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Title: Oral History Interview with Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0589. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Thorbs, Leslie, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hartman, Leda
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: 164 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.
2007-09-30, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0589. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0589)
Author: Leda Hartman
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0589. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0589)
Author: Leslie Thorbs
Description: 117 Mb
Description: 40 p.
Note: Interview conducted on May 30, 2001, by Leda Hartman; recorded in Grifton, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by L. Altizer.
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 Leslie Thorbs, May 30, 2001.
Interview K-0589. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Thorbs, Leslie, interviewee


Interview Participants

    LESLIE THORBS, interviewee
    THORBS'S DAUGHTER, interviewee
    LEDA HARTMAN, interviewer
    BETTY HOWES, interviewer
    UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
LEDA HARTMAN:
You can keep [Recorder is turned off and then back on.] Okay, Leslie Thorbs.
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, my real name is Leslie Thorbs. I was born on the Kennedy farm in Lenoir County. That's up there—. You here talk of DuPont. Okay, that's where I was raised. I was raised and born up there on DuPont. That was my home.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh, the Kennedy farm?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. That was the name of the farm before DuPont got there, Kennedy farm. There were two brothers. Mr. Henry Kennedy's part, DuPont got that. Mr. Harmon's Kennedy's part is over on this side, and he didn't ever sell any of his. All it was Mr. Henry Kennedy's, that was Mr. Herman's brother, okay. Mr. Henry sold his parts out to DuPont.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So that's what it was before DuPont got there?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. That's what it was. Yeah, that's what it was before DuPont got there. When I moved from up there, I moved down here. We moved down here in '39, wait a minute, '38. Moved from out on the Kennedy farm to Grifton in 1938. I've been in here in Grifton ever since 1938 up until now.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So when you moved to Grifton in 1938, did you move to this street here?
LESLIE THORBS:
No. When I was moved down here, we moved up we called it up near the Skeeter Pond Woods, up that a way. Anyhow you go up the road here and turn like you're going back out to Edison Bridge up there and just when you made it right onto that fork about, I guess it's about a good mile down there. That's where we moved to.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That was called Skeeter Pond?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, Skeeter Pond.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Skeeter Pond and that's where you moved to when you first came.

Page 2
LESLIE THORBS:
That's where we moved to when we moved off of the Kennedy farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now is it called Kennedy farm because those were the people who owned the farm, right?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, what happened, the farm, the two brothers that's who the farm belongs to, that was their farm. They were, like I said, Mr. Henry Kennedy, DuPont bought that. Mr. Herman's part, he didn't ever sell his. His children still have his now, own his now. Then when we left from there me and my daddy and mama and all, we moved down here and we moved up near the Skeeter Pond Road, up there. Old Man Norris Green's old home, that's where we moved at. I stayed there until '41. Me and my wife [lived in] that brick house down there yonder. You might have been down there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I've seen it.
LESLIE THORBS:
That was my wife's aunt and uncle's old home. That's where she was living. Then her and her mother moved up here in a little old house up here right on the right, right up here on the side of my daughter's brick house. I got married in '41. After '41, I moved. I stayed on there [at] Mr. Sam Barwick's farm about two years. Left there and went to the Braxton, Joe Braxton and stayed there a year and left there, and I moved down there, moved down in Pitt County to Mr. Gene Harvey on her farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay, so all these places where you moved to, you were tenant farmer?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, right. I was a farmer.
LEDA HARTMAN:
All these different places, but you were renting?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay and before I ask you more about that let me just ask you when your birth date is.

Page 3
LESLIE THORBS:
If the Lord blessed me – and I hadn't even thought about it—if the Lord blessed me Sunday, would be my birthday, the third day of June.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How old will you be?
LESLIE THORBS:
I'll be seventy-eight, if the Lord blessed me.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I hope the Lord blesses you.
LESLIE THORBS:
I do too.
LEDA HARTMAN:
There's a good chance he will. You'll make it to Sunday.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes sir. Yeah, that's my birthday. June the 3rd 1923, that's when I was born.
LEDA HARTMAN:
At the Kennedy farm?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So your family, your parents, they were tenant farmers?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. My dad was raised on a farm, too. That's where he was raised at.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So he was on that farm his whole life, too?
LESLIE THORBS:
He was raised up there on that farm too.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What all did you grow? What was your regular—?
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh, tobacco, cotton, and corn and soybeans.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What was your regular workday like in those days? Did you plow the mules?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. [unclear] black people farm with now. We used mules, disk harrows, walking harrows and different things like that. Really, now I would even hardly know how to farm. But I would have to go out there and get onto the way they're farming now what the way they tend now.

Page 4
LEDA HARTMAN:
What kind of harrows did you use? You said you used walking harrows.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, walking harrows. Walking harrows—let the mule pull the walking harrow.
BETTY HOWES:
Finger like things.
LESLIE THORBS:
Some of these farms probably have them now, but they are some made up kind of like a turtle ring, but it was a harrow where you walked behind the mule and that's what we plowed tobacco, corn, and cotton to start off with. Then we left there and went to the cotton plow and left there and laying by corn and stuff, we laid it by with a turning plow. Now they use tractors. Wasn't such thing as any, I wish I could find me a mule now.
LEDA HARTMAN:
We'd have a hard time.
BETTY HOWES:
Did you have mules?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's what when I was farming I had.
BETTY HOWES:
Did your mules have personalities?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, Lord.
BETTY HOWES:
Tell us about one of your mules.
LESLIE THORBS:
The mules I could plow my seven acres and [when] the days got long like it is now, I'd take one mule and get out there and plow my seven acres a day.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That would be a really strong mule. That'd be a good sturdy mule.
LESLIE THORBS:
Lord, have mercy. We had some good mules back in along there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you have brothers and sisters?
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh yes. I had one, two, three—. I have three sisters living.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So y'all came up together, everybody working?

Page 5
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, all my sisters and all of them. They all came up on a farm. They were raised on a farm. Yeah, we were raised on a farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you go to school? Did you have time?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, I went to school, but back then children didn't think there was going to be any such day like today. Really I didn't get any farther than the third grade. Lots of time we children, instead of going to school, we'd go up there because we had to go through across DuPont up there by the store and go around the woods there and go up. A lot of days we'd go up there and sit down until school was out and come on back home. That's the truth. [We were] bad children, bad. Back along then, I didn't think there would be any days like today. If I had known there were going to be days like today, I'd have been like my mama told me. I'd have been going to school and learned something. I have had chances at some good jobs, just as good as you can get around here, but I just didn't have the learning.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In your day you thought you didn't need to go to school.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's the way it was. That's just the way it was. That's just what it was. There wasn't anything like it is now. Wasn't anything like it is now. I imagine children were finishing school down there, but there wasn't any such thing like college and stuff like that where I came up.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did they expect you to do, just get a little bit of school and go to farming or what?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's right. Then to my daddy, he got—. My daddy stayed sick about all the time when he was on the farm. Then when I wanted to go to school, we had to come out of school and go to work on the farm. That's just the way it was.

Page 6
LEDA HARTMAN:
You mean after the school day ended.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. I had to come out before school was ended because what happened, our daddy was sick and he couldn't get out. We had to go ahead and help him on the farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So is that part of the reason you didn't go beyond the third grade?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's it. That's it. Too children bad like children, I look at little children now. I get out and about. But then too, some of them—. Well, my grandchildren are just like I was, but I don't tell them that. Just I don't know how, but we were bad about—. We weren't bad about trying to fight the teachers or nothing like that, but children just out in the street playing, fighting and going on amongst themselves.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Not studying?
BETTY HOWES:
Children haven't changed much, have they?
LEDA HARTMAN:
No they haven't.
LESLIE THORBS:
Uh uh. Not studying any book.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah. So can you read or write a lot or a little or—?
LESLIE THORBS:
No, I can't do anything but print my name.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Uh uh.
LESLIE THORBS:
But it's a lot of letters I see now. I can spell, and there's a lot of them I see. I can't spell, but I really believe now, if I had have gone to school, I really believe I would've learned something.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So how did you get by all this time without much schooling? What did you do for a living?

Page 7
LESLIE THORBS:
Just farming. I farmed until about, oh I don't know, about '48. '48 I went to construction work—construction work, building stuff. I [had] nothing to do but haul mortar or haul bricks on a wheelbarrow. Most anybody can learn how to do that. So that's all I've done. Then about '70 or '69, I started being a janitor. I did janitor work up until about five years ago.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Is that when you retired?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, when I retired I was working out here on Number Eleven, the place they call [unclear] . My wife, she was getting sick. My wife had kidney problems. Then she was diabetic and had a bad heart. So I worked out there about, I guess that was going on eight years. I left Tex File. I worked out here at Tex File. I don't know if you've ever heard talk of Tex File or not, but there are Tex Files in different places. I worked out there about eleven years until they closed.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Tex File?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What kind of place was it? What did they do?
LESLIE THORBS:
A factory making pants and different stuff like that. That's the kind of work I did. I hauled yarn out to the ladies that ran the machines and stuff. For about three years now I did janitor work out there—about two or three years. Then I left janitor work and went on the floor and started hauling yarn and doffin. We started doffing, then stopped doffin and the women got to doing their own doffin, and we just had to keep the floor clean and keep the yarn out there to them, the material and stuff for them to do the work.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did you call it? What was it called?

Page 8
BETTY HOWES:
[unclear]
LEDA HARTMAN:
What is doffin? I've heard of it, but I don't know what it is. Can you tell me what it is?
LESLIE THORBS:
Doffin rolls off of the machine where they run those [unclear] . You open them up and you stick one leg in there and get in there and work the rolls and take the roll out.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh right yeah. Yeah.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's what it was. So I left there after they went out of business, but I didn't have to have a job. I didn't try to get me a job. I came home and went up to [unclear] and where he tended all this tobacco and sweet potatoes. He tended about eight hundred or a thousand acres there of sweet potatoes. I worked with him up there about two years, then some of the ladies were working down here to a factory down here. What's the name of that sewing factory?
BETTY HOWES:
Grifton Sewing factory?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, Grifton Sewing Manufactory. I worked out there about nine years.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you did farming, and you did factory work and a combination of all that.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Wow.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's all I was doing it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you always keep your garden for things to eat or—?
LESLIE THORBS:
When I was working, I didn't have time to tend a garden [like the one] up here. I tended one mostly just about like the one out there in front of my house down

Page 9
yonder. Then, when I stopped work, my wife got sick and I wasn't going to try to get another job, then that's when I went into big gardening.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh okay, when you stayed home more.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Can you take me back to when you were a young man and you were courting? [Tell me about] how you got married and all that—how you met your wife.
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh Lord, yeah. I met her—. There was a new school. Do you remember when the school was right up here?
BETTY HOWES:
Uh uh.
LESLIE THORBS:
She would go to Grifton School. It's right up here above—. Okay, just when you go out here and go across the bridge and run out to the four-lane, once you run out to the four lane [road] when you turn on the four-lane [road], over there on the right, there was a school over there. That's where I met [my wife]. We were living up there, like I tell you, by the Skeeter Pond. She was going to school, and that's where I met her at, right out there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How old was she? She was still going to school?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How old was she when you met her?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. I think my wife—. I think she had finished school. She had finished school.
LEDA HARTMAN:
High school?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, she'd finished high school, but she didn't go to college or nothing like that.

Page 10
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you met her when she was still in high school?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So she was quite a young girl when you met her?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, she was. She wasn't about—. I wasn't but about—. I guess she was about thirteen or fourteen, you know how boys and things were.
LEDA HARTMAN:
When you first met her?
LESLIE THORBS:
When I first met her. But when we got married, she was real young. My wife wasn't but fifteen. I was seventeen.
BETTY HOWES:
You were married a long time.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, I got married in '41. I believe this coming June—I believe it's this coming June or July—would have made me sixty years, if she had've lived, that we had been married.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Can you tell me why you got married so young? I know in those days people did but—?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, I tell you back along then, see, old people were stricter on girls and boys than they are now. You take them now, eleven and twelve years old, you can hardly keep them home. They're out in the street. See, my wife had to stay home. Wasn't any such things as running out to the here club, juke joint, and those things like that. So she got worried then, too, about me loving her. So we hurried up and got married. I think we I went with her about, I guess, about a year or a year and a half.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And then you got married?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, we got married. We went to South Carolina and got married. I was so young, we couldn't get married around here.

Page 11
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you have your parents' permission?
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh yeah. Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How come you had to go to South Carolina?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, we just [unclear] slipping off, I reckon, married like a lot of them did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Uh uh. In South Carolina they would marry you that young and around here they wouldn't?
LESLIE THORBS:
No, they wouldn't around here. See, you had to tell a story down there to get married. You had to run your age up a little bit.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh, so you had to tell them you were older? And they believed you?
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh yeah. Back then, in South Carolina, you could go down there today and get married. You'd go down there [and] if you got [unclear] , get married the same day. If you didn't get married, the next day you come back. So that's what we did. We stayed overnight, come back the next day.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So that was your honeymoon, sort of, was in South Carolina.
LESLIE THORBS:
That was my honeymoon.
That's the farthest me and her went, except along I ran a ball team and we used to go up to Washington, DC to play, and she went with me a couple years. She found they got away from baseball. She'd go out there, but she didn't like it all that good. My wife just always stayed in church, and that's the only honeymoon we had. There wasn't any such thing like. We had no money to go off like this crowd does here now—go to Bahamas or way off on a honeymoon. Back long about then, money was money. You could get as much then for five dollars as you could get now for thirty-five dollars. That's the way it was.

Page 12
LEDA HARTMAN:
I'm sure that's right. Then, of course, people didn't have the money to spend on a long honeymoon or whatever. They stayed close to home.
LESLIE THORBS:
Then too, you could take a trip for maybe about thirty-five or forty dollars. You could go on [a lot less] back along then. I remember the first time me and my daddy went out of his home. I think I was eleven years old or ten years old one. There was a store up here about where DuPont is now is where the store was. We were living over there on the Kennedy farm. Me and him, we walked out there to the store because you could get ten cents worth of cheese, ten cents worth of smoked sausage, and get a loaf of bread for ten cents and you could get a nickel's worth of cheese.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That was in 1941 or so?
LESLIE THORBS:
Now that was back there in about '36. Back along then, stuff was so cheap.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Right. You know something, the Great Depression came through in the 1930s. Do you remember that time?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Was that harder on you—on your family—during the 1930s? Was that an especially hard time or was it just hard any old time and it wasn't any harder in the '30s?
LESLIE THORBS:
Uh uh. I tell you what, it wasn't any harder, I think, than it was in the '30s. I tell you what, things started getting kind of good. It was back here in, what I say about really, in the '40s and '39.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It got better?
LESLIE THORBS:
On up, it got a little better and better.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How did that—?

Page 13
LESLIE THORBS:
You could work a little bit more, get a little bit more money and such little things like that there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
There were those jobs that you were telling me about in factories and so on?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. When I first started to work out on my own—when I was working on the farm—I wasn't getting but fifty cents a day.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Wow. When was that? Like in the '30s?
LESLIE THORBS:
That was back here in about '35 and '34—back along then, because I started priming tobacco when I was about eight years old. Back then, I was working. I was getting fifty cents a day and we would go out on Saturday and pick cotton on Saturdays and cotton was forty cents a hundred. My mama and daddy give us what we made on Saturdays. I picked fifty pounds of cotton on Saturday. That wasn't but twenty cents. Oh Lord, child, there have been some days back that I can call. I'm telling you the truth. Yes sir. That's right. Then cotton might go on up a little bit, go on up a little bit until it got up to two dollars a hundred.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now when the government put in price supports for tobacco, did that help your family?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, not too much. It didn't really help too much.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It didn't make a different to you too much? By then you were sort of out of farming anyway.
LESLIE THORBS:
Right. Right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh I see. I see.
LESLIE THORBS:
I farmed some years we didn't even clear five hundred dollars the whole year.

Page 14
LEDA HARTMAN:
So how did you live?
LESLIE THORBS:
I tell you what, off of roasted ear of corn and Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes such little things like that. That's the truth.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's what you'd eat?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just what you'd raise?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes, sir. I know my mama would get out in the evening and cut a wash pot full of corn and put it in the wash pot and cook it, and that's what we had for supper. People don't even realize now a days, they don't even know what it's all about. That's right. I came up on the rough side of the mountain. I know how it is. I know hard times. I tell you I really, we came up, we had it hard when we came up. Really, when we came up it wasn't such thing as you could go to the furniture store and buy mattresses and stuff like that. We'd go out in the field and get this here clean hay grass and my mama would sew a mattress, and that's what we would lay on. People wouldn't even believe that now.
BETTY HOWES:
I do.
LESLIE THORBS:
I'm serous. That's the truth.
BETTY HOWES:
Corn shuck mattresses.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes sir. You tell children things like that now. They don't know what it's all about.
LEDA HARTMAN:
No, I think a lot of them don't.
LESLIE THORBS:
I know they don't because you don't even know anything about that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you, when you were coming up like that, did y'all realize that you were poor or was it just the way everybody was so you didn't realize it?

Page 15
LESLIE THORBS:
We realized we were poor. We weren't the only ones that were poor. I mean, there were a lot of people.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Everybody was kind of in the same boat.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. There you go. There you go. That's just the way it was. That's the way it was.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I'm sorry.
LESLIE THORBS:
Uh uh. Go ahead on.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So, like all your neighbors who were around and so on, did people help each other like if someone was in trouble or if someone was sick?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, back along then they did. Back along then they did help them a whole lot more than they help them now.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Because everybody was poor so they had to—?
LESLIE THORBS:
I think that's what it must've been. That's just the way it is.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So what was it like? How would people help each other make it through?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, I'll tell you, just like if you didn't have, somebody else had. It was like somebody else didn't have, you would have and they would just try to help the people like that there. I know my mama—back along in them days like we had there—she'd get out and kill chickens and preachers would come to the house. All we would get [was] the chicken feet, the neck and the head.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What would the preacher get?
LESLIE THORBS:
The preacher got the legs, the back and the thigh. The preachers got that, and that's all we got. That's right. You tell somebody about eating a chicken head or chicken feet or something like that there.

Page 16
LEDA HARTMAN:
Does that make you mad?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, we couldn't do any better. We really couldn't do any better along then. We'd get word with the preachers or get word with our mama, we couldn't get nothing but the chicken feet and stuff, but what happened back along then, there wasn't anything we could do about it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In those days, too, a child isn't going to be arguing with his mama about, 'How come I didn't only get the chicken feet?'
LESLIE THORBS:
Lord, yeah. I argued with mine a whole lot. I sure did. A lot of days I say something to her, I think about it now. I really ought not have been saying [that], but I wanted something except the feet and the neck.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah. Yeah. So when you were so young and you got married and you were only seventeen or whatever, how did you and your wife make it when you were so young and times were so hard?
LESLIE THORBS:
Back along then—. Go around this way across the bridge like you're going down—. I don't know whether you've been down to Tick bite or not? But anyhow, when you get on that way, you can go on down in Tick bite. You're going to get around the curve. The road makes a right, to come back out to this road right here. Well, that house right there on the corner, that's not the house me and my wife were living in, but that's where we moved to, right there. That's where I farmed at.
BETTY HOWES:
On the Barwick farm?
LESLIE THORBS:
Right, on the Barwick farm. Yeah. You might have known Mr. Sam?
BETTY HOWES:
I did.
LESLIE THORBS:
Mr. Glenn, yeah.

Page 17
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you started out farming?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, I started out. When I started out, I started out farming.
BETTY HOWES:
The Barwicks were nice people.
LESLIE THORBS:
What you talking about, yes sir.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So that was what you knew. That's what you had done as a boy and that's what you knew to do when you got married as a young man.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, Right. Things got to get a little bit better because when I started I found Mr. Sam over there. We made a little money back now and then. But then, when we left there, I came to the Baxter's over here. One year we made pretty good [money] and then the next year, we didn't clear anything. So that's just the way [it is], a little good and a little bad. When you make twelve hundred dollars, fifteen hundred dollars on a farm, you thought you have made something back along in then.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah, I suppose. Then what would you do the years that you didn't make much? How'd you get by?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, what it is, we just had to get little stuff from the stores on credit, and we had to just pay the people back when we got the money. I'd get out and go and work for different people on the farm and get a little money to keep us something to eat.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Odd jobs and so on that was around?
LESLIE THORBS:
Right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you ever want to own your own land and—?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, to tell you the truth, I had a chance. But back along then, when I was young, I didn't really think there were going to be any days like today. I had a chance. I had a chance when I was staying with the Baxters. I had a chance of buying a farm there,

Page 18
paying eight hundred dollars down and so much a year until I got the farm paid for. It wasn't but twenty-eight hundred dollars. That's all the farm was. But I couldn't see it. I couldn't see it. If I had listened to my wife, I'd have had it and probably if I had been living like here now, I might have been like the Baxters. Earl Baxter lives back of my ballpark there. Across the back of my ballpark, across the railroad, that's the farm over there where he tried to get me to buy. I could pay it in eight hundred dollars down that year and then farm with him the next year and pay him the rest. But, no, I couldn't see it. I didn't want a farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Why?
LESLIE THORBS:
I didn't want a farm, so Earl Baxter, he bought the farm. Give him twenty-eight hundred dollars for the farm. He sold the farm back to Carolina Power and Light Company for a hundred thousand dollars about six years ago.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh my land!
LESLIE THORBS:
That's right. Yeah. Sure did do it. Carolina Power and Light Company have that place out there now.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Why didn't you want to buy that farm back when you had the chance?
LESLIE THORBS:
I don't know. Young, young, back then. Young, see I mean—.
BETTY HOWES:
That amount of money looked like a million dollars.
LESLIE THORBS:
What you talking about, yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Where are you going to get that money?
BETTY HOWES:
You couldn't visualize that you'd ever be able to pay for it.
LESLIE THORBS:
I don't know what in the world I was thinking about. They were about four acres of tobacco on the farm and about four acres of cotton and maybe about eight or

Page 19
nine, ten acres of corn. That's how much crop was on there, but I couldn't see. I don't know what in the world I was thinking about. You know, I think about those things now, but it's too late to think about them now.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It is.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's true.
LEDA HARTMAN:
All right. You have such an interesting life.
LESLIE THORBS:
What did you say?
LEDA HARTMAN:
I think you have an interesting life.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. Oh yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I do. I think a lot of people could learn from everything that you're saying.
LESLIE THORBS:
Right. That's the truth, yes sir. I see my mistake now, but it's too late to look at it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Everybody's got something like that.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Everybody's got something they wish they could do differently.
BETTY HOWES:
You know, I don't think you made a lot of mistakes because you raised a wonderful family.
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh I did. Yeah. Yeah. I raised eight head of children of my own. I raised two—. I raised four grandchildren, and two more of my grandchildren. I raised a lot and I never had a bit of trouble out of them—never had to pay out any money for them but one. That's [unclear] . You know, [unclear] . He was going to Louisburg School and he got three tickets in about three months. So me and my wife we were still [unclear] now because we built a house down there in '50. So we paid that one for him. That was the

Page 20
first one. So we told him right then—. I told my wife. I talked to her. I talked to him. I said, 'Now look, we're going to—.' We all called him Bubba, but his name was [unclear] . I said, 'Now, this is the first and last ticket that we're paying for you because you know the speed limit.' I said, 'If you get another one, you're on your own.' From that day up until this one I haven't had any more trouble out of him. He got some tickets, but he paid that himself.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you were pretty strict then with your kids?
LESLIE THORBS:
No I wasn't. I was just strict anyhow. They can tell you right now. My daughter is the same way. [She] left here a while ago. They can tell you about their daddy and [how he] still is. They are married. I am stricter now. I'm just stricter on them, and they'll tell you right now. Their daddy didn't play, and they loved their daddy. I really raised my children the best I knew how.
BETTY HOWES:
You really did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's lovely. You and your wife came down here in 1950 to the house down the road?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, that's where we came.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You built in 1950?
LESLIE THORBS:
1950. We stopped farming in '49. We moved over the creek here on a farm of a fellow named Josh Welborn. You might hear talk of Josh Wellborn?
BETTY HOWES:
Yes, I have.
LESLIE THORBS:
We were up there farming. I left on the farm that year, and I told him we weren't going to farm anymore. I moved up the creek right across there, right across in front of Piggly Wiggly where you see there's a trailer right across there. You know

Page 21
Johnnie Mack? Well anyhow, where Johnnie Mack's store [is], that's where Mr. [unclear] , that was his grandmother. She had a house there, and me and my wife we moved there into that house. We stayed there two years. We left there, moved here and had a house here. I've been here ever since.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Wow. What was it like when you came here in 1950? What was this street like and who all was here?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, when we moved down here, it wasn't but the house down on the end down yonder. That's the only house that was there. Not any trailer. My daughter—none of them had—she didn't have a house and she didn't have her's because when we moved there, it wasn't any of them married. None of my children were married.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So when you moved down on this street, there were two houses?
LESLIE THORBS:
Right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
There was a trailer and your house?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes, and one house down yonder. That's right, three houses.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Three houses.
LESLIE THORBS:
There was an old house right there on the other side of the [unclear] house. But it was wasn't anybody living in it. That's when I moved down here. Right there where you see those trailers, that's where my wife's uncle had corn there. All that place out there was in corn.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it was more rural then, more country?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Then tell me, as your kids grew up and so on, before the flood came, who all in your family lived on this road?

Page 22
LESLIE THORBS:
My daughter, Celia, was gone when you got here.
BETTY HOWES:
She was in the car.
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, anyhow, she lived beside me—in the brick house. I lived there in the white house. My daughter, she lived right across in front of Yvette's house here in the trailer—right over where you see those people working, working on her house. And Rosa, my daughter Rosa, she stayed up there. All the other people were living down here.
BETTY HOWES:
Yvette lived here.
LESLIE THORBS:
Uh uh. Yvette, my granddaughter lived here. I raised her up.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you had several children and a grandchild all on—?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, I had eight head of children myself, our own, me and my wife. But one of them died. One got killed. That left us six head—five girls and one boy.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So like three or four came to live on this road, plus your granddaughter?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. Oh, yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Wow. So you had your family all around you?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
BETTY HOWES:
And they all got flooded?
LESLIE THORBS:
All of them got flooded. All of my children lived right around me except two. I've got one daughter in Kinston, that's Yvette's mama.
Then I've got one daughter [who] lives out in Iowa. I reckon you hear talk of that Iowa is way, way away from here.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Where is that?
LESLIE THORBS:
Way on the other side of Minnesota.
BETTY HOWES:
Iowa.

Page 23
LESLIE THORBS:
A place called Iowa somewhere. That's where my daughter stayed. She went out there. She met a man out there. He is home from overseas, a white guy. They were going to the same school. They got to going together, and so she called back home. We didn't know she had any idea to get married. Really, back then—. I'm like this. I've got nothing against white folks because I have some white folks who have done more for me than any black people you've seen. I really think a lot of them. I just tell the truth. I really didn't want her to marry the man because he was white. I felt like she was black. Stay in her race. But I know it's getting, isn't any difference. You understand what I'm talking about? So she said, 'Well daddy, if you and mama don't want me to marry him, I'm going to marry him anyhow'. Well there wasn't anything we could do. But after she married him, I'll tell the truth, he is just one of the best white men you ever saw. I don't believe I need it. It wouldn't be anything I'd call on that he wouldn't give me.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So now do you feel differently about—?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. Yeah. See, I didn't have anything different against whites. But you know, I just—. Like this, I was just saying, 'Well, you just stay in your own color.' But I know that we're getting to the time and getting to the place that black marrying white, white marrying black. After I got used to him and he came down here and he did more work for me than my own children would do. So that's just the way it is. I believe if I want anything, he would give it to me. That's what I say about him. He's just as nice as everything. [interruption]
LESLIE THORBS:
There's a chair right there.

Page 24
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
No I was looking for my pocketbook. I don't know what I did with my pocketbook.
BETTY HOWES:
Took it into the house.
LESLIE THORBS:
Look in the house. Look in the house and see if it's in there.
LESLIE THORBS:
So, that's just the way it is. So really, I mean, when I worked, I worked around—. There would be a lot of black people sitting there working. I have worked around whites all my life. Right today I could give you people's names and all you've got to do is get on the telephone and call them and ask them about Bud or usually ask them about Lester. See, if they don't tell you [unclear] is one of the best black men that they ever worked around, deal around or what. That's the truth.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Do you put that down to your raising or faith or what? What gives you your values that you have in your life?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. I mean I was raised in my life. My mama and daddy raised me that respect everybody, 'Yes sir' and 'No sir.' It wasn't like these little young children around now saying, 'Little Bud, Yeah Little Bud, Hey Little Bud, or Hey Lester,' like that there. There wasn't any such thing like that when I was growing up. It was, 'Yes ma'am,' and 'No ma'am.'
LEDA HARTMAN:
In your day.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did everybody behave like that?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes. Yes, ma'am. All my family did. But you take around here now, a lot of children now they don't even respect grown folks no more or anything now. It's just the way it is now. That's just the way the world is now—the peoples of the world.

Page 25
That's right. I was really raised. I tell the truth about that. When that sun started getting over yonder, we'd better be in the house. It wasn't any sundown or after sundown. It was when that sun gets over yonder, before it got down behind those trees, we'd better be in the house.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That was a rule.
LESLIE THORBS:
That was the rule.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Is that how you raised your kids, too?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, I raised them. I wasn't that strict over them, but they know when night comes, they'd better be in and they did. They did. I didn't have any trouble out of them. I didn't have any trouble with them running out here to these juke joints at all. The only one, like I said, the [unclear] when he stayed in Kinston and Miss Betty knows, I didn't have any trouble out of him, but he was the one, he stayed out and go to these joints and things a whole lot more than my daughters. But the rest of them would tell you the same thing. If they were here, after they got married, there weren't too many of them going out there then. That was just the way it was. The one that [that] just left here, now, she went out a little bit more than most any of the rest of them. But I didn't ever have any trouble out of my children. That's one thing that I can say.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So what all happened to all of you? You're all living on the street. What all happened when the flood came? What happened to everybody?
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh Lord, have mercy. When they came and got us out that night about one o'clock, one-thirty, me and my wife when we got out, we got out with what we had slept in. I think I put my pants on over my pajamas. She had on her nightclothes and we got out then. If we hadn't have, we couldn't have gotten out.

Page 26
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did it look like?
LESLIE THORBS:
It looked like—. I don't know, it just looked like an ocean. That's what it was. The water came right on up in our house—right on over the beds, the dressers and everything.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Were you in bed when the water came up?
LESLIE THORBS:
No. Uh uh. See, they came around. They were coming around through blowing horns and blowing and getting people ready and people out of their house because the water was coming so fast. About nine o'clock that Thursday night, it wasn't a bit of water down that street anywhere about nine o'clock. Back out here to the highway, turned to go up toward Hugo, the four-lane [road], there wasn't any water down there. By one-thirty when my daughter just left here. They stay right across there in that trailer there. When they came down here to get us up, get us out, by the time we could get out and get back down here, the water was running in the back seat of the car. That's just how fast that water was running.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh my word.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes sir.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What a shock.
LESLIE THORBS:
Then when we got out here and turned and were going to go out that way to the four-lane [highway], the water was running in the back seat of the car. It was running across there, where it was running so fast. I imagine that water was rising a foot every half-hour, if not more than that. It might have been rising more than that. Like near something had juiced right out. That's the way it had done. Something juiced right out. That's the way it was.

Page 27
LEDA HARTMAN:
So where all did you go?
LESLIE THORBS:
We went to Kinston to live with my daughter over there. That's where we went.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And your kids, where did they go?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, half of them, some of them went to my brother's. My daughters that are married, they went to their daughters' house and stayed with them, took them in.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you were lucky to have a lot of family in the area.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In order to take everybody in, so nobody had to go to shelter.
LESLIE THORBS:
No. Thank God none of my whole family had to go to a shelter.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Wow.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's just the way it is. My daughter, she has a big house over in Kinston. Wasn't anybody but her and her husband, and my son—the one Miss Betty knows—that stays up here right at Kinston. He has a two-story house. He has enough room where it probably couldn't have slept everybody on beds, but as many rooms as he's got, if you got pallets and got on the floor—. He took care—. He had about fifteen head of people in his house that he took care of. A lot of people from over the creek, they went up there in Georgetown and started staying up there. I don't know what happened. They got put out or something. He took all of them in. He had a houseful. That's true.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So your family really helped each other.
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh yeah. Oh yeah, that's one thing about that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Because it would've been a lot worse to have to go to a shelter and—

Page 28
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, and see, my wife helped along then. It would've been some kind of bad to got her when of them little bitty mobile home—you know like the little trailers —where they were in. What happened, the rescue squad had to come and got her about—if they didn't get her twice a week—every week to carry her to the hospital. She had had a spell. You see that little old place like that there, it would've been bad for them trying to get in there and get out with the stretchers to get her out.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it would've been really hard for her health to stay at a shelter?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did she have to go to the hospital for?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, what happened, her fluids weren't getting any of the fluids out of her. Her fluids would be building up. Her heart got bad. Somebody got wrong with her and they had to carry her to the hospital. My wife near about stayed in the hospital. It's true.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So she stayed with your family members as well?
LESLIE THORBS:
Right, oh yeah. She stayed at where I stayed.
LEDA HARTMAN:
She went to your daughters. Then how long was it—
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
LEDA HARTMAN:
[How long] was it that you had to stay away before you could come back here?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, before we could come back—. I think the water stayed up here about two weeks before you could come back down again and look.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Then you could look.

Page 29
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, you could look. The water got out enough that you could go to your house and look inside if you wanted to.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, we looked in. Lord knows it was a sight. We went in and looked in it. Then that Wednesday my wife had just gone out and gotten her grocery stuff up for the month and filled the refrigerator up full. That was on that Wednesday. That Thursday night when that water rose in there Friday morning everything got spoiled.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you lost all that food.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, we lost everything. My granddaughter here, she had a single-wide trailer. All it did do is to come up, excuse me. [interruption] She wasn't long—it wasn't about two months. It was about two months before she got her trailer back in here. See, when she got a trailer back in here, she got a doublewide trailer. She said when she got her trailer she wanted us to come stay with her. What happened, it would've been better for me, in a way, on account of that I could be down here close to my garden. I was over there to Kinston and didn't have any way to get down here. My daughter and her husband were working, so it just left me right there in the house. When I stay in the house, I'm just really just all to pieces because I believe in working. I'm doing something every day to the week—every day.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Even if it's just your garden or whatever.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's what I did. In my garden that's what— If it isn't raining, you come look at me. Unless I get sick and have to go to the doctor, you can go down there from my house and drive out there, right out there in the field, and head out there and look.

Page 30
Somewhere over there or in the ball park one, that's where you'll find me unless something has happened. That's just the way it is.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you didn't go back and live in the doublewide with your daughter?
LESLIE THORBS:
We came here and stayed with my granddaughter here.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay, in this house here.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, right here. That's where we stayed.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay, okay. Was your wife happy to get back to here too?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, she was more happy than she was in Kinston. Yes, sir.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Can you tell me, even though the neighborhood had flooded so bad and it could flood again because it's so near the creek, why did y'all want to come back to this very spot?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, tell you the truth about it, we just figure that we wouldn't live to see the water get back in there any more.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's what you thought.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You thought that it's a rare thing [and] that it wouldn't happen again in your lifetime?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's what I was thinking.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Your wife, did you she think that too?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, my wife, she wanted to come back here. That's the reason we came back. If it had been on that road over there right at the creek, now I don't know— [interruption] We might would've been in about like a lot of them did, but over here on this back street— I've heard my wife's uncle saying back that was along before me and

Page 31
her got married that the water had been high enough behind the house to catch [unclear] pumps in it, but the water hadn't ever come up to the house. This is the first time. Some of them claim that it had been a hundred years. I know when my uncle died, my wife's uncle died, he was about close to eighty years old then, and he said he hadn't ever seen the water up to come up to nobody's house. Okay, I know I've been in this world ever since he died, and I haven't seen any water nowhere in the ditch even come up in the ditch from the creek. This was the first time. Now back here, I don't know if it was in the '70s or what the water got high enough to come up under the trestle down there—up on those cross ties. What happened, the water was blocked off across on the other side. You couldn't go across the bridge. You had to go up yonder and come down and come into Grifton. You couldn't come across this bridge now. I've seen the water that high, but I haven't seen the water come, it didn't come out of the creek. I was working down at the sewing factory. [interruption]
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you've seen other floods and other disasters but nothing like—
LESLIE THORBS:
Nothing like—
LEDA HARTMAN:
Floyd.
LESLIE THORBS:
Never seen anything like this one here. If I live to like— I said Sunday I'll be seventy-eight years old, and I've been around here all my life. When I lived up on Kennedy farm we [unclear] and come to Grifton a lot, and I never have seen the water like this. My wife's uncle said he hadn't ever seen the water come up around his house then because the way the brick house was an old house plank house he said, but the water came up high enough down there in that ditch [unclear] coming up and down there. The people had caught some but not come up to the house. It's the first time the water has

Page 32
ever been like this. There was one fellow that stayed down in the little house by the ballpark. That's my cousin. When they came around getting the people out, he wouldn't go. His wife and family left. He said he wasn't going out until that morning. He didn't think that water was going to get all that high. He started out that morning and got right down there by that pine tree right over yonder, by that pine tree right in that sink, and the water came up over his truck. He had to get out and swim back down on the other side of my house. Then he got up. The water was so that he could walk back to his house, but the water was, he said, all around his waist and under his waist.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So he was lucky to be alive.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, he was. He really was. The lady right across there—the first brick house when you get across here going back that way on the right—they had to come in there and get them out that Friday morning on the boat because they didn't even know the water had gotten like that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So do you feel lucky to at least have gotten away with your lives?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
LEDA HARTMAN:
But what did you lose?
LESLIE THORBS:
What did I lose?
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did you lose?
LESLIE THORBS:
In my home?
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah.
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh, we lost everything we had. We lost everything.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Stuff from say fifty years ago or family things, old family things, things like that?

Page 33
LESLIE THORBS:
Then too my wife had just bought a new rug to go in the kitchen. They had just come there to put it down. She hadn't made a payment on it. She paid half down and the other was monthly and we lost that. Then too, she hadn't been too long had bought a new living room set, and she got her son's stuff, some of it, that he had in his house when he got killed. It looked just like new. She had a lot of stuff. She had more stuff in there than I had money. I've got to have money to buy to put stuff back in my house here. We really lost some good furniture.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How about the whole street? How is the street, your whole street, different now from before the flood came?
LESLIE THORBS:
You mean like it is now?
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah.
LESLIE THORBS:
Oh, okay. The street has done pretty good. One thing, the town just wouldn't come over here and clean up like they should. But other than that, the street—
LEDA HARTMAN:
But are there as many people living down this street as there were before the flood came?
LESLIE THORBS:
No, what you see down the street now, that's all what was living down here when the flood came. I'm trying to think. There isn't anybody else new moved in or nothing, just what you see now and people in here. That's the people that were down here. One thing about me and my daughter, myself, my two daughters, my three daughters are not back in their home, and I'm not back in mine. That's four houses. Then you take those two trailers right there, sisters there. They're not back in their houses. But you take that row of houses yonder where the fellow got that day he went on and got help and got them together and put those people back in there.

Page 34
LEDA HARTMAN:
So there's some people back and some people not.
LESLIE THORBS:
There you go. There you go.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Do you think it's going to be coming back?
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah. Well, the church family, their mom was down in Roxboro and Durham. They said when they were working on my house, just little bit before they came out the last time; they're going to have it so I could get back in there in March. Then they'd paid a fellow to put the air conditioning stuff in and he didn't want to do anything. So he came back and they told me that he wasn't going to put it in. I think the fellow, the builder; he's going to get somebody else to do it. That's what happened. They lacked about a half a day at my house, a half a day at my daughter's, got the brick home over there, about four of us from going back in our homes. I don't know when they're going to finish so we can go back in there. So really, there isn't anything we can say because we didn't have the money to fix it ourselves. It's a blessing that the Lord made a way so that somebody would fix your house, so you could get back in it. I'm not worrying about it. Really, I haven't been interested in it since I lost my wife—to tell you the truth about it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How's that?
LESLIE THORBS:
I haven't been to my house. I haven't been in that house ten times since my wife has been gone.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How long has she been gone?
LESLIE THORBS:
The 7th of November, I believe. The 7th of November.
LEDA HARTMAN:
After that you weren't so interested in trying to get back quickly?

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LESLIE THORBS:
No, sure aren't. Don't have a bit of interest in it. They haven't said anything about rushing when they come back to work on it or when they work on it or what. I just say, 'Well maybe someday, if I live, I will get back in there.' That's just the way it is.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How did it make a difference? Did she especially want to move back?
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, I know if she were living, she would want to go back to her home. I figure if I live, the Lord bless me, I want to do like I know she wanted to do. I know she can't talk here where she's at, but if she could, she would want me to go back and keep the house.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So that's why you go, more for her than for what you would particularly like?
LESLIE THORBS:
That's the truth. Right, because I loved my wife.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I see that. I see that. What was her name?
LESLIE THORBS:
Her name was Hattie Mae.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Hattie Mae.
LESLIE THORBS:
Hattie Mae. I always called her Hat, but her name was Hattie Mae.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's beautiful.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's right. Sure was. Me and her, anybody been with anybody fifty-nine years, if there isn't any love there, I can't understand it. I can't understand it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's an example to other people because, these days, people are getting divorced right and left and look at y'all.
LESLIE THORBS:
That's right. Yes sir. Yes sir. Yeah. Yes sir. I really, I loved my wife. That day— I've got her pictures in there, and I get to thinking about it, and I sit down and

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start crying and take awhile to get over it. That's just the way it is. That's just the way it is.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You have pictures of her.
LESLIE THORBS:
Uh huh.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you get them out of the house or—
LESLIE THORBS:
Them, I had made. I had made. [interruption] Yes, sir.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You think when all the house are back and all the building is done, do you think the neighborhood will be like it was before the flood?
LESLIE THORBS:
I think it will be a lot better.
LEDA HARTMAN:
A lot better. How's that?
LESLIE THORBS:
A lot better. It has changed a lot of people. It has changed a lot of people.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How's that?
LESLIE THORBS:
It really has. So many people have gotten closer together since this flood than it was before the flood because a lot of people they don't even tell about these storms and things. Used to be to get them about storms and things, but you let them go talking about a storm now. Everybody goes to get out of these trailers and things and trying to go into these shelters and things like that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It's brought people closer, you're saying, in this neighborhood.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yes. Not only here, everywhere.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Everywhere.
LESLIE THORBS:
[interruption] I had a picture of my wife up there in that thing dictionary. Have you seen it?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
I think it's in one of your drawers.

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LESLIE THORBS:
[unclear]
THORBS'S DAUGHTER:
I don't know daddy.
LESLIE THORBS:
Well, I want it put back up there because that's my wife. That's my wife there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
She's beautiful. She is. How old was she when this picture was taken?
LESLIE THORBS:
I had that picture, that's a picture after she died.
THORBS'S DAUGHTER:
No, it's not daddy. No it's not. That's one of her younger pictures.
LEDA HARTMAN:
She's beautiful.
THORBS'S DAUGHTER:
That's one of mama's younger pictures. That's probably back in the '80s.
LESLIE THORBS:
But where is her picture—
THORBS'S DAUGHTER:
Yes it is daddy. That picture was taken back in the eighties.
LESLIE THORBS:
Well where was it at?
THORBS'S DAUGHTER:
That's the one that [unclear] had. I think they had it blown up or something.
LESLIE THORBS:
Made it over again. I'll put it this way. I know I didn't have it.
THORBS'S DAUGHTER:
No, [unclear] had it.
LESLIE THORBS:
I know I didn't have it, but I've got it now.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You've got it now.
LESLIE THORBS:
I've got it now. That's one. I've got one up there. I've got to try to find that other one too because I let her stay right up there where I can look at her.

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LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah I can see that. She's beautiful. Can I show Miss Betty?
BETTY HOWES:
Yeah, I saw her.
LEDA HARTMAN:
She is a beautiful lady.
BETTY HOWES:
She really is.
LESLIE THORBS:
Blossom, can't you carry that picture in there before you go? You aren't going to do nothing.
BETTY HOWES:
Are you his little girl?
THORBS'S DAUGHTER:
No, the baby girl is his little girl—always have been.
BETTY HOWES:
Which one is that?
THORBS'S DAUGHTER:
The one that stays in Iowa.
BETTY HOWES:
Okay.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Well I'm just about through. This is has been so interesting. I really appreciate your telling me about this stuff.
LESLIE THORBS:
I enjoy it. I really enjoyed it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I enjoy it too. I enjoyed it too.
BETTY HOWES:
Did he tell you how many of his kids went to college?
LEDA HARTMAN:
You didn't tell me that did you?
LESLIE THORBS:
What's that?
LEDA HARTMAN:
How many of your kids went to college?
LESLIE THORBS:
No, my children didn't anybody go to college, but my son. When he was in New York, living in New York, he went to college. My son that got killed, he finished high school. But now y'all had my daughter Sadie, the one that stayed out in Iowa, she went and stayed in college about eleven years—eleven years because she stayed

Page 39
[unclear] . I think she stayed there four years, I believe four years or five. Then she went out in Iowa I think it was seven or eight years she stayed in school. She finished everything her doctor degree to be a doctor and everything.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I bet you're proud.
LESLIE THORBS:
Yeah, I was. So what it was she really had such a good job there in Iowa and got her own office that she wouldn't take the doctor degree. Her husband, he went for a doctor degree. He's a doctor but he's an [unclear] doctor. He's a heart doctor. So I was working out [unclear] white lady. I don't know if you know Irene Hine. There's a lady named Irene Hine. She stayed up here [unclear] that a way, and her son worked down here to Western Auto. I was telling her about my son was a heart doctor and a head doctor, and she used to tell me you sure ought to get him to do something for your heart or your head because you are crazy. Lord, Lord, I tell you the truth. I really have had some of the best times with people I've worked with and worked under. Right today, if you knew them and could call them and just ask them what kind of man I am or something, they would tell you. That's the truth.
BETTY HOWES:
Oh I think it comes through. All of us know that—all of us that know you.
LESLIE THORBS:
Right. I'm telling you the truth Miss Betty.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It comes through pretty well
LESLIE THORBS:
That's the truth.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It comes through pretty well.
BETTY HOWES:
But you and your wife were responsible for your children. You raised them and didn't expect somebody else to do it.

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LESLIE THORBS:
That's right. That's right. And I started working for the company I was working for, Fred Gardner contractor. We build a big project over there in Kinston and after we got it built, there was a company out of Charlotte came in there and put the tile down. When we got the building built, right then they went so far I didn't go with them. I started working with that company out of Charlotte and you know what I would work up until about ten o'clock, and I would go home and cook dinner. On Saturdays and Sundays I cooked dinner for them. That's truth. That's just the way it was.
BETTY HOWES:
Okay, Mr. Thorbs, we really appreciate this.
LEDA HARTMAN:
We've got to get going. Thank you so much.
LESLIE THORBS:
Thank you for coming.
END OF INTERVIEW