Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Entertainment in early twentieth-century rural North Carolina

Spaulding describes the entertainment scene in early-1900s rural North Carolina. His mother quilted, community members came together for corn shuckings, and people gathered to play music, though some religious residents frowned on dancing.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WALTER WEARE:
Did your mother and sisters preserve this food?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. She liked to preserve. And another thing, she liked to quilt. It's something maybe some people in this generation don't know what you mean by quilting. But they would have their frames, you know, and quilting. And sometimes they'd have neighborhood quiltings, where there was a rectangular or square frame. They would get the cloth they were using, or scraps, whatever it was, that they would baste to it, and use on top. And different ones would be on different sides, and they would meet in the middle, or start in the middle, I don't know which. But anyway you would be stitching. And all of them beautiful quilts, different colors, because of the different scraps they would be using. I remember that all the quilts that we used were homemade. When we left to go away to school, she'd give us a quilt to take with us.
WALTER WEARE:
Was this a form of entertainment, in part, as well as a necessity?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It was a hobby with them. It was both useful—it had utility and value—as well as hobby. She would give a quilt away. Another way of how farm people entertained themselves: I remember they used to have corn shuckings. After the corn was gathered and put in the barn, or piled in piles before it was in the barns, the neighbors would come. And, of course, you'd have a feast. You'd feed them. And then they'd go out there that evening and have the corn shuckings. They'd shuck the corn in the barns. People looked forward to it.
WALTER WEARE:
Would men do the shucking?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Men and women. It was just a neighborhood thing, that people would come together and enjoy themselves helping each other. This matter of neighborliness is another thing. They were accommodating. They didn't look for pay. And I remember for years, when people from Durham would come down there, and they could go into their gardens, bring back all of the vegetables and all of the fruit that they wanted, and they wouldn't mind giving them a ham—I mean a whole ham. And think nothing of it. But you don't see that today anywhere. A farm life in a way was a hard life, and yet there were many things in it. It was not exactly communal living, but certainly the matter of the spirit of sharing.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember other things that people did as a form of entertainment? What about dancing?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
The dancing was not so prevalent during the time of my childhood. I left there in 1918.
WALTER WEARE:
Was this because of religious restrictions?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
There were some people that were so deeply religious that if a person would dance, they'd want to put him out of the church.
WALTER WEARE:
What about music?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
They had music. As a matter of fact, I remember one of the members of the church had a violin. He'd play at church, a violin selection, sometimes. And they had the church choirs, and pianos.
WALTER WEARE:
Would there be groups that would ever get together and play music and sing; and would any of this be distinctly cultural, having to do with the spirituals?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, not at that time. As a matter of fact, we didn't have music teachers down there as such, except when one of the teachers at the school or someone had gone away and learned music enough to play it for the choirs and things of that nature. They had no set-up for music teachers as such, where the children went to learn music. And many of them, their singing was by rote, rather than by reading music.