|Transcript of Interview of Charlie Craven|
|Interviewer:||Michelle A. Francis|
|Date of Interview:||December 13, 1983|
|Location of Interview:||Raleigh, N.C.|
Today is what, the 13th of December?
Okay. 1983. And we're here in Raleigh. Mr. Craven, I just kind'a start out with somethin' simple, like when were you born?
Uh, March the 12th, 19 and 9.
19 and 9. You come from a big family, don't you?
Nine children. I've talked to Grady.
And I talked to your sister, Bessie.
Mm-hum. Yeah, I talked to her.
Yeah. She's, she's mighty feeble.
Well, I just, I talked to her back in the summer some time, and I, it was the first time, of course, I'd met her. And I just felt so sorry for her there, 'cause she just seemed to have a hard time gettin' around. And she. . .
Yes she does. And I mean, she tries to do more than she's able to do, too. That's the worst part of it.
Mm-hum. Well, she was there cookin' dinner, you know?
And I knew it was. . .
Gets up, she gets up, uh, 4 o'clock in the morning, I think, and cooks breakfast for one of their grandchildren to go to work.
Mm: I don't know how she does it.
Packs his lunch for him to go to work.
Is she the oldest in the family?
No, no, she's next to the oldest. The oldest sister's dead.
Who was she? Tell me the children, 'cause I get 'em all confused.
Yeah. And their names.
Leila was the oldest.
Ima, and Vera.
No, no. There's a boy in between Vera and Ima. There's Brack. Then Vera, Clady and myself and Ferrell and Grady.
And Grady. Grady was the baby, wasn't he?
And let's see, there's Bessie and Clady is the only girls livin'; and Brack and Grady and myself are the boys.
And your daddy was J.D., right? No, your daddy was Daniel.
Yeah. And your granddaddy was J.D.
Granddaddy was J.D.
And they called him Dorris, didn't they?
Dorris, Dorris Craven.
Mm-hum. Yeah. That's an unusual name.
I haven't seen that before. Did you know your granddaddy at all? Do you remember him?
Don't remember him. I remember my grandmother, but I can't remember him.
Who was she?
She was (Laughter), I don't think I can tell you!
It might come to you after we talk.
Moon, I believe was her, uh, a Moon.
Was she from a potter family?
But the Cravens go back, don't they?
The Cravens go back a long ways, they say. I don't know.
Yeah. I heard they go back in.the 1750s.
But I've heard that they was the first that's ever made pottery in North Carolina, but I don't know if that's right or not.
You can, uh, when they get somebody lookin' up a family tree, they sometimes one'll come up with one thing and one another. But that, uh, Dr. Zugg at Chapel Hill, he said if there's any made before then, he said there wasn't no history of it.
But he's done a lot of research on it.
He's supposed to have a book out soon, isn't he?
He's supposed to have one out. I, I don't know whether he's ever finished it or not.
Well, I was talkin' to Dorothy Auman and she saw him recently and asked him about it, 'cause she's anxious of course, for it to come out. She's so interested in history of pottery.
Thinks it's supposed to come out, right?
And he said that he's still typin' on it.
So, I guess. . .
Now, that's a long, drawn-out affair. He, I believe it's been two, three years ago when he come here one day and taped everything we said for about two, three hours. And, he said he's gettin' up material for a book. And, I hadn't heard nothin'. I've seen him a time or two since then, but, he said he's still workin' on it.
Mm-hum. I guess it'll come out sometime soon. It ought to have some interesting stuff in it, especially about the Craven family, 'cause they do have a good history.
I don't know whether you knew about it, I reckon whether you was there or not, when they had that, there up at Robbins, "Raisin' the Mud". (Laughter)
No, tell me about that.
He was up there and he made a, he made a talk that night over there at the school house, at North Moore School. And uh, that's when he's tellin' about if there's any made, made pottery before the Craven's in North Carolina, there wasn't no record of it.
But, somebody else might look up the same thing and come up with somethin' different, I don't know.
Yeah, you never can tell. Well, you do remember your daddy, of course.
Oh, very well! (Laughter)
Tell me about him. I've seen some photographs and he had a big mustache, didn't he?
Uh-huh. I got, I got his picture.
Do you? I'd like to see it.
I, lemme, lemme see if I cain't find it right quick. (Tape stops, then starts)
He was, he was runnin' the shop there. That was his
shop. And that's me sittin' in the door, there, with my sister.
Which sister is that?
Yeah, standin' up there. And that's my daddy there with the straw hat on.
Straw hat on.
Old mule hooked to the clay mill.
Yeah. He's got a big mustache, doesn't he?
Real, real bushy mustache.
He, uh, I can remember when I was just a little feller, he shaved it off one time, and, uh, none of us young 'uns didn't even know him!
He went in another part of the house and shaved his mustache off and come in there and scared all of us! We didn't know who it was that was in the house. (Laughter)
Oh. Was he a quiet man?
Quiet, till he got kind'a riled up, then he could be loud.
Not very tall, huh?
Not very tall?
He looks real slender.
Yeah. He is.
You got some pictures of your daddy in there, why don't you get some?
This is it.
He got me one.
Are there some more?
There all just about the same as that.
Like that one? Yeah. Those are some big pieces down there.
Well, that's. . .
Some churns, aren't they?
. . .that's stoneware.
Stoneware? Milk crocks. I see the milk crocks.
Yeah. Milk crocks, and cream jars they called 'em, and everything.
Were you, looks like you were about, how old were you there?
I 'spect I was about 12 maybe, along there.
About 12? Now what were you doin' in the shop at that time? What kind of work?
Well, I made small stuff.
Were you turnin'?
Little, we called it toys. Little stuff like about that tall, maybe he wanted to make it, so he'd get it in the kiln, and fire it, you know, where you couldn't get nothin'. And them fellers was comin' there with covered wagons. They hauled all of his ware off in covered wagons.
And sell it. And they would take them toys and pay, uh, somethin' for them and he said there'd be that much where you wouldn't get nothin'. So he wanted us, wanted me to make that. I know I's, I never will forget one day I's workin' and I wanted to go fishin' so bad I didn't know what to do, and there's a branch of a little creek, we called it a branch, but there's a pretty good hole of water right there, runnin' right under, 40 yards from the shop, I reckon.
And, uh, I wanted to go fishin'. So he had me makin' that stuff and I said, "How in the world am I goin' get to go fishin' and he ain't gonna let me quit." And I started tearin' 'em up.
Tearin' 'em up?
Yeah. And I'd start, start turnin' one and I'd just grab it, and just tear it up just for meanness. And, he must'a caught on to what I's doin' or somethin' and I told him I just as well quit. I said, "I cain't make one." And, he said, "Suit yourself." Said, "You can tear 'em up or make 'em." Said, "You're gonna stay right here till you get, uh, I believe 35 or 40 made." And, I didn't tear up no more! (Laughter)
I bet you didn't! (Laughter) You couldn't pull the wool over his eye, could ya?
Uh-uh. Couldn't do a thing with it.
He kept, he kept his eye on ya, I can tell. Well then, he didn't have to try and market his pottery. People just came and got it for him.
They came and got it. And there was two or three different ones that hauled for different ones that made it and hauled it in a covered wagon. Run in there and load up, they'd want to load every Monday mornin'. And we'd try to make a kiln, we'd get about 400 or 450 gallons in the kiln and that'd just about make 'em a good wagon load. And they'd, that's what they would pack it up and take it off and long about Thursday or Friday they'd come back through and pay him for it, and go on home, ready for another, next Monday mornin'.
So you sort of did it on credit till they sold it?
Oh yeah. They never paid for nothin' till they went off and come back. And it wasn't much then!
I bet it wasn't.
Hu-uh. You know what a 5-gallon churn sold for then?
Bet you wouldn't guess, no?
I wouldn't even be able to think about it.
Oh my! You wonder how he could even--worth his time and effort!
That's right. 4 cent a gallon!
Mm! 20 cents.
And you wonder how in the world he could feed nine young 'uns and raise 'em at that rate. But, a dollar then was worth a dollar.
Yeah. It went further, didn't it?
Went a whole lot further.
And I guess you raised most of your food?
Yeah. We farmed some. Raised, usually, raised our own hogs and had our meat. And, in the wintertime we'd, oh we kept two or three old hounds that'd run a rabbit and we'd kill rabbits and eat them. (Laughter)
I guess you got by, didn't ya?
Oh yeah. We, we got by. Didn't know the difference. Didn't have nothin', didn't need nothin'.
Did you have a opportunity to go to school, or did you have to work all the time?
Well, I went a little bit. Not much, but I, I'd go to school when there wasn't much to do at home. And, daddy always said that, uh, if you went to school enough to where you could read and write, you're, that was enough.
That was enough.
Yeah, that's plenty. (Laughter)
I remember Grady telling me that he went to school. And I figured it must of been because he was the youngest.
Well, he went 'bout like the rest of us.
Yeah. Well, do you remember when you first started turnin'? How old you were?
No, not exactly. I was, uh, small enough I had to, uh, stand on about a, like a peck bucket to be up tall, high enough to reach the wheel.
Mm-hum. Well, who would kick for ya?
I was there, I, I could reach it.
You could reach the kick. . .?
I could reach the pedal, too.
. . .the pedal?
Yeah. That was about how, how small I was.
I figured I was nine or ten years old when I started, first started.
Yeah. Have to be that young. Melvin Owens' grandson, Boyd, I mean, not Boyd, but Jody? Boyd's son, Jody.
Mm-hum. He's startin' to turn.
Uh-huh. And we got him filmed.
I cain't understand how come Boyd don't turn.
I guess he's too busy doin' the firin' and glazin', handlin' that part of it.
Yeah. I believe he's lazy, too! (Laughter)
Well, I've heard that said about him. (Laughter) I've heard that said about him. Well, you know, Melvin,'s got, um, the old Craven shop behind his shed back there.
Yeah. A little old, uh, a little, uh, 'fore my daddy had, after he moved, had moved his shop, they had a little display log cabin for his display room.
Is that what it is?
They bought that.
Yeah. Well, where was it that your dad's first shop was?
First shop was, uh, you never have been up there to where my daddy's place was?
Anyhow, it was about uh, 3-400-500 yards from the house, 6 maybe. And, so after I left home they moved it right there at, in the yard.
Mm-hum. Was this on, off of 705?
Off of it, it was off of it about, about a mile off of it.
It wasn't no, uh, in fact, I always figured when you see anybody a'comin' they's comin' to your house, 'cause there wasn't nowhere else to go.
I know. (Laughter)
The end of the line! (Laughter) There was a old road that went on by, but there's hardly anybody ever traveled it. But there is a road by there now, where I was raised.
Is the house still standing?
Is the house still standing?
Did your brother Ferrell, he lived across from Westmore Pottery, didn't he, for a while? CC; Who, Ferrell?
Yeah, was he. . .?
No, Ferrell lived down there, uh, closer to Robbins.
Closer to Robbins?
Yeah. And, uh, I got a brother that lives across from Westmore.
Well, that's who I was. . .
My oldest brother, Brack.
That's who I'm thinkin' about. That's the one.
Well, how long did you work for your dad?
How long did you turn pottery for your dad? CC; Oh, till I was about, uh, 'bout 18 I was, 18, I believe it's 18, between 18 and 19. Somethin' like that.
Were you turnin' big pieces by then?
No. Not too big. So, when I left there, the next place I turned, that was, Sanford.
And, uh, that was Royal. . .
No, Royal Crown is at Merry Oaks in the. . .
You know what, I can't think of that to save my life, and I know it, I worked there, worked there for years. You know, one of the Coopers run it?
I think I, yeah.
North State, yeah.
North State Pottery. (Laughter) I couldn't think of it to save my life. And, I.worked there and finally, Walter Owens and Jonie [note] Owens was there when I went there. And Jonie, he finally, he finally quit, left Walter and myself there. And my--Brack, the oldest, my oldest brother went down there. He done the firin' and settin' the kilns and everything. And, business wasn't much, and Walter, he finally left. I think the chance of goin' back up to where tie was raised and working. And so he went back up there and, oh, they got to where they couldn't half pay us off. They wasn't doin' no business, so we finally quit.
How long were you there at North State?
I don't remember how long it was. Hard to keep up with the time back then.
So, my brother, he'd been workin' in, uh, High Point anyhow, in the furniture factory, and so he said he'd
reckon you. . .?
Mm-hum, Nancy Sweezy.
Well she come, she called me up one day and wanted to come by and talk a while. And so she did. And she had in her car about enough of clay to make several pieces for Smithsonian.
And so, she left that and I made that and carried it up there to 'em and then she decided they wanted some, two sets of it. They wanted one to stay there in Washington and then they wanted one on a mobile unit to go 'round over the country and put on exhibit, you know. And, so I made that. And then she said, "Now when you get this done," said, "we want you to make some for our shop up there." I said, "Okay."
So that's how you got started makin' pottery for Jugtown.
That's, that's how I started makin' for Jugtown. And, the last I carried up there, Vernon said, "Well," says, "I reckon it's gettin' too cool for you now." I said, "Well as soon as it warms up again in the spring, we'll go in business again." (Laughter) They been mighty nice to me. I enjoyed it, workin' with 'em.
Well, salt glaze, like I said, salt glaze has gotten to be kind of popular again.
Yeah, that stoneware, and then. I, I put my name on all of it and that, that helps sell it, too, I think. One of them girls told me up there, said, uh, after I started makin' it a little bit those crafts folks come in there one day and said, "Hey," said, "We heard you had some Craven pottery." Said, "We want to see it." (Laughter)
Wanted to make sure it had your name on it, didn't they?
That's right. CC; But I have often thought about it. If my daddy just could come back long enough to see how stuff was sellin' now from when he was makin' it.
He wouldn't believe it.
something that shows some of their stuff. I don't know. (Tape stops, then starts)
That's uh, I believe that's Jonie Owens.
Mm-hum. Interior of the first sales cabin. Mm-hum. Pretty full, wasn't it?
The entrance. Was that. . .?
That's not very, very plain picture, where you can't, it doesn't show up too well.
Doesn't show the pottery as well as it could, does it?
That was a kind of stamp they had to stamp the bottom with, they stamped it right, that position.
Just like that one.
Like that one there looks.
Is that when it--1959's when it went out of business?
I'm not sure where it went out of business. I reckon it was somewhere along there.
Have you met Mr. Schwartz? I guess you have.
Yes. I used to, he used to come, I used to see him very often. He was in archives building here and went to Charlotte.
I didn't know him when he was here. At the archives. But I've met him. . .
. . .met him since he's been gone.
Yeah. I met him while he was here. And, that was, uh, Henry Cooper and his wife when they were young.
Mm-hum. Has that got that Southern Living. . .?
This is it.
I don't remember if I've seen it. I know I've heard people talk about it. We have to see if you can find. He's got some pretty good photographs. They just didn't reproduce as well, did they?
That's right. They didn't turn out very well.
Old log cabin. And the Coopers.
Yeah. That's what they had for display. I don't know whether that's in here?
One of the things that I'm gonna be doin' is a slide program on North Carolina pottery, and I'll be usin' some photographs, takin' slides and things like that. This, could you xerox this for me?
Or could I borrow it and xerox it?
'Cause it has so much information.
Yeah. You can borrow it if you want.
Okay. I can return it right away, 'cause we have a xerox where I work. I appreciate that.
There was a piece about pottery, but I don't know where it's at.
If you'll give me the book I'll find it.
I'll find it. (Laughter)
So you were makin'--what kind of color glazes did they have at North State?
Yeah. I haven't seen much North State pottery.
Well (Laughter), no. Not as much as they have now. They make a, they had a, I believe a blue, and red and, uh, Cooper used to tickle me about the, black. He said he could make black out of any damn thing. (Laughter)
Really! Is that what he would say?
He'd burn it too hard, you know.
And it'd just make it that way?
And it, it'd just make, turn out black.
Oh yeah, this is Mark Childers, isn't it?
That's uh, uh-huh.
Did an article on Meaders. Have you read that book on Georgia pottery?
[Burrison, John A., Brothers in Clay. University of Georgia Press, 1983.]
Isn't that a good book? Do you know which one I'm talkin' about?
The one that tells about the,. . .?
All the potteries in Georgia.
And it has him in it.
I'll have to bring that by.
What's that? I think I got one of 'em. Who made it, printed it?
The name just went out of my mind, I can't remember. It's a book, it's a big book, 'bout like that.
No, I haven't got one that big. But I've got one that, uh, I think the Smithsonian put out, or some of 'em up there anyhow, uh, they give it to me when I's up a t Jug town one day. That, uh, man from Smithsonian was there and he autographed it and give it to me and said, "This is yours." And that told about all the Laniers and different ones down in Georgia, uh, made pottery.
Well, I'll probably, what I'll probably do is go home after we talk tonight and just listen to the tape and, I always think of questions that I didn't ask the first time around.
And I'd like to come back and talk to you some more.
And I'll bring that book with me.
All right. I'll see if I can find mine and see if they're, see if they're the same thing.
But mine ain't no, it ain't hardly as big as that!
It's thicker, but it, it's not any bigger than that.
This is a little bit, mine was a little bit bigger than this.
Oh, it's different then, than mine.
It's not, I forget, it's not real thick.
It's maybe about like that. I'll bring it and we can look at it. Did you ever make any face jugs?
Now that's somethin' that's gotten popular again, too.
Melvin Owens is makin' quite a few face jugs.
Yeah. And uh, that, what's his name, Craig, somethin', in the mountains, he makes a lot of 'em.
Burlon Craig. Yeah. He, I believe he's about the first one that started that.
Mm-hum. Well when you left North State and you and your brother, Brack opened up your own pottery.
Up at Westmore. Is that where Brack's livin' now?
Across from Westmore Pottery?
We had a pottery on the other side of the road from where he lives, but, I don't know whether he ever tore that old buildin' down we worked in. It might be still there, I don't know.
And I know, Ben Owens might a'used it. See, Ben, he sold us, there was a little land, he had a little land on both sides of the road, and he sold what he had on that side to me, Ben Owens. And so we got the old building and everything that was over there.
What kind of pottery did you and Brack make?
We just made that small stuff.
Glazed. We didn't use, we didn't know nothin' much about glazin' it, so the biggest thing we glazed was just lead glaze. And we didn't do much, we didn't have no market for it, so we didn't stay in business long. (Laughter)
No. The lead glaze, 'course they don't do that any more.
No, they stopped that. And I don't know why. They claim it was, it wasn't healthy, and I reckon I was, uh, 15 or 16 years old. . . (Begin Tape 1, Side 2)
. . .all his life, nothin' else.
Did he ever, he never used an oil-burnin' kiln, did he?
Always a groundhog.
Groundhog. Burnt wood all the time.
How much wood did it take to fire a kiln?
Well, it'd uh, when burnin' stoneware, it'd take about two loads of oak wood, when I imagine there's two, about two cords maybe, goin' by the cord, maybe two cords, a little better. And then a big, two-horse wagon load of fat lighter.
That was what they finished it up with.
That's like the middle, heart of a pine, isn't it, the 1ight wood?
It's like, uh, it would burn just about like gas, you know. And, you'd throw it in there, the blaze come out the chimley [sic] made it higher than your head. Black smoke and uh, that's what we used to, before we put the salt on it, and finished it up.
Yeah. How long did it take to do a firing back then?
'Bout, uh, they started early in the mornin' and finished up about 5 in the afternoon. Somethin' like that, 5 or 5: 30.
Did you have the day off when they did a firing?
No. I helped with that, too.
Helped with that, too. What did you do?
What did you do with the firing?
Oh, I helped throw the wood in there and then, like sometimes I helped throw the salt in there to glaze it. There was somethin' to do all the time.
Yeah. Do you remember how big the kiln was?
How big the kiln was?
It was uh, I imagine it was about 18 feet long and somethin' around 8 feet wide. And about, I'd say 3, maybe 3 foot deep.
Mm-hum. Did your dad ever do anything besides salt glaze?
No, he made a little, he started, before he quit, he started makin' a little bit of the other stuff. He didn't never get into it too much.
He did do some glazed pottery?
Yeah. Yeah, he made some glazed.
When did your dad die. I forget. Do you remember?
Back in '56, I believe it was about '56, somewhere along in there.
'56. Did he ever do any Albany slip?
My granddaddy did.
Albany slip. Yeah.
Grady showed me some letters that he had.
(Laughter) I got a copy of them.
Did you? Yeah, they're real interesting.
That's where uh, when my granddaddy's brother was writing to him, gonna tell him about the Albany slip.
Well, I got a, I got a jug my granddaddy made, that was Albany slip.
Do ya? When I come back some time during the daytime, maybe on a Saturday or something, I'd like to take a slide of it, if I could.
Yeah. I can show it to you now if you want to see it.
I got it right in there. (Tape stops, then starts)
Well, I couldn't figure out how come the hole's in it. Did it get, somebody shoot it?
Somebody knocked that hole in there just to see how thick it was.
Oh, you're kidding!
That's terrible! That would just make me sick.
And that was my brother-in-law that done that. It was Teague, up there.
Didn't you want to just--shoot him?
'Course he done that a long time before I had, I knew I was gonna get the jug.
Yeah. Well, it's not very thick, is it?
He was a good turner, wasn't he?
That's right! (Laughter)
I guess your brother-in-law found out, didn't he?
Yeah, he found out. I been thinkin' about I'd try to patch that hole. But, I, I don't know whether it'll make it look anyhow or not.
I don't know.
I can patch it, I think. But I don't think, I don't think it would match up with the other part.
Well, I know they replace handles. I've seen handles that've been replaced on a jug and you can't even tell the difference.
You can't, yeah, what--after they're fired out?
Who does that?
Well, I was gonna tell you, I don't know who it is. . .
I think it's best as it can be. I'm glad you told me about that. I didn't know it.
Do you know Dorothy Auman?
Well, they buy a lot of pottery for their museum.
And some of it needs repair work. And I don't know who it is they send, send it out to, but they do a just excellent job. She showed me a little pitcher that had had a handle replaced on it--might a had two handles on it, I can't remember. But, I couldn't even tell, it was that good. And it was a piece of stoneware.
I'll try and remember to ask her next time I see her. I'll write myself a note.
I don't, I cain't imagine that it, whoever's gettin' it fastened on there. Well, it couldn't be. It'd have to be glued on.
Mm-hum. I know that Melvin Owens has been doin' some repair work, a little bit, you know, when he gets around to it, for people that have jugs. And what he does is he, he makes the handle and then fires it.
And fires the handle.
Mm-hum. Fires the handle.
And then glues it on.
And then he glues it on.
Yep. I knew it had, it'd have to be done somethin' like that because it won't, it won't stick to that no more.
When it dries, it'll come off.
But I bet you, you might could find somebody that could fix that.
Except I don't know how they would, they'd never be able to get the same glaze on it.
I been a'thinkin' about puttin', takin' that uh, stuff they make the, they patch automobile bodies with, and set it up and maybe varnish it to make it look kind'a like that color. I believe that would make, come as near doin' it than anything.
That's a nice jug. I been seein' lots of shapes talkin' to people.
And that was, that was Albany slip on there. And then salt on top of that. To make that color. And, well Albany slip without the salt leaves it kind of a chocolate color.
Well that's what I thought Albany slip was more of a
dark color than that.
Yeah. It'll look dark and then you put salt on it and it makes it look like this.
Well you know, in those letters, that your great-uncle, W.N., wasn't it. . .?
. . .W.N. Craven was sendin' back, he had just, he had figured that out.
And he was tellin', tellin' J.D., Dorris, about how you could do that. And sayin' that he should really try it, that it really was a pretty color.
And, he obviously did.
Yeah, he done it.
Well, do you remember in those letters, W.N. was talkin' about all those, those huge kilns that they were buildin' out there.
And that would do I forget how many thousands of gallons, you know, firin' at a time. And they'd put 'em in "saggers"--is that how you say it?
Did your granddad ever use saggers?
Never heard of it.
What about your dad?
No. They just had one level, didn't they?
I've worked at one place where they used saggers, and that's Smithfield.
He, he used saggers.
How do saggers work?
Well,. . .
I've never seen one, so I don't have a good image.
It's uh, it's, the saggers was made out of, they've got, about that thick, and made out of clay, with a lot of grog and stuff in it, where it's real open.
I mean, it's not tight clay. And then you uh, you can stack that, start off at the floor and just keep a'puttin' one sagger on top of the other and go right on, on up higher than your head in the kiln. And, where he had a kiln there was, he have to use a ladder to get to. . .
. . .get to the top?
. . .get to the top of it.
Well, you sat a pot in a sagger, then?
Yeah. Sometimes, if it's small stuff, you'd put several in there.
And then put another sagger. . .
. . .sagger on top?
Set another one right on top of it. And it made beautiful stuff because it couldn't get no bit of trash or nothin' on it. It was just perfect.
Uh-huh. Well then, did it keep the top of the pot, unglazed, like the rim of that jug. . .?
No, it would all be glazed.
It would all be glazed.
Course, you cain't make, you cain't make salt glaze in it like that.
When you use saggers, it's got to be glazed stuff, because you cain't get, salt won't get to 'em.
But it makes the prettiest stuff, that saggers did. But, it's a whole lot of expense. And, I don't see how they
ever done it, made any money off it.
Uh-huh. Well you worked at Smithfield, you said, for what, 12 years?
'Bout 12 years, yeah.
When was, was that in the '50s?
I went there, I was in Smithfield .I believe in uh, '27 or '28. I believe that was when, wasn't '27--you ever heard of when the big snow was in March?
I believe it was in '27. I was there then.
1927. And you worked there, you worked 15 years, in ' 27.
No, you're talkin' about Smithfield?
No, I was at North State when that big snow come.
In '27. And I went to Smithfield in uh, must a'been sometime in the '30s. Let's see, no, it's 'bout, yeah, about '29 or '30. We got married in '33 and I's, I got married while I was at Smithfield.
Okay. So you were there up until World War II?
When you went to work in the defense plants, you said. Who all was workin' with you in Smithfield?
Well, let's see. I done most of the turnin'.
Yeah. They would, there's two or three times while I was there they'd get, they'd get somebody to come work a while. You know, my brother went down there, and Ferrell, he went down there and worked. Stayed a year or two and worked. And there was a feller from Georgia, a feller Gordy. He worked there a while. And there was one from uh, Texas worked there a while. And Dardy and uh, but, they didn't, none of 'em stay too long, for I. And I was workin' there all the time, from the time I went there.
They were just kind'a passin' through.
They're tryin' to, yeah, kind'a passin' through.
Did you help with any of the firing down there?
What were they, what kind of kiln did they have?
What kind of kiln did they have?
Well, they had uh, to start with, the groundhog kiln.
Mm-hum. When you were down there they still had that?
Mm-hum. And then before I left they built one round kiln, well, that one I's talkin' 'bout bein' where they used saggers.
And they built that, I reckon it was, I reckon it was about 20 feet maybe--across.
20 feet in diameter?
Yeah. Or maybe it might not a'been that much. Maybe 16, I don't know.
As big around as this room?
Well, higher than, they had a arch over it. And then the chimley [sic] went right on up.
In the middle?
In the middle. And the, so they fired it with coal.
Where was the fire box?
Had fire boxes around the side. And, there was. . .
Had more than one fire box?
Four, I believe. I think it was four fire boxes. And they, they used that after they got it uh, had that built. Went blame into Virginia to look at one before he ever built that one. I went with him up there to look at it and then the man where he's gonna build it for him, he wanted to see one.
Yeah. Where was that in Virginia? Do you remember?
I believe it, seems like it was Portsmouth.
Anyhow, they was, they had them kilns there, and. . .
Were they usin' 'em for firin' pottery?
No, they, they made that tableware, you know, china.
And they used 'em for that. They made that stuff. I hadn't ever seen any of that made until I went up there. And they used them, they're called "jigger wheels".
What did they look like?
What did they look like?
Uh, well they looked a whole lot like a potter's wheel except they, the top is uh, has got a thing on there to hold a mold. And they put a wad in that mold and then they got a lever they pull down in there to press that clay out all around in that mold like it, and shape it. That shapes the inside of the pot. And then they have a knife to run around the edge, cut off the excess clay over there and at the top and then they set the mold up for to dry out.
And they was makin' cups that day I was there. And I had never seen 'em made like that before. (Laughter)
I bet that really seemed strange to you. Not turnin' the cups, you know,. . .
Yeah. It did.
. . .and handle it.
I saw 'em puttin' on some handles, too. They'd, they would uh, mold their handles just like they would the. .
Yeah. And the cups would be near about, looked to me like they're near about dry when they put the handles on 'em. And they'd take uh, they'd have them handles molded, too and layin' out there. And they'd dip 'em in a little, have a little slip made up, and they'd dip that handle in there and stick it on the cup and it looked 1ike it growed there. (Laughter)
It seems like that would be, take more time, doesn't it?
Looks like it would.
To do that. CC; They was, they was gettin' along pretty good with it.
Were they using stoneware, or was it porcelain, or. .?
It was that, uh, porcelain or china, just like china stuff.
So you all went up there to look at the kiln?
Yeah. Just to see the kiln, see what, the man that's goin' to build it, he wanted to see one. He hadn't ever seen one, he wanted to see what he, what he's gettin' into before attacked it. But he built it just about like they did.
Was he somebody from Smithfield?
No, he was from Sanford.
He went down there and stayed until he got it done. (Laughter)
Huh. Well, how long did they use that circular kiln?
How long did they use it?
Well they used until they, oh I believe they slowed up on it some before they went out of business. Used it up pretty close to the time they went out of business.
When was that?
That was in uh, let's see, I reckon it was about uh, somewhere around '40--'40, '41 I reckon. Anyhow, I worked at Merry Oaks I think about two years, two years before they had to quit on account of the war.
So that would have been, Merry Oaks would have been after Smithfield?
After Smithfield. Yeah.
Yeah. Oh. Who was turnin' at Merry Oaks when you were there?
Well, I was gonna ask you about Jack Kiser. I spent some time with him, too.
Yeah. Jack was there when I was there. I'd love to see Jack. I haven't seen him in a [unintelligible].
Well, I wish you would go see him, 'cause he's so lonely. Nobody goes to see him.
You say he's lonely?
Mm-hum. And his health's not real good. Do you know where he lives?
Well, I know about. It's been so long since I's up there though, I think I know where, where he lives. He lives in the old house, I think, don't it, where his wife was raised?
I don't know if she was raised there or not. If you're goin' towards, if you go, just keep on 220, towards--what's the place below Seagrove? I forget where it is, but. . .
Just like, just like you're goin' from Seagrove to Biscoe, and back that way.
Yeah. Before you get to Biscoe, though.
Used to be, used to be, uh, Star. I believe Steeds, is right up there where he lives. Call it Steeds. There's a little old, used to have a post office there.
I think it's before you get to Steeds.
His house is on the left-hand side of the road.
As you're goin' out?
And there's a house right here. This is like a modern brick house down here. It's a big yard and you can see this house before you see. . .
This is a old wooden house, he lives in here.
Yeah, and it looks like it has some kind of siding on it. He may have, part of it may be a brick facade.
I believe, I believe that's the house his wife was raised in.
It used to have an orchard around it. The orchard's not there any more. There's a driveway and you go up there and it's real steep.
He used to run a store not far out there.
Yeah. A fillin' station, too?
Did he have a fillin' station, too?
A fillin' station and store together I think.
Well, he would really love to see you.
I know it. I'd love to see him, too.
He doesn't, his eyesight has failed him a lot so he can't drive.
Mm-hum. He can't drive and his wife, her mind's gone. And so he can't leave her by herself.
She's my cousin--distant cousin.
Distant cousin? Well, I wish the next time you go to Seagrove you make a point to see him.
I'm gonna try to do that.
'Cause I'm sure you'd find him at home. He doesn't get out that much.
Don't get out much, huh?
Mm-mm. I think his brother, does he have a brother?
I never meet his brother.
I can't remember. Somebody. . .
I worked for him though, several, as long as I stayed at Merry Oaks.
He was a pretty good turner.
Yeah. He learned, what he, he learned it at, there at J.B. Cole's.
Yeah. That's the only place he ever worked as a potter until he got, started turnin' for different ones.
Yeah. He worked, that was the first pottery he ever worked at, is J.B.'s. And then he worked for Arthur Cole in Sanford, then when the man started in at Merry Oaks, why he went in with him and helped him there.
Was he part of a partnership with him?
I don't know whether he's ever partners or not. Anyhow, he was s'posed to get a percentage I think, but I don't know how it ever worked out. I know Jack said before it was over he wished he'd a'known then like he (Laughter), like he found out that we'd be makin' a whole lot more money than we'd make. (Laughter)
He's a nice person.
Yeah. I was workin' piece work and Jack, and Jack was too. He thought he's a'gonna, if you got the piece work cheap enough, he thought they could give him a whole more percentage on what they sold, you know. And he'd get a percentage, and you know, I don't think that percentage worked out much. (Laughter)
Didn't work out like he wanted it to. Mm. So you worked a couple of years there?
Yeah. At least that and maybe a little more.
And Jack never went back to turnin' when the war started.
Never, I never heard of him if he did.
Hm-um. He told me he didn't. That after you know, the war, World War II, he just went in to other things and he never turned again. He just said he didn't have, he wasn't interested.
Wasn't interested in doin' it.
Well, I didn't never think, I had no idea I'd ever turn any more after the war. I got workin' with produce and figured I's makin' more at that than I would at turnin' and I stayed at it till I retired. Then I decided I wanted to do it for a hobby. And that's the reason I started again.
And that hobby got, got to be right more work in it. (Laughter)
Who made your wheel out there?
I bought one from uh, that supply place out, used to be down here close to Zebulon. Now, it's out here towards Durham now. Eagle Ceramics they call it now.
Oh, I've heard of them.
But it was, uh, it wasn't that then. I forgot what the man's name was that run it then. But I bought it from them. They sell all kind of potter's supplies.
Is that where you get your clay?
I don't get no clay myself from nobody.
Do you get it from Jugtown.
Ever who I make it for, they furnish the clay. (Laughter)
Ah, that's a nice arrangement, isn't it? (Laughter)
Yeah. If Jugtown wants anything made, they'll. . .
. . .they'll just give you the clay.
Yeah. Vernon'll call me and tell me when they'll have the clay ready. I go pick it up and bring it on back and rig it up.
Where did your dad get clay from?
Oh, there used to be uh, clay there on his place.
A clay pit? Clay pond they call 'em, too.
Clay pond. They got a clay pond on his, on his land. And that's where he got most of it. And then, there towards the last he got some I think from uh, I know he did 'cause I helped haul some while I was there. He'd get some from Auman.
That Auman clay up there above Seagrove. And we hauled some of that but not too much. He'd mostly get some to mix with what he had, maybe for stoneware. But there's a lot of clay worked, he used a lot of clay that come off of his land.
Did you get it once a year or twice a year?
No. Oftener than that. Sometimes there's maybe two, two or three weeks.
You're usin' it that, that quickly?
Yeah. Well, we had, we'd haul it on a wagon, you know, and that clay's heavy. You know, it cain't hold too much.
And grind it up on that old pug mill with a mule, and it was rough. It was a poor livin', but it's, nobody died from starvation. (Laughter)
Nope. Where did they get the clay at North State? They were usin'. . .
I don't really know. I never have, uh. They'd get it from down there somewhere, but I don't--they'd haul it, but I don't know where they got it at. Never did know. They, they was, that was one place, though, they started workin' the clay, gettin' every bit of trash that was in it out. They called it "washin' it", runnin' it through a hammer mill and beat it up right fine. Then they would mix it up with water and have it in just a, looked like about a soup, then run it through a strainer.
Through a strainer?
Strain it. Strain every bit of, everything out of it that wasn't pure clay. And, you wouldn't find a grain of sand or nothin'!
They had an auction at Seagrove a couple weeks ago-- David Blackman.
Yeah, I knew about it.
It was interesting.
I reckon. Was you up there?
Yeah. I went. I didn't buy anything. I didn't have any money. (Laughter) But they auctioned off one piece that was, uh, it had a piece of quartz in it.
A piece of quartz, a stone?
And it was just, you know, it had been in the clay when they worked it up. He didn't pick it out, whoever the potter was. I don't remember whose pot it was. He just left it in there, so you had this pretty jug as a jug and this little piece of white rock stickin' out of it. Which, you know, probably back then, they would have said that was imperfect. But that kind of makes it unusual.
This is that list. In fact, Melvin Owens was tellin' me that you two were goin' over this list. This was the thing they handed out at that auction.
Mm-hum. These were the pots that they sold, that they auctioned off. And then they were listed, this was the potters that they listed.
Did they have some of all their pottery?
Beg your pardon?
Did they have some of the pottery from all these folks?
Well, there's a lot of Cravens on here I never heard of.
Well, that's what Melvin was tellin' me. That you--
Yeah, Melvin told me. . .
And that's your granddaddy, there.
Yeah, that's my granddddy.
J.D. And then, who was Enoch?
I don't know.
Is that, could that have been his daddy?
It could of been, I reckon. And then, uh, Thomas W. Craven, I don't know who he was.
Now he was--don't you reckon that W.N. was the, the Craven that went out west?
Might a'been. I don't know.
What was his--1820 to 1903?
Now Anderson, I believe Anderson Craven was my great- granddaddy. I ain't sure.
But it seem like somebody said he was. He's on right there. And Emory John Vandermere Craven--I don't know who that is (Laughter).
Lot of 'em weren't there?
Yeah. Did they have some of all them pots, pottery?
Yeah, they did, I think. I know they had, they had a lot of Craven. Like here's a E.S. Craven, Enoch Craven. It was a half-gallon jug. Oh, this is the one that had the flint rock in it.
A flint rock (Laughter).
Mm-hum. "Heavy salt drippings", and it went for $275.
For what size?
Is that right?
What was that sold for four hundred, is that $475?
I know that. This one up here.
Oh. $475. That was J.M. Yow. 5-quart jug.
Here was the J.A. Craven. Here's a J.D. Craven.
Double-handled jug, 6-gallon. $425.
$425. One-quart, Anderson Craven, $460. Huh. Four- gallon, T.W. Craven
$600. (Laughter) Huh.
Went for some money, didn't they?
I don't know! Don't believe there was none of mine on there.
No, I don't think he had any of yours. Most of this was, was old pottery.
You know, like before 1900. . .
. . .or some of it was early '20s I think. Early teens, 1900s.
Well somebody spent a lot of money for that old stuff! (Begin Tape 2, Side 1)
. . .when you were a kid, did you play any games?
If you played games around the pottery? Like Dorothy Auman was tellin' me about makin' little whistles, little animals, little bird whistles and things.
Oh yeah. Didn't make no whistles, but we'd make little animals out of clay.
Chickens and dogs and things like that.
Didn't your sister Bessie tell me that she used to make lots of little animals?
I don't know whether she did or not. Clady did, I know.
And my daddy used to make right many.
Yeah. He'd, he would get settin' around and wantin' to mess with the clay and he'd get him some and he'd make a chicken or somethin'. He was pretty good at it.
Don't you wish you had some of those?
Wonder what happened to 'em all? Did you sell 'em or were those things that you kept?
They, they were sold I reckon.
Yeah. Somebody got ' em.
Hm. What else did y'all do? Did you ever make marbles out of clay?
Sometimes, yeah. Just about, about like all kids, you know, playin' in the clay. Course by the time we was big enough, wasn't as much playin' as there was work, when we started into clay.
Yeah. What is it you think, what do you think it is about clay and workin' in it that just, once you start you don't want to stop?
Do you know? I talked to people, you know, potters and they've been doin' it all their life and they wouldn't do anything else.
Yeah. Well, it's interesting. It's just, it's uh, it's somethin' that fascinatin' and uh, you can always, you don't never learn it all. You can always learn it all the time. And, I always had to, in my makin' pottery, I's always wanted to see how big a pot I could make.
And I never have yet reached the limit that I went to in the size. (Laughter)
What was the largest piece that you ever made?
Oh, that 60-pound one I used to make in Smithfield.
That's the largest I ever made.
How many inches tall was that?
Melvin, last time I was up at Melvin Owens, he said he's goin' fix a wheel and he goin' put it up there right there close to where he works. And he says, "I'm gonna make a big, have a big head", we call 'em head blocks, up top of 'em.
And he said, "You can, uh--", and I said, "I'll get you some clay just like you want, and you can make just as big a one as you want to right here!" (Laughter)
I can hear him say that right now. He'll do it, too.
Yeah, I bet he will. He said, "I'm gonna have that wheel here by next season."
Well, it's hard, I mean it takes a lot of strength to center 60 pounds of clay!
Well, they have, they make 'em, they don't have it all in one piece. I had one, a 60-pound, I believe I started out with about uh, let's see, 14 pounds and about 40, the biggest piece I had was about 40, 46 pounds.
Forty-six? I don't know how big that, how many pounds it was that Waymon [note] was throwin'--turnin', you know, that, in that film. But he took this, he had to just lift it up with two hands and just kind of throw it on it.
And it was a huge thing. And I bet that was probably, I don't know how many pounds. Did you have to brace yourself?
Well you do have to, you've got to get that, uh, before you can make anything, you've got to get that centered in the center of the wheel.
And, so that's where the strain and work comes in at,
is gettin' that centered in the wheel, on the wheel.
Is there any trick to doin', you know you can't get your hands around it like you can a smaller ball of clay.
No, but. . .
Is there a trick to it?
I mean, if you have uh, if you hold that, hold your hands steady on the side where you can get to it, why the other side will shape itself.
Yeah, if you get it true on one side, it'll be true all around, when it's turnin'. And if you've got a ball-opener then, that takes a whole lot of strainin' out of gettin' it started. And then, that first pull comin' up is the most strainin' part of it.
You can make it real strainin' on you, or you can just go a little at the time and then go several time with it instead of strainin' so much. (Laughter)
That's a lot of work. How tall a piece was that 60- pounds, when you finished it?
After it fired out, you know?
I don't remember. I believe it's 32 inches, or somethin' like that--32 or 34. It's pretty big.
Big around, too.
Well, that piece you have over there is what, probably 20?
Mm, no, that was about 30.
That about 30?
31 pounds, or somethin' like that.
No, I mean in inches.
Oh, no, that's about, uh I don't know, maybe 20 inches.
Was that done in two pieces?
Yeah. Well, you're gonna have to take Melvin up on his offer of gettin' you a big wheel.
You know. See what you can do.
Yeah, he said he's been thinkin' about it anyway. I told him I'd love to try it out when he gets it. He said he'll wait to next season to see if they, if I don't have it sittin' right here. (Laughter)
I think he enjoyed your visit.
He talked like he enjoyed your visit.
Yeah, I think he did, too, 'cause he, he uh, thought we wouldn't never get through talkin'.
Now that's when I should have had my tape recorder.
Just lettin' you two talk back and forth with each other. I probably would have gotten a lot of good information.
Might have, I don't know. I don't know what this information you, what good it's gonna do you.
Just every, just like little pieces in a puzzle; it just all fits together when your doin' research.
Mm-hum. It does. Do you look at each new piece, each piece of clay as, each pot that you're turnin', as somethin' brand new? That you can do differently each time?
Mm-hum. Oh yeah. There's no two just alike.
Each one's sort of a challenge?
They say there's never been no two just alike. And it looks reasonable--but it don't look reasonable hardly, but that's what I've heard. There'll be a little difference somewhere.
Mm-hum. Do you, are you turnin' different shapes now? Are you experimenting or are you stayin' pretty much with traditional. . .?
Oh yeah. I just, uh, ever what the man I'm makin' for, that's what I make now.
Mm-hum. There aren't any Craven children.
Is your generation the last generation of Cravens to be turnin'?
Uh, I'm not. Unless, I got a, my nephew's got a boy that's uh, that's tryin' to learn it.
And if he does, why he'll be, he'll carry on maybe. But if he don't, I'm the last one!
You're the last one!
Yeah. Course, Grady, he can turn some, but he don't, he never has done nothin', very little of it. And Brack, he'll, course Brack's, he's, he's past 80. I know he ain't gonna start now!
Hm-um. Grady says he wants to try and do it again.
Just to see if he can.
Oh yeah. He talks like it, but he don't never do 'it!
Well, I told him to go down and, and, to Dorothy Auman's, and she's got a wheel in the back of her shop, that he could go in there and just. . .
Yeah? Oh yeah!
And she wants him to.
She'd be glad to.
She talked to him about it.
She'd be glad he would, I know. And he'd like it after he started it.
I think he's just shy about it.
He's shy because uh, one thing he's so shy now is he, he cain't, he cain't talk.
And, you've had a lot of trouble understandin' him, I imagine.
I, I got used to listenin' to him, so I could understand him all right.
So, since he had that operation on his throat, he, he, I believe that's the reason he don't, don't want much to be around folks he's not used to.
Mm-hum. Yeah, I enjoyed talkin' with him a whole lot. Well, he never did work for a pottery, did he? Except for your dad, he worked, did he turn?
Yeah. What he done there is all. Yeah, I didn't never know, he hadn't never turned none when I left home. And Ferrell, he was turnin' some, and uh, I didn't know Grady'd ever started turnin' then. But I think he can turn some.
He'd like to. His wife wants him to turn a few pieces, too.
His wife wants him to turn a few pieces.
Yeah, that's right. I reckon she does! (Laughter)
You know, just so they'd have it in the family.
Yeah.(End of Tape 2)
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Hi I am trying to collect information on my grandfather Fred Washington Craven's family for my mother Aunda Craven Scarbrough from Trinity NC. I have never been able to find out much because my grandfather passed when I was only 12 years old and had dementia for years before passing. I was wondering if u had any information regarding my grandfather or maybe my great grandfather Wesley Ladolphus Craven, who his father was and so on! I would really appreciate the information so I can write it all in this book I'm putting together for my daughter (Olivia Conner) and nephew (Aiden Foster) so they will be able to know who our ancestors are. There isn't much on any ancestor cites so I was hoping you have more information on the Craven family ancestors and my great grandfather or grandfather are in any of your articles if you would send me any information you do have or can possibly find that would be helpful for my family and I to have to add to for years to come. Thank you very much for your time, you can reach me at..."Lyndsayc2b@yahoo.com" (Lindsay Scarbrough) Thank you again!
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