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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Margaret Skinner Parker, March 7, 1976. Interview H-0278. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Churchgoing and craft fairs

Parker and Huske recall mill town church life. Churchgoing was widespread, they recall, and Coolemee residents also attended church picnics and fairs. At these fairs, sponsored at least in part by the mill, residents sold handicrafts and competed for prizes. The company store seems to have been a central element of the townspeople's social life, since many group activities took place in a meeting hall above it.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Margaret Skinner Parker, March 7, 1976. Interview H-0278. 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

W. WELDON HUSKE:
Well, what was church life like? Did everybody belong to a church, pretty much?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
A good many.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Many more so than now, maybe. Because, I tell you, back then we had a different class of people than we've got now.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Well, did the mill help the church? I mean, it gave the land to the Episcopal church, didn't it?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Well, it gave all churches the land. And then if the time ever came that the church had no further use for that land, then of course it reverted back to the mill—because no church has a deed to their land. And, see, that house on eight Marginal that used to be the Baptist parsonage, well, then when they decided to build that new parsonage and had no further use for that one, then the mill paid them for that house. And then they spent about ten thousand dollars remodeling it. But that's the way it worked.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Did the mill give other assistance to churches? Did it help fund the Episcopal clinic?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
They were generous to all the churches, I think, when they had a chance to be.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
But see, now the Episcopal church gets money quarterly from what they call the Erwin Trust Fund; Mr. Erwin was an Episcopalian. But other churches don't get that; I think we're the only ones.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
And he built an Episcopal church wherever he built a mill?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
I don't know.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
I think that's what I heard.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
I heard that.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Erwin has one.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Well, what did the churches do in terms of social events? Did every little church have its own groups? Did the churches cooperate, or what?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
The Methodist church used to have chicken pie suppers. And Mrs. Click and Mrs. Moody and some of those people that are gone now… Mrs. Click had a wood cook stove in her kitchen, and they used to make those individual chicken pies, and they served it up in the Sunday school area of the church. And they'd have chicken pie, and they'd have slaw; sometimes they had oysters. But I've often said … Dr. Kavanagh used to have some pictures hanging on his walls, and they were faces. And one of them would be, like chocolate bars (do you remember that?); the other one would be cigarettes, and things like that. Well, I've often thought about the Methodist church: if that Methodist church was fixed like that you'd see chicken pies, chess pies, ice cream [laughter] —because really, that's where they got their money.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
Well, our church used to have (the Episcopal church) used to have bazaars—big ones. And they'd prepare all year, and they'd have all kinds of handiwork, and then they'd have food like candies and things and cake. And then during the day they'd have that. And I think for lunch (the middle of the day meal) they'd serve a meal, but it was a lighter one. But then in the evening the people could come off work and all; they'd serve a regular big turkey dinner. And I never will forget one year (I hadn't been here many years) I made all the cranberry sauce (homemade cranberry sauce jelly made in star-shaped molds to put on the table). They were beautiful.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Well, was that, like, in the 1930's?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
Yes. And then another thing that we used to do was have fairs. And who sponsored those fairs? That was the recreation department, I guess.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
And what were the fairs like?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
They had all kinds of beautiful things like crocheted bedspreads and all kinds of handwork.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
That local people did?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Yes.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
And they gave prizes. I got a few prizes when I was a brand new little bride, and I just swelled with pride.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Did a lot of the women in town knit and crochet and quilt, and things like that?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
They did beautiful work.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Tat, did tatting.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Would they sell things like that at the fairs? Or pay money?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
I don't remember selling; I know they had them on display and they gave prizes.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
They used to sell them, because I know one year I had knitted a bedjacket and they wanted to know how much they should ask for it. And I told them, according to the wool and stuff. And I said, "And if you don't sell it I'll take it back." So I know from that that they evidently sold some things.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Who ran them? The company, essentially, sponsored the fairs?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Well, whoever was the social worker or whatever you want to call it for the company.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
And these bazaars and fairs were held in the great big room up above the company store.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
OK. And was that room also used as a meeting room for workers?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Yes, because I used to have the junior music club; that's where we'd meet, up there.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
The beauty shop was up there too. You'd have to climb those outside stairs to get up there for all those things.