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Author: Turner, Viola, interviewee
Interview conducted by Weare, Walter
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 492 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
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Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-03-05, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 17, 1979. Interview C-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0016)
Author: Walter Weare
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Viola Turner, April 17, 1979. Interview C-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0016)
Author: Viola Turner
Description: 710 Mb
Description: 145 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 17, 1979, by Walter Weare; recorded in Durham, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Dorothy M. Casey.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Viola Turner, April 17, 1979.
Interview C-0016. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Turner, Viola, interviewee


Interview Participants

    VIOLA TURNER, interviewee
    WALTER WEARE, interviewer
    UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
[begins mid-sentence] . . .because they could treat me and [unknown] I'm sure of that. For instance, I remember one occasion, I went home. I don't know if everybody had to do that or whether that was the way things were done then. Usually, if you had a round-trip ticket in first class, you got off and, like your flight tickets now, you verified it to see what time you're supposed to get where, and what. And, because I always had to change in Atlanta. I didn't always go home by train or first class. It all depended on the trip. Well, this time I had first class accommodations going down and I stopped at the ticket office to verify my return. So the man was very courteous, very polite, nice as he could be and he said to me, "Oh yes, this is O.K. but you'll have to go to the ticket office in Atlanta to get your reservation for your Pullman into Durham." That sounded logical. I knew I made the change in Atlanta. I always made it coming down. I didn't think anything about it. Maybe he was correct. I don't know this. But any rate, I went on out to the house. Of course they very soon got it straight out there that I only just popped in; I wasn't going to be there just a little while. Then I got ready to go home. I go down and I get the train in Macon. I get to Atlanta. And when I get to Atlanta, I got off the train here. And if you've ever been in the train station in Atlanta you know it's quite a long distance to get up to the landing, the level, then get to the ticket office. When I get down here, the train I'm coming to Durham on is over here, about to pull out. I ask the porter where my train is and he tells me that. And I say I've got to go up to the ticket office to get my ticket straightened out, or whatever it is. Anyway, to get my receipt for my accommodation on the train. He says, "Lady, unless you want to catch another train, you'll never make it. That train's just going to pull out. I can get your bags over there, but you can't get up there and get back to save your life." So now, I have

Page 2
a choice. I either could take my chances and get on that train, or I could take my chances on going up there and trying to get my accommodations. So I took the chance of getting some kind of accommodations after I got on the train. So I got on the train and went right straight to the regular passenger coach. Because I didn't have any accommodations. But luckily for me—and that happened so often on traveling. We did have that sort of break when I got on the train. After the ticket man came by and I made some comment to the fact that I could not get up there; I was supposed to have accommodations on the train. He didn't turn me much of an answer, but we'd been riding maybe about thirty minutes or forty-five minutes, something like that, and the porter comes through, and he says, "Captain says. . ." and he goes like this. So I very shortly afterwards follow him and walked on back. And when I got back a little further, he says, "Have a seat over here." So I rode in, what you would call the compartment, all the way into Durham. Rather than just having a is what I would've had. And that happened to you very often. The porter would look out for you. And I imagine he had some sort of agreement with the conductor so that you didn't have any problem with it. But I have had some nice accommodations that I didn't pay for because somebody mistreated me somewhere else.
You ran into all sorts of things. I've had a few unpleasant experiences, too.
WALTER WEARE:
In connection with traveling?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Well, two that stand out in my mind at this moment. The first time I went to Chicago, I had gotten accommodations from here with no real problem. By this time, it wasn't any great problem to get accommodations. I don't think you could always walk right up to the ticket window and get them, depending on who's waiting on you and that sort of thing. But if you called, and you knew somebody back there, as I did now: I knew Mr. Bobbitt real well,

Page 3
from Mr. Merritt's knowing him. And sometimes I'd call. Well, at any rate, I had accommodations. I had no problem there. But when I got to Cincinnati? I don't remember, but overnight. The next morning, I got ready to go to breakfast and I get up and I get washed up and I go on back to the dining car. And this is the only time this ever happened to me and I don't think I ever felt anything any more keener than I did this. When I got to the door of the dining room, the first person who saw me—I don't know if he was the white man who was in charge of the whole dining car; I don't know what his position was—he looked, and he saw me standing there, and he just on away, like he didn't see me. I really didn't think too much about that. I didn't recall having seen a white person in that particular, what looked as if he may have been sort of [unknown] , or something like that. So I didn't think much of that. So I stood. About this time the dining car porter passes the white man going back, when he goes this way. And when he looked up and saw me, the expression on his face was something that I will never forget. [Laughter] He looked at me as if he were saying, "What on earth are you doing here?" It was one of those sort of [expression], and then followed quickly with, "What on earth will I be able to do with you?"
Well, I am floored. Because I have travelled enough now, that I have never run into that sort of . . .and never with a Negro porter. Usually when you run into one of them, they always look as though they're saying, "Thank God, at last you've been able to get decent accommodations." And you'd have the hardest time trying to even give them a tip. Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, on that same trip, the man who was the porter on the train, if he dusted me once, he dusted me up and down, all over. Just little things, like, "Oh, I'm so glad to see you. Are you having a nice trip?" Just little, you know. I got off and he had been so nice to me, I decide I'm going to be r-e-a-l sporty,

Page 4
you know. Never did know exactly how I was supposed to tip, you know. But I'm going to give him a nice tip. So I folded up a paper dollar—that was some money for me. That was the World Fair time, Chicago World Fair.
WALTER WEARE:
1936?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's a long time ago. Usually what a dollar was with me, a quarter was my speed. But for this man, I folded this up, so it wouldn't show so much; I'm just going to slip it to him. With the last brush-down, my little suit he brushed down. "Oh no, dear. Oh, no, no, no. It's been a pleasure having you on here. No." I said, "But you've been so. . ." "Oh, no, no, no." He just folded my little money back. "No, dear. It's been a pleasure having you on here. It makes me very happy to see you here. And I hope you enjoy your trip all the way." He did more for me than that, later, however, but I had no idea.
Now, going back to this waiter, who looked like he wished there were same way he could have just waved me completely into oblivion, or somewhere. So I just stood. Of course by this time, I have fought discrimination so many times and so many ways, that I could've just froze and stay and look at anything and anybody, you know, just look. So I'm just standing, looking at him. So he stood there, and then finally he gave me a sign, and he led me over to a table where, with all due respects to the lady—and I apologize a thousand times for this, anytime I think of it, because I could be so wrong—but she looked like the most hardened prostitute. You know that vision you can get about a hardened woman who has had all the hard knocks? Well, that's what she looked like. Painted to the gills. Hard lines under here. Dyed hair. He set me there. The only thing I can think of that he figured: he looked at her and said, "Well, you should be willing to accept anything from anybody", and he set me down. So that's the way I set down at a table.

Page 5
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Was she a white woman?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, she was white. But she looked like life had dealt her every raw deal in the world, and she was fighting it to death. Painted and dyed, and everything. But, you know, that's why I say everytime I think of her, or think of that experience, in the back of my mind, I'm offering apologies. Because she was the nicest thing that ever happened to me in an unpleasant situation. She didn't look shocked. She didn't look like anything had happened. She just looked up from what she was having and said, "Good morning. I hope you're having a pleasant trip." And I said, "Thank you", and sat down. I ordered toast, orange juice, coffee. I couldn't eat the toast. I sipped about one sip of the orange juice and about half of the cup of coffee. I was filled right up to here. I don't know how that man destroyed me, but he destroyed me! I guess the first thing: I didn't expect it from one of my own. And then the expression on his face: "What in the world are you doing here? How dare you come here on my car!" But she was just as pleasant as she could be, and she tried her best to make me feel comfortable, evidently. Because, you know, she was just as pleasant, but normally; she didn't seem to be acting unnatural. But just a nice person. And I tried my best to respond. But all the time, within me, I'm apologizing to her: oh, I am so sorry to have judged you to be what you look like you are. But I always believed that that's what he read there, when he put me with this woman. But she really saved my day for me. I would have loved to have helped her look a little different [Laughter] if I could have, as I thought about her. So, that was, I guess, really the worst experience I ever had.
But the nearest to that was coming down from New York. I had gone over to see relatives in Plainfield. And instead of taking my train out of New York, I picked it up in Newark, which is just about ten minutes out of New York.

Page 6
And in that short time, some smart aleck conductor or the porter had put a white man in my reserved seat. See, I wasn't pulling out of New York, and they had put him there. Probably came in with no extra space, or something, I don't know, but he was in my seat. I didn't recognize it for that. Didn't think about it. Because, what was happening: if you're riding backwards, you're in the upper, I think that's the way it was. And if you're riding forward, you're in the lower. Well, at any rate, we were sitting opposite each other. So one of us was in the upper and the other was in the lower. But the lower was my reservation, and however we were seated, he was seated in mine. I don't know whether I was seated in his, or seated in somebody else's. But I was aware of the fact that I was not in the right seat. But I didn't say anything. Then, after some little time, I made some comment, probably to the ticket agent when he came in, or something. But whatever was said at the time, I didn't get any satisfaction. But I didn't get enough of an objection to think that I had any problem. So I went along with it while thinking I didn't have any problem at all. After all, there was nothing so serious about this. It was pretty early in the afternoon. So, I don't know what happened that did give me some apprehension, but there was something wrong. And it was something that was not about to get corrected. And it may have been the attitude of the passenger, I don't remember that part now. But what I do remember is my solution to the problem. So I waited. It seems to me we had gotten into Delaware, but we hadn't been riding too long. Maybe an hour. So I called the porter. I said, "I'd like to lie down, so please make down my bed right away." [Laughter] And that's when the commotion started. They started making explanations to me, you know, about the time they made them down, when you got further into Delaware, when you did this and when you did that. And I just kept being adamant, "I don't feel too well; I want to lie down; and I'd like to get it done right away." And I didn't ever give an inch.

Page 7
I just kept on. So finally they worked it out. I don't know what the heck they did. There was a lot of, you know, coming back and forth, and couldn't do it and couldn't do it, and I kept holding my point. "I'll have to see someone, because I must lie down. And I insist on doing it right away. I hate to make a commotion about it, but I have my reservation, and you know I have a reservation. So what are you going to do about it?" I just kept throwing the thing back in their laps. I wasn't as brave as I was acting. I was scared to death [Laughter] . They were bigger than I was; I didn't know what they would do. But finally they made down my bed and they made my friend, who evidently was planning to sit there and hold my seat; he wasn't planning to move. They had to make some other arrangements.
WALTER WEARE:
They moved him on out?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. They moved him somewhere. They made my bed and he wasn't there.
WALTER WEARE:
You had travelled, though, in the deep South, where there wasn't railroad service, and you'd have to be overnight and look for accommodations. That's a whole different world, isn't it?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I would guess so. But I didn't ever have that experience, I don't think.
The longest trip I ever took in the South —I don't know if I remember it, but I think I do—I was coming from Oklahoma City to Georgia, on the Rock Island. I remember getting to Memphis. It was just a matter that you rode all night. Porters would come through to see if anybody wanted a pillow. When I got to Memphis, I remember I had time there, because I was able to walk out a while. But I think you picked up your train—rather, I picked up mine—say, maybe, when you got in, it left in an hour, or two hours, or something. And then you rode all day. Well, by the time you rode all day

Page 8
there, you would be maybe in Atlanta. But I never had to leave the station to stay overnight or anything. That was about as rough a trip, though, as I ever took. Because, there you rode in the little day coach that would never be bigger—maybe from there to here, that far; and about half as wide—and people would travel with anything and everything.
WALTER WEARE:
That was the Jim Crow car?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Oh, yes, definitely. That was Jim Crow all the way. And they would have anything and everything. Although, if you can keep a sense of humour, there's always something funny. I remember on that train from Oklahoma—I believe that old man came all the way to Memphis. He was sitting on the far seat with a guitar. And he played the guitar and sang all along. Then he'd get rest and after a while, he'd sing again. And everytime the train would stop—and it may not have been local, but it stopped at many stations—and a person would get on, he would ask you where you were going. I remember when I got on, he said, after a while, "Daughter, where you going?" Well, I told him that I was going to Georgia. He said, Well, he didn't know nobody over there in Georgia. And he just went back to singing. The next person he asked, I believe he was going to Texas. Either he was coming from Texas or he was going to Texas. And if he's going to Texas, evidently he had to get to Memphis and then take off somewhere. But he must have been coming from, because it seems to me he should have been going the other way if he was going to Texas. But at any rate, Texas was the thing he said to the old man. The only man stopped and he said, "Texas. Uh huh. Do you know Joe?" The man said, "Who?" "Joe! You know, I never did know the rest of his name, but he's from Texas. I just figured you might know Joe." The man said, "No." He didn't think he knew Joe. Well, I thought I would die. I sat back there and I thought that was the funniest question I had ever heard. Joe from Texas.

Page 9
And to the old man it never seemed funny. He just thought. "Joe. I never did know Joe's other name, but he's from Texas."
WALTER WEARE:
Was that a musician, you think?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, no, he was just a. . .well, I say 'no, no' but that could be wrong. But one of these itinerant players. The only place I'd ever seen it was Mississippi. When I was in Clarksdale I was awakened one night with this music. I didn't know what in the world it was. I jumped up and tried to find wherever it was coming from, and finally discovered that they were outside of my window—three men with their guitars or banjos or whatever—playing and singing. And the lady, where I was living, had gotten up, you know, and so, of course, I'm full of questions, what this is all about. And she said that they travel around like that and they stop and sing, and if you have anything to give them: money, or even sometimes food, you just pass it out to them. And they entertained you. But the interesting thing about that was, some of the music those people sang that night, I've heard on T.V. with the musicians of the day, making fortunes out of it, even to the words.
WALTER WEARE:
Blues. Mississippi blues?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's right. I don't remember all of it, but a part of it went: "standing on the railroad track, honey won't you take me back?" You know, and all the verses went on, but always there was this "railroad track". And the same beat and the same sort of harmony, and you hear it right today. I say, yes, you've all been down there and picked it up.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember at the time how you felt about that music, having been trained in classical music, but having this temptation for ragtime?
VIOLA TURNER:
I like it, I like it. Not only that, I'll tell you another thing. I say to myself and I kid people when it comes up. I say, I know perfectly well

Page 10
that there's definitely African blood. I've got African blood, there's no question about that. Because drums set me going. I love them. I just love the sounds of drums. And when somebody really can do drums well, my foot's just going, and going and going. I like the sound, I like the tempo. I like that kind of music.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you ever feel kind of restrained then, from working at the Mutual, where things were kind of. . .well, let me ask it this way. Were these kind of street musicians—blues people, jazz groups in Durham—were there, do you recall?
VIOLA TURNER:
Not that I knew anything about. The only place I ever saw or heard that kind of music, you know, just out played for the public, was in Mississippi. And that seems to have been the characteristic; they did it all around in that area. As a matter of fact, did I say Clarksdale? Because it was not Clarksdale, it was Meridian, Mississippi where I had that experience. But the lady where I was living said that that was customary. They expected, usual. They travelled all through the state in that area of the country and played that music, and you handed them out. But I never saw anybody do that here. I hear the music here. Anywhere where there are blacks, you're going to hear somebody who plays that type of music, there's no question. And good. They usually do a good job. I think it's a natural thing.
WALTER WEARE:
You mentioned Bess Whitted yesterday, and the piano and so forth. What kind of music was played at the forum at the Mutual?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, we played some of every type of music. Not the blues and that sort of thing, no. We had a glee club. We sang spirituals; we liked spirituals [unknown] , but anthems. I was trying to think of one that was one of my favorites because of the young man who sang the solo part. "Bells of Saint Mary", that was one of the things we sang a lot. There was this Italian street song. We had very good soloists and we did all of the

Page 11
"zing, zing, zing" sort of thing. So we did all types of music, but no blues, no jazz. No kind of the kind of music that we might go that evening to party, and there was somebody there who could plunk it all out on the piano and all of gather around and hear him sing every one of the verses, you know. And loved every minute of it. But the music she used was good music.
WALTER WEARE:
But at private parties, though, there might be blues singing, or jazz?
VIOLA TURNER:
There would be plenty of it played, and usually—he's dead now, but he was one of the professors over here at North Carolina Central—Dr. Brown. Brown was a young fellow here, and he was teaching. I wish I could remember his first name. But any rate, I can't right this minute. He taught. But he could play some of the bluest blues you have ever heard. And he had some of the bluest verses going with those blues. And he could play other music as well. But he really could play that sort of thing. And he'd sit down there, and he had all sorts of verses, probably some he made up, and plenty that he picked up, because they are here. A lot of people know many, many, many that have been handed down and handed down. This fellow that I said had such a beautiful voice, he used to sing a real—what was that thing? Really, it was a song that you didn't even let the older generation hear you listen to him sing that one. I can't remember the name of it now. Of course, in today's time, it would be called mild. But for that time, we were really being wild when we set down and let John Allen play his number and say his verses. Because they were all innuendo or suggestive.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
VIOLA TURNER:
But I used to go to some of the tournaments. And one of the best tennis players there at that time—I don't know that I remember his name too well,

Page 12
either. But any rate, when the tennis was all done and we would gather around in the evenings, he could sit down and entertain you half the night with his brand of blues and his verses that went along with it. So, that has always been around, and most of us—particularly the older ones of us—recognize so many of the things that you hear today, and hear the modern musicians—I say modern-time musicians with their rock and their roll and with everything that they have—basically under there they have really stolen what has been going on for generations. Because, I told you once about the boy that used to come—or the man who used to come—and play my piano, my mama's piano. And he was doing the same thing then. The same beat, the same heavy bass that went down here, and they'd go up in here and do all this sort of thing. But when you got through with it, it was the same rhythm.
WALTER WEARE:
Could Bess Whitted play that way? Did you ever hear her?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, Bess didn't do much playing. But Bess knew music. Bess had gone to—I believe [unknown] was probably an AMA school—that's where she went to school. And I think you have to give the AMA folks a lot of credit. Most of us who went to those schools came out with a fairly decent background training.
WALTER WEARE:
Would she have frowned on that music, though? Have you ever seen her at private parties where she would enjoy the blues?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh heck, yes. She probably could make up some of the verses, better than most of us. Because she could sit down and she loved jokes. And they could get kind of blue. And she'd still enjoy them. She would be sitting over there with the joke tellers when I would've moved off because they'd gotten a little too blue for me. Oh, yes. She loved all of that sort of thing.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there anybody at the Mutual who would stand back? Would C.C. Spaulding?

Page 13
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, he didn't approve of any of the things we did. He didn't approve of your dancing. If he had known anybody had even had a cigaret or a little wine—I didn't say whiskey, just a little wine—he wouldn't have approved of it. Way in late, late, late years, I went on a trip to California. We were going out there for insurance convention, but they made up a train in Chicago, and we travelled across country, the southern route, and came back the northern route. It was marvelous. It took us better than thirty days. But Poppa was on the train with us. One of the girls with us—Eula and I were going together and we had another young girl with us, a friend of ours. And the reason she was going, she had lost her husband, very sudden death. And he was a very young doctor, a young man. And we thought maybe this would be a nice trip for her. She had relatives in California, so we said come on and go with us. Then, if you want to stay with them a while, you come back whenever you get ready. So she did. So one evening, she's not feeling so well, and Mr. Spaulding, of course, considered everybody on the train were his children. So, he stopped by our compartment. "How is Louise?" I said, "Oh, she doesn't feel so good." "Well," he says, "I'm going down this way, but when I come back, you all bring her up there to my apartment. I've got something that maybe will make her feel a little better." So we said, yes, sir, and brought her down after a while; Louise and Eula and I go up there. When we get there we say, "Mr. Spaulding, we've brought Louise up here." He says, "Come on in, come on in and set down." Then he says, "I'm going to give you a little something that my doctor gave me, and he says that it's good for you, and under the circumstances I think that this will be good for you." He reached around and he came out with a little flask, about like that. You could have slipped it in your pocket. I would guess that it could probably hold a half-pint. And then he went over and he got a tablespoon [Laughter] , and

Page 14
he poured it out from the flask and he gave it Louise and told her,"Now, go get in the bed and you'll sleep well. My doctor told me,'take one of these every night' before I go to bed." One tablespoon of brandy! So, we then knew that Poppa was really concerned about Louise, because we had never heard him give anybody permission to even have a drink of wine. And he'd given her a tablespoon full of brandy.
No. He was strictly the churchman in that time that you weren't supposed to dance, you weren't supposed to play cards, you weren't supposed to smoke. I don't guess he even had smoking in it because in the earlier days, nobody was even thinking about smoking. That came a little bit later. I'm sure he would not have approved of it, and didn't, as time went on. But honestly, we laugh now when we think about that we do have dancing in the Mutual building. I say Poppa's flip-flopping wherever he is right now, because he wouldn't let us have no kind of party where dancing was involved in the Mutual building on Paris Street. No. And yet. . .is that off?
WALTER WEARE:
Uh uh.
VIOLA TURNER:
I'm not going to tell you this one then. On Poppa. [Laughter]
WALTER WEARE:
Well, Poppa's gone. [Laughter]
VIOLA TURNER:
That's all right. I'm not going to tell this on Poppa. I'll go to something else.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm going to call Esa and tell him that I'm going to be there directly. While I'm doing that, why don't you talk to Juanita about the entertainment.
One of the things people are interested in is this fabled black middle class. If you didn't have all these institutions, opera house, ballets, and so forth, and yet there was the education and the finances, what did people do? What kind of parties and so forth?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. I'll tell you. [interruption] Primarily

Page 15
it was just parties in the home, and we had some people who were really party-givers. For instance, Mrs. Darnell, whom we all called Patty, Patty Darnell. She was John Merrit's daughter. They had a very lovely, great big home, right up there beyond the site of the old White Rock Baptist Church. I think that address was 506, a five-hundred block on Fayetteville Street. A great big, tall, turretted house. And Patty used to give always a New Year's party. And it was New Year's evening, and it went on into the night and, you know, to welcome in the new year. Everybody, for years, looked forward to that party. Bess was a great party-giver, Bess Whitted. And Bess usually had the Christmas party. And her parties started in the evening—oh, ten or eleven o'clock—and you stayed all night and ended up with breakfast, at her party. Yes, always breakfast. That, again, was one of the events that you looked forward to.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
These aren't dinner parties?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. They're big dancing parties.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
With live music?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, with live music. Usually a piano player. Sometimes they'd have a piano player and maybe one or two people with instruments. But always there was some good piano player. Then you danced, in the home, and you were served, you know. Not heavy services, not that kind. Now, those were the parties that you knew were coming up. Everybody expected them, and if they hadn't come up, I think everybody would have been very unhappy.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
These were formal parties where you got all dressed up?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Evening gowns, oh, you dressed to go to those special parties, the Christmas and the New Year's parties. In between it was nothing at all for Patty or Miss Bessie to have little parties, maybe with, say, three or four tables of bridge, that many people. And they might have a dinner party, or they may have just a get-together. And, if somebody came to town,

Page 16
and you call around and say, be sure to come up to my house or to your house, we have a guest in town. Then that would start it. They'd get to town and there'd be a siege of parties, one right after the other. Someone in every home here would give a party and invite everybody, and then on down. That sort of thing still happens here a good deal. Really, if Martha was having—that's Patty again, Patty Darnell—if she was having guests in, she might have a series of parties, smaller ones. But the two that I mentioned, the Christmas party and the New Year's party, that included all of your friends, almost. You'd have a large party. And their houses were large enough to hold them. Some would be over in one end of the house and around, just telling jokes and drinking. If you were at Dr. Darnell's you were drinking, and if you weren't drinking it was just that you didn't want to. He always had drinks and he loved to get behind his little bar and mix them you know, for everybody. And there were a couple of rooms where people would be just sitting and running their mouths. There'd be another one where there were the story-tellers. There were always a couple of folks who were the story-tellers, telling jokes. And there'd be a half-dozen people sitting around them. Then over here, somebody's playing the piano, and the folks are dancing. That sort of thing.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Were they mostly Mutual people.
VIOLA TURNER:
No. Just Durham people. There'd be some Mutual people, and also other Durham people. Well, people from the College, professional people, doctors and their wives, dentists and their wives, lawyers and their wives, school teachers and their husbands or wives. Just a general group. Many of the groups have formed: you're all members of the same church; you're members of the same club. There have always been two or three bridge clubs in town and they meet regularly. And they have a party during some season. Or,

Page 17
maybe somebody that you had invited. For instance, I belong to a small bridge club. We started off at one time and we had about thirteen, now we're down to seven—from death, or moving somewhere else. But we invite two or three people always to our bridge club. Same thing's true with other people. Now, after a while, maybe somebody that you've invited several times, or your club has invited them several times, they decide they're going to entertain the entire club, so they entertain all of us there. So, we did a lot of entertaining in the home, all around. Now, years ago, when we were young, Eula, myself, and that group, Betty Goodlow and all of those. There were two buildings up here: the Masonic building and the Royal Knights of King David building. And the top floors were dance halls. Then you would have a band. You'd get various ones, sometimes very good ones, sometimes local. Sometimes if not exactly local, maybe Greensboro, or Raleigh or someplace, where a little group had gotten together and were pretty good. And then you'd have a big dance. We used to do a lot of that. That is not done anymore because they don't have those buildings anymore. That may be one of the reasons, I don't know. 'Course all of us finally got sick of it; we were too old for that. But that was one of our forms of entertainment, maybe two or three dances a year. And sometimes they were very pretty, and very unique dances.
And then we used to do another thing that nobody seems to do anymore. Maybe they don't have the nerve to do it, or the guts, or maybe you wouldn't do it in this day, I don't know. But Bess Whitted was a very dynamic person and had lots of drive and plenty of nerve. All she needed was a few people to follow her and work with her. And we have brought some quite unusual entertainment to Durham over a period of years. Among them, for instance—maybe now it's so they're all faded away so you wouldn't know them—but we brought Mobile Sisal's Band here on one occasion, which was quite an outstanding band. He was quite a musician and had quite an excellent band.

Page 18
Over many, many years, it had played out of Cincinnati, I believe it was, for years on radio at one of the clubs there. Well, we brought them here one year.
WALTER WEARE:
Would that band play at the Royal Knights of King David?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. Let's see, where did Mobile Sisal play? I believe that was at the—what did I tell you we have downtown now?
WALTER WEARE:
The Masonic Lodge?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, no, no. That was right here in [unknown] . They were both up here on Fayetteville Street. Downtown now. What was the thing called? It isn't an auditorium, but down on Foster Street. Between Morgan and Foster Street. It's the Durham Civic Center. That's where we brought them. I couldn't think of the name of the thing; but that's called the Civic Center. It's a great big building. And you could bring a big band there. We brought Mobile Sisal here. I'm trying to think what other band. When I say 'we', I don't mean me personally, although I worked with Bess on the Mobile Sisal. In fact our whole group worked with her to bring them here. We have brought other artists here on many occasions. I'm trying to think, now, who brought Lionel Hampton here. He's been brought here.
WALTER WEARE:
What about Duke Ellington or Count Basie?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes
WALTER WEARE:
All of those?
VIOLA TURNER:
They have all been here. But many of them were brought here at times when we had a young man—I suppose he had to make money out of it some way or other. But he would bring the big bands in here and they would either be at that Civic Center or at one of these warehouses. That was back at the time when I was talking about Miller and Lyle were here. But Duke Ellington, Count Basie, another man who came along right about at the same time [unknown] .
WALTER WEARE:
Louis Armstrong, was he here?

Page 19
VIOLA TURNER:
No, I don't ever recall Louis being here. Unless he was brought here when a couple of things have come here to the Center Theatre. But I don't remember Louis Armstrong ever being here. And I've known about him for nearly all of his existence. But I don't think he was ever here. But there was another band man who came along about the same time as Count Basie. I can see the man, you know, picture him, but I can't think of his name, now. But any rate, virtually all of the big bands have been here one time or other.
WALTER WEARE:
Now, at this Civic Center, would that be whites and blacks?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. It's used by both whites and blacks. I don't think I've ever known of any time when they did anything together. And yet, I don't think there's ever been a time when blacks couldn't observe from the balcony or whites couldn't observe from the balcony. For instance, you're having something downstairs and I don't think there was ever any prohibition that you could not let people go upstairs and watch. But that's just in my mind. I don't recall.
WALTER WEARE:
When Mobile Sisal was here, you're suggesting that maybe whites sat upstairs and blacks downstairs?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no, no. Let me see if I can figure about that. I'm not suggesting that, but I am saying this: very likely that happened and there would have been no objection to it happening. But I don't know that it did happen in that specific case. Because that was a situation that was handled so closely by a group that we had all of the tickets. You see, it was something we had gone on the line to furnish the pay. And it was our individual effort—like a club. So, unless we sold you a ticket, there would not have been any way for you to be there. I can't tell you that we didn't sell some white tickets; we probably did. I don't know whether we did or not, but we probably did, and if we did, those people could come and would have no problem coming. I don't remember the whole thing enough to say that is what happened in that instance.

Page 20
But I do know this, that many of the efforts that were efforts initiated by Bess or some of our club groups—and always Bess was in that sort of thing, because she had more of this spirit of adventure to venture out and pay. And we agreed to pay somebody two thousand dollars to come here, without a dime. Because we believed we could do it, you know. She was the kind of person who could say—I don't know if you ever heard of Philippa Skylar?
WALTER WEARE:
Oh, yes.
VIOLA TURNER:
VIOLA A child prodigy. Well, we brought her here. And she and her mother stayed at Bess's house. As you know, Mrs. Skylar was white.
WALTER WEARE:
This is the wife of George Skylar? Editor of the Pittsburgh Courier?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's right. That's the man, and the woman. Well, you know, she was a Texas woman. Well, she stayed right at Bess's house. Well, I feel very sure that we sold tickets to both white and black for that. And I think—my problem is remembering where these various things were; we did so many of those sort of things back then at certain times. I don't recall now whether that was at the Ben Duke Auditorium, or it could've been at the Center Theatre.
WALTER WEARE:
What intrigues me is that whites and blacks were attending the same event.
VIOLA TURNER:
There was no separation.
WALTER WEARE:
They would not segregate the whites?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. If we had something, which we had many of, and we sold tickets. If we had it, we had to sell tickets, because that's the way we'd raise the money. Ours was usually for scholarships or one of these sort of things. And if we had white friends, 'would you like to buy tickets to this; we're going to bring so-and-so'. If they were sold tickets, they came to the audience just like anybody else, and sat anywhere. If they came down here, they always did that at Ben Duke Auditorium. Anything we ever gave at the Center Theatre: the same thing was true. The reason the question is coming into your mind:

Page 21
if things came to these warehouses, and the things that went to the Civic Center, that were not sponsored by a club or some group, was sponsored by an individual. And, no doubt, the individual made money out of it. I never knew how those things ran. I knew the man who brought a lot of the things there, named Leif Austin. But I'm quite sure that there had to be some way he was making money out of doing it, if it was a success. Well, now, what happened there: he advertised that so-and-so will be here on such-and-such a time; tickets will be available at the door, at the drugstore, at this place or that place. Now, you went there and you bought your ticket. If you were white and you wanted to go to a black thing, you went there and bought your ticket. If you were black and you wanted to go to a white thing, you went and bought tickets. But at that time, I feel very sure, that if you were black and you wanted to buy something to see a white one, you bought a ticket that sat you in the gallery. You didn't get a ticket that put you down on the dance floor. I feel very sure that's true. I never did it. I'm just telling you that's what the time had demanded. I don't think any blacks would've bought tickets and gone down there to dance on the dance floor without anticipating some problem. On the other hand, very likely—no I can't say that. If whites had tried to do it at a black affair, they would have had just as much trouble, if they had tried to walk down there and dance. Because there would have been some of us that would say, 'What are you doing down here?' And that would have been it. But I don't think either would have had any trouble going up and sitting in the balcony to look at what's going on. And I did go on the balcony on two occasions that I know of. However, I think they were black performers that I went, in both cases. But I do know this: people did go to the balcony. But they were public affairs. Our affairs, like I said, that we brought, like Philippa Skylar—we brought Roland Hayes here years ago; we brought Mobile Sisal's band and many things I'm sure I'm

Page 22
sure that I'm forgetting. Because we had a project nearly every year, of that sort of thing. But when they brought here, the tickets were in our hands; we put the tickets out. We did not discriminate against them, but we wanted the right kind of audience always.
[interruption]
WALTER WEARE:
Something I'd like you to expand on a bit is this difficulty of travel for black professionals in this period, given the lack of accommodations, and the great number of people coming to visit Durham—either on business, or to see the Mutual, or whatever—and where they would stay. Was there a hotel for a time?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. For a time, Dr. Darnell, who was the medical director for North Carolina Mutual, built a hotel down on Pettigrew Street, where the drugstore and all of those things were. Very lovely place; it was true for several years, as long as he held it in charge and was responsible for how it was managed and run. It was very lovely. Anybody would have been quite comfortable and would not have objected to going there. And many people did come during that period.
WALTER WEARE:
What was the name of it?
VIOLA TURNER:
Biltmore. Biltmore Hotel. And the theatre was in there, that we were talking about. And at first, downstrairs, was a very nice eating place. The eating place did not last too long, and the idea of eating was abandoned. Then finally Dr. Darnell started letting other people run the hotel, and so it began, in time, to go down to the place where few people that would have come to visit me, that I would have recommended to go there to stay.
WALTER WEARE:
For the most part would people stay in people's homes when they came here?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, for the most part.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there one or two homes that were kind of singled out that would kind of serve as hotels for these dignitaries?

Page 23
VIOLA TURNER:
You know, I tried to think of that briefly, when we were talking yesterday, because that's what happened in my home in Macon. At my mother's and father's home, every person who came from North Carolina Mutual was directed to see Mrs. Mitchell, or Mr. Mitchell, that they very likely would have a room that they could put you up, and maybe feed them. On occasion she would, but she didn't always do that. Especially if they were going to stay any length of time. But Mr. Wheeler's father, Mr. Merritt, and one of the Spaulding brothers who eventually was working in Georgia—all stayed in our house when I was a kid.
WALTER WEARE:
They just knew about your house?
VIOLA TURNER:
Word of mouth, you know. I don't know how Mr. Merritt got there the first time, but very likely somebody said to him, 'what you do is this." Even a person who didn't ordinarily do it—because my mother didn't make a habit of it; we didn't have somebody in the house all of the time. But maybe a friend of hers would say to her, 'You know, Mr. so-and-so is coming here', or, 'Mrs. so-and-so is coming here, could you take care of them for about a day or so?' Or a week, or something. Well, if she liked you well enough, she knew that it would be O.K. And if she had a spare room, she'd say, 'Well, yes, o.k., I'll take him.' Two things: first thing, it was rendering a service. But also, she was making a little money because they were going to pay her a little something. And few people didn't need a little extra money. Certainly my family. So, I'm sure then when Mr. Merritt comes back to Durham and they're going to send Mr. Wheeler down there, because he's going to open up Atlanta, and then come on in to Macon. 'So, when you get to Macon, you be sure to get in touch with the Mitchells on such-and-such a street.'
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
[begins mid-sentence]—five rooms and the kitchen and another sleeping quarter, but only for the family use. The house was one of the old-fashioned houses where

Page 24
right here is the front door and the porch starts here and goes all the way around the house, you know. So, in the back, that same porch is latticed in and it's large enough—even the hall that came down the center of these rooms would be so wide, you could set up a dining room table in the back hall. Oh, yes. Because many times, that's where we ate, the back hall. And, if there's nobody there but family, you could eat on the back porch that's latticed in, in the summer. Then, over on this side—because my father was a handyman, doing all sorts of things— your porch starts here, then curves, and goes around here. Then when you got around here, this was my mother and father's bedroom. And there were windows here. All Southern houses had a whole lot of windows. And usually were long windows, almost down. Well, now, my father came here to this end of the porch and had blinds. I'm sure he had gotten them from somewhere; I don't know where. But almost all houses used to have long blinds. They call them blinds or shutters, you know. And he had gotten enough of them, that he had gone on the outside of that porch, and that whole section of that porch that was off of their bedroom, and had the blinds all the way around. So what he had was a little room out there, with the shutters. You could open them up so the air could blow in. And then they had a smaller bed out there, not a big bed, but a bed that was out there that looked like a couch in the day. But if the weather was real hot, they stepped right out of their bedroom here and would sleep out there on the porch with all the shutters open. So, when you talk about all the rooms that they made themselves, there's a lot of them. But the house itself had two bedrooms on one side. And over on this side was the living room or the parlor, and then another bedroom under that window. Then there was a little room here. I don't know what it had been originally, but it was my room now, and it was no bigger than that section right over there. Because there was nothing in there, but a little couch, cot-like, and, as I recall, a mirror on

Page 25
the wall. And then you could go from that little room where I slept on to this porch, where, if you wanted, you could eat out there, or you could sit out there.
It was latticed in. And, all of the bathing, you know, was in tubs. You bathed on Saturday nights. Except that my mother had a very bad habit about my bathing. She made me bathe more than I thought was necessary [Laughter] . But there was no such thing as a bathroom. The kitchen was over on the other side where the two bedrooms were. You see, we actually didn't need anything but this side of the house, and the kitchen. And there was always those two bedrooms. Sometimes my mother would have a change and the back bedroom would not be set up like a bedroom. But the front one was always a bedroom. I don't know why she did that. The only thing I can think of: I remember a couple of times, they had little entertainment, parties—I'd call them parties—set up in that back bedroom. Everything would be out of it except tables and chairs where they were going to feed and take things in from the kitchen. But the house sat up, like so many Southern houses; there was as much room under that house as there is under this one, almost. And all dirt. And the only thing that kept it up there was lattice work. It was wood. But lattice all around the back of it which was very much like this house, in that the back end was much higher off the ground than the front end. But as a kid, I played up under there all the time. I had more play houses than the law allows. And the one thing that we had—well, everybody didn't have; almost everybody in that neighborhood had it. But downstairs there was a water toilet. It had a seat and you pulled the string down like this. So that was a decided advantage that we had in that house.
WALTER WEARE:
In Durham you were saying there was a number of these homes that would be kind of [unknown] .
VIOLA TURNER:
Well here—and now I can't recall; there may have been; I would guess there were plenty, because now that I'm thinking about it I know of one place where people used to go to eat. The reason it comes to mind is that somebody

Page 26
made me think of it, really informed me, because I didn't know it. I had been to that lady's home once to eat dinner, because she fixed dinners, and you could go to her house to eat dinner. And very recently somebody informed me that she was the mother of an artist that is really beginning to become pretty well-known out in California, named Barnes. He has been here and had his art work in the student union building a couple of times. And I understand that he has really become recognized as having some artistic abilities. And someone told me that that is this woman's son. [unknown] And I think there were two or three places in Durham where people cooked meals and you could go and eat. Later there was something even a little better than that. But, in the meantime, everybody virtually who. . .well, I'll tell you. The people I know about, but I'm sure this was more or less a sort of a habit. Officials from North Carolina Mutual invited people to come to their homes. You see, if they were coming to Durham they wrote to whomever they knew best, 'I want to be there for such-and-such a day'. And very likely that simply meant that you were coming to their home to stay until whatever it was you had come to Durham for. So, many, many people were accommodated that way, from the people they knew in Durham. And then people in Durham, like everywhere else, if two or three people were coming and you couldn't accommodate them, you may ask a friend. Like I'd call Eula and say, "Eula, please, would you take so-and-so coming to see me; I've already got somebody." Because I only have one bedroom. And she'd say, "Sure." I'll give you a real good example. At one period here, they decided to give me one of these 'This is your life' visits. And my stepmother and her sister, a cousin from Jersey, my half-brother and his wife from California—I think that's it—all came to Durham and were here and housed, and I hadn't the remotest idea anything in the world was happening until, at the forum, [unknown] Kennedy walked up to me and said, "This is your life, Vi Turner." And they almost had to deliberately pick me up and carry me up on stage, because I thought he was kidding me.

Page 27
And lo and behold! Out of all of it there were all these people right here in Durham. A part of them were down to Eula's, part of them were at another friend's house. And, of course, my brother, he and his wife, they had driven all the way across from L.A., and they got here with the program being held, at the time they got here. And the wife would not get out of the car. She wouldn't come in. She said, not the way she looked. But, you know us, my brother walked right in to the program. And that's been the way it's been done, all over the South, I think.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there a grapevine, where you knew, if you were travelling, where you might stay?
VIOLA TURNER:
You would know, because you made arrangements in front, you know. If you were going somewhere. I never experienced much of that, because in some ways, I guess, I'm called a little queer. I'm not very good at visiting. And so, consequently, I couldn't make it until there were places you could go, to a hotel. All of my travelling has been like that. A lot of our people still do that. I have friends right here now. She gets up and goes all over this country, and I doubt if she's ever made a hotel reservation in her life. This also is a pattern I think: she is a widow of a physician. And, you know, we all have these little organizations, physicians' wives organization, physicians' clubs and things. She can travel all over this country, and she'll go from one place to the other. She'll stay at some physician's home, or some physician's widow's home. And they, in turn, if they get up and want to go somewhere, it's nothing for them, maybe to call from Raleigh, and say, "I'll be in Durham in thirty minutes." Or, "I'll be in Durham in an hour." Or, "I'll be there tomorrow." That friend just makes arrangements for them to come right on over, no problem.
WALTER WEARE:
What about people travelling through on business? Let's say people working in the South in the nineteen-thirties in the NAACP, would they stop in Durham?

Page 28
VIOLA TURNER:
It's the same thing. Friends. Many a time they'd be at Mr. Cox's house. Many of them would be at Bess's. She was one of the most hospitable ones. Any number of people could stop at Bess's. You'd call Bess Whitted. They could be there. Certain people—and I say 'certain people', if you happen to be friends of theirs, there was always a place for you at the Darnells'. Maybe one or two people could go to C.C. Spaulding's home, the old man. All of us could have come if it had been left with him, but his wife was an entirely different person. Probably the most you could've gotten there was one or two of us, like that. But generally the pattern was—and still is, because most of my friends would go on a trip and let their relatives or friends know they're on their way and they go there. I'm just, as I said, queer; I can't do it. I can't do it because I couldn't stand for you to drop in on me without letting me know. So, I'll never be anybody's house guest. I just can't do that. Now, if I decided to invite you, I'm delighted to have you, and I'll work myself to death to have it comfortable for you. But if I walk to my front door and you're standing there, and you'd come from somewhere, you'd just have to pick me right up off the floor. Because I can't cope with that sort of thing. So, as a result, my whole lifestyle has been governed by that. I don't try to never do anything to anybody that I would not like to have done to me.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you remember some of the people who came into town, like Dr. DuBois was here one time, wasn't he?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. He was here years and years ago. And frankly, I have no idea where he stayed. But I would guess—and I think it probably would be a pretty good guess—he probably stayed at Mr. Spaulding's.
WALTER WEARE:
What about James Weldon Johnson, do you remember him?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Oh, boy, I used to read every last thing he ever wrote. I thought I was right good at reciting his stuff. Again, he could have stayed— and DuBois—at Mr. Spaulding's, at Mr. Merritt's, when John Merritt was living. And Patty, who was his daughter—they could have stayed there easily. Dr. Moore—they

Page 29
could have easily stayed there. Mr. Avery—he had a large home and he was a very gregarious type of person. And if they was bishops or church folks, all of them could have stayed at his house. He was very involved, as a layman, in the Methodist Church. Of course the Spauldings in the Baptist. So all of those people could have stayed at any of those homes. But, by and large, the homes were open to anyone who came to Durham. I mean, anyone that they knew or represented anything of any consequence.
WALTER WEARE:
When Paul Robeson, would C.C. Spaulding—because they might have differing philosophies—would he. . .?
VIOLA TURNER:
They may have never done anything but met. Paul may not have been impressed with Mr. Spaulding and Mr. Spaulding would have been impressed with him and who he was, and that sort of thing. But they never would have had too much in common. And this is another thing. I would have lost it, but you mentioned it: many people stayed on the college campus. Many came and they were housed there. That I had actually forgotten. But I think that's where Paul Robeson stayed. That's where Adam stayed most of the time, when we came. Dr. Shepard was quite a character and he loved all of them, you see. And they were quite at home with him. He was not at all the same type as Mr. C.C. Mr. C.C. was a churchman. If you were a bishop, presiding elder, preacher, very likely that would have perked him up to be very sure they were taken care of, even if he wasn't taking care of them. Dr. Shepard was entirely different. He liked all styles, all kinds. And he exposed his student body to them. They didn't have to have the same philosophy by a long shot. The first memory I have of Dr. Shepard that focussed my attention on him in deep admiration for the rest of his life—I knew him before then; just knew who he was; had been in and out of there—but I went down to the campus on some occasion. I haven't the slightest idea what it was. Sitting up on the rostrum were several whites. And they were influential whites. Whites who were over at the

Page 30
legislation, of the legislative body themselves. And, of course, you know, they were democrats. Did you ever see Dr. Shepard?
WALTER WEARE:
Victor Bryant senior, would that be one of the people?
VIOLA TURNER:
If so, he wouldn't have been there this time, because when I came to Durham, he had died. I knew Victor Bryant, the young one, who is now the senior. I saw him get religion. I know the time when he was real tough to get along with. But anyhow, everything around the rostrum were democrats. Dr. Shepard was a republican. He made no bones about it. And he had to go to the North Carolina Legislative Body to get any money he was going to get, to help him with his school. So he got up, a tall, slim man. He had kind of a whine and talk, you know. "Heh, heh, heh, heh," he'd say, "this is Mr. so-and-so." He was quite good. He'd say what he did and who he was. He ended each one with, "a good democrat." Blah, blah, blah, blah. "This is Mr. so-and-so; good democrat. They hold the money strings, you know." But before he finished his conversation:" 'Course, all of them know, as well as you do, that I am a good republican." [Laughter] "But I'll go over there to see about our funds, you know; we're trying to do this. . ." and go right on. And they took it. And he got his money. He was heartless; he could do that. But he could fit into anything. He was a remarkable man.
I remember the first time I went out and sat in his office, really, just a social visit. Mrs. Whitted, Bess Whitted, had lived with them, when she came to Durham a younger woman. He had been with his mother, rather. So she knew them all well. So whenever we wanted to put on a program, or wanted to bring some artist to Durham, we'd go down there and try to talk Dr. Shepard into letting us use the auditorium—which we did many times. Then, of course, we'd have to go into all of the details with him. What sort of money we were going to charge, and what we were going to have to pay, and what we were going to do

Page 31
for the school. Usually it was some sort of scholarship effort. So, I'm sitting over there feeling very impressed with Dr. Shepard, and the president. And I'm the little secretary, you know, just tagging along with Miss Bessie. He says, "Heh, heh, heh, heh, well, now. How are you and Wilbur getting along?" I sit up, "Sir?" "Heh, heh, heh. You didn't know that I knew that you were going around with Wilbur Wright, did you?" Lord! I didn't know he even knew I existed. So I squirm and I say whatever. He goes right on talking to Bessie. "Well, let me see here." He kept everything under the sun in that office; everything that you can think of. "Now I want you to bring this back, but I think maybe you would enjoy reading this." This would be some good book; maybe something just recently published, you know. Well that sort of makes me feel a little more comfortable and I thank him and sit back. Then he goes on and after a while he turns around, and right out of the blue he asks me some other personal question. Which means that he knew everything, like, "Well, you came from Arkansas, here, didn't you?" Well, you just couldn't imagine a man at that level, knowing little details about little insignificant somebody like me. That would just tickle him to death. After a while, "Well, Bess, let me see." He'd get up and walk into his little inner office and come out there with a package for her. "This is for you. Now, you can't give her any of that; she's too young for that. But, well. . ." He'd reach over here. "Here, you can have this." He had brought her out a bottle of Canadian Club. He knew she liked Canadian Club. So that's what he'd given her. He'd gone over here and gotten me some candy and handed me a box of candy or something like that. Then he'd get right on back down to business. You'd go back with what you wanted with him; what he was going to do; how much he would do of what you had asked. But he was a remarkable man. And boy, when I was walking my dog,

Page 32
in those days on the campus, it didn't make any difference what time you were there—early or late—you'd walk in on him somewhere on that campus.
We used to be in plays and he'd let us come down to the building that used to be right on this street, but it was burned: Chidley Hall. He'd let you go there to rehearse. It was nothing for you to be rehearsing, and somebody else would be rehearsing and you'd walk over to a window and stand there, and you'd look right into Dr. Shepard's eyes. Because he'd be out there looking in, to see what you were doing. He kept that campus right in the palm of his hand.
WALTER WEARE:
So he was to the campus kind of like Poppa Spaulding was to the Mutual?
VIOLA TURNER:
Owned the whole shebang. Or at least they felt they did. Of course, they pretty nearly ran it, too.
WALTER WEARE:
Did they cooperate kind of as community leaders?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes, he—and there was another man here, Professor Pearson; he was the principal of the high school.
WALTER WEARE:
W.G. Pearson.
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Pearson, Shepard, and Spaulding. They were very closely associated and they all had the whole interest. Not only what they were doing themselves, but the entire interest. And they cooperated with each other for any effort that you were putting on. Anytime that Dr. Shepard wanted anything from North Carolina Mutual, Mr. Spaulding delivered. Yes. It was a very closely-knit association and it was a beautiful one. It wasn't one where you could ever object to it one way or the other. Or, I couldn't. They needed each other. They needed support. They gave each other support.
WALTER WEARE:
Even though they didn't always agree?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no, no.
WALTER WEARE:
Spaulding was a democrat too? And Shepard a republican?

Page 33
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. I don't know whether they ever discussed it, because Dr. Shepard just made his statements and what you weren't supposed to discuss with him, you just didn't. However, Spaulding was a very volatile man, so they could have. But I doubt if either of them did. Because I would guess, in that day and time, they were what they were because they believed in what their party was saying. But I don't think either one of them would have fought each other over it. Because they knew neither one of them was worth a cuss, you know. So, I doubt if it was that bad.
Speaking of that, this is maybe something that'd interest you. Mr. Spaulding took me the first time that I was able to register, or was registered. I don't know if I ever knew anything about registration before. Mr. Spaulding would take some of us from the office down to the courthouse to register. And the day that he took me down—there were about three or four of us that went down.
WALTER WEARE:
All Mutual people?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. I would presume that was being done by other leaders—doing the same thing. But I don't know. Because that was all very new to me then. I knew nothing about registration. I knew you were supposed to vote, and that you ought to definitely be voting, but I had not come up with that you had to be registered, or anything of the kind.
WALTER WEARE:
Had your parents voted in Georgia, do you think?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh I'm sure my parents hadn't. I feel very sure they had not. Because, as I told you, the first time that I knew anything about it, I was at Morris Brown and my mother's dead. I was at Morris Brown when Harry Pace, and Ben Davis and those men came to the school and started indoctrinating us, really informing us, I say indoctrinating, but that's a good word, too, I guess. Any rate, up until then, no, I don't know if I've ever heard the word, 'vote', meaning something pertaining to me. I guess maybe I'd heard the word because

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I read very early and read anything and everything that could be written. If it were anywhere within my sight I read it. So I may have seen the word, but it had no significance to me until I got to Morris Brown.
WALTER WEARE:
Mr. Spaulding, then, would take new employees?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. He was taking old employees. Because, you see, at that time, that was the beginning of registration here. Very few people, blacks, had been registered.
WALTER WEARE:
This is the nineteen-twenties?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I got here in '24, so it must have been probably the first year I was here. Because he was taking just three or four at a time down. They had probably been battling it out, arguing it out, how it was going to be done, but he and some of the leaders must have been putting up quite a fight, saying, "It's got to be done." So, they worked out the way it's going to be done. So, they're going to take a few at a time down there. And only somebody like Mr. Spaulding probably could get you registered. I wouldn't doubt it. All of it that's true. I imagine that if I walked down there to be registered, I never would have gotten registered. Listen, this, to me, is the priceless part of that. We walked down there. There sits a man with his book, and then his bible. I believe it was a bible; I might be wrong. But any rate: a book. So he hands you that to read. That's no sweat. I read what he said, what is there. So he gives me the privilege. He writes my name down, address, and whatever else goes with it. Next girl comes up. He gives it to her. She reads, and he says to her. "That's not correct." I think that was about the third. I think two of us got by before we questioned him. But any rate, when he questioned her, he tells her the word she's mispronounced. And, would you believe it? You would never know; you'd never recognize that word. So he reads the sentence and you'd never heard such reading in your life. For somebody sitting up there

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telling you you can't read. Well I [Laughter] , I just stood there looking. Mr. Spaulding didn't make any display of his temper, which he had plenty of, and would, on occasion. But he did say, "Well, when can she come back to register?" And that rascal told him, "When she could read what he gave her to read," or something like that. She did go back and she did get registered later. Mr. Spaulding saw to that. But I would like is for anyone else to have been present to hear that man read, and hear the word that he called her on, hear what he called it. We snickered all the way back to the building, as soon as we got out of his office. Because it tickled us to death. Of course, you know, we were laughing but we were indignant—mad as we could be. The idea! And, of course, the girl was embarrassed in there. But when she got on the outside and when we got through with her, she was just ready to go back and do it again. Now, that's how you got registered here in Durham at that time. Somebody that they knew they couldn't say no to, that had some pull somewhere, took you down personally.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
VIOLA TURNER:
She's still living, and I just learned that she's living very near me, where she used to live, once upon a time. But that old rascal couldn't read a lick himself, but he did that to us. And I am quite sure that we didn't have a rough time at all. But can you imagine somebody else who tried to go in there and get registered, and they didn't have a C.C. Spaulding standing right there with them?
WALTER WEARE:
Now, there was an effort, though, beginning in the late twenties, to do something about that?

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VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. That was the beginning. I believe that was the very beginning. I don't know that, but I believe that was really the beginning. But NAACP had been fighting for many years and still was. And still is, for that matter. But we began to form these committees. What is now the committee. . .
WALTER WEARE:
Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
What used to be the Durham Committee on
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. I was trying to go back to how it used to be. But the birth of that began to come.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you remember the steps leading up to that? That's, I think, in the mid-thirties.
VIOLA TURNER:
The only thing that I remember about it is in the early years. Since we've been talking I've been trying to think of that one man, that, if he is still living, he'd be somebody who could tell you all that story.
WALTER WEARE:
Was he a lawyer?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. And that's why this particular memory to me is such a beautiful one. I went to several meetings. I started to say 'formative stage'. But I guess formative stage, when you think about how it has developed and what it has become. So, it was in the earlier years of it. People would meet. You've probably run into this is your history about Durham. The tennis clubhouse up here?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes. The Algonquin?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Well, at that time that was another one of the meeting places. Incidentally, there were a few bedrooms upstairs there where people were housed. And, at one time, we had delightful food served there. I used to take [unknown] often.
WALTER WEARE:
Who built that? And how was that financed and taken care of?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, you can thank Bess Whitted and W.D. Hill as the two people who

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were more responsible for the development of that club than any others. Although, it was a Durham effort. There were many, many people here who did participate. I was a member for years and years, and paid dues. And many, many people were like that. But the moving force was Bess Whitted, because she loved tennis herself. She played some tennis. She wasn't ever great, but she was loyal and faithful to it. And she was the making of many a little black child that had never seen a tennis racket. They were not out of the homes of the people we've been talking about. They were urchins from all around. They gathered there and Bess was really one of the moving forces there, and developed some very good tennis players. And Billy Hill was also a moving force there. They were not alone I don't mean there were none other, but they were the ones who were there in the beginning, and they stayed right there. When it wasn't doing, they were there, and when it was doing, they were there. Most of Durham, and certainly all of the Mutualites—and many other citizens of Durham—supported the clubhouse for many, many years. Just in very recent years have some others stopped paying dues there. I think they have finally sold the property, but for years they would not sell it, because it was really serving a real need in Durham.
WALTER WEARE:
John Wheeler was a great tennis player.
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes, yes. So he was a great supporter of the clubhouse, too.
WALTER WEARE:
There's a story—it may be entirely untrue—that he had something to do with the development of Arthur Ashe. Have you ever heard that?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, I haven't. But that does not make it untrue, and I'll tell you why. Were you ever told that a Dr. Johnson also had something to do with the development of Ashe? I think he did. There was a doctor in, I believe, Lynchburg, Virginia, who was quite a tennis enthusiast. Probably quite a tennis player at some time, I don't know. But he was certainly an enthusiast, and a developer of young people. One of the people that I know about, that he was

Page 38
instrumental in getting going was a woman, who became quite a tennis player. She's still living, too. I think she has gone into golf, now. But she did some outstanding winning; I can't recall what.
WALTER WEARE:
Thea Gibson?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's right. Well, this man, Johnson, was quite, quite responsible for her. John and Johnson worked very closely together. That's why I say, anywhere you hear Johnson's name attached to Ashe, I would be quite willing to believe that Wheeler had something to do with it, too. Because they both worked very closely wherever they saw promising young people, in tennis especially. I never remember John saying anything about Arthur Ashe as such, but that doesn't mean a thing. He could well have had, because he was also the type of person—as you probably already know from his history—wherever there seemed to have been a bright spot, or the possibility of one, you could find John trying to do something about it, or trying to help. So he may have had a good deal to do with it. I don't know.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, this club, you were saying. . . .
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. And it was a meeting place. It was a meeting place for everything. The men's bridge club met up there. Many times co-ed clubs, I guess you'd call them, the younger fellows and girls. We'd have clubs and we'd meet up there. And any other kind of meeting. NAACP meetings met up there. And then when this organization was formed, they met there. So it really served exactly what it said: a clubhouse. Long after there was very little tennis. Now, when I first came to Durham, that was the way we spent our afternoons. We'd come home from work in the summertime and get dressed and walk down to the tennis court to see tennis. And we saw some beautiful tennis. Because people came from Virginia and other parts of North Carolina. And some of our best tennis players played right down there on that court. That's the way we spent our evenings.
WALTER WEARE:
I want to get back to the Durham Committee.

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VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Well the only thing I started to say there about it, that I wish I could remember. I went to a meeting. I used to go occasionally. I wasn't one of those people who was at every meeting or anything, but in the earlier days I used to go occasionally. And I went there one night and I don't know what happened. John either had to leave the meeting, or he found out late that he couldn't be at the meeting, and they were just getting back knowledge in the evening, that he would not be there to preside. Two things impressed me that I still remember. The first thing was the cross-section. There were people from every walk of life at that meeting. People you knew; people that you knew what they did; people that you had heard of; people that you'd never heard of; people that you'd never seen. But many of them, they would maybe get up to say something and you'd say, "Oh, yeah, that's such-and-such a section", [unknown] where they named 'East End', or 'West End'. And I said to myself that I know the area, that's all. But not a single person that got up to say anything at all, every last one of them had something to say. They may not have said it exactly like you would have said or like I would have said it, or John may have said it, but you understood it perfectly; and you appreciated it; and you recognized it. You recognized every comment they made, one way or the other. Well, that, to me, was impressive. I had never been in a group where you knew these were all different types of people, but they were there with just one single thought: and that was improvement. And out of that—and this [unknown] man that I have seen and I know his name, but it escapes me, and I haven't been able to think of it. I even have tried to think of who I could call and they would tell me who it is. But this man got up and took charge of the meeting, and, by golly, John could not have done any better than he did. I can just see him. He was tall, slender, very dark brown skin, not educated like John. He could easily not even have had a high school education. But he spoke well. And he took charge of that meeting with the same ease, the same grace, or

Page 40
whatever you want to call it, as anybody could have. And I left there the most impressed person, you know, over it, because I was so delighted. After that, I sort of just followed, you know, wherever I'd see anything about him.
WALTER WEARE:
He remained active in the Committee?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes, he was.
WALTER WEARE:
Was he a tobacco worker, or anything?
VIOLA TURNER:
Could have been. He was probably a tobacco worker. Or, if he wasn't that, he was some other worker. He was no one that I had come in contact with as such, knowing him from working in the Mutual or working in the Savings and Loan, or working in the bank—working in any place, you know, that I had come in contact with anybody.
WALTER WEARE:
Was the labor union represented or active in those meetings?
VIOLA TURNER:
They became. When you said labor union, I'm trying to think if that man was a member of the labor union, but I'd be afraid to say that, because I'm too vague on it. But, yes, I do know that members of the labor union, and I think they are still, very active in that organization. I know they have been and I think they still are.
WALTER WEARE:
John Wheeler worked with—this is Tobacco Workers International?
VIOLA TURNER:
John could work with everybody and anybody and they had to respect him. And yet he worked with them, and they could disagree right down to the nth degree, but nine out of every ten times they'd work out some kind of way that they could work together. There's a man here in Durham, and I think that he is an international officer, a member of that group you're talking about, named Hobby. Have you heard the name, Hobby?
WALTER WEARE:
How do you spell it?
VIOLA TURNER:
H-O-B-B-Y. I know that our Committee has worked with Hobby and Hobby has worked with the Committee. I don't know if he's a member or anything of the kind.

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But I do know there've been plenty times we were on the same side of an issue.
WALTER WEARE:
John Wheeler was not the first leader of the Durham Committee? There were earlier people? Do you remember?
VIOLA TURNER:
I couldn't tell you that. I mean, and be the least bit accurate. I'm not sure. Because that was a pretty early meeting that I went and was so impressed. And it seems to me that it was John who was not there then. What I kind of think is true—now, I'm not sure this is true. There are people here who can give you a far more accurate picture of that. And Babe Henderson may be one of them, if you have not talked with him.
WALTER WEARE:
Or
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh yes, he would. But my feeling is that John served that Committee more times than once. He stepped down for somebody else, then he came back in, and that sort of thing. And I sort of think he was in very early.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember the NAACP being here before that Committee?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, I think I do. In fact, I know I do that. The NAACP was here before anything. In fact NAACP was anywhere I've ever been, before anything else.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember any of the Durham organizers?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, I don't know who they were. No, I really don't.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you know R. McKentz Andrews?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, I knew him. But, you see, the way I knew him: he had been here before I came to Durham. He had written the book on John Merritt's life, and had left. And then he came back here after I came here. And it was at that time that I knew him, and came to admire and respect him greatly, too. Because he was a stickler for accuracy and perfection.
WALTER WEARE:
When DuBois was here, did you meet him?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't recall that I did. I guess I recall his being here, and what I would think is that I was just duly impressed, as a young man, at Dubois.

Page 42
Of course I knew who he was. And I'd known of him before I came to Durham. But I would guess that I did not meet him. Maybe he went through the building. I may have even been the person who carried him through the building, that sort of thing. But nothing more than that.
WALTER WEARE:
Did everybody read The Crisis is those days?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, The Crisis was a thing that most people knew about. At least I knew about, and I don't think I was unique.
WALTER WEARE:
Was Marcus Garvey ever in Durham?
VIOLA TURNER:
Not to my knowledge. If he was here, he came before my time. Because I would have remembered Marcus Garvey coming here I think. I don't think he could have come without me knowing, because I'd been aware of him a long, long time.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there some kind of community opinion?
VIOLA TURNER:
I would guess this, and this, again, is purely a guess. I would guess that we would not have had any appreciation for Marcus Garvey. I have what I think may be a sound basis for that; it isn't necessarily true. But we had a man here named C. Benjamin Curly, who came from New York City. A very well-trained man, a brilliant man. He was too far ahead of us when he came through. Among the things that I can point to as evidence of that was among the things that Mr. Curly said to North Carolina Mutual [unknown] was that we should change our system of having a cashier-bookkeeper. That's what Bess Whitted was. She was our cashier and she was our head bookkeeper. And Curly told the official family that you couldn't do that. That somebody handling your money was keeping record of your money. What you need is a comptroller. Well, Bess had a reputation for being an honest woman. The first thing I ever heard about her was she had been working for North Carolina Mutual for twenty-five years and had never missed a penny. When I came here, I looked at that lady, twenty-five years [whistling]. Good Lord! I wouldn't stay nowhere twenty-five years! So, that was rather

Page 43
offensive to Bess, the idea of you talking about taking one of the things away from her. And, for the others—and this may be an unkind observation, but it's one I had then, and I don't think I've changed it at all—our men were not too happy about your being too intelligent. A pretty natural thing. What you don't know, you're kind of fearful of. And so they looked at Curly with the slight suspicion that perhaps this is a recommendation or an idea to build yourself. You want to be the comptroller, and so you say this is not the way it's done. That's the sort of reasoning, I think, that was behind that. Because we really are timely people; we never hired anybody. But when there was a need for somebody to help out a sister company, that was trying to reorganize or get some things going, we were quite generous and willing to let Mr. Curly go and help them, until they got straightened out. Then, of course, he was to come back to us. It took several years before the Insurance Department, I believe it was, or some of their examiners—it may have been an [unknown] that came, Mr. Bilts. But any rate, someone with a certain amount of authority said, "You can't do this. You can't have a cashier-bookkeeper." And then we believed. Curly had told us that. And he was capable. He was a person who could have really done the job for us. But we were careful. Now, of course, it was something for a little secretary to be making a decision like that, wasn't it? But that's the way I felt about it then. I had great admiration for him. I knew him and knew the family. Only after I met them there. I don't mean that I'd ever known them before. I recognized the quality of the man.
WALTER WEARE:
We were talking about the Garvey movement, now. Was he linked up somehow?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Now, Curly came from New York, and he had known Garvey. And not only that. I don't know how a firm Garveyite he was—maybe he wasn't a firm Garveyite at all. But he did not have the same attitude about Garvey and Garvey's

Page 44
ideas that I had always heard in this area. And anywhere I heard anything about Garvey: Garvey was trying to take us all back to Africa, and we weren't going. That was our attitude more or less. And this man didn't have that attitude. He spoke of Garvey with a certain amount of respect. The man has an idea and it has its possibilities. Maybe it can't be done exactly the way he's doing it; but it isn't a thing to be dismissed. I'll put it that way. And, of course, it was the first time I had ever heard anybody speak with any sort of feeling that maybe it's a time to be objective. Don't just close your mind and say there's nothing to the whole thing. Although he didn't go around preaching Garvey's philosophy, but, if you were talking with him, which, as I said, I was in and out of his home a good bit. They lived not too far from here and had three very lovely children—not babies, but kids that I could still enjoy. And I could stop in there. And I liked the wife. He gave me an entirely different impression of Garvey, simply because, in talking about him, he didn't say the same things with the same force and the same tone of voice that I'd heard all the time.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you know if there was a chapter of the Garvey Movement in town?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, I don't think it ever got that close to Durham at all. The only thing you knew about Garvey was what you read in the black press. And, you know, we used to have a lot of black press: the Chicago Defender, the Courier, and all of the black papers. EVerybody wrote about Garvey. But I don't think there was ever any kind of movement here. If so, I never knew about it. Which doesn't necessarily mean that there wasn't. I didn't know everything. And certainly, at that time, I wasn't interested in much.
WALTER WEARE:
You were talking about folks who came to town, or didn't come to town, can you remember others? Well, let me mention some. Mary McLeod Methuen. was she here often?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, she'd been here. While I certainly wouldn't want to say this as

Page 45
a fact—well, maybe the best way to say that is: yes, she has been here. She has been brought here to speak, and that sort of thing. I hesitate to say who brought her here, who sponsored her coming. But, yes. And I do know this: I know that she has been on Dr. Shepard's program. Because that's where I heard her, in his Chapel.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm thinking about the Forum that you used to have on Saturdays, the people who would come there. Do you remember some of those figures?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I guess the most exciting one that I recall—you mean at our Forum, the [unknown] Forum—was Mrs. Roosevelt. I think she was the most exciting one for me. And I think the reason she was the most exciting one for me was the fact that I had been very ugly. I was in the executive secretary area, you know, just the three of us down there, and very frequently I was called on to do little things, like go out and get a corsage or even call to say, 'what do you think we should do?' So, when we got the word that Mrs. Roosevelt wanted to stop at the Mutual, the building started jumping. And particularly our official family. Oh! [whisper, whisper, whisper]. I can't tell you to save my life except that I am just a queer person at times. I got thoroughly disgusted. Why in the world do they have to jump up and turn handsprings just because Mrs. Roosevelt is coming? I am so sick of the way we just cow-tow. [unknown] . So she's coming, so what? Now that was my attitude Very sick and disgusted with them all. And I'm sure I was saying it to the other secretaries, 'don't they make you sick?'
WALTER WEARE:
Did they share your feelings, the other women?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know. I imagine so. But I do remember my own, because I was very vocal and very ugly. [unknown] And then, of course, Mr. Kennedy calls me: 'what are we going to do?' Well, I guess I was always secretary first, so I said, 'Well, I know we should give her a corsage.' 'Well, you go out and get her a lovely corsage.' So I went out and got the lovely corsage.

Page 46
But I'm talking about them all the time, in my mind, and to the girls. But I, of course, did get her a lovely corsage. I couldn't do anything wrong in that area. So now, we go up to the Forum, and I go up there with that same attitude, always got to be making a to do of this. And that lady walked in the door, honey, I [unknown] before she hit. . .she didn't do nothing but walk in and turn and smile [Laughter] . I was putty in her hands from the moment she walked in there. She was the most charming, the most delightful visitor that I had ever seen come through those doors. I can't explain it. I think she was a wonderful woman, but the way that struck me and the way that turned me around that quickly, I have thought of it many times and laughed and said, 'Well that must be like people I've heard talk about getting religion, make them start shouting and say they've got it.' You know, she walked with a stride. And she turned. And, of course you know, among the things I'd said, from pictures, she didn't look like anything, either. And when she walked and she just turned to. See, she's walking and we're sitting this way. And she turns around and she smiles. And I don't know whether she said, 'Good afternoon", or "Good morning", but she smiled and spoke. And they ushered her over to have a seat. I just feel like a ton of bricks for that lady. And by the time it came to give her that corsage, I was the happiest person in that building; I really was. And from that moment on, I don't think she ever gave another thing that I wasn't reading about it, thinking about, talking about it. The funny thing about it, I don't recall ever having a reaction like that about a visitor coming. I was always one of those who wanted to put our best foot forward and do for them. But I acted actually horrible all the time before that lady got to us.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember what she talked about at all?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. Not at all. I probably didn't hear her then. I'm just sitting up there drooling. But I do know this: she swayed the whole audience. I know that.

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Everybody was delighted. But only one or two ever knew what she had done to me. Because I had not expressed all those little ugly things to anybody but just the two girls on my floor.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
Mr. Spaulding got very excited about him and went out and got him a very pretty piece of luggage. So that was another thing.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Was he still small? Were they still making the Our Gang movies?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. But there hadn't been a long space between when they were still making them and when he came here. He was not a grown man. He was still a young fellow. We had so many people. Almost anybody you could name had been through the Mutual at one time or another, while I was there. But only where some specific thing makes them stand out, I can't remember. But few people came to Durham that didn't come there. And all types of people. All races of people. In later years, I think one of the most exciting visitors we had was
WALTER WEARE:
[unknown]
VIOLA TURNER:
That's right. His entourage, his wife, and a whole group of them. That was exciting. Of course you know Esa—this is a much later period in the life of the company—but, he had a thing about bringing every top-flight businessman he could find through. And you had dinners and meet them. And with me I forget, two minutes later, who they were. 'Oh yes! With I.B.M.!' Or with so-and-so. But back in the earlier days, I doubt if many people came to Durham and didn't stop by. Of course, we were always welcoming people, wanting them to come. And many came simply because of the fact that we were sitting right in the heart of the city, and a black company. And they couldn't believe it. Or, they had already heard about us and they came to see.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm interested in Mrs. Methuen because I'm wondering if there were many

Page 48
black women who did come through. Or, to put the question differently, were there many black women, or women like yourself, to look up to?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. For instance there was a woman here, Professor Pearson's wife. Women in that day and time—most of them who were making some kind of contribution— they were usually church women or club women. Women who were members of clubs that Mrs. Methuen was instrumental in getting started, you know, and that sort of thing. This woman, Mrs. Pearson, was one of those sorts of women. They went to various conventions and they came back and tried to start things going here. I don't know of anybody here who made a sort of contribution like Mrs. Methuen, or even near like Mrs. Methuen.
But in almost every community, as I'm trying to recall, that I've gone into, there's always been two or three very active, very outstanding women, who were involved in all the movements that were around: social or educational. And I'm quite sure Mrs. Methuen influenced many of them. In this state, however, I don't think was any influential thing going there, but they were of a kind. Miss Charlotte Hawkins Brown over here at Sedalia, she was quite a woman, too, in her own right. And almost everyone of the young people, especially of the professional folks here, that type of people—nearly all of those children who left Durham probably in the sixth grade, and finished all of their high school work at Sedalia and left there and went to college.
WALTER WEARE:
This was a private, kind of finishing school?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah, that's really what she made of it, virtually. I think I'm correct: if she was not a New Englander, she was educated in New England. And she felt that you should be given a certain amount of polish, culture, and refinement that you were not getting here. Not many places, either, for that matter. I don't think any of the kids in college today have been given any refinement.
WALTER WEARE:
It wasn't just Mutual children who went to her school?

Page 49
VIOLA TURNER:
No. Almost any child here, about like George Cox, that age. Any parent who had a little extra money at all could make a sacrifice to do it, as my mother and father did for me—that little dollar a month business. They tried to send their kid to Sedalia. And that was not just in Durham. All over. You could go down to Sedalia. The Cox kids went there. I don't think all of them, but Nora Mae went there. And I had occasion to go over to visit. Children would be there from all over the country. I was surprised how many different places kids came from.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you know anything about the curriculum?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. The only thing I know is just from the talk of the kids, and then hearing her talk on occasion. I went up there to one or two programs, and you knew from the way she talked, and if you had contact with some of the children, you knew that she was not satisfied just to give them the A-B-C's. She wanted them to have a little more than that. And they lived by that sort of program. The things that they did there had to be done correctly, and rightly. In other words, they were taught how to eat properly, how to set a decent table, from that on out. Music, to have some appreciation of good music.
WALTER WEARE:
What I'm wondering about, in asking about these women, is not only when you were growing up, but throughout life, there were black women who served as, what we now call role models. Who were your heroines?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, mine is a strange story, and it certainly is not going to fit anything that you have in your mind, I don't think. And yet, there were women who were influential in my life, and all the way. But when I spoke of Mrs. Thompson, whom I ran into at Morris Brown, I would think she probably more nearly filled the role that you're thinking of. Because, not only did I admire her greatly, but I admired her for so many different things. I would love to have been like her. I thought she knew everything. And I thought she was the best of everything.

Page 50
And I liked all of that. And she made demands of you. She didn't want anything shoddy from you. She didn't accept any substitutes for the real thing. All of which commanded my respect, and I liked that. I had had a teacher in the eighth grade who sort of did that sort of thing to you. When you came into her class, you came into her class prepared. And if you weren't prepared, you tried to think of a thousand different ways that you didn't have to get to that class. Really, because you just felt like you were not only doing something to yourself, but you were doing something to the lady. She was one teacher that I always thought about as being the kind who really made you tow the mark, and how very wonderful it was that somebody like that had come along in your life. Well, Mrs. Thompson was like that, too. But after that, I ran into, interestingly enough, I was saying something about Mr. Rose, evidently. I don't know what prompted it. But, I left home quite early. Because, you see, my mother died. I never lived at home again. I would go home and maybe stay a week or so, and then I'd be on my way. And as soon as I got out of school, I was definitely on my own, and working. Not that I ever had—I hasten to say this—I never had any feeling that I wasn't welcome at home. My stepmother was a very nice person in her own way. And, of course, my father—I always felt he was great. It wasn't a matter of feeling unwelcome, but I felt I had to make it. I felt I was on my own and I had to make it. Consequently I went right on out and tried to make it, to the best of my ability. But, I was very fortunate. For instance, I told you I went from Tuskegee to Jackson, Mississippi. And without being able to tell you why I didn't want to stay at the place that they had arranged for me to stay, I immediately started making arrangements to move. And one of the first days I was in the office, the girl whose place I was taking, I asked her where she lived. And she told me. And I asked, do you think the lady would take me? So she says, maybe, I don't know. But any rate, out of that—and I know you don't want to hear all that detail—I did go to see this

Page 51
lady. And they, incidentally, were Coxes, too. Honestly. Mrs. Diamond Cox. And she said no, she wouldn't take me. Of course I asked why. And she said that they had been so pleased with this girl who lived with them, that they felt quite sure they could not have another young woman coming in, and they would be equally as pleased. Therefore, they were not going to try it again. And they had had a large family of daughters, and they were all grown. They had only one son, the youngest child, still there. And he was maybe seventeen, eighteen; sixteen or seventeen. Well, I made a proposition. I said, why don't you let me come and stay, and I'll pay you for the first month. And, if at the end of the month, when I offer you your money, you say no, I'll know you mean for me to move. And if you take the money, it means I can stay. And I won't argue with you. I won't plead with you. I won't do anything. I'll just try to make arrangements. So I paid the lady and I went there. And it turned out to be the loveliest experience of all. In a little while the lady was treating me just like I was her daughter. And I felt in love with them, and they seemingly in love with me. And so that was a very nice experience. I left there and I went to Oklahoma City. I went to live with a lady and in a little while she was doing the same thing for me—just as nice as she could be. She treated me just like I belonged in the family. I left there and I went to Arkansas. And there, they had carried me to another place to stay—the boss, whom I was going to work for. The next day at the office, I asked the girl down there was there any place. And I had no reason. I couldn't tell you why I didn't like the places. They were nice, clean homes and everything. And so, somebody told me about a lady that lived not too far from the office where we were working. She said, if she'll take you, it'll be OK, but she's awful tough. I wouldn't recommend her, but if you don't want to stay where you are, maybe she'll take you. So I went to see the lady, and the lady took me. She not only was not 'awfully tough' in my book, but she was even nicer than the other folks. It turned out in Little Rock, I had people there I knew, and I didn't

Page 52
realize that I knew them so well. They were the same family that I spoke of: the Johnsons in Macon? My teacher was living out there where she's married. And one of the daughters that I was very fond of, had married a doctor and she was living there. So, I hadn't been there a week before I had found out they were there and they knew I was there. So, I was invited out to one of their affairs, or something of the kind. Getting the invitation was not that early, but that's when I discovered they were there: about a week later. But, about a month later, I was invited to something. And when I told Mrs. Davis about the invitation, she looked at my wardrobe and said, you don't have anything to wear [Laughter] . I was pretty shocked. Because I didn't know I was in that bad shape. But she knew where I was going, you know. She took me down to one of the biggest department stores in Little Rock and got me the prettiest dress that I had ever had, at that time, since I'd grown up, and didn't have for a long time after that. And the shoes, and everything. And told them to open me an account and she would stand behind the account. I went to that lady's party, and I was the most dressed thing you ever saw. But I had that sort of that experience all the way through my life. When I say these people treated me like that, they not only did things like that for me, but they guarded me. If I would get an invitation to something, they'd say, no; no, that's not the place for you; don't accept that. Or, somebody would want to take me out. I had to tell them, you know, who it was, and then they decided, no, or yes, that's fine; you can go. At a time in my life, that was a wonderful thing to happen to me. See, I'm out on my own; I don't know from nothing; I had grown up in a fairy tale world. I just hit with women who were mothers and had girls as old as I was, you know, and that sort of thing. And they just took me over. Luckily for me, I had grown up being accustomed to obeying my mother and my father. So, I didn't resent it. As a matter of fact, maybe that's why I got along as well. When they would talk,

Page 53
I would accept what they said, you know.
WALTER WEARE:
Were these women housewives?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
Were their husbands professional men, do you recall?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. Now, let me see. The Diamond Coxes, Mr. Cox, at this stage in his life, had become an insurance man. He was working for North Carolina Mutual. And his wife, dearest thing in the world, I don't think ever [unknown] as they used to say when I was growing up. Because Mr. Cox got up in the morning, built the fires in all the fireplaces, in the winter. Went out in the summer, in the gardens. And it wouldn't have to be winter—this kind of weather, they'd put fireplaces because of the chill. He'd go out in the garden and get all of the vegetables they were going to have for dinner that day. Had them all up on the kitchen table; he [unknown] the porch thing for "dearie", as he called her. And then, go in the kitchen and put on the grits pot and the coffee. And all she had to do was get up and finish the breakfast, and then get the dinner. And that's all she ever done. And he was not only like that, but he even shopped for her. Going uptown and bring her clothes or things of that kind that she wanted. If she wanted to go, she could go uptown, but she didn't have to.
Then, the next family in Oklahoma—yeah, I go to Oklahoma next. That's a really interesting story. Funny, I've had. . . .
WALTER WEARE:
The story about going to Oklahoma?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, the lady I lived with in Oklahoma. When I got there, this lady had just married. She had been married as a young girl. She and her sweetheart were separated in some way, and she had married another man. They had two children—a girl and a boy. I think she came from Memphis, Tennessee. And they were living in Oklahoma City. And she lived with the man forty years, and he had died. And when I got there, she and her lover—her sweetheart when she was a teenager—had just married. He had been married and living in Guthrie, Oklahoma, which is just

Page 54
up above Oklahoma City, and his wife had died. After the proper period of time, the two of them had gotten married. So, when I went there, she was virtually a young bride [Laughter] . But the interesting thing she told me later, before I left Oklahoma and she had gotten to a place where she talked to me about things like that. She said that she and her husband had lived most of their forty years, more or less, like two men or two women in the house. And so, when he died, she had no hesitancy. She really wanted to get married again. And, I believe, Mr. Martley, was a barber. And the other one, where I lived with Mrs. Davis, in Arkansas, I never did know what Mr. Davis did. But it must have been some kind of laboring work. Because he just got up in the mornings and went to work. And when I come home in the evenings, he would usually have come home. But it certainly was not a professional job. I don't know what he did.
But they were all housewives. You know, I thought of that one day, after we had talked a little. When you were saying about maybe something I had said had given you that impression—or I know you've heard it many times—about the matriarchal society. I don't believe in that. I never have. And I'll tell you why. One reason is just exactly what you said. I knew more housewives that didn't do a living thing but either have children and rear them, or stay at home, and the husbands provided the livelihood. And in all those I have thought about since that remark made me think of it, I don't remember but one husband that I would categorize as milktoast. Of all the different husbands and wives I've known over a period, I don't remember but one man that always struck me, that he was a little mamby-pamby that did exactly what his wife said. And that, incidentally, was the girl I told you about, May's father. I see my mother as aggressive and those sort of things, but my mother was not domineering. But Mrs. [unknown] was domineering—told you to do this, do that. Mr. [unknown] always seemed like he was quite willing just to do what she'd say to do. In most of the cases that I

Page 55
knew, even in my home where I had the sweetest-tempered, nicest person, there were two or three things that we knew perfectly well, that that's what we were going to do. In other words, the only thing I almost got a whipping from my father was for breaking that rule, that you were in the house when he left in the mornings, and he wanted you to be there to greet him when he came in in the evenings. It was so natural that I never thought of it as a ritual until I almost got a licking. You went to the door with him, you walked out the door, you went down the walk to the gate. He kissed you and you stood there waving goodbye, you know, until he turned the corner. Then when he got home in the evenings, he expected, when he walked in the house, for his wife and his child to be there. It was the only regulation or law I ever knew about. But a milktoast wouldn't do that, either. Of course [Laughter] I was always in trouble, because the streetlight was my signal that it was time, wherever you are, to get home. And nine out of every ten times, I would be running in the back gate, when that light would flutter and come on. But if I could get to back gate, I could run up the back steps and get in the house by the time he came in the other door. But I didn't always make it. I'd be almost there. Boy, he was sick of it, I guess. So this day, I come swirling in that back gate and I hit the bottom step and I start up, and when I get there, he's standing at the top, pulling off his belt. You could've heard me here. I let out a scream like you have never heard. My poor mother came dashing out of the kitchen to see him pulling at the top of the step with the belt. And she said, 'don't do that; don't do that; put the belt up.' But I stayed down on those lower steps a long time [Laughter] . But I also made it from then on. I got in. I'd be there. I might be out of breath, but I'd be there.
WALTER WEARE:
In talking about strong fathers, or strong men, you said something a moment ago that might lead one to think that sometimes they were a little too strong. You were talking about Bess Whitted and Mr. Curly, and the notion that maybe the

Page 56
women felt that the men didn't want them to appear too intelligent. Am I interpreting your remarks correctly?
VIOLA TURNER:
Now, let me see. The men didn't want the women to appear too intelligent, is that what you're saying?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I don't know, whatever I said, if I had that in mind at the time, but I do think this: I think that's generally true today. Men aren't too particular about your being too obviously too smart. You can be smart, as long as you're not obviously smart [Laughter] . You know what I mean? In other words, you can be smart and men appreciate your being smart many times. I think maybe that's what's helped me. Most of the men I've come in contact with: Yeah, she's smart. But they never thought I was smarter than they were. So sometimes they were underestimating me and sometimes they weren't. Because sometimes I was a whole lot smarter than they were. But I was also smart enough not to have acted like I was smarter than they were. Now, I think that's the difference. And I don't know; maybe nobody likes to feel somebody else is so much smarter than they are. I don't know. Because I never had that trouble. I admired anybody who's smart, and I'm trying like the dickens to learn something from them all the time. I've found that I run into people that I could respect. Most of the time I never found anybody who wouldn't be quite willing to share with you, if you didn't pretend that you knew so much. You just admitted what you didn't know; and if you knew it, you're quite willing to help. But there are a lot of obnoxious women, who really aren't as smart as they think they are, but they try to show off as being very smart. And I think that men do not like to be the lesser of the two. They prefer to be regarded as the smart one, and let the woman come along as almost as smart.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you remember being conscious of being discrminated against for your sex as well as your race? Can you remember, perhaps, when you first became conscious

Page 57
that because you were a woman, maybe, something wasn't happening that would have happened if you'd been a man?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, certainly. Plenty of times you know that happened. I don't imagine many working women didn't realize that. I don't know about other areas. Only twice in my entire career did I ever ask for more money, or protest the money I was getting. The first time was a very simple little thing that I couldn't quite understand. It was a matter of handling the cafeteria accounts. The cafeteria was under Mr. Merritt at the time; the company was not really operating it, as such. It was supposed to be working on its own, and when it did run short, the company would supplement their account. So that meant that I kept contact with the kitchen and money and that sort of thing. So, for doing that little more, and different from my secretarial work, I was allowed twenty cents a day on my lunch. I soon found out that because it was an allowance handled that way, that I could go to the window, and if there were, say, two pieces of pie—and oh, boy, we had marvelous cooks, so you loved to have whatever was up there—and there were three people in the line, regardless to where I stood in the line, those other two people would get the two pieces of pie and when I'd get to the window, the pie would be out. Or something similar to that.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
VIOLA TURNER:
No, really, what she was trying to do, she was trying to operate the cafeteria on a pay-as-you-go basis. In other words, she was a marvelous woman, and that's a whole new story. But she didn't like for the company to have to supplement the cafeteria. She liked to make the cafeteria pay for itself. That's all she wanted to do: make it pay for itself. Well, now, if there were three folks up there and two of them had a dime in their hands, and the other had a [unknown] I was doomed against the twenty cents. So I could spend my twenty cents the way I

Page 58
wanted. But she didn't get two dimes for my twenty cents, you see what I mean? So, after that happened to me a couple of times, I didn't complain at the window, but I went down to my boss and said to him, couldn't I be given twenty cents a day. Then I could spend it as I wanted it. In other words, I wouldn't have any problems. It couldn't be done that way. And it never was. Well, I didn't get too upset about it, although I didn't feel it was fair. And I said that if I'm going to be allowed twenty cents, I didn't see any reason why I couldn't get the twenty cents, to spend for my lunch. But that wasn't in the program, and therefore I didn't get it. That's my first time to ever ask for money.
Now, this one is an answer to your question. We come along here, and we get to a point where they've got to do something for some of us that have been working diligently. And the company wants to show their appreciation. So they make you an assistant to the Treasurer. That's very nice. And you're real pleased that somebody's taken note that you are really trying to do, you know, and you're very happy about it. Well, at the same time that's done—usually two or three people get the same sort of thing happen to them. So, in my case, there was another assistant to the Treasurer. Well, that's OK; I never had much of a jealous streak in that area. So, that's fine. Well, North Carolina Mutual was always very slow. I guess most institutions maybe are. Very slow to add a little money along with the title. That comes mighty slow, but finally you get a little something. And you go along very happy. So, then, after a while, because you've done such a good job, you get to made, not assistant to, but assistant. Now, you know you're making progress. And at the same time, a young man comes along and gets made assistant, too. Well, you see, I don't mind. But then one day, you suddenly, for some reason or other, inadvertently—you aren't even curious at the time—but some way or another something happens, and you discover that the other, the male, assistant is making more money than the female assistant. Now, also, all during that period, you have been hearing from

Page 59
every source, how smart you are, and how unsmart that particular individual is. And you already have your own opinion about how unsmart the individual is, and then you have it verified. And by the same token, you've been told all along the way you've done a good job, you're doing a good job, and then you get the promotions that say they mean it. Well, you know, you take that a little while, but you can't take it forever. So, when that happened, I mulled it over over an evening, and then, on a Saturday—I believe by then we were not having the Saturday Forum; I think we stopped having the Saturday Forum then. But anyhow, I went from my boss to every single official in that building, and sat down, and made my speech. And my speech was, which I won't go all into, exactly the last thing I said to you. 'You have told me from time to time to time that I was doing a satisfactory job, that I was doing a good job, or that I was doing a very good job. I have heard you, and I agree with you, time and time again, that Mr. X was not. And I know he was not. But I didn't complain at all about his promotion. That's quite all right with me. But when I see the check, I just want to ask you one question: were you kidding when you said I was doing a good job, or did you mean it? If I'm not doing a good job, tell me. If I am doing a good job, explain how he can get what he's getting and I'm getting what I'm getting.'
WALTER WEARE:
What was the answer?
VIOLA TURNER:
I never had any more trouble with that.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Is that right? They gave you the raise?
VIOLA TURNER:
They couldn't answer it. [Laughter] Are you recording? Well, I'm not going to mention the name. I had one person to tell me about the difference in our training. This person had gotten these number of years of training. And my response was, 'He's still dumb; can you refute that?' So I never had any more trouble with that. And I never had another time in my life, I never asked. And I never knew what anybody else made. And I had every opportunity, because all

Page 60
the checks were signed by my boss until I became the Treasurer and I signed them myself.
WALTER WEARE:
Are there other times in your life when you were conscious of sexual discrimination?
VIOLA TURNER:
Not anything worse than that, nor any more than that. I probably had a little here and there, things, I would guess so. Most women do, one place or another. Some time, for no reason at all, except that they are women. But that's the only one that ever hit home with me, that I really was ready to do something about, and did.
WALTER WEARE:
What about other women in the company?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, certainly. I think in our company—and I will always feel that this was discrimination of the worst sort—and that's Bess Whitted. Bess did a beautiful job of what she was doing. She was the best we had, and as good as anybody could have had in her day, and in her time. And she did. She might have not done many other things the way you would have wanted them done, or somebody else might not have wanted them done, but so far as her job, and what she meant to North Carolina Mutual at the time, nobody could have done better, I don't believe. Yet, she did not make any thing like the progress that I made in later years. And she was there long enough to have made some of it. And when I would raise the question, which I did on more times than once—and she would probably have never realized that I did—I was told two things. One was, she could not handle her financial affairs.
WALTER WEARE:
Her private financial affairs?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, her private financial affairs. Which was quite true, to this extent. And I think there was a clear explanation for that, too; her background and everything probably was why she spent money like it had gone out of style, for clothes. And sometimes they'd just be hanging there; she wouldn't even have worn

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them. And she'd have five or six beautiful dresses, or anything else you wanted. And she did that all the time. Now, she paid when she got ready. And so, of course, people would be coming over there to collect, or they might call sometimes. Not often. She was quite a card. She'd be sitting at her desk. And we had a little glass like this, over here, and she's over here. And the man got off the elevator, she'd look up and she says, 'Now, Mr. Andrew.' Now this would probably be the manager of the biggest department store in Durham at the time. 'Now, Mr. Andrew.' Right out for all of us to hear this. 'You may as well get right back on that elevator and go on downstairs. No need coming over here. I don't have any money for you. And when I get ready to pay you, I'll be over there to bring it to you. And you know I'll bring it to you when I have it, or get ready to pay you. No need to come up to my window, just get right on back.' [Laughter] And she would do that to anybody. And there wasn't a thing they could do. And they weren't thinking about stopping her. Because, I'll bet there wasn't a person in Durham, regardless to what the amount of their wealth was, that spent more money in their stores than she did. And she would pay them. When she got good-and-ready. She just wouldn't have no money after spend. And she made a lot of money. She made good money for the time.
So, she didn't know how to handle her financial affairs. That was the reason they couldn't do these things. OK. They admitted that she had never done one living thing with one penny of the company's money. And I knew, personally, almost every one of the top officers didn't handle their money well. It ran through their fingers like water. Mr. Merritt was the best manager of money of anybody in the top set of officials, like Mr. C.C. and Mr. [unknown] , and even my dearly beloved Mr. Cox. Money just ran through his fingers like that. OK. So that was legitimate. That was sex. I'd argue that. I don't see how in the world you can say that. And another thing: Bess has such a horrible temper. How in the world? We'd just

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tear up the meeting. How can you say that, when there is nobody living with a worse temper than Mr. Cox? And, you know, I love him. I love him to death, but you know, you can hear him all over the third floor when you all rile him in there. You know that. That was the truth. He was firey. He could drop off like that [snaps fingers] if you make him hot, that quick. And he would explode on anybody. And they tolerated that, because he was a good man. He was an excellent worker. And a beautiful personality, when you hadn't riled him up. They took that in stride. 'Oh, that's George Cox.' But they couldn't take that, and they never did do as much for Bess as they might have done.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there other women that you think were either held back or didn't receive fair treatment?
VIOLA TURNER:
That is the only person that I really felt very strongly about.
WALTER WEARE:
There was a woman who was highly educated and came from Oberlin. Do you remember her? Her name was Susan Norfleet?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Sue Norfleet. I tell you, Sue was the first actual graduate from a secretary school from a business department. The first stenographer and typist and that sort of thing from Wilbur Force. In the early years I used to say to myself, I wonder why Miss Sue hasn't made any more progress than she's made. I have no answer to that because I wasn't here in her younger years. And when I got here, she wasn't performing at any level where I could determine, in my own mind, like I felt about Miss Bessie. I saw her operate every day. I knew what she was doing and I could appreciate what she was doing, so I could argue that. Well, Miss Sue was not working in any area where I could make a judgment as such. But I used to question: Ye God, she graduated from Wilbur Force one of the years. Seems like, to me, she would have been somewhere. But then I had opportunity to observe some of her work. And unless she had just lost her skills or had started sliding back, which I can't determine; but looking at it, my reaction was, well, I can understand. She really never had on the ball what she needed to be better.

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Because, you've got to take pride in whatever you're doing, at whatever level you are, I think. I always wanted whatever I had to do or whenever I did it, that it was the best I could do then. I always felt that I could improve and I was always trying to improve. And I think that's an attitude you've got to have. I never had any thought of promotion. It never entered my mind; never thought about it until well after it started happening. And even then, for a long time, the only thing that I did think of was that I wasn't getting as much money as the other person was getting. And, even then, I had no idea. I didn't even think in terms of it going any further than an assistant to something. So that, I don't know. But I do know at a time when I could observe Miss Sue, she wouldn't have made any progress under me either, unless she had slipped way back from where she was.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you ever, as you think back on it, have an awareness of sexual discrimination being a social problem in America? Or did racial discrimination so overwhelm that? There was feminism before the nineteen sixties. I was wondering if you had any feelings about that at all?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I think this: I think for a long, long time, that I have always felt that the male and female situation and the black and white situation were one in the same, almost. I mean, they worked just about the same way. And you had just about as much trouble fighting. For instance, there was a man working in my area, who was as busy as a bee trying to undercut my situation, because he saw in it a danger to his making it. At a time when I wasn't even thinking about it, never entered my mind that I was even making it, except that I was satisfied with what I was doing. Of course, the best thing that ever happened to me was I liked what I was doing. I liked my job, and I enjoyed the things that I learned about. I enjoyed it more and more. But, at the same time, there was a man that was so busy where it was going to lead somewhere along the line, that he had to be there so that he could just move right in. He made every effort, and succeeded to some extent in turning a department—the major part of a department—against the Treasurer's office. Not me, personally, but the whole office. Nothing went on

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up there. There was nothing being done up there; everything was being done somewhere else. One of those sort of things. I was completely unaware of it and so was Mr. Merritt. He never knew that, thank God. And to a point that he and the members of his family had gone all around the parts of the country which they travelled naming the next officer for this thing or the other. That there was, without a shadow of a doubt, that he would be the next Treasurer, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I presumed that that was said to friends who in turn said it to friends, and being friends, this was their hope. I presume; I don't know. But, now, all of this I'm quite unaware of at the time. And then the things happen as they do. I made Treasurer of the company. And little by little bits and pieces—even some of the people that he had worked with and made these sort of remarks to suddenly realized that they not only are going to have to work with me, they are part of the department, and they're scared to death. And then after a little while they begin to find out that it isn't so terrible. And they also find out that I'm decent. And then they find out that they believe they kind of like me. Then they begin to come back to make me aware of the undercurrent that's been there, you know, and that sort of thing.
WALTER WEARE:
Did any man ever flat confront you and say he wouldn't work for a woman?
VIOLA TURNER:
Heck, no. He doesn't know to this day that I even know all of the things that went on. And some of the girls who finally told me—and one of the girls turned out to be one of the secretaries of my department, after she had made quite an error in my department and expected me to explode, and she didn't know what was going to happen. And I didn't do anything but help her correct what she had done. After that, she broke down and confessed to things that I never would have believed. She said, 'I'll never forget you for the way you handled this.' So I said, 'What else did you expect of me?' She said, 'Oh, I don't know. I just thought you were going to raise all sort of sand, and then you were probably going to try to get me fired, or something.' And I said, 'Wouldn't that have been stupid?

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The important thing was correcting your error. The only thing I can think about is what can we do to get that corrected? And we corrected it, didn't we?' And she said, 'Yes we did.' And then she just let down her head and told me. Then, of course, because I didn't get up and do something about it right away, she began to say to me that she just didn't understand me, why I didn't do something about, why I didn't say something to the man. And I said, 'You let me handle this my way.' I came by a saying from my mother that there are a whole lot of ways to skin a cat without choking it on butter. That didn't make much sense to her at first. But that's the way I worked. I never let on that I suspected anything. I would get up and go to his desk to discuss things, talk to him. And when I come back this girl would be rolling eyes, 'Why didn't you call him to come up here to you?' 'He'll come in time. Don't worry about it.' Within a year's time, not only did that all work out very nicely, but I didn't have a better friend than the man. And he really had tried to do me in.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there any other resentments? Men being reluctant to work for a woman?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I had no problem with it. Really, to tell you the truth, I think that I had more potential resentment coming from the girls. Girls don't like to work with women. Did you know that? I don't know whether they don't like it, or whether they're afraid of them. Now this girl said to me—a woman; she's almost as old as I was, but she isn't quite. This lady had mis-sent a whole set of mortgage papers. Whatever she'd done, they were gone. Now she expected me, I guess, to scream and tear paper and all that sort of thing. And when she came in and told me about it, I sat there a little while and then I said, 'Well, what can we do about it?' I said, 'Always the lawyer makes a duplicate set of papers. So the simplest thing to do is get in touch with the lawyer. If he made those things. It was in South Carolina or someplace.' I said, 'Tell him exactly what has happened. Tell him we're going to have to have a new set of papers, and get him to get those

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people back to his office and sign them again.' It was just as simple; it worked out like that. But I don't know what the girl expected me to do. But, you see, they had that sort of idea. As a matter of fact, they were all concerned about who was going to do what working with me. One girl knew she had to be the secretary, then the other one thought she had to be the secretary. She'd been Mr. Merritt's secretary and all that sort of thing. So, you see, they were at each other's throats. They were women against women instead of being darn glad to see one woman making it, so maybe that meant they might get a chance at it. They were really tooth and nail for a little while. Of course, with a person of my experience, I think they were greatly shocked. Most of them just couldn't believe it was going to happen. But it was just one of those things. Well, I didn't have a problem with him. I just let it ride 'til he came to his senses. Because he had made mistakes. If I had not been the person, he probably would not have gotten the job, because he had made a few grave mistakes. Dumb, but the sort of thing that can do you damage, I think, more than anything else. You will never get so good and so smart that you can put your boss in any embarrassing situation and get away with it. Because, even if he doesn't know it, there's going to be another somebody over there who does know it. And they're not going to forget it. So, when your name comes up, you'll say, no, you can't tell what he'll do under given circumstances. And he made a mistake like that. It didn't do him a bit of good. So sex didn't have much to do with that. I don't think he ever knew that either. I never did enlighten him. We're still very good friends.
WALTER WEARE:
In all of your experience with the life insurance industry as a whole, have you encountered any other woman who made it to the level you did? White or black.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, there were two or three women who were in their own organizations, yes. There was a lady in Chicago, Mrs. Crosswaite. Now, I don't recall what her

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position was. I don't think it was the same as mine. But it was a high level position.
WALTER WEARE:
This was in a black company?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
Supreme Life?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, I don't think it was Supreme. What else is in Chicago? Not the Metropolitan either.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, Victory grew into Supreme Life, didn't it? You got me.
VIOLA TURNER:
And me, too. I should remember, because I knew all those people. This other woman was in Philadelphia. As a matter of fact, I believe we've taken that company over. I'm not sure about that either. If we have, it's been in recent years. But she was an officer in that company. I don't know what her official title was either. All of those things I should know, but I don't remember them. But, the difference was: the first thing, neither of the companies were anything of the size of North Carolina Mutual—that's why I know it wasn't Supreme. So that makes one difference. Then the other is, I don't think either of them, or anyone that I know, was in the investment area. What I guess made mine more unique than most was the fact that I was in the financial area. When I retired, because of the change in our structure, I was Financial Vice President for the North Carolina Mutual, which is unique from the standpoint that you were in the area of investment program. I don't know of any woman in that particular area. I think down in Florida, the Afro-American, I think she was a daughter of Mr. Lewis. I think she could have been in the investment area. And yet, it seems like to me, it was his son. At any rate, there again, that company has not done too well. So that would be the distinction, I would say. And the other thing is, in the instances of these other women that I have named or know about, their relationship put them more or less where they were, or their investment in the company—they had some hold in the company, something like that. Of course, with me, I was just

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a little stray that came along. So that probably makes a difference.
WALTER WEARE:
What about in any white companies. In your experience on Wall Street, did you ever run across a white woman?
VIOLA TURNER:
Not in the insurance field, which doesn't mean a thing. Because my contact down there was purely financial.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
I think I knew one girl; I can't think what company she was with. Then I knew a woman in Greensboro, here, Julia Lunsford who was in a brokerage business in one of the companies here. But I just came along at a time when it was very unique for us. For blacks and for a woman.
WALTER WEARE:
Don't let me forget now, I want to ask you about women working in the field. But now, while I'm thinking about it, since this is obviously very exceptional. As you look back on it, do you think that you had to work twice as hard—and maybe we should say four times as hard—to get to where you did? That is, the old idea that you have to work twice as hard because you're black, and you're a black woman?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, I think so.
WALTER WEARE:
Were you conscious of the double burden there, being black and female?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't suppose you ever thought of it as a burden. But I'll say this, and I used to say it particularly whenever I was talking to young people and kids as students, that any woman has to work twice as hard as any man to make it in the business world. There's no question about that. This was my speech, part of it, a little bit of it: You take students in business school. The girl goes in and the first blooming thing she picks up is a notebook and a pencil and starts learning shorthand. Shorthand and then the typewriter. The guy learns about the typewriter.

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But he goes straight over to business administration. He doesn't [unknown] the shorthand. So he's starting off geared for top management. She's geared for somebody's secretary. You start off thinking like that. Now, if you get into a situation where there's something else offered to you, and you find it interesting, you can believe me, you'd better work hard and you've got to learn a whole lot of things about that job. Because, if you just learn a part of it, and a young man comes along and he wants it. He doesn't have to be as good as you are, he can be just about half as good as you are. And the very fact that he's male, he's going to get the first consideration. But I timed it perfect. The company didn't know anything about investment itself. When I got here, we had mortgages. We knew mortgages. We had a few bonds. But those bonds were such bonds as the bonds of [unknown] University, or a whole batch of bonds of a man named [unknown] S.H. Dick, that lived somewhere down here, and had loads, and loads, and loads of property. Another church school bonds. That's all we had. And the only other we had were government bonds. Every time the government had put out bonds, from the first year of war, we bought them. Well, of course, it was a beautiful thing we did. Not only for the government, but they were good bonds for us. At least it was something we could be safe and secure in. But, now, we began to grow. And we began to get more money, and we could put that into mortgages. And we'd get to a point where we've got to do something else. And there's an awareness of that. But we don't have a whole lot of knowledge of the people to go into it. We didn't have enough sense to know that we needed to know something. Also, that, in the process of knowing, that the next best thing for us is to get somebody who knows something to help us, so we immediately made a contact with this investment service. When Mr. Merritt was a young man, he had worked down on Wall Street as a runner. I'd never heard of it until he talked about it. But at that time, you ran from one office to another, up and down the street,

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carrying papers, carrying first one thing and then the other, probably many securities. And you skated. You had skates. They moved around fast. On some of his summers, when he was in school, he went to Atlantic City to work, and he worked in New York one year as a runner down on Wall Street. So, now, he knew there was a Wall Street, and that sort of thing. But any rate, when John Miller was here, and he's not knowledgeable. And another man that you've heard the name, MacDougal, in the bank. He had knowledge of what it was all about. Mr. Merritt had some sense of what it was all about. But as to the workings and how we were going to get into it, it was going to have to be done. So, of course, the first contact was with Moody's. And Moody's asked us to send a list of everything that we had. And let them look at it. When I said we had absolutely nothing, we had a little something [unknown] . We had more government bonds than we had anything else. A few municiples, and all these other things that weren't worth five cents. Among the things we did, after they had gone over everything we had and sat down and talked with us, going over our financial statement, what they thought we should be doing, and we should begin. OK. That's how we got the start. Then, the man who was heading Moody's at that time, a man named Alan P. Evans, who left Moody's after a while and went to Lionel D. [unknown] . He was a very smart man, a very fine man. After we had begun to get into what we were doing—the program I mean. That's where we are, at the planning stage. I sat down and wrote him a letter on the occasion, over Mr. Merritt's signature—I didn't ever do anything otherwise—and told him the facts of life. I don't know if Mr. Merritt, or any of them, would quite have agreed with that, exactly like I did it. But I told him what we didn't know. And then I asked would he be kind enough to recommend some reading for us, and some books that we should have on hand, and that sort of thing. And any help, anything that occurred to him that he thought would be helpful, we would greatly appreciate having. Mr. Merritt

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signed the letter. And so, he was very helpful. We got us a little library. Explaining the difference between bonds and [unknown] bonds, and stocks and securities and that sort of thing. Just simple reading. There's no difficulty in it. And then stepped up a little further with different things. What you should be looking for and what you wanted your investments to do. We had us a little library. I was having a good time.
WALTER WEARE:
Were you primarily the one reading it?
VIOLA TURNER:
I'm sure I was doing most of the reading. And, of course, Mr. Merritt was encouraging me, 'That's fine honey. You just go right up.' But, of course, as I said, I always had John Wheeler to fall back on if things were a little bit above my head, in the beginning. And, of course, I always had Mr. Evans to fall back on. Then, in a little while, Joe Sanson came into the bank, and I knew him. He was the person who got all the work papers for me to learn how to do schedules and that sort of thing. But, it was a learning process. In the meantime, the company was in a learning process, too. Because, I recall among the first letters that we received from Moody's when they were making recommendations to us for purchasing. And they had something like twenty thousand of this, twenty thousand of this, twenty thousand of this. Maybe altogether—and this may not be exactly accurate, but it gives you an idea—they were recommending a purchase of a hundred thousand dollars of securities. Probably that was in five different blocks. We had our committee meeting. And of course I sat in on all the meetings simply because I was secretary at that time. I was not a member of the committee. Mr. MacDougal was on the committee, Mr. Merritt, and Mr. Wheeler. I think that was the committee. There may have been another member. But anyhow, I read off these things to them. Oh, you never saw such frowning. We couldn't put that much money out, you know, like that. So it was cut back to ten of this and ten of that, and something like that. And then it wasn't, I would say,

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certainly in two years time—I don't remember that either. But there came a time when we didn't think of making a purchase of any one block of bonds of less than a hundred thousand, you know. But, boy, that twenty thousand scared us to death.
WALTER WEARE:
You're doing this reading and gaining this expertise [unknown] ?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Just one thing right behind the other, you know. You learn a little, and you're doing a little all the time. But we didn't get into a whole lot of purchasing at one time. See, the company didn't make all of the money in that first year, or the second year. You were making enough but it wasn't so large that I couldn't handle it. And, you see, not too long after we got into the market—I think I mentioned this to you—a couple of sales people walked in, not knowing what they were walking into, and then discovered it was a black company. Maybe that was a year after we'd been in. Any rate, we'd begun to have a portfolio that you could look at. It was an acceptable portfolio, the quality of it was. And then, they made that discovery, and then a black woman that can talk their language. At least she knows what they're talking about, and in talking to them she uses the same terminology, well, boy, that's more than they can believe. So they fly back to New York and start getting the word around. And it was no time at all before I did nothing but talk on the telephone all day long. Miss Turner this, Miss Turner that.
WALTER WEARE:
They were curious about you as a black woman?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, sure. It was pure gossip. After I got to the place where I knew the Street pretty well, and there were some people that we became really good friends, and we talk and talk about anything, oh, I found out that were just as gossipy as they could be. No small town in the South can be more gossipy than Wall Street. This is many years later and we've started having classes in the office, [unknown] classes, where they lead first to one thing and the other.

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And I decided to take some of the classes; I ought to know something of what was going on. Every little bit that I could learn, that I didn't know, was good for me. So I go downstairs to one of the classes one morning and I came back upstairs and I'm sure I'd had a dozen calls by the time I got there. So I start returning the calls and every blooming person that I say, 'Hello, this is Miss Turner', 'Well! Are you out of the class at last?' I had been downstairs in a class and the only way they could know that, one had told the other. So somewhere along the way they had either been at lunch with somebody and somebody said that she's taking a class or something down there; then the other one passed it on. I said, 'You're all as gossipy as you can be.' And it turns out that they are just as gossipy as they can be. Of course, the other thing that's beautiful about them is this: I could pick up my phone any day in the week and any hour in the day. And if I had any sort of question I wanted to ask, I could call and say, 'Look, what about so-and-so? What do you think? My opinion is that I should do so-and so; what do you think?' 'I think you're right, but wait a minute; now, what did you say?' And I'd tell them the whole thing. They'd call me back in thirty minutes. They sent it all on down to their research department. And when they called me back, I'd have the expertise of everybody in that area to tell me this is the way they see it, this is what happens, what they would do. 'I thought you were right in the beginning.' Or, 'So-and-so down in our department says I think I would do this, but hold off for this and see what happens.' Something like that. But any sort of information that you wanted, you'd just pick up the phone and it was available to you.
WALTER WEARE:
You think that because you were seen as special? That if a man had called up, he wouldn't have gotten that same kind of response?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no. I think they would have gotten it except for one thing. I don't know this. And, again, I could be wrong. I don't think too many men would

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call in and ask for something and say, 'Look, I'm stumped. I don't know what the heck to do with this; what do you think?' I don't think most men are going to try to call you up. Even if they want the information, they're not going to ask for it; they're going to talk all around and sound intelligent, and think that maybe in the course of the conversation, they'll get the answer. That didn't make any sense to me either, and still doesn't. If I don't know, I don't know. And if I want to know, I'm not going to putter around and try to pretend I know it and hope I get the answer out of it. I just say, 'Look, what about so-and-so? I came up with this and I don't know what the heck to do with it.' Or, 'I've been reading something here. Durned if I understand it. Break that down for me.' Or anything. People are quite willing to help you, pleased to help you. I don't think, in my own case, that I've lost anything or had anything taken away from me, in admitting I didn't know something.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there cases, though, where you know, but thought, because you were a woman, you shouldn't again appear perhaps as smart as you were?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I never pulled that on anybody. No, when I called, I wanted information. But if I had ever had the feeling that it was not willingly given, that might have made me draw back. I met some fine people, and we really became friends. I even have held onto those friends, and hope I always will, even with their families. Some of the wives and children. In instances I still have those contacts. Even where the husbands have died. I got a Easter card from one of the widows this week. We've just kept in touch. They were lovely people. And apparently they liked me. Many of them have been here to the house, who came to know my husband. One of the nicest things that I think has happened to me like that: when Pops died, I got one of the loveliest letters from one of the salesmen, whom I had known here. He was with Adams and Peck. We didn't ever do very much business with this company. It was a railroad company and we didn't

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do much in railroads. But Ray came this way often, and he always stopped in to see us. Or sometimes he'd have business, or sometime I'd call him about something. But any rate, we became real good friends, where he would feel free to come out here whenever he was in town. And that way he came to know my husband. And so when Pops died, he evidently called into the office or something. No doubt, he called and somebody up there told him that Pops had died. I got the loveliest letter from them that not only said all the nice things that one tries to say to ease the pain of death, but it ended with an invitation to please come and spend some summer vacation with them. They have a place kind of up in the country. How much Beth would enjoy having me, and they thought to get away might be one of the nicest things. And in that environment which I had seen; I'd been out to their place, out of New York, and spent an afternoon. I didn't think anything could have been nicer than that. So, I had many contacts that really grew into friendships.
WALTER WEARE:
If you're exceptional at this level, there seem to be a lot of women working in the field as agents. I've always wondered if that was true in white companies as well. It's hard to get the information way back in that period. Do you have any knowledge of that?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't think I ever knew. . .now, wait a minute. . .
WALTER WEARE:
You just don't think of a white industrial insurance saleswoman.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, that. I can still say I never knew of that. In recent years—when I say recent years: in the last, say, ten or fifteen years—I have known of one or two women who sold the insurance. But I'll have to get back in my mind where they made their contact. One, I know, is with a travel agency. I know that. But the other one will have to come to me. But, going back to industrial insurance, I never came in contact with that. And I don't think black women started selling any kind of insurance until, well, much later than when people were selling insurance. When I was growing up, there was no such thing. At that time, you used

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to find some white companies that still sold industrial insurance. They were selling to black customers where they could. For a long time they could, because I imagine North Carolina Mutual was one of the first competitors. Although, all over the South, there were small industrial insurance companies, black insurance companies. There were one or two in Macon.
WALTER WEARE:
When you were in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, and working for the Mutual, were there black women agents then?
VIOLA TURNER:
It seems like to me, maybe in Oklahoma. No. I don't think when I left there, there were any women agents. Let's see now, if I can get out of the twenties. There wasn't a woman agent in Alabama when I was there. There wasn't a woman agent in Clarksdale, no. They must have started, more or less, probably in the thirties. Maybe kind of late in the thirties? I don't know. I really don't know that. I know that they had become quite active, and they had been doing it a good long time. Because we had a million dollar producer in certainly in the fifties.
WALTER WEARE:
There was woman from Philadelphia even in the forties. A woman named Essie Thomas? Was that her name?
VIOLA TURNER:
Essie Thomas?
WALTER WEARE:
I think Essie Thomas. I believe, in Philadelphia. Now that was in the forties.
VIOLA TURNER:
You're right! That was in the forties. I'm just thinking the first time I went to California, it was either the late forties or early fifties, and on that train—I can't remember the name—but I'm sure it's the same woman. There was a little lady in our group who started having problems with a pain in her arm on that trip. She went back to, I'm sure that was Philadelphia. And in less time than a year she was dead. Evidently it was some indication of cancer of some kind. Thomas doesn't quite ring the bell, but that doesn't mean that it

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isn't the same person. I bet that is who it is. And that was, I believe, 1950. And if she had produced, she had produced in the forties. Unless she wasn't the one I was thinking of. I was thinking of one—her name's Saunders—and she was from up in that area. Either or Newark. I think her name was Saunders. And she was out in California when I was out there, too. And she was a million dollar producer.
WALTER WEARE:
Let me ask you about one other woman, while we're pursuing this. I think it was the Saunders that rang the bell. Ethel Berry?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Ethel was Mr. Spaulding's secretary.
WALTER WEARE:
Her maiden name was Saunders, was it?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
I read a good deal of that correspondance.
VIOLA TURNER:
Is that right?
WALTER WEARE:
I suspect that just as you wrote Mr. Merritt's letters, she wrote his, and he signed them. Can you tell me a little bit about her? She always intrigued me.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, she was an interesting little thing. She was about as big as a minute. She was not as tall as I am, and nothing like as heavy as I am. She was probably even smaller than Rose, if you remember her. And she's smaller than I am. She was a little thing. She was a funny little thing, too. Her family originally came from Charleston, South Carolina. But her mother evidentally became widowed quite early and she had several children. At least four girls and a couple of boys; and there may have been more. Those are the ones I remember. Because one sister—Ethel and one of her sisters—came to Durham first. The sister to teach at the college and Ethel as secretary. That was how I learned about some of them. But any rate, they went to Boston. That's where she grew up. I don't know how she came to Durham, unless it was due that the

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other girl had the contact with the college, and Mr. Spaulding and Mr. Shepard being as close as they were, they learned about her. Because before I came to Durham, the one who had been Mr. Spaulding's secretary for years was Mrs. Goodlow, Betty Goodlow. But anyhow, Ethel came to Durham. I don't think I can remember that romantic story. But she had a boyfriend somewhere that wasn't from Durham but was in the State. And Berry, Lou Berry, who was teaching here, too, then, had a girlfriend who lived in Asheville. And Ethel had a car. And he would drive Ethel wherever her boyfriend lived and go to see his girlfriend. And out of it, they became romantic and got married [Laughter] . So the boyfriend and the girlfriend both were left stranded. So they married and he lived here. And, of course, she was with Mr. Spaulding all through the years until his death. Now little Ethel neither smoked nor drank, nor ate either. That may have been her problem. She ate like a bird. And she developed lung cancer and died. Which, of course, was always shocking to me, because she should have had something else that caused her to brought it on. But nobody knows. But in the meantime, she was the strangest little thing, in some ways. She wouldn't eat. Didn't care anything about food. And because I loved food, I never could understand anybody who didn't. And I would just sit up sometimes in the cafeteria, and I'd sit up and talk about, oh, a beautiful steak, just drenched in butter and mushrooms, and a great big, beautiful baked potato. And she'd just sit and look at me in such disgust. She said, 'Well, if you think you're tempting me, none of that gives me any pleasure.' She didn't care anything about eating. And had a thing about it, too. Apparently she was influenced, when she pregnant, with the fact that her body got out of shape, and she seemed to abhor the idea of losing any figure in any way. So, she ate like a bird, until she didn't have any good taste. But that wasn't all she did that was strange to me. Christmas would come, and everybody's going all haywire.

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[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
VIOLA TURNER:
No, you know, I couldn't last too long before she had to make explanations of why she did those things. She didn't get excited about Valentine's or Easter, or Mother's Day, or any holiday, that sort of thing. So one of these days I really pressured her about the presents. I said, 'I'm not ever going to give you anything else unless you appreciate them.' And her explanation was, 'I know I seem strange. The only reason the tree is there, I'm trying to do something about it, you know, appreciate Christmas and this kind of spirit of Christmas, and the fun that can be had.' She said, 'But I can't get into it. You know, when I was growing up, my mother had all of us. And she had to take care of us and her mind was only fixed on two things: keeping you sheltered and feeding you. We never celebrated anything. We never had parties or gave presents and all that sort of thing. I just can't get into it. I put them down there, and I intend to open them, and I will, and I will appreciate them. But just to open them for Christmas just doesn't make any sense to me.' Isn't that odd and strange?
WALTER WEARE:
Was she kind of the woman behind the man in the case of C.C. Spaulding?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. No. [Laughter] There was never nobody behind C.C. Spaulding. C.C. Spaulding was his own man in every way. The only somebody that governed him just a teersey weensey little bit was his wife, Mrs. Charlotte Spaulding. And when I say a teensey weensey, I mean a teensey weensey. She goverend him to the extent that he never could just throw the doors of his home open and invite people in. No, she wasn't going to have it; she wasn't going to do it. So, on occasions he might take someone home, just overnight. But most of the time, he made arrangements somewhere else for people that he was interested in doing anything for. Because she was not socially inclined, I'll guess we'll put it that way.

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But, now, except for that, now that's the only thing I know where she was the power.
WALTER WEARE:
You wouldn't see Ethel Berry, then, as a professional woman who might have done something more, had she not been a woman. She was held back?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't think so. And yet, how do you know? Because if I'd looked at me, I'd have said the same thing. I don't think so. The only reason I would make a statement like that, that I probably wouldn't make about several other girls I think of in the building: Ethel never struck me that she was interested in doing anything but getting that job done, and done well. She was not slack in her work. She was not disinterested. She wanted Mr. Spaulding's best foot put forward at all times. But my guess would be—and I don't think we ever reached that point—that, when the time came to retire, she would be one of the folks looking forward to it. And maybe start looking forward to it much earlier than sixty. I never got the impression that she even wanted anything more. Now, she may have. How can you tell? She had a sister who was quite ambitious, and I knew about her from Ethel. But nothing that Ethel ever said herself, she never gave you anything that made you think that she really would love to be doing something more than she was doing.
WALTER WEARE:
One other question that women might be interested in, and that is this Clerk's Home. Tell me about your coming to Durham and living in the Clerk's Home and your first impressions of this whole set.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I didn't live in the Clerk's Home at first. I lived with the Coxes. I came straight here and lived at the Coxes. But at that time, the Coxes were living right across the street from the Clerk's Home. The Clerk's Home was a two-story house, in the back of a little—the best way I could describe it, I think, what they call a little gunshot house, you know, one long thing. And it was a dining room for the Clerk's Home. The only impression that

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I can think of that I had of the Clerk's Home is the fact that there was a building full of young women. And, of course, they were being well taken care of because Poppa's house was right next door. And nothing went on over at the Clerk's Home that he didn't know about. Because he was the type.
WALTER WEARE:
Did he begin the Clerk's Home? Do you know the origins of it?
VIOLA TURNER:
I can't imagine that anybody else did. You see, almost from the beginning there was C.C. Spaulding. Let's see when did John Merritt die?
WALTER WEARE:
He died in 1919.
VIOLA TURNER:
They may have had the Clerk's Home then. So maybe the three of them. If so, it was a joint thing.
WALTER WEARE:
For women only, right?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. Only the girls who worked at the Mutual. And down the street and up the street, there were houses like that for teachers who came here to teach, that Professor Pearson had. So, you see, it was a general idea, probably, that the young women who came into Durham had to be properly housed. So, I'm sure they were in perfect harmony with that was the way it was done. Because there was one down below the Mutual's Clerk's Home and up the street there was one. And they were for the teachers who came to Durham to teach. I don't recall that they had eating facilities in those teachers' homes, and maybe they ate in the schools, I don't know. But they had this little place out there, a kitchen and dining room, for the Clerk's Home.
WALTER WEARE:
This was to protect young single women?
VIOLA TURNER:
I have an idea that was it; knowing the men of that day, I feel quite sure that that was the idea. Plus the fact that there was no other facility for them. Where else were they going to live. If they were from out of town. And, you see, most of the people who came in to Durham were from out of town. In the Clerk's Home, when I first came there, there were some Virginians, and Betty's from Baltimore.

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And if I had gone over there, I would have been from Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas [Laughter] . Two or three girls from South Carolina, a couple of girls from Georgia. And the same thing was true in the teachers' homes—because if you were Durhamites, you were living at home. So, all of these people were from out of Durham, and most of them from out to State. And I guess that's the only way they could've taken care of them. You probably heard this, too. There was a standing joke that Professor Pearson went over here to Wilbur Force every year and picked out all the prettiest girls and brought them to Durham for teachers [Laughter] . And, of course, some very pretty ones did come, so maybe he did. But at any rate, that would have been the only way they would have had a place to stay.
WALTER WEARE:
You moved in there? You moved from the Coxes into the Clerk's Home?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no. I lived in the Clerk's Home after I had had an unhappy marriage with Lawyer Thompson. I had been living with the Coxes—I'll have to get these things straight when I go back like that. Yes. When I left Lawyer Thompson, I went on vacation. I had told the people at the Mutual that when I got on vacation and came back here, I was not going to my former residence. And I would like to know [unknown] if it was going to make any difference with North Carolina Mutual. If so, I was going to stay where I was. So Mr. [unknown] and Mr. Spaulding assured me that it would make no difference to them. That I was a person employed by the Mutual and if I wasn't going back to Price Street, that was quite all right with them. If my mind was made up. And I told them it was very definitely made up. Then, I came back and went to the Coxes, because I told them also. They were really all the family, virtually, that I had. But I also told Nora, that's Mrs. Cox, that Betty and I planned, or hoped, that we could have the little—you see the Clerk's Home had. . .now let's see, how can I put that? No. I said Betty and I hoped we could get together, and that they

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were going to do something with the dining room. Because they were no longer using the dining room. It was just sitting. But if I came back off vacation, I would come to her house, and then possibly I would move later. But that was in the iffy stage. Because I might not even come back to Durham. So, that's the way I went to the Clerk's Home. When I went to the Clerk's Home, I went up there with Betty, who was still living in the Clerk's Home. But I had just left Mr. Lawyer Thompson, and I went up there. And then, instead of having my bedroom and her bedroom, we took one bedroom for the two of us, and made the other one like a little sitting room, So we thought we had a little apartment in there. And in a little while, not too long after that, the company did convert that dining room into a little apartment for us. And we moved out into the little apartment. That's when I lived at the Clerk's Home, in that very short period.
WALTER WEARE:
As a side light, you had two marriages from the time you left Mississippi.
VIOLA TURNER:
From '20 to '27, yes.
WALTER WEARE:
Now Mr. Taylor, he worked for the Mutual?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, that's how I happened to meet him. The brought him to Jackson just about the time I came to Jackson. In a way, I was getting away from home, because the young man that I was liking very much had come by to see my father and asked for my hand in marriage and my father told us to wait a year. And so that was why I took the job in Mississippi, because he would not give consent. I don't know whether he was going to give consent or not. He just said to wait and year and come back. So I went to Mississippi, and that's where I met Taylor. He came up to work for North Carolina Mutual. And our offices joined. The Department for Education and the North Carolina Mutual offices were right there together. So, I guess love was in bloom and I was young and I thought everything was wonderful in the world. So that's what happened. So we

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left there and went to Oklahoma to open up Oklahoma.
WALTER WEARE:
So you and he worked together out of an agency in Oklahoma.
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, we worked for North Carolina Mutual and set up an office in Oklahoma City, that's right.
WALTER WEARE:
And that would have been roughly from '20 to?
VIOLA TURNER:
'23. Am I right? Yes, into '23. Because I came here in '24. And between Oklahoma City, where I left Taylor—no. He was transferred from Oklahoma City. Now, we've got it straight. To Alabama. That's how I got to Alabama. And I went with him to Alabama. But in Alabama, I left him. I had written to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where there was a law firm that I knew about when I was in Oklahoma City. So, when I decided that I was going to leave Taylor, I wrote to this law firm and made application for a job. And I got acceptance on the basis that I was willing to accept the job, and if I was satisfactory. They were going to offer me one amount of money. I don't remember what it was, but better than anything I had. And if, after thirty days, I proved satisfactory, they would raise that amount considerably from what they were offering originally. Since they didn't know anything about my status, getting away was what I was after. So I would have taken anything they offered me. But, because I had been working in the district office there, I felt I could not leave and go straight to Oklahoma. So, instead, I left and went to Jackson, Mississippi, to tell Mr. Cox that I was leaving the Montgomery office, and to tell him the shape I had left it in. And that I was not travelling on any of the North Carolina Mutual's money. But I was on my way to Oklahoma where I had a job. I ended up in Clarksdale, Mississippi because he says, 'I don't have anything to do with your personal life. If you've made up your mind that you're going, I'm not going to do anything about that. But I'm not going to see you go out to Oklahoma when we need somebody right here.' So he took me to Clarksdale, Mississippi. So that's how I got there.

Page 85
And, of course, I had—well, to be perfectly honest about the thing—slipped away from Alabama. I waited until my husband went on one of his trips for the company, around the state, and then I packed my little bag and left. Of course, he had no idea where I was. Nobody else did, because I didn't tell anybody.
WALTER WEARE:
Then you me Lawyer Thompson when you came to Durham.
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Yes, I did. [Laughter] I can't say that with great joy, but I did.
WALTER WEARE:
Was this another romance, love at first sight?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I don't know what Tommy thought of me. I guess he thought he loved me. But I think, really, when I look back on it now, for him, I was a novelty. I didn't fall head over heels and turn flip-flops about him.
WALTER WEARE:
Where was he educated? Where was he from?
VIOLA TURNER:
Do you have your tape on? [Laughter]
WALTER WEARE:
This is going to be very intriguing.
VIOLA TURNER:
I'm not going to answer that question if your tape is on.
WALTER WEARE:
All right, just go ahead. You don't have to tell me where he's from.
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, I don't mind telling you where he's from. But that question you asked about where he was educated [Laughter] , I don't think I'll put that on tape. He was from North Carolina.
WALTER WEARE:
He was a lawyer?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. He was a lawyer. And he got his law degree from Howard. But anyhow, I think I was unique because apparently he had—probably always, and certainly since he'd been an attorney—a lot of girls who'd just fall on their face about him. Because he was truly—though I was never able to quite understand—he was truly a lady's man. And he had whole lots of girls. And they all seemed to have been very, very much in love with him. All expecting matrimony. And I

Page 86
didn't have any of that feeling or reaction to him. So I guess I intriqued him in that way. Not intentionally. But evidently it happened that way because he pursued me, so-to-speak, you know? And I was at a state where I didn't think I was ever going to have any deep romantic feeling about anybody. And I said, 'Well, maybe. Afterall he has a profession. Maybe we can make it. And I like him all right.' I didn't dislike him. And I didn't have anybody else I thought I might like or like better, or one of those things. There was no conflict. I was at that stage.
WALTER WEARE:
Were you down on men, in general, at this point?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. Not really. Just wasn't enthusiastic. I always had had boyfriends. There was always somebody in my life who was an interest.Right then, when I came here, I met a very lovely person, a person that I probably could have liked, had our friendship been of any duration to amount to anything. But he came into Little Rock very shortly before I was leaving. And, as a matter fact, left with me. We travelled from Little Rock to Atlanta, I believe—Memphis or Atlanta—because he was from Charleston, South Carolina. He was coming to North Carolina. And, of all of the people that I had met, he was the person that I felt I could have liked a great deal more than I did. And certainly a whole lot more than I did Lawyer Thompson. But it was a short relation, and he went his way and I went mine. He had finished his pharmacist, and then had decided that he wanted to be a dentist and he was back in dental school, and was either a junior or senior at that time. I believe it was the senior year. But any rate, I came here, not disliking men generally, but not looking for a husband either. But Tommy just kept on and kept on and kept on, until finally I just broke down and said, 'OK. It's a nice state. I just didn't do too well the first time. It'll be all right.' Sort of like that. I don't mean it was quite as drab as that sounds, but I mean, there was no real emotional work-up

Page 87
and that sort of thing. I think it could have probably developed into a very satisfying relationship and a nice relationship if I had not found such vast difference in our character. Those discoveries that I made later. Maybe not so important to anybody else, but to me they were. And I finally just said I couldn't live with him. And, I guess, being of my disposition, whatever I'm doing, I take a good long time, almost anything. Then suddenly I decide I can't take that anymore, now that's it. If that happens, that's it right there. So that's what had happened.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there ever any conflict over your working and your professional interests?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, none whatsoever. He was quite happy. I was paying more of the bills. There was no conflict there. Our character was different. I shouldn't say this, and yet it's the truth: I'm not much of a liar, and he was a profound liar. And you'd be surprised how hard it is if you can't lie and don't like liars, to live with liars. [Laughter] This is funny. I'm not going to talk about Tommy. He was OK. He found a wife and she loved him dearly. And I was happy for both of them, because I said, well it just goes to prove that just because you can't make it, it can be done. And I think she was as happy as she could be. And she's a lovely person. We're very good friends. I knew her before they got married, and were church members. We'd seen each other just about every Sunday. And we're very good friends. I was delighted with their marriage, you know, for them, because she seemed to be happy with him. And I didn't feel no jealousy whatever. I was delighted for her.
I remember the first trip we took together. First little Ford, all we could afford to have, but we had a little Ford. Not a Runabout or Sedan, I don't know.
WALTER WEARE:
Model T, was it?
VIOLA TURNER:
It wasn't the high Model T. It was the next thing. I said it looked

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more like a cab or something. But any rate, a little Ford. And we went to New York, and we stopped all along the way. Particularly we stopped in Washington, because that's where he had gone to law school. And we stopped by to see a lady. And I think the lady was somebody he had lived with. And I met her, you know. She was delighted to meet any of his friends; we had not been married too long. And before we left there, he had told the lady, in my presence, that we were just driving up to New York in the Ford because we didn't want to be bothered with the big car. We decided that this would be the best thing for the two of us, just to run up here. And from there on, the things that we had and the things that we had done and were going to do, you couldn't believe. You sat there and pinched yourself. That was my first experience, and that horrified me. I could hardly wait to get out of that lady's house. I could hardly say anything else in that lady's house. Then we left. And I said, 'How could you tell that lady? You haven't even paid for this thing; how could you tell her that?' Well, he could just brush things like that off. That's hard to live with when you have to see it, or be present. Unfortunately for me, all of the officers in the annex ate over at the cafeteria. And they came to eat at the same time I was eating my dinner. And he was among those who came. With folks like R. McKentz Andrews, Dr. Mills, [unknown] and Dr. Hunter. They'd be sitting over here at this big table and I'm sitting over here. And some of the stories that I would hear of what we were doing or had done, or were going to do, or had been done before I came on the scene, I would just be over there cringeing. And after a little while, the men had caught on, or knew already. And they would start tearing him down. You think it phased him? Not one bit! I guess he was due to be a lawyer.
WALTER WEARE:
So you found yourself in the Clerk's Home after that?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes.

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WALTER WEARE:
That would have been when? Early thirties?
VIOLA TURNER:
That was in twenty-seven, or eight, or nine. Somewhere in there. We didn't get to the thirties. Because we were together about three years. And I have an idea—though I couldn't positively say this is true-but I would think we probably married in '25. It wasn't a long courtship. If it had been a little longer, probably we would have escaped it [Laughter] . But see, I came in '24. I have an idea we married in '25. I probably left him in '28, or '29 at the most.
WALTER WEARE:
Was it when you first came to Durham, or was it when you were in the Clerk's Home when you had this run-in with C.C. Spaulding about the . . . .
VIOLA TURNER:
[Laughter] About my clothes? It must have been when Betty and I were living there. Because I never lived in the Clerk's Home before. Yes, that's when it would have been. It would have been later, because these things were coveralls, you know? Made very much like men's overalls are made now, with the apron up here in front, and back straps. I imagine—I don't know where I got them; I may have ordered them. I don't think they were in Durham yet. I'm sitting out on the Clerk's Home. And don't forget, the Clerk's Home is back behind the little apartment out here. So you can't even see me from Fayetteville Street. But he can see me from his house. I'm sitting out there on the porch. Of course, I would have gone anywhere in them. I'm not saying I was modest. All of my life, I think the one thing I have not told you about, is the fact of how much my parents wanted a little boy. So they dressed me like a little boy for so long. So pants just came as a natural. So I would have worn them anyway. But that day I was out there on the porch. That's over the weekend. And that Monday morning, Poppa is going to have me fired. Went in and reported me to Mr. Kennedy who was then, well a secretary, but also sort of an office manager, too. And he told him that Vi was sitting out there on the porch in—I don't know

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what he called them. And I had no business out there in that sort of thing, and for him to call me in and talk with me about it. And then Mr. Kennedy said, 'Well, what do you want me to do?' 'You just tell her that you're going to fire her, you're not going to stand for it.' So Mr. Kennedy said, 'Mr. Spaulding, I can't do that. I was up with my family up in Greensboro over the weekend, at Friendly Lake, it's a place to picnic, you know?' He said, 'Any number of those girls had on things like that.'
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[TAPE 5, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 5, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, he ran your life if he could.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
You didn't wear them again?
VIOLA TURNER:
I didn't ever take them off. Oh, no indeed. He didn't ever open his mouth to me himself. But he'd gone to the boss and told him. No, I never stopped doing anything I ever was doing because of the Mutual. The only thing I ever did: one day I went to the office in a red dress. The dress wasn't fancy or anything, but it was red. And Poppa met me in the hall and informed me that I couldn't come up there dressed like that. He proceeded to tell me that my dress was not proper for the office. So, at that time I had not learned my lesson from Mr. Bob McKentz Andrews, for which I thank him. I had a temper and didn't try to control it. I could get hot like that. He told me I couldn't so I just walked right in the office and got my little hat and got on the elevator. I was on my way home. When I got downstairs Mr. Merritt was walking in the door, and he says, 'Where you going, honey?' 'I'm going home.' 'What are you going home for? Something wrong?' So I said, 'Yes.' He wanted to know what was wrong so I told him what Mr. Spaulding had told me. And I said, 'Mr. Spaulding can't tell me what to wear. If he thinks he going to do it, he can get him somebody else

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to tell.' Then Mr. Merritt said, 'Now, honey.' He was sweet. He would never fly up. 'Now, honey, don't act like that. You come on and go back upstairs.' So I went on back upstairs. But I didn't wear a red dress no more, to the office. And, really, that was a good thing that he did. Although the way he did it wasn't good. Because if Mr. Merritt hadn't come along, I don't know what I might have done. Maybe I would've tried to quit. I guess for five or six years after I came here, maybe longer, I wanted every year to be the last year, because I wanted to go back to school. I still had that school thing on my mind. I wanted to leave and go to school. I'd stay one more year, but I'm going next year, see? So maybe, if I had walked out then, that may have happened. But anyhow, he did bring a realization to me that I don't think I really had before, that you should dress a certain way in business. That was the first real awareness. I don't think I had ever gotten out of line particularly, but I was doing it probably on the basis of what I had to wear. I never had just really thought about it. I'd often thought that he may have been responsible for that without his knowing or my knowing it. Because, in a short while, I had gotten to the place—especially when I'd gotten to the place I was making a little bit more money—that I never had anything to wear to the office but suits. And the only purchase I made was blouses. I had lots of blouses. And after many years, I had ten good suits. Five for this week, five for next week. As a result of that, by the time I retired, I had good quality clothes, but they were bought maybe on the basis of one suit a year, and they got cleaned about once, or never more than twice, a year. And they lasted invariably. And they were tailored so that the style didn't change. Since I retired, Incidentally, I have read many times that that was supposed to be a very good way for a businesswoman to dress. And I've always been so pleased, because I was doing it fifty years ago. I had nothing but suits that I wore to the office. Summer ones, winter ones. When I would buy them, they would always be good suits.

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And then they could last. Some of the suits, when I retired, were ten years old. But you wouldn't have guessed it.
WALTER WEARE:
When you first hit Durham, did you see it as a kind of stifling atmosphere then?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh! I was leaving every. . .the first year I was here, I was leaving every month, and then for the next six or seven years, I was leaving every year. I had never lived in a place so small. They had nothing that I'd been accustomed to. Even my home town, Macon, was an old city with wide, lovely streets down the middle of the city, with beautiful stores on both sides. And your pasttime, when I was a child, your mother and father would walk on Sunday evenings to show-window shop, as we called it. Looking in the different store windows. That's when I was growing up as a kid. And that was still the thing that you would do in Little Rock. My boyfriend and I would go downtown in Little Rock and look in the pretty stores and shops, just like you walk on Fifth Avenue. And I get to Durham. They've got two blocks, about two stores. Oh! I didn't think there was any way I could survive in Durham. I didn't like nothing about Durham.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there a kind of aura of what E. Franklin Frasier talks about Durham as being different from other cities where there was a middle class, because it had this old, Puritanical middle class. Was he right about that? Could you pick that up?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I didn't then. Probably it was a long time before I did, because all I reacted to was the physical Durham. Nowhere to walk, nothing to see, nothing pretty. The streets were funny and cut up. My whole reaction was purely a physical thing from a certain type of city life. Even Jackson, Mississippi was a pretty, Southern town. I hadn't been anywhere but Southern towns, so that was my idea of beauty. And this was horrible. But I can understand what he's talking about because, you see, the mainstays of this town, black and well into the white group, too—I think I'm correct about that. They were a church-going people.

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Their religion was stern. In other words, Bess got put out of the Baptist Church, and came to the Methodist Church, I think, because she played cards. I know it was either playing cards or dancing. When I came to Durham she was in the Methodist Church. She died in the Methodist Church. But she had been a staunch Baptist Church member and got put out of there either because of playing cards or dancing. Mr. Spaulding would have died if any of us had danced in the building on Paris Street—any of those sort of things. That was just a way of life. All of the outstanding men, the older ones, like Mr. Avery, Mr. Spaulding, Mr. John Merritt, Dr. Moore, they were all good church men. They were the mainstays of their church—of the White Rock and St. Joseph's Church. Now, except for Mr. Avery, bless his heart. I never knew a thing about him. And when I say 'know', I don't know anything about any of these men, this is a story. But he's the only one of them that didn't seem to enjoy everything else about life. Like a little drinking and girls and corn liquor, and all that sort of thing. But no dancing and no cards, no nothing. So that was a way of life. And anybody who removed from that, they were the ones that were living in sin [Laughter] . And these rascals were having all sorts of love affairs, from what I've heard. When I got here, there was, 'See that over there? That's so-and-so's daughter.' ';Gee! She looks just like so-and-so.' 'Well, her father's so-and-so.' That's the kind of thing they were doing. That's what a lot of church folks seem to be engaged in. That sort of living. And yet, they're strict on the young people about dancing and playing cards and things like that.
WALTER WEARE:
So when you travel, say, to a Washington, D.C., or a place like that, did it seem to be an altogether different world?
VIOLA TURNER:
From the things that you found here?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes.
VIOLA TURNER:
I would think so. Of course my first shock, going from here to New York, was my first trip. By way of Philadelphia. I stopped in Philadelphia.

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Of course when I got to Washington, I knew that I had now passed the Mason-Dixon line, so I'm looking for all . . .there again, I'm living in this world that I've grown up in, you know. I knew everything's going to be wonderful now. I got to Philadelphia and we were going to spend two or three days there. And the first thing I want to know; I always, when I get that way, want to see all the shows. So, now I want to go see the shows, only to discover that If I see the shows up there, I was going to see them Jim Crow. Did you know that?
WALTER WEARE:
In Philadelphia?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's right, Philadelphia. I nearly collapsed. I thought I was free at last, as soon as I passed Washington.
WALTER WEARE:
What year would that have been?
VIOLA TURNER:
That would have been in the twenties—'26, '27, '28. That was on that trip that I took in the Ford with Lawyer Thompson, and we stopped in Philadelphia for a couple of days and nights. There was no theatre there, according to all that we were told—of course, you know that I was asking when I got the first [unknown] . And where we were staying, the lady said there were none where you were not Jim Crowed.
WALTER WEARE:
What about the hotel?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, we didn't try that. I only started going to the hotels when I was traveling on my own, after I'd left Lawyer Thompson. I believe I'm one of the first people here—certainly in any group that I knew anything about—that tried a hotel. I don't know whether any other would have been just the same. I tried the Victoria. I tried the Victoria simply because of its address. It was right down there in the theatrical area. And that was after I became familiar with New York to some extent. I was going for the company. But just like everybody else, as soon as it was vacation time, I was going to New York. So, on my own, I was trying this hotel. They accepted me and I had no problems there. It was on

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this corner and in the next block was the Taft Hotel, where, maybe at that same time—I know not too long after that—none of us had any problem going to the Taft. I continued to go to the Victoria, because the Victoria was the place I had gotten the decent treatment to start with, you know. And I imagine it was a small hotel, you may have had no problems anywhere else. Later on, I went to other hotels, and I never had any. Of course, as the years went by, you didn't. But I was at the Americana on its opening week. I didn't realize it was its opening week.
WALTER WEARE:
You never had any trouble in New York with shows or hotels?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I never had any trouble with anything there. I don't think that means that you couldn't have had trouble. You see, when I first started going on my own, that's when I started experimenting. You know, going to see what sort of treatment I would get. If I was going to get it, I would walk out. If I wasn't going to be served properly, I wouldn't stay, you know, that sort of thing. But then, after all, that was a little later. I probably first started going in the thirties. And many of the times—a couple of times, at least—I was going to a black hotel. Well, longer than that: in the forties. There was a nice black hotel in Harlem, the Theresa. And that's when I first started going. I would go up there if I was with anybody. But my first time at the Victoria, I was going alone. I was afraid to be up that far alone, when I knew I was going to spend all my time down in the theatrical section. So I chose to go to the Victoria. So, when I got back, boy, I really built up the Victoria. I'm sure they don't know it. And yes, they did, too, because they began to get reservations from Durham. That was the first one. Now, there were other hotels where some of our men have gone to, and had no trouble. Like the hotel down near the Pennsylvania Station, or was in there. Mr. Spaulding used to go there. One or two other hotels, now, I don't remember the names. But, the men used to go to places like that and they didn't seem to have any trouble. I don't think they did.

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I know they didn't just go once and not go again. It was some time before women started to going. I think I'm safe in saying that I was the first one that went into the Victoria. Because, so many folks here would call me and say, 'Vi, I understand you stayed at the Victoria; how was it?' 'It was OK.'
[interruption]
. . . [unknown] and held in my hand Old Man Carr's letters to John O'Daniel, that I have regretted so many times, that I let them get away from me.
WALTER WEARE:
You don't have any idea where they are now, those letters?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I know what happened to the house and all that sort of thing. But I don't know whether they were just destroyed in the passing of the family, or not. They probably were. I imagine they were taken out of their original home and taken down to the sister who was still living. But when she died, I don't know what happened there.
[interruption]
. . .served on jury duty.
But we went down just to see, Turner, then, lawyer, I guess he was. And we were thrilled to death with his appearance and his polish and his education, his training, and the way he handled himself in the court. And, you see, at that time, and for many years after, most of the black attorneys were not accorded the respect that they were entitled to. They would be called by their names. No 'lawyer' this, or 'attorney' that, or anything of the kind. This [unknown] was so superior to anything that was in the court—white or black. They realized they had to accord him a certain amount of courtesy. He was recognized as an attorney, and, or course, you know that gave us the greatest joy. They just couldn't bring themselves to 'William', or 'George', or 'John'—the things that they had forced down the throats of many of the black attorneys.

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WALTER WEARE:
Did a lot of people in the black community turn out for this?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh! The little courthosue was packed. And most of us were there.
WALTER WEARE:
This is the Holcutt Case, 1933, I think?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, it was somewhere in those days; it was early.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember any of the background of it?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, not really. Nothing more than like every other black in the community. You were proud that he had had the courage to make the application to attempt to enter. You were proud to feel that you were a part, even if it was nothing more than contributing to the NAACP, for the fight that we waged. Then, of course, you followed it prayerfully all the time. You know, of the outcome. Then, of course, when Judge Hastie got here, that was the topping on the cake. Because there were few of us—not only young people like myself, and those of us who were younger people—who had seen a man like Hastie representing us in a situation. Not only in that particular situation, but in the courts, carrying himself and accounting himself is such a dignified and marvelous manner. He ignored all of anything anybody tried to use as a put-down, you know. And he could do it with such grace, that I'm sure most of them didn't even realize what had happened to them, except that they had not been able to get a rise out of the man. Yet, he handled himself so cooly and so smoothly, they would capitulate without even knowing they had done that almost. It really was about as smooth a thing as I've ever seen. And so natural for him. There was nothing about him that made you feel he was putting on an act. He could've been, but you had no feeling of it. You just felt it was the most natural and normal way of life for him. Of course, us younger women, we were just drooling, worshipping at his feet. And in that sort of respectful, you know, oh! he's one of us; he belongs to us; you can't take that away from none of us. That sort of feeling, pride.
WALTER WEARE:
That was the victory, just his being there?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes, yes. And then, those gentlemen sitting there getting red-faced

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by the minute, with the facility with which he could request this or ask that, or stand his ground here, or everything. Really, he was something to behold. And that wasn't just because he was one of us. He would've been something to behold anywhere. The way he handled himself and conducted himself. And I'm quite sure not many people in that courtroom, white or black, had seen his equal. Not many of them.
WALTER WEARE:
Was Dr. Shepard there, do you recall?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I don't recall if he was there. He could've been, but I don't know that. You see, we went after working hours. We would go from work, on by the courthouse, and they would still be in session, that sort of thing. So, usually when we were there, or when I was there, you were there with your peers, and any other workers near your age-group, or in your same organization. Because, at that time, Bankers [unknown] was in our building. Anybody in Bankers North Carolina Mutual, we'd all be traipsing in there. And getting seats where you could. Because many of the seats were already filled and you were lucky if you got in. Then, with me, and I guess with most of us, there was excitement of going into a courtroom for triumph. We had never been in there before. You know, the courthouse and all of that went together, so far as you were concerned, and was synonomous with jail.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think that anybody really believed or dreamed that, in fact, the case would be won and Holcutt would actually be admitted to the University of North Carolina?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I'll put it this way. I have an idea that most of us who sat there and saw Hastie and admired him as we did, probably couldn't conceive of him losing. You see, we probably lost all sight of all of the discrimination that was back of that, that he was really up against. We were so thrilled. You were seeing something that you'd never seen before. I'd never seen such a polished,

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qualified. . .now, I've seen plenty of black people who'd had no training, scarcely, but who had acquired a polish and something that made you respect them and admire them.
Incidentally one is the woman who ran our cafeteria. But hers was acquired through exposure. She had worked with wealthy whites all of her working life. And all of her life, virtually, had been a working life.
WALTER WEARE:
She was a caterer?
VIOLA TURNER:
In the end, that's really what she was. But she ran our cafeteria for years. Now, when she came out from there, I guess she would never call herself a caterer because she didn't perform in all of the capacities of a caterer—of getting the foods, and getting all the stuff together. But everybody in town—white and black—who were going to have a party of any consequence, where they were expecting to spend money, and wanted to, because the occasion was of that nature, called on her to see if they could get her to prepare their dinner, or their party, or their service. And she had all of the know-how in the world. Then, on her own, she was a woman who dressed in excellent taste. Everything just right for a woman of her age, and her size. And her home was exquisite in taste. Because, first thing, she had some pieces in there, lovely pieces in there, that only could have come from some very wealthy place. Many of the people she had worked with gave her lovely things. And she had any number of just lovely pieces of bric 'n brac and things of that kind, in her little home. And her home was immaculate, tastefully done, and quality in the choice of what she had. Just good taste and style and quality.
WALTER WEARE:
What was her name?
VIOLA TURNER:
Hettie Meadows. Ran the cafeteria.
WALTER WEARE:
But Hastie was something else. He had the education?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, he had everything. You see, he had the sort of thing that even the men that we knew, who had arrived, and who had money and were doing very well—I can't think of any one who had all of things as Hastie. Now, they had something

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Hastie didn't have: they had money. Now, I never knew this man, except that I came so close to knowing him that I always felt that I knew him. Then knowing all of his family as I did. I think another person who would've been a perfect example of what I'm saying about Mrs. Meadows, was John Merritt, the founder of the company. Now, he was a gentleman of the first order. From everything you've ever seen, heard, or read about him. And he had the exposure. You see, those were all the people I had ever seen that were in the class, similarly in the class, of Hastie. The people who had had this exposure to wealthy whites and had really just adopted, not knowing or intentionally, just absorbed. And they just naturally had certain graces. They had manners that I wish many of us had today. And they had style. And they knew a lot of things. They were exposed to a lot of things. They could tell many of us who came out of school—and I don't mean at my level, but all the levels. Hettie Meadows could tell every person that I knew something about gracious living. And she could do it, and she could do it with grace. And John Merritt was the same sort of man. His family lived well and graciously. And I'm quite sure it was from his exposure. 'Course he had the money to follow through and do what he wanted to do.
WALTER WEARE:
You say there was a feeling that Hastie couldn't have lost, but when the case was lost, was there any feeling against Dr. Shepard? Was it generally considered that Dr. Shepard hadn't been too keen on this?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know. At that time, I was too low down on the scale to get the feeling of the people up at that level, so I don't know at all. I never even heard of him connected with the Holcutt Case in any way. All that I know of that is my own emotional involvement: the pride and the hopes. Of course, there was the pride of the boy who had had the nerve to do it, you know. Because, after all that took some nerve also, you know. You had to admire that. And you lived along that thing—those of us of my age—we lived right into it as if we were part of it.

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We had been up with it. And when we get the man who represents us, and he demands and commands that sort of respect, why, you're just joyous. And then when you lose, you're down. But you're not down, thinking you're going to stay down. You're down where you're coming back again, you see. The NAACP put that into you. So, you see, at that stage, we were influenced with that. We may be down, but we're never out. So that would be the attitude. Now, as to the workings, and what was going on at that stage of the game, among the older heads, like Mr. Spaulding, and Dr. Shepard, I didn't even know they had any involvement with it, except as NAACP people.
WALTER WEARE:
You reminded me of a couple of things when you were talking about men not getting the respect and being called by their first names. When you worked as E.R. Merritt's secretary, and white men would come in, there are some things there worth telling.
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, yes. I can tell you stories about that. That's where we coined our expression, well, 'he's now got religion' or 'doesn't have religion', or 'there's no hope for him,' or 'we'll get him sooner or later.' There were three girls across there. Occasionally there were four. But three of us were there all of the time. And there were no switchboard operations. Each of us had two or three telephones. One was the outside telephone and then we had a system. I've forgotten what you call the system, but it went all through the offices. And you could call on the inside phone to the next office and tell somebody that they had a call. But there was no phone up there for them. You'd just have to take the number and they'd call when they could. Or, in an emergency, you could call them down to get them. That meant that we answered all of the telephones, just those three places. And we acted as the guides for anybody going through the building. Some of us, one, two, or maybe all of us, took people through the building. And then we were the buffer. We were the receptionists for the whole building, really. Everybody stopped at the third floor. And you either held them there and made

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arrangements for them to go some place, or you sent them out to come again. So that meant all types and every kind stopped. Of course there wasn't very much difference in the types of the white men for many years. They would come in, with a hat on, of course, and they would walk into your office exactly like that was still out in the open spaces, you know. There might be a few that were polite enough to say good morning, or something [radio interference]. They might just walk right in. Or, if they didn't really know their way around they'd stop and say, 'Is Ed in?', talking to me. Or, at that time Mr. Avery was in the first office, and they'd walk there and ask if 'John' is in, or 'Avery' in? Or over to the other, 'Is C.C. in?' Some, 'Is Charlie in?' On occasion they would ask for Merritt, or Spaulding, or Avery. Most of the time it was John or Ed or Charlie.
Well, we had a standard act; all three of us did the same thing. 'Good morning, may I help you?' 'Yes. Is Ed in?' 'Ed? Ed? Um, I don't know an Ed. Ed, did you say?' 'Merritt, Ed Merritt.' 'Oh! Mr. Merritt, you mean. Well, let me see.' And you'd get up. And, of course, at the time, my office was not right through to Mr. Merritt's. I'm at this little office; you have to walk around. So I say, 'Just have a seat out here. I'll see for you.' So I walk in and I come back out. 'Mr. Merritt is in, but he's very busy just now and he will not be able to see you for the next thirty minutes. Would you care to wait? Shall I tell Mr. Merritt that you will wait?' Some way or other you'd get another 'Mr. Merritt' in. Have to get three or four in. 'Shall I tell Mr. Merritt you will wait, or will you come back?' Well, sometimes they would wait and sometimes they would say they would come back. So, on departing, always you ended—and all of us did—'Well, you say you will be back. I'll tell Mr. Merritt you will be back.' Well, they're sick of you by the time you've said two of these Merritt's or whatever you're saying. But we all would go through that same thing. If they said John, or they said Charlie, or they said Ed. Sometimes some of the girls wouldn't carry it as far as I would and pretend

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you didn't even know who they were talking about, but they'd frown up and say 'Charlie?' Which, of course, told the story right there. And then the person would immediately say, 'Spaulding!' And then she'd take off on, 'I'll see if Mr. Spaulding will see you', or, 'No, Mr. Spaulding is not here. I don't know just when Mr. Spaulding will be in, but I'll be glad to tell Mr. Spaulding.' Oh! We carried it to the nth degree, all depending on how much we knew it was deliberate. Some we knew that the people came and that's all they'd ever done all their lives and they didn't even know that they were treading on your toes until you pulled that on them. You might give them three or four 'Mr. Spauldings' on the first trip. But some of the devils we knew that they reinforced themselves when they got downstairs, on how they were going to handle it. And so when they got there, they were in their beligerent mood. Now they got 'Mr. Merritt' until they were ready to drop. They would love to have done something to you. One, in particular, used to come, and he would try to figure out another way to do it. One morning he came in, and, of course, it was the worst choice he ever made in his life. I don't recall he ever did it again. I'm sure I wouldn't have. He walked in and he says, 'Is the preacher in?' Now don't you know we could work with that all day long? There was no way for you to make us know who a preacher was. 'What preacher?' 'Where a preacher?' We used that; we wore him out on it. 'Preacher? Preacher? Do you know any preacher? Preacher, no! Who's the preacher? Are you sure?' We knew the man as well as anything. Knew right where he was from, right over at Duke Power Company. 'Are you sure it's somebody on this floor you want to see?' He held out as long as he could. He turned red. He did everything. He sat out on the deck and wouldn't say anything. And we let him sit there. We didn't ask any questions. We just kept right on as if we didn't know he was there. And way late he came back to the door and stuck his head through and laughed. I guess really what he was thinking, maybe Mr. Merritt would come in. Because very often they would try to stand and catch the person. If they did, they'd jump right up

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and walk right on with them. But Ed tricked. Of course Ed was the one that tricked him because he'd never come until he got ready. So he finally had to come and ask for 'Merritt'. And you know we [unknown] 'Oh! Did you mean Mr. Merritt at first?' And he didn't return you really an answer, just looked. 'Well, Mr. Merritt isn't any preacher. Mr. Merritt has never been a preacher.' And then we started to snicker, 'Imagine! Mr. Merritt a preacher! Ha, Ha!' So we laughed the poor man right on up and down the street, because Mr. Merritt wasn't there. He didn't see him. I even remember that rascal's name, Couch. He was a long time coming back.
Then the other thing we'd do to them, and this is the religious act. You know a few of them got to the place, I'm sure through the NAACP and hearing it from different ones of the men at different areas or places. They had heard that we were pretty sick of the fact that if you got on the elevator and they were on there, the hat stayed right on. But if you were going to, say, the sixth floor, and about the fourth floor a white woman got on, off came the hats. And then if the lady got off on the next floor, and the two of you were going to the next, the hat went right back on the head. We all had talked about that and complained about it. I guess the word had sort of gotten around. So you got to the place where you get on the elevator and the guy would have his hat on and he would reach up. He couldn't bring himself to pull it off, so he held it hanging here while he scratched his head. He scratched his head until you got off or he got off. Well, you see, that was funny. But you were mad, too. So you had to do something about it. And they got to the place they'd get off on the third floor. See, they had to stop at the third floor to get to anything else. And they would come down the little hall from the elevator going over to the president's office, or the other two offices, with this hat up here and, you know, one of these sort of things. And, of course, when they got to you, 'Oh! Will you rest your hat?' [Laughter] Well, resting the hat wasn't in the plans at all, you know. But what are you going to do? You're jumping up all courteous and polite, almost in their faces. There's nothing else to do but rest the

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hat. Well, you do that three or four times, and that guy gets to your place, and he takes his hat off and starts handing it to you [Laughter] . So that was the expression we had for it. Uh, oh, he's got religion. Because when he got off the elevator, you'd see that hat coming off. We knew we'd got him.
WALTER WEARE:
These were not just salesmen?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, they were salesmen of a kind in some cases. Everybody who came into our office, white, were salesmen. They wanted something out of us. It might not be they had something in a briefcase they were going to sell you right there. But they either had a store in the town, or they had something that they wanted out of somebody over there. That's what they were doing over there.
WALTER WEARE:
What about some of the white fathers? You mentioned Victor Bryant.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, now all right. That's a prize example. He wanted something out of us. He wanted our money. And he was getting our money. Because, for a long while, we had him on a retainer. Because we didn't have enough clout not to need a white lawyer along with. Some cases we could do on our own. We felt we had the folks who could do it all. But we didn't have the clout. So he was on the payroll. And he was one of the ones we had to help get religion on that hat business. Oh, he used to walk through that office. He'd get off the elevator. He neither looked right nor left to me over on this side. He walked right straight towards Ethel's desk and he got right there and swerved from her desk, 'Is Charlie in?', opening the door at the same time. Oh yes. As if she didn't exist. Well that burned. It burned me up. I guess I burned over that more than the other girls, although it's very hard to make a distinction. But I burned on it, I think, more, for the first thing: very shortly after I came to Durham, it was nothing for him to call from over at his office and tell them he needed some secretarial help over there. And many's the time I was sent over there, and took a lot of his durn work. It was work he was going to do for North Carolina Mutual. But I did all of that typing. Everything that

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had to be done. And I knew perfectly well that he was getting the money, and I wasn't even getting a decent thank-you for it. So I didn't like him for that, first thing. Now then, when he marched across the third floor, which was our territory, and acted like none of us were sitting there, and walked into Charlie's office—we had a slow burn going all of the time. So if we got any chance at him at all, if there was any way to stop him, if Ethel jumped up fast enough, she could get between him and the door, and say, 'Mr. Spaulding isn't in', or anything she could. She'd try for it. And the same thing was true if by any chance—which on occasion it would be Ed. And you couldn't go quite as strong on him as you would somebody else, with Ed, for this reason. Mr. Merritt drank. He was really a person who couldn't drink. Because he didn't drink much whiskey at a time, but what he drank knocked him out like a light. Drinking and cards and social activities don't exactly go together. So every once in a while he was getting into something. Maybe a car ran into him or he ran into a car or something. And old man Victor, whom I never knew, and John Merritt were very good friends. I don't know how much he 'John'd' old man Merritt, and I don't know how much the old man took. But, any rate, they were very good friends. So, anytime that Mr. Merritt had a problem with his car, or anything that did develop, all he had to do was call Victor Bryant. Young Victor—he was Young Victor then—he was right there to take care of it. I often heard him refer to the relationship between their parents. Seemingly he was pleased with the fact. So, you know that I wasn't going to get nowhere on that 'Ed' business with him, but I could try. And, you know, two things happened to him that were very interesting. One I know, the other one I surmised for myself. I figured this one out.
He finally went to the legislature. And I always felt that when he became really politically minded—and we, in the meantime, are getting more political strength. I have an idea that that influenced him to take another look at blacks a little

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differently. That's one thing. That's something I am assuming happened. But I do know this: he began to come to the office and act like any decent person would act. Whomever he saw, he said good morning to, or good evening. And he would say, 'Is Mr. Merritt in?' or 'Is Mr. Spaulding in?' or, et cetera. And you had no problems. He was very nice. All you wanted of him, he gave you. But when I met him on the street one day, coming down Main Street, facing him like this. When he gets right close to me, he says, 'Hello. How are you today? I haven't seen you in quite some time.' I almost collapsed. I went back and reported, 'Well you're sure he's got religion now. Do you know he recognized me out on the street and spoke to me, and I wasn't even looking at him?' I'd long since learned to look the other way when I saw somebody coming I thought I knew, or they knew me. So we had a good laugh over that. I don't remember whether all of this change came after this, or before. It would seem looking at it now and thinking about it now that it may have come afterwards. And yet, I'm not sure it did, because I do remember when we started talking about it must be his politics that's giving him this change, that he's gotten. Well, so decent, because he was only giving you what you were due. But on an occasion we had the examination of our company, and all of our examinations were by the Department of North Carolina and usually two or three other states—maybe South Carolina, maybe Georgia or Tennessee. And always—particularly in that period—the man from North Carolina was not the most admirable character I've ever known, personally. Because I always felt he didn't give one tinker's damn about the Mutual as such. He wouldn't have cared how many things he found wrong, he'd have smoothed them over and gone his merry way. He didn't care whether you lived or died so far as being sure that we were operating correctly. Now that is a personal evaluation. But he did like to come over here because they lived well, coming over to examine North Carolina Mutual. You were put up at the hotel and you got a nice per diem, and then he always expected to

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get some kind of little tokens from us. Our president was always kind enough to see that they were kept in refreshments, so-to-speak. And they usually made it their business to get here around the Christmas season so that they would start it, and then break, and then come back. Which meant you usually got a little Christmas token, that sort of thing.
WALTER WEARE:
Some sort of gift?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. Some token of some kind. Usually some gift out of one of the bookstores or places here where you could pick up things. Maybe a briefcase. One of those sort of things. Gifts. Now, I resented that. And I'm sure all of us secretaries who could see that happening and going on. We didn't like it. But we couldn't do nothing about it. So, on this occasion, when they came, Mr. Spaulding was going to give them a dinner. I don't remember any of the details as to why he had decided on a dinner, or what. It may have been there were some new examiners from a new state that we had gone into, and he wanted to show some special courtesy to them. But to do that, he couldn't give them a dinner at any black place that you might have had. So the only place that he could give them this dinner was out at the Club, the white club that's here—I've forgotten the name of it. It used to be out there near Club Boulevard, right in that area. But any rate, he was going to be prepared. He decided to give this dinner, and attorney Bryant, as our legal representative, was asked to host the dinner. And he accepted the invitation. And the dinner took place. But after that, Mr. Bryant came to Mr. Spaulding and told him that that was the most embarrassing experience he had ever had. That the full force of discrimination hit him in the face at that dinner. He sat there and realized that he was the host to this group of people for the North Carolina Mutual, and the president, Mr. Spaulding, could not be presented. It was the first time that the full import of that sort of thing came, really, to him, full face.

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WALTER WEARE:
How did Mr. Spaulding, himself, handle that kind of thing? How did he keep from getting angry?
VIOLA TURNER:
I imagine within him he probably did get angry, and possibly he felt that it was a thing that had to be done. I don't know why he did. I'm just trying to figure how he must have reacted. Because there's no way for me to feel any of that, that had to be done. But evidentally he felt that the good will, and maybe you were at the mercy of those examiners, I don't know.
[interruption]
Well, he had a way—and I guess that's another reason I didn't care for him—I really distrusted him as much as anything else. I didn't feel like he gave us. . . I mean, he'd just wipe over anything. If you had put two and two together there and come up with five, oh, he wouldn't have said anything about it. He'd just say, 'Oh, that was just error,' and go on. You want an examination to tell you what you're doing wrong, so you can get straightened out. So that's how I distrusted him. He was so gay and full of stories, and always some joke. And he was always walking by Miss Bessie's window, 'Bessie, have you heard this one?' Well, that's the one place on which Miss Bessie and I parted company. I didn't accept nobody getting familiar with me unless you were my friend and I was your friend and you were on a first-name basis. And there were people that I did like well enough, and we were on a first-name basis. But it had to be one of those things. So I always sort of resented the way Miss Bessie let anybody walk up there and call her 'Bessie.' Bessie this and Bessie that. So every time they came to examine the company, Mr. Merritt would always come out of his office. He had the largest office on the third floor. And he would go into some little office. Of course, it didn't disturb me, because I sat over in an office from that. But I didn't like the idea that Mr. Merritt was always giving up his office. But anyhow, that was happening. So, day in and day out they're coming in.

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Now a man from South Carolina, Mr. Kelly, was just as nice as he could be, and he wanted to get some secretarial work done. And it ended up that I did all of his letters the whole while he was there. And thoroughly enjoyed doing them, and he, seemingly, was glad to have me. I'm sure that's the only reason I enjoyed it, because he was very nice and very appreciative of what I was doing. And every once in a while he would show me a little note that his secretary in the department down there, was writing to ask, who was that was doing his work up here? She was getting a little alarmed, you know, because somebody's getting her job. And, of course, you know, that was flattering. I liked Mr. Kelly very much. Didn't like Mr. [unknown] . Mr. [unknown] was always flounting [unknown] . So one day, after many days that he had been there, he comes out of Mr. Merritt's office with a bunch of examiners. He gets right to my door— he's telling a joke as he's coming out; he's a great joke-teller—he sticks his head in my door, and I'm sitting at my desk writing something. And he says, 'Did you hear that, Viola? Viola! Did you hear that, what I was saying?' [long pause]. By this time the elevator gets there. So they get on the elevator. Lord, what am I going to do? I'm not going to take it. What am I going to do? So I come home and I'm worried sick. Because I know I cannot take it. I also don't know how is the best way to handle it— with an examiner for the North Carolina Mutual being involved. I wrestled with it for most of the night. When I got up the next morning, I knew perfectly well what I was going to do. So I got right up and I got a piece of paper and I wrote him a note. I said, 'Dear Mr. [unknown] , If you need my services for anything, or you have to ask for anything that I have to make available to you, it is quite all right for you to come and ask for what you want without addressing me in any terms. I reserve the right to permit my friends to call me Viola, and no one else. Respectfully.' And when he got there, his note was on his desk. I had gone over to Ethel and said, 'Ethel, when the examiners come in, I'm going to go to the restroom. Because I have written Mr. [unknown] a note. I don't know how he's going to take it, and I do not care. The only thing I'm worried about is how Poppa is going to take it.

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Because this may be, I'm on my way out. But if I am, I'm on my way. But I'll just go to the restroom to wait for the explosion.' So she said OK. So sure enough when they came in, everybody came by, 'Good morning, good morning.' And the minute they got in there, I got right up. I stayed as long as I could, and then I came on back up to my office. As I came by, Ethel said [gesture]. So I knew then that evidently [unknown] had come out, or anyway she felt it was safe. So I went over there. She says, 'He got the note.' I said, 'He couldn't miss that.' So I said, 'What did he do?' She said, 'He brought it here to Mr. Spaulding.' I said, 'What did Poppa say?' She said, 'That's what I called you to tell you. Mr. [unknown] read it in there with the examiners, and then he came right in that inner door and handed it to Mr. Spaulding. Mr. Spaulding read it and he leaned back in his chair, and he said, 'Heh, heh, heh. Mr. you can't treat this here young generation like you can treat the old one, can you?' And that was all he said. And [unknown] came out.'
So for a couple of days he didn't speak to me at all, which, of course, was delightful. He just would pass and wouldn't speak. And the thing that really surprised me, but very pleasantly: Mr. Kelly didn't ever stop calling me when he wanted to have a letter done for him. And always in the same nice manner, 'Do you have time? Do you think you could get a letter off for me to the department, sometime during the day?' I'd say, 'Of course, I'd be happy to, anytime.' And so the relationship was the same all the way except for old [unknown] . He waited about three or four days and then finally he capitulated with a 'good morning' and a 'good evening', and I gave him the same thing back, 'good morning', good evening'. But I didn't ever hear anything more from that. But I was so proud of Poppa. Because I didn't know what he was going to do. I didn't know whether he would have been frightened off, you know, then asked me to apologize or something. Which I was not going to do. I was just ready to go. As a matter of fact, not for a long time,

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but way late one day, in the office with Mr. Spaulding, he started in, " Heh, heh, heh. [He called me Tommy] Tommy, you straighten them out, don't you?' I said, 'I try every time, Mr. Spaulding. I don't know whether I make it every time, but I try.' But he laughed and that's all that came of that. Didn't have no trouble with old man [unknown] . I was sure glad when he was gone. Because if I had known that last little item, of what he was doing to Poppa, I know I would have hated him. I knew that he was responsible for them getting these little things, a little whiskey to carry up to their hotel rooms, or drinks there. And at the end of the examination, they got some kind of token. Or, usually it was at the Christmas time. He always managed to come in and start the examination, Christmas break, then come back after Christmas to finish. Which meant you got a Christmas gift right at the time. All of those things I resented. So the other things, God knows.
WALTER WEARE:
How did you get involved with the threat to report to the Klan?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh! That was just one of those things with the dear old South. There was a lady that I understand she was one of the more well-to-do families for some time in Durham. They had hit upon hard times. And that had necessitated her to doing some work for a living. What she was doing was collecting bills for one of the companies. Maybe for several of the companies, I don't know. But she came up one day. And Eula—you've heard us talking about Eula—Eula is this friend of mine who's very, very, very fair. There's no way to just say Eula's fair. She's just too white, and with this sort of auburn hair, too straight, too stringy. She has to wash it certainly not later than every week, for it to fluff out. Well, anyhow, Eula and I were in the same office—her desk right at the door of Mr. Avery whom she was working for, and mine was over here, for Mr. Merritt, whose office was next door. And this woman came in, and of course we didn't know the half of the background of who she was, or why she probably had an attitude to start with, with the very idea she was working. And then she had to come into a Negro business and

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all that sort of thing. So she walks in and she says, 'Is Jimmy in?' Well this time we didn't have to put on an act. Didn't anybody know a Jim. And it hadn't even dawned on us who she was talking about. So she was addressing Eula, who was right there. So we asked her the question, 'Jim?' Well, she made it worse. She said, 'Jim Emery!' Well, now we're really out in left field. Mr. Avery was named John.
TAPE 5, SIDE B IS BLANK
[END OF TAPE 5, SIDE A]

[TAPE 6, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 6, SIDE A]
VIOLA TURNER:
She thought it was right here. So finally either you or I—I don't know which of us at that time—said, 'Are you talking about Mr. Avery? Avery?'; And she said, 'Yes.' And all of this time she is acting indignant, very impatient. And I'm joining in, asking who she's talking about, and Eula. So when we finally get together that she is talking about Mr. Avery, Eula ushers her in. Well, now, at that point, so far as I know, I was innocent as a new born child. I hadn't done a living thing to the lady, nor had Eula. We were confused on who she wanted, and I don't think either of us acted in such a way that we added to her indignation. But evidently her whole attitude was resentment that she was there at that particular place, doing that particular thing. So that's when she walked out. She walked right up to Eula and she says, 'What is your name?' Eula looked up at her and said, 'Miss Wade', you know. I'm sitting over in the corner, and I am so sure that the woman is shocked at Eula putting that prefix 'Miss' to it, you know, instead of saying, 'Mary', or 'Sally', or 'Sue'. When Eula said, 'Miss Wade', I said 'Hmph!' Just about like that: 'Hmph!' That woman wheeled out of that. I guess like the madam in the old days, [unknown] wheeled out and went to the elevator, bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, bzzz. Well, really, I didn't do enough of that, loudly enough, for

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either Eula or I to laugh about it. It was just one of those things, automatic. She asked her, and we felt sure from the way she doing, everything about herself, she was expecting Eula to say, 'Eula', or ';Mary', or 'Sally'. Eula said, 'Miss Wade', and I said 'Hmph!' So about fifteen or twenty minutes later, Mr. Merritt comes up the stairs and he says, 'Miss Viola, did you offend a lady that was up here? What did you do to the lady that was up here?' 'What lady?' He said, 'Miss so-and-so.' I didn't know who Miss so-and-so is. I said, 'No. Not that I know anything about.' He says, 'Well when I came in the lobby, she's sitting (at that time we had marble all around there you could sit on; there wasn't any switchboard or anything) there crying. She looked up and saw me and she said, 'Oh, Ed!" She was so glad to see him. She said she was just sitting there to get herself together because she was going around to—I believe it was the Lion's Club or something; anyway it was around Chapel Hill Street—to see her uncle, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, because she had been insulted in that building. So now Mr. Merritt, oh Lord! You talk about somebody who never would offend anybody in the world. He starts, 'Who in the world insulted you?' 'That girl up there in that front office!' And he said, 'You mean Miss Wade?' 'No! No, no! That other one over there.' He said, 'You can't mean Miss Viola, can you?' 'She's the one, she's the one, she's the one.' He said, 'Oh, no, not Miss Viola.' See, I had a reputation of being a real sweet thing. 'Oh no! I know Miss Viola hasn't done anything.' 'Yes she did, she laughed at me. I'm glad you came along, Ed, because now I won't do that, but that's exactly what I was going to do. I was just sitting here getting myself together, because I was going around to tell my uncle that I'd been insulted over here. And she was the one who did it!' So when Ed came up, he came to find out what on earth Miss Viola had done. I told him, well she was right, I sure had snickered at her. But I didn't think I had done enough to offend her. I had no idea she was down there crying or carrying on.

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WALTER WEARE:
In talking about the Klan, were you at the Mutual building in the twenties when the Klan got upset because white women were coming in to train black women, or black clerks, on a new kind of dictophone or something?
VIOLA TURNER:
It's possible, and yet I don't remember that incident. But, I'm wondering if it was the mail-o-meter. Because I remember a white woman who used to come up from Atlanta. I remember her because of her distinction she made between Eula and myself—not an unpleasant one, I mean. I don't know about that.
WALTER WEARE:
It might have been before you got here.
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, because, see, they were in the building from '23—somewhere like that.
WALTER WEARE:
'21, I think.
VIOLA TURNER:
Uh huh, and I didn't get there until '24. So that could have happened before.
But that brings to my mind the little lady from the mail-o-meter operation. Little lady, she came up here one year and walked in. Evidently she had been there before, but before Eula and I were in that area. She looked at Eula, and over there at me. She looked at Eula again. So she walked over there and she said, 'What are you doing here?' So she knew this was a black company, because they had sold us this mail-o-meter machine, which all your mail ran through. So Eula answered her, 'Working.' She said, 'You don't have any business here. You could walk right out of this office anywhere in Durham and make more money.' She was not partial to her working for a black firm. She was disturbed that she wasn't doing the best she could do for herself. She said, 'Oh, you could do so much better. You could get more money anywhere than you'll be able to get here. They just can't pay you as much as you could get. And I just don't know what you're doing here.' Well, Eula laughed and said, 'Well, I've been with them x number of years. I came up from Mississippi. I was working for them there.' So, now, I guess all the time she's talking to Eula, she's looking over there in the corner at me. And, at that

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time I was wearing my hair with the bangs, just like you have it here. She walked over there. She says, 'Hello.' I say, 'Hello.' She's looking at me. 'You know, you ought to go West.' I say, 'Go West?' 'Yes. You can't get the advances here which you deserve. Now, if you'd go out West, you'd be able to get better-paying jobs than you'll ever be able to get down here. It'll be rough on you here.' I looked at her and laughed and said, 'Well, m'am, I just left Oklahoma, and I wasn't doing no better out there, than I'm doing here.' [Laughter] . She couldn't do anything but laugh. But she told Eula to get another job in the white community, and she told me to go West, so that I could do better in the West. So the only thing I can figure with my nose and those bangs and everything, that she decided that I could be an Indian [Laughter] .
WALTER WEARE:
Eula could pass for white and you could pass for Indian?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, that's the only thing I could figure. But that's the way she left it. Eula should leave, not because of the company. It's a good company. But she could just do better. She'd never make any money with the company. And, of course, she didn't see no hope for me; she told me that I just should go West. I let her finish telling, then I told her that it hadn't been long since I had been West, and I hadn't found it too different from the East.
WALTER WEARE:
You mentioned Bryant, one of the old-time white leaders of Durham, getting religion. Was there a kind of consensus in the black community about those who did get religion and those who didn't—the friends of the race versus those who were irredeemable? Was there a kind of spectrum there of the old timers?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know, really how they felt.
WALTER WEARE:
How did you feel about it?
VIOLA TURNER:
I was about to say, I know how I felt.
WALTER WEARE:
[unknown] , how do you think the black community felt?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, in my group, and with Johns Front Hill—I might could do a little

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further back; I think I have had some expressions about how they felt about him. But I think the general feeling about Johns Front Hill was that he had absolutely nothing to do for blacks, except as servants, where they were serving him. I don't know how well he treated them. I wasn't duly impressed, because I did know one family that worked with his family, and he made living quarters available to them. And I knew them well enough to go out to their place on more than one occasion, because they had been neighbors down here. The man was the one who had worked in the family. And he was—well I don't imagine he was a full-blooded Indian—but he came from Indian stock, North Carolina Indian stock. And he had been with that family a good bit. I don't know whether always in Durham. But any rate, they moved when he married this girl and they had children. He made arrangements for them to live, and I went to where they lived. And frankly I wouldn't have given two straws for where he had made arrangements for somebody to live. If he thought anything of them and wanted them that close to him. And, as a matter of fact, I think [unknown] , who was the man, worked with them until he died. They lived down in a little shotgun house I wouldn't have lived in under any circumstance. So I had no respect for him. And I never read anything very kindly about old man Hill from the standpoint of the relation of blacks and whites.
WALTER WEARE:
If you took that family can you see kind of an evolution, because you've got three generations there?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's what I was trying my best to think of. If I can get them straight. I'm kind of like them like they are about me; they say we all look alike. Then if they don't all look alike to me, too, so we're even on that score [Laughter] . But I had personal contact and experience with—what are their names? They're not named Johns Front Hill. What are they? What are the next Hill's name? The younger generation.
WALTER WEARE:
Watts Hill.
VIOLA TURNER:
Watts Hill. And what's the other one? The youngest son.

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WALTER WEARE:
He's Watts Hill, Junior, isn't he?
VIOLA TURNER:
It is just [unknown] Watts Hill? I guess it is.
WALTER WEARE:
Or is there a George Watts Hill?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's what I'm trying to get straight. George Watts Hill. . . .
WALTER WEARE:
I don't know much about these white folks either.
VIOLA TURNER:
[Laughter] You can't tell them apart either? Well any rate—and I think I'm telling you the truth. Now wait a minute, let's see if I can pin it down a little bit more, so I'll know I'll telling you the truth. They are the ones connected with the Home Security, aren't they?
WALTER WEARE:
Uh huh.
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah, I got that. I'll tell you what was confusing me. You know, there's some Watts Carrs and some Watts Hills. I put it right. I know them. I know of them.
Now, the old man—not Johns Front, but Watts Hill—very interesting character, very smart man. Very clever, strictly white. And when I say strictly white and clever, I put it that way, because when he wants something, he'll work any side of the street to get it. And you got to be on your P's and Q's, when you figure out when he is really wanting something and working you for it. Before we moved into the new building, from scratch, was involved in almost everything we did about the new building. I was involved when they bought the property. I was involved when they got the architect. And when I say involved, I was on working committees. That's what I mean. So I have been on every step of the way on a working committee, until we are at the point of the building being completed. And now we are at the point of trying to get tenants for the building. Now, at that point, I am increasingly made aware that that's really sort of my baby, to get tenants there, to get rid of the building on Paris Street, and to get tenants into the other building. All because of my title. I am now the financial vice president, so that buck is supposed

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to stop here. So now, I get all trying to figure out what the heck you can do. I'm a great believer. I have great faith that it can be done. A number of the folks are starting to get skittish; they're getting cold feet about that much building and no tenants, and how little of it can house, or how much of it we need. None of that didn't make sense to me, because first thing I thought we could move to the building. Second thing, I thought we could work it out some way or another and get some tenants. Anyhow [unknown] was very helpful to me because had been in from the time of the architects. And when he was in a lot of trouble, he would come cry on my shoulder. And I was the person where he could cry on my shoulder, even when I couldn't do nothing but say, 'Oh for heavens sake, [unknown] forget it. Two weeks after this, they will have forgotten that.' Or 'Wait 'til the building's up. You're going to be wonderful. You're going to be S.O.B. until it gets up, so stop worrying about it. All of us are going to catch it. But as soon as there's a beautiful building standing up there, we're going all to be beautiful people, so forget it.' So that's how I would try to help [unknown] because he'd get so upset. And I could understand it, because he was doing a tremendous amount of work on the whole thing. So now, we're at this point, and Murray says—see, we're trying to figure out how we can get government [unknown] So I won't go into all that. Murray has probably told you much of that sort of thing. But anyhow, in the process now, I'm trying to figure out every source in Durham where you can get some help, and, whether they particularly want to help you or not, it's going to be of some advantage to them, too, to help you. So I call a realtor company, that is the Watts Hill company, Southland. I've forgotten the name of the man there. I tell him we just want to talk with you; we're going to have to get tenants for the building up there; we're going to be moving out of this building; we don't know exactly what we're going to do with some of it. Some of it we can sell, some of it may have to stay on the market a while. So, at least,

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I want you to be aware of the possibility, and if you're interested, or you think there's somewhere along the way you can be helpful, I just want you to know that I'm open to suggestions, and I'd like for us to talk about them. Oh, so it was all very lovely, yes, yes, yes. In the meantime, Watts Hill is very interested in the Research Triangle. He also has enough sense to see what I have seen a good while, and wondered about, and wondered why particularly no whites or Durham had ever seemed to wake up to the fact that Durham was the slowest-growing and the most non-progressive place in North Carolina. It didn't ever make sense to me why. From the time I'd been here, I'd seen Raleigh outstrip us, Greensboro outstrip us, Charlotte run circles around us. And it seemed to me there were enough things here to make Durham do something. But never. But now it seems at this point that Watts Hill gets that feeling. The Research Triangle has come here. He's very much involved in that. But every blooming time a building was put up out there and the people moved in, they went to Raleigh, to Cary, to Chapel Hill. We'd get one person, maybe two, maybe none. So that begins to worry him. Because that thing out there is his baby. So somewhere along the way there, Mr. Watts Hill [radio interference]
She really is the one that's working on that program. So he makes a contact. Just as lovely as he can be. Comes over to see me. We sit down and we talk. We talk about the possibilities of getting somebody here. I talk about, yes, I'm with him all the way, because we need tenants in our building. So, any rate, we work down to a point where we're talking about the rent costs per square foot. And I'm saying, well, we feel as though we've got to get so-and-so. Well, he considered that a reasonable rate. But then after a while he goes off and he comes back and talks to me again: is there any possibility we could lower it just a little? The reason being, of course, that we miss so much of the stuff that comes in. It goes to Raleigh, it goes to this place, it goes wherever—which I'm already agreeing with, and knowing. And that maybe if we could make a handsome building like you have, attractive, and at

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the same time a little less costly, maybe we can draw in some of these. Well, that's a case he's talking about right there of 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours', because I wanted tenants, too. So I said, if you think there's any way you can work something out, I know that we'd like to hear it; we'd like to talk about it. Because you know perfectly well that we are very much interested in not having a whole lot of vacant floors. And we figure, to go in, we don't need all of them at once. So we'd like to put someone in. In the meantime we're working like mad everywhere and we'd gotten some contacts which we are hopeful about. But we're not sure on anything. But the only thing that I really brought him into it is, during that period, more than once I'd pick up my telephone here after work hours in the afternoon, and this very pleasant and charming voice would be Mr. Watts Hill. Now, he didn't want one living thing out of me, but some advantage that would help get some of those people turned towards Durham. At that particular time, I had in my hand this building. Maybe if we would come off of five and go down to four, or to three-fifty, where it couldn't be met anywhere else, the people might say—despite their not preferring Durham, but with that sort of break—'we'll go to Durham.' So for a very short period of time, I was courted very diligently by this gentleman, and in a very smooth fashion.
WALTER WEARE:
Watts Hill Junior is somebody else altogether? Or are we talking about. . .?
VIOLA TURNER:
I'm talking about Watts Hill Junior's father, the smooth cookie. I didn't know how smooth the young one is, but I know how smooth the father is.
WALTER WEARE:
You had no dealings with Watts Hill Junior?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I've had only one thing said that he was supposed to have been guilty of, which made me feel that I didn't ever want to have any dealings with him. Although, I was not so indignant with what he said; I was more indignant with the person who permitted it to get said—who put himself in the position for it to be said. But it didn't give me any great admiration for him. No, it was the father. And, as

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I said, he was a very charming man, very pleasing personality, and very smooth. And only a suspicious person like me would have felt, from scratch, that I was just an opportunity for him, if he could work what he wanted. But, of course, he didn't get it worked. Also, Durham didn't get the people either. We lost out all the way on the whole durn thing. Just as John has continued to do. I've never understood that. I don't know why.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there anybody in the white power structure that the black community felt they genuinely could trust; somebody who was head and shoulders above everybody else?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't know. They probably did. I don't know of any. I know a few people that I liked in the community. They were not the top bananas, however. And I think those same people were reasonably well-liked. There were people in Home Security. I remember once there was a man there. He was an actuary. [unknown] Is that right? I've forgotten his name. Any rate, he was respected and admired. And then the old man, oh gosh, that died. Was he president? He was a darling. I think everybody liked him. He was on the board of trustees of [unknown] . I believe that's where he was. [unknown] He was greatly admired and respected, I think by most people who knew him.
WALTER WEARE:
What about newspaper people? Editors?
VIOLA TURNER:
There was one, Council? C.T. Council?
WALTER WEARE:
I think he was with the Herald. I'm trying to remember. But you're right. The name is right.
VIOLA TURNER:
I think he headed up the paper, I mean he was the top man. I think he was a man who got a little religion on us. I think at one time he didn't. And I'm getting this from comments I've heard from other people. People who really knew him. I only came to know him when he got to be one of

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Mr. Spaulding's invited guests to the dinners he had so frequently. He was very often invited. But, by that time, he had begun to get a little change in his opinion of us, generally. And I'd heard it said, and this is just hearsay, that that was a considerable change from the earlier. [radio interference] But he did come to change his opinion slightly. Maybe a little better than slightly. But I only knew him when I saw him. And that was primarily because he was in the building right often for these luncheons, that Esa got to where he was giving so frequently. Council was one who would be invited. I never knew too much about the white structure except heresay. Now, I did know Mr. Banes and I liked him. And he had a son. And I guess that's one of the reasons I knew him as well as I did. He had a son who went into investment, and I came to know him pretty well. And then, more or less, his father at that area. And then this young man committed suicide, which was very distressful for him, and for me, because I liked him very much. And I went out to see Mr. Banes at that time. And sort of, from time to time, you know, little contacts here or there. But I admired him. I did know that he was on the school board here. And I believe he was the chairman of the board at the time. And he was there at a time when the college was really going through a bad period of changing presidents and couldn't quite get somebody who was doing the job that Dr. Shepard had done. And he was really very effective then. I heard a great deal of what he was doing, and from people who were close enough to know what was going on.

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WALTER WEARE:
We were talking about white folks. Sometimes it gets a little ambiguous as to who's white and who's black. There's all this folklore, and I know it's more than folklore, about Julian Shakespeare Carr.
VIOLA TURNER:
When I read in your letter that that middle name was Shakespeare—I'd never known that before. Julian S. Carr. I never had even questioned it in my mind.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember him at all? Had he died?
VIOLA TURNER:
I believe he had died when I got here. I say it like that, because the estate was still intact, and stayed so a good long time, so that I knew all the things, almost, that he wrote about in his letters. What he was sending home and that sort of thing. But I believe he had died. I don't believe he was still living when I got here, in '24. But even the furnishings, and that sort of thing, was in their place. I've been other places and seen pieces of the furnishings that came out of that house.
WALTER WEARE:
So the story is that Julian Shakespeare Carr—what? His half-brother? You know the story.
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes. John O'Daniel. Oh! You want to hear that? You want me to tell it? Oh. Well, as I heard the story, and saw many things as evidence that it was true, and there was no pretense of denial. But, Julian Carr and John O'Daniel were half-brothers, And John O'Daniel worked for Julian Carr. And I knew the O'Daniel family. As a matter of fact, I went with the grandson of John O'Daniel. The story went—and I think that's one that could be documented—that the O'Daniel family and the Carr family had sons, or children, almost at the same period. Identically. There's be a John Carr, there'd be a John O'Daniel. Or a Willy Carr, there'd be a

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Willy O'Daniel. Those are actual names. John, Willy. And I knew some more. I hope I haven't forgotten them; but I guess I have. But any rate, there were several sons. And they seem to have been born very similarly—have very similar birth dates. And they were named with the same names. So there'd be one in each of these families. And of course the talk in the town—and I guess both in the white community and in the black community; I learned they both gossiped about the same—all agreed that they were the half brothers. These two men were half-brothers and these were their separate families.
WALTER WEARE:
John O'Daniel and Julian S. Carr shared the same father, is that right?
VIOLA TURNER:
I don't think anybody ever said in my presence. They simply said that they were half-brothers. I don't think anybody ever said who was their father, to me. Maybe it was the talk that these were so-and-so's sons, but I don't know that. But the talk when I came was that they were half-brothers. Now why I considered it so authentic was two things. First this number of family sons. I don't know if there were any daughters. The sons are the ones that I knew, because I knew most of the O'Daniel sons. And the Carr sons. And then, Mr. O'Daniel had died when I got here, and they were talking about the funeral. And at the funeral, the pall-bearers had been a Will O'Daniel and a Will Carr, a John O'Daniel and a John Carr, and a so-and-so O'Daniel and a so-and-so Carr. And the other names—I don't know why they're escaping me right this minute, because I knew three sons: Willy, John, and another one. No, that's a grandson named Thurman. But whoever Thurman's father was, was another son.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you know any of the sons on the white side?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. I didn't ever know them personally.

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WALTER WEARE:
Did you ever see them? In fact, did they look alike?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, I don't know about that. They could have.
WALTER WEARE:
Were the O'Daniel sons light-colored?
VIOLA TURNER:
[Laughter] I just got through telling you, mister, all whites look alike to me. And the O'Daniel sons were just as white as the Carr sons. So I imagine if you took a real good look at them, they did look alike. But I don't know. I never had seen that. What did I start to say about them? This was the conversation I heard when I got here—talking about the pall-bearers being O'Daniels and so-and-so's. But I had been in the O'Daniel home many times, which was right across the street from Mr. Sapulding, and where I lived. This great big, two-story house. And when you would go in there, like Southern homes everywhere, I guess, there's this wide hall. And after you got into the entrance, they had a parlor. Well, I guess you'd call it a living room on one side and a parlor on the other. But the two, like so many people have in these big houses, one was the living room and the other was the parlor, across. And then there was this wide staircase that you went up. And when you got upstairs that hall went all the way down. And, while I can't tell you in detail any more, because at that time I was not that interested. When I did become interested, it was too late. But down that hall, on either side, there were portraits of—what I believe I'm correct in saying—O'Daniels and Carrs. But there were portraits on both sides of that hall, going down, and big ones like that. So, that was enough to sort of authenticate what you heard. But, then, in later years, the grandson, who I used to go with, came over to where Betty and I were living right across the street, one evening. And brought several letters—three or four or five letters. And they were letters that Carr had written to John O'Daniel. When his wife died, he took a trip around the

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world. From the various countries he visited, and different places where he stopped, he wrote to John O'Daniel, these beautifully written letters. Old-fashioned, [unknown] , flowery, flowing letters. The writing. And then the wording was beautiful, too. Old-fashioned, you know, very flowery. If he was going to say 'sunset', he'd have to say something about the golden sunset against the heavenly blue—all that sort of thing. But it was perfectly beautiful. He would write to John. 'Dear John', then he would go on to long, two or three pages of the beauty where he was and what he was seeing. And also would be in there how this or that particular thing brought back the memories of his beloved wife. And he would go into a great deal of description on that. And then he would go to the shrubbery or the flowers or the trees of the section of the world, or the country, or wherever he was, and what he was going to purchase and send home. And from all around the world, he sent shrubbery and trees, things of that kind, and then he would tell John how to handle them, what to do with them. And always the letters were with deep affection: 'Dear John' this and 'Dear John' that. 'My dear John, be careful. Don't overtax yourself. Let. . . [Laughter] Let the poor niggers do that.' Oh yes. He's worried about it. He'd tell John not to do anything to overtax himself. Then he'd go: 'And now, dear John, my mind turns to Durham. And it should be the beginning of the winter season. And I'm thinking of the poor niggers and how they will suffer from the cold. I want you to go out to [unknown] Farm, and bring in—' I hope I'm getting this straight now; the only thing I can remember, and I think that's right: —the last corn meal, flour, and meat. See that they get that and see that they get coal and wood so they will not be suffering from the cold.' Now after he's taken care of the poor niggers, then he turns: 'And now I'm thinking about my good friends Shepard, C.C. Spaulding,

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and Charlie Amey, and Dr. Moore.' And he might have some particular comment, tell them this, or tell them I'm thinking about that. Or he might make some specific comment on one of them. Now that's an entirely different person, you know. In another different classification, in his own mind, and everything. He refers to them as good friends and 'you tell them what I'm doing', or 'you tell them I said this', or so-and-so and so-and-so. Then he goes back to 'Dear John', and all of that part again is solicitous. Solicitous that he take care of himself, that he gets these things done that he wants done, but have it done. You're not to do any heavy work on it, but oversee it. Then he'd close that, and the next letter would be just about. . .that was the pattern of them. And I had those blooming things in my hand and could've kept them. But I don't think John Allen had any particular value attached to them—certainly I didn't. All I did: they just tickled me to death. I fell out and laughed over them you know, or maybe I'd see something I didn't like, or anything. But any rate, more or less I was just entertained with them. I guess, really, when I began to realize, oh that was a mistake, that family began to. . .well, disintegrate isn't the word. Disappear, I guess, is the word I mean. You know how you think something's going to be there forever.
And I guess that's the way I thought of it. But after a while the old lady, Mrs. O'Daniel, died. And then, really much to my surprise, John Allen, the man that I was interested in at the time—his mother died rather early. No. His aunt. An aunt died rather early, earlier than you would have anticipated. And then he died. And there was nobody left but the mother. It looks like it wasn't any length of time. But any rate, they began to go, one behind the other, like that. And not until they were almost all wiped out that it suddenly dawned on me: oh, I wonder where those letters are. Because I knew they were right up there in the attic somewhere. Because that's where John Allen had found

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them, you know. Up there among other things, when he was up there. And when he saw them and started to read them, he brought them across the street for me to read. But, even then, all I thought about was: I wonder where those letters are. And then by the time they had all gone and everything is scattering every which way—there were still nephews around; and two uncles lasted for a good while: John and Willy. Willy was an alcoholic and had been as long as I had known him. But because he was who he was, the only that happened, they'd pick him up and call out to the house for somebody to come and get him. But he lasted longer than any of their family.
WALTER WEARE:
Was he a son or a grandson?
VIOLA TURNER:
He was one of the sons. Willy and John. They were the two that I knew here. Then there's a son, and that's the one that worries me because I can't remember his name. But the grandchildren were in Greensboro. One of the sons, which was a grandson, was named Thurman. And he had so much, so many mannerisms, even in appearance, except he was a little lighter in color, of Wally Hastie. There was so much about this young man that made me think, the minute I met him and saw him, that he was so much like Hastie.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think that first the sons and then the grandsons of the black side of the family and the white side of the family, do you think that they knew that they were related?
VIOLA TURNER:
I doubt it. I doubt it very much. Because all of the grandsons, none of them were ever here, except the one that I knew, which was the daughter's son: John Allen Foushee. John did not stay here long. He had a beautiful voice, and he went to Chicago before I knew him. When I knew him, he had been to Chicago and came back to Durham, I'm sure at his mother's insistence. Because there he had gotten into show business.

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He had a marvelous voice. And he came back here and went to work for North Carolina Mutual for a while, and that's when I really met him. And we went around together for a while. And then the bug caught him, and he was gone again to Chicago.
WALTER WEARE:
But he never mentioned any of this, about his ancestors?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh no. Nothing but bringing me those letters. He was the one who brought me those letters from old man Carr. I'm sure he brought them to me for that reason. Probably figured that I knew like everybody else. Maybe we talked about it. I don't know. He may have said something. I'm sure he knew that I had heard like everyone else, that they were related. Otherwise there would have been no reason why he would've brought the letters across the street for me to see. But no more than that. But he was the only grandson that's ever been here and lived. I'm sure of that. And yet, there are grandchildren from at least two sons. I think that may have been John, and that was his family in Greensboro. Willy didn't ever have a family. He lived with a lady. And I don't think—according to John, because I think he lived with her off and on for years—they ever married. I don't know that. He may have. But he was the last one of them here. And I had one of the strangest experiences, that I don't even know if I can tell it accurately. But many years after all the rest of the family had died, and I had been married to Pops for years, my phone rang one evening. I got a long-distance call. I don't think the call was meant for me at all. It was not a call to a Mrs. Turner. But the call came in here, and the person trying to tell the operator who they wanted was describing Willy O'Daniel. And from what they said and what they were trying to say, they didn't know exactly where he lived, but it was down Fayetteville—that time it was called Fayetteville Road. We were this far down. Now you have

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to go further down to call it Fayetteville Road. But, that he lived on Fayetteville Road. And they were not sure, but they thought that the phone might be in the name of Turner, or something like that. But any rate, they were talking to the operator, and some way or other I'd picked up and I'm listening. And as that person talked, I knew that person was an O'Daniel grandchild trying to find Willy.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there any other families in Durham that were reputed to be mixed in this same way?
VIOLA TURNER:
Not that I ever heard of, no. All the other gossip I ever heard was about where somebody was talking about in their own way say, 'See that girl over there? She's supposed to be so-and-so's'. And I don't know if there's any truth to it or not.
WALTER WEARE:
You mentioned throughout the South, that this was not uncommon, in these earlier days?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no. Nothing uncommon about it. One thing about it, what you have to remember here. Durham was a very small place where I came in the twenties. There wasn't very much of Durham. Anything that was way out, I guess what was way out then, was probably just considered, you know, out in the country. The little town of Durham was quite small. And there weren't too many people then. I'm sure there may have been some interesting stories to be told, but none quite as good as the O'Daniel and the Carr.
WALTER WEARE:
And everybody knew that? That was open?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, because I haven't the slightest idea where I picked up the first time I ever heard any of it. And then, of course, you see, the Spauldings and the Moores and Mr. McDougle and his family—all of them came from down Columbus town. They came in here. And they were all related. But their history and their story is down there for the most part. Anything you hear up here, some of the little peccadilloes that the rascals came up in later years [Laughter] . But any rate, Durham itself, and the people that

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were here, was a small community. So probably that was about the only thing of real interest that got a chance to take place. Because the Carr's—they were the outstanding folks and then came the other people. I believe old man Carr were ahead of the [unknown] Hills and the Dukes that came; didn't they follow?
WALTER WEARE:
I think so. [unknown] had been active in the Bull Durham Company before he got into
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah, and right down there—you know where you were going down to the old theaters you were talking about; the Wonderland was right on the corner where this block here. Where all these white businesses were, including my husband's. And then the Carolina Times. All of that whole thing was a factory which was a hosiery mill. That was one of his projects that had gone out of business when I got here.
WALTER WEARE:
That hosiery mill that employed blacks?
VIOLA TURNER:
I think so, but I don't know the history of it. But the empty building was still there, the hosiery mill.
WALTER WEARE:
Yeah, I think he had one mill for whites, and one for blacks. Hosiery Mill #2, he called it.
VIOLA TURNER:
That I didn't even know. Oh, you see, you told me history. Of course that was the pattern. We didn't do any mixing. And that's what always made it so funny to me. That they were so hell bent on that there would be no mixing, and then how did they explain me, and people like me? Somebody had mixed somewhere. I think one of the funniest things. . . you do not have this on now, do you?
WALTER WEARE:
It's still on now.
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, what I have to say now doesn't have any part in that.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, it might be interesting.

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VIOLA TURNER:
No, not really. Not for that. I was about to make a comment on the Joan Little Case, that was over in Raleigh, you know. Not a thing about the case, but a comment that a woman made about it. But that doesn't have any part in that.
WALTER WEARE:
Joan Little is a great historical event in the. . .
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, the very fact that she was freed was historical, that's true. Well, if you want to put it on your tape, it's all right with me, because it's the first and only time I ever felt almost that I just had to get up and make a telephone call. You know how you make these calls for these shows where you call in and express yourself, or you ask questions. That's the only time in my life I wanted to. And it was all I could do not to do it. This was right after the Joan Little Case and she had been freed. And Raleigh has a talk show that people call in every night, and they have view on virtually everything. The only thing you're not supposed to discuss is religion. Anything else, you can bring up any topic you like, for discussion. So, I'm lying in bed. Usually when I get in bed, I turn the radio on. This lady from somewhere, and I definitely put her down in the eastern part of the state, because that's usually where that type exists in abundance. She calls in about this Joan Little Case, 'Now what do you think of that? Don't you know perfectly well, there ain't been no justice. She's bound to have been lying about that sheriff. Now what white man would want any. . . ' the man cut it right off right there. He didn't let the rest of it get on the air. But you knew what she was going to say. I wanted so bad to call in. If I could've just picked up the phone and dialed and knew I'd get him right away. I didn't want but one thing. I just wanted to say, 'Would you please call your lady back and ask her to tell you where did all of us light browns, dark browns, yellows, and whites come from? Please, if you'll just ask her that for me.' I had nothing more to say. But she was really going to blast it right out,

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'Who in the world ever believed that white man wanted any. . .' like that. But he's good at that. He seldom lets anything get all the way through, where somebody's really going to break their necks, or the station's neck.
[interruption]
Family were Virginians. It just happened that his family was living in New York when he was born. That's what I tell him. Don't say you're a New Yorker. You just accidentally got born up there. But any rate, on one of those trips coming from Florida on up, one of his friends was courting over at the college. He decided to break his trip and stop here to see [unknown] . And then when he got here—well, not a school mate; but everybody who ever went to West Virginia considered everybody else a school mate if he went to West Virginia. So the couple over here, who was George's sister and her husband, they had gone to West Virginia. So he knew [unknown] , the man, and his family in West Virginia. So he stopped there to see them, and met me. Because he was over there. And that's how we met. And then he left, and I had paid him absolutely no attention. He went on back to New York. And then went back down the next winter. And this time when he came back, he came back on the invitation of [unknown] , the coach over there. And Dr. Shepard liked him, and got him to stay and work over there that year.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Coaching?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah, coaching football and baseball. [unknown] left and he was coaching. I started to say he helped [unknown] when he came up the year before. But this year, [unknown] was gone, and he coached the football and, when the season came, baseball. So in that period we got to know each other. And, in the meantime, while he's over there coaching, Mr. Cox is trying like the devil to make an insurance agent out of him. And [unknown] sold

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him a bill of goods and got him to agree to come with the company. And then when he came, he sent him to Norfolk, Virginia. [Laughter] . That's right. Well, it probably was the best thing that happened, because if Pops had stayed here, I probably would have really considered him seriously. I mean real serious. Because I was very much interested in somebody else. And if he had been right here, I might have had to make up my mind, my choice, easily and quickly. And I probably would've made the wrong choice. Because I knew the other fellow longer, and I liked him very much. And I was just beginning to know Pops and like him, think he was OK. But I didn't think I was going to spend the next twenty-seven years with him. [Laughter] . But any rate, maybe accidents does something. Because then we started sort of writing.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
In the meantime you continued to date the other fellow?
VIOLA TURNER:
Well, yes. But, see, he was away from here. He was up in New York. So it was one of those things. And by degrees I began to slack up in writing to the other fellow, and give more time and attention to Pops. Then finally when we really did begin to get serious, Mr. Cox. . .
[END OF TAPE 6, SIDE A]

[TAPE 6, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 6, SIDE B]
VIOLA TURNER:
Couldn't boss him around. So, if you didn't handle him as a man, with a certain amount of respect for him, then he wasn't going to be there long. So, I said, now the best thing to do, if he wants to go in business, encourage him, and any way you can, help him. So that's what he did. He started off with two fellows—two brothers and himself—and after a while one of them wanted to pull out, and the other felt if he pulled out, well, he didn't want to go along with just the two of them. And because I felt the reason the man wanted to pull out, the one of them's wife, I knew

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his wife pretty well. I kind of figured that she had pressured him you know? I told Pops to let them go, let both of them go, and go on your own. And that's what he did.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
What was the [unknown] of the business?
VIOLA TURNER:
Beauty and barber supplies. Yes, uh huh. And he did a pretty good business. He did very well. As a matter of fact, he had built up a business where he just about covered the State of North Carolina. Uh huh. Of course it meant a lot of travel, but he was the type that needed it. He couldn't have stayed put to sae his life, I don't think. He had travelled off and on all of his life. See, he played professional ball when he was young. So I think he just had something that kept him kind of moving.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Did he continue to umpire in local leagues or anything?
VIOLA TURNER:
No. You see when you're trying to build a business on a shoestring, you don't have time to do nothing but keep working at that. But he always had a lot of contact with young people. He was just good at that. So there were always, for a long time, some young kids following him around—coming down here or going to the shop, that sort of thing. But, no, he gave it up. He was a strange kind of person, in a way. He could make up his mind of something, and if he did, it was it. If he decided, 'Oh, I'll give this up', you never saw any evidence of regret or remorse, or anything. It was just a final chapter. And I used to think that, as I became living with him and knowing him more and more, and I found out through other sources, other people talking about Pops, how right I was. They said he had been one of the best football players at West Virginia, and his specialty was kicking. That he could take off his shoe—his football shoe—and kick that ball like you wouldn't believe. And that he handled the ball well. Well, I could believe that because he had absolutely the largest hands I ever saw. Great big hands. Long fingers. Well shaped, well cared for. He'd

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wash all the dishes for me if I had Ivory soap; if I didn't have Ivory soap he wouldn't touch them. [Laughter] Isn't that something? I'm going around using detergents all the time. But any rate, to give you just one quick example of how queer he could be like that. They say that he walked off of the football [unknown] one day. And as he walked off he said, 'I won't be back.' And he never went back again. One of his team mates told me that years after we had been married. Ran into him and got to talking. And he said, 'Pops ever tell you about football at West Virginia?' I said, 'Pops never told me anything. Everything I've learned, I've picked up somewhere.' He said, 'Well, let me tell you another one.' And then he told me that. I said, 'I don't believe you.' He said, 'It's a fact. Coaches, students, nobody ever got him to say why or ever got him to come back. When he walked off he said, 'I won't be back.' And that was it.' End of that career. I could believe it. I was shocked but I could believe it. He was that kind of funny kind of person about doing things. When you said about Puerto Rico in there, if I hadn't happened to know that particular thing exactly when I knew it, I never would have known he went to Puerto Rico. Or that he'd ever umpired a game. But it happened that all of his umpire equipment was right here in our house, all this thing here, this mess. I gave it to Boys' Clubs since his death. But he never talked about anything he had done. And everything he ever accomplished to amount to anything came to me some other way.
The first time we went to New York together, we're walking down Seventh Avenue. I hear somebody say—oh, gosh, I'm not going to be able to tell you what is that—'Harness'? No that wasn't the name. But it was a name like that. 'Harness so-and-so!' And run over and catch him and grab his hand and start shaking and shaking. And he turned around and says,

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'This is my wife.' 'How do you do?' We go a little bit further and somebody'd come out from this way, and the first thing you'd hear, this name. 'Where have you been? Man!' Just walking down— Wagner! Maybe you know? Wagner.
WALTER WEARE:
A baseball player?
VIOLA TURNER:
Second base, third base?
WALTER WEARE:
Honest Wagner?
VIOLA TURNER:
That's right. Now I have never heard the name, so I don't know what in the heck they're calling him. That's right. That's the name. So I said, 'Why, in the name of common sense, are they calling you Wagner?' He said, 'That's all they know.' I said, 'What do you mean, that's all they know?' " 'That's all they know.' So finally I ran into Ted Thompson who is a tennis player. And I knew him real well. Used to play tennis down here in Harlem. In New York, we're there, and he sees us, and he comes over and he makes a big to-do over Pops. He had known me before I married him. 'So this is who you married, blah, blah, blah, blah. Has he ever told you about so-and-so?' 'No.' 'Well, let me tell you.' 'Well then, you tell me. I'll tell you what you can tell me. Tell me why everybody down Seventh Avenue that spoke to him and said they hadn't seen him in a long time, called him Wagner?' 'Heck!' I said, 'He said that's the only thing they know.' He said, 'I expect so. I don't expect they know any other name. They called him that because he played the same position as [unknown] . I bet you Turners never told them anything else. I bet you he's never told them his name. When he told you that's all they know, he told you right.' Who ever heard of a person going around like that? And they would be delighted to see him. 'Tell us this.' 'What have you been doing?' And all that kind. He was very affable in his own way. But no explanation.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
So humble about it, not to brag about it.

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VIOLA TURNER:
I don't think there was nothing humble about him. Just curious. Peculiar.
WALTER WEARE:
Had he played after college now?
VIOLA TURNER:
He was in professional ball before he even went to college.
WALTER WEARE:
In the all-Negro league?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah. One that I know in particular that he knew real well, and he knew all of them to some extent, but I've heard him talk about how well—from what he would say you knew the association was one. . . was Roy Campenelli. That was one he knew very well. Because he would talk about his playing style and the person.. And there were one or two other people back in that group that he knew. As a matter of fact, the newspaper, the Herald came here one night—to show you the kind of husband I had. After we finished with dinner and I was upstairs doing whatever one does, or I had dashed out into the yard or something, because I'm always out there trying to do some work. He said, 'You going to be doing anything in the basement?' I said, 'No. Nothing that I know of.' 'A guy's going to be coming out here after a while.' I said, 'O.K. I'll run downstairs and see how it looks.' He said, 'That's O.K.' So I went on about my business, and sure enough, not too long after that the door bell rang and I started to the front, and he got there ahead of me. So I turned around and went back. I went on doing whatever I was doing. Then when I did see him again, the man was gone. I'm sure I didn't even ask him who he was. Well, I don't have too much curiosity, and then when you live with a man as long as I had lived with him, unless you have some real reason for asking, you're curious or something, you may not even think about it. But any rate, when I knew who the man was, was when I saw his picture in the paper and a long story on old baseball people and personages in the baseball world, you know.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember who it was?

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VIOLA TURNER:
What?
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember the man's name? The man who was here?
VIOLA TURNER:
He was one of the folks up at the Herald Sun. I don't remember which one it was.
WALTER WEARE:
The baseball player who was visiting?
VIOLA TURNER:
No, it wasn't the baseball. . .it was the newspaper man!
WALTER WEARE:
Oh, I see.
VIOLA TURNER:
Who had come in, had the interview, gone home, and Pops never opened his mouth about any of it. And I knew it when I open up the paper and there he is, sitting up in the paper with a story.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember what team he played for?
VIOLA TURNER:
I'd remember if somebody else could name it. I used to know the man who managed them.
WALTER WEARE:
The team was in West Virginia?
VIOLA TURNER:
Oh, no, no, no. That was in New York. He really was a Brooklynite. He was born in Brooklyn. Oh gosh, the man lived. . .I say lived; he might still be alive; I don't think so. I used to know the name, and if I remember correctly—and I could be wrong on this—but I believe the man who managed the Globe Trotters in later years, managed these ball players back in the years when he was playing. It seemed to me that name was the same. But I've forgotten it. I don't remember. But any rate, he started playing baseball—and I guess most of those fellows did—very, very young. And travelled with the team all around. And they motored. I've heard him get with a bunch that knew something about baseball and they would talk. And they would talk about [unknown] and how these pitchers who pitch today and don't pitch tomorrow because they've got to save their arm. And how these fellows would laugh, and they would laugh about being so shocked

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about [unknown] . He says, 'Heck! That's what he grew up on. You pitch today, and you pitch tomorrow, and you pitch every other day.' Unless you had a relief pitcher, were lucky enough to get one. But that's the way you worked. He knew all of those old-timers. And yet, I think he was probably among the youngest of them, because Pops has been dead since '70—February of '70. And not only that, if he was living today he would be—what is this April? He would have been seventy-eight last September. The reason I counted like that, he was gray-haired. His hair started turning gray very early, so he was even getting gray, mixed, salt and pepper, when we married. And very dark. Very dark brown, is what I describe it. He looked, according to children—you know how children gauge age. And there used to be young children over here. One of the first questions they ask, 'How old are you, Pops?' Pops, regardless of what age he was, said, 'Forty years old.' '(Whistle) Gee Whiz!' So the next time they saw me, they are going to know, 'How old are you?' I said, 'How old do you think I am?' 'You're thirty years old.' They always made me very much younger than Pops. I say, 'That's right.' So then I came in and say, 'You ought to be ashamed of yourself, robbing the cradle. Every child that comes here and lives over there recognize it immediately that here I am married to an old man. She just got through telling me that I'm thirty years old.' And he'd fall out. Because in the space between February and September, I'm that much older than he is. And of course he always got that I was the chippie and he was the old man. And I got quite a kick out of that, you know. He was a nice man. I finally hit the jackpot. I really did. He was just right for my temperament. He paid me no attention whatever. I was up and jumping and fussing and he was just calm and placid and just looking at me.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
He was a calming influence.
WALTER WEARE:
He must have been proud, too.

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VIOLA TURNER:
Yes, he was. And I think that's what was one of the nicest things that happened to me. Pops was proud of me. But he didn't have that much jealousy of me. And there's a difference. Most men do not like a woman earning more money, or having more recognition in any area. It didn't phase Pops at all. The only reference he ever made to me and work was if he thought somebody was not treating me right. Boy! He was the first one to the defense. And I really think, in his own way, he was quite proud of me. I'm proud of myself in one sense. I think I have finally learned enough sense to know there are some things you never did. And I never discussed money with him. I never ran out and did a whole lot of things without consultation. I waited for him to tell me, 'Go ahead and do whatever you want to do.' I knew if I started early enough, and was patient enough, and mentioned it frequently enough, if it was logical—and I always hoped I was logical. And I'd say, 'Don't you think we should do this? Don't you think we should do that?' And he'd say, 'Here you come with another project. Well, I just think we ought to be thinking about this before we reach retirement age. Want to spent some more money, don't you?' About the third time I would say it, and I would lay out all the reasons why—for instance, central heat. Who wants to be in trouble after you're not working and have no income? So about the third time, he'd say, 'Go ahead and do whatever you want to do.' That's all I needed; I was gone. But I never rushed out and did anything and made it no surprise, you know. Because that to me, felt like you were saying I couldn't do as I pleased. And I didn't want it like that, and I'd never had it like that. So, consequently, I had a very happy life, because, where I got my joy was. . .Now when the furnace was in and all set up and the house was cozy and nice—he was a great bridge player and he and his buddies played down here all the time—he was the first one to show off

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anything like that. 'What do you think about this? Well, we decided that maybe this was the time.' I'm just standing up there grinning, because I can hear, you know. [unknown] laugh and laugh, bless his heart. I don't care how I get it [unknown] . And he was marvelous to me. Breakfast every day of my life. Any old time I could come home, either he had fixed dinner—and he was an excellent cook—or I'd come out of the building and he'd be sitting out there in the car and says, 'Come on.' And he'd take me out where he had made reservations for dinner. He never went out of town he didn't bring me something. So how are you going to ask for anything more? No. That's me. I hit the jackpot on the last go-round. [Laughter]
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Third time's the best.
VIOLA TURNER:
For me it was. And I was unmarried for a long time, because I'd sworn, 'never again!' I just thought, well, I'm just not cut out for it. I can't make it. Because there were certain things I never got to the place where I could take. I didn't like living in misery. And I didn't like making anybody miserable. And I said, well, I can't take that.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Third time's a charm, isn't it?
VIOLA TURNER:
Yeah, with me it was.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
He must have been so secure not to boast about his accomplishments, and to take pride in what you're doing.
VIOLA TURNER:
That's right. And I had to find out everything about him. I really did.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
[unknown]
VIOLA TURNER:
No, None whatever. And that made life very easy for me. As a matter of fact, I said it many places and any time that I felt like saying it: I don't believe I could have possibly made my five last years, if I had not had him. I don't think I could've made it. Because every year the work got harder, the responsibilities were heavier. And I wasn't getting any

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younger. It was really rough going. And if I hadn't had it easy here. . . Because I felt very strongly—always did, from the beginning—my responsibilies for a home and a husband, and a job, all three. Well, that's not an easy thing to do. And if you don't have help with it, you're going to make a mess of one of them. Maybe two. Maybe that was part of the problem in the beginning, huh? But any rate, Pops was great for it. And then the work he was doing was the kind where he could, if he wanted, come home. Of course if he felt like working late at night he could. And he was out of town a good bit of his time. So, it worked out beautifully.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
You had four years of retirement together?
VIOLA TURNER:
[dog barking] He always wanted me to travel more than I wanted. I didn't have any great enthusiasm. I've done what most folks around here have done—every time you turn around—and seen all the shows and movies and things. I have no urge at all to go to Europe, for instance. If you were offering them out here today, I would not be out there to get one of the first offers. I just don't want to go. If I went anywhere, I'd want to go somewhere else, maybe Hawaii. And even now I'm not very enthusiastic about that because I think the tourists have messed it up. But he wanted me to go all the time. And he particularly wanted me to go to their Islands. So first time I went I just went to Nassau. Because some group was going and some of my friends were there. And he insisted, so I finally went on that little trip to Nassau. It was OK. I wouldn't have thought about going back again. But just before this time for me to come out, he began to talk about a cruise. So, we were fortunate enough to take a cruise in '68 and a cruise in '69 together. So I had that joy. And he was just as busy as a bee planning for the one for '70, and he didn't make it. So I had that with him, and he enjoyed that, and I enjoyed it with him.

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Because, you see, he was familiar. He knew the boats; he knew what to look for, and what to enjoy about them. Then, when we got to many of the islands—for instance when we got to Puerto Rico—we went out to see a man that he had worked with when he'd go to Puerto Rico. He evidently was in the sports area. He was Puerto Rican. I've forgotten his name. I've got a picture of him up there somewhere. He hadn't kept in touch with him. And he had become rather high up in the politics of Puerto Rico, when he found him. They spent one half-day together, and had pictures taken together. When we got back home, the man sent the pictures. So that was something he enjoyed. We went from the different islands and had a very good trip. The last one we took, we took about twenty-one days. The first one I didn't know. The second one, I figured that one out. He chose the first one so my birthday would fall on the ship, you know. So that was a pleasant surprise with all the commotion they make about a birthday and dinner. And of course he was looking forward to the next year. So we did have nice times.
END OF INTERVIEW