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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kathryn Killian and Blanche Bolick, December 12, 1979. Interview H-0131. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A modest upbringing rich in kinship

Killian recalls a plain home and a modest upbringing, but one filled with the joy of close kinship and friendship. In doing so she offers a glimpse of rural life, including parlor courtships, music and dancing, and kids determined to make their own fun.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kathryn Killian and Blanche Bolick, December 12, 1979. Interview H-0131. 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

KATHRYN KILLIAN:
After his mother and daddy passed away, why he bought the old home place. Oh, no, it was nothing fine. We 've never been used to anything expensive or fine. Just regular, we 've never been hungry. Never in our life were we ever hungry. We always had plenty, but we never had money in excess or anything like that. But that's not what it takes to make happiness. I don't think so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh huh. [laughter].
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
We had a very, very plain house. Cooked with a wood stove. Mama did all of her life, cooked with a wood stove. And they heated the room they stayed in, and the kitchen, that was the only two rooms they heated. Now they had a stove in the upstairs, I mean a heater, that they could heat that room, and they had a heater in what we called the parlor. They could heat that. And when we were courting, we heated the parlor, and we courted in the parlor. [laughter] I think we had much better times then they do now. Because we made our own entertainment and now they've got to go to the bowling alley, they've got to go here, they've got to go there. "What can we do?" Well, we never asked that. We never asked our parents, "What can we do?" You know, we weren't bored because we were busy.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you do for fun?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Got together! Our parents were just wonderful. They encouraged us to bring our friends home, and they let us just have a wonderful time in the house. There was somebody there over the weekends, all the time. It was nothing for on Sunday afternoon to have the yard full of people. Saturday nights the parlor would be full. We had fun times.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And what would all these kids do when they would gather together?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Well, in our crowd, we had a boy that played the guitar, one fellow that would come, and his brother was a good singer and different ones would join in and we'd sing. We had a self-playing piano! And that's what we entertained so much with. Everybody loved to get around that self-playing piano. One night, it rained so hard when the thrashers—you don't know nothing about the thrashers, either, do you? [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Just consider me here to be educating. [laughter]
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Well, years ago, when we grew up, the grain fields… you had to go in with a combine…
BLANCHE BOLICK:
No, no, no.
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
First a cradle, a wheat cradle, and cut the wheat, you know and lay it in sheaves, and have somebody'd tie it. And then you had to have thrashers, and somebody who had a thrashing machine, to come in and thrash that wheat out for you. Well, all their workers—it took a lot of them, maybe a dozen or more men, to run that thrashing machine —and they would go with the thrashing machine in the summer and they didn't go home at night. They stayed at the house wherever they happened to be working. And you had to give them supper, and if you had a big crop, you'd give them supper, maybe breakfast or dinner, maybe two or three meals.
BLANCHE BOLICK:
They slept in the barn.
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Yes, they slept in the barn. Now this one night it rained so hard—it was right after supper, and they were going to sleep in our barn—and instead of sleeping in the barn because of the storm, daddy invited them into the house and we got in around the self-playing piano and boy we had a time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh huh. Do you remember any of the songs you sang?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
"Missouri Waltz"…?
BLANCHE BOLICK:
[laughter]
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
I just don't remember. We finally had to take the self-playing part out of it because we couldn't keep it in tune. Some of the girls, some of the sisters, took music lessons and we had it taken out. One of our nieces has that old piano in her house. It's beautiful today.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about dancing or games?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Well, one New Year's night—now you wouldn't believe this, but they was willing for us to have a good time. But they had rules. We had to be in. We couldn't be out sitting in a car with a boyfriend after midnight. We had to be in the house. And one night, New Year's night, we took the rug out and put it on the front porch and had a tear down in the house. We had music and dancing. We had a time. Shooting firecrackers. We did that several years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of dancing?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Square-dancing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Square-dancing? Uh huh. Did you have somebody that called?
KATHRYN KILLIAN:
Oh yes. Let me see, his name was Kermit? Kermit Hedrick [laughter] . Haven't seenhim in years. That's why I say we had more wonderful times than the youngsters do these days because they've got to go play ball. My goodness, my children, how they have to run, run, run. Our parents didn't do that for us. We made our own entertainment. We got out and walked. 'Course I can understand why they can't now, with the traffic on the roads.