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Title: Oral History Interview with J. D. Thomas and Lela Rigsby Thomas, November 14, 2000. Interview K-0507. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Thomas, J. D., interviewee
Author: Thomas, Lela Rigsby, interviewee
Interview conducted by Amberg, Rob
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 212 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-12-10, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with J. D. Thomas and Lela Rigsby Thomas, November 14, 2000. Interview K-0507. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0507)
Author: Rob Amberg
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with J. D. Thomas and Lela Rigsby Thomas, November 14, 2000. Interview K-0507. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0507)
Author: J. D. Thomas and Lela Rigsby Thomas
Description: 172 Mb
Description: 57 p.
Note: Interview conducted on November 14, 2000, by Rob Amberg; recorded in Madison County, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Sarah Schuckman.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with J. D. Thomas and Lela Rigsby Thomas, November 14, 2000.
Interview K-0507. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Thomas, J. D., interviewee
Thomas, Lela Rigsby, interviewee


Interview Participants

    J. D. THOMAS, interviewee
    LELA RIGSBY THOMAS, interviewee
    ROB AMBERG, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ROB AMBERG:
It is Tuesday, November 14, year 2000. This is Rob Amberg, and I am in the home of J. D. and Lela Thomas on Sprinkle Creek, in upper Madison County, North Carolina. J. D., could you just tell me your name and your age? What I want to do is get a voice check on you.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, my name is J. D. Thomas, and I'm seventy years old.
ROB AMBERG:
And Lela, could you do the same?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
My name is Lela Thomas, and I'm sixty-eight years old. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
ROB AMBERG:
One thing that's always interested me about the two of you is that you were both raised right here.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right here.
ROB AMBERG:
About a mile and a half up Sprinkle Creek?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
A mile and a half exactly. One mile and a half from the road.
ROB AMBERG:
From highway 23?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
From highway 23. One mile and a half exactly.
ROB AMBERG:
J. D., you're seventy-one—going to be seventy one.
J. D. THOMAS:
Going to be seventy-one.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I'll be sixty-nine pretty soon.
ROB AMBERG:
So you have a real experience with this place.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yes, that's right. We do.
ROB AMBERG:
So, Lela, what do you remember about growing up?

Page 2
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, I remember living in a house that was right here. It was a real old boarded house. Real old, old house. It was torn down and this little house was built, which I grew up in when I was going to school. I know that this road was just a little old narrow rutted out dirt road. There was no bridge over there. There was just a little old trail of foot logs over here at the bridge. This little narrow road, and there was trees on both sides. It was rutted out and muddy and all that.
ROB AMBERG:
How did people get in and out on that road, then?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, they had to have a truck that would go through the mud—like a four-wheel drive or a jeep—to get through those roads at the time. And the bus had a hard time getting up the road.
ROB AMBERG:
So did the road run through the creek part of the time?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It ran through the creek, yes it did. Just a small footlog you might say, to go across it. Some planks that was put across the creek.
ROB AMBERG:
So it forded the creek in different places.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Forded. Right, right.
ROB AMBERG:
It didn't actually run down the creek at any part of it?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
No, no.
ROB AMBERG:
It did?
J. D. THOMAS:
It did.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Did it?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yes, it did. Right out here, down through there two or three hundred feet.
ROB AMBERG:
It ran through the creek, though?

Page 3
J. D. THOMAS:
It was the creek. That was the road. Yes.
ROB AMBERG:
That's not an unusual thing, I think, for these mountain kind of places. That was always the easiest place to put it because it was already carved out.
J. D. THOMAS:
Of course, it was mainly rock in the creek and all like that. But as you said, fording other creeks on down where the other bridges are, traffic then—the old T models and '28 Chevrolets—had to ford the creeks.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
They sure did.
J. D. THOMAS:
If you didn't have high water.
ROB AMBERG:
Lela, you were talking about school. Where did you go to school? What was the name of that school?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Down on highway 23 there's an old brown building on the left as you go up 23. I went to school there for five years.
ROB AMBERG:
And what was that called?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
California Creek School. California Creek.
ROB AMBERG:
And then where did you go after that?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
To Mars Hill.
ROB AMBERG:
So you walked down to the smaller place?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Most of the time we did, yes.
ROB AMBERG:
You had to have ridden the bus to go to Mars Hill.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yeah, sixth grade.
ROB AMBERG:
And that was a pretty interesting trip?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It was a new experience. Yes, it was a new experience. [Laughter] Yeah, really wild! It really was an experience boarding the bus.

Page 4
ROB AMBERG:
Why?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, all the crowds and the hub-dubbing getting on the bus and off the bus, and having to go up all these roads, pick up all these kids.
ROB AMBERG:
So there were a lot of kids riding the bus?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yeah. There were about three—let's see, Chandler Creek and Holcombe Branch and this road had kids on that one bus. I mean, we were really jammed on that bus.
ROB AMBERG:
J. D., do you remember that also?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, a matter of fact I can tell you one thing, Rob. The road was muddy and dusty in the summer time, what have you. Families were fairly large in those days, and when the bus came up through here and picked up it gathered exactly forty-one students on this creek alone. So you can compare that with the other creeks and the large families up and down the other creeks.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
There were the Butners, the Cheltons, the Thomases, me, the Barricks, the Walrens.
ROB AMBERG:
Wow. And everybody had fairly large families.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right, right!
ROB AMBERG:
How many siblings do you have?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Just one brother.
ROB AMBERG:
You have one brother?
J. D. THOMAS:
Seven.
ROB AMBERG:
Now, you all were both raised here.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right here.

Page 5
ROB AMBERG:
Lela, you were raised right on this place?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right here, yes, sir. Right on this place in a little house right here.
ROB AMBERG:
And J. D., you were raised . . .
J. D. THOMAS:
Up the road about a half a mile.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Where the Flutys live now.
ROB AMBERG:
Okay.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
He was born in that house.
J. D. THOMAS:
Flutys live in that house. They've remodeled that house. The house was probably built in late 1800s.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
At the time he was there it was just one big house. It had four big rooms. It had this one fireplace in the middle; you could walk all around the fireplace and all around the house, you know. It was one big fireplace.
J. D. THOMAS:
But dad and mother came in here in 19 and 19 [1919]. Now, they lived in an old log cabin that didn't have any floors in it; a dirt floor.
ROB AMBERG:
On this creek?
J. D. THOMAS:
On this creek, yes. Right below where Kenneth Butler lives right now, about a hundred feet down.
ROB AMBERG:
Where do they come from?
J. D. THOMAS:
She came from Mitchell County, and he came from Yancey County.
ROB AMBERG:
Okay, so not too far. Just moving a little bit farther west.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah. After they got drawn out there they settled in here.

Page 6
ROB AMBERG:
And what did your father do?
J. D. THOMAS:
He farmed. Farmer.
ROB AMBERG:
So when they moved in here he was intending to farm and wanting to farm?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, yeah.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
He raised cattle and farmed. Well, you'd take basically all like that and everything. That went on like that until I guess 19 and 30 [1930] when they had the Depression and all like that. He rented or sharecropped or whatever phrase you wish to phrase that with, Rob.
ROB AMBERG:
Now was he raising tobacco, too?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yes. Yes he was.
ROB AMBERG:
And this was up here where the Flutys are?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah.
ROB AMBERG:
Okay. That's Dale's mother and father, right?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right.
J. D. THOMAS:
That's Dale's mother and father where they are right there.
ROB AMBERG:
So, part of the reason to have a big family is that it provides you with some workhands.
J. D. THOMAS:
[Laughter] You're exactly right!
ROB AMBERG:
Was that your experience?
J. D. THOMAS:
That was the experience, because the older siblings—brothers and or sisters—would help mother raise the family. Ladies would do the housework inside, and the boys as they got older would take charge outside. Well, you go back to

Page 7
Daniel Boone or David Crockett and see the old Walt Disney movies—that's exactly what went on.
ROB AMBERG:
So you were born in 1930?
J. D. THOMAS:
1930.
ROB AMBERG:
So, I would expect that you probably had some chores even by the time you were five or six? You maybe had some things to do. I'm curious about what that would've been.
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, I as a boy would have had the—not being the youngest boy—I have one brother that's five years younger than I, but the other brothers were older. My chores would be when they were in field to carry to them if they needed water, as you have seen and all like that.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Or food.
J. D. THOMAS:
And then I would stay around the house. Maybe I would fix wood up with an axe when I was old enough for to cook with or to heat with in the winter time. The other things you could do, you had hogs to feed; you had chickens to feed and the other animals on the farm. After I got old enough I could do that rather than go to field and [do] those harder jobs; [Laughter] those much greater tasks that the older boys would do.
ROB AMBERG:
So you learned to figure out ways to stay out of the field?
J. D. THOMAS:
Oh yes! [Laughter] Oh yeah, I sure did.
ROB AMBERG:
I can understand that. Was your family farming, Lela?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, that's a long story. My mother and her two sisters raised me and my brother. There wasn't any factories or anything. They more or

Page 8
less worked in fields and gardens, and did housework and all that stuff, for other people. They would set tobacco, they would [unclear] the tobacco. They would hoe corn, they would schuck corn and whatever.
ROB AMBERG:
And your father?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, he left me and my brother when I was five. I was five, and he was two. So we didn't have a father. We didn't actually have a father.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm sorry to hear that. So, you were not really farming on your own here?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
No, everybody—well, we raised a garden.
ROB AMBERG:
Oh, sure.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We raised a big garden, but we helped all the neighbors do their farming. Well, I used to ride the tobacco—back years ago you had to drop the plants and set them with a stick. I would drop them and J. D. would set them out.
ROB AMBERG:
So you all worked together back then?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah, even back then. Went to school together.
J. D. THOMAS:
[Laughter] She's going to tell on us, Rob!
ROB AMBERG:
That's amazing.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We went to school together, we played together, we worked together. He and me and his sister and brother. Then when he joined the marine corps he started writing to me. Then when he come home, we'd go out. And then, here we are. [Laughter]
ROB AMBERG:
That's wonderful. So you've literally known each other all your lives.

Page 9
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
All our lives, right.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Even the old house that they lived in over there when they moved in. It was just an old old house. We used to go over there and go out in the fields and herd the cows in and all that stuff, you know.
ROB AMBERG:
J. D., when did your family move over about half a mile down the creek—over to what I know as the Babbit farm?
J. D. THOMAS:
Well that was right after the Depression. People were getting back on their feet. Really, the Depression—there was money at the time; our governments did not know how to control all of that and what have you. So, at that time, the property we lived on belonged to the bank. One of the banks in Marshall. Okay, they got a chance to sell it to somebody. That was going to force my dad and all of our family to move out, [and] he did not want to buy it at that time. So he found this place over here—125 acres over here—which is known as the Babbit farm today, and he purchased it.
ROB AMBERG:
And what year was that?
J. D. THOMAS:
1936.
ROB AMBERG:
'36, okay. So the Depression was—
J. D. THOMAS:
Getting over with.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Then you got the new house in 1949? Was [that] when the new house was built?
J. D. THOMAS:
No.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
1946?

Page 10
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, as she said the old house. There are a lot of people will not believe, Rob, but these older houses—her house here at that time was not as rudely built as the one we moved into before we remodelled. You could actually see the cracks in the floor.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
And in the walls.
J. D. THOMAS:
In the walls. And when you waked up in the winter time some mornings you would have snow on your bedclothes. We used feather beds; we used straw tics when the thrashers come. Some of these people will be interested in that. Thrashers used to come around once a year to thrash your wheat, your grain and all like that, which in turn you went to a watermill to grind grain of all kind. It was run by water with a waterwheel, and you would take all that down and grind it. If you did not have any money to pay for that they would toll the grains so much and keep it.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
As a matter of fact, down here at the end of the road where the Hawkins live—he had a mill grinder. Old Hawkins did.
J. D. THOMAS:
Well eventually on up after about 1940 a lot of them began to get mechanized. Mills that they could grind, like that.
ROB AMBERG:
On your farm, then, do you remember getting your first vehicle?
J. D. THOMAS:
My first vehicle?
ROB AMBERG:
On your place.
J. D. THOMAS:
First vehicle on the place? We was living up here, and I guess I was four years old. 1934. Dad had an old 1928 Chevrolet. To go to Marshall and come back, it took all day long on account of the roads. There wasn't any paved roads, and if it

Page 11
was rainy weather and the ruts was real deep, you'd break a tire; you'd break an axle or you'd break a towbar. Something like that.
ROB AMBERG:
So 23 wasn't paved either?
J. D. THOMAS:
No. 23 wasn't even built. I'll get back to that. I know I was only four years old, and I saw the French Broad River and that scared me to death! [Laughter]
ROB AMBERG:
You'd never seen anything that big?
J. D. THOMAS:
Never seen anything that big! I'd saw all of our creeks and streams. In 1937 they started working on Highway 23. Down here there was a road coming in from Asheville down to about the county line. The road a-going in to Yancey County was unpaved; the road a-going in to Tennessee was unpaved; the road a-going to Marshall and all points east, west, north and south were unpaved. 1937 they got this road going through here, and in 1939 they opened highway between Tennessee going into Asheville. 1941 we got our first electricity in here.
ROB AMBERG:
You remember being without electricity?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh, I used to study by an oil lamp. Yes, and we had battery-powered radios. No TVs, no nothing. My daughter says, "Mother, well what did you do? How did you survive?" I said, "Well, Kim, that's all I knew!" I had to find ways to entertain myself. I had a battery-powered radio and oil kerosene lamps, and wood stoves to heat by and cook with.
ROB AMBERG:
Did you all ever heat with coal at any time?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Just wood.

Page 12
J. D. THOMAS:
No, not really, because most all the farmers and all the boys—when they got most all of the fall crops in and all like that, before snow started coming in about Thanksgiving along to Christmas all families had to set aside two weeks to go to the mountains, saw the trees down, take their sleds team down the rocks, what have you, to get the wood in and get that laid in right next to the house or the wood shed, if they had a wood shed. All these out buildings. Most all of the families at that time, like one big house today that will cover everything—the families in those days had they an out-building for each thing. They had a hog pen. They had a chicken house. They had a barn for the cattle. They had a hay barn. They had a blacksmith place. Corn cribs and all like that, whereas today it's all combined in one.
ROB AMBERG:
And probably a tobacco barn, too?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, tobacco barn. Right.
ROB AMBERG:
So 23 didn't even exist, then, until '37?
J. D. THOMAS:
'39 they finally opened it up.
ROB AMBERG:
How did you get into Marshall? What route did you take?
J. D. THOMAS:
They were old roads that mostly was made, Rob, in I'd say the early 1900s— well, even earlier than that. I'd go back to say 18 and 50 [1850] up to 1900 when they was in here. The reason it's called California Creek, some people was coming from down east and got over this far. They thought they was in California. So that's how California Creek got its name. And most of them was roads—trails—that the pioneers had used coming in here. So we would leave right here, you would go down, you would ford one, two, three creeks. Then you would go on down to California Creek, following the old ox-cart or the old horse and wagon trails on down lower California

Page 13
Creek. After you got down towards lower California Creek Ivy, you turned and went across what is known as the John White Hill. They had a dirt road out through there. Mars Hill at that time, no pavement there. It had board sidewalks. Then you headed down toward [unclear] Creek and Bull Creek, Hayses Run, Halewood and all those points. I don't know, ride it out dirt roads you got down to Marshall. Now, I do believe at that time in the 30s—the road from Asheville to Marshall—I believe they paved that road roughly in 1920s or 1916, Rob.
ROB AMBERG:
So that would have been the old [Highway] 25-70?
J. D. THOMAS:
25-70 into Marshall, yeah, because they had the railroad tracks. That was another amazing thing to see all those coal-fired engines pulling those big long trains through all that. And also looking at pulling in the passenger trains like that. It was a real experience.
ROB AMBERG:
[unclear] the old Buncombe Turnpike, and that was the main road.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, that was the main road on in to Greenville and Oxville and all those points in there. But we were isolated in here until late '30s, early '40s.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well I've been snowed in for weeks and weeks. Couldn't even step out the door hardly. We'd wake up and there'd be ice in the milk.
ROB AMBERG:
Now, did you have a spring box?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah, and there'd be ice in the milk. Little chips of thin ice in the milk.
J. D. THOMAS:
Why, I forgot [about the] spring house a while ago, where you had your spring and your spring box that you kept—
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Your butter.

Page 14
ROB AMBERG:
You mentioned on some mornings you'd wake up and there would be snow on coverlets and things like that.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yes.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right.
J. D. THOMAS:
But as things progressed on and we got electricity people started to make a little more, do a little more. The farming seemed to increase a little bit as the government and state stepped in to support prices on all that stuff. Today where you see everything grown up you could look out and see many many pretty bluegrass fields, and cattle and horses and sheep and goats and all like that.
ROB AMBERG:
So there was a lot of people right in through here. Farming was the main thing.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yeah, that was it. You had to farm.
ROB AMBERG:
People were doing tobacco and cattle, and probably hay.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Corn.
J. D. THOMAS:
Until after WWII nothing really got into high gear like it is today.
ROB AMBERG:
This road through here, then, was a real rut?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yes it was.
ROB AMBERG:
When you were talking about being in the '30s and going down to Marshall, I was thinking that there's probably still a number of families that are travelling by horse and wagon.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yes, there were!

Page 15
J. D. THOMAS:
That happened on up until the road was complete in 1939, because in going over here to the old California Creek Church house—when the road come through they had to move it up the hill about 200 yards or so.
ROB AMBERG:
The church house?
J. D. THOMAS:
The church itself, which was established in 1869. And Lord have mercy, we used to go over there in the early '30s on up until I guess nearly '40. You would see wagons and buggies and all like that. People used those that could not afford vehicles and all like that, Rob.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
To go to church.
J. D. THOMAS:
Everything like that.
ROB AMBERG:
You're both interested in music. Do you remember a family that would have lived a little bit over the mountain, over towards Bear Branch in that area, named the Callaways? It was two brothers. They were musicians, and they travelled. They ended up being in the Grand Ole' Opry. It was two brothers.
J. D. THOMAS:
I guess those two brothers were probably some kin to me, because my daddy's sisters married into that family. The Callahan brothers?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh, the Callahan brothers! I remember them!
ROB AMBERG:
They lived over on Bear Branch.
J. D. THOMAS:
They lived over on Bear Branch. They sure did, that's right.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
They sure did!
ROB AMBERG:
He was telling me about when they were young and getting started, that they would just travel on up this road—all up and down through here—by

Page 16
wagon, doing shows and things like that. I'm curious as to whether you remember any of that.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I do. I remember real well.
J. D. THOMAS:
I sure do. I remember in 19 and 37, Bill Monroe debuted down here at California Creek School.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yes.
J. D. THOMAS:
The price to go see Bill Monroe at that time was about one nickle for children and a dime for the grown ups.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
And then we have a neighbor that used to live up in this house, Rob. Up above us. Syvla Shelton. He would sing these old, old timey ways. He would go to singing schools. He would teach, he'd have his jew's harp. He would always sing.
ROB AMBERG:
What was his name?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Sylvan Shelton.
J. D. THOMAS:
If you want to find out more about him, go out here and see Richard Dillingham at the artifacts—at the college.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We have one of his tapes right now.
J. D. THOMAS:
Richard has got a whole lot on that.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We have his tape that he made.
ROB AMBERG:
Well, that all really interests me. Like you were saying, it was a very isolated place, but yet people found ways to get out when they needed to get out. But also mainly just lived right here. Your whole life was—
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right here.

Page 17
J. D. THOMAS:
Each family was, you might say, self-sufficient. They didn't really have to go and buy much anything that they needed, except maybe coffee, sugar, some other things that they wanted to indulge in that they could not make themselves. But you had molasses, which you used as sweet material. You had all kind of fruits; you had all kind of grapes. You had all kind of other berries. The can house and the apple house, meat house and all those things were stocked full—as you read in the history books—right on up until 19 and 40.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We would can beans; we would can corn; we would can berries. Potatoes. Sweet potatoes, all that.
ROB AMBERG:
So even during the Depression I'm sensing that you all had food.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yes, we did.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah.
ROB AMBERG:
And you took care of yourselves, basically. You had plenty of water, plenty of wood.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Spring out back for the water.
ROB AMBERG:
So when did you leave to go into the Marines, J. D.?
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, I left in January, 1951. That was about the time the Korean War was getting situated after World War II. Seems like World War I got over with in 1917 and lagged along [until] 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Five years after that they sent the advisors over to Korea and they were calling up many, many men. I had planned on farming, but I kept getting [unclear] card, [unclear] card, [unclear] card, so I told dad

Page 18
and the family members that I was not a-going to wait any longer; I was going to go ahead and join up, get my tour duty over with.
ROB AMBERG:
You weren't thinking that "God I need to get out of here." You had planned on staying here and farming. That's what you were going to do?
J. D. THOMAS:
Right.
ROB AMBERG:
Right on the homeplace?
J. D. THOMAS:
Right on the homeplace. So I went into service and put my three years in there, got to travel part of the world and see what it was like and all like that. I got out in January of 19 and 54, and this buddy of mine that had been in the army enticed me to go down to work for the federal government in South Carolina. And the little lady over here enticed me to "let's get married" in July in 1954. [Laughter]
ROB AMBERG:
It was all you, right. He had nothing to do with it. [Laughter] It's good to know who wears the pants in the family. So you all got married in '54?
J. D. THOMAS:
1954.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
And moved to Augusta, Georgia.
ROB AMBERG:
How long did you stay in Georgia?
J. D. THOMAS:
We stayed down there until 1965.
ROB AMBERG:
So, eleven years?
J. D. THOMAS:
All of our kids were born down there.
ROB AMBERG:
And during that time when you were gone, when you had moved to South Carolina, did you all come back up here pretty regularly?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yes. He worked night shift, so we'd leave Friday morning. Stay until about Monday, and we'd go back to Georgia.

Page 19
ROB AMBERG:
So you came up every few months? Did you come up for Decorations and things like that?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, Homecomings and like that, whatever. We'd usually load the trunk of the car down with watermelons, and when peaches got ripe we'd bring all the family peaches. They had to wait for the peach trucks. They had a farmer's market, I guess you might say, back then, whenever it was established. I don't recall what time. But we could go to the orchards down there and pick up watermelons almost for nothing.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
After we came back from Georgia they built that bridge and paved that road up this way.
ROB AMBERG:
So during that time between '54 and '65—or at the beginning—when you left, this road was still a dirt road?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It was. It wasn't paved 'till we got back from Georgia.
ROB AMBERG:
Was it improved from that time when you were younger or [did you] still ford the creeks?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
No, they'd built bridges.
J. D. THOMAS:
They built bridges on it sometime. I don't remember when.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
They put gravel on it.
ROB AMBERG:
You don't remember when, though?
J. D. THOMAS:
No, that was in between the time we was away from here. Because the time we was away from here—all the young boys and girls, eight, ten, twelve years old—you gone ten years, you come back, you don't even know them!

Page 20
They've got a family and they're married and all that. So after we came back here in '65, about all we knew was the older people.
ROB AMBERG:
So when you went into the army in '51, that would have been a time when this road was still pretty rough? And then you got back and you all left and went down to Georgia, and then in between that ten/eleven year period, that's when they started making some improvements.
J. D. THOMAS:
Change was not as fast as it is today, but there was improvements made all along.
ROB AMBERG:
So when you all would come back—if you stayed away for three, four, six months, something would have been different?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yes.
ROB AMBERG:
Do you remember any of those periods? Those drives back? And just getting closer to home and you'd get anxious to be there and see everybody and then say, "God, what happened there?" Do you remember any of that?
J. D. THOMAS:
Lela, they had built—when did they start the four lanes in Asheville? In what year?
ROB AMBERG:
In the '70s, I think.
J. D. THOMAS:
We were back here then.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
When our kids were in school they would watch the men working on the road. We had a big old willow tree in the yard, and they took a good part of our yard and took the big willow tree.
J. D. THOMAS:
But they had not made very many changes over the years. Nothing more than put a bridge down here, and one out there, and one down at Mr.

Page 21
Carter's down here. They had not done that much different. Let's see, Harold Wallin built a new house, and some more had built houses, but outside of that it was basically the same.
ROB AMBERG:
I remember you telling me about them when they were grading the road, and how it used to be a horse-drawn grader?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, I can sure remember when you would grade a road and you had a team. What you would call a dirt pan. It looked like a wheelbarrow but it was flattened out, and you would put your team or your ox in front of that and hold that thing. As they go along a-pulling it would scoop up dirt. Then you would flop it down a little bit, and it'd scoot, and then you'd flip it over. A dirt pan.
ROB AMBERG:
And road crews?
J. D. THOMAS:
Road crews, that's what they were using. Then I remember the mid-'30s they had some caterpillar-like vehicles. Road machinery. Then they had what they'd call a road scrape behind it, which was manually operated by hand like a wheel chair. That would raise the blade up and down, and the man up here would be pulling that with a chain or maybe a steel bar. That was the road scrape. Took two people to do that.
ROB AMBERG:
It was almost two separate pieces.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, two separate pieces.
ROB AMBERG:
Those must have been some rough roads back then. You were talking about going out and you'd bust an axle or you'd bust a tire. Was that a regular—
J. D. THOMAS:
That was an everyday thing. I don't know what year they finally put starters on the cars and put a battery in, but they used to run with a magneta. You had

Page 22
to get out and hand crank them. I know you've seen them in pictures, and maybe you've seen cars like that.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
But it took forever to get even to Mars Hill then. It was, "Are we going to ever get there? Where is this place?"
ROB AMBERG:
Now, were there gas stations out there? Where would you get gas? Where would you go to work on a car?
J. D. THOMAS:
Most of the people had a screwdriver, pair of pliers, and hay bailing wire. That would take care of most of you're A-Models, your T-Models and all like that. [Laughter]
ROB AMBERG:
That's great.
J. D. THOMAS:
They knew how to do most of them and did that, because there were so many things happened along the way. We had no wreckers; we had no way of getting the car there or anything like that. But you did have mechanics in Mars Hill. Then the stores before electricity come to had the old hand pump gas stations. Doc Ramsey's store here; Eddie Bryant's store—well, Edgar Bryant's store—over on [Puncheon?] Fork. Edgar Bryant and Zetty Bryant. The old store over there, where the old Murray Branch before Highway 23 was built. Doc Ramsey, over here on Highway 23 had one.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
An old store.
ROB AMBERG:
And you would not only get gas out at Doc Ramsey's, but he would have other things right?

Page 23
J. D. THOMAS:
They had a whole complete thing, because a store at that time was a grocery store, it was a dry goods store, it was hardware. Everything combined into one.
ROB AMBERG:
So might he have even parts for a Model A or something like that?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yes. They would keep anything and everything. They had all things for your house—all kind of brooms, all kind of stuff like that. The women, if they needed any kind of washpans and what have you. It was, what shall we—general merchandise, everything. And even for the teams and all like that, they had harnesses and pads and collars, and all like that. Even the ones that had wagons, they had wood, made wheels, or you could buy the spokes and the hub and also the steel rim. They all had parts for that and everything.
ROB AMBERG:
So you could take care of everything right in this little area?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
You certainly can; most the time you could. You had to.
ROB AMBERG:
You could just walk down to Doc Ramsey's?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh, yes.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, you could walk down there.
ROB AMBERG:
When you were doing that, then, you were young and coming up like that, and you would walk down to what became Highway 23 eventually. Would you know most of the people along the way?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Everybody. Everybody knew everybody.
ROB AMBERG:
And did you go to church up here?

Page 24
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We'd walk from here to California Creek Church, up Highway 23.
ROB AMBERG:
And how far was that?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I guess two miles.
J. D. THOMAS:
Two and a half.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Two and a half miles we'd walk to church.
J. D. THOMAS:
Two and a half miles from down there where we used to walk. We'd walk to 23 and it's a mile and a half from here, so that'd be two miles and a half.
ROB AMBERG:
You mentioned Decoration days. Was that a pretty active thing when you were coming up?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
That was a big thing. The cemetery down here right below us, which is called the Sprinkle Creek Cemetery. Let's see, my grandparents, my great grandparents. I've got an aunt; I've got some cousins. J. D. has his grandmother and granddaddy and aunt and uncle down there. We'd have a big thing every year. We'd have maybe dinner and singers and speakers. It'd be an all day thing. Everybody [unclear] . They had a big [unclear] on that hill. We'd get together.
ROB AMBERG:
And so there were a number of families that are in that cemetery, and it would be families all from the community?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right. From other counties.
ROB AMBERG:
Now, does that still go on?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
No. Well, they still come there, but we don't have any speakers or anything. We just come in maybe on Saturday or Sunday, and they

Page 25
[unclear] , and that's it. There's no [unclear] . The old people who used to do that are long gone [unclear] .
ROB AMBERG:
When did that change? Do you remember?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Let me think. I was there in high school. I would say about late '40s.
ROB AMBERG:
Oh, so that was a long time ago. Then, it's really slowed down.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
When I was going to high school that was a thing of the past. Nobody did anything then except go and decorate the graves, and that was it.
ROB AMBERG:
Wow, that's really kind of amazing to think that it was so long ago.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It's been a long time, because I graduated from high school in 1950 and there wasn't anything going on down and the cemetery.
ROB AMBERG:
So did you think about getting out of here when you were in high school? When you were sixteen or seventeen years old? You had to know there was stuff going on out in the world at that time.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I was hoping to get out and do something when I got through high school, but I didn't have any idea what or where. I went to Asheville. There was the J. J. Newberry store. It was a dime store and they had this record counter, so I worked in the music department for I guess two years while J. D. was in the service. I sold records, record players, music, all that stuff.
ROB AMBERG:
Is that right?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
In this dime store. Sure did!
ROB AMBERG:
How did you get there?

Page 26
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Ken Butler worked at the weather department. I'd ride with him. He worked in the weather bureau.
ROB AMBERG:
So you would have been eighteen, nineteen, twenty?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah.
ROB AMBERG:
Now, is that when your interest in music developed?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I guess, because people would come in to the Asheville City—it was called Auditorium then. They'd put on programs. So one weekend, Ray Price was going to be there, and his band. So this man came in and said, "Do you have anything from Ray Price?" And "Yes," I said, "I have all his records. I love Ray Price." He said, "I'm Ray Price." [Laughter]
ROB AMBERG:
That's great!
J. D. THOMAS:
They had a great big record bar there, Rob. That thing was huge.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I'd play the records for them right there, all that stuff. They'd come in and say, What's so-and-so's greatest hit, or their latest hit or whatever. Or, what is number one? I'd get it for them. We ordered all the records for them, and I'd get it and play it for them.
ROB AMBERG:
And you played music in the store then?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yeah, continually.
ROB AMBERG:
So you were kind of like a DJ?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right, yeah.
ROB AMBERG:
So at that point you were spending some time in Asheville and going to some of those concerts, too.

Page 27
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yes! All-night singings and country music things.
ROB AMBERG:
Did you think, "God, now I've got to go back to Sprinkle Creek."
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
[Laughter] Yeah, right! What am I going to do when I get home?
ROB AMBERG:
So that caused you to think about, "I'd like to get away from here."
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
There was one period where this girlfriend of mine—I worked upstairs, and she worked downstairs. She lived in West Asheville, so I stayed with her for a little while.
ROB AMBERG:
So you liked that?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I liked that, yeah.
ROB AMBERG:
What did you like about it?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Getting to-and-from easier, you know.
ROB AMBERG:
But did you like being in town?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Where all the activity was. I enjoyed that; I really did.
ROB AMBERG:
J. D. when you left to go into the army in '51—and you were 21 years old—were you thinking that when you came back you might farm still? Or were you thinking that you had gotten out and seen the world a little bit and seen that things were maybe different out there than they were up here on Sprinkle Creek? Did it cause you to change your thinking about what you were going to do when you got back?

Page 28
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, not really Rob, because I had still planned when I come back in January—I knew I would get out in January—that I would have time to make plans for springtime. But after you're gone a while and all like that, then other things develop. Well, dad died there in the time I was in service; he died in June of 19 and 52. He wasn't all that old at the time—he was only fifty-six years old when he passed away. And there was other things come up, so I just decided I'm not a-going to interfere with family and all like that. I'll find me something. And as I said, a friend of mine told me to come on down to South Carolina and—or Georgia—and there would be work down there. So I thought well, "I'll give that a try and see what it's like." But it was a life where you got into working with the federal government—into the Atomic Energy Commission, and then you had to go to school, go to school, go to school and become a—oh, what are we going to call it—a nuclear physicist or all this other stuff. You had to learn everything about atomic energy and all like that. At the time, the outside world knew nothing of what was going on. It was real tight security and all like that. You couldn't even tell your family or none of your friends what you was doing there.
ROB AMBERG:
So this was down near Augusta?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It was in Akin, that's right.
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, that was over there. They did away with the little town of New Ellington, but it was near Augusta. It was near Beach Island. It was near Akin and all like that. The [unclear] is about the size of Chicago, Illinois. It covers something like 625 acres or something like that. Twenty-five square miles or something like that.
ROB AMBERG:
Wow, that's a big place.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah.

Page 29
ROB AMBERG:
So you stayed there until 1965, and you were in your younger thirties. And you had children by that time?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah. Three boys and a girl.
ROB AMBERG:
And then you moved back up here?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah. We lived in Mars Hill for a while, then came up. At the time his brother lived in a little old house that was here. He left and went down to Salisbury to live, so we come up here and we bought this house, and moved up here then. That was about the time they were working on this road right here—paving the road, building the bridge.
ROB AMBERG:
And so when you got back, you were thirty-three or so. And four children. Young children. What did J. D. do?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
He got a job at Enka. American Enka. He worked there for eleven years, then the department he was in was completely closed down. So then he went to Broad River up on the river road, lived there. Then he came back with the Madison County School System, and worked there until he retired in '92.
ROB AMBERG:
What did you do with the school system?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Everything.
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, I started out as a custodian. And with the knowledge that I had on machinery and all like that, I finally started doing electrical work, carpentry work, maintenance work.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Keep the furnaces going.
J. D. THOMAS:
Bill Sears—the superintendent—one day came in and said, "JD, I need you in the maintenance department." So he signed me up for the last four or five

Page 30
years I was with the county there. I did maintenance work all over the county—going to Spring Creek, Marshall, Hot Springs—on building committees, on different things like that.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ROB AMBERG:
[unclear] in '65 and moved back up here, would you have rather stayed out in a city or in a bigger place?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, sometimes I did wish I was back in Georgia. A lot of good friends, and I enjoyed living down there. Although it was hot, I still liked Augusta. But then I got the kids all in school, and I went to work. I enjoyed it when I went to work and got settled back up here and everything.
ROB AMBERG:
So where did the kids go to school?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Mars Hill Elementary School and High School.
ROB AMBERG:
That would have been Mars Hill High School?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
At the time, yes.
ROB AMBERG:
Did any of them ever go to the consolidated high school?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah, our two older boys were the first ones to graduate from the new school in '74. Then we had a son and daughter graduate from there, one in '76 and one in '83.
ROB AMBERG:
So everybody graduated from the new school, then. Your two older boys went to school and did most of their time at Mars Hill. Where did you work when you moved back?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, when I first came back I did substitute work at the school cafeteria. Then I got a job at AB Emblem in [unclear] . Inspector on the patches. I

Page 31
worked there for nineteen years. Then I worked at this other little plant up on Rim's Creek, and worked there four years. That's where I retired from. The plant was right above the telephone company. It was called Swissartex.
ROB AMBERG:
So those would have been mills pretty much.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Factories, yeah. Or plants.
ROB AMBERG:
Did you do a bunch of different jobs in the mill?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I was mostly chief inspector on all the patches that were made. They more or less came by me, and I would okay them and send them out to the customer. That's what I did.
ROB AMBERG:
Did you like that?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I loved it; I really did.
ROB AMBERG:
Did you work with some good people?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yes. It was like one big happy family up in this little plant on Rim's Creek.
J. D. THOMAS:
Every morning she went in, she'd take them a paper, Rob. "Well, here comes gramma with a paper!" They knew that. And she also made the coffee for them.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I was the first one there, and I'd make a big ole' urn of coffee for everybody that came in.
ROB AMBERG:
You talked about it being like a family. Did you all do things together also? Were there company parties?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yeah, we had dinners and parties and all that. We enjoyed that. We knew each other just like one big family.

Page 32
ROB AMBERG:
Are you in contact with any of those people still?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah, I have spent a little—we'd call each other and meet each other at Rose's.
J. D. THOMAS:
Most of the time we go to Rose's on a Wednesday afternoon, and we'd see anywhere from four, five, six or to dozen people. That is senior citizen's day at Roses. [Laughter] Or Hardy's, or what have you.
ROB AMBERG:
So there's places that you go? And you'll hook up with folks, just knowing that they're going to be there?
J. D. THOMAS:
You was talking about people getting along with people. You did not have to lock doors back in those days when we were growing up. Everybody knew everybody. If Rob Amberg broke a leg and could not work, all the neighbors would gather around and do all of his work for him until he recuperated. That's the same way, when you go to all these plants and all like that. People sharing and being each other's brother's keeper.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
As a matter of fact, this plant that I retired from, I was always going in and making everybody laugh. When I left they said, "Oh, this is like a morgue. Why don't you come back? This is like a morgue since you left!" I even gave the manager a fit doing things to make him laugh. [Laughter] We had a real good time.
ROB AMBERG:
Every place needs a person like that.
We talked about this on numerous occasions, but obviously changes are coming around here now at a much faster rate it seems like. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that. How things are—

Page 33
since you've moved back? It's a long time you've been here, and a lot of things have changed.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yes, there's [unclear] , and Micro Switch came in and the plants came in.
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, Lela, first of all, I guess there got to be a lot of traffic between here—after they built a road up, I don't know when it was built up—and Yancey County. I guess we were away here when they built that [because] that was dirt. But after we come back here a lot of traffic through in to Yancey County and Mitchell and Avery County. Lot of traffic in Tennessee after they got the one built through there. After they got the other road coming in from Asheville, down near where the present road is.
ROB AMBERG:
So that would have been 1920?
J. D. THOMAS:
1923. Those changes come in there. You started getting a lot of the big chain grocery stores, which was rooting out all of your independent grocery stores. You started getting in a lot of larger gas service stations, which was rooting out the combinations of the grocery stores and everything like that.
ROB AMBERG:
I remember I moved here in '73 in November, and I remember the Ingles in Marshall had just opened. It had been open two or three months.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We came back and the stores—when the company store was built.
ROB AMBERG:
Which one? In Mars Hill?
J. D. THOMAS:
23 Country Store, over here on 23. That's still surviving real good over there. Then they started improving the schools. Everybody wanted to

Page 34
consolidate schools—every county. I guess Madison was one of the latest to consolidate, but they were consolidated in Buncombe and all like that. Seems like every five years everything would want to modernize and all like that.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
When we first came back they had five high schools in the county. There was Mars Hill, Marshall, Hot Springs, Sprinkle Creek, Laurel—
J. D. THOMAS:
While we were away from here—I'd say in the '50s—I-40 came through, which should have gone down the river road to Tennessee, I understand. But it went through Haywood County in that direction.
ROB AMBERG:
That wasn't in the '50s, was it? It had to have been in the '60s.
J. D. THOMAS:
Oh, I don't know. I don't remember.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
In the '60s, yeah.
ROB AMBERG:
Well, I've heard the same thing, that it was supposed to come in Madison County.
J. D. THOMAS:
I don't know what year it was, but anyway. We was supposed to get a four-lane out this way. It would not be an interstate it would be a scenic highway, but it would be almost equivalent to an interstate. But after they started working on it the traffic got real heavy on I-40. After they started with I-26 out of South Carolina, from Charleston to Asheville and it dead-ended, they said, "We're going to make the interstate all the way through into Cleveland or Cincinnati, Ohio." That is when the students came in here and interviewed everybody. And it's been in the making for what now, Rob, twenty years? Fifteen?
ROB AMBERG:
Well, talking with Harold down here—he took me up to a place on his property where there was an old survey marker he claimed was put in '75, '76,

Page 35
something like that. It was a DOT highway survey marker. It was real old. He said he remembered them putting that in. And he went down to the house and told his wife that he figured there'd be a highway coming through there sometime or another. And it took them twenty years. It's amazing to me that they're thinking about this and understand that population changes are going to demand that this road will be built twenty years later.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I know when we came back everybody was saying, "I know we're going to get a new road. It's going to be either up this side of the mountain, or it's going to come up this side." We didn't know which it was going to be.
ROB AMBERG:
When do you remember people talking about that?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I guess the early 70s they were discussing the road.
ROB AMBERG:
Did that cause you all to pause?
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, you had no idea, Rob, because you thought, "Now, why are they going to build an interstate through here?" And you'd see all your east/west and north/south interstates changing. But then you look back and they said, "Well, I-26 is a-going to dead-end up here in Asheville. You all have got a four-lane out through there, but it's not an interstate."
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I know while J. D.'s momma was still at home—after his dad died—I said, "Momma, what if that road comes through your land?" And she said, "Aw, women. It'll never change. It'll never happen. We'll never have a road like that; it'll never be. I'm not worried about it."
J. D. THOMAS:
Madison County has not really grown that much.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
And then she got so she couldn't stay by herself.

Page 36
J. D. THOMAS:
Buncombe has decreased a whole lot. Yancey's not grown that—but the flow of traffic through it all.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
But had she stayed there until the road came through, they were buying the property—she said, "We would have all been rich." [Laughter]
ROB AMBERG:
No, she would have gotten used to paying prices that we're paying today and realized that it wouldn't go too far.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It sure doesn't. Let's see, my kids were in [unclear] high school. Paul and Howard was going to school; Kim graduated in '83; yeah, it was back in the late 70s.
J. D. THOMAS:
What?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
When Howard bought your momma's place, and she moved to Mars Hill.
J. D. THOMAS:
1971, somewhere there about.
ROB AMBERG:
When I talked to Lucille, she remembered somebody mentioning something about a road at that time. She said that they just didn't pay any attention to it at all. Just paid it no mind.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We didn't! We thought, "It'll never happen."
J. D. THOMAS:
On those roads you will see these little cables pulled across the road, counting traffic. Highway patrol or DOT or DMV puts them out and they get surveyed.

Page 37
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I didn't believe this road until they started over on his momma's place cutting up trees and grading. I knew what was going to happen. And we watched it from day one up until right now. We watched the whole process.
ROB AMBERG:
Obviously you can see the actual road and what it's doing. But what I'm interested in hearing is what you see changing other than the actual road itself. Has there been other changes in your community that you feel like are coming or have come in the last few years?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah, there've been a lot of houses built. And all of this place down here is going to develop.
ROB AMBERG:
Which place down here?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Across from Harold.
ROB AMBERG:
And that's going to be a housing development?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I think so. Later on. That's what I've heard.
J. D. THOMAS:
Let me see, who bought that over there? The Burnett boys from over there on Puncheon Fork bought that. They did some work, Rob, and they're in the process of settling it off in tracts of land. Maybe ten and twelve acre bits at a time. One man from New York has already been in there. One man from North Carolina has already been in there. I think he got ten acres. But he will build a house for himself and his two children. Recently we have seen a car from New Jersey sitting down along side the road. Don't know what they're doing right now, but eventually in the next few years, it will be developed.
ROB AMBERG:
When you say, "developed," what do you think it's going to look like? What do you perceive that "developed" means?

Page 38
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, we heard they were going to sell lots and later on they might build houses on those lots.
J. D. THOMAS:
Similar to this, the environmental group and/or your Corps of Engineers—what feedback are you getting on this watershed in here now?
ROB AMBERG:
I don't know anything about that.
J. D. THOMAS:
Because you're not involved in it? You're down yonder and it has nothing to do with what we go through up here. Their ordinances up here and laws up here are ten times worse than they are in the lower end of the state. Our overall law, where the water flows elsewhere from here.
ROB AMBERG:
So they're really doing a lot of water monitoring over here?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah. It also cuts back and goes into Barnardsville, over that way.
ROB AMBERG:
I saw that's all the same watershed on this side of the mountain.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
The neighbors complain about,"Oh, they're going to take this much land. They're going to take my land here, and they're going to take it there. They want to do this and do that." All these changes about what the land's going to be and stuff.
J. D. THOMAS:
No, I don't think anybody will really have a complaint on this road there, Rob, because first of all, they was going to build it down real low. As a matter of fact, the road would have been right over here at this bridge, right up through here. But according to your geologists and your surveyors and all like that, it wouldn't have been feasible. So they said, "We'll go up high on the account of pollution and what

Page 39
have you, where we can drain water. Where we can go ahead and take all the land and put it back in shape."
ROB AMBERG:
Does it disturb you? You were both raised right here and I know that you can remember back and see a different picture. How does it feel to see that the place that you were on all your life is changing this drastically?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It's just unreal. We used to walk over all those hills. We used to go after school and on the weekends, and we'd walk all the way to Big Knob. We'd play, and we'd go up in the fields and pick apples and grapes and all that stuff off the farm. It never even dawned on me that this was going to happen to that place.
ROB AMBERG:
Does it upset you that it did happen?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It did. It really did. At first it did. To see the house burnt down and his momma had to leave and all that stuff. It really did.
ROB AMBERG:
I was going to ask you. J. D., I've showed you that picture. I think I gave you a copy of that. Can you remember back that night when they did that? Was that a pretty tough thing to deal with?
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, Rob, you can date back in your life wherever your way of life was, and do you think of your family going in there—like as I stated—no house much over there. One little barn. And blessed be, we got in there and the neighbors come in, and we had to build two barns. And during the war, we had to build one little house. Brother-in-law married my older sister, wanted to live here on the farm and they built a house up for him. What gets me is this, though, not much as the road as right now seventy-five percent of all the beautiful fields is growing up into woods again.

Page 40
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
He won't admit this, but I knew that night they burned the house I could see tears.
J. D. THOMAS:
Well now, you look. I was raised there.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It really hurt him, it really did.
J. D. THOMAS:
The whole family. And I watched all of them depart. I watched when they went into service. And then I was in service when my dad passed away, and I came back to the funeral. And then after mother got disabled, she let the place go. Yeah, it brought back a whole lot of memories. It will to anyone. I don't care what they say.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I can see it now in my mind's eye. We had this big lumber pile, and we'd get up on those planks and ride up and down and just have a good time.
J. D. THOMAS:
How much time did I help build that house? All of it!
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
You did.
J. D. THOMAS:
And during the war. That there was built in World War II. That's when everything was rationed, and we had to go all over everywhere to find parts for that.
ROB AMBERG:
The lumber?
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, no, no. We had the lumber and all like that.
ROB AMBERG:
Was there a mill on the creek somewhere?
J. D. THOMAS:
No, no. Dad had a mill. Come up there and sit down three times, saw those logs and timber right out of there, and then he stacked it up where it would air-dry.
ROB AMBERG:
And these were the planks that you were playing on?

Page 41
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yes.
J. D. THOMAS:
That's what she used to play on. All those lumber piles piled up there where it would air-dry out. Oak, chestnut, poplar, cherry, bright gum, you name whatever it might have been. Then we built and cleared all of that by ourselves. Like I said, I was water boy and I done the small chores. But I was only eleven years old when the boys went into service. That left me alone right there, myself, because my younger brother was five years younger than I. He couldn't do that much. Daddy was sort of disabled. So at eleven years old, I had to. There was no way out. Of course, then, neighbors came in and they helped a lot. I don't care where.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm curious now that you're getting an influx of new people for this community. I mean, Dale is not from around here, Fluty. But most of the people here are still from right around this community. The fact that you're seeing cars from New Jersey and New York and different places. Is that a—not so much a concern—but what does that feel like?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It feels like we're being invaded. Our [unclear] has been invaded by outsiders.
ROB AMBERG:
Is that right?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I really do!
ROB AMBERG:
I'm sure that's a very strong—
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
People coming in that we don't know anything about.
ROB AMBERG:
Are you thinking that they'll bring new ways?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Right. That's what I'm afraid of most definitely.

Page 42
ROB AMBERG:
And they'll be different.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I know some of the neighbors said, "Oh, we're getting all the people from Florida. We don't need these Florida people in here, or other states to come in to buy our—park, build houses and enter our community."
ROB AMBERG:
Are you hearing kind of the same thing, J. D.?
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, I don't know. I guess when I was in service, and when I worked with the federal government and all like that, I worked with many different types of people, seeing many different types of nationalities, many different types of denominations and all like that. After we moved back here, we watched our kids grow up, Rob, and all like that and everything. And then the talk of the road and seeing cars where you would see two or three hundred a day and it'd increase to 600 a day then on up to a thousand, fifteen hundred a day. And right now you get two times that an hour. I guess in life you learn to advance real, real fast with everything else. And knowing that all these people since World War II, most everybody stayed in hometown areas. After World War II, and after TV, telephones, what have you. All means of contact of transportation and travel become known, people intermerge from all over the world and all over the states and everything. So you cannot hold anything against anybody. Whatever their rights may be, they have a right to come and do things. You cannot stand in the way of advancement or anything like that.
ROB AMBERG:
That's what it sounds like to me. That you've kind of seen changes, and you're ready to accept them.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We might as well try to accept the changes. I know this neighbor of mine was saying, "We don't need all these strange cars, all these cars up

Page 43
and down the road that used to be just a little old plot neighborhood. Now we have all this traffic."
ROB AMBERG:
So you're seeing more and more cars.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yes. Sometimes a car drives up and you don't even know who they are. Where are they going to?
J. D. THOMAS:
Let's go ahead and rephrase this now for Rob at one time about all these roads and this road at one time. This was the main route across to Laurel. I hadn't brought that up.
ROB AMBERG:
Yeah, I did know that.
J. D. THOMAS:
Okay, you did know that. Okay.
ROB AMBERG:
Well I did know that, but we didn't have it on the tape. So this road went over the mountain.
J. D. THOMAS:
Bear Branch.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Over and across.
ROB AMBERG:
Over to Bear Branch?
J. D. THOMAS:
They would travel that way. Or they would go up old Murray Branch, and come out over here where we was talking about Miss Bryant's store over there. So then I guess the next way you had to walk over to Middle Fork and go into Yancey County.
ROB AMBERG:
But even then, even when this was the main road, you probably knew most of the vehicles.
J. D. THOMAS:
Oh yeah!

Page 44
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yes. I could tell without even seeing when a car passed by. And say, "Well yeah, that's so-and-so's car."
ROB AMBERG:
And that's different.
J. D. THOMAS:
Even up in the early '30s on up until World War II we had not only our own country stores, but we used to have what you'd call a "peddler" that came through here. Now, he had everything on a big truck, and he would sell to the people rather than them having to go to stores. The stores that was large enough had a warehouse, stock rooms big enough. He'd come out once a week or once every two weeks.
ROB AMBERG:
And what would he have on this truck?
J. D. THOMAS:
Everything.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Like up here where Shelton lives, her mother-in-law had this one building. And once a week this man would come and bring candy and kerosene oil and supplies. We'd run and buy candy and all that stuff back then.
J. D. THOMAS:
But the peddler had everything. Brooms, kerosene oil, flour, sugar, coffee, fruits, eggs, bacon when it become available, and all like that and everything.
ROB AMBERG:
And would your mom buy things and swap with him also?
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, they'd swap. See, they would also buy possum hides, rabbit hides, muskrat and things like that.
ROB AMBERG:
So did you do a lot of trapping as a kid?
J. D. THOMAS:
No, no. Some of the boys did, but I did not get that interested in it. There was some pretty good prices in muskrat, and there was also some weasel and

Page 45
mink. Mink was real good. Rabbits and possums and all like that, there wasn't too much in that.
ROB AMBERG:
You don't see much mink around here any more.
J. D. THOMAS:
No, that's about extinct. The weasel—your lucky to see a weasel anymore. And foxes and other things like that, some of the prices were not that much. Muskrat was the best thing here right now. It's a sort of animal like a beaver only it's not as big.
ROB AMBERG:
Well, water repellent skin and fur, too.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
After we came back, this land over here it was just trees. It was grown up; it was a thicket. It wasn't long until Roger came in, had it all graded out and put in the trailers.
ROB AMBERG:
Wait a minute. This land right over here?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Just trees and rocks, and it was grown up.
ROB AMBERG:
This was up until the road came in?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
No, let's see when did they start?
J. D. THOMAS:
No, Babbit bought that, honey. Babbit bought that and put up the bridge over there. They had a nursery over there, and they had a hothouse over there at one time. Right over here on this little piece of land right over here. These eleven acres.
ROB AMBERG:
Oh, okay.
J. D. THOMAS:
That's where his boy got his start as a landscaper and dressing all these yards, mowing and all like.
J. D. THOMAS:
All these people coming in—and then Roger bought it.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Roger Robinson from Mars Hill.

Page 46
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah, J.F.'s boy. He's developing head over there now, and he's I think got his own franchise for the trailers in Mars Hill.
ROB AMBERG:
So do you feel like these changes are going to continue—like there's going to be more of it? Or do you think this is the end of it?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I don't know, Rob. I think there's going to be more changes. I really do. I'll bet there's going to be more houses built since this road's coming through. There's going to be more buildings.
ROB AMBERG:
Are you glad the road is being built?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I am now. Things going to be a big access to it to everybody getting to and from Tennessee, and all the truckers coming through. It's going to help the flow of traffic down there down 23.
ROB AMBERG:
Was it a couple of years ago, three years ago when I-40 was closed down for so long?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
They all came down that road. We would sit down here sometimes twenty minutes to get on that road.
ROB AMBERG:
So traffic was that heavy?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It sure was. And there were two or three wrecks a week up on the mountain.
ROB AMBERG:
It moves so fast out there, too. It's scary.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh yes. This road is going to be a big help in that respect—getting the cars off of this road.

Page 47
ROB AMBERG:
You were talking about all the new people moving in, and so there's another side of the road that maybe you're less comfortable with. It's a funny subject.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
It's something I'm going to have to get used to; have to get used to that.
ROB AMBERG:
What do you think that interchange there over into Yancey County?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh God.
ROB AMBERG:
What is that going to look like?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Explain that to me, J. D. What about that.
J. D. THOMAS:
I don't know much about it right now. The interchange right there?
ROB AMBERG:
The interchange between [Highways] 19 and 23. It seems like there would be a whole lot of growth right around through there, and changes that'll happen.
J. D. THOMAS:
That all died down. Right down there at that one area, where the church was supposed to be. Now this shows you what politics and people know. There was thirty-five acres down there, right near where the interchange is, and all like that. Many years ago there was going to be a huge shopping center down there. Somebody was foreseeing the future a whole lot farther than the state people and Mars Hill people and the county people were. But it all fell through, and all like that. But right down there, I do not like the way that they proceeded with that interchange down there, and closing off Jarvis Branch and Higgins Creek and all like that. I think what they ought to

Page 48
did was close off Higgins Creek, close off Jarvis Branch, and leave the John White Hill opened up the way it was up through there. They could have built a bridge right up through there, going in to Mars Hill and let North Main Street. Then they built an access road out there.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
But are they going to change anything down there like it goes to Middle Fork? That'll be as is?
J. D. THOMAS:
That all depends on the road that's going to go from Interchange 19 when it splits off and goes on through Madison County. They've got seven or less miles up through there that they've got to [unclear] right of way. Yancey County has got all their right away bought for a four lane that will go all the way into Boone.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
What about exit eleven going into Mars Hill? Are they going to do anything? Are they going to make a [unclear] there?
J. D. THOMAS:
Well I don't know yet.
ROB AMBERG:
On Mars Hill at 213? No, I think that's going to stay just like it is. That one there at 19—it seems to me that that one area will really just kind of—there'll be a shopping center there sometime.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Sometime there will be. And sometime there's going to be maybe a Walmart or something.
ROB AMBERG:
Especially if they increase the four lane coming from Burnsville—turn that into a four lane—which I've heard that's the next big project.
So, did you ever think you'd see anything like this?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Never in my wildest dreams. Not like this.

Page 49
J. D. THOMAS:
Not through here. In the lower lying areas, maybe. Down the river or maybe through Asheville, Hendersonville area.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
But never through here. Not in my wildest dreams, ever.
J. D. THOMAS:
Not up here anymore. Here we set today with all the conveniences of home, Rob. Whatever they've got in the city, we've got it out here.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
See, we thought we'd be out here where it'd be quiet and wouldn't have any more neighbors. Now they're moving in and building and all this hullabaloo. Coming in.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm curious. In '65 when you moved back up here—seen into the future and seen today, what do you think? Do you think you'd move back up here?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I think I would have moved. I really do.
ROB AMBERG:
Even though this road is here?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah. I love it up here. I'd still come up here. I love the mountains. I was most definitely wanting to come back. I really would.
ROB AMBERG:
I've asked people that. Especially people who have moved in from the outside, like myself—if I would have moved here if I'd known that there was going to be an interstate coming through. And this doesn't affect me so much where I am now, but it gives you pause, because roads usually bring people.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I think I would have come back, though.
ROB AMBERG:
I know you haven't farmed in years. I know you have a garden and things like that, but you haven't farmed in many, many years. Do you sense that

Page 50
people think differently about their land now than they did back when you were growing up?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh, most definitely. They would hang onto it more. They didn't want to let go of the land back then.
ROB AMBERG:
Why would people have wanted to hang on to it, do you think?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
For sentimental reasons, I'd say. Because it'd been in the family for years. Generation after generation. They want to hang on to it.
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, things were hard to come by back then. We can read our history books. Going back to one of my ancestors—William Henry Thomas—that settled down the eastern part of the state, had something like 6,000 acres down there. And when we look back at my grandmother Thomas, who was born in 1848, she was nearly a full-blooded Indian. Three quarters, something like that. We wonder what in the world happened, Rob. Did an Indian get in the woodpile somewhere down along the line or what? But no! You go back and search your history. William Henry Thomas at that time was a young boy, nineteen or twenty years old. He was well educated wherever he came from in 1730 when the Thomases—three of them—came over here. The federal government wanted to use him as a wagon-master or guide or what have you—like that—when they were moving the Indians to Oklahoma. Well, he took the job. He had a wagon, a team, a riding horse and a cow. And he went along with that. When they got to Oklahoma he did not want to bring the team and the wagon and the cow back. So he met with an old Indian of another tribe there in Oklahoma, a Chippewa or a Choctaw and he saw a sixteen-year-old Indian gal running around, and he traded a wagon a horse and a cow. And he—and the little girl's name was Two Step. She was full-blooded, what have

Page 51
you. They came back here and raised about twenty-one children. [Laughter] She died at the age of about 105, and he lived to about 115. People at that time held on to their lands. Well, we was down in Georgia. You had many of those plantation owners that still lived down there. Now Rob, those people are the happiest people in the world working those plantations. That is why we moved back here, because politics and other corruption got started in 1963, and it was a dangerous place to raise children in any time.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Let me say this. Rob, years ago my great-granddaddy owned all this property. At one time, they owned about 600 acres all around through here. When my grandmother and granddaddy died, then my mother and her two sisters didn't know how to handle things. So, people came through and more or less took the land from them.
ROB AMBERG:
That happened a lot, I think.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
They took it. They just took it, because they didn't know how to handle things.
ROB AMBERG:
Did your family own the Babbit place?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
No.
J. D. THOMAS:
At one point in time they did!
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
At one time they did, yeah.
J. D. THOMAS:
At one time they did.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
A lot of this land, my family owned it at one time.
ROB AMBERG:
It's always seemed to me that people—especially old people—would hold onto land, because they knew they could make anything they needed to on the land. It was sentimental and it had been in the family for years, but also there was this

Page 52
idea that, "It might be worth so many dollars, but what it's really worth is that I can make a living off of here for a long time."
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
But they were easy going and they let people sweet talk them into letting this go and that go, and whatever. So they just got talked out of about four or five hundred acres of land.
ROB AMBERG:
Well, I would guess that this must have been a monumental undertaking for your grandmother, and your mother and her sisters. That would have been a really major job to try and maintain a place like this, hire the people that it would take to keep it going.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
No, I never thought that all these neighbors would be up here that we have. Like Bruce coming in, buying that land from Kenneth, moving up there. And the ones up on the hill, and all this trailer court, and all these houses. It's just amazing. I wouldn't have ever thought about that. Never in a hundred years.
J. D. THOMAS:
For some reason, though, people like to move from one place to another. Why did you settle where you settle now? For peace of mind, and/or to get away. But now, we're on this side. And now when you interview these people on the other side, they're going to have maybe a different story to tell you. Because they have lost all their prize possessions, Rob. I feel for that, because there's some here that still got large acres of land. They can't get to it, it's landlocked. So they may have a different feeling, more so than what we would have.
ROB AMBERG:
That's right.
J. D. THOMAS:
The road itself. As far as me, I'm an old-timer. It would make no difference if the road come through or where it didn't come through, as far as me. I'm

Page 53
happy for our younger people and the traffic flow, and the advancing of times for it to be here.
ROB AMBERG:
So you're pleased that things are moving forward, then? That you like being able to get into Asheville quicker than usual?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah. Right.
ROB AMBERG:
So you find yourself going out more than you did when you were young?
J. D. THOMAS:
We're trying to enjoy this little bit of retirement here.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah, big change over the last thirty years, I'd say. Big change.
ROB AMBERG:
I recognize that your ties to the land itself are different than your mothers were. Yours are different, and your children's are different, too. But the people that are moving in, do you see a difference in how they feel about the land? About Sprinkle Creek? About California Creek?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Oh, they love it!
J. D. THOMAS:
No, they're happy. They're happy to come in here.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Our neighbors absolutely love it up here.
ROB AMBERG:
They do?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
The neighbors love everything up here.
J. D. THOMAS:
They love it because neighbors are neighbors up here, and where they lived there was not, Rob. They went right into church, which the pastor of the church already knew them and all like that, but they fell right in. We have another young

Page 54
couple up here, got a kid, eighteen months old or what have you. They moved from over Middle Fork way over here. They love it over here!
ROB AMBERG:
They can sense that there's a feeling of community over here.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah. This neighbor lived in Arden. They said, "The neighbors said, 'I'll do my thing; you do your thing. You leave me alone; I'll leave you alone.'" She comes up here, so I visit her. We go to church together, we walk together, we shop together. She said she could not understand the difference of up here and out here. The way the neighbors are. She loves it.
ROB AMBERG:
Do you feel like this road and all these changes will change that sense of community?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I think it will.
ROB AMBERG:
Over a period of time.
J. D. THOMAS:
I think it will.
ROB AMBERG:
For the better or for the worse?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
For the better, I think.
J. D. THOMAS:
For the better!
ROB AMBERG:
So you think it'll make it stronger?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
I think it will!
ROB AMBERG:
Just because there's more people?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
More people coming in. The ones who have come in, Rob, are really good neighbors. They really are.

Page 55
ROB AMBERG:
So they're interested in being here. We were talking about how high land prices have gotten, and it takes a lot of money to come in here and be a neighbor now.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yes it does, because I know Roger Robinson did all the work himself. He dug all the rails, he dug the septic tank, he built underground wiring. Everything pays but it was like $89,000 for the trailer and the whole six tenths of an acre.
ROB AMBERG:
But that's the trailer, too.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah.
ROB AMBERG:
And how many does he figure he's going to put in up there?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
At one time he said a dozen, but now he's got four. And he's got a place for at least three more already rutted out.
ROB AMBERG:
I've always been curious, but I've never asked you this. Do you remember this trailer park down at the end of the road? How long has that been there?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Grady Hunnicut had that way back.
ROB AMBERG:
Grace Hunnicut?
J. D. THOMAS:
Grady Hunnicut was the one that built that.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, my brother and his wife lived down there when Debbie and Victor was little. Well, what was that honey? When was that built?
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, Grady Hunnicut bought that when Tom Belt and Molly moved out. That used to be a hardware feed supply store down there.

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LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
When did Grady put those trailers in down there?
J. D. THOMAS:
I'd say the early '60s. Before we come back here.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah, because it was there then. And then he sold it to David Hensley, so he has it now.
ROB AMBERG:
Those trailers are certainly a lot different from trailers you see now.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
HUD [United States Department of Housing and Urban Development] pays the rent for those.
J. D. THOMAS:
This is something you would not want, Rob. That's what we thought Roger was going to put up here. We told Roger quick-like, "Do not try to put a trailer-court in." There's too much dope, there's too much run-by shooting that you would not want.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We said, "Roger, if you're going to put in this park, do not put in just what is in the road." He said, "Oh, no, no, I wouldn't think about it. I wouldn't do that. I'm going to put in double-wides to be sold. Make it neat."
J. D. THOMAS:
And have all the restrictions.
ROB AMBERG:
These are all rentals down here?
J. D. THOMAS:
It is restricted up here.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
And they have Mexicans, they have anything down there.
ROB AMBERG:
And has it always been like that?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Always been like that.

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ROB AMBERG:
Is that right? Well, that must have been quite a shock for the community.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We've had some rough people down there. We really have.
ROB AMBERG:
So do they make their way up this way sometimes?
J. D. THOMAS:
No, not really. They don't come up this way much. They just stay up and down the road from Asheville to Tennessee and all like that, and what have you. But the government pays for everything down there, long as he complies with all the rules and regulations.
ROB AMBERG:
So it is a HUD? Maybe you should just sum up and tell me what you all think. Here we are, 2000, and you're still living in the place where you were born. How do you feel about that place now?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
The whole area? I just feel like ready to come back to our homeplace.
END OF INTERVIEW