Thomas and Gracie Vines

Gracie Vines
Thomas Vines

Heather White

Wednesday, December 28, 2016
East Carolina University

[This text is machine generated and may contain errors.]

Heather White (00:00)
Okay, today is Wednesday, December 28 2016. And we're here at Town Commons and talking about the sycamore Hill project. Can you tell me your name?

Gracie Vines (00:08)
My name is Gracie Mebane Vines. And I was a resident at the corner of Pitt and First Street. And I was a child in the little tots choir at Sycamore Hill. I think the earliest remembrance I have is about age five. And Miss Clark was in charge of our little choir. And her home was half a block from my house. So we're all pretty much safe in go into the church to have the little blue group. And we sang at I think we sang on fourth or fifth Sunday. And I mean, it was only one song, because most of us were like, pre-school or up to about eight to 10, something like that. Okay,

Heather White (00:59)
That's great. So we're just collecting sort of stories that people remember from growing up down here. So anything that you'd like to share with us,

Gracie Vines (01:08)
when I was here, that was a dirt street. And we used to love to play ball in the street. And because it was hills on both sides, we could anchor a second on the third base and run back to home, all in that little block. Not that many people have cars, so we didn't have to worry about cars and balls and having problems. And the other street we use was Pitt Street down to the river. When we use that area to play as well. That's where people did the bike riding or skating is great.

Heather White (01:50)
And so what was your kind of general feeling growing up down here?

Gracie Vines (01:55)
There's a lot of animosity about the way the town approach redevelopment. They did take care of housing that was substandard. But the pride that the people felt about the achievements that they made, were smashed and the camaraderie that they had, because they helped each other. And there's still feelings about that now, and that was over 50 years ago. And if urban development learned anything, it was a matter of when you're moving a community, see if there's any way to move it together. Because if you keep that basic structure, everyone looked out for everybody else's children. They weren't taking into SAS, you were going to school you were going to do the things you needed to do. But as that redevelopment program started, people were scattered throughout Greenville, a lot of the move down towards what's now called West Greenville, Greenville Heights area from here, and that's where many of them died, including my uncle and aunt.

Heather White (03:06)
Yeah, and a lot of people said it was really hard on the older people.

Gracie Vines (03:11)
And they had nice, new redevelopment areas. And we tried to make sure that I didn't my parents tried to make sure that people we were concerned about got to the front of the redevelopment areas, they wouldn't be back there with a whole lot of mess and checked on them on a regular basis.

Heather White (03:32)
So is it when when urban renewal happened, can you talk a little bit about that?

Gracie Vines (03:37)
I was about 10 and we left town we moved to Farmville because my father was working Farmville. But they bought out the homes and there was no concern about moving people together. In fact, even now they did this project they are doing this project on Farmville Boulevard and a whole community was uplifted. But again there was no concern about how they're going to get affordable housing from these brick little homes that they had three bedroom one one and a half, two bathrooms, but they were their homes. That was a solid foundation. So if you want to move it provide a means of getting it together. My recommendation has been the law with the feds needs to change. They have a program for first time home owners but these people might have been home owners for almost 50 years. And if you're now seeing their homes are and you know they discount the price of the home are valued at this they need to make those affordable homes also available to those that are being displaced. I give them first priority first priority to first time ones. And then second priority to those that have been displaced by urban renewal. It took a while for some of those families to get placed, or to get funds enough to do a basic downpayment. And you're talking about on Farmville boulavard, most of those people were at the age of retirement. They weren't interested in having another mortgage payment. So that's my suggestion. Urban Renewal.

Heather White (05:31)
Yeah, yeah, Yeah. So with the church, you said, you're really involved with this?

Gracie Vines (05:37)
Well, I was a kid, and children didn't have a choice. They didn't have a choice. You went to school. And you went to church. One of the most exciting times I remember my girl one of the girlfriends and I sneaked into a wedding. It I think it was Dupree across the river. She had a beautiful wedding she was this little petite thing and that was the first I think wedding I had been to and just go into church and sit down, be quiet. She'll have a beautiful wedding long train. And she was so petite. She even when she died, she was still really petite. But it was my first experience of a wedding. And all I went back home to talk about the wedding, the wedding. But that's one of my first remembrances but they didn't play at Sycamore Hill . It was a long time before there was something really called a gospel choir. That was your toity toity church in town us. It was. They were just the best. Yeah, they had a lot of programs for the children. All the things we when I was here, I was almost too young to participate in that because I was 10 when we left. So you taught choir you had the BYPU or something like that? BTU BTU training. See the interesting thing my father was my mother was a Baptist and my father was a Christian of the Christian church so I got Church at Mom's and Sunday School at Dad is so split personality.

Heather White (07:36)
Do you have any other memories of growing up down here anything you,

Gracie Vines (07:40)
There used to be a way to get to the water down by what is nothing Evans street you go down the hill, it was a sandy area and there was a cherry trees down there. I remember picking cherries. Some kind of berry down there. I don't remember what but we go down there and pick berries. And we used to like to try to get near the river but got a mini a killing for trying to get too close. Yeah. From the flag back was about my little domain. And basically it was on that corner, in the street playing playing ball. We had apple trees in the front of our house. We had about four apple trees. There was a peach tree, a pecan tree. And then grandmama had us taking care of the yard next door. Now when I say us, the neighborhood children that was one of the activities, you know, we grass, kept the grass out of the yard and got to help pick something sometime.

Heather White (08:51)
Did your grandma move with you? Thought you moved when we moved?

Gracie Vines (08:55)
Yes. She well we Yes. Yes. She moved with us and was with us until she passed in 69. And she got to see the first man on the moon. And she died I say about 15 days later. But she did see that. I sat with her to make sure we both saw it together. Yes, amazing.

Heather White (09:20)
We just appreciate everybody that's come out and share their stories. Collecting all this as

Gracie Vines (09:25)
I saw the rendition of the tower. And the top of the tower is a little bit too modernistic for my taste to represent Sycamore hill if it could look more traditional shape that the tower what the bell tower was, and even to have a bell in it. You know, let there be a bell in the towel in remembrance of the people that were there.

Heather White (09:53)
The gentleman for simplicity of the market was out earlier sets. So we're here from ECU at Joyner library So it's the city that Parks and Rec or Rec and Parks is backwards and

Gracie Vines (10:04)
It's a little bit too modernistic, if you're going to talk Sycamore Hill was a traditional church it was a good church. It was a good foundation for for the area.

Heather White (10:17)
Yeah, that's so beautiful. That's for sure. Okay. Well, thank you.

Gracie Vines (10:22)
Anything else I can think of. You can help me think of.

Heather White (10:28)
And if you think of anything afterwards, you can always let us know after

Gracie Vines (10:32)
Excuse me, did you get Ellis Brown? [inaudible] bring Ellis , Ellis knows every what her memory has lost is still three times more than I'll ever know. So get Ellis Brown. Yeah,

Heather White (10:55)
Yeah, we thank you so much.

Thomas and Gracie Vines
Photographs of Thomas and Gracie Vines taken at the Town Common, Greenville, N.C., accompanied by an oral history interview, for the Beyond Bricks and Mortar project. Gracie Vines is a former resident of the Shore Drive neighborhood, that was destroyed in the 1960's to make room for the Town Common Park. In her interview, Mrs. Vines describes her childhood in the downtown area of Greenville before redevelopment. She lived at the corner of Pitt and First Street, a short walk away from the Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church where she participated in the Little Tots choir run by Mrs. Clark. Her family had apple trees, a peach tree, and a pecan tree in their front yard. She remembers her grandmother asking her and her siblings to take care of the yard next door, and reminisces about playing ball in the street with the neighborhood children. Interviewer: Heather White.
December 27, 2016
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oral histories
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