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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Help with childcare and household chores

Nannie Pharis describes how she continued to work at the mill after her children were born with the help of an African American nursemaid and cook. Pharis explains what kinds of duties "Aunt Mary" had and briefly addresses her family's relationship with Aunt Mary and her husband, "Uncle Jim." According to Pharis, it was common for people in the working community to have the help of African Americans as paid servants in the home.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
When you had your first child, you stayed out of work for a while. Did you have somebody come look after your child or cook for you after you went back to work?
NANNIE PHARIS:
We'd hire someone. A colored women. We'd hire her by the week. She'd stay the week and go home on Saturday afternoon, on the weekend and then come back on Monday.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What kind of jobs would she do?
NANNIE PHARIS:
She's do everything, cook and scrub and clean and laundry. At first I did 't have to pay but three dollars a week, but then it got up to five dollars a week.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would she cook some of the meals?
NANNIE PHARIS:
She'd cook good meals. Good cooks.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Which meals would she cook?
NANNIE PHARIS:
She cooked everything but breakfast. Dinner and lunch, she did that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you leave that up to her, what to cook?
NANNIE PHARIS:
She knew how to cook. I'd lay it out for her, what she was to cook during the day.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did she cook anything for you all that you wouldn't have cooked for yourself?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Sometimes she'd surprise us with a pie, custard, or something like that?
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did she have any unusual dishes?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Not that I know of. Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim, he was a slave. Him and us slept in the kitchen every night.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And he worked for you, too?
NANNIE PHARIS:
No, he just stayed there for her to look after him. She couldn't leave him alone. He's a good old colored man. He was religious. You could hear him singing those old time religious songs.
ALLEN TULLOS:
He was kin to her?
NANNIE PHARIS:
He was her husband.
ALLEN TULLOS:
He stayed there?
NANNIE PHARIS:
He stayed there. And then him and her would spend Saturday night and Sunday with her son. You don't find them good old colored people any more. Uncle Jim, he had been a slave down in Georgia.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you learn how to cook anything from her?
NANNIE PHARIS:
No, I learned her. I began to cook long before I left home, married. I studied special dishes I'd fix to surprise my mother. That's the way I learned to cook. No recipes. Wasn't thought of.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Was it unusual for someone who worked to have someone come in and cook for them?
NANNIE PHARIS:
That was a pretty common thing.