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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ethelene McCabe Allen, May 21, 2006. Interview C-0314. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Maternal grandfather and mother's experiences growing up

Allen relays her mother's recollections about her father, Ransom Barbour, and of her childhood in near Four Oaks, North Carolina, during the 1910s and 1920s. Ransom Barbour had great aspirations for his daughter's education and potential for social mobility; however, his death from tuberculosis in 1927 prevented her from entering high school. Allen describes the tensions her mother had with her stepmother and in living with various relatives following her father's death, describing how she had to help out on family farms, rather than pursue an education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ethelene McCabe Allen, May 21, 2006. Interview C-0314. 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

BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Did your mother remember her father, Ransom Barbour? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Oh yes.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
What did she remember about him? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: That he was a kind man, and he was a good man and he was he would give them good advice about how to behave, philosophy, he really could - I remember things she would say that he told her. He had great hopes for her. He wanted her to go to school and be a stenographer. That was his hopes for her, but he died and she didn't have the opportunity to even attend high school. She had to - she would have had to gone away to high school and they couldn't do that. She couldn't walk that far, so she had no way of going to high school.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Why a stenographer? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Well, secretaries, stenographers, it was upward mobility [Laughter] in his opinion and he had ambitions for her. She learned very easily in school and her older sister didn't.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
I didn't know that about Grandma. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: She could learn very easily. She made good grades in school, so he had hopes for her and too, she was the kind-natured kind, where her sister was a little bit on the, she could have some little [Laughter]
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Go ahead. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: What do you call it? She could be mean to mama once in awhile and enjoy it. [Laughter] Spiteful, sometimes, where mama didn't have a bit of bad in her.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
What did your mother remember about her stepmother? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Well, she remembered that she resented her in the early part of her - but she said she blamed that on relatives. They would talk about her, call her lazy and things like that, because she didn't get out and work on the farm like most people did, and she would take a nap after lunch and things like that, and she put those little children standing on stools to wash dishes and things like that. Aunt Nellie and Mama. Mama washed dishes from the time she can remember. Five years old, she was on a little stool washing dishes or drying them, at the - I don't know - probably at the table then with a dishpan because they didn't have running water or heated water, they had to heat it on an old wood stove. So they poured it in a dishpan and washed them at the kitchen table. They didn't have sinks and things like they do now, or like we did when we were growing up. But they would talk about her and of course that influenced mama, so mama resented her and didn't like her, but she realized after she got grown that that she was really good to the children. Course she didn't care about them like she did her own, but she was good to them, she said. She was fair and good to them and she could have - if it hadn't been for the influence of relatives or if they had had more positive influence she could have probably thought a lot of her stepmother and she did go visit her a lot after - or she didn't visit any of her relatives a lot except her sister, Aunt Nellie. She would go visit her. Her stepmother in her later life had TB and went to a sanatorium down at Wilson and was there for a year or so and we did go visit her there after I was married. I went with mama and I think Leonard and I went with mama and Aunt Nellie, took them down there to visit her stepmother, so she did appreciate her stepmother in her later life, what she'd done for her.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Do you remember the stepmother? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Just barely, cause I didn't see her that much, just just barely. I remember visiting there and I remember her second children by her second husband were close to my age. I enjoyed visiting them and talking with them and the youngest one was, I think she majored in languages in college. She had a thing for languages.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Do you remember which languages? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: She studied a lot of languages. I can't remember if it was German and different kinds. French and Spanish of course was standard. I think she studied German too and maybe something else. I don't know. But she was very interested in languages.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Now, when your grandfather died, Ransom Barbour, the stepmother got remarried to somebody else. Did your mother and your aunt Nellie continue to live in that household? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Oh no. No. When their daddy died and possibly before their daddy died, they were moving around some, staying with relatives. His sisters, or some of the relatives, aunts and uncles that would keep them. They continued to do that until Aunt Nellie got married at a very young age.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
How old was Nellie when she got married? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: And she might have married before her daddy died. I'm not sure. I almost believe she married before her daddy died. He always said he couldn't tell her anything, she was hardheaded.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
How old was she when she got married? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: I almost believe she was fifteen and her husband was eighteen when they got married.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
And that was Alton Jones? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: She married Alton Jones, and his parents - they all lived together in the same house. Eddie Jones, and his mother was Betty Roberts Jones. Very nice lady, as goodhearted good lady as you'd ever want to meet. Fine lady.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
But your - who did your mother live with after her father died? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: She lived with different ones. She lived with Uncle Will Wallace for awhile, that was married to Mary Barbour and had three girls, Lucille, Lula, and Louise. Seem like there was, oh well, I can't remember. But she grew up with those girls and she worked on the farm there but she knew she didn't belong to the family. They would - if she didn't do like they said, they would tell her, if you don't do like we say now, we'll send you to an orphanage. They would threaten with sending her to an orphanage, so she lived in fear of not being wanted.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
And how long do you think she lived there? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: I don't know. Probably not that long. And I think she stayed with different ones. As they needed her she would go and stay with different ones, but she stayed longer with the uncle, Will, I think.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Would she go to stay and work on their farm? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Oh she worked on the farm, she worked on the farm and maybe if another one got sick or something she would be there, helping them out, but she didn't do as much cooking. They kept her out in the fields working. She washed dishes, she said she always got the job of washing dishes, but she worked in the fields more than she did in the house. They would do the cooking and she'd work in the fields.