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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Josephine Turner, June 7, 1976. Interview H-0235-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Father's stern parenting style instilled respect for elders

Turner describes the relationship between her parents and her first job. She describes her father as an "old-time believer" who "didn't spare the rod" but who let her mother take most of the responsibility for child-rearing. She believes that kids no longer respect their elders as she and her siblings did. As she discusses her father, she remembers his job as a chauffer, a job she inherited when he died suddenly. This job was her first, and she recalls with pride that she drove flawlessly, even without a license.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Josephine Turner, June 7, 1976. Interview H-0235-2. 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

KAREN SINDELAR:
You say your father died when you were twelve. What was it like when he was still alive? Did your mother and father get along OK?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Beautiful … well, as people did in those days. He thought he was the boss of the house; she let him think that. But my mother was the strong one. My father was the old-time believer; he didn't spare the rod and spoil the child. But he let my mother raise us, mostly. But, I mean, when he spoke we knew it.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Why types of things was he the boss over?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Well, he was the one when he was working… Now my father was disabled too in his last years of life, and he was paralyzed. So that's why we had to work so hard. But, you know, we'd mind him, no more than he'd say he was the boss of the house. But you know how men are; they say they're the boss, but the woman runs the house. So he wasn't boss of nothing much.
KAREN SINDELAR:
But when he did say something you'd mind him?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Oh, we would mind him, yes; we always had respect for him—not like kids today. Kids don't have respect for their parents. But right today at my age I respect people older than I am; that's the way I was brought up. Even if I don't agree with them I won't argue with them; I'll walk away from them, unless I'm debating on some issue that I feel like I'm right. Then I'll stand there and talk to them 'til I tire [laughter]
KAREN SINDELAR:
So you say that he was disabled in the later years of his life. Was he around the house more then?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes. But he worked some part-time. He drove for the Lipscombs, and gathered and collected rent with them. And when he died I took over and drove for them until I got married.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Wait a second. You drove for who, for Lipscomb?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Mrs. W. Lipscomb; that's what they was then. I helped them collect rent 'til I got married in '40. See, I married when I was fifteen.
KAREN SINDELAR:
OK, now you're getting ahead of me. Did you say it was Mrs. W. Lipscomb?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
It was Mr. and Mrs.
KAREN SINDELAR:
And what was that? Was it a company?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
No, they just owned houses. He used to be with Lipscomb and Gaddy; there was a store here named Lipscomb and Gaddy. I don't know what happened. Before I even started driving for him he was out of that. But he owned a lot of houses here in Durham, and I used to collect rent with them and for them.
KAREN SINDELAR:
When you say driving for them, you mean…
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Chauffeured.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Oh, you'd chauffeur for them. Chauffering them around when they were collecting the rents and stuff like that.
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes, chauffeur around and collect the rent, and then a lot of times go out to Virginia and different places.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Was that unusual, for them to have a woman chauffeur?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Right, especially a black woman at that time. I was the first, you might say.
KAREN SINDELAR:
The only person you knew of.
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes. My father fell dead in their backyard. We lived just in hollering distance; they lived on up there and we lived down. Well, our house and their house just had a fence that separated them. And my father went up there to go to work one morning, and they was eating breakfast and he fell off the porch with a hemorrhage and passed in their backyard. So they started me driving them when I was about fourteen.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Did they have such things as driver's licenses then?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes. But at that time they didn't know that I drove around about six years without a driver's licence, because I was a good driver and they'd never… It wasn't like it is now. And when I did go to get my driver's licence Mr. Dunlap was living then, and he said, "You've been driving all these years without a licence?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Well…" All I done was drove around the block; then he gave me my licence, 'cause he knew I had been all out of town and everywhere. I started driving at fourteen, and I got my licence when I was about eighteen or something like that [laughter]
KAREN SINDELAR:
So you drove all that time without a licence and you never got caught at all?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
I never even got a ticket; I've never had a wreck. The onliest ticket I ever got is where I parked—you know, go in a store and stay too long. But I never got a speeding ticket, and I've never had a wreck. And every mark on my car, somebody else has put it on there [laughter] .
KAREN SINDELAR:
You never had any problems. [laughter] So then you started driving for them when you were about fourteen. Was that your first paying job that you had?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Right.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Before then you had mainly done work at home?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes, I just stayed home, and whatever she'd give me to do. If she'd give me a dollar a week that would be… Kids wouldn't work now. I know some of them wouldn't do it for twenty dollars a day, let alone… [laughter] If I got a dollar a week I thought I was in glory.
KAREN SINDELAR:
So she couldn't always give you a dollar a week?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
No, no.
KAREN SINDELAR:
It Just depended on how much money there was?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Because there wasn't any such thing as welfare or social security then; you know, you didn't have them that far back. And I'm glad in a way, because it taught me to work. I've been working all my life.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Well that's sort of interesting, though: you said that you were the first black woman chauffeur around.
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
In Durham that I know of.
KAREN SINDELAR:
How did they feel about hiring you? Was there any problem with the Lipscombs? Did they want to hire you?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
No, no. They knew me, and they knew my family, and we stayed in the same neighborhood.
KAREN SINDELAR:
They were right next door to you, you said? Farther up the hill?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Farther up the hill. We lived in the same neighborhood and all. They knew me, and they knew I was honest. Everybody said I was honest and I'd never had any trouble. And they would send me to the bank every Monday with the money—Tuesdays, rather, 'cause we had to collect rent on Mondays. And they knew I was raised up to be honest. I don't take anything that don't belong to me, and I try to teach that to my children. I said, "If you want it, ask for it; don't take it." [Interruption]