Jay and Debbie Hagans

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Jay Hagans
Debbie Hagans

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 sitting here on town common talking about the sycamore Hill community. And can you tell me your name?

Jay Hagans (00:10)
My name is Jay Hagans.

Heather White (00:12)
And is it okay that I'm recording you? Thanks. So can you tell me a little bit about your connection to this area?

Jay Hagans (00:19)
Well, I was reared here in this area, up until about 11 or 12 years old. During that time, that's when the redevelopment came in. And they came in with the eminent domain, I guess that's what it's called, close to violet property. That wasn't an option. To, to not say, you had to say, I can remember, a man came to the house. And during that time, my grandmother, it was my grandmother's house. And she was actually a part of our family. And by the house being in, in her name, our man made an offer of about 20 $100 for the house. And she looked at him and said, Do you really think I'm stupid to open 24 I likes to work here. So my parents were one of the one of the last ones to say, before we move on from now in this area, we were fortunate enough to be able to build another house not to pet to rent or go to the public housing or anything like that. So I can remember that very distinctly. My grandmother, she had been in this area all her life. And it was a big change for her to have to sail, pull up rooms and go someplace as it was for my parents shoot. So but I got a lot of fond memories. So I was actually baptized. In this church. We had a baptismal pool in the church. And me and my older brother was baptized in the church. I had an aunt who lived right on the corner of dealerships in Avon street. That was my grandmother's sister. And her name was Lola. I don't, I don't know. I mentioned her to me. She lives right down the corner. It was in the dentist's office was on the corner. Evans in first right across from my address was 111 North Haven Street, which was slightly going down to here. And my mother, she taught school practically all her life. And also my mother was the very first black female police officer he in town. So before she started teaching school full time, during this oil, when she started taking school full time. She started to working with the recreation department during the summers. She was the playground director for the playground down here. Now. This area on every street as it went on down. That's where the playground set, okay. And kids from all around, came down here. And that's where they spent most of their days at the playground. My mother she, she my mother was hmm actually coming She she was a basketball player in high school. She played tennis in college in West Virginia State University.

And she was just an all around athlete, she taught us how to play baseball, as well as other kids softball, and just it was four sports and whatnot. She was sort of like a nanny for the, quote area kids. So that's where my relationship with what a lot of the older people now young people will develop through my mom's working with corporations.

Heather White (05:49)
So many people who spoke so highly of your mother, that's probably been one of the the continual ringing true of everybody that we've talked to is had such core memories of the playground and how loving your mother

Jay Hagans (06:01)
Was, as a matter of fact, my mother's picture in, in working with the Greenville police department is in archives. Oh wait, you're in library. Wow, look it up. Yeah. Eleanor Hagans. That's great. Anything else you'd like to know?

Heather White (06:25)
Anything else that really stands out to you memories of growing up here? Well, this community

Jay Hagans (06:35)
In regards to how we related to different regions with white people. I never really had any interaction per se that stands out to me with white people until probably my 11th grade year in high school because we was a close knit community this area down here it was dominantly black and we had literally where we played or where safmarine book and I guess you know that the wife had we had our lovely we had Tina Lee De there's and and whatnot so wasn't anything negative that I can that I can remember. So I guess I was just so young and whatnot being I can remember that. When we walked to school I went to elementary school, Fleming Street School which is now Sadie Saulter. We will all meet up here in a second and Evens street different different friends the [Gatners], the Browns, the Daniels, who all walked to school together there wouldn't be any there wouldn't be any buses for us. We walked to school. The only negative thing is that when coming home from school sometimes the white kids go throw milk cartons out at us. We when we were on the way home, but that's neither here or there. But I enjoyed this year. I just think that well, sometimes I wonder how it would have been if we were allowed to, to stay here in this area. Now. The redevelopment it was advantageous for a lot of families because a lot of families were living in, in homes that really really needed repairs. Because they were renting and not having the the the monetary means the financial means to to to do any better. They did as well as they could do what they had to do. We moved to our Memorial Drive. We moved my parents build a house up there in '66, I thought it was, and that's where we moved to I can remember the weekend that we moved. Just so happened that it was cavalry time for the Boy Scouts. We also we had our troop 131 Right here at Sycamore Hill. And we went to Camp Rita that weekend. And when we came back, my pastor had already moved and we went from being able to walk home from church, and the parents had to come and pick us up, you know, take us to our new home. So that house is sheared out right now. Did you have to change out schools? No, we did. No, we did what to the same school we only had one high school that we went to during that time that was Eppes High School. We had a couple of elementary schools which was [Inaudible] in south Greenville. So wherever you stayed at those are the schools that you went to kids wouldn't be any different districts or anything like that it was just one single district so played on in this area quite a bit. That was some wooded areas where you know had trees and bushes and things of that nature and we play different games having to pay homage in cowboy games and, and whatnot. Also own this at this side of Green Street. I had a cousin who lived man his name is Earnest Adams and his father had a store up on every street his name we call him Strollo and that was your neighborhood store where everybody went to eat in bulk different things to a small store but carried things that everybody needed during that time Willey [Inaudible] he had a little store right here in the corner right behind his house on a corner second and Evans I think I think our who you mentioned Lonnie Nagar that was his grandson nephew to somebody but anyway well he's a relative of mine as well. So we everything that we needed we had an image area when when we needed haircut It was right here up here on every street between second and first won't get out haircuts I can remember the loo store beware. Go in there and we beware of so hot dogs that were really good. And ice cream cones. So when you when you did well, you could go to [B. Webbs] for a nickle and get a nice big cone of ice cream. Did any of those stores reopen? Remember? No. Yes it did. Adams grocery open reopen own Pitt Street and no, we'll be way up she didn't open didn't reopen. I don't think of course. Payton's they reopen across the river. Okay. Yeah, they were right here on the corner. Evans and second street I could remember one are the matriarchs of the of that family. Before she died, I made myself known to over at the store over here. And she recognized the name and my family and my grandma and whatnot. So I can remember when the National Guard did their training exercise. We will come up and watch from Washington March of here on the corner at the amory all day was excited.

Heather White (14:25)
So did you fish in the river?

Jay Hagans (14:29)
I didn't. We were prohibited going down to the river. Because of because of drownings. But I can remember plenty of whippins I got from going down to that river. When the when my mother was a playground director. Some of the older boys would would, during the hot summer, would go down to the river and swim and I've seen several different parents come down and snatch their signs out and spank them all the way home. You know, so we were prohibited from going down to the river I saw I saw a guy drown down there during that time the guys from out in the country in the rural area would come to this area for the help out on the weekend. I think you heard a mention about the new Jeep what we [Jeep Joints] what they did drinking and dancing and whatnot. And this guy he he he had been drinking and own a bit. He bet some guy that he could swim across that river and then swim back. And what happened was he made it across but coming back if it didn't he got tired and cramped up and he drowned. So don't kind of thing my parents just did not want us back. In in the water swim we like I said we were fortunate enough because during that time my parents would only weekend they will take it to be in so we had we had access with a lot of the key is guy here.

Heather White (16:41)
So do you still feel like you have a connection to the people who lived here?

Jay Hagans (16:46)
Sure you do. We were we were proud neighborhoods down a lot of good athletes came from this area. A lot of scholars came from this area and the lady that just finished talking to she's [Inaudible]. We were a proud people down here. All right. People down here in this neighborhood.

Heather White (17:24)
We just appreciate y'all coming out and talking to us and allowing us to preserve your history tell the story. So I just thank you so much. I'm going to stop the recording. Do you have anything else?

No, but I was talking to Ronald [Inaudible] yesterday. And he told me in February, they will be leaving town to be satisfied in February.

So we're gonna have it's actually going to be March 3 And we're going to have a community celebration. So we'll send everybody an invitation for that.

Jay Hagans (17:57)
Okay. That will be very important. And watch our friend. My brother when my mother came in 2014 sister lived on my brother my mother had scrapbook for all of us separately. He had a bunch of family pictures of the area, you know different saying Yeah. My brother took the whole box on the way here. He lives in Georgia taught me him and tell him what's going on with this. So he's we'll get him back here. But I would like to bring new love that

Heather White (18:48)
we would love that I'll get you with your information. We will definitely have a day where we can scan everything in and see we'll be able to keep the originals and we can scan copies that we can have in the archive that'd be great. Okay, thank you so much. Okay.

Jay and Debbie Hagans
Photographs of Jay and Debbie Hagans taken at the Town Common, Greenville, N.C., accompanied by an oral history interview, for the Beyond Bricks and Mortar project. Jay Hagans is a former resident of the Shore Drive neighborhood, that was destroyed in the 1960's to make room for the Town Common Park. Mr. Hagans recalls his family's experiences with the redevelopment process. They were one of the last families to sell, but were fortunate enough to be able to build another house and not have to rent. He was baptised at the Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church in their baptismal pool. Mr. Hagans's mother, Eleanor Hagans, was the first black female police officer in Greenville. She also taught school during the year and worked as the playground director during the summer. Mr. Hagans reminisces about the close-knit community downtown and the positive experiences he had as a child. Interviewer: Heather White.
December 27, 2016
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oral histories
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