Childhood in segregated South
In this excerpt, Davis, describes the close-knit community where he grew up. His childhood seems idyllic. He climbed trees, lost baseballs in a neighbor's yard, and caught tadpoles in a nearby creek. Of course, the reason he and his friends swam in a creek rather than a swimming pool was because African Americans were not allowed to join the local swim club.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Nate Davis, February 6, 2001. Interview K-0538. 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
RG: Can you tell me about the community in which you lived? Did you have relatives around; did you know your neighbors?
ND: Yeah, we knew all our neighbors. We didn’t have that many relatives that lived in the neighborhood where I lived, but you know, back then everyone was kin, you know. Like I say it was a duplex, and we lived on one side and the Wilsons lived on the other side, and down across the street in front of us Mr. Foushee, Ernest Foushee lived in that apartment. As a matter of fact we stayed in that apartment before we moved across the street to the apartment on School Lane. And then there was Miss Ethel Bynum who lived next door to our duplex and had this beautiful flower garden and we would, all the kids would be outside playing ball, and if a ball went in her flower garden, you know, sometimes she would give them back and sometimes she wouldn’t. So I do know that Miss Ethel had accumulated a number of softballs and baseballs over the years because they had went into her flower gardens, and so, but we knew everyone that lived in the community, yeah. Where we grew up at it was like a small family because we went to each others’ houses and things like that.
RG: Did you play in the streets, or did you play in front of the school?
ND: Well you know, there is a ballfield over at Northside. We played on that ballfield. Also there’s a little side street which was School Lane, between the houses we played, you know, kickball and things like that , and we had our own bases because there were some rocks, those big old rocks are still there. So those rocks were our bases. And also we played on Caldwell Street, that was the main street. I remember in the summertime a truck would come by to water the road; we would run alongside the truck and get wet and things like that. And also it was an opportunity for us to go into Mr. Wilson Caldwell and Mr. R.D. Smith, and I think Mr. R.D.’s mother lived on the street also, and she was a Cub Scout leader, so, but they had the apple trees and pear trees and all that stuff, so we would go and climb the trees and get apples and pears and peaches and things like that.
RG: You have a big smile on your face. Sounds like it was a happy time for you.
ND: It was, you know it was. And we went swimming down at the catfish, I don’t know if you know, that’s Umstead, what’s now Umstead Park.
RG: And you swam down there?
ND: And that’s where we still swimming, we had our own swim hole. There was a pool at Umstead, the Exchange Club pool. We were not allowed to go into that pool but you know we had our…
RG: You got in in the creek down there?
ND: Oh yeah, yeah. We went swimming in the creek. Unfortunately, you know, a lot of us went swimming but I never did learn how to swim that well. But we had fun, we would go down and catch the tadpoles and go swimming and things like that.
RG: What would happen if there was an argument or some misbehavior when you were out playing ball? How would that be handled?
ND: It all depended on whether we were losing or winning you know (laughs). We did get in fights, we did. We didn’t try to hurt or kill each other back then, but we would um, maybe fight for two or three minutes and then we would go back and play ball.
RG: Did you ever have any of the neighbors keeping an eye on you?
ND: All the neighbors.