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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Roy Ham, 1977. Interview H-0123-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Strategies for dealing with poverty

Ham remembers some of the strategy his family used to make ends meet during times of privation, including making soap and chewing gum and selling herbs they gathered. These struggles took place after the Depression; Ham says he does not remember any difference between the so-called good times and the bad.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Roy Ham, 1977. Interview H-0123-1. 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

PATTY DILLEY:
Did she make that soap to sell?
ROY HAM:
No, just made it to wash clothes with.
PATTY DILLEY:
To save some money.
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you-all sold tobacco, and then you-all sold your wild plants and stuff. Who bought the wild herbs and stuff that you-all gathered?
ROY HAM:
At the stores.
PATTY DILLEY:
And then they bought them for somebody else or something, or what? Do you know what they did with them?
ROY HAM:
They would take and make chewing gum out of the peppermint and spearmint, candy out of the horehound. And some of the other stuff that we gathered was catnip, lowbeally, and we had a bamgilly [balm of Gilead?] tree that we'd pick the buds off of. That was about the easiest money you could get. Did you ever hear of bamgilly bud?
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I never heard of that.
ROY HAM:
Oh, there's plenty of them here. You've saw them plenty of times, up on Buffalo Creek.
PATTY DILLEY:
I probably didn't call it; I probably just saw it.
ROY HAM:
Next time you go down the river, you look at those trees that's on both sides of the river. The biggest part of them is bamgillies. They look about like these sycamore trees; they favor them a good bit, except they're slimmer.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were their leaves good to chew?
ROY HAM:
No. The buds really smell good when you get them. They're so heavy and sticky. They make some kind of salve out of them, I believe. They have a good healing quality about them.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you-all do any other things to make money?
ROY HAM:
We'd go help the neighbors hoe corn or whatever we could do at small jobs. Even the neighbors didn't have the money in a lot of cases to pay for the work. Now that's not in the Depression; that was many years after the Depression. That's what's got me mixed up about what is good times and what is bad times. I don't know the difference.
PATTY DILLEY:
It was all kind of the same. That's the way my mother was. She was trying to tell me about it. Did your father have any cattle or anything like that?
ROY HAM:
You had to have some cattle and some sheep, from time to time a few chickens. I had a pet rooster one time and taught him to fight. He made a mistake. He nailed my mother one day, and she was about to kill him with a board.