|Transcript of Interview of Nell Cole Graves and Bea Cole (Mrs. Waymon Cole)|
|Interviewee:||Nell Cole Graves|
|Interviewee:||Bea Cole (Mrs. Waymon Cole)|
|Interviewer:||Michelle A. Francis|
|Date of Interview:||August 31, 1985|
Today is August 31st and I'm talking with Nell Cole Graves at J.B. Cole's in Seagrove, North Carolina. (Tape stops, then starts)
Now, the girl that's typing this, the girl that's transcribing this.
She says, "Now, you tell Nell to get up close:" (Laughter)
Oh, no. You tell here I cain't talk loud! (Laughter)
She said, "Now don't let her play with any paper and don't let her play with any coins (Laughter).
Now, I'm doin' somethin' all the time with my hands.
I'm either doin' paper, doin' like that.
Or I've got a pencil and I'm doin' like that with it.
You just can't sit still, can you?
I can't. I can't be still. I just cannot.
Yeah, it is hard, I know. I was listenin' to some of the other tapes--see, now there you go (Laughter)!
Oh my, move it away from me.
I know. I was listenin' to some of the other tapes and someone, I think it might have been one of the Cravens, said that your dad learned how to turn pots from J.D. Craven. Did you ever hear about him, remember him talkin' about
that? That Jase Cole learned how to turn from J.D. Craven?
Hm-um. But, uh, Henry Hancock did.
Uh-huh. Henry Hancock learned because, I don't think I've got one of those copies down here, but I've got that at home and I'm pretty sure--I know in there that J.D. Craven taught him. But J.D. Craven didn't teach my daddy, I don't think.
You don't think so? I just thought I'd check out that rumor, and see if there was any truth to it.
Mm-hum. If he did, I never, uh, he never did tell me anything about it.
Do you know who your dad learned from? Was the first potter he worked with?
Well, not really, because his people were potters, you see. They came from England over here. That's where we started from. But I don't, you know, Dorothy Auman has probably got the history.
Yeah, she probably does.
Okay. Well, I just thought I'd ask about that. Last time we talked, we were talkin', tryin' to talk about the pottery here in decades, you know, we talked about the '20s and we talked about the '30s and we were talkin' about the '40s when we quit last time. We were talkin' about who was potting, you know, who was turnin' at that time.
And I think we said that, uh, in the early '40s there was you and Waymon and Philmore. . .
Mm-hum, and Bascome King.
And Bascome King.
And, uh, and Ad Luck?
And Ad Luck.
Yeah. And then Ad died and. . .
Let me see, I don't think Ad was, in '40s, Ad was. . .
That's okay (Laughter) .
Ad wasn't turnin' in '40s. Huh-uh. He got here more in uh, I think he died in '42, I guess he just died, uh, I guess he'd be comin' late '40s.
In the late '40s was Ad Luck.
Okay. Who, what kind of, who were you sellin' pottery to in the '40s?
In the '40s?
We were sellin' pottery to a man in Florida, Frenches.
The Frenches? You were still sellin' to the Frenches. And we had talked about them some.
And, you were makin' some big things then.
Big garden urns, if I remember right.
We were talkin' about that. What else?
Uh, well, they wanted like the big stuff, and then they got vases and things like that.
Mm-hum. Flower pots?
Big flower pots. Uh-huh.
When you say "big", how big are you meaning?
Oh, about that high, and about that big around.
So that would have been about. . .
Great big ones.
. . .about 13 inches high?
18 inches high.
. . .and about?
And maybe around 24 inches wide.
24 to 25.
So those are big flower pots. Would they be glazed?
Mm-hum. They were all glazed.
What were the colors you were makin' those in?
Oh, we made uh, that rust-orange. We made a lot of that for them, then we made some green, and um, the brown sugar.
I bet the brown sugar did up nice in those flower pots.
Mm-hum. They were pretty.
I bet that did, it was really pretty.
And we did some in the lighter colors, maybe white and things like that.
Mm-hum. Were you sellin' to anybody else but the Frenches?
Yeah. We sold to a lot of the shops in the mountains.
In the mountains--North Carolina mountains?
Do you remember any of the companies?
Uh. . .
This was in the '40s. I remember you tellin' me about Sunset, but that was earlier.
No, my daddy was livin' then. It was in the '40s we're sellin' to them.
I thought I remembered you sayin' it was the '20s and early '30s.
Oh, maybe I'm gettin' ahead now. It was. Uh-huh.
Because you know, Ad Luck, he didn't make, he didn't work for us when we were sellin' to them.
Okay. '20s and early '30s was Sunset.
Mm-hum. '30s, mm-hum.
So who else? What mountain people did you sell to in the '40s?
Well, we sold to, uh, let me see, it was Black Mountain, and I forgot the name of their place.
But it was a pottery in Black Mountain?
That was a, just a gift shop in Black Mountain.
And then we sold to one, another one in the mountains, uh, that was, Ralph Lawrence, but I don't know what his shop went by.
Mm-hum. That was in the mountains. And a lot of other people, little shops would come and buy for their shops.
Were you doin' any retail business?
Yeah, we'd do retail here. Uh-huh. But we sold wholesale to them.
Was it, was mainly your business wholesale at that, in the '40s?
A lot of it was, mm-hum.
A majority of it, would you say, or about half and half?
About half and half.
Half and half. So, your retail business was pickin' up.
Uh-huh. It was gettin' better then. It was gettin' a lot better.
Why do you think that was?
Well, there's just more people comin' to the south.
Vacations. Uh-huh. And they'd be goin' to Florida and they'd come by of course--220, you see, they could come down 220. And a lot of 'em came down here.
Came down and stopped and bought pottery.
Who else was helping you in the shop? Who was doin' the firin' and glazin'?
Uh, Johnny Kennedy and I did most of the glazin'.
Mm-hum. I remember you mentioned him. He would dip one time and you would dip the second.
You'd have to hold him so he wouldn't fall in.
I'd have to hold him up there to keep him from fallin' in! (Laughter) He was a little 'un.
How long did he work for y'all?
Mm, I guess he worked maybe uh, maybe 10, 12 years before he died.
A long time.
Maybe a little longer. He worked with 'em until he died.
Was that in the '50s, or when did he die?
He died uh, I've forgotten exactly. He died in the '60s, 'cause, uh. . .
Did he die before Philmore did?
Now wait a minute. When, what year was the war over?
'45. He died maybe uh, in the '50s.
Who else did you have helpin' you in the '40s? You and he were doin' the glazing.
Oh, Johnny and I were doin' the glazin', but the others worked at the kiln. There was Henry Jordan.
And Johnny Jordan.
And Ralph Jordan.
All three brothers?
Well, that's a big job. How many kilns a day--a week were you gettin' out?
We were gettin' out, oh, we had a small kiln and a large kiln. Sometimes we'd get out two a week.
Two a week?
That would have been a lot of work. A lot of pots to make.
Mm-huh. Yeah. And Waymon and Phil and myself were doin' the, makin' the pots.
Mm-hum. That kept you pretty busy, I guess.
Yeah: It did.
Was Bascome here?
Bascome, he was makin' pots, too.
I guess you just each had your own shapes that yours made?
Who made the plates? Were you makin' plates back then?
I made plates. I made plates and pie plates.
And bowls and things like that.
Mm-hum. Made casseroles. Made casseroles until Virginia came back in uh, '64 and worked for us. She started makin' the. . .
. . .casseroles.
Uh-huh. She worked with her daddy and she made stuff for Charlie Cole in her house. She didn't go work with Charlie, but she made it and he paid her so much.
And then she came back to us in '64. So I didn't make any more pie plates or casseroles.
You made mainly just the. . .
. . .little smaller pieces.
Because you see I had to have a operation.
That's right. You were tellin' me about that. What, is there anything that you remember especially about the '40s? About that time period?
In the '40s?
Yeah. Anything that kind of stands out in your mind?
Mm, that's when my daddy died, in the '40s, and then Waymon and I (sigh), let's see, I don't know. No.
Can't think of anything right now?
Cain't think of anything right now.
One of your brothers that you mentioned to me last time was Herman Cole?
And you said he had started up a little pottery?
He started a pottery in Smithfield.
And you said he was in the service.
No. He, he was in World War I.
World War I.
Okay, I wanted to make sure I understood that, because we didn't say which war. (Laughter)
Mm-hum. World War I. And he was the oldest one.
The oldest brother?
And I think you said he started his pottery in 1929, 1930?
Uh, it probably was around 1930.
How long did, how many years did he make pots?
I'd say around 5 years, 5 to 6.
About 5. So he wasn't in business a whole long time, was he?
Not a long, long time. I'd say maybe for 6 years.
Mm-hum. Did he sign his pieces Smithfield Pottery?
Smithfield Pottery, I think.
I believe he signed 'em.
Did he have the same glazes that you did? That your dad did at that time?
Uh, no, not exactly the same. But he did have some of the glazes that we had.
What colors did he have, do you remember?
He had that, uh, they made some red and they made, I believe he got, he made some blue, I think. And uh, he made that uh, a slip that makes that red, but it looks soft red like the. . .
Sort of like a rust?
Mm-hum. Kind of like a rust color. And he made green. I can't remember all of his colors now. And I think, I'm pretty sure he made the cream and brown. I think he made the cream and the brown.
And he was doin' the turnin'?
No, huh-uh. He had to hire out for turnin'. Jack Kiser turned there.
Jack Kiser turned?
Uh-huh. And Charlie Craven turned, and a McNeil turned for him for a while.
Uh-huh. His name was uh, I can't think of it right now. Maybe it will come to me.
Did anybody take over the pottery? Or did he just quit?
Yeah, he just quit. He just quit the pottery.
He just quit. He decided he didn't want to do it anymore?
Well, did he run the business? Did he do any of the glazin'?
Yes, he did the glazin'.
He did do the glazin'. And helped with the firing, I guess.
Mm-hum. He did most of the firin' himself.
He had, uh, a little large kiln. I know if whenever you look at the book that uh, the Smithsonian book of clay. You see that big kiln in there? The Smithfield Pottery?
Mm-hum. That was his?
Mm-hum. That was my brother standin' there.
Oh! Well, I'll go back and take another look at that.
Mm-hum. He was the one that fired that kiln.
Okay. You don't have a copy of that here, do you?
I don't have a copy here.
Okay. Somethin' else I was gonna ask you about him.
They didn't have no children.
Hum-um. And that's why, his wife is the one I had to go and see every afternoon. But he died in, um, let's see, '82.
He died in '82?
Mm-hum. He's been dead 3, 3 years. (Tape stops, then starts)
Nell, I want you to tell me about the candle shop.
My candle shop?
Yeah, your candle shop. When did you start that?
Well, we uh, we started it in uh, maybe around '62. And then we, when we started we put it, we started in a basement.
Of your house?
In the basement of the house. And then we. . .
You and Philmore?
Uh-huh. And then we got a little too big. It got too large for us down there. We was gettin' wholesale orders and all. So we built a building and uh, let's see, '64, and then we moved into it, uh, early '64.
What got you started doin' candles?
Well, people would, as they'd get candle holders say, "Well, why don't you make candles to match 'em?" And so they just kept on and so we decided we'd make some.
We started off little.
Did you start out with just the two of you workin' on it?
Did you make the candles yourself?
How'd you do that?
Vellie did. Yeah. So she helped me. And then, after Vellie got too old to do it, I hired Ida, I mean, uh, let's see, what is that woman's name? I got Mable Yow to take her place, then. She was one of my neighbors. And so Mable started then when Vellie got too old.
Got too old to work?
Who's workin' there now?
Mm-hum. Mable's still with me.
Huh. Does she do the dippin' still?
Uh-huh. She does the dippin' and pourin', everything now. The only thing I do at night, I go out there and make up the wax for her.
She doesn't want that responsibility.
Goodness. So it's just the two of you runnin' it basically?
I don't know how you do it, Nell! (Laughter)
Nervous energy! (Laughter) I got to keep goin', or I'd fall all to pieces.
Well, how many candles do you make a day?
Well, she can dip several. I guess she could finish up maybe around 100 pair.
100 pair a day?
Mm-hum. A day, yeah.
That's right many.
And then the pourin', you see, that's not too bad. It's just pour 'em in there and let 'em harden and then take 'em out and put the drill, drill a hole in 'em and put the wax.