Gwendolyn Holman

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Gwen Holman

Heather White

Tuesday, December 27, 2016
East Carolina University

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Heather White (00:01)
Okay, today is Tuesday, December 27. And I am here with Miss Gwen Holman Holman, okay, I'll let you say your name

Gwen Holman (00:12)
Gwen Holmen

Heather White (00:14)
Is it okay then I'm recording you?

Gwen Holman (00:16)
It's just fine.

Heather White (00:17)
Okay, so we're here. We're going to talk about the sycamore Hill area. So can you tell me you said that you had grown up in this area?

Gwen Holman (00:26)
I was born in this area, stayed in this area for the first 10 years of my life. And did attend Sycamore Hill. Everybody in the neighborhood basically attended Sycamore hill because we were in an age where we didn't have mobile transportation, the transportation were feet. So everybody in the neighborhood basically went to Sycamore here. And we were like, I'm sure you've heard that. It's not a big family. Everybody knew everybody. As a child, everybody's parent was your parent. But we were in a neighborhood and a community where we believe that it takes a whole village to raise a child, and the village raised us. Yeah.

Heather White (01:21)
That's great. And so you said it was your grandfather that ran a store here,

Gwen Holman (01:26)
My grandfather, John Mitchell, owned the store. The store was on a corner of reed and First Street. And he was the only one in the neighborhood with the store. And he was an awesome person. With a big heart, used to rent when tabs for people who didn't have monies to pay for their groceries. And when they got paid, they come in and they pay him. Sometimes I'll love it, sometimes a part of sometimes they couldn't even pay. But because of the man that he was, he would not let anybody go without food. So everybody looked, and my grandmother call him Mr. Jain and Mr. Jain and Miss parolee. That's what everybody call them in the neighborhood.

Heather White (02:25)
So you worked in the store? You said, Yes,

Gwen Holman (02:28)
I did. All day, Saturday, every Saturday for $1. And sometimes I had to work in the house before going to the store. That was kind of abusive, wasn't it? But I did it every Saturday love doing it and was real happy to get that dollar because remember back in that day, but one penny, you could buy two cookies. So $1 was quite a bit. But you got to take cookies home, right? Yes, yes, because I wasn't so honest. But she my grandmother, see, when you put the cookies in the container, take all the broken cookies home to your sisters and your brother. She didn't say I couldn't break the code.

Heather White (03:18)
He just said the right way around.

Gwen Holman (03:21)
And my brother would be waiting at the door for me when I got home. I had cookies.

Heather White (03:26)
But other fond memories do you have from growing up here?

Gwen Holman (03:32)
Grandmother on my mother's we live with my grandmother on my mother's side. Grandma and grandfather who owned the store were on my father's side. But my grandmother on my mother's side and used to walk the riverbank. And she chewed tobacco. And my mama wouldn't let me keep it back. But my grandmother wouldn't be suited back. So we walk down the river banks. Show him to back and spin. Yes, yes. Yeah. And like I said, everybody knew everybody, even when I talk to people now. And they remind me of somebody who I remind them of somebody and I remember them. And I was telling somebody, we need to have a downtown reunion. We really, really do. But it was an awesome place to be. Because though we were economically poor spiritually. We were rich, because everybody looked out for everybody else. And as you know, a lot of us missing in the world today. But it was it was great. And we didn't even know how poor we weren't. In that picture. That stone is my grandfather's store. And as a child, you visualize things no differently than when you're an adult's, like gracious. But it was a wonderful experience here really was.

Heather White (05:08)
So do you have any memories of when the redevelopment happened?

Gwen Holman (05:12)
Simply by the time we did, I said, we stayed on for the first 10 years. And by the time redevelopment really started here, because years and years and years later, because I think we'll redevelopment start here. Probably I thought even left the area. But most people here have fond memories. I also remember that we had a playground here. And the playground director was Mrs. Elena Hagen. And during the summer, she had pool tables and all kinds of games for us to play with. We would go to the playground and play until lunchtime. She'd go home for lunch, and we'd go home for lunch and we'd come back and stay until the afternoon because there were no recreation centers. As it says big playground.

Heather White (06:13)
We just appreciate all of you coming out and talking to us. We realized that there's so much of this history missing. Yes, it is. And people not realizing that this was a whole neighborhood.

Gwen Holman (06:24)
Thank you. It's awesome. And it brings back so many fond memories that were really really the year.

Heather White (06:31)
Yes. Anything else you would like us to know before we turn the recorder off? Yeah, well, whatever

Gwen Holman (06:38)
I could think of at this very moment. But thank you.

Heather White (06:43)
Thank you. Thank you really appreciate. All right, well, I'm going to turn this off. We'll go to the next part of your being famous. Okay.

Gwendolyn Holman
Photographs of Gwendolyn Holman taken at the Town Common, Greenville, N.C., accompanied by an oral history interview, for the Beyond Bricks and Mortar project. Gwendolyn Holman is a former resident of the Shore Drive neighborhood, that was destroyed in the 1960's to make room for the Town Common Park. Holman lived in the downtown area for the first ten years of her life. She attended the Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist Church with her family, and has fond memories of the surrounding neighborhood. She says that the community felt like a big family. She recalls walking on the banks of the Tar River with her grandmother, and spending her summers at the playground supervised by Eleanor Hagans. Her grandfather John Mitchell owned a store on Reade and First Street. She remembers that he would run tabs for people who couldn't afford to pay for their groceries. Interviewer: Heather White.
December 27, 2016
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oral histories
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