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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Caring for friends and family prevents Ray from attending college

Ray has cared for sick relatives and friends since she was a young adult, especially for the grandmother who raised her. Ray would have preferred to attend college and study art or cosmetology, but it seemed that caring for others would be her life's work. A doctor warned her once that she endangered her own health by helping her grandmother so much.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. 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

KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, being such a good student, did you ever think that you might want to go to college?
GERALDINE RAY:
I did want to go on. But, you see at the time she was sick and;she had raised me so I had to stay with her. Now, my aunt had five children, but she wouldn't let them stay with her. So, it was me, because I guess that was my punishment for her raising me.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Punishment?
GERALDINE RAY:
I would say, the way she did it, it was more or less like a punishment, you know. The way my aunt done it, it was more or less like a punishment. She told me, That's yo job, you have to. But, uh . . . nevertheless, right after I got out of school, I took a commercial art course, correspondence. And uh, then I married in 1960.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
In 1960?
GERALDINE RAY:
January 12, 1960.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
I'm going to get to that next. So, in your mind if you hadn't had to stay with your grandmother, then you would have gone to college?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, I would have loved to went on.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
What do you think you would have gone into?
GERALDINE RAY:
I don't know, it was a lot of things I liked; might a went into cosmetology or I could a went on into art. I don't know, as of now, and I might have ended up bein a nurse, because as I said, I've looked after a lot of people.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Sounds like it.
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, see I've looked after my grandmother, my uncle, J.T.'s mother, his grandmother, I helped with his grandmother, his aunt, and all of them and then I've looked after two white ladies.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
Who?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uh;the lady that left me the car. I looked after her mother. Her mother died in my arms.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
What was her name?
GERALDINE RAY:
Her name was Olivia Fichett.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
And how did you come to be associated with her?
GERALDINE RAY:
She was here in the community. She was the mother . . . Olivia was uh a postal worker and she was always here in the Post Office and I was a little girl going to school. So, I've always knowed her.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, when she got sick you went and helped her out?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, I helped her and Dottie also helped her. My daughter also helped her and I would stay with em at night when she got so much worse and Dottie would come in from school and work for em in the evening and I'd go at seven o'clock and stay til the next morning.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, this is something where you guys had been friends or she was just somebody in the community you decided to help?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, she was just; she was an old Southern lady from down in Charleston somewhere, but she always seemed to love J.T. and uh she knew us growin up; and I can't really tell you how we got into it. It was just something that happened.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
That you just did. And so, who was the other woman that you said you helped?
GERALDINE RAY:
Her daughter.
KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
So, you helped both of them.
GERALDINE RAY:
Helped both of them and also J.T. was workin for a couple that moved here from Mississippi. He was from Mississippi; I mean he was from Kentucky and she was from Mississippi. They were the Quizzendairies and we helped them. Well, ended up both of them got down sick and we had to look after them. So, I've spent most of my life helpin other people. Which is does take a toll on you - Now my health - because the doctor told my husband - Well, he wasn't my husband at the time, if I didn't quit liftin and goin on with my grandmother, because you see she was completely helpless, I was gon be in the cemetary and she'd still be here. Because, I'd messed up my back-just different things. But, you do what you have to do and you go on - I mean it just becomes a part of you, you go on and do it.