Francis, Michelle A., Oral Interview: James G. an Mrs. James G. Teague, July 30, 1983 CE


Interview of James G. Teague and Mrs. James G. Teague
Transcript of Interview of James G. Teague and Mrs. James G. Teague
Interviewee: James G. Teague
Interviewee: Mrs. James G. Teague
Interviewer: Michelle A. Francis
Date of Interview: July 30, 1983
(Begin Side 1)

Michelle A. Francis:

Was it in New Jersey, when you were up in New Jersey?

James G. Teague:

Yes. I went into the main pottery where they make them molds all the [unintelligible]. Well, you're gonna have to say it's all modern pottery, or it was back then anyhow. Course they been havin' improvements now. I don't know. They made plates, a lot of plates that I seen made. And they brought 'em up and you had to pour 'em, you know, and you put it on a wheel, kind of like one of those electric wheels like they use, and they'd take, have so much clay that they'd put in there, just slap it in there. And then they'd start the wheel up and they'd start turnin', take his hands and he'd flatten that clay out just like he would if he's gonna turn a piece of pottery on a regular potter's wheel. And, he throws that form on there, on that wheel, slaps that clay in there and he's got a lever that comes down just like, makes me think of one of them where you used to cut shoes--have an old hook, cuttin' that hook shoes, with a lever that come down. But this lever come down and shape the bottom of the plate and everything was made with that lever that comes down.

Michelle A. Francis:

That made the shape? The lever made the shape?

James G. Teague:

Made the shape, that's right.

Michelle A. Francis:

So the potter didn't make the shape.

James G. Teague:

The clay was just pressed into shape and it, if ever you pulled that lever down, you didn't have to hold it over two or three seconds until it's got the bottom fixed.

Michelle A. Francis:

And how many plates a day could you make?

James G. Teague:

They told me that they could make about a thousand a day.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's a lot of plates! Did they make 'em on bats? You know.

James G. Teague:

It's on a form.




Michelle A. Francis:

On a form. So you took the form off and. . .

James G. Teague:

. . .leave the clay on there to dry. And then they take it out of the form.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you ever make plates for 'em?

James G. Teague:

No, I never did for them. But I made plates. But I never did, I never did make any up there. They had other ideas that they liked better.

Michelle A. Francis:

You made a lot of big pieces up there, didn't you?

James G. Teague:

Well, afraid so. I didn't make any bigger, up there, pots than I do down here.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. Weren't you the only person turnin'?

James G. Teague:

What?

Michelle A. Francis:

Weren't you the only person turnin' big stuff?

James G. Teague:

I's the only one there in Flemington that was doin' that stuff. Course they had another feller up from somewhere in South America turned pottery in the main plant.

Michelle A. Francis:

They had you out front where the people came, didn't they?

James G. Teague:

They just had me to make pottery mostly for advertisement. People would come look at it. And I made pottery a lot of times for ladies' clubs.

Michelle A. Francis:

Really?

James G. Teague:

Yeah. Used to would have a club or school or somebody comin' most every day for a little while. I had one, thrown about one show a day, you might say. Mostly in the rest of the time I was turnin' pottery just like I would if I didn't have that at all.

Michelle A. Francis:

When a club would come to watch you, would you talk about it?

James G. Teague:

I didn't do much talkin'. I just showed 'em what I could do. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

Did they ask you lots of questions?

James G. Teague:

Oh yes. I answered a lot of questions. I got to where I could ask them as many as they did me. (Laughter) They, schools come there and watched me and they made recordin's of it and movin' pictures and one thing and another. I put




on one show for 'em down in, for the people from South America. They wanted to take it back to show the modern ways. The potter's way--the old way and the modern way that pottery's made it in this country.

Michelle A. Francis:

I bet that was interesting. They put it on film, then?

James G. Teague:

Yeah. Had it on film.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did they have anything else? Did other people film you, too? Did any of the TV stations, or--they didn't have TV back then, did they?

James G. Teague:

No, they didn't. They used, just like your school does and tapes, you know, to show the children.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. Did you ever make any little pieces to give to people as they came to watch you?

James G. Teague:

I usually, whenever they came to, when I put on a show, I usually turned one or two that wasn't too big, you know, very small ones, mostly. And then I'd turn one big 'un. And they got a lot, mighty interestin' to them to watch me put that cap on there. I turned a cap, and then I turned the bottle and then I'd put the cap on top of the bottle. Turned it together and finished shapin' it.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. I bet that was somethin' for them to see that.

James G. Teague:

Well, yes. They wondered how I could hold that clay as soft as it was.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. What color glaze did you use up there?

James G. Teague:

Salt glaze was what I was usin'.

Michelle A. Francis:

Up there, too? Up in New Jersey?

James G. Teague:

Yeah. Salt glaze was what I done up there. And I used some Albany slip and it was a clay glaze.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you make plates up there?

James G. Teague:

Make what?

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you make plates up there on the wheel?

James G. Teague:

Not many. I, mostly other stuff. I had, they had so many shapes until I didn't get around to plates and stuff like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

I was talkin' to your brother, Duck, about a month ago now, it seems like, and I, he was tellin' me about one time when your dad went down to South Carolina with a wagon load of pottery. And he got in a swamp somewhere down there and




the water, it had been rainin' a lot, and the water got up and he got trapped in the swamp. He couldn't. get out 'cause he couldn't ford the road and he was in there for several weeks. And everyone back here didn't know what had happened to him. And apparently tie almost starved to death, 'cause, you know, he didn't have much food with him, because he hadn't planned on gettin' caught in the swamp. Do you remember that?

James G. Teague:

No, I don't remember that.

Michelle A. Francis:

I thought it was an interesting story, but you hadn't mentioned it to me and I didn't know if you remembered it. Do you remember him talkin' about that?

Mrs. James G. Teague:

I never heard anything about it before. Had you ever heard anything about before?

James G. Teague:

What?

Mrs. James G. Teague:

'Bout your daddy gettin' trapped down in a swamp.

James G. Teague:

No, I didn't hear about him gettin' trapped in the water. He had it, what we think now that he had, he had a chronic case of appendicitis, one time when he's off with a load of pottery. And my mother's a little girl, she was with him. And, he'd had it rough that night, the appendicitis was givin' him a fit. And back then they didn't know how to do anythin' for it. They called it collic, crowd collic. And so they just suffered it out. If you couldn't suffer it, why most of them. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

. . .died.

James G. Teague:

. . .died. That's right.

Mrs. James G. Teague:

But Jim, that wasn't your daddy, that was your grandfather.

James G. Teague:

No, I'm talkin' about the old man, Led Spinks. I'm not talkin' about. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

That's all right. It was his, who was it? It was your granddaddy--what was his name?

James G. Teague:

Led, they called him Led, his name was Ledbetter. They called him Led Spinks.

Mrs. James G. Teague:

Yeah. But it was, Duck told you it was their father that got trapped down there? I hadn't ever heard that.

Michelle A. Francis:

He said that when your daddy got trapped in the swamp, things were really bad up here because a lot of you kids had the fever. I want to say, it wasn't scarlet fever. I forget what, it was somethin' real bad that was goin'




around. And a lot of you kids were down sick with some kind of fever. And then, I think about the same time, I'm not certain if it was the same time, but it might have been a little bit later on, somebody, one of the woods around here caught on fire.

James G. Teague:

What had caught on fire?

Michelle A. Francis:

Woods.

James G. Teague:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

You remember that?

James G. Teague:

No, I, they told me about that. But I don't remember that. I wasn't big enough to remember that?

Michelle A. Francis:

What'd they tell you about it?

James G. Teague:

Well, it's just a forest fire is all I know.

Michelle A. Francis:

He said it got real close to the house. Your house.

James G. Teague:

Yeah. It got close to the house. I heard my mother tell that. And Joe Brown, Jr., my wife's brother-in-law, and he got up on top of the house with buckets of water and whenever leaves or anything would light on there that would burn, why he put it out with that water.

Michelle A. Francis:

That must have been pretty scary.

James G. Teague:

Why it is scary when you see the fire come rollin' at you. If you cain't handle it, why it's just too bad. Lot of people gets killed by it, burnt up. An awful lot of their pottery--property lost.

Michelle A. Francis:

That was on this property somewhere, wasn't it? That fire?

James G. Teague:

Yeah. On this property, here.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was it across the street or across the road?

James G. Teague:

Mm-hum. Back then there wasn't nothin' but just a wagon route across here. Wasn't even much of a road. You see, the old plank road used to run along on up there, but they tried whenever the people that built that and quit charging a toll, well they just let the road go down. I saw cars mired up right down there, just a right down here. A little bridge goes down there. And there'd be mud holes down there and they'd get mired up. They'd mired up back up here the other side of Lawrence. Lot of times they would take a horse and pull 'em out. Wide cars, you see, most of 'em was. A good horse would pull one right out.




Michelle A. Francis:

Where did you have to pay the toll?

James G. Teague:

Well, they had toll gates every so often, every so far they'd have a toll gate and you drove along the side of the plank road, but if you had a heavy load to pull and one thing or another, why it was better to get up on the plank road and pay the toll.

Michelle A. Francis:

So, you could ride along side of it for free.

James G. Teague:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

But if you rode on top of it, you had to pay.

James G. Teague:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Huh. I .didn't know that.

James G. Teague:

Well, they have toll gates some places, used to, in this country here.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. I knew about toll roads, but I didn't realize that they, you could ride along the side for free.

James G. Teague:

You could on this 'un. I found many a piece of a board that was left, that hadn't rotted from the plank road.

Michelle A. Francis:

Have you? You still got some? Do you still have some of that wood?

James G. Teague:

No, I haven't got any of that now. You can just imagine how many boards it would take to lay a road from Fayetteville to Winston-Salem. That's where it run.

Michelle A. Francis:

It'd take an awful lot.

James G. Teague:

Did you ever see the big coffee pot in Winston-Salem?

Michelle A. Francis:

No!

James G. Teague:

At the end of the old plank road there's a big coffee pot there. I've seen it. I haven't seen it lately, but I have seen it.

Michelle A. Francis:

What's it made out of?

James G. Teague:

Wood. It's made like a coffee pot.

Michelle A. Francis:

I've seen the big chair in Thomasville.

James G. Teague:

Yeah, well, you see, I don't know what they's advertisin' with this big coffee pot. I don't know. The slave market was at Fayetteville. You've heard tell of that?




Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

James G. Teague:

And, the buildin' that they used to auction off for them slaves. Last time I was in Fayetteville, I noticed it was still standin' there.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. Market Place, I think is what they call it.

James G. Teague:

They sold slaves just like you'd sell cattle.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

James G. Teague:

Some bid so much on 'em.

Mrs. James G. Teague:

All that was just pitiful, wasn't it?

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. Hard to believe it, isn't it?

James G. Teague:

I'm glad there ain't no more of that.

Michelle A. Francis:

I know. I don't know. Some people in other countries have it just about as bad as it was here. Countries in South America.

James G. Teague:

Yeah.

Mrs. James G. Teague:

The big plantation owners would get those slaves and just work 'em to death.

James G. Teague:

If you ever go to Fayetteville, I hope that you could get to see that slave market.

Michelle A. Francis:

I'll make a point.

James G. Teague:

It's right in, I think it's on the old plank road inside the city, of course.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did the potters around here, the old, like your granddaddy, own slaves?

James G. Teague:

They must, some of the Spinkses, they must have owned slaves, I don't know. They must of have, because whenever they freed the slaves, why they give 'em the name of their master. Whoever had 'em, why they'd take his name. And there's several Spinkses around, they're some back over in yonder that's colored. They must have owned some slaves. I may have heard of some talk about it, but I don't remember what they said. They was a slave market there and of course they had a lot of slaves all over the country then. And all over the south.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, did your granddaddy Spinks, he just worked for a potter?

James G. Teague:

No. He farmed and hauled pottery to sell it. That's




where, a lot of people they delivered it through this section of the country here. He'd haul lumber, if you had the horses, mules, you'd haul lumber. And whenever they got their crops made, they'd haul lumber. And if there wasn't no lumber to haul why they'd cut crossties and haul them. Really, a feller's better off then havin' a good team of horses or mules, than you would be to own a bulldozer now, I believe. 'Cause he had to use his horses and mules every day. Whenever they went to church they just hooked to the old wagon. Loaded it up and went on to church. I've seen that myself whenever I was a little feller. I've seen people goin' along the road drivin', maybe one man settin' up in the front drivin' and the rest of them back there just a load of 'em. Didn't make no difference, all could get on. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. Times were a lot simpler, weren't they?

James G. Teague:

Well, yes. It wasn't too bad. Now if you think of it in this way. Back then they had those horses, mules to cultivate their farms. And then many times they didn't need the plough or something like that, they'd hook on to the wagon and haul lumber or crossties. That made it good. If a man got him a good team of mules then he's settin' pretty.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. Where would they haul the lumber? Where would they take it? The 1umber and the crossties?

James G. Teague:

Well the crossties went to the railroad. And they were people that would buy 'em, stock 'em up you know, and let 'em go in big bunches.

Michelle A. Francis:

So would he take the crossties up to the railroad in Seagrove?

James G. Teague:

They'd take 'em over there and use crossties on all the railroads everywhere. They ship a lot of crossties now overseas, they tell me. They pass here every day 'bout with crossties--the railroad. Back then they didn't saw 'em. They hued 'em with a axe.

Mrs. James G. Teague:

Some may a'brought 'em at Seagrove and then load 'em on the train and ship 'em all over, where ever they wanted 'em. The same way at Robbins over here.

Michelle A. Francis:

They'd take 'em down in Robbins, too?, Where'd they haul the pottery?

James G. Teague:

Well, they hauled the pottery, a lot of 'em did, whenever they got a chance. Maybe they'd haul for a potter or two.

Michelle A. Francis:

Where would they take it?




James G. Teague:

Well, they'd take the pottery usually to the hardwares and stores around over the country. People had to have churns then. They done pickle jars. There was a use for the pottery. Every bit of it that you could make you could sell.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did your daddy ever make you a wheel just for you, or for any of you kids?

James G. Teague:

A what?

Michelle A. Francis:

A wheel, a little wheel, to turn on when you were young?

James G. Teague:

No. Back then, there's so much work to do, if you were able to do something or other, they put you what you could do. And, course, everybody tried to lend a hand to help out with the family. So, it more or less was just a home business, you might call it.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you ever take turns with your brothers? When you were learnin' how to turn? Did you ever, like, somebody would turn and somebody would kick the wheel?

James G. Teague:

You kicked it yourself. Peddled it, you peddled it yourself. Usually, just whenever, if you wanted to turn a piece of pottery, just do it while they're eatin' dinner. You'd eat your dinner early or late, either one or the other. And just work on the wheel, if you want to, you'd be a hour there that you were workin' on the wheel. Some of us would mess around with the clay while they's restin' and gettin' their dinner.

Michelle A. Francis:

Is that how you learned? Is that how you learned how to turn, by goin' out on, during dinner time?

James G. Teague:

Really, I don't know how I learned to turn. I just, just worked, and I don't know how I started off or anything. I don't even remember. I just been around it all, whenever I grew up, or like can remember. Course you usually don't do much until you get up to some size, where you can handle a plate.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, those big urns, like a churn or somethin', that takes how many pounds of clay?

James G. Teague:

Well, you can, usually about 18 or 19 pounds I can turn a 5-gallon churn out of it.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's a lot of clay to center. It must take a lot of strength.

James G. Teague:

Well, it took pretty good strength, but then, you can, steadiness is what counts most in clay. You got to be steady so's you can make an even pull on it all the way up. Whenever you start out, of course, you're just comin' around




with a load on the wheel. First thing you do is to center your ball. And after you've centered your ball, open it up--your ball of clay--open it up and leave, you got a ball a minute and leavin' it as thick as you want to. If you ain't got no way of bein' sure of yourself, just take you a pin or somethin' like that, and stick down in the ball and look and see how much clay you got in the bottom. You know then. But if you use the ball opener, you set it where that you won't open it up, you won't leave it open too thin to or too thick. You do every one the same. That's what I used along at the last. Course whenever I first started turnin' why I didn't use anything but my hands.

Michelle A. Francis:

Then after you open it up, you have to bring it up, right?

James G. Teague:

Well, it's applyin' pressure. You, you don't pull up as much as it looks like you're pullin' it. It takes that steady pressure gradually to bring it on up. And then, if you're turnin' anything of any size, you got to get your clay up in volume or it don't work well. And, you got to be steady as you're pullin' it up. And don't pull your clay so that it, it'll have a dry shape to stand whenever you get it pulled up. The main thing is don't put any more than you can get a good hold on. Say a 5-gallon churn, somethin' like that, why you get a pretty good hold on it. Got to pull about 12 parts in your hand and about twice for your "finger draw" we call it. And, then you put the lid on it-- a piece of wood. Chip, I call 'em. But rib is what a lot of people call 'em. And smooth it up. Get your shape.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. How many of those could you do in a day?

James G. Teague:

I reckon I could do 25 or 30.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's a lot.

James G. Teague:

[unintelligible] I used to be able to turn a churn, a 5-gallon churn, in 8 minutes. Course the ball was made and you got to set the pottery off. So it takes a little time for that. (Tape stops, then starts)

Michelle A. Francis:

Mr. Teague, do you remember when Joe Owens' dad worked for your folks?

James G. Teague:

Yes, I can remember some of it. I couldn't tell you how long, but I remember it when I was a small boy.

Michelle A. Francis:

What was his name? Do you remember?

James G. Teague:

Rufus Owens is the best I, is about all I ever knew.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was he a good turner?




James G. Teague:

Yes.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did he-turn big pieces?

James G. Teague:

Well, back then there's hardly anybody that turned pottery that turned much over S gallons. Some people could turn more than that. Uncle Ellis Teague, he turned one that was used for a wash tub. He'd wash in it and tend to it.

Michelle A. Francis:

That must have been really large. He turned it?

James G. Teague:

I saw him. Yes, he turned it.

Michelle A. Francis:

How many sections was it?

James G. Teague:

No, I don't believe it was. Looked like it was all one piece.

Michelle A. Francis:

All one piece? Whew. He must have had, that must have taken, he must have had somethin' on the wheel, a bat.

James G. Teague:

Well, you can have a smaller bottom and move it out and it'd make it hold a whole lot of water.

Michelle A. Francis:

Wonder what ever happened to your daddy's old wheel?

James G. Teague:

Just got throwed around. And I give some of it to the school.

Michelle A. Francis:

Up at Randolph Tech?

James G. Teague:

Over at Westmore School.

Michelle A. Francis:

Westmore School? Do they still have it?

James G. Teague:

I don't know if they do or not.

Michelle A. Francis:

They used to call 'em lathes, didn't they? They used to call a wheel a lathe.

James G. Teague:

A lathe.

(End Tape)

Title
Francis, Michelle A., Oral Interview: James G. an Mrs. James G. Teague, July 30, 1983 CE
Description
Second part of Michelle Francis' interview with potter James G. Teague and his wife. The first part is from May 18, 1983. They discuss further various North Carolina potters and the process of creating pottery, including butter churns.
Date
July 30, 1983
Original Format
oral histories
Extent
Local Identifier
OHSOAD
Creator(s)
Contributor(s)
Subject(s)
Spatial
Location of Original
Jenkins Fine Arts Center
Rights
This item has been made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Researchers are responsible for using these materials in accordance with Title 17 of the United States Code and any other applicable statutes. If you are the creator or copyright holder of this item and would like it removed, please contact us at als_digitalcollections@ecu.edu.
http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/

Know Something About This Item?


*
*
*
Comment Policy