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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mildred Price Coy, April 26, 1976. Interview G-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Coy's family and their relationship with their impoverished neighbors

Throughout Coy's childhood, her father moved the family between nearby towns and the family farm. Though the Coys owned almost as little as their tenants, Mildred remembers feeling superior to the children whose parents worked her father's land.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mildred Price Coy, April 26, 1976. Interview G-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

So he came home, and then he bought the farm from his sister and his brother on mortgage. And the farm wasn't any good; the land was worn out. MARY FREDERICKSON By the time he started farming.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. And he farmed, but he wasn't interested in farming. When he went to Wentworth and he got the job as County Cleark or something, he didn't want to go back to the farm. But when he lost his job there, my mother begged him to be a lawyer, to study law, and he wouldn't do it. But he could have, because he did read some pretty good things. MARY FREDERICKSON Why do you think he didn't study law or . . .
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know. My father was quixotic. He never talked to us about his problems or to my mother. At least I'm. . . . He just kept everything to himself. So he wanted to go back to the farm, a very dull life. MARY FREDERICKSON Who helped him work the farm?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Four of the older five were boys, and they helped him on the farm some. Then he had tenants. He had a thousand acres, and he had tenants work the farm. MARY FREDERICKSON Do you remember being in contact with the tenant families?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, I knew all of them, some black and some white. MARY FREDERICKSON About how many were there?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I imagine there were about eight or ten. MARY FREDERICKSON Families.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes. One of the tenants was our washerwoman. She had a little cabin. MARY FREDERICKSON Were you aware of how your father interacted with his tenants? Was he a kind person to work for or a good person to work for?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He had so little money himself. We felt superior. We never were friendly in a warm way. They were beneath us. We thought that we were above all these people. MARY FREDERICKSON Do you remember being aware of other families in the area who were having the same sorts of problems, either worn-out soil or difficulty making a living, difficulty getting cash?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, everybody was poor, terribly poor. MARY FREDERICKSON Did your father, do you think, talk to those people or talk to the other men in the community who were facing the same sorts of things that he was?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know whether he ever got down to earth, but he talked to them all the time. He didn't know really much about farming. He took some farm magazines, but he wasn't really interested in farming. It was dull for him. He had to do it. But he wasn't really a farmer. Every Sunday afternoon he'd like to sit out. We had a big lawn and big trees. He used to say, "This is the prettiest place in Rockingham County." Well, as a matter of fact, it wasn't kept up. It was just some big trees and grass. The sheep ran over the grass, and they kept the grass nice. But his friends would come out from Madison, and they'd sit out on the lawn and talk. He read World's Work and the Literary Digest. So they'd sit out there and talk. But my mother never went out to talk with them. Just the men sitting out there, talking. MARY FREDERICKSON What were they talking about, politics?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
About politics, I guess. They were all Democrats.