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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Durr's relationship with her father

Throughout the interview, Durr reflects on her relationship with her father. Here, she addresses the disappointment he had when she was born a girl rather than a boy. She also describes his favorite type of medicine: castor oil and Pluto Water.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I can remember that mother said when I was born, I was redfaced and hungry all the time. She was nursing me for months and months and she said that if she was fifteen minutes late, I'd scream and the whole neighborhood would be upset because I screamed so loud. I always wanted what I wanted and I always wanted something to eat. Evidently, I was a very lusty, redfaced, loudmouthed child. But I was a terrible disappointment because I wasn't a son. You see, they had picked out a name. They had named my brother for Daddy's father, Sterling Johnson Foster and they were going to name another boy for her father, Josiah Patterson Foster. So, I came along you see, and I was a disappointment because I was a girl. So, I used to spend hours trying to kiss my elbow because they told me that if I kissed my elbow, I'd turn into a boy. And I suppose that I spent hours of my life trying to kiss my elbow, which of course, you can't do. Did you ever try it? You never heard that, that if you kissed your elbow, you would turn into a boy? Well, they told me and I believed most anything that I heard. (laughter) Daddy used to say that if I broke my arm, I could kiss my elbow and I never was able to do it. (laughter) But I was brought up with this feeling that I had disappointed my father by not being a boy. But my mother championed me, so my mother was my champion in the family and my father was the one that I always felt hadn't been so delighted when I came along. And my sister was his great favorite anyway. I was more like him. He talked a lot and I talked a lot and he had a lot of curiousity and I had a lot of curiousity and he lost his temper, I lost my temper. And I defied him, you know. And then, I was scared of him in a way, because he would spank us with folded newspapers, which didn't hurt a bit,but it frightened us because it was so noisy and he was so noisy. He had a very powerful personality. Then, he used to give us "Pluto Water." He had a feeling that he could cure anything with "Pluto Water" and castor oil. Have you ever tasted "Pluto Water?"
No, I don't even know what it is.
Well, you know what castor oil is, well, "Pluto Water" came from some springs (French Lick Springs) up in Indiana and it had a red devil on the outside of the bottle, so when we got sick, whatever we had, he would put us in the tub and give us orange juice laced with castor oil, the most horrible combination I could think of. Then, to get rid of the castor oil, we would have to drink a big glass of "Pluto Water." Well, we would usually throw it up, that's why he did it in the tub, you see. But he would keep on doing it until we finally got it down. Of course, the next day we were purged of everything in us. Well, maybe it did cure us, anyway, we were all fairly healthy. But it was a drastic means, I must say.