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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eulalie Salley, September 15, 1973. Interview G-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The start of Salley's real estate business

In 1915, Salley launched a successful real estate business because she had made a bet with her husband. She describes her first sales and the way she celebrated after winning the bet.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eulalie Salley, September 15, 1973. Interview G-0054. 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

I'd like for you to tell me about going into business in Aiken. How did you get started in business in Aiken?
EULALIE SALLEY:
That's such an old story. My husband and I were always at cross purposes. One day I said something about I was tired of the law. It was dry as summer's dust and I was going to burn up every one of those damn books.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Why were you tired of it? Were you reading them? Were you into it?
EULALIE SALLEY:
I'll tell you. I thought law books should be written for one purpose only and that was to tell me what rights women had over their children. That was what I was looking for and that's all I cared for. I was just that silly. He said, "Well, you just don't know what you want to do." I said, "I know what I want to do. I want to go in business." "Empty-headed little fool," he said. "The thing for you to do is to try. Do you know that if you went into business, I bet you a hundred dollars you couldn't make a hundred dollars in six months." I said, "All right, I'll take it." He said, "That's provided it isn't a business that will disgrace us." I said, "It won't disgrace us. I promise you that." I had been trying to buy a house. I looked around with all the different agents in Aiken and they were a bunch of blockheads. I couldn't find anything. So, I decided I'd go down to the city office and see what I could get. The city clerk, Mrs. Sarah Bush, was a friend of mine. I said, "Mrs. Bush, would you read me a list of the licenses you have for sale down here?" She said, "Why Mrs. Salley, what in the world do you want to know that for?" "Well," I said, "I've decided to go into business. I'd just like to pick out one, maybe two." She laughed and started and came to real estate. I said, "I'll take one of those." I said, "Go on." She came to insurance. "Well, I believe I'll take one of those. What will it cost me to take those two?" She said, "Twenty-five." "I've got twenty-five dollars. I'll take them." The chief of police was standing there. Mr. Julian B. Salley was mayor at this time. He was just grinning ear to ear. He began to write them out. Think of getting licenses on real estate and insurance as easy as that! Now you have to sweat blood to get them.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Do you?
EULALIE SALLEY:
Oh, it's very difficult. I went to get the licenses. Came back up town and went in the same building and rented an office. Didn't have anything. Had a telephone put in; hired a secretary. Bought some office furniture on credit and started up a real estate business. Started looking around. And first, everybody thought of all the jokes in this town, that crazy Eulalie Salley going in the real estate business. What's happened to Jule? [Julian B. Salley] This cousin of mine said, "He knows he can't stop her so he's just giving her her head." First month I made a thou sand dollars. Sold a big house and got a commission. I went to my husband and I said, "Well, here's my bankbook. I'll take that hundred dollars you owe me." "I'll be damned. I hope you're satisfied and you'll quit." "Oh, no," I said, "I've just begun." He said, "What are you going to do?" I said, "I'm going to New York. I'm going to buy myself some really good-looking clothes. I'm going to see all the shows in New York. I haven't seen a good show since I was married. And then, I'm coming back home and show you how to make money." He laughed fit to kill himself but he knew it wasn't any use. And I went to New York. Called up my sister who lived in Boston. I said, "Meet me at the Waldorf" at such and such a date. "I'm going to stay there a week. I've got eleven hundred dollars and I want you to go shopping with me." Things were cheaper then. I found out at the desk that any shopping you did, you could charge at the desk. Did you know that? I could just say I was stopping at the Waldorf and I could charge anything and have the bill sent there. So, I bought some good looking clothes and we went to see every good show in New York. When the week was about out I said, "Mattie, yuu go back to Boston and I'll go back to Aiken." I'd had my first spree. I always will remember that. I bought a lot of little false curls and a little blue hat with ostrich tips on it. My mother and the two children met me at the train when I got back. When I got off the train, they didn't know me.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
What year was that Mrs. Salley?
EULALIE SALLEY:
Let's see . . .
CONSTANCE MYERS:
You probably know what year your first license was issued.
EULALIE SALLEY:
1915 was my first license.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Then you were already in the suffrage movement at that time.
EULALIE SALLEY:
Yes.