. I loved to dance if they was doing something where you had to hop, skip, and dance. But invariably, I was always on the front row, I was always the first to get picked. I mean, between myself and May. May would always be in the back row; May always was only picked if they did have to have good voices. And, as a child, I resented it. I didn't even understand it. I could never understand why May and I couldn't be together. We sat together in school until we got separated for talking, which we did every year. But, nevertheless, I recognized it very early the distinction between May and myself, with the teachers, black teachers. Not just white teachers, just everybody. And it followed right through. You could see, even when I got to Durham. Bess Whittington was our chorister at the St. Joseph's choir, and Bess was very good at that. Bess was the closest dark you can

Page 15
get before you could say she was black. With no bones about it, "Come up here on the front, all of the pretty ones up here. Put all the dark ones in back." And she could get away with it. She was dark herself. But she made no bones about it. "Come up here; get back here; I need you; I want the pretty ones up here." It was the sort of thing that some resented. I was one of the poor souls that resented it all my life [laughter]. My mother used to say, always, when I wanted to go see somebody, wanted to go see May. There was a little girl that was just as white as it was possible to be, lived right down the street from her; I had another very good friend who was as pretty as she could be, one of these kind of copper-browns with braids that went down to where she sat on them in school. But when I would go in to say, could I go see somebody, I want to go see May, my mother would say, "Why don't you ever ask to go see Julia; why don't you ever ask to go see Effie?" "Oh, Mama, I want to go to see May. They'll be up here." Effie and this child lived further out. There were more reasons than one that I wanted to go see May, but anyway, I wanted to go. Every once in a while my mother would say, "One of these days, you are going to come in here with a big belly." She'd get to that part and I'm looking right at her. "Yes, you know what I mean, and expect me to love him and accept him, and I'm not going to do it." And I'd say, "Mama, you are prejudiced. You are just as prejudiced." She said, "Don't care if I am. I'm not prejudiced, but I'm not going to accept nothing like that. And I'm telling you. I just don't understand. You never want to go and see anybody. May, May, May!" [laughter]
WALTER WEARE:
Was you mother a light-skinned woman?
VIOLA TURNER:
Heck, no! Just as close to black as she could be without being black. The darkest brown, as May. These folks here, the man I've

Page 16
know all of his life, and I lived with his mother and father. They had a standing statement they'd make on me." Viola, have you met [unknown] ?" "Yes." "What does she look like?" "Oh, she's pretty nice looking. You know she's a dark, chocolate color. You know, with that sort of ruddiness under the skin." And you'd see these [unknown] , start grinning. "What and the heck are you grinning for?" "You can describe more shades of black than anybody I have ever seen in my life. Why is it? You just don't want to say black?" "No. I just appreciate the difference in coloring. You light folks (they were both very light), you look at all of us and call us all black. We're not all black; we're every shade under the sun; and I try to tell you the shade of everything." [laughter] So, my mother was two shades removed from black.
But there's no question about it. She was prejudiced. She liked the darker folks all right, but she didn't want me to bring one into the family. And that's the only kind of man that I ever really and truly liked. I had other sort of boyfriends—all kinds—every color under the sun, over a period of time. But when I really got very serious, they was always dark, and [laughter] I used to say, "Poor, my mother, would've had a fit. Can't you ever go out and find something better?" But no, it was born in her, evidently. She had lived with that sort of thing, and you know what had happened to her? She was humiliated time and time again, because she grew up in a period where half of the kids. . .my mother wouldn't have pictures made and I often wondered if that was one of the reasons, too. But I had one class picture of hers, as a kid growing up, which I lost in moving around. And, on there, you could count the dark or the black children on it. Everything on that was any shade of white going on up and coming on down to me. Browns and lights and mulattoes.

Page 17
Then a few here and there. And, of course, that was simply because in different areas in Georgia—and I guess in all of the states; I know it was true in Mississippi because I lived there a while—there were areas where there had been such a proliferation of these white children mixed with birth, you know. And consequently that was so close to the time when this was happening, that there was just loads of very fair children in the schools. Light browns and browns, and I guess, maybe—I hadn't thought of it until now—if I'd been in the public schools, I may have seen more. But being in, what was a special school at the time for the children, probably everybody who could spend a dollar a month, put their children there. Probably if you'd gotten into the public schools, you'd have seen loads of blacker children, I don't know. But, oh yes, there was feeling, a great deal of it.
WALTER WEARE:
Would you have been considered in those days a brown-skinned woman? Would that be the term they would use?
VIOLA TURNER:
For me?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes.
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yeah, I would be brown-skinned. And then when I was smaller, I'd often wondered why the thing used to offend me so. Looking at myself, I don't see how they did it. They used to call me yellow. That offended me greatly. I liked being brown, `cause I thought brown was so pretty. I didn't think my particular brown was so pretty, but I had two or three friends, girl-children growing up with me. `Course what they had went along with it that I didn't have. I always used to hold my mother accoutable for that, poor thing, she had nothing to do with it. But, really all of the brown children, the color that I thought was so pretty, they had this very pretty long black hair. So, you know, that

Page 18
was the Indian mixture and everything. I never could quite understand from my mother when I was small, why it was that I didn't have all of that hair that so many of my friends had.
And even relatives. I had a set of relatives on my father's side, and I'd go down there to visit with them. My mother always played the role of combing the hair, and when she'd get through with my aunt's five or six children—they had all grades of hair, all kinds of hair,. but even those with the roughest of hair, they had braids that would have (I'm sure I must have exaggerated it in my mind), it looked like they was as big as my arm.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
My hair was shorter than everybody else's.
WALTER WEARE:
Did your father have any of these feelings about color?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. No, he had none, I don't think.
WALTER WEARE:
Was he about your color?
VIOLA TURNER:
I guess when we were both younger, he was probably lighter. Maybe I was a little lighter then, I don't know. But anyway, I always thought while growing up that I was between my father's and my mother's color. But, you know, and you may know this, I think some people—and I've often wondered if that's Indian pigmentation or what—but some people grow darker as they grow older. And it certainly happened in my family. Now, when my father died, my father was darker than I was. And, to me, it was the most shocking thing. When I went home, even when he was ill, it seemed to me that he looked darker, but I didn't pay much attention to it, didn't get too upset about it. But at his death when I went home, he seemed to me so much darker than I was. But I think I'm darker now than I was, too, as

Page 19
a child. And then this aunt, that I referred to, not the great-aunt—the great aunt was one color and stayed that color all the time, this coppery color. But the other aunt was lighter when she was a younger woman, but when she died, she was darker. It was still a brown, but a real brown-brown, darker than I was.
WALTER WEARE:
She told you to go with those people, not with these people?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. My great-aunt. That was my great-aunt.
WALTER WEARE:
Was she talking about color then?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, sure, sure. She was talking about color then. I always wondered why she loved my mother, `cause my mother, by her standards, was a little dark for her. But she loved her. More than she did any of the other relatives that I ever knew. She loved Fannie. My mother's name was Fannie. But, no. Most of the time that was really what it was. It was color. She didn't care anything about dark people. And, to give you an idea just how bad off she was, she worked with whites. I don't know the history of Aunt Viola Dodd, I don't even know how she got with them. It would be an interesting one if you knew. She had, way back in her time, some time of school. Now, I don't know how in the world she could've had the training for it, or anything. Of course, I know they didn't require much. I can tell you how little they required for you to teach school. But being my great-aunt, which meant she had to be at least my father's age, or a little bit older or a little bit younger. She could have been the last child in a group, so she could have been that age. But even so, she had married and she'd had two children. But somewhere along the way, she started working with a wealthy white family, and they were the Winecoffs of Atlanta, Georgia. Where she ran into them or how, I don't know. But she was not with old family in Atlanta, but with their children, the son of this

Page 20
family. So when I knew her, she was living in Albany, Georgia. And she worked with them, and she left there with them, when they came to Atlanta, and she lived with them there. She died in Atlanta. I went down at the time of the funeral. So, I knew the young Winecoffs. She lived right in the home with them. They had one of these great big mansions out on Peachtree Road, way out. I went there on one occasion. Called from the station saying I was there, just wanting to speak to her, and she sent down for me, and I spent the night there. Woke up the next morning and opened my eyes and there was Mrs. Winecoff like you are opposite me, and I'm in the bed, you know. I closed my eyes up and we played cat and mouse [laughter]. Finally she reached over and touched me and says, "Vee, Vee." And I said, "Yeah?" And she said, "Wake up, wake up. I've been sitting here waiting for you to wake up." And I thought to myself, "I know it; I've been looking at you [laughter], but I wasn't about to wake up." But that's another story. But anyhow, out of that, I gave you all that background to tell you that this aunt, people would give her things; I'm sure the white families did, things she couldn't do a thing with. At that time she had a suite of rooms right up in the house, where I'm telling you I was in the bed. And she'd have a trunk of things. But anyway, she'd put all these things in these lockers. Because sometime she's going to see me. So, on one occasion I went there and she opened up the trunk, and she had some of the prettiest shoes you ever saw, four, or five, or six, or seven pairs. For me to just see if there was anything there I could wear or wanted. And, of course, being young and just out of school and working for myself, I wanted every pair I could get my feet into. So, sure enough, I could wear most of them. And this was her satisfaction. "Uh huh. I knew if I saved them, you'd

Page 21
come by here. `Cause you don't have n-i-g-g-e-r feet."
WALTER WEARE:
She meant large or what?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know any more than you do. but now, who ever decided there was a difference in feet? That's how prejudiced she was. She was saving them, because I didn't have those kind of feet, and she knew I'd come and be in, and she was saving them 'til I got there. So I left there with four or five pair of shoes. Because I had the right kind of feet [laughter]. So she really was just steeped in her prejudices. But it didn't hurt too many people because she didn't do anything but stay right there with those folks until she died.
WALTER WEARE:
How would you explain it that you didn't internalize those values?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know. All I can tell you is that I resented those things from childhood. I had a feeling. Anything I didn't like from my mother, not to like particularly my best friend. Or to make any little remark that indicated for some reason that she chose other children over her. And I would say it right out. Always did. So, I have no idea where those things came from, or how. But, as I said, I recall always I could come up with some fantastic story about my background, where you could almost see the Indians riding in the dugout [laughter], the way I tell you about that. And then, to show you how really persistent it has been, I never could look at T.V. programs or go to a movie where they had the attack, you know, with the whole army of Indians, and six whites would be up there, and shoot them all down? I'd get so indignant, I'd just have to leave the movie, and cut off the T.V., not look at it. I don't know why I have these sort of reactions, but I just have them. So, I just decided

Page 22
that somewhere there must have been somebody back down there that said, "They didn't treat us right, and you defend us every time you get a chance of it."
WALTER WEARE:
Before we get you back to Tuskegee, you mentioned a while ago that young people wouldn't believe today the things about race relations?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't think so. You, know I thought of this often, trying to pinpoint when I really became aware of the fact that I wasn't acceptable everywhere. [unknown] again, when I say, my mother was a smart lady. I guess there were a whole lot of smart mothers, and fathers, too. I really can't pinpoint when I knew there was a distinction made, that I was being discriminated against. I had to be quite aware up in my teens. Because, O.K., here how I lived: a little street called, Tatenall, a trestle with a cross over the street with the railroad going between Atlanta and Macon, central of Georgia. Very tall, and Tatenall began with that trestle and came up the street about a good half-block—maybe it would be a short block—to chestnut street. Then Tatenall went up another block, and that was the end of Tatenall Street. It ended up there in what they called Tatenall Square. And when you passed the Square you were at Mercy University. Now this street, Chestnut, went all the way up and all the way down.
Now, I lived, when I can first remember, in a little house here on Tatenall. And then we moved to the corner house. So I lived all my life on Tatenall. I had been on the corner of Tatenall and Chestnut. Up on this corner of Tatenall and Chestnut, whites lived. Across the street my school teacher, that I thoughtpassed every year, her family, the Johnsons, they lived on this corner, and that corner, opposite them, whites. Now up that block and all the way down this short block were blacks. Now, on

Page 23
the rest of that block to the corner, whites; and on this side, where we lived, all the way up there except one house, whites. I don't know whether that one in the center was always ‘tenented’, I guess you would say, by blacks, I don't know. But we had a fire, and when our house was being repaired, we moved up to that little house. So that meant we lived in the middle of that block until this house was repaired. Now, there were white families and white children here, black families and black children. Now, all of the children met out here and they played up and down that street, all but we. Most of the children were boys, and my mother said that little girls shouldn't play with little boys, so I didn't get to go out there and play. But the little boys, white and black, they played. And the only playmate I had in the neighborhood, that was near my age, was a little boy that lived next door this way. His mother was a teacher at the school where I was attending, and his father was a tailor. And we used to could play together. She used to let me, because they were very strict about who he could play with. So we became playmates to some extent. But now, most whites there, would just as likely be over talking to my mother, or my mother would be over there talking to them. I don't mean they went in and sat down to visit, either way. But they'd sit on the porch or meet out in the middle of the street and have conversation. You never thought a thing about it. I didn't ever think about them as white people, or black people. They was just people and "Hello, Mrs. so-and-so; hello, Mrs. so-and-so", and you went your way. So I didn't get it there.
Now, I go to the AMA school and you have black teachers and you have white teachers, and we are right downtown, right straight through downtown. Now, downtown, you get here and you go a block this way, and there are a black tailor shop, two black drugstores, and an undertaking establishment.

Page 24
These are things I can remember. There may have been other things. But interspaced in between there, there was a big white bakery—I do remember that—and a black church right over here. Then you go a block down here and here's the city hall, where everybody goes for their concerts in the spring, blacks and whites. Then you go one more block, I think it's a whole block, or a half-block or something like that, and you're right at the biggest street, main street in Macon, Cherry Street, where everything runs up and down there. So now, you have got blacks and whites in between here. Now, I pointed one church over here. Now you turn, what they call Cotton Avenue, and there is the big Methodist Church, and on this side there is a big Baptist Church, and then you go up the street and there's a street that runs this way, whites live on there, and the street that runs this way, white schools. Then, of course, you make a turn here and there's Ballard over here, the Congregational Church in the same property. And on the hill, across the street, is a dorm because in the earlier days AMA had a dorm for kids who came in from the country and had to live in. So there was a dorm there.
You see, you're all intertwined there. Now, we have black theatre. And when I get to the point where I can go to the picture show, all I've ever heard is the Douglas Theatre. And you are not like you are today. You only got to go to the theatre once in a while. Your Mama didn't let you go every week, or three times a week. You went once. And all you're doing is looking forward to going to the theatre. So, I must have passed white theatres and never even thought about them. I'm too busy getting to the Douglas Theatre, you know. So, I don't realize that I can't go in this theatre over here. `cause I'm going over here to this one. And they're all white down there, near enough to each other that you don't ever get out of

Page 25
the path. And you don't realize, until way late, something focuses. I know when I really learned that I wasn't being treated properly [laughter].
Well, all through that period, O.K., and this is interesting. I've been intending to go back and try and find out, because there's something I should know, and I don't know it. I didn't know I should know it until recent years. The opera house in Macon is a historic building, and it has some history that I wish I knew what's it's all about. But my father took me to that opera house, everything that was worthwhile to see. I saw Ben Hur there when I was a kid. Oh, yes. We got a lot of horses on the stage. All sorts of things. I saw Black Patty. I don't know if you ever heard of Black Patty. Great singer, there. All sorts of things. My father took me because my mother would be sick this time, you know, to go to something like that. And I went to the Jim Crow section and never knew I was being Jim Crowed. They were smart people. Now, I always thought I had to go up them steps and go to that top. `Cause the seats up there were very nice and everything; it wasn't shabby when you got up. It was the fact that you had to from here to here to here to here to get there. As a kid, who thought anything about climbing steps?
Now, the next thing about it, when your father told you, you couldn't afford, I thought it was a matter of money. The reason I was up there. I had no idea that I couldn't go downstairs. I didn't even question it. You didn't have radio, you didn't have T.V. So, you didn't question many of the things your parents told you. And when my mother said, "We're scraping up the money for you to go see so-and-so", why, I thought I was getting the great treat of my life, and never questioned anything about why I was going up all those steps to get there.
WALTER WEARE:
Were they consciously protecting you?

Page 26
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, I'm sure they did. I'm sure all of the parents probably were doing the same thing. Because if they didn't, children being children, we would have talked about it, if we'd known about it. I don't remember talking about it anytime when I was a kid: why I can't go to see so-and-so, why can't you do so-and-so. I had no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
When did you first find out?
VIOLA TURNER:
You know, when I really became fully aware, I'm quite sure there must have been some incident somewhere along the way that made me know that I couldn't do something. I imagine that it was so nebulous, or happened so rarely, that I didn't get the things together. I just can't imagine that I was seventeen before I had some awareness of it. But, actually when I was fully aware was when I got to Morris Brown. Now, there were people in Atlanta. Atlanta was really the business center of black America. A man named Harry Pace and another man—can't think of his name now—they had an insurance company . . . .
WALTER WEARE:
Heiman Perry?
VIOLA TURNER:
Heiman Perry. Standard Life—at the time it was changed to something else so I was getting confused, but that's right. And another man, Ben Davis. If you know anything about Atlanta, you know. Ben Davis was a newspaper man. He was speaker of the truth, loud, wide and handsome. And he was also a politician, and apparently a very smart, smart man. I never knew him. I don't recall that I ever saw him. I saw Heiman Perry, and I knew Harry Pace because he came to the school on one occasion, to really talk to us about the power of the vote, and the need to exercise your franchise, and that sort of thing. So that's when, really, my attention was focussed on the fact that I had rights and that I had a need to recognise that I had them and to protect them. Even, I remember, they brought paper

Page 27
ballots on one occasion, to show us how to vote, what you would do. And one of the discussions came up at that time: there was to be vote about cyclorama. I think the cyclorama then was supposed to be depicting the Civil War. Memory's right good, huh? Because I wasn't sure; it's been years since I thought of that. But at any rate, it was discussed greatly at Morris Brown. And why you should vote against, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And what it all meant, and the significance of this, that, and the other thing. Of course we couldn't vote. But we were right there indoctrinated to know you did have some rights, that these are things you have to know, and should know about. And I think, as I recall, they did have a vote over it, and it was defeated by the citizenry of Atlanta. But that was really and truly my first recognition that I had been living in a dream world.
WALTER WEARE:
You never had any bitter experiences, any meaness?
VIOLA TURNER:
At intervals I would try to recall: did I ever have any? I have an idea that I'm not typical. And I say I'm not typical because I have a feeling that the kids that only got what the State of Georgia had to offer them at that time, and their parents didn't make some effort to see that they got more, or surround them with more, they may have had a lot of situations that I don't know about. It's possible; I don't know. I don't know of it. Atlanta is the first time I had that kind of awareness. But the first time I ever saw the evidence of mob violence, or that sort of thing, was in Clarksdale, Mississippi. And that was—oh, when was that? That had to be around '24—'23, '24, somewhere along in there, '24, '25—and I went into Clarksdale on Sunday afternoon, I believe it was. Or it may have been Saturday. At any rate, I was on my way to Oklahoma, and I stopped in Jackson, Mississippi with the Coxes. Mr. Cox was the agency director, and I wanted him to know that I was leaving Alabama and that I was going to Oklahoma.

Page 28
I had another job, and I was going out there to this job. And he sold me a bill of goods that I couldn't go to Oklahoma; I had to go up to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and work for [unknown] [laughter]. And he was a salesman. And then he had been, really, almost like a father to me, since I'd left home. So he put me in a car and drove me up to Clarksdale, Mississippi. And, whatever day it was—I still want to say it was Sunday, and it could have been. At any rate, that weekend there had been a killing in Clarksdale, Mississippi. And, as the story went—and it must have been reasonably true—it seemed that these white officers had gone to some place there to pick up a black man, and they judged they had good reason. But, blacks in the South when I was growing up, and for a long time, usually felt—and I don't know if they've got that sort of feeling now—but back when I was growing up, and if you heard any of this sort of thing, you heard that black man felt he had no chance. If he got into a situation where—as they said, Mr. Charlie was coming for him—all he considered was killing him. Because he knew he was going to die, so he was going to take somebody with him. So, evidently, that was the philosophy here. When these two white men walked up on the porch, this man walked right out and killed them. So when I get there, Clarksdale is seething with automobiles and people riding around with rifles, sitting up in the car, hanging out of the car like this. And that was the first time I had ever seen anything like this. [unknown] [laughter]
WALTER WEARE:
Was that man lynched them?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, they didn't touch him. Clarksdale was an interesting place. I had another experience there—talking about lynching. When I went there, the place Mr. Cox got for me, the lady could house me, but she couldn't feed me. She was working, herself. So, there was a little cafe, or cafeteria—what did they call it? I guess it was a cafe. These people were in it for the money,

Page 29
and they served you, and everything. So I was taking my meals there. This was right after I got there, so you can imagine how Clarksdale affected me, when I first got there. There was a lynch mob, looking like it was going to be. Then, I got around here, very shortly thereafter, and this place is busting with the news. This little black woman has killed a big white man. [laughter] And so the town is [unknown] . Well, see, now I'm really scared. I wonder what am I doing in Clarksdale? I need to go somewhere else. But the lady who ran the place says—she's telling the story—the man had decided he was going to strike her, and she had a little pocket knife and when he raised up like this, she ran right up under him. But she stuck him right in the heart. Or someplace. Anyway, he died. She whirled out of the place, gone. So the cops were looking for her. And the story goes—and these people were pointed out to me at another time—there was a white family there called the Doggetts, D-O-G-G double T or something like that. And, like in so many places, Clarksdale was their town, so-to-speak. They were the big people in the town, and they said when you did this, that, or the other thing. So, then, Mr. Doggett finds out that this is one of his servants, one of his people. When they loved you, they loved you, and when they didn't, they didn't. So she was one that had the Doggett approval. So he tells the sheriff, "Oh, don't worry about Mary (I don't know what her name was), just drive on down, and when the train pulls up at Mount (that's a Negro town), get on there, and you tell Mary I said come on back here to Clarksdale." So that happened. He goes down, gets on the train, goes in and finds Mary and says, "Mr. Doggett says ‘Come on back to Clarksdale’." So now, this is still the story that you're hearing. So, she's in jail. A couple of weeks after that, I'm in having dinner, and the lady says, [whispering] "That's Mary!" [laughter] Mary was back in town and walking down the street. That's right. That's all that happened to Mary.

Page 30
WALTER WEARE:
So that big family had. . . .?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah. He told him to go get Mary and come back home; she had nothing to worry about. And apparently Mary didn't have anything, because that's how I saw Mary. The lady in the place called me and says, "There goes Mary." So that's the kind of place the South is. You can't explain it.
WALTER WEARE:
You think if a black man had committed the murder, it would have been altogether different?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I think this: it all depends on what Mr. Doggett would have decided. Now, if Mr. Doggett decided that he didn't want John in jail, or John did exactly what he should've done, or someone's always imposing on John, it would've been the same. But now, whether Mr. Doggett had any John's in his life I don't know. But that's what it would've been, if he's influence with the man and his family. Incidentally, they were supposed to be expert marksmen. They had made many, many medals and things for their marksmanship. Both the man and the woman, so the story went in Clarksdale.
But that's the truth all over. It was, in those days. If you were in the favor of some people, you had very few problems.
And then there were other relationships that were perfectly lovely. For instance, I went to my grandmother's every year of my life, for as far back as I can remember, until she died, which, as I said, was when I was around twelve. And my playmate, in Clinton, was a little girl named Cassie. Cassie was a little white girl and they had a farm. My grandmother just had a small plot of land. My guess is maybe it was an acre of land, I have no idea what it was. She had a great big garden, a few trees, and enough land to raise a bale of cotton. But this other farm was a big farm that ran right on up to the back of this little piece of land of my grandmother's.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

Page 31
WALTER WEARE:
You say you and Cassie played together?
VIOLA TURNER:
Every day. If we were at her house at the time for lunch and a nap, her mother put us in a room, on a pallet, gave us lunch, and we slept for a certain period of time. You always had that day break. If we were down to my house, my grandmother did the same thing. She fed us, we took our nap, and then we went out and played for the rest of the day. We did that summer after summer after summer. Now, the thing we had going for us, that was such a thrill—I guess we would have still done the same thing we did. But, Cassie—I don't know this. I don't know if she had relatives or someone who had been to China or where in China, or what. But some way or another, Cassie had silkworms. Uh huh. The first silkworms—maybe she had cucoons—but every year, during those years we played together, my grandmother had a big mulberry tree in her yard. Right by the front door, almost. So we fed the silkworms all summer long, and just about the time for me to go home, in the summer, they would be weaving their cocoons. And they would go to sleep, and they stayed in their shoeboxes all winter, and my grandmother would leave them alone. And by the time I would come back, the moths would be coming out of the cocoons. They would leave the eggs, and the eggs would make the little worms. Then we'd feed the eggs all summer—all the little worms, all summer long. That went on year in, year out until my grandmother had a stroke and my mother moved her to Macon. And I lost all contact with. . . .
WALTER WEARE:
You didn't actually collect the silk?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no. We didn't do anything but grow the worms and feed them the mulberries, that's all. But we kept them going, you know, year in, year out. And, you know, that silk is as pretty as it can be. It's a natural color.

Page 32
And just as silky. I though of it many times later. After that I lost all contact with Cassie's mother, who wrote my mother and told her that my grandmother had had the stroke.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you suspect, that, had you continued to live in that area, and you and Cassie had reached a certain point in your life, that it would have been the end of the relationship?
VIOLA TURNER:
I've often wondered about that. It probably would have been. And yet, I don't know. I was trying to think if I had any relationship with any white, at a period like that, where there was a change. No, I guess I don't really know. But from what I have read, and what I have heard, I would believe that possibly there may have come a time when I was supposed to be saying, ‘Miss Cassie’, and she was going to say, ‘Viola’, and that would've been the end to the friendship. Because, even then, I had too much spunk for it. So, I have an idea it might have. And yet, I have no way of answering that because we lost contact at a time when it was just one of those normal things, a death, and I never went back. `Didn't go back for many years.
[laughter] I shouldn't even tell you this; this does not reflect too kindly on my father and it isn't too bad, either. But, really, to me, I just laugh and say that really is the difference between my mother and father. This little piece of land belonged to my grandmother, then it was my mother's. All of these things I presume to be the truth. Apparently, some place along the way, my father felt he needed some money and he sold the plot. Again, I'm just putting two and two together, but I don't think I could possibly be wrong. I don't know anything about, don't think anything about it. I doubt if I even had ever thought it was probably my property at that stage of the game. But, when I became eighteen and came home—did I come from school?

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I believe I had gotten out of school. But, anyway, it doesn't matter. I came home. And on this occasion my father wanted me to go somewhere with him. So, of course, I said yes. And he took me to an office in what I now know had to be the county seat of Jones County. And I signed some papers. And I, of course, in time—especially after I got into business myself—I realized that my father had sold that property, and whoever had bought it had taken it with that flaw in the title, waiting for me to become of age, that it could be cured with my signature. And I went down and signed the papers. I have often wondered, I said, gee I wonder if it was the people who owned the farm that went right up on my grandmother's lot. That would have been a nice rounding out of their property. That's probably what they did. And I said, boy you all would have had some trouble if you had been dealing with [unknown] . You'd have never got it that easy.
WALTER WEARE:
So it was lost?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, I'm sure it was. I never even raised the question. When I finally realized from just the little business training, I said, uh huh, that's what my daddy did. That's what I went to that place for. That's why I was signing something. No. I never even let on that I knew anything about it.
WALTER WEARE:
I want to take you back to Macon, just for a moment. You were talking about segregation, and, in some places, the lack of segregation in Macon. Where you lived, was that typical, where there would be whites and blacks kind of interspersed? Was there a defineable black community, what we would now call a ghetto?
VIOLA TURNER:
I have tried to decide what was a ghetto. I'm not sure that I really still know. Except when you talk about Harlem, or someplace like that. [laughter] But, I think so. Here's the way I would define it. As the town

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grew, and spread out, I have a feeling that it spread, where there was a black street, more black streets came. So, after a while, you'd say, now where my father lived with my step-mother, the street coming up there was Vineville Avenue. Now Vineville was all white. Very fine houses. And then, running into Vineville came Ward Street. And Ward Street ran on out, and then it was a long, long way. In time, all of that was black. And then when you left Vineville and Ward here, everything that went that way was black. So that becomes a really, truly black community. Now, when you continued on out Vine, I'm not so sure what happened on that part of the street, further. Because, I had left home by this time, and I don't really know too much. But, what I do know, the girl that I told you that I loved so dearly, and that also was possibly one other reason why I found her so attractive: her parents lived, if you continued out Vineville long enough, you would get to almost, well, farm land. Still it was considered in the city of Macon. I don't know where the county line was. Maybe some of it was county, but definitely some of it was city. And when you got out there, then again there was a sparseness, so that this might be black property here, and wide, wide space of it. And over here, this would be white property. But, as time moved on, the University, Westland College, that was almost downtown when I was a kid, had moved way out in that same area. Now, I don't know what happened to that property, how it became; did it get black and white or white and black. I do know that this girl's mother and father had a lot of property.
WALTER WEARE:
May?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, May. In this area. And I used to love to go out there. I say, another thing I think I enjoyed going out there: I could ride my bicycle, to go that far. And then there was always a fruit tree out there or something I

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could have a good time, eating fruit. As well as enjoying May. But the last time I was in Macon, May had become the principal of one of the schools there. And when I went out to see her, the school was right across the street from her house. She was living in the same house she lived in when we were children, on this side of the street. And across the street from her was this great big, lovely school building, and she was the principal of the school. And I know that that was all the [unknown] property when I was a kid growing up. So, evidently—I don't know if she did in her later years or whether her parents sold that property to city, and that school was built there, and she was the principal of that school. So, I don't know how that whole community has really developed. Whether that all became all black or whether, the fact that Westland College went out in that same sort of area and at one time the properties were big property by one group of people, by another family. . . .
WALTER WEARE:
Those black businesses that were downtown, did they move out, too?
VIOLA TURNER:
Not in the—when was the last time I was there? '65. In 1965 the black businesses—whatever was still there—was still in that same location, right down on Cotton Avenue, almost right diagonal across from the city hall. And the things that I remembered were there, an undertaking establishment was still there, and I think—and this I'm not sure of—that drugstore, the most popular. There were two drugstores down there in that area. One was quite a nice drugstore, and I believe that drugstore was still there. But I'm not sure. But there was still black business right in that same area. I stopped there. The North Carolina Mutual's office was one of the buildings, put up by Elks or Masons or something, and their office was still in there. And in that area, there was still black businesses.
WALTER WEARE:
Was Macon large enough, when you were there, to have street cars?

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VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. They had trollies. Macon is a very old town. Shortly after I came to Durham, my father sent me a paper celebrating either their hundredth or hundred-and-fiftieth birthday—I've forgotten which. But it's a very old town. They were slow. Macon was kind of like Durham. It had an opportunity to be an Atlanta but couldn't make it. Like Durham has had opportunity to be everything and didn't make it. Macon is like that: slow, sleepy, dull, but it has beautiful, wide, lovely streets.
WALTER WEARE:
Were these streetcars segregated as far back as you can remember?
VIOLA TURNER:
To tell you the truth, I don't know. And one ran right by my house, curved and went right down Chestnut Street. And I don't have any awareness that I ever picked any place to sit on that streetcar.
WALTER WEARE:
But you do remember riding it?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh yes. That's a funny question. Golly, I'd like to see some other Maconite right now and ask that question—that grew up with me.
WALTER WEARE:
You don't remember blacks going to the back?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't recall any of that. And the thing that makes that so interesting to me, now that you bring it to my mind: I not only rode on the one that came right by the house, but one of our pasttimes, as kids growing up—after you got up to the place where your mother let you go out a while in the afternoon, on Sunday afternoons—we could take a nickle, get on the trolley, say up at my corner or down to the next block, and you could ride all the way downtown and get a transfer, and get on another trolley down there and ride all the way around the west of the town, and come back within a half-block of your house. And that was our Sunday entertainment, when we got a chance to do it. You didn't get a chance to do it every Sunday. Your mothers never let you do everything every Sunday [laughter]. And I don't recall ever feeling a feeling of where I had to get. Now, I don't know whether

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I was so indoctrinated that I just automatically went to a back seat. I can't believe that, and I'll tell you why. This may be the case for it. On that trolley that came up Chestnut and went down Patenaude, they would hardly have many white passengers on there. Because, the people in the block up here, if they wanted to, they could go up another way and catch another trolley, which might take them more where they were going. I have no idea where they were going. But this one took you right downtown. But if it only picked up passengers coming up Chestnut and then down Patenaude, probably by the time I would get on it, it would be filled up and you'd just go on to the seat wherever you're at. Otherwise, I cannot understand why I wouldn't have known something about it. I can't recall anything about going to the back of the bus.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember parks being segregated? Did you ever go to parks?
VIOLA TURNER:
There, I think again, I go back to my parents. They were very smart people. We had picnics all the time. As a matter of fact, I guess I had more parties than anybody in the whole wide world. Because, all you had to do was get up in the morning and say, "Let's have a party." And my mother would say, "O.K." Any maybe she'd bake some cookies. Now if there was anybody around to invite, like Kitchin, a girl who lived way down the street. She was the only person close to me. Or Kenny, across there. I could invite them over for the cookies. If not, we had the party, my mother and my father and myself. And, of course, they were my brothers and sisters and another day, they may be my cousins. And I would get up in the morning and announce, "Cousin Fanny, what are we going to do?" And they indulged that. They would be the cousins all day. Cousin Philip. Or they might be my brother and my sister. And they went along with those fantasies and junk. But the picnics: my mother would fix a basket and we would go down to the city park. Any

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Sunday that they took a notion, or it was a beautiful day or something. And we just had a wonderful time. [telephone call]
WALTER WEARE:
So you're not sure about the parks?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no. To tell you the truth, the only park I know anything about is the city park. All I can say: we had access to it. Because my father and mother would decide to have a picnic. And it ran right by the side of the river. I don't know if it ran beside it, or ran through it, or what. But there was a river down there. Then there was just this big, wide-open space. And I think everybody had access to it. I never had a reason to think otherwise. By the time I got up to any age, I was not enthusiastic about parks. I had other things that were far more interesting, so, I don't know. The only other parks that I know about in Macon at the time, were just little patches, you know, in the city. Maybe right over here in front of the city hall, there'd be a little place about as big as my back yard, and there might be a little pool with an alligator in it. And you walked around in there and looked at the alligator, that sort of thing. Everybody did that. But the city park is the only thing I ever knew about then. And, as I said, I spent many a day in there. That's the same place where the fairs came. You went to the fairs. And I don't know about any discrimination about that sort of thing. I guess there wouldn't be, would there?
WALTER WEARE:
Was this a county fair?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know. Yes, it had to be the county fair. [unknown] one time, that I had gone.
WALTER WEARE:
There was a practise in the state fairs that there would be a white state fair and then a colored state fair on the same grounds, but afterwards. Do you remember anything like that? Where the whole fairgrounds would be turned over to blacks after the whites had had their fair? That was true of

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North Carolina
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't recall that. But don't quote me. I don't know. Yes, you can quote me: I don't know. [laughter] I really don't know. All that I do remember: I had a little piece of embroidery in the fair on one occasion. And the only other thing I remember is how I loved the Merry-Go-Round, and how I spent every penny that my mother gave me and my father gave me, every bit of it on the Merry-Go-Round. And, again, as I said, growing up I was so unaware of race. So, I could have been being discriminated against all the while, and not the least bit aware of it. Nothing in my life pointed to it. As I said, I had more parties than anybody in the world. Anything, can of Van Camp pork and beans, which I thought were the best things in the whole world. If my mother opened one of those and said, "You can have all you like", that was a party. Or she cooked things, and she was very nice about letting me invite kids in, and she'd fix lemonade or tea or something like that. I never had anything that spoiled my childhood.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember what you typically had for breakfast or dinner?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. All sorts of good food. My mother was a good cook, and my father knew foods. So I knew good foods. We were laughing about this not very long ago, some friend of mine. I said, you know, I don't remember when I learned to like olives. All my life I think I've liked olives. But I'm sure there was a time when I didn't. You see, my father working in a hotel, he knew foods. I don't know where my mother learned it. Maybe she learned it off of my father. They were young together, grew up together. But I had good food all of my life. And, also, they must have had exposure that I don't know about, that made them do a lot of things. For instance: we ate very little pork. You had a pork roast once a year. That was a real treat. My mother cooked that pork roast in the winter, with sweet potatoes around it, oh boy! It was a dish. But you only got it once. The only other

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pork you had, you had bacon and you'd have ham—breakfast food. Of course the grits pot went on in the morning and the rice pot went on at dinner time. Always, you had the grits in the breakfast, and the rice at dinner. You might have everything else, but those two things also were cooked, always. I didn't know one living thing—and of course this used to tickle a lot of people, particularly people who were from the deep South—that I had never seen chitterlings. Didn't know what they were when I got to North Carolina. Had never seen people eat pig ears, and pig feet—except for pickled pig feet that I used to buy for the dogs, in the store. Only thing I had ever had of the pig would be all that I mentioned, and my mother used to cook pig tails with little white beans. And I had had that. But all these other things, I had never heard of them before I got here. And Mr. Cox said, "You mean, coming out of Georgia, you didn't know about it?" I'd never heard of it. As a matter of fact, I'd never had coffee except when I was at grandmother's. My mother drank, and served in her house, Postum, and I drank that at home. But, boy, the first letter back from grandmother's always said, "Dear Mama, I am having a wonderful time. Grandmother gave me coffee." [laughter] And I thought that was great. Of course I'm sure it was nothing but coffee water. Now let's see: typical.
Oh, boy. I'll tell you what I think is funny: I remember that on Sundays, Sunday breakfast could be special. Because, aside from bacon and eggs, which was pretty standard—bacon, and eggs, and grits—most Sundays you had pancakes. But that was just like a side dish. Pancakes and syrup. And I say syrup because I met a man in the store last week and we got to talking. I said, did he ever have cane syrup? Down in our section, your syrup is made from sugar cane. There's nothing like it. It's better than anything you get up this way. But anyhow, so you'd have maybe a stack of pancakes and cane syrup over here. And your regular breakfast. You could have either or both. And

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another Sunday you could have fried fish with your grits, instead of the eggs. But usually it was sort of standard, but nevertheless. I recall very vividly the first time my father stopped and says, "You can't eat pancakes like that anymore." I had to eat them with a knife and fork. Up until that time I had been sopping. Did you know what sopping is? [laughter] Do you recall when somebody stopped you from sopping and made you pick up a knife and a fork? Horrible experience when there's syrup you got to eat. I just couldn't believe it could be accomplished. So, you see, I even got table manners early. All because of my father's exposure, I'm sure, to the hotel. Incidentally I went to Georgia in '65, and Mutual people who were sending me to this meeting said, "Do you want to stay at the Holiday Inn, which is brand new, or the old hotel?" I said I wanted to go to Dempsey. Nobody could understand why the Dempsey. So I go to the Dempsey and they're explaining how it's just been re-modeled. Even though it's not up to par with the other one, I still want to go to the Dempsey. So I went to the Dempsey and I saw that hotel being built, as a child. It was the tallest building. It was our skyscraper. You could go down and see it going up. And then my father worked in there, when he hoteled in the summer. So then I announced to the folks after I got in to the hotel, I said, "When I was a kid and I had wanted to see my father on a life or death business, I would have had to come down Cherry Street, go back around on this side, go through there, and go to the back door and ask, ‘Please, could I speak to Philip Richard. Would you mind telling Philip Richard that his wife is dying?’ " Or something like that. They said, "Are you kidding?" And I said, "No, I'm not kidding. That's what I would have had to do. I probably didn't know that's what I had to do. But if I'd have found it, that's what I would've ended up doing." You know, I had to come and walk through the front door of the Dempsey Hotel and be served. It really was a thrill, just to know

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that I was not going to be hampered in any way. Because they were perfectly lovely. As a matter of fact, the hotel was filled with little boy scouts, and there were as many little black boys as there were white boys, all up and down the place. This was something to behold. Dear old Macon.
WALTER WEARE:
Your father didn't, in a sense, serve white people much of each year? Did he ever express any kind of bitterness about this role that he had to play?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. My father was really just a sweet man. I never heard him complain about anything. Never heard him gripe about things. Now, I could not say the same about my mother. She didn't do much complaining, but boy, she could fuss up a storm about many things. And my father would take one look at her and get his hat and go around the block [laughter], so he didn't have to endure any of what she was going to jump on him about. `Cause she would jump on him or anybody else, if they crossed in any way. She was a firey little miss, but she was a sweet, good-hearted lady.
WALTER WEARE:
You mentioned that your father pretty much ran the house, is that correct?
VIOLA TURNER:
In that he was the chief earner, that he brought the money in all the time. But if I give you the impression he ran the house, I was wrong.
WALTER WEARE:
Big decisions, now.
VIOLA TURNER:
Fannie made them. She was the maker of decisions. She was the moving force of the family. And he was not a protester. He let her do, you know, have her way. There was not much argument. He just didn't have that drive that she had. I'll give you an example. This is purely personal. It has nothing to do with what you're doing. But, when my mother died, she had gone out in this section where I told you about, where most of the families [unknown] moved, and found a house, a lovely piece of land. The house was very nice, just a modest, five-room house. Six rooms, something like that.

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With a big porch all the way around it. She had put a down payment on it.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
He didn't know that, nor did I know it. And to show you the difference, the reason I say my mother was the dynamo. He was just a darling, sweet person, but he was willing to go along with her program, that's where he was marvelous. Just for being a lovely parent and considerate of you and all that kind of thing. I wouldn't ask for anything more. They were a good combination. It wouldn't have done for either one of them to be the same as the other. If one had been too explosive, the other one would've done nothing. They were a beautiful combination for me. Did you know, my father married again? And my stepmother was a very lovely person. I liked her very much. I never had to live with her and that probably kept me liking her. Entirely different from my mother. But at least she had had two years of college education at Spellman, which meant she was highly advanced above my mother's [unknown] training. She let my father sell that piece of property. Of course I'm sure he didn't get very much out of it because my mother was just paying on it. She had made the down payment [unknown] . She stepped across the street and talked to a white realtor across the street from where she was living, and while I was not there—and I'm quite sure she told the fact that they were—she enquired of this gentleman about a lot that was up on the corner of where we were living. Probably if it was to say how much, or something of that kind, and my father got to find out that he had bought that lot. Whether he wanted or not, and whether he had the money for it or not. And he had no recourse. Because that was Mr. [unknown] word against the black woman. Nothing in writing, nowhere. So it ended up, my father built a house on that lot up there. And the lot—to show you how badly stricken they were—they

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they had about that much front yard, turn in here. So that would be fifteen, certainly not more than twenty feet. Then the house. Then when you got to the back yard, there was about five feet, or six feet. That couldn't have been, tell me, how many square feet in the whole thing? That was a five-room house, I believe. There was a living, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a back porch which my father finally closed in. That much house and about fifteen feet in the front and about five feet—you could just walk out the back, that's all you could do [unknown] . That stayed in his life until he was [unknown] . They had sold the place out there, which would have been a marvelous place for her to raise her children. She had four children. They lost one or two children in the process. But that's the sort of thing he found himself walking, staring into middle age with.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
He didn't get angry when your mother bought the land the first time?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no, no, no. But I know exactly what happened. One day I get a letter and he wants to know if I want the piano, or have any need for it. I wrote him back and said no indeed, if you want to sell it and get a price for it, be my guest. His wife just wanted this, or didn't want that, and so I feel quite sure that she didn't want to move out, what at that time, appeared to be that far. And so he just went on and sold it. But it kept him in hot water all of his life. I'm quite sure it shortened his life, very likely. With a brand new, young family, and a home, mortgaged to the hilt. No better compensation than he'd ever made, I'm sure. Probably less.
WALTER WEARE:
All of this may be significant, because, as you probably know, a long and controversial [unknown] about black men and black women, where the black woman is more powerful and so forth. In your observations of other families, then, later on, do you take one side or the other on this, that black women are somehow stronger?

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VIOLA TURNER:
No, I don't think I do. Not fully. If I just took my family, I would say, yes. Because, certainly my mother was. She wasn't a domineering woman. If you just came and visited with the family or you were there a while, you would have probably thought that my father was the dominant force, maybe. I mean, tall, very nice person, very agreeable person. My mother could be a very agreeable little lady. But the things she wanted, the ambition. He didn't have the ambition. Unfortunately. Maybe deep down he agreed with those sort of things. But he wasn't the kind who could voice, "I want a piano; I want my daughter to take music lessons." That wasn't the usual thing in that time. It was the people, back in that time, who had a little money. Not the people who lived on this side of the street, over here. The man was a postal mail clerk on the train. His wife did nothing because he could support her. They had the only telephone in the neighborhood, the area. There was a piano in their house, and everything else. A couple of their girls were teachers. The others had married and gone other places. All doing very well. More or less moderately affluent, well some of the affluent of that neighborhood, and of many groups of us at that time.
WALTER WEARE:
The children you went to school with in the AMA school, as much as you can generalize about their families, were their fathers generally with the family, generally employed?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah, they were with their families. Most of the folks that I knew, other children. I knew the mothers and the fathers. Different stories about some of them. Some of them you could say, well, like you would know the Julian Kerr and the O'Daniels. There were some of those in my classes. You knew that this group here had some relatives over here, you know, and that sort of this. But that was not true. This girl here, her mother and father were farmers. They had a large family and she was the baby girl in that family.

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I had no idea where their properties came from, or how they'd been in the family or anything. But there was nothing there, in the family, that made you able to connect them with anybody in any other family. They were all brown-skinned people. I guess the lightest girl in that family was about my color. The rest of them shaded down. There were no unusual features in that family. Most of them were Negroid and that sort of thing. They had talent. So far as I'm concerned, they were the best livers I knew anything about. Anybody who had all the lovely fruit trees around, you know, that sort of thing [laughter]. And a whole lot of property. They were certainly comfortably situated. And they were definitely determined that all of their girls—incidentally I don't think they had any boys; I never knew any boys. One of their girls was a school teacher. They were determined that all of their kids would have an education. So, we had different kinds.
But now, I can't even think of—and this, again, is a question I never thought of before. I don't know of but one child that I knew, growing up with, where the mother and the father were not together. And that was a very queer and strange situation. This little girl got lost on the train between Macon and a place up near—I've forgotten the name of the place—but near where Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his summer cottage.
WALTER WEARE:
Warm Springs?
VIOLA TURNER:
Somewhere up in that area, this child was travelling from one place, going towards another. She was let off in Macon. Nobody met her. And she was just there, lost in the station. A man in our neighborhood, a Mr. Day was a hackman, he drove a hack. Someone told him that this child was there, and he took her home with him. He and his wife had no children. I was very fond of them and they were very fond of me. My mother used to let me visit with them, oftimes. Actually to the point I've called him Poppa Dad and her Aunt Emma. And this little girl—oh, I'm sure she was also terrified. But she

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actually acted, you thought at first that she was a mute. Because she would try to talk with her hands and they couldn't get anything out of her. But finally they did find out—I think it was a couple of days before they did find her parents. Then it turned out that what she was doing was—there was a sister in the family that was a deaf-mute, and she had learned to communicate with this child with her hands, who was older than she. So this was her way of communicating. And, of course, nobody there knew. To make a long story short, that family adopted the child. The parents let them adopt the child. And, when you knew the rest of the family, you knew she had to be illegitimate. Effie was just as white as it was possible to be. And this straight, straight auburn hair. But, do you know, in all of the children of my lifetime as a child, I think that's the only child I know, that I was aware of that didn't have just regular parents like the rest of us.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there a feeling that maybe your family background and that of those right around you, particularly at the AMA School, that that was different somehow from others who may have been less fortunate?
VIOLA TURNER:
It could have been. The fact that I was thrown into that area. It could have been. I don't know. I know this: that my parents and what they had to work with, they were certainly not superior. I mean, they had no advantages. They were not in the Johnson family, by any means. So far as material. It was true, I guess I would say, of everybody on that street. Because this side of me, the man was a tailor and his wife taught. And the grandmother was a seamstress. And beyond that, I think there was one of the daughters in there, was a teacher. When you went down the street the other way, I can't remember but one family down there. But that family—I think that man was a railroad man, or in the mail service. I don't know. But next to the Johnsons, I know that man was a railroad engineer, which is way up off a black man's job. But he didn't look at all black. He was just as white as he could be, Mr.

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[laughter] Got his money and got drunk and threw it all away downtown, and if his wife didn't get down there and catch him, it'd all be gone when they got there, because they just threw it out where it was. And then next to them, there were Bradleys and I don't know what Mr. Bradley did. But I do know that I always went to Mrs. Bradley when I had tickets to sell. She never turned me down. Then, now, the next house, the people there, they must have been just like my mother and father. They were poor people. That's all they seemed to have been. Poor people. I don't recall if they had any professionals in their family, or anything.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there no section of the town that would be identified for poor blacks only?
VIOLA TURNER:
Not in that area.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there another side of Macon?
VIOLA TURNER:
There was a side of Macon that I never knew and I didn't realize how little I didn't know it until last year a lady came here, and to my great surprise, let's see, she was eighty-nine. Anyway she was old enough for me to consider that she was old. Now, at seventy-nine, I can't consider many people old, can I? And she was from Macon. And this friend called me and said there's a lady I've met from Macon, Georgia and I want you to meet her. So, of course, I'm very enthusiastic about that and I went to see her, and I met her. And she was very delightful. I was worried to death. The only thing I could think of to do was to take her to lunch up at the cafeteria. And when I went to pick her up, I was worried about what I should wear, because I wear slacks all the time. I said, what the heck, I'll just wear what I'm comfortable in. So I put on a pant-suit and went and got this lady. And she had on the best looking pants you'd ever want to see [laughter]. Beautiful light-blue shade of blue pants and a blue figured blouse, you know. Well, I said, I should have known, coming from Macon, she'd be O.K. But, at any rate,

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when we began to talk I found myself having such a hard time trying to find people she knew and that I knew. And that was such a surprise to me for us to be of that age. I figured at her age and at my age that we certainly should be meeting families somewhere. And finally, out of the conversation, came the fact that she lived virtually all of her life in East Macon. Then suddenly I realized that I didn't know anything about East Macon. I had only had one friend in East Macon, and then just after you got over the river, and I didn't ever go to visit her very much there, but I knew her in school. So then I finally realized that we were speaking a different language. I haven't the slightest idea what East Macon was like. The only thing I knew: there was a school there and I think it was called Central City College. I knew absolutely nothing about it. I just found that out a couple of years ago. I said, golly Moses, I never realized there was that much to Macon that the only. . . The only thing I remembered about East Macon, it used to flood when they'd have these floods. People that lived down on the sides of the river would be flooded out. That was interesting to me because I saw more whites flooded out in that flooding, than I did blacks. I don't know if I just didn't see enough of it.
WALTER WEARE:
Did blacks and whites live together there?
VIOLA TURNER:
Evidently. Well, I don't know whether they did or it was all a section, and then another section of the blacks. But you used to go down to the bench where you could see this. My father had taken me down there on more than one occasion and the people that I saw were effectively whites. I don't know whether that really means anything. I realized I didn't know a thing about East Macon anyway. As a matter of fact, there was something else I learned, and this, I'm sure, must have happened since I left Macon. I surely would have known something about it. Apparently there was some excavation or something going on.

Page 50
And there are some very interesting Indian sites in Macon for the tourists to see. I went home and they were showing me all these things. I'd never heard of it before. That just happened in Macon, that I didn't know. The opera house: I picked up a paper somewhere and I regret that it got away from me. There was some reference to that opera house, that it has some historical significance which I don't know what it is, but I hope someday to find out again.
WALTER WEARE:
You mentioned that you saw live stage shows?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah, I saw many there. But the one that always stuck out in my mind was Ben Hur. Because when they had the chariot race with the white horses and the black horses racing, they were on stage just racing away for all they were worth. And of course as a kid, you can imagine. I couldn't imagine how that was happening. But I know now there was some stationary thing down there making the motion. But they had the white horses and the black horses.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember what else you saw there? Did vaudeville ever come there?
VIOLA TURNER:
I'm trying to think. Did I see vaudeville there? Now, I'm trying to get that mixed up with New York. I believe vaudeville is what I saw in New York in the early years. I mean, my earlier years.
WALTER WEARE:
Musical productions?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. I saw what was an outstanding minstrel show there. And the only thing I can remember about that, aside from seeing the outline of a minstrel show, was the name, Lubock State, I think. Which was supposedly indicative that it was the outstanding minstrel show of the time. I remember seeing that the first time I'd ever seen these people sitting around with the banjos and [unknown] , nothing on them, then getting up and telling jokes. The Interlocutor coming down and asking Mr. Bones something, and Mr. so-and-so something. They'd come up and dance and sing, that sort of thing. That was at the opera house.

Page 51
WALTER WEARE:
Were these all black performers in the minstrel show?
VIOLA TURNER:
I have no idea. I imagine they were black-faced whites. You know how the minstrels took off and made themselves look like us to entertain.
WALTER WEARE:
At this point, though, they did become black performers. I was wondering if you could remember.
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know that. I really don't. That was in the early years. I must have been twelve, thirteen, fourteen. Somewhere in there.
WALTER WEARE:
What about instrumental music?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. The only thing I remember. . .no, just a minute, I do remember. I can't remember the name, though. These performances that I saw were at the city auditorium. I remember a white pianist. I can just see the outline of the player, but I can't remember it.
I was taking music then and doing like this, trying to get the fingering right. I wish I could think of her name. But at the city auditorium, that's where all the school performances were. And when I was growing up, they would have a combination of schools together for your performance. And nine out of ten times you would do something where you would call in artists in there. For instance, the Mikado we did. I was among the kids that were in that. I used to remember little portions of it. When you hear it, you know, you find yourself going into it. One of the things I remember so much, they had a prima donna—I don't know who she was. I believe that lady may have been local. At any rate, she really had the opera voice, And the only thing I remember about that was that she'd stand up and she'd say, "So-o-o ha-a-appy." And all of us from the [unknown] would say, "So-o-o ha-a-appy." [laughter] How funny it was that the teachers wouldn't stop us. But the lady would come with this "ha-appy" and we'd come right down with "So-o ha-appy." We did all sorts of things at the auditorium.

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I had lovely exposure when I was coming up. And you performed on stage in the auditorium. Oh, my it was quite something.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you remember any black professional groups at all? Anywhere that you saw? People coming to town?
VIOLA TURNER:
I think when I tell you this, again some of these things are hazy to the point that I may misinform you. But, as I recall, there was a Patty, who was a white singer. And then there came along a black Patty. Now, I know I'm right. And I think the name was taken on the basis of there having been this white singer who was Patty. Now, where I'm confused: I don't recall whether the performance I saw with black Patty was a show, an opera, in which she majored, or whether she was featured in one of those minstrel shows. I saw black Patty and heard her sing in the opera either in a show that featured her or in the minstrel and she was a feature. I can't put the thing together like that. But I saw and heard her and I have a little picture of her.
WALTER WEARE:
Were you aware of ragtime, and later on, jazz?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, I became aware, I guess, that was ragtime. Because for me to have a piano in those early days, it became very popular with anybody who could play a piano. There were three, I guess they were men. They were young men. I think of one in particular and I can't even think of his name now. But he came by and asked Miss Fannie could he play on the piano? He was the [unknown] of my musical career. Because he would come in there [unknown] he called it honky-tonk. Well, that's what he was playing. Down here and up here. Boy! I'd be in there trying to practise [laughter]. I'd drive my mother to distraction with this gust of not wanting to practise music up there.
WALTER WEARE:
Classical music, she wanted?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. I had a lovely music teacher. She tried very diligently. I played in a couple of recitals. For a long time [unknown]

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That was my piece! That was my best performance. [unknown] But nevertheless [unknown] to me was the man. But Lonny could really tap his foot and beat out, it was ragtime, I'm sure. [unknown] there, was the last desire to become a musician my mother wanted. I wanted to play this music and of course she wasn't going to stand for that. So I had a mediocre career [laughter]. As soon as I didn't have my mother standing over me with it, I gave it up. I got that taste of ragtime and I like it very much. And my mother couldn't stand it. She said [unknown] , tell him, get up and go away. Because he was influencing me, a bad influence.
WALTER WEARE:
We'll pursue that again, in Durham maybe, as the blues becomes more popular in the twenties and thirties. From Macon to Tuskegee, now. This is when you graduated from Morris Brown, in what? 1919?
VIOLA TURNER:
Now, let me see. I'm going to tell you when and where I ended up and you can get the dates straight. I left Morris Brown and went to Tuskegee. [unknown] meet me to take me to my office. That was the summer of 19 [unknown] , right after I graduated. I stayed there until, it must have been until after January. Because I went into Mississippi early in January. Now when I went there from Atlanta where I had only such clothes as I had on. I had other things home but I had enough from school, and I was to go home. I went home and told my father I had this job and wanted to go to [unknown] . Father didn't like that very much. It was my going away from him. But he agreed that I could to go to Tuskegee for thirty days. If everything worked out all right, I could stay. But if it didn't I was supposed to come home in thirty days. So I went to Tuskegee and everything worked out very nicely and at the end of thirty days [unknown] . At Tuskegee they have all sorts of conventions meeting there. So at one of these meetings I meet a man from Mississippi, who is the superintendent of Negro education in Mississippi. Did

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you know there was such a thing back in those days? Well, there was. And he wanted somebody to [unknown] for him. Of course secretaries were regarded as [unknown] . Course that would [unknown] having any contact with the students. Most of us were young [unknown] student body. [unknown] At any rate, [unknown] secretarial work for him. So, I offered to do it at the dinner hour. I finished with it and he was pleased, and he wanted to know if I would take a job at Jackson, Mississippi. When he told me that. . .
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
VIOLA TURNER:
So that's really how I got to Mississippi. After I struggled with my poor father again, because he nearly died at the thought of me going to Mississippi. All Georgians felt it was a horrible experience to go to Mississippi. He had endured Alabama, but to go to Mississippi—he felt quite sure he would never see his daughter again.
WALTER WEARE:
So, how long did you stay at Tuskegee?
VIOLA TURNER:
I stayed at Tuskegee from summer until. . .whatever it was. It was '20. I can't remember the month, but it must have been January. It was just a matter of months.
WALTER WEARE:
But Dr. Molton didn't pick you up?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh! Would you like to hear that part? [laughter]. You got into Tuskegee by stopping at a little place called Cheehaw, I think it is. Where a little train picks you up and takes you into Tuskegee Institute. Why, I have all of the feeling that Tuskegee is a step down from anything else you might be

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doing. That most Georgians at that time felt. Tuskegee the old work school, that Booker Washington had established just to make us work ourselves to death. So we weren't too enthusiastic about Tuskegee, and the only thing that impressed me about it was that the president had sent for me. I hadn't even made an application, so I had to be powerful to get that sort of recognition, and that's the way I got into Tuskegee, feeling very satisfied with myself. Of course, the train let me down a little bit, and when I get over to Tuskegee and I'm just put off and there's nobody there to meet me, I was a little let down. I really couldn't understand this, because I've got in my hand this telegram from the president. Then I start being taken from building to building to building. Huge buildings. And they take you to a place and say, ‘This is so-and-so from such-and-such a place. "No, we have nothing here about her.’ ‘We'll try such-and-such a building.’‘No.’ Now, don't forget that every building that you'd go into—even where you couldn't see them, and in many places where you could see them—you could hear typewriters [typing noises]. Twenty, thirty. It sounds like a thousand of them. And every time you ran into this and you heard another flock of them like that, you began to find that you weren't quite as good as you thought you were. You begin to get a little: ‘I don't think I run that carriage back that fast; I don't believe my fingers move.’ After they'd hauled me over, lord, how many buildings—at least five or six—they finally hit the administration building. And somebody says, ‘Oh, yes. They're looking for somebody in Captain Neeley's office.’ It's the registrar's office. And then I get there, and sure enough they are expecting me at Captain Neeley's office. They suggest that they take her over to Penny Cottage where she will stay, and she can come in the next day. I mean, thank heavens for that. I met the old registrar, a man named Palmer. He had been around there a long time and apparently he had seen a lot of young people.

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So he probably took one look at me and knew by this time I had wilted completely and was scared to death. So he sent me over to come back the next morning. I went in and I came back the next morning and I want you to know. Again, I thank the good lord for Mr. Palmer. Mr. Palmer gave me a set of form letters. He had about three different sets of form letters to be sent out to people who were trying to get into Tuskegee. I think I wrote about three, and certainly not more than five, all day long. [laughter]. I was completely demoralized. The size of the place. The hundreds of typists and the typewriters. The first place they took me to was the ROTC and all of the [unknown] . I knew there was no way I was going to make it. Never, no way. And when I handed Mr. Palmer about five letters for the whole day's work, I knew I was gone. You know, that dear old man didn't give me dictation for two or three days. By the time he gave me the dictation, I was able to take it and was able to give him his work back. And then, I don't think I had been there over a week before Captain Neeley, the new registrar—he was just to move up; he was not new to the office; but the old man was going out and he was coming in to take charge. Of course, by the time he was really the top man in the office, I had become adjusted and had calmed down a little bit. But Tuskegee is a magnificent place. It really is something.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you ever meet Molton?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. I met Dr. Molton on an occasion. But I didn't make myself known to him. I just met him as a new employee coming in. Because, his office was in that office. And our office was upstairs. He wasn't even in Tuskegee when I got there, but what had happened: that's what you would be interested in. One of my class mates, a man named Mathis—presumably he made application for work at Tuskegee. But at any rate he was there. And they were so satisfied with his work that he was asked if there were any other people in his class that he could recommend or suggest. And he recommended three or four of us. And that's

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how those telegrams went out. They came to us because Mathis has named us as good students. We'd been in his class. He felt that if he satisfied them, we would satisfy them.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you feel the presence of Booker T. Washington there, just in the short time you were there? Anything you remember?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. It took a little time, but I'll tell you what I did find there, and really the way I began to feel Washington was, of course, at first I was amazed at what I saw. The physical plant: I just couldn't believe what I beheld. I had never seen anything like that anywhere, at the time. But it took being there a while to get the feeling of people, who knew Mr. Washington, or who had come under his influence enough. As you listened to them and heard them talk, then you began to realize. Then finally I got to know some members of the family, who lived right across from where I lived at Penny Cottage. What I did get the thrill of much earlier than I got appreciation for what Mr. Washington had done, was George Washington Carver. He was on the campus when I was there. And you couldn't come around him that you didn't take note of it. You might look at him and say, "Who is that funny-looking man?" Or you might say, "Who is that man that's always picking up what looks like a weed?" Then you look and he's got it in the buttonhole or something. After a while, when you'd been there a while, you'd say, "Oh, look, there's Dr. Carver." And you'd always try to get up close enough for him to say something, because he would always say something to you, you know. I remember the last time I saw him. I had left Tuskegee and I was in Jackson, Mississippi, and coming down—I believe that street's called Pearl Street. But at any rate, I was almost to our office and he was coming down the street like this, and just before he got to me, he reached down—and the first thing that came to my mind was, what on earth can he pick here on this paved street, you know? By the time I got to

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him, I said, "Dr. Carver, I know you don't remember me, but what on earth could you find on this street?" He said, "A wild strawberry blossom." There was a little white blossom sitting up. He said, "See, you look, but you don't see."
WALTER WEARE:
So you'd actually met him at Tuskegee?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. I met him there and saw him many times. You know, I knew where his office was and the people who worked in his office.
WALTER WEARE:
That would be your outstanding memory?
VIOLA TURNER:
Really, the one that I think I'm most proud of. Because, I learned to respect him there, not having any idea how wonderful he was. But in a little time, it wasn't long, I realized what a marvelous thing it had been for me to have known the man, and could just walk up and speak to him. And he'd talk to you like anybody else. Then, later, to meet him on the streets of Jackson.
WALTER WEARE:
You're about nineteen now, and going off from Tuskegee to Mississippi?
VIOLA TURNER:
To Mississippi, yeah.
WALTER WEARE:
To Clarksdale now?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, no, no. Not Clarksdale. I went to Jackson to work for the Department of Education in Mississippi. I haven't gotten to North Carolina detour yet.
WALTER WEARE:
Right. So you're going to meet George Cox somewhere?
VIOLA TURNER:
Right. He meets me at the train when I get off at Jackson, Mississippi.
WALTER WEARE:
Are you still working for this superintendent of education?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, I haven't started working for him, when I get to Jackson. When I leave Tuskegee and I get through the hassle with my father about going to Mississippi, then I get over to Mississippi, and Mr. Grossly has to go out of town the day I'm to arrive. He asks Mr. Cox to meet me at the station, and to take me to the place they have selected as a place for me to live.

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And Mr. Cox, in the meantime, is looking for a young woman to come in to work for him with North Carolina Mutual. And our trains are coming in at the same time, although from different directions. He's at the station to meet the two of us and that's how I come to meet him.
WALTER WEARE:
This is George W. senior?
VIOLA TURNER:
George W. Cox, senior. The young one, whom you met. Her husband is George Cox, junior.
WALTER WEARE:
So he picks you up?
VIOLA TURNER:
At the station and takes me out to the place where I'm supposed to live and then gives me directions about how to get to the office the next day. Or somebody picks me up—I don't know which way that happens. So that's the beginning of my knowing Mr. Cox, and my work with the Department of Negro Education. He's the superintendent of Negro education in the state of Mississippi. That's where I'm working.
WALTER WEARE:
How long did you work there?
VIOLA TURNER:
I stayed there until June, I believe, of that year, '20. No. Yeah. I stayed with him until June. I left Mississippi around September. In the meantime Mr. Cox and Mr. Grossly had offices that opened on each other. And Mr. Cox was with North Carolina Mutual. And North Carolina Mutual is going to open up in the state of Oklahoma. So I leave the Department of Education in Mississippi, and I go to Oklahoma City when they open up that state with the North Carolina Mutual.
WALTER WEARE:
So Mr. Cox hired you away from the Department of Negro Education?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Yes, and no. Let me put it this way. What actually happened, the reason I was quite willing to leave and go with him: I met a young man in Jackson, Mississippi. And we immediately fall in love and get married. He's going to open up for Mr. Cox, the office in Oklahoma City. So

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now he goes. He went there in June and in September I join him there, as his wife. But I also work in the North Carolina Mutual office. So Mr. Cox didn't really take me away from the Department of Education. The young man took me away from the Department of Education.
WALTER WEARE:
Is this Mr. Thompson?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, no, no. This is Mr. Taylor.
WALTER WEARE:
Taylor?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah. I stayed in the ‘T’ family all the way [laughter]. [break in tape]
VIOLA TURNER:
That distressed me to see such a handsome house set in such a small area. Now they did have what is a clubhouse now. That was their property. There was nothing on it when I first came. They put the clubhouse up later. As a matter of fact, evidentally it wasn't his property, or he sold it. And then that little house on the other side, that is their house. But that great big, handsome thing should have been set back in somewhere.
WALTER WEARE:
We've left you what: as a married woman, leaving Mississippi going to Oklahoma. But before we do that, there are a couple of things that we were thinking about last night, that you talked about yesterday. Just little points, but historians may find them very interesting to check out. You mentioned a man who was a railroad engineer who lived in the block near you.
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, in my home town. Mr. Raefield.
WALTER WEARE:
How do you spell his name?
VIOLA TURNER:
I would have to spell it as I imagined it was: R-A-E-F-I-E-L-D. It could have been R-A-Y. But usually you see those things, they're R-A-E.
WALTER WEARE:
What street would that have been on?
VIOLA TURNER:
Tatenall.
WALTER WEARE:
It would have been very unusual, I think, for a black man to be an engineer. Because railroads are beginning more and more to displace people.

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And somebody might want, in fact, to check in the census.
VIOLA TURNER:
The only thing I can remember, well two things, one I told you about: that he had a bad drinking problem. But the other thing I remember about him was that he looked like a white man.
WALTER WEARE:
He was not a [unknown] , he was an engineer?
VIOLA TURNER:
I'm pretty sure I'm correct that he was an engineer. I grew up with that feeling, you know. Some way or another I got that sort of knowledge. Now, it could have been misinformation, but I can't imagine so. I don't know how I would know it any other way. And the only two things I remember about Mr. Raefield, and it was not how he looked. He had a tabby cat, a huge tabby cat. And I guess that's the reason. Because I love all animals, and I like cats very well now. But as a child I was very much afraid of it. But tabby was that tall, and he had to be, oh, like that, before you got to the tail. He was a huge cat. And all of us had picket fences. Came right up that street. At least I remember the Bradleys, the Raefields, and the Johnsons had picket fences. And we had a picket fence over on this side. And the trolley moved right up and turned at the Johnson's house. And tabby—and this is what seems to me strange now; I just thought it was wonderful and watched it as a kid. Mr. Raefield was not at home every night. Just the way the train ran. He was there some nights and other nights he wasn't. But tabby would come out of his house and get on the picket fence and go up to the corner, which was a house beyond his house. His house was the second house. And sit on the Johnson's corner of the picket fence. Mr. Rayfield would get off of the trolley car on that corner. And he would follow tabby until tabby would jump off the fence. That was the way he knew that was his house. So, now, I know that I learned that part about why he knew [unknown] , what the older folks were saying. I saw it many times. Tabby sat right there until Mr. Raefield got off. Mr. Raefield would

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go down and go over to the fence and come down the fence just like this. When tabby got to his house, he'd hop off over the steps. Mr. Raefield would go over and go staggering in. So everybody watched tabby bring Mr. Raefield home.
WALTER WEARE:
You mentioned your music teacher. Was she white or black?
VIOLA TURNER:
She was black and a beautiful woman. I believe her father was a minister. But what I remember about the family: it was a family of five or six girls and they were all beautiful girls. Miss Rosa was my music teacher. I thought Miss Rosa—because, you know, again, how children think of age; so I have no idea what age she was. I'm quite sure I thought she was much older than she was, because when I went home in '65, I was invited to a party that really was a bridge club of one of my friends that I had met. Oh, they must have had, oh, something I can't even conceive of. But like four or five tables of bridge. When you get over three I can't imagine it. Two is my figure. But at any rate. Then, she had invited in other friends, apparently to meet me. Or to see me again. I'm a hometown girl who's come home. But this time I have made good, so she had invited in other friends. When I looked in there, one of the first people I saw was Miss Rosa, and she was just as pretty then as I had thought she was when I was a child. She didn't look as old as I thought I looked.
WALTER WEARE:
Did she live by you?
VIOLA TURNER:
When I was growing up?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes.
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I lived, as I told you, out near the University. Not too far, a couple of blocks, on this little short street. She lived in what I know now was more Negro section. Because I would come down at another end of the same street. I mentioned to you Vinveville Avenue that ran all through. I would cross that and then I would go on Monroe Street, I believe. And when I would

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turn off of Monroe, I'd start going on First, Second, Third Avenues. And she lived on Second Avenue. It was not a long distance for me to walk from my home. But, I guess the only way to put it, it was an entirely different section. But she lived there. She had married a Dr. Atkins, or Atkinson, something. When I was taking music from her, she was Mrs. Atkins, or Atkinson—which I don't remember.
WALTER WEARE:
Would they have any white neighbors in her area?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. That's why I say it was another section. Because everything in all the sections I'm naming now: Monroe Street, First Avenue, Second Avenue, Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, Fifth Avenue—those avenues, all I knew—all those were Negro residences.
WALTER WEARE:
But she and her husband were professionals?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. There were plenty of professionals in and out of that area. You see, in Macon, when I left Georgia, when I came. . .where did I first really notice it? I guess when I got to Durham. It was the first place I had ever been where I ever saw a white letter-carrier, was in Durham. And I was the most shocked person in the world when I looked up and saw a white letter-carrier putting out mail in our mail boxes. But every letter-carrier I had ever seen was black. There were Negro hotel people, postal workers in the post office. Even when I was in my teen age, there were boys in school who maybe could work down at the post office, you know, got little jobs. And then if they got good enough and a little older, they worked in the post office. I'm trying to think of other, sort of work, people did. Lot of hotel folks, lot of mail carriers. If some others come to me, maybe in talking, I'll think about them. But I had never been in a place where you didn't see blacks with a whole lot of different types of jobs. And when I got here. Black letter-carrier?

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Or you'd look over here, you didn't ever meet anybody who worked in a hotel. I remember once one man came into Durham who stayed at the Washington-Duke for a while. Somehow or other—I don't know if he knew somebody who knew somebody—at any rate, he would be coming to parties where we went. And I'd say to Miss Cox, "Well, at long last, Durham has one hotel man that qualifies." Or something, you know. But they just weren't here. But, I guess first thing, Durham is a smaller place. Oh! And plenty of doctors and dentists. I was going to a dentist.
WALTER WEARE:
In Macon, now, you're speaking of?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes, going back to Macon. There were professional men: doctors.
WALTER WEARE:
Would they tend to live in the same area as your music teacher?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. You see, she was married to a physician. Her first husband—she had two husbands; both were physicians—was a physician, and he must have been considerably older than she. Because, as I said, in '65, when I went home and saw her, she was a perfectly beautiful woman. And she looked then like she could've been sixty-five. I don't know what she was. But her husband had died many, many years ago, and she had married another doctor. And she was now Mrs. Rosa Frasier, and he was a very much younger doctor. So, he was probably the man of her age—that she married in later years. And I think that she and this physician had children. She didn't have any children by the first one.
WALTER WEARE:
Was your impression of Durham, then, that there was not as great a variety of jobs for blacks.
VIOLA TURNER:
We didn't ever run into them. And I think that Durham was so small then, you'd have to run into almost anybody. There certainly was a difference. And we felt it so strongly because Mrs. Cox was a Mississippian,

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and she had had the same sort of experience I had. And I'm a Georgian. And even in Oklahoma, there was the same sort of variety of people that you met over a period of time. You'd see them sometimes at the same social events, and always in the church and church activities. But here, we ran into teachers and—I'm trying to think; I don't think there were any lawyers here when I came; there had been one: [unknown] Andrews had been here, but he had gone. He came back in later years. But when I came here, I think doctors, dentists, business people and teachers. That's all that I can remember. At least, if there were the other people, you didn't run into them; you didn't meet them. As I said, finally, way late, a man came here who was, and who may have been—what is the. . .?—headwaiter. Yeah. He may have been that, or in charge at the Washington-Duke.
WALTER WEARE:
Were whites doing those hotel jobs?
VIOLA TURNER:
I have no idea. I wasn't going to the hotels at that time. However I tricked them. I went there on one occasion and they never knew it. [laughter] They knew a part of it; they didn't know all of it.
WALTER WEARE:
How was that?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, one year, Betty and Mrs. Goodlow, now, and I were living together. And Adam Clayton Powell, whom I know you know by name, came here to preach a sermon at White Rock Baptist Church. The Baptists have a way, if they need a minister, they call different ministers in to preach, to decide if they want him.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
Let me go back and see whether or not the story leading up to Adam. . . I believe what I was about to tell you came before Adam and that's how we happened to know Adam. Do you want to hear that at all, about the hotel?

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WALTER WEARE:
Yes.
VIOLA TURNER:
O.K. Well, because it really leads up to Adam instead of Adam leading up to it. Don't let it run 'til I get that straight. [break]
Adam was being called to preach at White Rock. Adam was very handsome, and he wore beautiful clothes. He was well trained. So, there was no way under the sun for him not to make an impression on all of the girls in town who saw him, all of the women in town who saw him. And, of course, he went to White Rock to preach. It was in the summertime and he had on a beautiful white suit, which did all things for him. I can't recall how we knew enough, or what contact we had, that made him come to see us. But, he did. So, I'll have to leave it at that. We lived not too far from White Rock Baptist Church. Just a little place out there that the Mutual had turned into an apartment. And Betty and I had this apartment. So Adam came down to see us. And we're in the kitchen fixing a little food and drinks and things. And he sat down there with us and we chatted and had quite a time. He had already seen a girl that he was impressed with, who was related to Professor Pearson who was the principal of the high school here, at that time. Portia Whitted. And he had known her somewhere else, but that was the girl he was primarily interested in here. So, he had no interest in us, nor we in him. But as he sat with us and chatted and talked about Portia and other girls he had met, he told us that his girlfriend was coming to Durham and that he wanted us to be nice to her when she came. Because, she was travelling with a show. There were two sisters, Isabelle Washington and Freddie Washington, and they were travelling with Miller and Lyle. Miller and Lyle were quite outstanding showmen. Lyle was the comedian. Miller's daughter is still in show business. She's a musician, I think. I've forgotten her name. But, at any rate, Miller was a sort of man that Lyle. . .what was it? A straightman. He was a foil for Lyle. They both

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were outstanding. They were names in the theatre. And we had never seen them, and we were quite excited. At that time big bands were coming to Durham, and playing at warehouses. And if they had people like that, they would have a show.
WALTER WEARE:
Tobacco warehouses?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Big warehouses.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you remember the bands?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, every one that was ever popular came here at one time or another. I didn't go to many of them. It wasn't one of the places I went to much. Many of the young people in my group. Few of us went. Everybody was permitted there. You could buy the tickets.
WALTER WEARE:
Blacks and whites?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, if the blacks were bringing the band in, it was their show. The whites could come, but they more or less were spectators. And the only times that I ever went—I went about twice—was as a spectator. I'd go upstairs and look. Most of us would.
But, on this occasion, Adam said they were coming and he wanted us to be sure to be nice to Isabelle. Because, apparently they had not made a trip like this, and certainly not to the South before. She sang and her sister Freddie was a dancer, and had a male partner as a dancer. So we assured him when they got here we would show. . . .
WALTER WEARE:
Where were they going to perform?
VIOLA TURNER:
They were performing at this warehouse.
WALTER WEARE:
Any warehouse?
VIOLA TURNER:
In a warehouse, yes.
WALTER WEARE:
There was nothing like an opera house here, or anything like that? An auditorium?
VIOLA TURNER:
There was a theatre. The Center Theatre, where, at that time, I don't think they had anything. A little later on, they brought a few things in

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to the Center Theatre, as shows, and used the stage. But at that time, I don't think they were even doing that at the Center Theatre. And that was the only place. I understand, before I came to Durham, there had been a—I want to say an auditorium, and yet, it seemed to me they called it a ‘music hall’ or something. But, it was torn down and Washington-Duke Hotel was built in that spot. So that happened before I got here. Washington-Duke was built just about the time I got here. So I don't know what they did there; but probably they did. But, at this time, they were going to these warehouses. Now they have a center that looks just about how the warehouses look, and had the big open down, and the balcony upstairs. But, as I recall, at the time they came, they were showing in one of these warehouses. Well, anyhow. I'm trying to be sure I get that straight.
Where we knew they were coming, we made arrangements to have dinner for them. Because we did have a beautiful contact. The woman who ran the North Carolina Mutual's cafeteria was quite, quite good. She was a cateress, really. She did a lot of parties for whites in Durham. So we had gotten her to fix this dinner for us. And then Betty was going with Joe Goodlow, the fellow that she married. So, Joe took us to the show. And we got in touch with Isabelle and Freddie and told them that we were preparing dinner for them. We got in touch with them before the show. Then we went to the show. We were to pick them up there, which we did. We told them we were preparing dinner for them, and did they have anyone they would like to invite. And they wanted to invite Miller and Lyle and Freddie's dancing partner. So we had this dinner for that group. All because of Adam's request. So while they're at our little apartment for dinner, they were all so enthusiastic about it, and Miller and Lyle were the stars of the show. They said, we want you to go to the show with us. And we all said, you know darn well we can't go. He said, if they have a show you can

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go. So we say, are you kidding. He says, no we're not kidding; if they have a performance tonight, you're going to the show. Well, we were younger and said, well, if you arrange for us to go, we'll be right there; what time do you want us? So we got that all set up. When they got ready to go back to get ready for the show, they said, don't wait until showtime. You just come right on up. Get on the elevator and come to such-and-such a floor. We said O.K. We were always reckless. You know we were resentful of being prohibited from doing things, so it didn't take much to make us reckless. So we went. And when we got there, we just walked into the elevator and said the floor we wanted exactly as if we were expected, you know. Now, I don't remember if we already knew Isabelle's and Freddie's room, or whether the elevator operator knew it. But at any rate, we knew the room. All we told them was what time we were coming, or something. But, at any rate, when we got there, we went straight there, to Freddie's and Isabelle's room. And, of course, being us, we immediately hopped up in the bed. And we said, let's go to the bathroom; we should take a bath. And do everything they would object to your doing is this hotel, you know.
WALTER WEARE:
Which hotel was this?
VIOLA TURNER:
Washington-Duke. The only real hotel we had at that time.
WALTER WEARE:
Freddie and Isabelle were black performers?
VIOLA TURNER:
All of these were black. See, that was always the way of the South. They wanted a show. They not only took them there and put them up, they all had reservations in the hotel. But they were not going to permit any Durham blacks to come to the hotel. I mean, have accommodations there.
WALTER WEARE:
And the show was to be in the hotel?
VIOLA TURNER:
The show was in the hotel. That's where we saw the show. I think I'm correct; I could be off to some extent; this was my first visit there. But I understand, it was either the end of the very large dining, or it was the end of a large ballroom. It was a room upstairs. It was not downstairs where

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you ordinarily go in to dine. So I'm inclined to think that that was maybe a ballroom. Because it was about the second-floor level or stair-and-a-half level. And it was a long room, all the way across the building. And the audience was over here, and the performers were over here. And they performed like the musicians circled around. Then the people who were performing sat where they were. And they performed out here. And the audience was here. So, when they went in to take their seats and perform, they brought us right in there with them, and ushered us to preferred seats over to the side. So we sat there and we saw the entire show. Nobody raised their head. There was no way for them to think we belonged to the show. Because the performers, Miller and Lyle particularly, who were seeing to the whole thing. Maybe they said something to somebody. I have no idea. But we just had seats over here. And the performers were like here. The musicians behind here. Then they went out there and performed. We sat over here and [clapping] we applauded right with the group. But nobody said one living thing. Nothing was unpleasant about it. They were just as delightful as they could be. But we were tickled to death because we had gone into the rooms. And where we were sure they would not want us to get on their beds, we got into the bed. We went into the bathroom and decided to take a bath. You know, just anything that you could do.
Mr. [unknown] is going to come in here and a Negro has been in his bed. Or a Negro has been in his tub. [laughter] Oh, we had loads of fun. That was the beginning of our friendship with Adam, and my long, long friendship with Adam.
Of course, White Rock turned him down.
WALTER WEARE:
Why?
VIOLA TURNER:
He was too handsome and too young. [laughter] They said, "He wouldn't do for their church."
WALTER WEARE:
I heard the story that the women—particularly the older women— said that boy was too flashy for White Rock.

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VIOLA TURNER:
That's right. And too young. And that sort of thing. Flashy was probably not the word. That he was just too good-looking, and that he was going to bring pandemonium here among the girls, and all that sort of thing. That was the thing. They liked him. He could preach; there was no question about that. He really could preach. He could get right down to whatever level they wanted. And he could bring it right on up. He had them shouting in the corners. Adam was something. I liked him very, very much, and was very unhappy about the end he came to, much of which was his own darn fault. He should have had sense enough to know that he couldn't get away with the same things everybody else was getting away with. That's exactly what he felt he could do. But he was smart. He was brilliant.
WALTER WEARE:
You kept in contact with him?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, for a long, long time. Because later I was going with a fellow that I was very, very fond of—we almost got married; but thank heavens I met Pops in time. Adam liked this man very much. He was an athlete, quite a tennis player, and played the [unknown] basketball team. Used to play the Celtics all the time. I can't think of it. But anyway the folks who were still making moves with that basketball team. This fellow, Sedge, had played with them in earlier years. I can't remember the name of it now. But it's really world-famous, been all over the world.
WALTER WEARE:
You're talking about the all-black team? The Globe-Trotters?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Well, I was very much caught up with one of those Globe-Trotters at one time, [unknown] . But anyway, Adam and [unknown] were pretty good friends. Dr. [unknown] invited Adam to speak at their school once every year. He was down here at least once every year to speak at North Carolina College, from its early years. After we knew Adam, Adam never came to Durham he didn't come and see me. And he'd come over and sit and run his mouth. He was an interesting person and a nice person, and down-to-earth person. You could enjoy him.

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So I enjoyed his visits, and looked forward to them. And then Adam came one year, and I believe the truth of the story is, when he came I told him I was about to marry Pops. I don't think I had married him. Either I had just married him, or I was about to marry him. I rather think I was about to marry him because I don't remember Pops and Adams ever meeting here at the house.
WALTER WEARE:
This was Mr. Turner?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Nearly everybody called him Pops. But at any rate, Adam knew him. And Pops knew Adam for that matter. He said, "What about Sedge?" I said, "What about him?" "You're going to marry somebody else?" "Uh, huh." "Why?" I said, "Because I believe he'll make me a good husband. And I think I could make him a good wife. And I don't want to make a mistake again." Because I'd sworn I'd never marry again. "So you think Sedge would be a mistake?" I said, "Uh, huh. I think so." Adam never came to see me again. Never. He didn't leave like he was angry or anything. He did ask me very pointed questions like that. And I told him, it's a hard decision to make but I think I'll be making the right one. When he said goodbye that time, I never saw him again. It was a number of years before he got into trouble with the government. But he never came to see me again. I guess he didn't forgive me, I don't know.
WALTER WEARE:
While we're talking about this entertainment coming to town: there were movie theatres here, were there not? Black movie theatres?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, there was one.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember the name of it?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. When I first came here—the Wonderland Theatre, I think it kept the same name, although everything else changed about it: the location, the ownership and everything. At any rate, the first operator of the theatre was an interesting man. I hope somebody has told you his story. I don't think

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I can tell it. But he called himself ‘King Watkins’. Have you heard about King Watkins?
WALTER WEARE:
Go ahead and talk. I think I've got some information.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, his home is right at the street. It's still there and his widow is still living. King Watkins travelled over this entire South, showing pictures of some kind. I guess, more like slides or something. But, at any rate, he called himself the King. And he carried himself like [laughter] you would think maybe a king did. He was not an educated man. He didn't have any real training or the polish of, you know. . . . But he could talk and carry himself in such a way that you would start laughing and just accept King Watkins. And he ran the first theatre that I know anything about, that was here when I came.
WALTER WEARE:
Was it The Regal?
VIOLA TURNER:
No.
WALTER WEARE:
The Wonderland?
VIOLA TURNER:
I think you've gotten straight. It was The Wonderland and the next one that came was The Regal. The Regal is the name I've forgotten. His was the Wonderland.
WALTER WEARE:
Where was he from?
VIOLA TURNER:
Who knows? I never knew. I don't know whether he was a North Carolinian. But, anybody who grew up in that period of time had run in or heard of King Watkins, somewhere else, before they got to North Carolina. The Coxes had seen or heard of him in Mississippi. He travelled all around the South at periods of this time. Now I didn't know anything about his history as such, but I knew him as a man. And he was the most interesting person that you ever saw. He would meet you with a flourish and a bow and catch you by the hand and tell you all sort of foolishness, you know. But in this manner of:

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"the king adores you; you are a lovely person." Not fast or ugly or anything, but just his manner of handling you. And the women that he married—I don't what became of the woman he married before—the bride he brought here that I knew, and he married her not too long after I came here, is a lovely, lovely woman. She taught school for years and years here. And she retired. Very lovely woman in the home. It's still right up the street, about three or four blocks from here. And I think on a piece of the concrete, or cement, or whatever it is, stone or something, I think it has in it, maybe K. Watkins or King Watkins.
WALTER WEARE:
Would he book other entertainments into the theatre?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. He did in the early years. I can't explain it sufficiently, or accurate, I guess is the word I want to say, because I don't really understand. Except, that where you would go to the various towns, he had some kind of movie that he was showing. Stills or something. But the conversation he carried on when he showed them was the show, really. Because he would tell you what he was showing, then he would embelish, you know, what he was doing. He had all that flair for showmanship.
WALTER WEARE:
Would he bring in musical groups to the theatre?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, I don't recall. I don't recall anything [laughter] but King Watkins' performance, and his movies or his pictures that he showed.
But here in the Wonderland Theatre is the first time I saw Uncle perform, was in this theatre. And the first time I saw Ella Fitzgerald, she was here to perform in this theatre, with Chick Webb. I didn't see that performance, but I saw Ella because Ella came to the building, a little country girl, thin, and sat out on the bench on the third floor where people sat when they were waiting for someone. And they left here, and I think I'm correct, they went on to Alabama, and either there or very shortly thereafter, Chick Webb died. Ethel, how I remember her? Well, she also was young and slender. And she was singing up on the stage and King Watkins. . .the man with

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the spotlight was back over here somewhere with the spot, you know, down on the stage. And she's just singing away and he can't get the spot on her right, you know. Like she's over here and he's got the spot over here. And she'd stop singing and get over here and he's got the spot over here. And right in the middle of her singing, with the thing up to her mouth like that, she says, "The Hell! Can't you get that damn spot right?" [laughter] And kept right on singing.
Betty and another girl who's dead, Felicia, and when Eula was here, the four of us—Felicia worked with Bankers [unknown] ; the three of us worked at North Carolina Mutual. But we would meet from work and go to the Wonderland Theatre. And it was a real junky place. It was dark and dismal, narrow. You went down like this so if you were back this way, you were here. And always up at the front, there would be a bunch of real street urchins, I guess. Noise and racket, peanut eating and throwing shells everywhere, and pounding and carrying on. And we'd be sitting in the back. And we called it, ourselves, that we were slumming. When we were going to meet, we'd say [whispering], "Don't forget to get the peanuts." We'd all go in with a bag of peanuts and we'd sit in the back. And we were scared to put your feet down, so we'd put them up here, because rats would just as likely be roaming. Oh, yes. It was a dump! But he had pretty good pictures. And he had Uncle [unknown] . We'd sit up there and we'd hold our feet up like this, then we'd crunch peanuts. And then when something that would come real good, everybody down there was just yelling and whistling and screaming, we'd say "We-e-e-e!" [laughter] We'd yell as loud as we could, and get up and come on out. Eula and I, we'd never tell Nora where we had been. Because, we lived with her, you know, and if we didn't come straight on home, she'd want to know, "Where in the world have you all been so late?" "Oh, we just stopped off up through town" and that sort of thing.

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WALTER WEARE:
Would other Mutual people go to the Wonderland?
VIOLA TURNER:
Everybody went there if they went to the movies at that time. I don't how much they went. That's how we went. We'd come from work and go in there. Meet and sit in the back. We saw some pretty good shows.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you remember other groups that he brought in besides Ethel Waters?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's the only thing I remember. I didn't go regularly, as you can well imagine. You couldn't avoid rats too regularly. That's the only one I can remember, but I'm quite sure he brought many other things there, very likely. I think that Ella and Chick—whatever his name was—must have been there, because that was before The Regal. Now, The Regal Theatre was entirely different. Mr. Logan ran it. And he had a real connection with—I think I'll remember their names right now, but it's a theatrical group. They have theatres in Mephis and theatres in Charlotte, theatres in Washington. And I used to remember the name of the folks, the name of the people who ran those different theatres. Mr. Logan had that same connection. The building that his theatre was in was a new building. Dr. Darnell had built that hotel. And he went right in to a lovely building. And the theatre was a lovely building. Then, Mr. Logan was an entirely different type of man. So he ran a different type of theatre. And then, the times had changed, too. Durham had grown some and could support a theatre with all the people you know.
WALTER WEARE:
First-run films would come to the Regal?
VIOLA TURNER:
I'm sure they were. I know this: we were all theatre buffs in those days. We probably knew what was coming and looking for them. And then, his connection justified that he would have good pictures.
WALTER WEARE:
Did The Regal and The Wonderland overlap? Did they exist at the same time?
VIOLA TURNER:
Maybe for a very short while. I don't think so, though. If they did, it was not very long. Because, I don't ever recall where you would think

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about Durham as having two theatres. Now, you could always go to the Center Theatre whenever they had movies. For a long time, you didn't go on the first floor. But you used to go to the theatre. But there came a period in most of our lives, where you would not go to a theatre if you were relegated to a section. Mr. C.C. Spaulding, who we all called Papa, preached about that early. If you're a Jim Crow, stay away. If they call you Jim Crow, you don't give them your money. And most of us, very soon, if we hadn't had that sort of attitude before we came to Durham, we developed it. Most of us had it. And we resented that sort of thing. So, you didn't go often. I say that because I remember an incident when I was going to the Center Theatre that should have prohibited my going back anymore. [laughter]
WALTER WEARE:
Is this the story with Eula or another story? About where you went to the white theatre?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no, no, no. That was really a white theatre. Downstairs on the first floor and they had a little balcony, you know a little second story. What do you call it? Little tier. The first floor and another little tier. No. That was when I was just exerting my womanhood. No. At the Center Theatre [unknown]
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
VIOLA TURNER:
But now what I do about that sort of thing: I don't go to games. I don't watch fights or any of those sort of things. Because I don't ever get to the point where I can differentiate between the real and the unreal, you know. I have spasms over anything. As an example, and the reason why I did not go back to the Center anymore: I went to this theatre once, and they were showing, among other things I imagine. I don't imagine I went there just

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to see Tarzan. But, at any rate, Tarzan was one of the pictures. And I'm sitting up there about two rows from the rail, upstairs. Where I was sitting there couldn't have been over six or seven people. A large place. But I had gone on straight from work. Something I wanted to see, so I went up there by myself. I was sitting up there waiting and Tarzan comes on. And if you remember Tarzan, he had a little ape or something, called Cheeta. So Tarzan is over here and Cheeta is over here. There's a lion over here. And there's natives over here with the spears. And probably something else there, too. But at any rate, Tarzan lets out his yell and Cheeta comes from wherever he is. He comes over and they've got to go to this open space. Cheeta gets about a third of the way and I see the lion fixing to spring. He gets about half way there, and the natives set their spears. The next minute I spring up out of my seat and scream at the top of my lungs, "Go back, Cheeta! Go back! Go back!" And about the time I do that, I mean leaning over the rail [laughter]. Everybody's turned up there looking, ‘what the heck is that, making all that noise?’ Well, I fell back off of the rail and got all my things together and tried to sneak out. I don't know if anybody ever recognized me or knew who I was. But I never went back to the Center any more. That was the end.
WALTER WEARE:
Tell me that story, though, about you and Eula when you went to the all-white theatre.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, there was something there that we wanted to see. Again, I don't recall what it was. So, we got togetherand either one of us must have said they'd like to see so-and-so. And, of course, the other said, we should see it. I don't know whether Eula said come on let's go, or I said come on let's go. Very likely I said come on let's go. She may have been a little reluctant. Any rate, we agreed we were going. So, I called her up and arranged to see her. Dressed up, not overly dressed, but put on, probably a little dress. And when

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we got right up, just before we got to the ticket office, I said, "Let me buy the tickets, and we'll see what happens."
WALTER WEARE:
Eula Perry? She could pass for white.
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh gosh, yes. She's whiter than any white person you know even. I tell her all the time, "You're so white, honest to goodness, you're sickening." And it's a fact [laughter]. She's white-white. You never saw any whiter. So it's really disgraceful that anyone ever permitted her to stay in the Negro race [laughter]. So Eula's standing right close by and I'm right up there. I say, "Two please." The lady puts out two tickets and I put the money up there. She may not even have looked up. If she did she'd no more than did that. So she didn't see anything that prohibited her from giving me the tickets. So we took the tickets and we went in. Well, when we got into the theatre, there was where you could go right upstairs. It was a narrow little theatre. I don't know whether we had any thought that maybe that would be the better thing to do or not. We recognized—at least Eula must have—that we were testing. We didn't know what was going to happen, you know. But any rate, we went up. And when you got up there, the little balcony couldn't have been any wider than this room. And not very many seats. Maybe six, eight, or ten rows. So we just sat down.
Well, now, in all the theatres I've ever been in, I don't recall ever seeing light stay on during the picture. But up in that little balcony, these little lights up here stayed on right straight through the picture. Now, whether or not there was anything unique or unusual about that—it could have been that I was unique or unusual in that position. But any rate I said to Eula, "When are they going to turn those lights off?" And so she would say, "I don't know." Well it didn't matter so much because we were sitting back like this. But, now, on both sides of us, were whites. I think maybe I was the only one there. Except Eula, and maybe somebody like Eula. But, being me, there's no way under the sun, that I could stay in any one position the whole movie, or anything else, you know.

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So, in a little while, we're looking at the movie and I'm up here. And then I'd look over there and I'd see you sitting over here, and you over here. And your hands would be out. I was sitting on my hands all through that movie, because I could never remember to keep them out of my lap. And so when we did finally get out of there, I said to Eula, "Never again! I will never go again!" She really didn't realize quite what I was going through. A couple of times as I moved a hand, I'd punch her say, like this, and move. But at any rate, when we got out of there I said, "Well, this is one I won't try again."
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
You were afraid that your hands would give you away?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, they wouldn't've given me away. [unknown] The light came right down on your hands and here they are. Now, any way I put them out there, they're going to be brown and any other hand out there was going to be pink or real fair, or something. [laughter] So, I really did not enjoy much of that movie and didn't get much of a kick out of what I thought was such a swell stunt. I didn't do that one again. Everywhere else I went I had some legal rights to it and could fight about it. I didn't have no right up there, and knew it.
WALTER WEARE:
But you and she had a good time, though, with Jim Crow, and race relations?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. We had marvelous times. We really did in more people.
WALTER WEARE:
What was that story about the butcher shop? Wasn't that with Eula?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. All of these would be with Eula. Because even my other friends who were fair, none were so fair as Eula. And although Durham, even today, I would wager you I could walk somewhere with Eula and somebody would take a second look. But it wouldn't be the same. Up until very recently. I'd say up until the sixties, there was no place that I went with Eula that at least two or three people, somewhere along the way, looked. And you'd see not only

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that questioned look. But it used to be where you'd see a resenting sort of thing. ‘What is she doing, walking along?’ Because nine out of ten times, either we might we walking with arms locked, you know, or we would be having so much fun. We always had so much to talk about. So we'd just startle people. They couldn't understand this white woman walking along with this black woman like that. So, of course, we were very much aware of that. And Eula and I had lived together so much that we could think so much alike that we knew exactly what the other one was going to say, ofttimes. And always we knew what the other one was going to do. And if you did something, you'd know exactly what I was expected to do. I expected you to do, when you saw me do this, you know. We didn't even have to talk about it. We would get into a situation where we knew we were worrying somebody. We really gave them a headache. We'd put on an act. We could've collected money for it some way, could we? The butcher shop one: do you want me to repeat that to you? O.K.
This was during the period when you were having difficulty getting all of the meats and things that you wanted. And this time Eula and I were not together. I walked in to a store, and Eula was standing at a meat counter in the store. And I saw her from a distance. And the counter was one of those counters where they used to put the glass up, and you could not reach over the counter, but you could look through. It'd be just about chin-level, something like that. And, of course, the salesman was in the back. So I walked sort of carefully so that Eula wouldn't spy me from a distance. Because I really wanted to walk up on her and surprise her. And I was successful. I walked right up to her and was right by her, and she didn't realize who it is. She just knows somebody has come up. So when I get there, instead of doing what any person would have done, you know, I got right up there and started to push her like this. Now, the white salesman over here, he sees this black woman crowding this white woman, see?

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Well, Eula let me crowd her a little while because she isn't looking for any problems and she doesn't think that this is a problem coming up. So now I crowd her just enough where she turns and looks. Well, when she turns and looks she recognizes who it is and she immediately goes into her act. She looks and when she looks, kind of pulls back and looks, kind of sour. And that was all I needed. [Motions as if she is pushing and crowding Eula] I'm looking to see what's over there in the counter, too. I can't see. Crowd the counter. I walk back around and try to look over here. Each time I get a little harder on her. I'm not saying a durn thing. So she, like a nice, refined, white lady that is afraid of a beligerent black, backs off, you know, shies a little bit. She slides and I go right with her. We go almost all up that counter. And this poor man is dying. He looks. He says ‘I don't believe what I see.’ And then he says, ‘But I do!’ And then suddenly he realizes, not only does he see it, but he's got to do something about this. He cannot stand back there and let this Negro woman do this white woman like that. But he's got to go down and come, you know? So when he finally reaches the termination, that he simply has to do something about it, and he stops and comes around there. Well, Eula and I are well up this way to the counter. So by the time he comes and gets down here, he still has a good distance to go. So we keep the performance going, 'til he gets almost to us. We say, "Ha, ha, ha, ha!" and just embrace. [laughter] And the poor man just stares. He just stands there. What can he do? Of course if he wanted to do anything, he probably right there wanted to kill Eula. But he stands there until he gets himself together and goes back around his counter. And then we walk away together. But I know we used to get things like that done `most any old time. Maybe not quite that good. That was one of our best! But it really was. Because we nearly ruined that poor man. I would love to have heard him when he got home.

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WALTER WEARE:
It would be great to have that on film, wouldn't it?
VIOLA TURNER:
That would have been perfect. Because we really went into it. When Eula saw me—oh! She put on her indignation look, you know.
WALTER WEARE:
And you went into this act?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, I acted like they say we act, you know. [static] And Eula would stand back and look, ‘What can I do with this woman?’ I gave it the show. But we got away with that a lot of times with people, you know. It was always so interesting. The person that usually would take offense and would show it was a man. Women might cut their eyes, or make a frown or something, but I don't think we ever pulled a good one on a woman. Because that would be just about all we would get out them. Sometimes if they were passing you, they'd turn around and look two or three times, but the men. They always felt they had to do something about it. They thought, this we can't accept; I've got to take a stand. So we always invited them. [laughter]
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember other things?
VIOLA TURNER:
Nothing quite as good as that one. Always would be like going down the street, and you'd see a man that would get right up on you, and then the way you would know. You see, all the way down the street you could look in a mirror, then get right up on you, then just as they'd pass you, they would think, ‘what did I see?’ and they would turn around like that. And sometimes you could anticipate it enough that maybe you were just walking and just close to each other. And if you got the feel ‘this is one of those’, immediately before they could turn back like that, we had our arms around each other, or something—around the waist—or something familiar. Anything, just to irritate them. They couldn't do nothing about it. I don't know of any incident that we enjoyed any more than the meat one.
WALTER WEARE:
I think you told me one about a water fountain, one time.

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VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, well, I don't remember what I told you about that, but we used to pull the water fountain one—I know I did—almost anywhere, anytime. You know, like walking up and, `Oh, white water! I didn't know. . ." and then you'd ask the question of the clerk, "What kind of water is this?" You know, you'd just get dumb on them. "I want to see what it is anyway!" And you push. "Oh! This isn't anything but old water!" And you'd go and slog into it and drink, you know.
WALTER WEARE:
You'd get the ‘white only’ fountain?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Occasionally. They didn't keep them going much. I guess everybody pulled the stunt on them about the white water. I didn't see too many of those. But you'd see them every once in a while. And always I had to get an explanation. And then, finally, if you got enough of an audience, you'd turn it on and just be shocked to death that it was "Oh! just plain water! Oh, shucks!" And then you'd go and drink some of the water. Any place you saw a white sign, you tried to make them understand that you couldn't quite understand. I don't recall that they stayed around too long. I guess there were a lot of us that were so ignorant that they'd say it wouldn't do them any good to keep them out.
WALTER WEARE:
Was Durham as segregated during this whole period as any Southern city you'd travelled in?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, to tell you the truth, I had to leave home before I really became aware of how segregated I was, and the things you couldn't do and could do. So I really can't make the proper comparison of Macon. But I'm sure other people could. The only thing I can think—well two things. And this is true all over the South. And the reason why I've always felt that despite all of our handicaps we were far better off than most of the Negroes that lived above the Mason-Dixon Line. Because they got lulled into a false notion that they had everything going for them. And we knew, in front; certainly our parents knew in front and those who

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came before my generation knew in front that they had nothing going for them, if they didn't make it themselves. So, when I came along, we had a theatre; we had churches; we had ice cream parlors. What else did you have? Schools and things. And that time there wasn't very much more to want.
And I never had any experience in the stores, when I was growing up. But again, I didn't do much shopping in stores. My mother did it. And again, I think I was still in a sort of unique position; that maybe I'm not a real fair explanation of Macon. My mother, and my father, wanted so badly a little boy, that until I was almost school-aged, I didn't have no clothes that weren't like little boys' clothes. And even to the point, that after I became definitely a little girl in my mother's and father's life, all of my coats and hats were bought from the store that I told you my mother worked [unknown] from time to time. And I wore Buster Brown hats, big sailors with ribbon bands streaming down your back, red woolen coats with little velvet lapels—up until I must have been twelve or thirteen years old.
WALTER WEARE:
So your mother was planning to have more children you think?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know whether they hoped to have more children. But I know this: my mother could not have any more. I don't know why. I've often wished I did know. When I grew up, children didn't ask questions about things. You just accepted what your parents said. And when I used to worry her to death about a little brother, for a number of years she used to say, "Maybe." Then, when I got older, she said, "Well, your mother can't have a little brother." But not until I was grown, almost, did that question come to my mind. Well, maybe she really couldn't have; I don't know. They never had any other children. So evidently there was some reason why she couldn't have children any more.
WALTER WEARE:
In comparing Durham and Macon, you got this experience in between in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, would Durham be as segregated as Clarksdale? Is there any kind of spectrum?

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VIOLA TURNER:
Durham had one unique feature that I doubt I would have found anywhere else. I didn't find it in Georgia. Alabama sort of had that same sort of thing happening to it. But I think it was because of its location just like Durham. Mississippi? Durham had this; and Tuskegee, a little town, had the same sort of thing. When I came to Durham, I think the first time I went into a store. Possibly within a week after I'd been here. As a matter of fact, I think it was within the week that the Sunday was going to come up. There had not been a Sunday before I went into the store. I went into the store with Mrs. Cox on—if my memory is correct—a Saturday evening. Into the best department store in Durham at the time. And I saw a hat that I thought was simply beautiful. And I thought it looked very good on me. And, oh boy, I would love to have that hat. The saleswoman walked over to me and said, "Oh, that hat looks so good on you." And I said, "I sure do like it; I'd like to have it." She said, "Well, why don't you get it?" I said, "Well, I can't afford it." I think it was something like close to twenty-five dollars, which I couldn't really have afforded under any circumstances. But, she said, "Where do you work?" I said, "At North Carolina Mutual." Well she says, "You can have the hat." She went right up to the counter and wrote up the ticket and I walked out of the store with the hat. I had not had a paycheck from North Carolina Mutual. She didn't know me from a bunch of turnips. I wasn't going to make but eighty dollars a month. And that hat cost me twenty-four dollars and ninety-five cents, or something like that. And you could do that all over Durham. Just walk in and like something and say, "Where do you work?" "North Carolina Mutual." And you had an account before you could get out of the store. Well, you can do almost that same thing in Tuskegee, Alabama, if you worked at Tuskegee. At Tuskegee I was making fifty dollars a month. I paid my board and lodgings and laundry—you got your laundry done—I think, and now I'm not quite sure I remember this.

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But it was either thirty or forty dollars. When you got through, you had about ten or fifteen dollars over. And I went into Tuskegee and bought a skirt, a camisole—which has come back in style—and a georgette blouse, all on the basis that I worked at Tuskegee Institute. And a pair of shoes—my first high heels. And all that I had bought would take about four or five months of the amount of money I had left over, to pay for the stuff. No records. They didn't even check up to see. They didn't check before I had the merchandise, because I came out with the merchandise. But they could call over to the Institute, I guess. But at this store that was then called [unknown] , no, I don't believe that was the first name. But at any rate, it was the same store and changed names two or three times. But at any rate, they couldn't even check up because it was a Saturday night. They couldn't check up until Monday. I could have been in diddy-wa-diddy. And that's the only place I know. And it didn't make any difference. I guess you could've been black, blue, green or anything, as long as they thought you were working in those places that paid salaries.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
These are white stores with white clientele mostly?
VIOLA TURNER:
These were the biggest stores in town, in each case. The biggest department store in the town at the time. But, you see, what they did—and I don't know whether it was good business or not; it may have been. I guess so, in the long run. If they didn't have any con artists come in there and buy the stuff and leave town, and had no employment—I don't know how many of those sort of things they lost. But what they did—unfortunately for so many young people who came in like that—they got those folks head-over-heels in debt. There was a constant calling up of North Carolina Mutual, trying to get the money. The truth of the matter: half of those kids were not in trouble because they didn't want to pay their bills, the folks had just sold them too much merchandise for the money they were making. Just like Tuskegee, if I had lost my job within

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a month or so, they would have had to find me wherever I was. Because, between what I was paying for board and lodging, it was going to take me six months to pay for the goods they let me walk out of that store with. And, at that stage of the game, you're so young, you don't have any sense about what you're doing to yourself, or anything. You finally wake up, and then, of course, if you've had a certain amount of training about honesty, you do want to pay. You have no intention not to pay, but you also have no way of knowing how to handle a thing that's that easy. Those were the only two places where they were different from any of the other places. Color had nothing to do with that.
WALTER WEARE:
That was class or association?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's right. That was your people's love of money, and seeing that they could get it. They had themselves a captive group to purchase, you know.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there other little advantages like that? Could you get a Pullman Car, for example, if you wanted to?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh heck, no. The only way you got one of those is if you happened to be—and again I was very fortunate there. For instance, working as closely as I did with Mr. Spaulding and Mr. Merritt, too, but with Mr. Spaulding with even more pull. I'll give you Mr. Spaulding on the one hand and Mr. Merritt on the other. Mr. Merritt knew the man in the ticket office, Mr. Bobbitt, and had known him for years, and years, and years. And if I wanted to go somewhere, Mr. Merritt could call Mr. Bobbitt and I would get first class accommodations. And, of course, at that time, the only place I wanted to go, was to go home. And oftimes, I'd have trouble getting verification for that same reservation, getting back to Durham from Macon.
WALTER WEARE:
But you could leave here on the recommendation?
END OF INTERVIEW