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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carolyn Rogers, May 22, 2003. Interview K-0656. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Process of crop production for farm families

Rogers paints a portrait of a sharecropping family. The home served as the economic center for farm families. She describes the process of preparing tobacco for the market.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carolyn Rogers, May 22, 2003. Interview K-0656. 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

CAROLYN ROGERS:
Yes we did. And the housing was like, I have a picture that the secretary at Davis Drive gave me and I don't know what I've done with it but it is very significant to me. It is a barn, because we lived in a barn. My parents fixed it up and made it look livable. They even painted the walls. But upstairs was where they worked the dry tobacco getting it ready for market and beneath it in what we called "the pit" which we would call the basement now, but it was called the pit then because it had to be very moist in order to hang the dry tobacco so that it would not just dry out completely. That was beneath us. When we went out our back door we went out into a pasture, horse pasture.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So the main floor of the barn then was your living space, and above you tobacco was being hung and cured?
CAROLYN ROGERS:
Not cured, no. That's where they actually worked it, tying it.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
onto the sticks?
CAROLYN ROGERS:
No, this is the dry tobacco now. The dry tobacco is the cured tobacco. There they would wrap it into a bundle, okay. Like you would see a bundle hanging at maybe Big Ed's Restaurant downtown. He made have, in City Market, he may have a bundle of dried tobacco, cured tobacco. So you go from green tobacco to cured. The cured is ready for market that becomes cigars and cigarettes. So above us was the cured tobacco and my parents and I would go up there and we would have to tie it into little bundles to get it ready for market. Beneath us was the dry tobacco on the sticks. In other words when you took it out of the tobacco barn where it was being cured, you had to have somewhere to house it. So they housed it in the pit that was moist. Then we would take it from the pit upstairs for us to wrap it to get it ready for market. So it is the process, okay.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
But you had to take it through your living space?
CAROLYN ROGERS:
Yes, unless you took it around to the back and hoisted it up to the loft, you could do that.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Was your living space divided up by walls? Did you have individual rooms? Was there a kitchen?
CAROLYN ROGERS:
Yes, we had walls. There was a kitchen. There was a living room. There was my parents' bedroom and then upstairs a portion of it was our bedroom, so you always smelled tobacco upstairs, always. My parents' first home was a packing house also. Then this home where I grew up was a packing house, they called it a pack house is what they called it. Then we moved from there into a real house. That was nice, that was a nice house. It was painted, it had a living room and three bedrooms and a kitchen. We moved from that house to Cary. So prior to that we lived in a packing house.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
None of those farm-housing homes that you had had indoor bathrooms?
CAROLYN ROGERS:
No. I left out two other houses. One was a smaller house. Okay, when we left the packing house we went to Kenneth Mills housing. Kenneth Mills was the owner of these two houses so we moved to his farm. We lived in a smaller house up the hill. I remember that house and it was small, I think it was maybe four rooms. Then we moved from there down the road from that, still on the same farm, still in the same area. You could stand here and see the other house that we moved from. This was a big, two-story house but it was filled with bats. So we had bats for company all of the time and I was always so afraid to go to bed because you could look at the mantle and see a bat sitting on it. I was scared to death.