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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Atwater, February 28, 2001. Interview K-0201. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Atwater's parents worked in various positions at UNC

Atwater's parents worked for the University of North Carolina in his childhood. They filled various positions like stoking dormitory furnaces, managing the country club waiters, working in the hospital, and serving refreshments at football games. His mother also sold insurance in Durham before getting married.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Atwater, February 28, 2001. Interview K-0201. 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

JENNIFER NARDONE:
Did you, did one your parents work at the university, or did you have an affiliation with the University?
JAMES ATWATER:
Yes, my father worked at the University, and during most of the time that I was growing up. Prior to that he had worked for some of the private firms in Chapel Hill, at one point he had owned a business, he had run a business with one of my uncles. But for the most part he worked at the university. Most of the time that I was growing up he was working at the university. And my mother also worked at the university after we had grown up because she had worked for a while prior to her marriage in Durham for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
Oh really?
JAMES ATWATER:
Yes. After she married, I think she may have stayed in Durham for a short while, but, continued working for them for a short while but eventually she became an insurance agent for them, she was working out of our home and in Chapel Hill, selling insurance for North Carolina Mutual there. As I said, after we, all of us, practically all of us, were at least in high school I think, maybe a little earlier, she worked for the University, for the hospital. She was at the hospital -
JENNIFER NARDONE:
Oh, okay, over at the university.
JAMES ATWATER:
Yes right, yes. Because of course the hospital, I don't know the exact date, but I'd say it's relatively new for me because it was not there I think probably, I may have been in college by the time the hospital was opened [unclear] .
JENNIFER NARDONE:
What did your father do at the university?
JAMES ATWATER:
Variety, a wide variety. His primary job was as the porter for the three women's dormitories: Alderman, McIver, and Kenan.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
Really?
JAMES ATWATER:
Yes, and of course he was responsible for some of the cleaning, we can say sort of the heavy cleaning, because they also had maids there, women who were there. But he was, his primary responsibility was to stoke the furnaces in those dormitories, because they were still coal burning, he was responsible for keeping that going. At the same time, he did one or two or three other things on a part time basis. He was the, I suppose his title would have been headwaiter, or manager of the Chapel Hill Country Club.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
Oh, okay.
JAMES ATWATER:
Because the country club at that time, was primarily for their, say, dinner dances on weekends. So on the weekends he was responsible for hiring the staff that would work there, cooks and waiters and so on, and getting the club ready, and getting the club cleaned up after that, so on Sunday-usually they'd have something on Saturday night, we'd clean up on Sunday. And in addition to that, he had I don't know how many responsibilities with individual families sometimes to stoke their furnaces. And he did that for a couple of people. He would also serve as a waiter at the Carolina Inn, on weekends when he was available to do that. And, that I think was in addition to his normal [unclear] wasn't directly related to his work at the dormitories. He also did something at the football games, because most of the football games in Chapel Hill are usually during fairly warm weather, even though it's September, October, it doesn't get colder till November, December. So, he hit on the idea-cause someone else had been doing it before he did it-but he would go to the games with a bucket of ice water and cups and he would tell people-people would ask him how much it was- he says "it's free." It's free water, free ice water, but if you want to give me something, let your conscious be your guide and he did that for several years.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
Wow. So he worked a lot. Sounds like he worked a lot.
JAMES ATWATER:
Just a little bit.
JENNIFER NARDONE:
So you were pretty deeply connected with the university then when you were growing up.
JAMES ATWATER:
Well, yes, from that standpoint and of course most of the people at the country club were people from the university, so that was a connection. And then the people that he worked for, we can say, part time, on the side were also people from the university.