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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kathryn Killian and Blanche Bolick, December 12, 1979. Interview H-0131. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Fondly recalling a childhood of hard farm labor

Killian and Bolick recall working on their family farm when they were as young as five or six, hoeing between rows of corn and potatoes until they had learned enough to hoe a row themselves. Farm work was hard, but Killian looks back on it fondly.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kathryn Killian and Blanche Bolick, December 12, 1979. Interview H-0131. 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

Did you all work in the fields?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Oh yes. That's all we had to make a living, was to scratch it out of the dirt.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh huh. All the kids?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
All the kids. Soon as we got big enough to take a row of cotton or a row of corn, we took it. Up until that time, we helped the others in their rows.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What would the helpers do?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
We had no helpers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
No, I mean when you were so young that you couldn't…
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
We just helped out the larger ones to learn how. They'd go along with the row and we'd go along and help them. We had a hoe, too.
BLANCHE BOLICK:
We'd go along and dig that trash out of the middle.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, uh huh.
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
But, if you weren't raised on a farm, you don't know what we're talking about. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wasn't. I was raised in a small town, not on a farm, but I'm trying to learn.
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
You see, corn and potatoes and all this was grown in rows. You had to plant it in rows, long, straight rows, and there was a space that was called the middle. And you see we younger kids got in the middle with our hoes. We didn't dig out the corn or the cotton or whatever. It was hard to distinguish corn or cotton, the crop, from the grass sometimes, when it got so large. So long as we hoed in the middle, we were O.K. Until we learned, were old enough, to know what the corn and cotton was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how old would that be that you were old enough?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Oh, I think when you were five or six years old we could distinguish, but still we weren't old enough to take a load, but you'd still have to help. I'd say we were about ten or twelve years old before we got hoe to a row ourselves.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you feel? Would that be a big day when you got to be old enough to have your own row?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Sort of. And sort of you didn't like it either. It was hard work. [laughter] Not knowing anything else, we had to do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many kids were there in the family?
BLANCHE BOLICK:
Eight.
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Seven girls and one boy.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, so it was almost a family of girls?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
We had to do boys, too. We had to do boys' work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You think if you had more brothers in the family, you would have had different work to do?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
I doubt it. We all enjoyed it. In a way, we enjoyed the work, because as I grew up I would rather do the boys' work than the girls' work.
BLANCHE BOLICK:
I started cultivating, plowing, at eleven.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were plowing at eleven? What was considered girls' work?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Just the hoeing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh. As opposed to plowing?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Yes. See at that time you worked with a horse.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you'd rather plow than hoe? Why was that?
BLANCHE BOLICK:
I guess because it looked big. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh huh. What about your mother? Did she…?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Oh, right out in the field with us, she worked daylight 'til dark.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It's a hard living.
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Get up early in the morning, milk the cows, feed the hogs, chickens. Come in at lunch time and feed the chickens. Go back out, then come in at dark, go back over and feed the chickens and horses, the cows, milking the cows. You milked the cows twice a day, morning and evening.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh huh.
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
We didn't know anything else. Just routine. Look back now it was wonderful.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you think about it now?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
If we could have those peaceful days again, it would be wonderful.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you think things have changed?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Oh my goodness. You can't imagine. You just can't imagine. You didn't have things back then. You didn't want things. If you had one pair of shoes… Our daddy went to town and got our shoes, now he didn't take us along. He went and got our shoes for us when he sold the first bale of cotton in the fall. Because that was the first time he had enough money to get all of us shoes and that was our school shoes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh huh.
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Now, we didn't have shoes like this, we had high, you know, with top to them. And then we had a Sunday pair of slippers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your mother make your clothes?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Oh yes, most of them, yes. And as we went to school and took home ec., well we made our own clothes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your daddy own his own farm?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Oh yes.