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Oral History Interview with Herman Newton Truitt, December 5, 1978. Interview H-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Herman Newton Truitt ran a grocery store in Burlington, North Carolina, in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s (exact dates are difficult to find). In this interview, he recalls his rural childhood and store ownership in a mill town. This interview is an excellent source of information on southern food traditions: Truitt details what mill workers ate when they broke for lunch at his store, when they gathered on his father's porch to swap stories on Saturdays, or when they celebrated Christmas. The food traditions of the impoverished South were well-established by the 1930s: mill workers ate beans and fatback, canned meats, pigs' feet, sweet potatoes, and cornbread. In addition to describing his customers' shopping habits, Truitt briefly reflects on changes in the grocery industry and the mill business at mid-century, and the economic status of mill workers. Truitt recalls mill workers in Burlington in relative financial comfort, a recollection that may complicate contemporary views on the health of mill towns. The interviewer spends much of the interview looking at photographs and a store ledger with Truitt, which may be of interest to researchers.
    Excerpts
  • Saturday nights relaxing at a grocery store near Burlington, North Carolina
  • Truitt describes the barter system
  • Making sandwiches for mill workers
  • Black workers, poorer than their white counterparts, buy the cheapest cuts of meat
  • The mill worker's diet
  • Improved compensation for mill workers
  • White mill workers earn enough to hire black help
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Grocers--North Carolina
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.