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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 >>

Learning gender roles

When one of Durr's cousins abandons his wife and child, Durr's father told her that it was because the wife had failed to bake him enough bread because she was a Yankee. Durr also reflects on how her father used the Yankees to explain gender roles.

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

Well, I had a cousin, that was one of the Weakley's too, I forget which, but he married a lady from Minnesota, a Yankee lady. They had a little daughter about my age and she had a birthday party and I remember going to it and we played drop the handkercheif and had ice cream and cake and she was sort of a pale, blue-eyed child and the wife was a kind of a pale, blue-eyed woman. And the cousin, one day he just disappeared. Nobody ever knew what happened to him and nobody to this day I think,knows what happened to him. He just disappeared. At that time, that happened rather often, you know, husbands just disappeared rather than get a divorce or kill their wives or whatever, they just disappeared. (laughter) One of them here in our County stayed away for thirty years and then he came back. He went to the depot in a hack and then he wasn't in it when it got there and nobody heard of him for thirty years until he finally came back. And his wife took him back after thirty years. (laughter) Well, anyway, my cousin disappeared, this Mr. Weakley, whichever he was, there were so many Weakleys that I never could keep them straight. I was very much puzzled by this, because he had been at the birthday party, you know. There was lots of talk about it and where he was and how they couldn't find him. So, I said to my father, "Why in the world did he leave?" And Daddy said in a patronizing way, "Well darling, that Yankee wife of his never fed him anything but cold store-bought light bread and that was enough to make a man leave a woman, to feed him cold, store-bought light bread." I just took it for the truth. (laughter) Well, on the plantation, I used to ask my father why the black people were such different colors, almost white and cream and tan and brown and black. It puzzled me, because they were all supposed to be black, but they weren't black. And I used to just ask Daddy, I was always a curious child. And Daddy got tired of listening to me or hearing me, I guess and so finally one day he said to me, "Dear, that was all due to the Union Army." (laughter) Well, I just accepted it, I didn't know what it meant, but I just took it for granted that the Union Army caused them to be different colors. There was always an answer to everything, they didn't always make any sense, but there . . . .
And you always made homemade bread for Cliff?
Oh yes, not always, but a great deal of the time. (laughter) Commercial bread, you have to admit, is pretty bad. I can't always make biscuits and cornbread at every meal, so I started making bread so that I don't have to make biscuits and cornbread. But he never had a slice of store-bought bread at his house in his entire life, I mean, when he lived with his mother. And with me, he would sometimes eat Pepperidge Farm bread, but if I ever served him a commercial loaf of bread, you know, that sort of really . . . well, he just refused to eat it, absolutely refused. Said that it was just made out of blotting paper.