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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0833. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A modest wedding

Coward recalls being courted by her husband. After courting under strict supervision, they married in a modest ceremony. Clyda's new home was much like that of her parents, with an outhouse and a wood stove for heat.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0833. 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

LEDA HARTMAN:
But you were a teenagerߞand not a very old teenagerߞwhen you met your future husband?
CLYDA COWARD:
No, no because we was all going to school together. He went to the same school that we did, even though he didn't live on the farm. He lived down there in town.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Well, why did you like him? [Laughter]
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. I have often wondered that myself. [Laughter]
LEDA HARTMAN:
Well, why did you like her?
WALTER COWARD:
I don't know. I just took on to her, I guess.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How long did you court before you got married?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, about three or four years.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In those days, what did courting mean? What could you do, given that everybody was so strict?
CLYDA COWARD:
There wasn't nothing you could do. You could hold hands. After I got seventeen, my daddy would let me have company. The irony of it was, I had a sister that was two years younger than me, and I was supposed to have been taking company, and she was supposed to have been in there watching for Mama and Daddy.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Chaperoning.
CLYDA COWARD:
Uh huh. But she started taking company too. [Laughter] Yep, she sure did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That doesn't seem fair. [Laughter]
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, if it wasn't, you didn't say it. You do, nobody better not hear you.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah, yeah. So when you were seventeen, that was okay? That was old enough to have a man visit you?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. But now, my daddy always enjoyed 9:00. Every boy had to be out of our house by 9:00. Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
When you got married, did you have a special breakfast or dinner, or was there any kind of celebration?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, no. We got married to [sic: at] the preacher's house; and the preacher's wife and two or three more people in the community was witnesses.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it was kind of low key?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. Well, I never even heard of a black wedding at that time.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How was it instead?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, they got married to [sic: by] the justice of the peace or had a preacher to marry them.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You mean that in that time, a couple who married who was black wouldn't have a big celebration at church like people do nowadays?
CLYDA COWARD:
Unh uh.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Why not?
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. I never thought about that either, but they did not have no weddings. I never remember a wedding being in our church until the 60s.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It was more plain? Not a big celebration like people do these days? Thousands of dollars?
CLYDA COWARD:
No. Didn't nobody have it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you have a honeymoon?
CLYDA COWARD:
No. You get married, you go home, and that's it. You be happy if he came.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And you just start setting up house, that kind of thing?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Where did you come back to when you did get married?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, when we got marriedߞ. Walter didn't go to school as long as I did; he went to work. He had built a houseߞthree rooms. There was no bathroom there. We had the parlor; we had the bedroom; and we had the kitchen. I had a wood stove, just like my mother did, and we had the slop jars and the toilet back behind the house. Well, I guess we had been married about eight or ten years when he put in a bathroom, and we got a gas stove. By that time, electricity had come through, and we had lights.