Eleanor Howard, Hugh Grimes, and Deborah Powell






Eleanor Howard
Hugh Grimes
Deborah Powell
Narrators

Heather White
Interviewer

Wednesday, December 28, 2016
East Carolina University

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

Heather White (00:02)
Okay, today is Wednesday, December 28. And we're here at Town common and we're talking about the sycamore Hill project. Can you tell me your name?

Eleanor Howard (00:10)
My name is Eleanor Howard maiden name Grimes . G-R-I-M-E-S.

Hugh Grimes (00:16)
My name is Hugh Grimes.

Deborah Powell (00:18)
And I'm Deborah B. Powell.

Heather White (00:22)
Okay. And so you all are siblings. Is that right? Yes. Okay. And you still claim each other. So that's good.

Eleanor Howard (00:31)
Actually, it was 12 of us. And we lived in, 13 with my Mom, we lived in a three room house. On the corner first, who protested? Wow, do

Heather White (00:41)
Do you remember your address?

Eleanor Howard (00:43)
It was 101 South Cotanth Street.

Heather White (00:45)
Wow. That's great.

Eleanor Howard (00:48)
101 A Yes. Yes. 101 A South Catanth street.

Heather White (00:56)
So I know we I we've been talking a little bit. So I've heard some great stories before we even turned on the recorder. So I don't know if there's some things that each of you would like to share about what it was like to grow up here, live here or go to church here at Sycamore Hill. I know y'all also went to church, but maybe we can just kind of take turns.

Eleanor Howard (01:12)
We did go to church. And I mean, growing up here downtown in Greenville, it, it was great. And I we often laugh now about the fact that it was such a beautiful time in our lives. And so we didn't realize we were poor. And we go back and forth now talking about what we ate. And you know, the lack of this, or the lack of that, and how we sometimes had to cut cardboard out to put in the bottom of my shoes, because we walked to school from content up on Fifth Street, fifth and Nash to see them else EPS. And we've met Elementary School at Fleming Street, which is up in West Greenville. And we walked from now here to there. So we still laugh about things that we had to do to make ends meet. But we joke now, so about the fact that we were so poor, we didn't even realize we were poor. And that also contributes to the amount of love that was in the community because everybody raised everybody else's children. And you could get you could get a weapon with by anyone. And if it was further, very wrong reason, then when your mom came home from work, you might get a second weapon. And that's just the way it was. And the neighbor's mouth was prayer book. So we could not dispute we could not deny it, they said it, it happened. And that's just the way it worked. But it was a beautiful time. We were we had so many friends and we just kind of lived in each other's house. And it was kind of like the house that had the most children drew the most children. And so that would have been our house. But it was it was a beautiful time. And when we get the chance now lots of people that lived it that lived down here, then we kind of get back together because it was a group of us that stayed close. And I think I was probably the first one to leave to go up north. And then a couple of my friends you met them this morning, the Daniels and they left and they went to New York, and then we will spend every other weekend with each other. They will come to New Jersey one weekend and I couldn't do your next weekend. When I moved back home the other one moved back home. And that's the way it was. And we have been childhood friends. I mean friends from childhood, and when anything happens in one family, it happened in the other family. We support each other. And that's just the way it is. That's wonderful. But it was a beautiful time. My mom she raised us without our father he's he he skipped out went up north somewhere Connecticut, but she worked for some very good people. That was very good to us. And so we made it work.

Heather White (04:15)
Would you like to share something let you hold the microphone so I can make sure I get.

Hugh Grimes (04:21)
My name is Hugh Grimes, Hugh Marish Grimes, one thing that I can remember most of all, I'm sitting in the front of it. And that's Tar River on a hot day 100 degrees weather. No way could you resist from going taking a dip in Tar river but that was my mother rule speak that rule. Do not go to the river a lot of our friends got drowned in that river and that's one of the reasons why she did not want us to go to the river but you See, it's so hot until we can hit from this sneak off and go to the river. So one day, I went to the river swim across while I was across, one of my friends took my clothes and ran them up the hill. To my mother, I thought my mother was still working but she was home. So she said to take his clothes back. So she brought my clothes back. I went up here to try to ease up on the front porch, which is on the Cotanth 10 and first here on a corner. I've tried to ease on what without making it a noise. She said I hear you get in here. But she you knew I was in real trouble. She said didn't that tell you about going to the river? You know a friend of yours get grounded in that room. And she said okay, I'll tell you what I'm gonna do she said you were swimming in the river naked. So now I'm gonna whoop you naked, get out of the clothes. Took me a long time to get out and take them on time. So when it came to me getting out of my pants, I got one one leg one leg out of my pants. And I wasn't getting the other leg out fast enough. She reached down and snapped that leg and I will try to fight the whole to swim.

She asked me to the flow I put my hair between that's why I don't like water today swim forgot how to swim thing that I mostly remember about cotana frisbee is the river. Stand read on our front porch and look right down after water and knowing 100 degrees day, how in the world could you resist?

But it was what it is, you know what it was? Remember that to this day. And that's many years ago and I'll never forget that.

Eleanor Howard (07:43)
We we know we often joke our friends. We often joke because parents was very strict back then. And it was it was just ordinary to get a weapon. You know? So we do we often joke now that if the laws of about child abuse was back then when we were coming to our parents would still be making time nothing about giving you a whoopin.

Deborah Powell (08:10)
And the police would sit on the corner down and look at ya.

Hugh Grimes (08:15)
My mother just didn't whoop the boy's like that. I've seen her whoop my sister here, Eleanor.

Eleanor Howard (08:15)
Don't tell that story.

Hugh Grimes (08:28)
She [Inaudible] at my uncle...

Eleanor Howard (08:30)
No.

Hugh Grimes (08:34)
I done started, My uncle Kane.

Eleanor Howard (08:38)
Don't tell this story.

Hugh Grimes (08:40)
For real?

Eleanor Howard (08:41)
For real, don't tell it.

Heather White (08:45)
Should we pass the mic?

Deborah Powell (08:49)
Okay, I'm Deborah Powell. And I live that 101 A south Cotanth street. I was down in the lower of class out of family like we had. I had more older siblings, okay. And these two right here were the mom and dad when mom was gone. And she would tell us Go me and my younger sister and two brothers at that particular time to go take a nap. And we will lie. Most of them will go to sleep, but I wouldn't. So I was slipped out the window and I had a grandmother that lived in Washington court behind us and I will go around there. She knew where we're so she will come after me and get me and she will be where we said Be warned no spanking she beat me. When mama get home. She beat but down here was It made them poverty. But it was the best for us because we didn't know them. And we had a lot of friends, it wasn't a lot of fighting and carrying on down here a month, though, but when we learn best when we became came into another different set of people and trouble. And my oldest brother, he would make us go to the store when he wanted to be disobedient think we didn't know, we were young. But I was nosy. And he brought his girlfriend at home. Want us to call right here to the store? Where mom come home we would tell her. And I have one sister underneath that will tell you everything. She would meet our mother at the door to tell her why everybody in the family day, every day, every day. And that will learn the brand.

Eleanor Howard (11:13)
Everybody called fake.

Deborah Powell (11:17)
And that's by all I can say. But I enjoyed getting down here, I miss living down here mostly with my grandma mom, or my aunt Elsa, right down down here on the ward.

Heather White (11:35)
That's great. So after you had to move, where did you all move to after you left here moved us to.

Eleanor Howard (11:42)
At that time I had, he had moved up north to New Jersey. But then they had built the project Keene Park. And it kind of split the community up. Because everybody didn't move from down here at the same time. So the ones that move first, then they kind of lost touch with the one that was left, because then by that time, you know, I guess the apartments was filling up, and they had to put them someplace else. So it was kind of like separating the community in that space and what happened. There had been you have other people that was coming in the new development, who did not know each other. And some of them was not too keen to learn, you know, it just wasn't that kind of love and closeness. With some of the new people that moved in the new development at that time. That means they brought people from the rural area, outside of the Greenville area. So they've been bringing people in from all over. I guess it was kind of like a first come first served basis with that.

Heather White (13:07)
And then some people said it was really harder on the older people,

Eleanor Howard (13:10)
It was very hard on the older people because, you know, many people in this area. If you look at some of the pictures, and I'm sure you've seen some of the pictures you would think that well these houses are not worth much they might didn't look like much on the outside. But it was home to so many. Then a lot of the people own their homes. We had some beautiful homes, and a lot of them own their homes. So then these was home that was bought and paid for. And the evil moslem widow, Little Women, you know, who had lost her husband, and I mean, had lived her life forever. And I mean, we moved here in the early 40s. And some of those people were here when we came. So you know, they had been here from the gift from the beginning of the community. And it was very hard on a lot of their art.

Yeah. It's wonderful that all of you stayed in touch.

Yes, yes, that is.

Heather White (14:11)
Yeah, I think that's one of the things that really rang true to us is that it was the community that was here was far beyond the houses.

Deborah Powell (14:18)
Exactly. Because if a neighbor was see me come out from the porch. There was Deborah, didn't Gladys tell you to stay on that board? Say you're right back to the house. If I would disobey that person that was telling me that she could get her hands on me. She will whip me and I would sit on her porch and tear my mom and dad mom wanna wow you over there. So that's another book. The only thing that saved me for a day will be my grandma. I will run around my grandma's house or not stay. But when five o'clock she should treat and cut, she will cat me back. So, so the neighborhood really raised everyone. And it wasn't child abuse. Like I said, back then. It could have been but it wasn't recognized as child abuse. Because when you do what you're told not to do, you got punished for that. Yeah.

Eleanor Howard (15:33)
And I think that people just kind of raised us the best way they knew how. And look at us, we're still alive. We're that better for it.

Hugh Grimes (15:41)
Yeah, like I said, I'm telling you, if child abuse was back there when my mother came up , when I came up with my mother, my mother would probably be pulling time today. You paid a price for what you do.

Deborah Powell (16:06)
Because we've never been to prison.

Eleanor Howard (16:12)
My mom passed away in 1975.

Hugh Grimes (16:18)
And that's one thing. My mother passed away in 1975. I was in New Jersey at that time, in New Jersey, and I had a house and everything I was had. That's when the inflation that Jobs had begin to move out of state.

I had been out of work for about pretty close. And that was looking for a job. But then found out last I found a job. I was in New Jersey, and I found a job at American standards.

We didn't make it out to show. So that's when they called me and told me my mother had just passed away in 1975. Just got that job. So the first day, yes. So I went to my supervisor told us what I'm sorry, he gets started and you are not in the union. And you won't have a job when you come back. So I went to the plant manager. And I told the plant manager about and I told them what the supervisor said. He says, step outside. So call, John Robertson, and he called me man, I don't know what he told me. But he came out and they called me and he said, I want you to drop what you're doing now. And I want you to leave you gave him money. The plant manager said, if you need anything, wow. You down there and so just called his office. And I have you some money and Debbie said, you know, thanks, today, you know, very nice to him. if it had happened today, I'll never forget that because I do. And I came home. He called and he said look, what did I tell you? If you leave however overlong unit take you you want to stay down there for a while longer. You stay. So you have a job and you get back to work

Eleanor Howard (18:52)
Strong work ethic, tobacco, tobacco picking cotton shaken peanuts. I couldn't shake peanuts because snakes came out. That was a biggie for me. I was terrified of snakes. Yeah. And so I couldn't shake peanuts. But those are things that we did to help my mom to buy school clothes and different stuff. When in season. We did all of that. And it was great one where I didn't I didn't like pick and pick the 100 pound once in my life. And that was the big thing to pick 100 pounds of cotton in the day. Once in my life, I picked 100 pounds of cotton. And that's all I could do. But I love working in tobacco.

Heather White (19:36)
Oh gosh. I grew up on tobacco farm.

Eleanor Howard (19:42)
Top of tobacco. We used to suck it back you know about that. And then I graduated to hand into back. I wasn't a good hander. I believe the hand because I didn't like it. But then my aunt and my mom taught me how to back and that was it. Yeah, that was it.

Hugh Grimes (20:06)
Going back to this picking cotton. That was the worst. Oh my god. I couldn't pick 100 pound that was giving you $4, a hundred I couldn't pick 100 pound of cotton for nothing. And I'm telling you, my mother used to tell me in the morning, before we go into the field, she said, I'm gonna tell you something. I want 100 pound of cotton out of you today. So now if you don't pick 100 pound of cotton. So I got something for you see, she said, if you stop looking at those planes, when they come across, maybe you could pick 100 pound a car, see the big plane used to come across the field. I stopped Oh, it was exciting to me. I stopped looking at the blank sheets of cedar. So that's why you can pick your hands should be moving. So you get up to one day I picked 100 pounds because I was so happy. I didn't know what in the world to do. But listen to this. When they weighed the cotton, I had 100 pounds. I was happy. But they took off. Four pounds for the sheet that cotton in. So now that left me nine and 60 pounds of cotton. And it wasn't 100 Do you know picked 100 pounds. She said you didn't bring home for hours say this for hours 100 You had nine and six after they took off and she couldn't say you weren't coming back no more call you to come you go to bed with 100 pound of cotton on your man, you have to go out there and pick up the bag takes off for the sheet. So what I did, instead of me getting full pound sheet. I got to two pounds. You know they had their full pound sheet right? And the two pound sheets that particular day I got them. I had a full pound sheet. So So Okay. I told the owner, farmer, say do you have a two pound sheet is the year because no more than you pick, you need a two pound.

Heather White (22:36)
We just appreciate y'all sharing your story so much. And so Michelle are photographers here? She didn't take your photo. But before we stop, is there anything else you'd like us to know about? The area here?

Hugh Grimes (22:49)
I don't know. Well.

Eleanor Howard (22:53)
Sometimes I look at it with regret. Because it's a time that we'll never get back. And I know, change is inevitable. But I just felt like this was community last separated. And that's something that we will never get back. And that's why some people say to us that every time y'all get together, you're talking about the old time talking about downtime, because those were the best times of our lives in our mind. They were the best time. And I mean, we had we had responsibility. But we didn't have real responsibility, like our parents did, you know, but we also look at it as the best time of our lives because it was so much love. I mean, many of the neighbors made us mad because they would know that. And we thought that they was tending to our business. But little did we know we didn't have any business. But you know, but we love every one of it. And it I had nicknames. One was old folks. You know, back then people gave a nickname our old folks because you can see me like my sisters and then they could be out playing together and doing hopscotch and whatever. But if it was, you know, before sundown you catch me sitting on somebody's one of the older people poaching, at reform. And sometimes I just sit down and they let me have a rocking chair and I just sit there like I was a big girl, you know, and I mean, I was big, you know, because you know what you say you will be I thought I was big and nine years old 9, 10, 11, 12 You know, I thought I was a big girl. But I did all those things. And I just used to enjoy when one of them would call me and said well, whatever we did, we weren't we didn't have buses didn't. So do you know what Dickinson Avenue and 10th Street? Okay, imagine me walking from red down there on that corner. Up there on Dickinson Avenue and 10th street. That's where Boston suds used to be the lane The back of me and the lady that live kind of down here Mrs. [Alfenia] Johnson. That's John Lourdes grandmother. They used they bought the furniture from both sides. So I used to go there I'd pay their furniture bill for them, then they ask you supermarket up there. And the ANP, one of them want to ask his MK and one, one MP, where you had to kind of detour to go to ask you, because that was on Fifth Street. But ANP was on 10th Street. So, but it was fun to me. And I walk up in not due to errors. And always and then I could remember, I had a good memory. Some of my other siblings, some other friends, they didn't remember because they stopped along the way and play. And I thought I was a big girl. So you know, I just enjoyed doing it. But that's what I did post office, anything they need me to do. That's what I did. So I earned the nickname of old folks. Then I was man again. I don't know how I got man to get that Miss Lou Wilson, the lady that kind of lived across from her. Never I never know how to work. She always in the summertime springtime on her front porch. She was one that mostly caught us doing something we didn't have any business doing then we had to pass or have to go to the playground also. But it was just we never get that back. But I'm glad that I experienced it.

Hugh Grimes (26:26)
It made responsible people out of us the way we came up you know.

Deborah Powell (26:34)
Speak up.

Hugh Grimes (26:37)
He's a tiger. But it made responsible people out of us and I'm proud of I'm glad it happened the way it did because we learn to take care of our responsibility without a whole lot of help, you know, just mainly us you know, now I don't know if I should go to this point or not. I remember that used to have a supermarket up on Javis called Overtons. That was a little Wayne's from where we live I'm quoting here but I used to go to the supermarket and they used to throw away their potatoes when they start to bud.

Deborah Powell (27:33)
Potato buds.

Hugh Grimes (27:35)
They used to throw the potatoes away to and they used throw green cabbage leaves away, nothing wrong with them, so like oranges just wizard you know nothing wrong with no spots and nothing on you know I used to call that my back lot. nobody else go in there. I wouldn't say Oh no.

Every evening after school should I keep walking every evening before I get home from school I used to stop whatever they had. You know like the cabbage the wooden cavities.

Green cabbage leaves go home and it used to be a store, [Inaudible] store.

Eleanor Howard (28:28)
He was on first and [Inaudible] back of us. Yeah.

Hugh Grimes (28:32)
He used to sail them in your eyes and then they used to call it slice normal knife. Do it in a box. A barrel. Yeah. And I remember my mom used to give back though. You had a quarter you almost rich. She used to give me a quarter until need to go to John store and get 25 cent walk ins and odd that's the meat strapped me where he can't slice anymore and throw it in the barrel. So I goes down and tells him mom says send her 25 cent [Inaudible] he will feel the round bag up with you know I'll take it back and she's washed it up. Put it in a pot with cabbage leaves and stuff. She used to make cornbread I don't like them today. Oh my. She helped. They call it a one thing pot.

Eleanor Howard (29:46)
A one pot meal, that when we were low on lard and didn't have any grease to fry the bread or bake the bread in the oven. She made the cornbread don't put in the grease

Heather White (29:59)
Yeah.

Hugh Grimes (29:59)
Everything in that one pot, cabinet to meet the potatoes do go. And she would take that stuff up, and I'm telling you the truth, that's how we ate a lot of meals. Back, my sister said, you know, look at us today, proud of the way I came up, you know, made responsible, people's out person out or me, you know, take care, all my sisters I used to. I was a dad. I used to take care of them, fight for them, do whatever I have to do for them.

Eleanor Howard (30:38)
But then people were so nice. And they recognized because people very nice to my mom, they recognized she had all those children didn't didn't have a husband. Good. So when Mr. Overton who were very nice man, when he realized that my brother was going to his back lot, you know, in so he there he was set stuff aside, in a box or in a basket, and he wouldn't put it in, in the dumpster. He will set it up on that there was a cement that back porch back then, and he was set it up there for him. And so people were nice like that, and we will go to the store. And if we like and you know, a few sets of whatever. And they said, Go ahead, take this and give it to Gladiola. That's not my mom's name. Gladiola. And so they knew us, you know, and people help, you know, they didn't try to drain you for every dime or whatever. So that that also made it a beautiful time that you realize how lovin and given people were.

Hugh Grimes (31:38)
They threw boxes out, used to stand there, make sure I got that box, sometimes about used to be so heavy. Half about half an hour Overton's.

Eleanor Howard (31:50)
Well, from Cotanthe back to Javis.

Hugh Grimes (31:55)
Get you one of those.

Deborah Powell (31:56)
And you gotta go up about three.

Eleanor Howard (31:59)
Yeah, then you kind of go up the hill a little bit.

Hugh Grimes (32:02)
And used to give us give me those see-through bags, what's called, cabbage bags. Yeah, it used to have all that stuff. And I just put it on that. Bring it all away from Overtons, man, I'm telling you. But when I get home, I never seen such a smile on my mom face.

Heather White (32:21)
It just sounds like such a wonderful community.

Eleanor Howard (32:23)
It was and people that have farm that knew us because we had relatives that lived in the country too. And they knew my mom, because my grandmother lived in a rural area. So people knew my mom through my grandmother. So when it was harvest time for certain things, the men that lived in rural areas, they you know, a lot of pickup trucks. I remember when they used to bring their horse and buggy across the river. But they were stopped by my mom how throw a sack of potatoes on the porch, sack of collard greens, stuff like that. Sack of corn. So we were always being looked after. And so it was a great time.

Hugh Grimes (33:02)
If i could meet some of those people today. I would love it, just to sit down and let them know that Ireally appreciate what they did for me in my family. You know, we had this one lady with Ms. Carolyn's.

Eleanor Howard (33:21)
She lived on Cotanthe and second.

Heather White (33:25)
Yeah, I'm gonna let y'all keep talking here for a minute, and then we're gonna see if you're ready to take your phone. Okay. All right. Is there anything else before I turn the recorder off? No, no. I just thank y'all so much for sharing. Thank you.


Title
Eleanor Howard, Hugh Grimes, and Deborah Powell
Description
Photographs of Eleanor Howard, Hugh Grimes, and Deborah Powell taken at the Town Common, Greenville, N.C., accompanied by an oral history interview, for the Beyond Bricks and Mortar project. Howard, Powell, and Grimes are three of twelve siblings who lived with their mother in a three room house on the corner of First and Cotanche Street. They describe their childhood in downtown Greenville and recall the effects of redevelopment on their community. Interviewer: Heather White.
Date
December 27, 2016
Original Format
oral histories
Extent
Local Identifier
Digital Object
Subject(s)
Spatial
Rights
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