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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Laura B. Waddell, August 6, 2002. Interview R-0175. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

African-American seamstress eases whites' concerns about doing business with her

Waddell worried that her primarily white clientele might not follow her to a new location in a black area, but they rewarded her with loyalty despite the change. She eased their concerns by collecting work they needed done at stores they were comfortable visiting.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Laura B. Waddell, August 6, 2002. Interview R-0175. 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

KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now were you able to carry your old clientele?
LAURA B. WADDELL:
Yes, my clientele followed me.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
They did.
LAURA B. WADDELL:
I was afraid of that because leaving downtown, Broughton Street, coming into almost to a residential area and predominantly black area, I was afraid that my customers would not come. Some of them were reluctant to come for a while, but they finally, followed me and knowing the kind of business that I was familiar with, how my first employer got jobs. I tried to follow some of that pattern, and that means that I went to some of the stores and asked them did they need alteration, the ones that did not have in-house seamstresses. I started doing alterations for some of the stores, and they would bring the stuff to me. I didn't even have to go get it. They would bring it to me, and sometimes I would see that they got it back, but we did what was necessary to get the job done. If it was convenient for me to pick it up, I would pick it up. If it was convenient for them to bring it to me or come get it, if they needed it in a hurry, they came and got it. I ended up doing work for at least two stores, and when business kind of got slow with the stores, I went to the Savannah State College where I did alterations for the NROTC. I also did alterations for the Army, put, sewing on patches, whatever was to make money we had the alteration department.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Did you ever have any kind of business training or running a small business?
LAURA B. WADDELL:
Never had business training.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It's just kind of—
LAURA B. WADDELL:
Never, never.