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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 >>

Remembering hunger and poverty

Turner reflects on some of the low points of her life, remembering hunger and poverty.

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

OK, now you talked about some of the best times you remember, the time especially you dedicated yourself to God again. How about some of the worst times you remember?
Oh boy! I don't even like to elaborate on them, because I had so many bad times: you know, like when my father died, and how hard I had to work all my life, and personal things (the children not doing like you want them to do). You know, you have all this to go through with. But all in all, I've had a pretty good life. I mean, I had a rough life, but I've had bad times. As I say, I know what it is for the lights to get cut off, and I know what it is for the water to get cut off, and I know what it is to be hungry. I hear a lot of people say it; I say, "No, you've never been hungry." I've seen the time where we… My mother taught me, "If you don't have anything in the house but bread and water, don't go on the street and tell it." And I've seen the time where we made a meal off of margerine and bread, and drink water. I used to see my mother drink coffee water and eat bean juice. That's the reason I don't eat beans today; I was fed up on them, you know what I mean? But I couldn't understand what she was doing.
When were times so bad that you all would have to do that?
When my father died.
I see, when she was trying to support you all.
When she was trying to support us. With the money she'd get, by the time we paid the rent and little things… We had to eat up everything, you know. She would always stay back and let us eat; and then I used to see her make cornbread cushions, we'd call it. And that's why I tell the kids they don't even know what a hard time is. They say now what they're not going to eat, and "I won't eat this" and "I don't want this." I've seen the times where I ate margerine and bread, and it tasted like steak. And now today they get it and they say… Now steak hurts my stomach; I'm not used to stuff like that. I have to eat what I'm used to, you know; but I mean I didn't get it then. But seriously speaking, all in all I've had a rough life but I've had a good life. And sometimes now things get on me. A lot of people say, "Why do you laugh about it?" I say, "Well, if I cried you wouldn't want me around you, with the trials and tribulations and tests that's come up for me." So all in all we have trials and tribulations right along, but we're grateful. But all in all, the people downtown have respect for me, and I have respect for them. But they know that I know there's a lot more that could be done. Now like all of them I've been on them. I've called them "them caskets downtown." They could have been fixing up some houses for the people to live in and all. Yes, they're beautifying downtown for folks going to the shopping centers, you know. Oh, there's so much they could do if they wanted, and it just hurts. I don't want a whole lot of things myself.