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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Growing up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Johnson offers a brief life history of growing up in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Addressing such topics as family, education, farming, moonshining, popular culture, radio, and religion, Johnson paints a vivid portrait of what it was like to live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains during the 1930s and 1940s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PETE DANIEL:
[This is an interview with Junior Johnson. It's being done on June 4, 1988, at Dover, Delaware, at the Dover Downs Race Track.] I think most people would want to know about your family background. That is, how long have the Johnsons been up in the mountains of North Carolina?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, my grandpa lived in the same area where I live now and my father lived since about the 1900's. That's where my father was born, in that same area, and it was where me and my brothers and sisters all was born and raised up.
PETE DANIEL:
Could you just put on for the record your parents' names?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Robert Glenn Johnson, Sr. and Lora Money Johnson.
PETE DANIEL:
Did you go to school right there in your neighborhood?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
A little community called Clemmon. We went to school there up until we finished the seventh grade, and then you moved on to a high school called Ronda for the rest of your years in school. I only went to the seventh, I mean through the seventh and started in the eighth, and I quit school in the eighth.
PETE DANIEL:
Were any of your teachers particularly significant in your life?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
All of my teachers was very significant in my life. I had a teacher called Tom Calloway that was one of the, I thought, smartest persons I'd ever seen in my childhood years. I also had a teacher called Nola Howard. She was really a great person, and still living. She retired from teaching several years ago. She was a patient, good person, and she really took a lot of time with her school kids.
PETE DANIEL:
Do you have friends now that you grew up with back there?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Yes, I still live in the same territory or area where I was born and all. I grew up there and I still live there, and all the neighbors and friends and relatives still live in the same area where I growed up. All of my friends are still there.
PETE DANIEL:
Did you have any particular person you looked up to and sort of set as a role model when you were growing up?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Well, I looked up to my father a lot because I thought my father was one of the most knowledgeable people about everything that he went to do. You know, farming, he was in the whiskey business when I was a young boy. He had more knowledge about everything that he did, and anything that anybody wanted to do, he knew how to do it and how to go about it and stuff. I've always felt like if I could grow up and be like my father, I'd be happy and satisfied with my life, and I still feel that way about it. He was the one person in my eyes as far as I was concerned.
PETE DANIEL:
Was he a farmer, mostly? Is that what he did mostly?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
He farmed for a living, but back in them days you could just survive on a farm. In that area of North Carolina where I lived was kind a a moonshining area. Of course, about everybody who lived around where I lived was either involved in it one way or the other, or they sold the material to make it with, or they had some connection with the moonshine business. Course, he, by his being that close around it, and him being where he could get involved in it, he got involved in it.
PETE DANIEL:
What did folks do for leisure? You were growing up mostly in the what, late '30s and early '40s, on through there. Did you have movies? What all did you do for recreation?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Most of the time radio was about the only communication you had with the outside world, at the time that I was growing up. Television didn't come along until quite some years after I was growing up. But radio was about all your connections with the outside part of the United States, our world, far as that goes.
PETE DANIEL:
What did y'all listen to?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Ah, stuff like the Grand Ole Opery on Saturday night. They had various programs on that most all the family, like Amos and Andy, this type of program was basically what everybody listened to and followed and all. You know, through every day there were certain things on that they kept up with. That's some of the most famous ones.
PETE DANIEL:
Was religion a big part of life growing up?
JUNIOR JOHNSON:
Religion was pretty well taught in everybody's home because they had plenty of time to go to church and raise their kids in a religious type atmosphere. They didn't have all the things like they have today to go to to get 'em away from religion. So about all families were very religious.