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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Alcohol use and abuse in the mill village

One of Durham's relatives, local druggist and medical provider Jeff Mann, struggled with his drinking. This revelation leads Durham into a discussion of alcohol use and abuse among the working communities where he lived.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. 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

DOUGLAS DENATALE:
There was a Jeff Mann?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes. He was the druggist. It must have been a pretty prominent family. They seemed to be. Now Uncle , I knew him, met him. He delivered every one of us except Mama's last child. And Lord, no telling the children he brought into this world. Getting nothing for it, practically. I heard him say; I went to him one time. He lived up here. He come by here and stopped by. They had a big buggy, you know; he travelled in a buggy. I was out there in the yard. He said, "You tell your mama to send you all up there and get some apples. Our apple orchard is up there going to ruin." So I went up there and got a bunch of apples, me and Cary. He drank, but he was well thought of. Dr. Mann was a prominent man in this community along in that day and time. But he did drink. They said he would get drunk sometimes, and Papa said he hunted him up. He stayed there a while, and said he'd be over there asleep on his mother's grave, with his head on it. You'd see his buggy and his horse tied out there. He was right smart. He'd just get so tired or something, I don't know what. He didn't get much rest. He said they was after him all the time. All times of the night, coming there after him. He was the only doctor in this whole country around here that I know of for years. And they'd pay him, a whole lot of times, in stuff they could raise on a farm, when they didn't have no money much. Pay him in meat and vegetables and different things. He never made no big money. He was married twice, had two or three children.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Was drinking a problem in town? Did a lot of people in town drink?
FRANK DURHAM:
There's not too bad around here now; there used to be right smart of. . . . The same fellows would get drunk about every once in a while, when I was a boy.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
What did they do during Prohibition?
FRANK DURHAM:
[Laughter] You could get it, go out and, shoot, they could always get it. Out in the countryside, they raised it around. They'd make it all around here. Up this road here and up the Mount Pleasant road. You could get it near about anywhere. They just made it. If a fellow was a drunkard, they knew how to get it and where to get it, and it never was prohibited around here. [Laughter] They had to go in hiding. It brought the bootleggers a lot of money.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Was people drinking a problem in the mill?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, it was, it is, and there always has been some. They'd make it and bring it to certain places, and they'd hide it. You'd pay for it, and they'd tell you where to get it. Pick it up at a certain place. They'd make liquor and hide it around. The fellows that knew them, and boy, you had to know themyou couldn't get it, you know. Because there was the law all the time after them.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did people get together to drink?
FRANK DURHAM:
No, not much, I don't think. Sometimes they would. Older fellows would get drunk together sometimes playing cards and things like that poker.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
How about later on, after Prohibition?
FRANK DURHAM:
It got better, I believe.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
There was less drinking?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, you could get it, and it wasn't no worse, I don't think a bit worse, but probably better. Because I don't believe they had a strong desire. There's not as much drinking here now as there was during that day and time, I don't believe. Because you can get it, and along then it seemed to be that it was a great desire to get it while you had a chance or something, keep it. I believe folks during the Depression and during that time than they do now.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did people ever drink while they were working in the mill?
FRANK DURHAM:
No. No, they'd fire you.