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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 father fails to relate well to his children

Coy remembers that her father was a very lonely man who failed to connect to his tenants, his peers, or his children.

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.

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MARY FREDERICKSON Was he interested in politics?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Yes, he was terribly interested in politics. MARY FREDERICKSON Did he ever run for office?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He did in Wentworth. He ran for that County Cleark, but I believe that's the only thing. Oh, he was Superintendent of Roads for a while there in our section of Rockingham County. And he had good roads there; he was a hound for good roads. And it's a good thing he was; they were the worst roads you've ever seen. And so he got everybody out to work for nothing for one day on the roads. MARY FREDERICKSON Do you think he wanted to make a career of politics?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I don't know. I don't think my father thought very deeply. He probably did, but he didn't talk to his children or his wife very much. Maybe he talked to her and we didn't know about it, but he was a cold man. I was telling Harold, he never wrote me a letter. I stayed four years in Miami. I came home twice, I think. But he never wrote to me. And the first year after I was down in Miami, they came to Madison to meet me—I came back on the train—in the wagon. Something had happened to the surrey or the buggy. Anyway, they came in the wagon. We didn't ride in wagons, you see; we thought we were better, too good to ride in wagons. And so we were riding on home, and he turned around and said, "Why, Mil, you're talking like a Yankee." [Laughter] That's the only thing I ever remember his saying to me. MARY FREDERICKSON [Laughter] Why do you think this happened to him? Why do you think that he had so much trouble supporting his family and finding something for himself to do? Do you think it was things that were inherent in him, or do you think it was the situation after the War that he faced?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
It was the situation. He wasn't an outgoing man. MARY FREDERICKSON Was he sad? Was he bitter?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
No, he wasn't sad or bitter, but he never said very. . . . You know, in that section a long time ago, they used to have a lot of quail. And hunters would come down from the North, and they'd stay at our house. And I was in the room one day with the hunters and my father. No other children were in there. I don't know how I happened to be. And my father said, "My greatest mistake in life," he told the hunters, because he knew he'd never see them again, "I haven't taught my children to love me." We just adored my mother, but the less we saw of him the better. And we had a long table in the dining room. My mother would be at one end, my father at the other. And he would serve the plates. And we had plenty to eat, but it wasn't any variety. He'd ask each one of us, "What do you want?" Well, we could only have ham and gravy. That's all we had. MARY FREDERICKSON [Laughter]
MILDRED PRICE COY:
"Mil, what do you want?" "Ham and gravy." And [laughter] then he'd serve himself. He served my mother last, and then he took something. But he would eat very fast, and I think that's what finally killed him. He had pernicious anemia. Because he'd just gobble his food as hard as he could and get up and leave the table. Well, the very minute he walked out, we'd start in, because we'd just laugh and tell jokes and everything the very minute he left. We didn't do anything while he was there. But he'd walk out, and then we'd just start out and have a wonderful time. [Laughter] MARY FREDERICKSON Do you think that the four older sons were closer to him than you were?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
I wouldn't say that. Maybe my oldest brother Tom, because he was so proud of Tom. MARY FREDERICKSON Also, when Tom had been growing up, hadn't there been more money in the family? Hadn't things been a little bit more comfortable?
MILDRED PRICE COY:
He sent them to a private school, Oak Ridge Institute. But the next one, named after him, we called him Jimmy (James Valentine was my father's name), and he was very smart. He got awfully good grades everywhere, both in the school in Oak Ridge and in Chapel Hill. And one time he didn't get a good grade on something, and when he got home my father said to him, "Valentine, what was the cause of your downfall?" [Laughter] MARY FREDERICKSON So he set high standards for his sons.
MILDRED PRICE COY:
Oh, yes.