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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, November 29, 1978. Interview H-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Remembering a childhood rich in play

Boys and girls got together for quilting parties in her childhood, Eula Durham recalls. Gender barriers did not seem to dissuade a number of her male contemporaries from developing their crocheting skills. She also remembers other forms of leisure, such as spending weekends at movies in nearby Durham or Chapel Hill, sharing candy, throwing together chicken stews with stolen and re-stolen chickens, and hunting the elusive, and nonexistent, snipe.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eula and Vernon Durham, November 29, 1978. Interview H-0064. 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

JIM LELOUDIS:
Did the young men around here and the girls have activities that they did together? Did a bunch of girls ever get together and do things?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, they used to have quilting parties, candy parties and things like that. We had a quilting party a bunch. We would go around and help the old women quilt. And we used to help this old woman, Miss Bella Andrews up there. She had a lot of quiltings. And we'd go up there and help her quilt, and she'd make us a whole lot of candy or cookies or something, you know, and give to them. Well, the boys and girls would all go up there and quilt.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Oh the guys would go quilt?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, they would go quilt too. And one night we was up there quilting quilts and we got done with it. She made every one of us draw our name on a square. And a girl that lives right up the road here now has got that quilt. I sure would love to have that. They was about fifteen or twenty young boys and girls up there quilting.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How old were you then?
EULA DURHAM:
Fourteen, fifteen.
JIM LELOUDIS:
How about the guys in the area—what did they do?
VERNON DURHAM:
I never was in that thing, the quilting parties. I don't know how they did.
EULA DURHAM:
Well, they did. Used to have quilting parties and things. We were out at Miss Daisy Abernathy's one time and helped her quilt, sew a quilt. She said, "Lord, I would have never thought I would have got a bunch of guys to quilt in a quilt for me." But them boys could… Now Weesie Eubanks, Roy Lee up here, and Garland Andrews, Steadman Andrews, and Abernathy, and Mule Suitts, and Braidman and McGee Montgomery, and Doc Snipes, they was the boys that mostly went to the quilting parties.
JIM LELOUDIS:
That surprised me. I wasn't expecting that.
EULA DURHAM:
Well, two or three of them boys crocheted, embroidery. Now Doc Snipes could crochet good. He was a little bit older than us others, but Doc Snipes and Steadman Andrews—Steadman Andrews could crochet just as good as anyone you ever seen.
JIM LELOUDIS:
What did you and your friends do?
VERNON DURHAM:
We rode around in cars, in a lot of places, go to the show …
EULA DURHAM:
Ball games.
VERNON DURHAM:
Go to Durham on the weekend, on Saturday. Go over there and spend the whole day on Saturday, and take in three or four shows. . That's about all they had then, didn't have any television. That was about the only enjoyment you got, going to Durham or Chapel Hill to the shows.
EULA DURHAM:
We had a group one time, a candy party group. We'd go around to different houses every week and make candy. And so, there was a lot of married couples would go with us. A lot of them. Now Gurley Williams and Ruth would go, and Freddie Campbell and his wife, Mrs. McDuffie, and Mama—a lot of old married people, you know, would go along with us too. They'd have just as good a time as we would. And we went to this house one night and made pull candy, and me and this girl was out in the yard pulling our candy. You know how to pull it—like that taffy they have at the fair—you have to pull it till it got hard and then put it out and cut it in little pieces. Well, we pulled that candy and pulled and we couldn't pull it. So we tried again—we put it on our knee and pulled it, you know, like that. And Gurney Williams caught us. Said he . We done that for a whole winter, I reckon. Then in the summertime they'd all gang up together and go down on the river or go somewhere and cook a chicken stew. Have a big chicken stew. Went down to that river one time to cook a chicken stew. No, we went up to Sheep Mann's. This boy said, "Come on up there, I've got the chicken and everything. We'll have a stew. I've got plenty of milk. Y'all just bring your crackers. They had a cow. We went up there and got ready to cook a chicken stew and he said, "Well, the chicken ain't been cleaned." Well, me and Trennie Johnson had to clean the chicken and we got the thing picked. It had a great big piece of wood right here in its hip. I said, "Sheep, how come that wood's in that hen's hip?" He said, "Well, I run her as far as I could and I couldn't catch her, and I hit her with a piece of slab." Said, "I reckon it broke off in there." Paul Buck Allen and them used to steal chickens and we'd have stews. Well, we didn't Know they was stealing them till after it was all over with. They'd tell about going to different places and stealing the chickens. Said they went up to Frank Farrell's one time and got a chicken and said he got in there and said Ed Anderson was going to get the chicken and got to squalling so it scared Ed. And Paul said, "Let me get it. You ain't talking to it. If you talk to him right you can get him." Said Paul got that old chicken out, said, "Come on chickie, chickie, come on." About the time he got hold of the chicken said Frank . "Mr. Frank, Mr. Frank, I wasn't going to steal your chicken. I was just sitting here talking to him." [Laughter]
JIM LELOUDIS:
Talking to him?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah, poor old Paul Buck Allen told that one night up at Pete Tripps. I said, "Paul, don't tell that no more you're telling that." And Ruth Williams, two or three of them would steal a chicken, you know. Her and Gurney run a store over there where Harris runs now. And they would steal one of her chickens and carry it down there and sell it to her and get crackers and milk to go in the stews. Bunch of boys was going off then and cooking stews. Well, he said, they'd stole the old chicken two or three times, take it back down there. And they'd sold her the same old hen they didn't know how many times. Said the last time they come in there Ruth said, "I seen this hen somewhere before." Said, "Look like I recognize this hen." Paul said he told her, "Naw, Miss Ruth, no, you didn't recognize that hen." Said, "My uncle just give it to me."
JIM LELOUDIS:
They were stealing it from her and selling it back to her?
EULA DURHAM:
Selling it back to her. Said they done it three or four times, stole the same old hen three or four times and sell it back to her. And she said, "I believe I recognize this hen. I seen it before." And Paul said, "Naw, Miss Ruth, naw, you ain't never seen this hen before. My uncle just give it to me." He was something. Lord, back then—I wish them times would come back. Had the best old time. Go out in the wintertime and when the hickory nuts and things, you know, would get ripe in the woods there'd be a whole drove of them go out in the woods hunting hickory nuts, scalybarks, and things. And in the fall of the year go possum hunting. You ever been—What do they call that thing? Where they leave two holding the sack?
VERNON DURHAM:
That was snipe hunting.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Snipe hunting!
EULA DURHAM:
Right!
JIM LELOUDIS:
I've carried people snipe hunting.
EULA DURHAM:
One time we carried these two old gals, Gaynell and Florence. They'd never been snipe hunting, and they thought, you know, it was real. We carried them way, ways over yonder. Well, way back down in yonder. Well, we went way back down in the woods, everywhere, you know, and left them holding the sack. I reckon we stayed down there in the woods—oh, there was about fifteen or twenty of us—about two hours, and left them standing there up there holding the sack. And finally I said, "We'd better go back up there cause they don't know nothing about snipe hunting and ain't no telling what they…" Well, find a way and went back up there and poor old Gaynell she kind of grinned anyway. She said, "Well, I been a-holding this sack," said, "I don't know whether this sack will hold all the snipes y'all caught." She really thought we was going to bring back some kind of bird or something, I don't know what. Lord, we used to have a time. We went down to the river one time, a whole bunch of us. And every time it'd end up me and Trennie Johnson having to cook the stew. So this time Trennie wasn't along, was me and Iola White. I said, "Well, I'll fix them." One time we had one over here at the spring, we put two pound of pepper in it. And it was so hot—it was dark, too—they'd bite down on that stew and it'd just burn them up. So, we had the chicken cleaned but still had the feet on it. So we just took the guts out of the thing and cut him up, feet and all, and put him in there, with the feet in there with the toenails on it. And when we got done we took the feet out and hid them. They was going on down there, that was the best stew they ever eat in their life. And Garland Andrews and Virgil Snider said, "Well, I don't see you and Iola eating none." I said, "I don't like chicken stew." Said, "That ain't so, cause you always eat chicken stew." I said, "No, I don't want no chicken stew today." And Iola got to snickering. was down there that day, about the whole mill, you know.
JIM LELOUDIS:
Was this when you were young?
EULA DURHAM:
Yeah. Said, "Y'all done something to that stew or y'all would eat some." Iola said, "I swear to God, we hadn't done a thing to it." And they all come in, they kept on then, they got up and said "Well, y'all going to tell us what you done." And they was going to throw us in the river. Iola said, "If you don't throw me in the river, I'll show you what we done." So we got them feet and showed them to them where we'd cooked it with the toenails on, and they run us, I bet you two miles up that river. But they never did ask us to cook no more chicken stews.