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Title: Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Strickland, Ralph Waldo, interviewee
Interview conducted by Jones, Lu Ann
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 192 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-05-15, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0180)
Author: Lu Ann Jones
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0180)
Author: Ralph Waldo Strickland
Description: 261 Mb
Description: 52 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 18, 1980, by Lu Ann Jones; recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Sharon King.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980.
Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Strickland, Ralph Waldo, interviewee


Interview Participants

    RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND, interviewee
    LU ANN JONES, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
LU ANN JONES:
When did you say you came to Charlotte?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I came to Charlotte March 1, 1927.
LU ANN JONES:
Where did you come from?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I came from Warm Springs, Georgia.
LU ANN JONES:
Is that where you were born?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I spent my boyhood days over in Alabama, Chambers County, but I moved to Warm Springs in 1921.
LU ANN JONES:
You say you were born in Alabama?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, I was born August 21, 1903, Chambers County, Alabama.
LU ANN JONES:
Where was that?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Just across the state line, a little place called LaGrange, Georgia. It's sixteen miles west of LaGrange, Georgia in Chambers County on the Alabama side. We moved to Warm Springs—I was seventeen years old—we moved to Warm Springs 1921.
LU ANN JONES:
What did your family do in Alabama?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
My father run a gin. He fooled with machinery. Run a sawmill, and run a gin.
LU ANN JONES:
Cotton gin?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Cotton gin, right. He run a cotton gin for forty-five years. He used to gin three and four thousand bales of cotton every year for a forty-five year period. He also owned a farm over there in Alabama. He never did work on the farm much, he run his gin and sawmill, and grist mill and stuff like that. He fooled with machinery. Us boys worked on it. I plowed a mule till I was seventeen-year-old boy.
LU ANN JONES:
So you worked on the farm.
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, till I was seventeen years old. I plowed a mule, done regular farm work over there.
LU ANN JONES:
What kinds of things did you grow on that farm?

Page 2
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Just the regular. We row cropped back in those days. There wasn't no tractors much. We row cropped. We plowed the mules, we raised usually cotton. King Cotton was the main, our money crop. We raised other, corn, and cotton, and sugar cane, peanuts, sweet potatoes, all the stuff like that.
LU ANN JONES:
How many acres did you have?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
My father, he owned one hundred sixty acres of land over there. He fell heir to it through his mother, my Grandma Strickland's estate. He fell heir to that.
My Grandmother Strickland, some of that land was given through a land grant before the Civil War. It was given her through a land grant. Some of the land, she bought for twenty-five cents a acre, and some of it she give fifty cents a acre. That was before the Civil War. My Grandmother Strickland was born 1830. She was an old Civil War woman. I used to hear her relate, when she was a young girl, there were still Indians lived all around through that country over there. All up and down those streams, there'd be little Indian huts when she was a real young girl. She used to talk about it. I believe I was seven years old when my Grandmother Strickland died. She was eighty-eight years old when she died.
LU ANN JONES:
What other kinds of stories did she tell you? Did she tell you about the Civil War?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
She sure did. Absolutely. I was going to tell you a real good story about on my mother's side. On my mother's side, my Grandfather Dickerson, Captain William E. Dickerson, he was a captain in the Confederate Army. He was on General Lee's staff. My Aunt Lula Maxwell in Augusta, Georgia, she's got a autobiography framed in gold of my grandfather, her father, my mother's father. My grandfather, William Dickerson, she's got a autobiography of his tenure of service. Every battle he participated in and everything. He was on General Lee's staff, he was a captain, a staff

Page 3
officer for General Robert E. Lee. All that Antietam, Gettysburg, and Harper's Ferry, when Lee surrendered to General Grant at Gettysburg—what courthouse was that?
LU ANN JONES:
Appomattox?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Appomattox Court House, General Grant granted General Lee's officers to keep their mounts and their swords, their side arms and small arms—pistols and swords—my Aunt Lula Maxwell has got my Grandfather Dickerson's, all of that down at Augusta, Georgia. She's got his Whenever General Lee surrendered to General Grant there at Gettysburg, he allowed them to keep his side arms and his pistol and his mount. Well, my Grandfather Dickerson rode a horse. He lived down here in Troupe County, Georgia, was his home place. He rode a horse. But when he come through down here, he stopped down here in Sumter, South Carolina, and he met Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. The Southern Confederacy had a bunch of gold, and Aaron Maxwell, my first cousin down in Augusta, he this, and this is authentic stuff I'm telling you, every bit of it. The officers met Jefferson Davis down here in Sumpter, South Carolina. They divided. He gave my Grandfather Dickerson a great big hat full of gold. It was coin gold. The British furnished the southern Confederacy that money to fight that war. They were on our side.
He went on back down to Troupe County, my Grandfather Dickerson did. Jefferson Davis—the Union army was in pursuit, trying to capture him—he run off down here in Cuba. The Union army, that's where they captured him. Captured him down here in Cuba. They brought him back here, and he stayed in the Federal penitentiary for two years. After two years, they gave him a pardon. He went out in Nebraska on a ranch and lived twenty years after the Civil War. That's Jefferson Davis.
LU ANN JONES:
Did your grandmother who also lived through the Civil War, did

Page 4
she tell you stories?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's right. My grandmother Dickerson, she was a doctor. She was, we are English. I'm a direct descendant of William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia, on my mother's side. They came from Harlem. My grandmother Dickerson was a great, tall woman, and she relayed it all.
Sherman, he's the man that burned Atlanta, he camped at my grandfather Dickerson's estate a week, a part of his army down in Troupe County, Georgia. I'm talking about my grandfather Dickerson on my mother's side. Sherman camped at grandma Dickerson's place for a week, his army did. Old General Sherman, he's the one that invented this "scorch the earth" policy. Whatever his army couldn't eat and couldn't use and that they took with them, they burned the rest of it. Whenever he left Grandpa Dickerson's estate there, there just wasn't a thing in the world. They burned. There wasn't a livestock or nothing. The first two or three years after the surrender there in '65, they like to starve to death. They had a real hard time. I heard my Grandma Dickerson say she gave seventy-five dollars for a box of matches, and there wasn't but about four, five, or six matches in that box. That was Confederate money that was absolutely no good.
LU ANN JONES:
How did she manage without her husband there?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
When Grandpa Dickerson left Jefferson Davis down here in South, he rode that horse on back to his homestead.
LU ANN JONES:
What did she do during the war?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
She was a widow woman. She had some children. My two aunts, my Aunt Lula and my Aunt Emma, and my Aunt Corrie was born just before Grandpa went off to the Civil War. When he come back, then my mother was born, and then she had Uncle Ed and my Uncle William. My Grandma Dickerson had two sons, then she had one more girl, Myrtle Maxwell. Myrtle Maxwell is the mother of Bertram Maxwell and all these furniture

Page 5
companies all around. They've got fifty eight furniture stores. They're worth forty-three million dollars, Dunn and Bradstreet. That's been twenty five years ago, Dunn and Bradstreet. That was on my mother's side. That was her sister, her brothers and sisters.
LU ANN JONES:
Was it on the other side of the family that your grandmother was born in 1830.
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, that's right. My Grandma Strickland, she was born in 1830.
LU ANN JONES:
What kinds of stories did she tell you about growing up? Do you remember?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
She said, when she was a young girl, she used to talk about the Indians lived all through that Chambers County in Alabama. All through the country there would be Indians. She grew up, and she was a Hudson before she got married to Grandpa Strickland, that's on my Grandfather Strickland's side. Old fashioned woman, she'd sit out there on the porch. She had two mill rocks—I used to go up there when I was just a little boy. She died when I was seven years old.—She had two big mill rocks on the front door, we'd go up there and Grandma Strickland would be sitting up there in the rocking chair. She had a clay pipe and a great big old long cane to the stem. She'd sit up there and smoke her pipe, puff her clay pipe. That was fashionable back them days. She raised her own tobacco. Back then, the people in the country, they didn't have much money, and they raised their own tobacco.
LU ANN JONES:
Did she ever tell you any stories about the Civil War?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Not a great deal. Not too much. She had a brother, my Uncle Tom Hudson, he was in the Civil War. He wasn't an officer, he was some kind of enlisted man. But Uncle Tom Hudson, he had his musket rifle, he had his bullet mould, he had a powder horn, and he had his uniform—a

Page 6
Confederate uniform that he saved and kept. I remember when I was just a little bit of boy going to his house and seeing all that. That old musket rifle, and that old bullet mould, powder horn, and a few other things that he had back them days.
LU ANN JONES:
Your wife says for me to ask you about the cow your grandmother had?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, my Grandmother Dickerson. When Sherman's army camped at my Grandmother Dickerson's estate, when he left there, he didn't leave nothing, but they had a slave girl. They heard that his army was coming, and this slave girl stole this cow and took it off down there on that Chatahoochie River, and hid out. Kept that car hid out until Sherman's army left there, and then whenever they left, she brought that cow, and that's the only livestock that they had on the whole plantation—that milk cow—they plowed that milk cow with some kind of old wooden plow. They cultivated some corn and stuff. He took all the meat and everything. My Grandma Dickerson they'd take the salt out of the smoke house and kept the meat in the smoke house. They'd run water through that salt in order to drip some of the salt. That's how they'd get some salt try to help season up stuff. They'd like to starve to death, the first four or five years. Those were carpetbagger days, right after the Civil War.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you say the slave girl took the cow, or did your grandmother tell her to take it?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's right, she did. Grandma Dickerson tole her to do it. That was done purposely. No, she didn't steal it. Just to to speak, she stole it. She just slipped that cow off down on that Chatahoochie River and kept the hid out. They hid that cow out until Sherman's army left Grandma Dickerson's estate.
LU ANN JONES:
That was about a week, right?

Page 7
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's right. A whole week. They brought that cow back, and that's what they used. They milked her, and plowed her too in a plow. They like to starved to death. They sure really did have a hard time. The first four or five years after the Civil War.
LU ANN JONES:
How many slaves did they have?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Grandpa Strickland had twenty or twenty five slaves he owned. He owned Uncle Joe Post, was one of them. After the Civil War, some of those slaves took my Grandpa Dickerson—I'll tell you something else. They talking about going to church, my Grandfather Dickerson used to dress his slaves up and take them to church with him every Sunday. They had a great big place built up in the back of the church, and that's where those slaves would sit back up there in the back of the church. He'd take them to church with them.
He borned the children. My Grandma Dickerson was a doctor. She had a big old—it come from England—had a big old doctor's book, and it was that thick. She got all her information and her guidance. Anything she run across she didn't know about it, she got this doctor's book. She borned the children for them.
LU ANN JONES:
Had she had any medical training, or did she just learn it herself from the book?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
She didn't go to medical school, she just learned it through practical experience. She could midwife, deliver children, and stuff like that. They borned their children.
LU ANN JONES:
Was it putting out fire and bees?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Oh yes. My Grandma Strickland was the one that could do that. Those Indians, she'd go around. There was an Indian man. A man had to tell a woman, a woman couldn't tell a man. I don't what the witch-craft about it, but it was true. Grandma Strickland could talk out fire,

Page 8
she could stop you from bleeding, and cure the rash—when babies had rash in the mouth—she could do all that. She could take warts off your hands. I know when I had a handful of warts when I was a little boy, and Grandma Strickland took me out to the cotton patch. She picked up a rock out of the cotton row and looked at it a little bit, and rubbed that little old round rock on my hand and put it right back down where it come out of the mold. She says, "All right, go on, Ralph." I went on. The next two or three weeks, I forgot about my warts. Mama looked at my hands one time says, "Ralph, what. All them warts is gone off your hands." Sure enough there was. Because I know she could take off warts and stuff like that. Papa had a mule that got hung in a barb wire fence and was bleeding pretty bad. Grandma went up there and stopped him from bleeding.
LU ANN JONES:
How did she do that?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I don't know. She learned that from this Indian man. There was a Indian man. She learned that stuff from him. I really don't know. I tell you about them warts. What else could she do? She could tell fortunes.
LU ANN JONES:
What about the bees?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
We were sitting on Grandma Strickland's front porch one time. My daddy was up there and there was a whole crowd of us up there. It was one summer day in the warm weather. Grandma raised up. She begin to look all about, look all about, and all of a sudden, she run out there in that front yard and grabbed up a plow! What they called a "scotter" plow. She grabbed a hammer, and she run out across the field. Bang, bang, bang, bang, beating that plow! Making a hollering and hooping banging on that plow. We thought she'd lost her mind or something. After a while, she come on back. She had seventy-five beehives out there in the front yard—had a long wooden grove—she had these seventy-five hives of bees. What she did, She had beaten that plow gear [unclear] , that plow

Page 9
"scotter." That ring in the bell, the sound of that, they couldn't hear themselves fly, so they just settle and come to the ground. They settled out there on the terrace in the cotton patch. It was a big terrace, around a little old root of a sassafrass tree. There was a great wad of bees there about as big as your head. What she did, when she come back—we followed her that time—she come back there and got one of her beehives. She slipped off some leaves off of a peach tree, and rubbed those peach leaves on her hands real good. She took that beehive, went out there, and set it down right beside where the bees—great big wad of bees big as your head—she just reached down with her hand, picked them up, put them in the hive, put the lid back on, just walking on back to the house. Put it on a stand out there in the front yard. They didn't sting her. Those peach leaves killed the scent of her. They couldn't smell nothing but the peach leaves. She just reached down and got that whole wad of bees, just picked them up and put them down in the beehive, come walking on back there. She learned that all back there, those old people that lived in the country back in those days. They knew. They were quite smart. They knew a whole lot of stuff. Sure did.
LU ANN JONES:
When were your mother and father born?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
My mother was born in Troupe County, Georgia.
LU ANN JONES:
Where was that?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's down out from LaGrange, Georgia, near that Chatahoochie River.
LU ANN JONES:
When was she born?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
My father was born in 1870, and my mother was born in 1873. My father was three years older than my mother, and they got married—Papa was born in 1870—Mama and Papa got married in 1891. My oldest brother was born in 1893, and my next brother was born in '95.

Page 10
Mama had had two boys, two girls, and I was her fifth child. Then she had two other girls after me.
LU ANN JONES:
How did your parents meet?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I really don't know. I never did hear them say.
I know Papa, he lived on the Alabama side. Mama lived over here on, it was just about eight miles from Abbots Ford, Georgia, a little bitty crossroads though it was. It was eight miles across the Georgia line over into Alabama. Horse and buggy days, before they had … I can remember when I was a little boy, the first automobile that ever come to my part of the country. It was a 2-cylinder Brush. A fellow, Elmer Heinz, he was wealthy, had a lot of land and stuff. He was rich, considered rich by everybody. He went over to Atlanta and bough that thing. It didn't have no steering wheel in it. It was a lever. He come driving up. It was just like an old-fashioned rubber tire buggy with a lever, you guide it with a lever. Two cylinder brake, it come up down the road, chug, chug, chug, just a coming down with his lever and everything, just like a buggy. Had on leather gloves and goggles on his eyes, all that kind of stuff. That was 1909, 1910. I was born in 1903. I was quite small, but I can remember. I can remember the things that happened all along since I was four and five years old.
LU ANN JONES:
Did all of you children work on the farm? Did your sisters work on the farm as well as you and your brothers?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's right. When we were young coming along, we all worked on the farm. My oldest brother went over to Augusta to the Academy of Richmond County. My Aunt Lula Maxwell—she was a wealthy woman, and all that lived in Augusta—when Lee was sixteen years old, he went over there and went to school with Allen Maxwell, my first cousin, Aunt Lula's son, at the Academy of Richmond County. He finished that, and he went to Southern Shorthand Business College in Atlanta, and finished there. My

Page 11
brother Lee, the oldest one, he's about the only one that's got a college education. I got a grade school education. I finished in eighth grade is all I finished when I was seventeen years old. I quit the farm, quit the school and started doing something else. I went off and joined the Navy to begin with. I put four years in the Navy. After that, I come here, and got a job.
LU ANN JONES:
Why did you decide to join the Navy?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I didn't have anything to do, and I didn't want to farm. That farm was pretty hard, tough work back them days. I got tired of the country, and tired of the farm. I wanted to go out and see the world, so I joined the Navy. Took my training up here in Norfolk, Virginia.
LU ANN JONES:
That's pretty near where
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Hampton Roads, that's where I joined the Navy in 1923 and was paid off December 26, 1926. I put four years in the Navy. I took my boot training in Hampton Roads. I went to that burning school in Philadelphia Navy Yard. I was on a brick-testing outfit for about eighteen months testing fire brick for the Bureau of Navigation. When I was transferred from that testing plant there in Philadelphia, I was put aboard that U.S.S. Cincinnati. That was a scout cruiser, that was between a destroyer and a battleship.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you like the Navy?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Oh yeah, I sure did. I joined the Navy as a third class fireman. When I was paid off, I was paid off as second class petty officer, second class ward attendant. Done right well. I had a good time, never was on report, never was up to the mast a single time, made a good mark and a good record. I got a honorable discharge setting in yonder now to show for every bit of it.
LU ANN JONES:
What were some of the places you were stationed, or where did you

Page 12
go?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
When we went on board that Cincinnati, we went on a shake down cruise, first trip I ever made at sea. We went from New York to New Orleans to that Mardi Gras. They had a Mardi Gras down in New Orleans. U.S.S. Cincinnati and her sister ship, U.S.S. Concord, two American cruisers, and two British cruisers was down there for that Mardi Gras in 1924 was when that was. Visit that Mardi Gras and all that. After that, we went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We called that the southern drill ground. We took all of that rifle target practice, torpedo practice and all that stuff. After that, we made a cruise the first of 1925. We went through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean. They had that mimic warfare. The year 1925, we stayed out around those Hawaiian Islands all that year in a mimic, both fleets. That was way before Pearl Harbor, and they had all those old battleships was in commission. We had an Admiral, Admiral McCain was aboard that Cincinnati. We had Admiral Porter. All those old battleships passed—he was Admiral of the fleet—they passed in review. The Arkansas, and all those, Texas, and the Oklahoma, and the California, the S.S. Washington, all those old battleships, they were in commission and on that maneuver. There was the Atlantic and the Pacific fleet; it was a combined maneuver in that mimic warfare. All of them maneuvering all around those Hawaiian Islands. We'd go out for a week on maneuvers and have practice and all that. Course, there's a whole lot of that. It's the high admirals, those observers. I was ward attendant, and I'd stand my steaming ward and going top side. I didn't know what was going on a whole lot of the time, but that higher up, that Admiral, they knew what was going on.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you get to visit the islands?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, we gave liberty on five of the islands. Let's see if I can remember it. Oahua. That's the city of Honolulu is on it. It's

Page 13
ninety miles around that island. Then we gave Oahu and [unknown] and I can't remember the other two. The Leopard Islands, There's another one. It escapes me. I can't recall it.
LU ANN JONES:
I think it's amazing that you remember.
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Sometimes I have a slight mental lapse. I'm seventy-seven years old now. There's five of those islands we gave liberty on.
LU ANN JONES:
What did you think of those?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Oh fine, fine. We just gave liberty there in Hilo, Hilo. That's the one the volcano's on. The volcano's on Hilo. Us sailors, we charted one of these little old mini-buses. They tour the islands. We went all through them mountains. That's high country in there. All those old volcano craters, they've got craters all through around in that country there where they had an eruption in past years. We went, took all that in. There's a beautiful, what they call Rainbow Falls; that's the prettiest water falls I ever saw. Now on Honolulu, what they call the on Diamond Head. That's another high range of mountains up there from the city of Honolulu. Going down and look into that ocean, us sailors would stand up there on the side of that mountains and that high cliff, and we'd throw our white hats, throw them off…
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
We left the [unknown] and went on. There's a Mormon Temple on around there. It was ninety miles around that island. We made a tour, just circling. That Pacific Ocean is the prettiest beaches you ever saw. They got a big Mormon Temple. We walked all around there. I had a camera too. I took pictures of all that stuff. We'd ride through those valleys, look up through those valleys. Nothing but pineapples, just as far as you can see, there'd be them pineapples. They's huge fields of pineapples and then sugar cane too. That's that chief crop down there is pineapples and

Page 14
sugar cane. They got those sugar mills. We went through one of those sugar mills too. That sugar cane grew wild, and those Polynesians, those natives down there, they set that stuff burning, the foliage, the braids off the sugar cane. They took a big cleaver knife, and they chopped that up. They had them little old dinky railroads. They'd put that sugar cane on those dinkies and they'd take it to the sugar mills, drying the juice and cook it, and made sugar.
LU ANN JONES:
What did your family think of your going away? Were they sad to see you go?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No, they thought it was a grand experience for me. I wouldn't take nothing for my Navy experience I got in the Navy. If it hadn't been for that, I might of still been down there on the farm plowing the mule. But I did get some real good experience in the Navy. I tested bricks for the Bureau of Navigation for eighteen months, sure did. That's very important. At the time I went in the Navy, they was converting all those old battleships. They were coal burners. They was converting those battleships into oil burners. All those man-'o-war's, they was converting them from coal burners to oil burners. That's the point that they sent a bunch of us boys to that oil burning school. They were having to relign those boilers with those firebrick. They got to withstand a lot of … Commander Norton was in charge of that oil burning school. He put me on a brick testing outfit there. I'd take an oil atomizer and shoot 48,000 btu right against those bricks, that tremendous amount of heat. I had an optical perometer and I'd take readings every thirty minutes, go around and take readings. I'd record—I had a log—I'd record all that tremendous amount of heat and find out at that fusing point where the bricks would begin to melt and give way and melt down. A yard photographer used to come up there and take pictures of the walls after I tried to burn them and melt them

Page 15
down. They'd come up there and take pictures. They sent all that stuff to the Bureau of Navigation in Washington.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you say one of your brothers went to college? Which one was he?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
My oldest brother Lee. He went to the Academy of Richmond County. He finished that, and then he went to the Southern Shorthand Business College in Atlanta and finished that.
LU ANN JONES:
Then what did he do?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
He come back home. That was right before World War I when all that was going on.
My brother Paul and brother Lee both, my brother Lee, he joined the Navy. He put four years in the Navy, and brother Paul, he joined the army. That was before World War I. He was on the Mexican border right before World War I. They was having trouble on that Mexican … old Pancho Villa and that crowd. Mexico was having trouble, and the United States maintained an army on the Mexican border. Well, Paul was down there for a while. Then after that, they went overseas. My brother Lee, he stayed overseas twenty-two months, and brother Paul, he stayed over there eighteen months. They were older than me. My brother Lee was ten years older than me and Paul was eight years older than me.
LU ANN JONES:
Did they tell you about what they saw?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Oh yeah, they told me all about Argonne Forest. Brother Paul, he was a quarter master sargeant. He rode a motorcyle. He was carrying messages and stuff from back of the line back to the headquarters to and from. He rode a motorcycle.
LU ANN JONES:
Did they write you letters? Did you hear from them a lot while they…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
They wrote my father and mother. I was a good big boy. I was twelve, or thirteen, or fourteen years old when World War I come on.

Page 16
Woodrow Wilson was President. I didn't tell you a whole lot about Franklin Roosevelt. I was a country boy down in Warm Springs. We went down there in 1921.
LU ANN JONES:
Why did you decide to go to Warm Springs?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Papa had an interest there at Warm Springs. He had a ginnery outfit. He run a ginnery. The gin over there at Chambers County burned up, and my sister Callie, she got sick. Papa had another gin down there at Warm Springs. We moved from Chambers County down to Warm Springs in 1921. Roosevelt come down there at Warm Springs in 1925. You know the reason he come down there? He begin to take those baths. At Warm Springs, that was a big public pool. Water pumped right out the foot of that pine mountain there. The government test is ninety degrees temperature, and the spring flowed at twenty-two hundred gallons a minute at ninety degrees temperature. It had a great big public pool there. Roosevelt, he come down there. At first, my brother Lee and Al Person, and Papa met that southern train come on from Atlanta. Little old private train run from Atlanta to Columbus, Georgia. Roosevelt come down there on that train. He was in a wheelchair, couldn't walk. He had steel braces on both legs. He had to go in a wheelchair. He began to take those baths, and they done him so much good, till he turned around and went back and got his mother Sarah at Hyde Park, New York, and they come back down there and bought Warm Springs from a fellow, old man John Davis. He owned that public pool and old colonial hotel up there on the side of the mountain. Four hundred acres of land, they gave old man John Davis eighty thousand dollars for that property. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy during Wilson's administration. He had this polio and got crippled. Anyway, that's the reason he come to Warm Springs.
After he bought the place, he come on back down there and formed a

Page 17
stock company. Calloway, a fellow, a big cotton mill owner over at LaGrange, Georgia, that's when they built that Georgia Hall, and that's when they brought all those invalids down there, those polio victims. That was back there when they was having polio epidemics all over the country. He built that Georgia Hall. He was a regular "water duck." I seen him; I talked to him. My brother Lee worked for Roosevelt for eight years.
LU ANN JONES:
Doing what?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Electrician. When I come out of the Navy in 1926, I went back down there. They were living there at Warm Springs. I helped my brother Lee, we wired the little White House there. He was an electrician and a plumber. We wired that little White House. Al Person, and Lee Strickland, and I done some help for them. I didn't know much about it, I just in the Navy. But my brother Lee was an electrician, and he put in all those fixtures and wiring, wiring that house. We's down there one time, I's digging a trench to run a underground line out, and Eleanor, Mrs. Roosevelt, Mr. Roosevelt was sitting there in the living room, sitting in there. My brother Lee was out there installing meter box on the back porch, and Eleanor come out there and asked him, says, "Lee, are we going get any lights in this house tonight?" Lee turned around and looked at her and sort of aggravated, I guess, says, "Mrs. Roosevelt, I got to go to Manchester. If I can find a part for this meter, you'll get light, but otherwise you won't." She sort of riled up there and said, "Well, looka here, I don't want no if's, and's, or but's, I want to know if we going get lights in this house tonight!" I never will forget that.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you think at the time that you were talking to the future President of the United States?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Didn't have any idea, didn't have any idea about it.

Page 18
LU ANN JONES:
What did you think of them? What was your impression of them?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Roosevelt was the most brilliant man that I ever talked to or ever saw in my whole life. He was a perfect man, he spoke perfect English, and it's [unknown] He knew all those people down there at Warm Springs by their given name. He had an old Model T Ford, and it was rigged up and he drove it with levers. He had levers on the foot board. He'd drive over there at Candy McCrea's drug store—had a little old drug store at that hotel there—Roosevelt would drive up there in that old Model T Ford, and had an old ragged shirt on. He was a regular old country man. He'd come down there, he was just one of the boys, that's all. He sit around there, holler out, "Hey, come here." Call them all by their names, say, "Come here," and buy them all Coca-Cola and sit there and go on, go on. After that, he'd drive on off, and go on back over there. That was way before he was Governor. That "Roosevelt for President" Club was started right there in Warm Springs. You take that Judge Revel there at Greenville—Greenville was the county seat—mayor of the county.
LU ANN JONES:
What was his name?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Judge Revel. Susie knows him; my wife knows him. She can verify every word I say. Emmett Williams and my father, that "Roosevelt for President" Club was started right there at Warm Springs. It sure was. My father was the third man that signed that petition, that "Roosevelt for President" Club. Sure was.
LU ANN JONES:
What did you all think of Eleanor?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Let me tell you a joke. Now this is fact. They had a little town hall up there at Warm Springs—Warm Springs about five, or six, seven stores there, and Southern Railroad—they had a little old town hall. She told me a joke. That was after Roosevelt was President. He used to

Page 19
come down there at Warm Springs every Thanksgiving. He'd come down there before World War II. He'd come down every Thanksgiving. My daddy, he belonged to the Masonic Order, and the Masons detailed Papa and Will Reed, and Al Person—they had some bird dogs—to go out and kill … they going to give President Roosevelt a big bird supper there at the town hall in Warm Springs. Sure enough they did. They went out there and hunted about a week, and I think they killed around three hundred birds, partridges. The Ladies Aid Society, they cleaned and dressed those, and fixed them up so when they come down there Thanksgiving Day—Roosevelt, and I believe James, his oldest boy was with them, and Eleanor—they come up there at the town hall. Mrs. Roosevelt had an old gingham dress on and an old run in her stocking. That's the way they done! They'd make you feel warm and comfortable. Whenever you approached and went up to see him, he'd shake your hand, "I was thinking about you this morning." Now the President of the United States telling some old country boy, "I was thinking about … you know. I had sense enough to know that that's the way he had of going about making you feel warm and comfortable. You just melt like a piece of butter every time you went up to talk to the man. That's how he made you feel so welcome and comfortable. He'd get right on your level.
What I was trying to tell you, Mrs. Roosevelt pulled a joke on herself. Mrs. Roosevelt really did like the colored people. Out there in Merriweather County, she had a lot of colored friends all around out there in Merriweather County. During the time, she got up on the stage and give a little talk, and she told a joke on herself. She telling about there's a Nan Briggs that lived over at Chipley, Georgia, a colored woman, her friend. She'd get in—she had an old car. I believe it was some kind of old Hudson car—she'd drive all around out in the country, visit among those colored people. She went out there one Sunday afternoon to see Nan. She drove up there and

Page 20
got out. She begin to holler, "Nan," hollered "Nan" to call her. Nobody answered at all. She says, "Well, they ain't here. Their front door is standing wide open." She called her two, three more times, and nobody answered, so she decided maybe they gone on off over here in the field somewhere. She'd just get up and go in there and sit down in the front room and sit down in a chair in the front room. She did, she went and sit down in the front room, and in a little bit, here come a little girl. She was about a six, seven year old little colored girl. She had her thumb inside of her mouth, just looking all around. Mrs. Roosevelt could see that she didn't know who she was. She says, "Where's Nan?" Say, "I don't know. She's over in the field somewhere, I don't know." Mrs. Roosevelt realized that she didn't know who she was, and she looked up there over the mantlepiece, they had a great big life size picture of Mrs. Roosevelt hanging on the mantle. So she asked the little girl, says, "You don't know who I am?" Says, "No, I don't know who you are." Mrs. Roosevelt says, "Do you know who that is on that picture?" She says, "Yes, ma'am, that's Mrs. Roosevelt. Ma says if I didn't quit sucking my thumb, I's going to have a mouth just like her." She told that at that meeting there at Warm Springs. She did, she had a mouth … she'd laugh, you could hear her for a mile. She got down there in that country, she's right around with those people, those old country people, people farming, they got right down on their level. But smart, he could talk to you and me, and then he could talk to the King of England; it didn't make any difference. Extremely smart man, wonderful man.
LU ANN JONES:
What did people around there think about Mrs. Roosevelt being so close to colored people? Was that okay, or did people…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
They was raised in New York. Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt was married in the White House. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy

Page 21
in Wilson's administration. They were northern people. She made it her business to go around out there in the country and visit all among the colored people. She loves her colored people. That's all right. That's what she was. She was a northern woman. She told that joke. I'll never forget it.
LU ANN JONES:
When did you leave Georgia? How did you eventually get to Charlotte?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I joined the Navy. I was seventeen years old when we moved to Warm Springs. Papa was running a gin there in Warm Springs. I was there in the country. Wasn't no work, I couldn't find a job. I decided I'd just join the Navy and see the world, so I joined the Navy.
LU ANN JONES:
Then after you were out of the Navy…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I got paid off at Brooklyn Navy Yard December 26, 1926. I went back to Warm Springs. My people still in Warm Springs. Stayed around there two or three months, couldn't find no work, no job. I told mama, I said, "I believe I'll make the Navy a career." I was second class petty officer. I'd just make the Navy a career and ship over. I bought me a ticket from Warm Springs to Portsmouth, Virginia, and ship over in the Navy. I had a brother over here in Hamlet that I hadn't seen in four years, brother Paul. The only train coming this away to Portsmouth out of Atlanta, I begin to think. I'm going right through Hamlet on Seaboard Railroad, and I hadn't seen him in four years. I asked the conductor, I says, "Conductor, I got a brother in Hamlet, how about me stopping off here two or three days? Can I use my ticket?" He said, "Yeah." He just punched my ticket, give it back to me. Said, "Yeah, you go ahead and see your brother." In fact, he knew brother Paul. He was on the railroad at that time.
LU ANN JONES:
Paul was? What was he doing?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
He was a brakeman and a conductor on the railroad. He was already working for Seaboard. I stopped there two or three days. My brother

Page 22
says, "Ralph, you don't want to go right now. Stay out." Mr. C. H. Sauls was superintendent, and the division used to be in Hamlet, North Carolina. North Carolina Division was in Hamlet. C. H. Sauls, he was retired assistant vice-president. Anyway, he was superintendent, and he said, "I'll take you down to Mr. Sauls office, and see if he won't give you a job." Sure enough, the next day or so, he took me down there, and he took me up there in Mr. Sauls office and introduced me to him. I asked him for a job firing. I wanted a job firing. I was firing man in the Navy, and I had experience with boilers. Mr. Sauls looked at me and he looked at Paul. He knew Paul, good friend of Paul. He said, "Boy, I can't give you no job firing. I've got sixty firemen on this division cut off now." He sort of thought and looked at Paul and looked at me, said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do, I'm going to send you over here to Charlotte." Old man T. R. Campbell was general yard master over here. Said, "I'm going to send you on over there to him, and if he can use you, he can put you on over there as a job switchman. That's the only thing I can offer you is to get you a job switchman. If he can use you, it'll be all right with for you to go to work." That was March 1, 1927. I caught twenty-one, that's the train from Hamlet to Royalton. Turn around job, made turn around trip everyday. I got off the train right down here, March 1, 1921 about 11:30 a.m.
LU ANN JONES:
Right down here where?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Right down here on Tryon Street, that old passenger station on Tryon Street, 1100 block of North Tryon Street, Seaboard Passenger Station. I got off that train there. I knew who I was looking for, and I asked my mama, "Where is Mr. Tom Campbell, general yard master?" Someone pointed him out to me, said, "There he is." I went up there and introduced myself to him and told him that Mr. C. H. Sauls had sent me

Page 23
over here from Hamlet and would appreciate it if he could use me and put me to work. Old man Tom, he looked around, says, "I ain't got nothing for you right now, but Mr. Sauls sent you over here—he's superintendent—he sent you over there, we going to have a fertilizer opening up two or three more weeks." That was the first day of March. That was when the Royster and McCade fertilizer and all these fertilizer plants—they's hauling all that fertilizer by rail back them days. Says, "I might be able to use you a few days a while. I want you to get out here and learn the yard, learn the work, learn how to give a signal, and learn how to do this work, and I'll be able to put you on, maybe." So I did, I got out there and started to learn this yard, following them yard crews around, following them conductors around, and learning how to give a signal. Make a coupling, and air hose and all that kind of stuff.
LU ANN JONES:
Did they just teach you by…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's right. They talked to me, showed me and talked to me. I picked up a whole lot of it, just from observing them, following them around from time to time.
LU ANN JONES:
Were you getting paid then?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No ma'am. While I was learning, I had to learn the yard and learn the work. I stayed over here about ten days, then I went back to Hamlet and took my train rule examination. Then after I got my train rule examination, then I come back over here and marked up on the extra board. The first day I made after I marked up, then that's when I got paid.
LU ANN JONES:
What does that mean, "marked up?"
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Marked up on the extra board.
LU ANN JONES:
What does that mean?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
The extra board, there's about five or six men. It's a seniority question. All the seniority men that stood for regular jobs, they

Page 24
wanted regular jobs. They maintained about five men on that extra board to relieve in case a man gets sick. They'd relieve him; they work them first in and first out on the extra board. Course, I didn't have no seniority as one of the lowest man on the totem pole, so I had to work on that extra board for a long time until I got enough seniority to where I stood for regular jobs.
LU ANN JONES:
Did that mean that you worked real irregularly then for a while?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Just whenever they needed me, I'd fill a vacancy. They worked that extra board first in, first out. They had nine switch engines on the Charlotte yard at twenty-four hour periods at that time. Those crews, there were three men to the ground crew. They had a conductor and two switchmen, then they had an engineer and fireman. In 1927 when I come here, they had that sixty pound rail. That's that small tee, real small, light rail. The next year, 1928, they had those ten hundred's. That was four drivers, coal tender and water tender was slant and tight. It was just a little, bitty old steam machine was all they had. That next year, 1928, they took that sixty pound rail up, and put the ninety pound rail in, the fall of 1928. Then they sent them eleven hundred's over there. That was a larger, heavier seams in it. Had that butterfuly fire door, and reverse lever and the valve gear on the side and all that stuff. Pulled many more more cars than those little old steam engines. When I first come on, they had them ten hundred's, and they couldn't pull but twelve, fifteen cars.
LU ANN JONES:
What does a conductor do exactly?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
He goes along and instructs his switchmen. He does the work and—switchman helpers, they call them—they help the conductor, watch him. Whenever he calls the move, they go ahead and make it. You walk around with a yard conductor. He classifies trains and sets those trains up in station order.

Page 25
LU ANN JONES:
What does that mean?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
In station order, from Charlotte, you go over here to Mount Olive. That is, they set the cars up classified in station order. Whenever they cut off from the main line, come over here on the freight house, they wouldn't have to hold but maybe one or two cars. Next to the engine, they'd always be in station order. They'd have a solid load and want to set off up there. They wouldn't have to get way back in the train. Always that car would be up there next to the engine. That was what they called station order, they classified in station order. That's how they done that.
They had six passenger trains in and out of Charlotte in a twenty-four hour period. They had pullman service from when I first come in 1927, 1928, 1929, all along in there, they had pullman service between here and Wilmington. Over at Charlotte, this is a Monroe subdivision. It's a subdivision from Monroe to
LU ANN JONES:
To where?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
They connect with the CC&O Railroad up here at Boxtick yard. That's where all that coal come from West Virginia, all them coal mines. That CC&O Railroad brings it down up here to what they call Bostick yard. The Seaboard connected where we had a joint yard up there. We'd go up there and get that coal and bring it down here.
A lot of coal being handled. There wasn't no such thing as a diesel back in them days. Wasn't nothing but hand-fired engines and later on they got the stoker, and they got the butterfly fire door. But before that, wasn't nothing but just the hand-fired engines. That was a bad job. I tell you the truth, there wasn't a white man that could hardly stand up to being a fireman on the railroad. They hired them engineers back yonder 1900. They used to hire a man, pretty smart, and those colored men about the only thing

Page 26
that could stand the job firing. All those old engines was hand-fired. I seen them jerk that chain—didn't have that—they had a door and fire box, and he jerked that door with a chain. Stand there, and throw a hook in that fire box, hook it up, stir it up and rake up the fire, had to do that. Sometimes, he'd pull a plinker out of there too. While he had that door open, I seen him—old Reuben Archie and Joe Reily and all that crowd. They were colored. That's the only thing that could stand that job. So much heat and so hot.—I seen the doggone fire on the side of the overalls. It would be so hot, that door standing open there, take a handful of dough and rub the fire out of his leg. His britches leg would catch a fire, it was so hot.
LU ANN JONES:
A handful of what?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Dough, a handful of waste. It wasn't a rag, you know what waste is. His britches leg along there would be so hot, he'd grab some waste and rub the fire off his leg keep him from burning and scorching the cloth. Them overalls he's wearing, he'd rub that fire off his leg, standing there rake that fire.
That was them ten hundred's. They had the 1037, and the 1051, and the 1098. Then they had the 97 and the 96; they had two other engines, larger.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
They had them little ten hundred's, them little four driver ten hundred's; that's the hand-fired engine. They had the old chain door. Them eleven hundred's come, they had that reverse lever, steam reverse, and butterfly fire doors. They were much better engines and easier to handle and easier to work with. Them little old engines, that was a job. They had a big Johnson bar, engineer sit up there aside that engine and whenever he wanted to reverse his engine, he had to get up and stand up and get that Johnson bar with both hands and pull it

Page 27
back this away and knock off his engine brake and open up his throttle. That's how he got going. Then, when he put on his brakes and just stop, in order to go ahead, he'd have to get up again—big old Johnson bar sit up the side of the board about that high—he had to get that thing and man-handle it, reversing engines. They call that the Johnson bar. That was them old type engines.
LU ANN JONES:
Was most of your work staying there in the yard, or did you ride the trains too?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
To begin with, I switched down there on the yard, a switchman. I worked down there about seven, eight, or ten years, just switching. After about seven, eight, or ten years, I was promoted to conduct in Hamlet in 1940 and promoted to conductor. I hired out and started working as a switchman. Me and a fellow Stevenson, sent us to Hamlet to the superintendent's office. You had to go to the superintendent's to take your train rules back in them days. They were very particular about it.
LU ANN JONES:
What kinds of things did you learn there?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
You got to learn all those operating rules.
LU ANN JONES:
What are some of them?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Over on this subdivision, we operated under manual block rules. You had an operator from the station. We had the rule book, and we had a standard watch. I've had this since I've been working. That's a 992, twenty-one jewel Hamilton, adjusted to five positions. I've had that watch since the day I started. My brother had this watch and he gave it to me when I first started. I've had it fifty three years. That watch right there, I know it's fifty-three years, and it might be a little older than that. I don't know just when he got it. My brother Paul there in Hamlet give it to me when I first started over here March 1, 1927.

Page 28
I had that watch ever since. I've had it cleaned. You have to have it cleaned every two years. That National Time Service, the railroad company require you to clean it every two years. I broke the crystal on it maybe four or five times, and I've had it cleaned a number of times. But it's a good one and it keeps good time.
LU ANN JONES:
What kind of watch is that?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
It's a 992, twenty-one jewel Hamilton with a Montgomery dial, adjusted to five positions.
LU ANN JONES:
What does that mean, "adjusted to five positions?"
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
The heat, magnetism, they demagnetized your watch. It'll lose time, this heat and cold weather. They'll gain and lose time or that variation, but it's adjusted to take care of that, that position.
LU ANN JONES:
Did everybody have one of those watches?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
All the men in the train service required. That's one thing you had to have. They wouldn't accept anything but a sixteen size, twenty-one jewel. Railroad company wouldn't accept anything less than a twenty-one jewel. You could either Elgin or Illinois. I had a Hamilton. That Hamilton is very common, but there's several standard watches that they would accept. But they wouldn't accept just any kind of watch, not in train service. You was in train service, you had a rule book and time card and all that stuff.
LU ANN JONES:
So everything had to be real precise and on time?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's right, be precise, especially on that time element.
We had first class trains. We had six baggage trains in and out of Charlotte in a twenty-four hour period. We had a twenty-one and two from Hamlet to Royalton, that was one train. That was two right there. The turn around job that goes in and out, go in, and turn around and come back. We had twenty-one and two, then we had a thirteen and fourteen, then we had a

Page 29
thirteen and fourteen, then we had a nineteen and twenty was passenger trains. That wasn't nothing but passenger trains. Thirteen and fourteen operated pullman service between Charlotte and Wilmington to beat. In the summer time, you'd go down there and buy you a pullman ticket, you and your wife or your party and go to sleep. The next morning, you'd wake up in Wilmington.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you ever do that?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, sure did.
LU ANN JONES:
Can you describe what that trip was like, riding that train?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's a passenger train, one of them old smoky trains. They were dusty, and a lot of smoke and everything. I'd ride the pass—I was working then—they gave you a trip pass. Now, I've got an Amtrak pass now. You got twenty years service, railroad service give you an annual pass. Me and my wife both is got an Amtrak pass now. My home road don't cost me anything. Course, if I ride on the southern or any foreign road, I have to pay half that.
LU ANN JONES:
What was your home road?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Seaboard Railroad. Now it's the Seaboard Coastline. They consolidated, they merged. Seaboard Railroad merged with the Coastline Railroad. Now it's all under one big operation from Jacksonville, Florida. The railroad company is being run from Jacksonville, Florida. Our headquarters is up here at Raleigh. The superintendent division, our division point is in Raleigh. Most all that operation is from Jacksonville, Florida. Old man Rice, he's chairman of the board, Osborn, he's president, Hastings, general manager in charge of operations. They got all those big hierarchy. That's down here in Jacksonville, Florida. That's the general office down there. While the Seaboard was operating, the general offices used to be in Portsmouth, Virginia. That C. H. Sauls, the man that hired me, he was

Page 30
assistant vice-president. He got to be a real big man on the railroad.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you maintain contact with him after…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No, not after he got on up. What he used to do, he had a private car when he got to be general manager and assistant vice-president. Back those days, all those big officials had private cars. He'd come over here, and us fellows had been over here in the private car. Us fellows out here on the yard switching. He knew Cleve Richardson, Charlie Bass and the old men. He knew me too. He come out there, "Hey boy, come here." He called you up to him, shake hands, glad to see you and all that stuff.
LU ANN JONES:
Did he ever invite you aboard his private car?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I went aboard it one time to ask the cook for a sandwich one time. Mr. Sauls' car was parked on the pullman track. I was walking along there the cook sitting out there along the back. I said, "Hey, boy, I'm hungry. How about you fixing me a sandwich." He went in there and fixed me a nice ham sandwich you ever saw, give it to me. I walked on up through the yard eating my ham sandwich.
LU ANN JONES:
What did those private cars look like? Did you ever see the inside of one?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, they were real nice.
LU ANN JONES:
Can you describe it for me?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
It was a business car. Mr. Sauls, he was general manager. He had a private secretary, men, you know. They had business car. They carried on all kinds of business. He come here to Charlotte and meet this traffic bureau here in Charlotte. Charlotte was one of the best feeder lines that Seaboard has. They got a lot of freight business out of Charlotte, way back them days.
LU ANN JONES:
When are you talking about, in the 30's?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That's right, 30's, and 40's, along in there.

Page 31
LU ANN JONES:
What kind of freight would be going out?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
They had local freights back them days. They had that LCL stuff, that's "less cargo lot." Had these check locals. Course, they had solid car too where there'd be a private load of freight going to a place. They'd always set that off. They had what they called a check local. The conductor had his way built, and he go along up here at Mount Holly and Lincolnton and Cherryville and all them places. If you had a piece of freight, they had one boxcar, a pile of gear, a keg of nails, a bale of cotton or whatever it was, he just set it off there. Go over there on the platform and set that stuff, just deliver it. Back in them days, they didn't have no trucks and these super highways. The railroad companies, they done practically all that freight business. That's before they had these automobiles and these super highways. Now the trucks, they've got it now. Back them days, same way with passenger trains. When I first come here, they had a traveller's aid. They had a colored woman that helped the women with the babies. All these people around, they come from Monroe and Hamlet and all these little towns, they come to Charlotte and shop, come up here and spend the day. Twenty-one get here about 11:00 in the morning, then there'd be 5:30 or 6:00 in the evening, he come going on back yonder. They'd come go to Charlotte. Back in them days, Duke Power had the streetcars on here. There was only 43,000 people here in Charlotte when I come through Charlotte. It was just a little old town. You could get ten blocks from the square up town. Either way, from the and side streets, you done run out of stores. You done run out of business, you'd be out yonder, residential section, virtually in the country. There wasn't only 43,000 people here. This was a small town.
LU ANN JONES:
What did this traveler's aid lady do, the lady who…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Martha Worley was her name. These ladies come in, they

Page 32
inquire from her which way to go and where to go. The stores up town, Belk's, Ivey's and all those places up town. She'd tell them where they was and kind of direct them and keep them safe. Tell them what time the train's going to leave and all that stuff. This colored woman, she shelped the ladies. Some of the ladies had small children. Everybody rode the train. That streetcar come down College Street and come in that area. Come off College Street down around that area, down right by the Seaboard passenger station. He'd stop right there. When the passenger train rolled up, all those people get on that streetcar and come on around that area, back up Tryon Street, right on up through the south side all the way through town. Duke Power, they had streetcars back them days before they had any buses or anything.
LU ANN JONES:
Were you friendly with the streetcar conductor…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, I used to know some of them boys that worked on that. I knew Oscar Miller. I knew several of those boys, conductors on the streetcars. Trolley cars, they had the wire and everything.
LU ANN JONES:
In the switching yard, I take it that that job could be kind of tense in that everything did have to be very precise.
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, it did, that's right. That switching job, you got to kind of have to watch your step. Them wheels'll get you. They'll cut you, but it ain't no respect of person. If you ever fall or make a miscue or step in front of there, they'll cut your leg off. I'll tell you a fearful story if you don't mind. After I was conductor after a long time, a fellow, Dick Robinson, here in Charlotte. The Seaboard railroad give him a job as operator. Anyway, me and Dick was up there at the top of the hill switching one day, and a brake wheel broke off, one of them Ajax brake wheels. The thing hurled out, right in the hub of the wheel. Dick had both hands on that rim of that wheel, and when it hurled out, he wasn't holding nothing else but the wheel. He fell right backwards

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off in the middle of the track. He caught that front and it drug him sixty feet down the track to that switch, and while it was dragging, it cut his leg off about six inches below his knee. Bless you, his leg and his foot with his shoe on it was standing up out there on a little old path with a little old walk alongside the track. It drug him up in that switch. That switch point caught the skin on his leg and just split that skin all up into his thigh. That caught his leg, and he was up under there. It was holding him, and he couldn't get out from under there. He begin to scream and holler. I was right on the ladder with him, right beside him when that brake wheel hurled out with him. He fell back, and I jumped back and grabbed my hat off—Ike was the engineer—whopping him down and signing him down trying to get him to stop. He drug him about sixty feet on down. Ike finally got started, but he was up under that car screaming and hollering. I climbed up there, and he couldn't get out. That piece of skin was hung into that switch forhim. He couldn't get out, he couldn't get a-loose. I tried to get out, I got back out and I tried to get Ike to back up. I was making all those funny motions. Ike got scared. He wouldn't move; he knew the railroad. You wouldn't move your equipment till you know exactly what was going on. That's one of the rules, but he done right. I was going to try to get him to back off so I could get Dick out from under there. Ike wouldn't back up, so I took out my pocket knife and crawled back up under that coal hopper and finished cutting off his leg. Course, that frees him out from under that switch point. Then he humped on his elbow and crawled back out from under the car. His leg was up that a way and the blood was just spouting. Bill Ray was firing—one of them eleven hundred's—he come running down. I had sent Bill down there. He held his brake right on that engine; that was his responsible to do that. He sent his fireman down there and Bill come

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running down there. I said, "Bill, for God's sake, go get me—I'm an old railroad man; I know that first aid—go get me a string or rag or something. I'm going to make a tourniquet put it on his leg." Blood was just spouting. So Bill flew back up to that engine and got some old waste, some old rags and come running down there. I tied a couple of those rags together and made a tourniquet and put it up there above his knee. Got me a stick, I picked up a little old shart stick and twisted it and made a tourniquet on his leg. That stopped that blood from spouting. I hollered one of those colored men working on the switch down there just below. I hollered and told him. He come running out the yard and they called the ambulance. They come up there at the end of Church Street right up the top of the hill. I held that tourniquet right on his leg all the way to the hospital. We come back through coming to the Mercy Hospital. Dr. Douglas Neal was surgeon for Seaboard at that time. He was the surgeon.
LU ANN JONES:
Seaboard had a surgeon?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, he was a Seaboard surgeon. Dr. Neal, they called him and he come running. He knew me; I know Dr. Neal. He says, "Has he lost much blood?" I said, "I don't know, Dr. Neal. His lower leg is spouting blood. I really don't know." Then he turned to the nurse. I had my tourniquet on and holding it all the time. They went and got a hospital tourniquet and put it on his leg and stopped that blood. Then he begin to order blood plasma. I told him his leg was cut off just below his knee, about six or eight inches, about halfway I'd say. I says, "Dr. Neal, is there any chance of you saving that leg below his knee?" I knew. He shook his head. He said, "I don't believe so, Strick. I'm going to have to …" He did. He cut his leg off above his knee. The boy lives right over yonder right over there next to that mint museum is where he lives now, Dick Robinson. He got over it. He was real strong, young

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fellow. He just gritted his teeth. It's funny how a person will react. I won't say a dirty word, but he used some profanity, and I did too just cursing because I was excited. I was gritting my teeth and cursing and kind of helping the situation. But after it got over at the hospital, and got that tourniquet on his leg, I just turned chicken then. They had to go get me a cup of ammonia and fan me around there. All that time, everything was going on, I was mad as a wet hen. I just cussing and mad. After I got over there and the doctor got there, then I relaxed.
LU ANN JONES:
Do you remember what year that was?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Around in the 60's sometime, about 1955, 1960.
LU ANN JONES:
Do you remember way back when you first started working for the railroad. Were there more accidents then when you were first working for the railroad.
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I think so. The railroad companies, they changed a lot of their rules. We used to have to—had a stick, big old pick handle we called it—we had to go up top them go on top and tie them cars down, put a hand brake on them. In later years, they won't let a man go up on top of a car now. They arranged that braking system, that hand brake on the end where you won't have to go on top. The work's much safer than it used to be. It's altogether different too. They've got a different method of switching now than it used to have. We used to get a birch stick and had an old oil lantern—didn't have no electric light, we call them "hay burners"—you'd walk up there on that lead, that conductor be standing up there. As soon as you show up, be in sight of him, he'd cut you off four or five jobs. As you [unknown] you had to go higher and catch them and slow them up with a handbrake, keeping them from going on down there and hitting and cause so much rough handling. You'd walk around up that lead, be up where he could see you, he'd cut

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them out to you. You had to be a monkey in order to get up there and grab them cars and slow them down. They don't do that now, they switch with air a whole lot now. They use that air brake so the brakeman and switchman don't have to go higher. In fact, a lot of these cars don't even have a walkway on top like they used to have. Their equipment is much larger and better all the way around than it used to be.
LU ANN JONES:
When you first came to Charlotte in the late 20's and 30's when you were working, how many people would be out there in the yards? What times would you be working?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
When I was on the extra board, different hours. They had that shift around the clock. They had that first shift job. They usually had two switch engines to a shift. The first shift job would be from 6:30, not later than 8:00 in the morning. The second shift job would be from 2:30, not later than 4:00 in the afternoon. Third shift jobs would be from 10:30, not later than 12:00 at night. They had three shifts. Sometimes it would be three switch engines to a shift. Sometime when the business was light, they'd maybe cut off a job. They had nine regular jobs when I first come here, nine regular switch engines.
LU ANN JONES:
How many people would it take?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Five men to a crew. They had a fireman—that's the coal burner—they had a fireman and an engineer. They had a conductor and two switchmen. One of those jobs down there, they had a conductor and three switchmen. One or two of those jobs there had a third man, that is on Charlotte yard. Some of them jobs in Hamlet, they'd ride them cars around the yard down there in Hamlet. They got ten, twelve, fifteen switchmen to a job on a This yard over here, we didn't have all that much to do.
LU ANN JONES:
When things were slackwhile you were at work, what jobs…

Page 37
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Whenever we get on the spot, we'd just get on the spot. Go to the station, go around there to the spot house and drink coffee and the train come in. When we get our work done, we'd be sure to get everything done and carry out the yard master's instructions and his orders. Whenever hewouldn't come out there with the switch list and tell you something, you'd go around the spot house and sit down. Sometimes you'd get to stretch out. You'd get a hour or so spot. The first thing you know, you'd be out there, you'd be covered up in boxcars. [Laughter]
LU ANN JONES:
What would you all do to pass the time?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
We'd tell jokes and drank coffee, do all that kind of stuff. Talk railroad. We'd have a rule meeting down there, train might come over here. Have a rule meeting and discuss the rules.
LU ANN JONES:
What were some of the rules?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
There's operating rules. You had to know how to handle train orders. [unknown] passing points, after those train orders operated. We operated on what's called "manual block." In other words, you got block stations, here and Monroe, Lincolnton, Mount Holly. Each got operated on duty. They kept them trains in a block. You got that rule, you got to clear those first class trains. Second class and inferior class trains—you got the job limit boards—the seond class and inferior type trains, they had to proceed within yard limits at yard speed. Yard speed is half the range of vision. That took care of the seconds and the inferiors, some of those freight trains. But passenger trains and first class trains, they had a clearing time. You had a time card. Whenever 19 or 20 was due by you had to clear them one station in advance of his clearing. In other words, you had to be clear that main line at least ten minutes before he'd due there. That's operating rules. You had to be in the clear for first class trains. That second class train,

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that rule 93 took care of it. Because it moves within the yard limit, prepared to stop at half the range of vision. We didn't pay no attention to them little old switch of locals, they'd come by, I had as much right out there as they did on the main line. When that first class train showed up, I was in the clear. I saw to that.
LU ANN JONES:
The local trains would be what you call inferior trains?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Second class and inferior class trains. First class trains, most of them, they operated—you got a time card—when they due at each station, they got the time set out. Right therewhere you could tell, where at 22, due by [unknown] due by, due to leave. Due at Charlotte, due to leave Charlotte. Arriving and leaving time, it's all that,
But you out over here switching some plant, then you know what time he's due to leave. I copied many a 19 train order, a "run late" order. If he running late or just delayed, they put out time on him. They put out maybe twenty or thirty minutes. They'll send you a train crew and give you a 19 where #22 run twenty, maybe thirty minutes late. You've got your watch, you know what time he'd due to leave Charlotte, and you figure that thirty minutes in addition to that, and you keep on working. You got to be in the clear for ten minutes in order to comply with that 19 train order.
LU ANN JONES:
What were some of the stories that you all told while you were sitting around? Do you remember some of those?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
We just talked about general things. Talk about good times, picture show up town. Back them days, that Carolina theatre down on Pine Street—what we used to call the ten cent movie—we'd go up there. Walk from the station there on Tryon Street that Carolina theatre, go to a ten cent movie. All that kind of stuff, different things we'd talk about. Railroads, we'd sit there and drink coffee. Any kind of subject that come

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up, we'd talk about. Get in an argument sometime.
LU ANN JONES:
When you first went to work with the trains, were you allowed to ride the trains for a reduced rate?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
When I started working, you got a pass. The first five years, the superintendent's office, the train master, they give you a trip pass. You want to go anywhere on company business, they give you a little old blue trip pass. You didn't have to pay nothing. After five years, then they give you a division, annual pass. It's good for a whole year. Then after ten years service, they gave you and your wife a system annual. Now you can ride any train on the whole entire system. They usually dated them, make them good for a year, and sometimes, they'd extend that one you had for another year. But they give you an annual pass. I got an Amtrak pass, my wife does. We can ride on our home rome. I can go over here at Hamlet on that Amtrak pass. That Silver Star that had that wreck up here at Raleigh the other day—I'm sorry, that's kind of a —they tell me that that doggoned James Burke was running that Silver Star. It was a school bus that distracted him. He run a—that's in the automatic block territory, signal territory—he'd run a caution sign. They claim on account of that school bus. He missed that school bus. He missed that school bus by five feet, almost hit it. There was children on that school bus too. He come around that curve, there was his block signal up there with that yellow caution signal. He was excited and didn't observe that caution signal. Whenever you hit that yellow, you supposed to break your train down and get it under control. Two miles, you got another head block and that might be double red.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
LU ANN JONES:
Where did you live when you first came to Charlotte?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
When I first come here, that was before I got married.

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That was fifty-three years ago. I lived down there on Seaboard cafe. Mrs. Charlie Key run a boarding house down there. I lived in that boarding house the first year.
LU ANN JONES:
Were most of the people that lived there Seabord…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, all of them railroad men. Trains coming through here, 89, them trains coming into Charlotte. We had several jobs that come in here. Crews coming from Raleigh, they come in here. They boarded there with her. I stayed with Mrs. Keys the first six months out here. Working the extra board, hauling all hours of the day and night. Whenever they needed me, I was there to stay on the job. Somebody getting sick, it'd be 2:30, 3:00 in the morning, I'd have to go and finish the day. That was when you were on the extra board. After I got to where I stood for a regular job, then you're assigned to a regular job. Then you didn't have to report, only to your job. The assignment, the hours your job worked.
LU ANN JONES:
How long did you have to work the extra board?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
About ten years. Nineteen-twenty-seven, 1928, 1929. Nineteen-twenty-nine is when they had that stock market crash in New York. They had that bank holiday and all that stuff. They got down to where they didn't have but two switch engines down here in a twenty-four hour period. Railroad business was real bad. The younger men, the men that didn't have the seniority, they got cut off first. They started from the bottom man, and worked on up.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you get cut off?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I got cut off May 9, 1931. I stayed cut off. I worked emergencies from time to time. Sometimes they'd be a whole lot of them off at once. They'd give me emergency day. I worked down at the round house. I was a grease monkey down there. I watched the [unknown] and just

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picked up a day wherever I could.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you have another job at the same…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
NO, back them days, you couldn't hardly get a job nowhere.
LU ANN JONES:
How much money were you making a week?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
I wasn't making too much. That switching job paid you $6.62 for eight hours for the switchman job. Now they're paying so fifty dollars a day down there now for eight hours. When I first come in, the switching job paid me $6.62. Sometimes I'd make one or two days, and sometimes I wouldn't make no day at all. Jack Tush was round house foreman. He give me a job down there filling up the water cooler, side rods on those engines, lubricate her, get ice water and everthing, do all that stuff. Clean the fires, help, put water in the water tank, get coal in the coal tender. [unknown] helping and all that. They give me some time there. I just worked wherever I could, made whatever I could try to keep body and soul together. Hard, tough living, two rooms upstairs for seven or eight years. It was pretty tough going.
LU ANN JONES:
Were you still living in the boarding house then?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
After I come here, about the first year, I went on back home in Warm Springs. Me and my wife got married. I was already working on the railroad, and I went back down home. She and I fell in love the year before. I went on back down there and we married. Down there at Warm Springs where we got married.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you get married in a church?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Sure did. Methodist Church down there at Warm Springs. Got married at the parsonage at the Methodist Church.
LU ANN JONES:
How many people came to your wedding?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Her sister, she had a bunch of girlfriends who lived up a place called Raleigh, about two miles above Warm Springs. There was

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about fifteen or twenty. We were going get married in secret and go to the parsonage and have the Methodist preacher there to marry us. We showed up there, and here there a whole crowd of them come there. We laughed about it.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you go on a honeymoon?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Sure did. No, well, the next morning, we caught that Southern train and come to Charlotte. We went down on Tryon Street and stayed at Mrs. Keys' boarding house for three or four months. That was the latter part of 1927, 1928. Business was good. I was making pretty good time there. I'd get up maybe four, five, six hundred dollars there and carrying it around.
LU ANN JONES:
A month?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, a month. Sometimes you double, come back on your rest. You paid your $6.62 for eight hours. They had time and a half day. In 1916, World War I, was railroad coordinator World War I. They went from a twelve hour day to the eight hour day, 1916. They paid you time and a half after eight hours. When I first started, first two or three years, up until 1931, I got to work pretty good. I made fairly well. $6.62, you draw seventy five, eighty, or ninety dollars a half, a fifteen day period. You'd walk down on Tryon Street old man A&P Store for three or four dollars and buy enough groceries to last you for a week.
LU ANN JONES:
Were you able to cook there in the boarding house?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No, Mrs. Keys, she run the boarding house.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you eat there?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, we eat there, roomed and boarded there. We didn't stay there very long after me and Susie come to Charlotte. We didn't stay there but about two or three months. Then I went up town. Didn't have much

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money, I had a hundred so dollars. Went up there Brothers on College Street, bought me one hundred fifty dollars worth of furniture, a wicker set, a dresser and a chair, and a oil stove and started keeping house. We rented a house.
LU ANN JONES:
Where was the house?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Above Mrs. Keys' boarding house.
LU ANN JONES:
You mean it was in the same building?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No, it was a different building. Old man Charlie, they owned three or four houses back up there behind her boarding house. In that block, they own those houses.
LU ANN JONES:
Who owns it?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Old man Charlie Key, Mrs. Key, they run that Seaboard cafe and boarding house.
LU ANN JONES:
Were they connected with the railroad?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No, they just run that Seaboard cafe and the boarding house. That's where I first started. We stayed around there about a year, then I moved from her place up on Tenth Street. Rented some rooms up there, six or eight months or a year I lived there. Then I moved down there on Tryon Street, stayed down there on Tryon Street between the underpasses on Tryon Street for about seven or eight years. Then I moved from Tryon Street to Ninth Street, Ninth Street to Davidson Street, Davidson Street to Pegram Street. I stayed on Pegram Street and raised my family, lived on Pegram Street for thirty-five years. My oldest girl, Mary Sue, she'd fifty-one years old; my next one is forty-nine, Carlos. I had one girl and two sons. My youngest son is thirty six years old, my youngest baby. My two oldest children are older than that. Mary Sue's fifty-one, Carlos is forty-eight or forty-nine. We moved over here on Sheffield in 1974. Been living over here about six years. We moved over Pegram Street, we

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moved when Mary Sue and Bill Bailey—Bill and his father run these Bailey cafeterias around here all over town. Him and his father operated about eleven cafeterias at one time—Mary Sue and Bill build them a new home out here on Amity Road toward Hickory Grove. They eventually made it possible for us to get this place here. I had a little five room frame house over there on Pegram Street. I was a poor man; I worked on the railroad, but I bought and paid for that place too.
LU ANN JONES:
What did most of your neighbors over there do? What kind of work did they do?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Lynn Hopkins, he was captain on the fire department, and Mr. Hill, he was sargeant on the police department, various occupations. Some people worked in the cotton mill, lived long there on Pegram Street. We moved over there 1940 or 1941. There wasn't anybody over there but white people. There wasn't a colored person on that street nowhere. Now, I think there's probably one or two white families and all the rest of them is colored people lives over there now.
LU ANN JONES:
A lot of your neighbors at first were textile people?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yeah, they were textile, worked the textile. Some on the fire department, some on the police department, some of them, cross the street, they were carpenters, bricklayers, just common ordinary working people lived all along there. I was a railroad man.
LU ANN JONES:
Your wife was a nurse's aid?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
She worked at Wesley nursing home, that's right.
LU ANN JONES:
When you first moved here, did she work then?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No, she didn't. She stayed at home when I was working on the railroad. I had a regular job, and my children was coming along. She stayed at home. Later years, she went to work. She established her social security. She worked about four years over at this Wesley nursing

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aid. She draws her railroad pension and social security too. I never draw nothing but railroad. I never worked a day on social security. All mine is railroad benefits. That's the only check I get is railroad pension. But she draws both of them.
LU ANN JONES:
How did you all make it through the Depression?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
It was pretty hard, lady. I got cut off May 9, 1931. That was right during the real, sure enough, heart of the Depression. I'm going tell you another story from Roosevelt. This is from the horse's mouth too. My brother Lee worked down there at Warm Springs. He worked for Roosevelt, wired all them houses down there. I helped him wire that little White House. When Roosevelt took office, that was right during the worst part of that Depression. The very day that he was sworn in and took his oath of office. He went in the blue room there and called his cabinet together. See he got steel braces on both his leg and one crutch and a walking stick. He improved so where he could drag his legs around. The day he was sworn in, he called his cabinet together nad had a big table in this room. They was all sitting around on that table, and he told Lee out of his own mouth the absolute fact. He called his cabinet around and says, "Gentleman, I want to tell you. This country is really in a real state of emergency right now. We got good honest, sincere people standing in these soup lines and bread lines in this country. There's thousands and thousands of good honest people that's umemployed and can't find work. We're right on the verge of a revolution." He got up there on the side of the table right away and begin to beat on the top of that table and looking at all his cabinet members. He turned to Mr. Andrew Mellon was Secretary of the Treasury, he said, "Mr. Mellon, how much indebtedness can this country stand?" Mr. Mellon told him that they had eighty million dollars ready cash money that they could stand to spend right now. He looked at all of them

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and says, "Get on your horses, I mean, get on your horses. We got to put these people back to work. We going to have to create jobs." That was when that WPA and NRA, when that was born. That was right back in there. I was cut off on the railroad. I walked the streets here in Charlotte for two or three years, couldn't find no work. But when business picked back up, then they called me back to the extra board, 1935, 1936. I had seniority then. Some of them old men retired, died off from one thing or another. I got seniority and stood for a regular job. I retired in 1971. I had forty-four years and sixteen days from the time I started to the day I retired.
LU ANN JONES:
During the Depression, did you have friends who would help you out, lend you money or anything like that?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yes. No, I didn't have that. I must have been pretty lucky because Jack Tillis, the round house foreman, he give me work. I watched the crossing. I worked for $1.80 a day since I been in Charlotte. Just anything, but like I say, you could take three or four or five dollars and go up there and buy enough groceries to feed. I got a year behind in rent. Joe I was renting two rooms upstairs down there on Tryon Street, lived down there about seven years. I got over a year behind in rent. I just went to him and told him, I said, "Joe, I'm cut off and I haven't got no job and can't find no job. I got that furniture and we're trying to get enough groceries to get by to live on someway or another." He said, "Forget it, Ralph." He was engineer on that Southern, Joe was. He said, "Just forget that out rent. We'll take care of that in a brighter day." So he's good to me. I did got some help, but it was pretty tough going. I guarantee you there's people standing in these soup lines, I'm talking about good people too. Roosevelt, he knew what was going on. That's what took place. He put these people to work. My brother's cut

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off during that time down at Hamlet. He was on the main line. He the one to set out all them pine trees. That NRA and WPA, they put them people to work at twelve to fifteen dollars a week. That was a job, house rent and grocery bill. A man could get that, he's doing pretty good.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you ever try to get a government job like that around here?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No, I picked up enough emergency days on the railroad. They'd call me down there sometimes might be every two or three months, I'd get two, three, or four days of [unknown] I kept body and soul together. I don't know how I done it. I guarantee you, I got down pretty low. I got down where I didn't have maybe fifty cents in my pocket.
LU ANN JONES:
Your daughter had been born by that time, right?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Oh yes, Mary Sue and Carlos, my two oldest children. Mary Sue was born November 11, 1928, and Carlos was born May 20, 1931. Right in the head of that bad Depression is when I cut off, May 9. Carlos was born—my oldest boy—born May 20, 1931. I stayed cut off three or four years there. I worked a little bit at something all along, not too regular. I got behind in that house rent, but I kept body and soul together till I got back on the railroad. I'm glad I stayed down there. I come out better by staying on the railroad that I would have done anything else. I know and realize that. Railroad comapny was good to me. I left down there with a real good record. I put a plaque down there in the railraod station. You can go in, I got a bronze plaque down there. I'm responsible, me and my crew. I got a safety car handling aware. The general manager—the headquarters in Portsmouth—they issued that. It's a big bronze plaque and it's hanging down there in the waiting room at the Seaboard station now. I don't know if it's still down there or not. I haven't been down there now. I haven't been down there. I retired in 1971 and I haven't been down there but three or four times. I don't know

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whether that plaque's still down there, but it was hanging right there in that white waiting room for years and years. I had a real good record. I got a good letter of commendation from Joe Goldson was general manager. Wrote me a letter of my faithful service and all. I'm really proud of my railroad record. I don't apologize to nobody. I done a good job and a real good record. I'm proud and I'm glad I stayed down there. It paid off. I don't have to worry about nothing now, lady. Financially, we don't have to worry about nothing. I got pension enough to support us. I don't have to worry about nothing. Have anything we want to have, in a poor way. I'm still a poor working man. I don't have to worry about where the next meal's coming from.
LU ANN JONES:
When you were working, did you ever think you should get more money than you were paid?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Back yonder in World War II, wages going up, everybody's getting increase in wages. We had a strike in 1946. All railroad employees went out on strike. That was what we striking for were higher wages. We won, and we got our higher wages. I belonged to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen for years and years. I got a cigar box full of trainmen receipts. I paid my dues, union dues.
LU ANN JONES:
When did you join the union?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Way back there. When I first started down there, 1927, 1928. Wasn't too long I went over to that 643 lodge in Monroe, I went over and joined the trainmen.
LU ANN JONES:
Did everybody have to join?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
More or less. We didn't have a closed job, but they expected you to. You felt a whole lot better if you belonged to the union. The people you work with, everybody else belonged, so you didn't want to be a loner, so you had to go along with that crowd. We didn't have no

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union shop. Now they got a union shop now on railroad. You got to pay your dues if you hold a job.
LU ANN JONES:
How much were your dues?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Not much, sometimes three or four dollars a month. They never did get more than three or four dollars a month. [unknown] lodge dues.
LU ANN JONES:
At that time, there weren't very many other workers who were unionized. Did you ever catch any flack from people because you were a member of the union?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
No, not on railroad. Those maintenance second foremen and all that, some of that railroad labor was organized. Cross watchmen, maintenance I don't think they had a union. Men in the train service, they had a union. They got that union in 1916 is when the eight hour day come in. In other words, the unions got eight hours and ice water they used to talk about. You furnish your ice water on the job. That was a great improvement. We got from twelve hours a day to eight hours, and we also got ice water on the job. We had a ice cooler full of ice water. They had to drink spigot water before that time. But in 1916 is whenever they got that eight hour day and the ice water too. So the union, they were climbing and getting more fringe benefits. Now, Lord have mercy, men with twenty years service… They get thirty days vacation, and I don't know what all they do get. Time and double time. Eight paid holidays a year. If you don't work, you still get paid for them. You get a guaranteed wage. I don't know how much they got. Vacation with pay, hospitalization, that Traveler's Insurance Company, they pay your hospital bill. I was in the hospital two or three ti es. I hurt my back down there one time. I had an acute sprain and went in the hospital. Stayed in traction in that hospital fourteen days. When I come out, I owed them

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$1.45. I wouldn't have owed them that, but my boy came up to see me and he went up there and eat at the hospital cafeteria. They charged me for that $1.45 for his dinner. That was good stuff, that was fringe benefit. We didn't have to pay it. The brotherhood, they were responsible for it. They brought all that working conditions. After all, some people don't like a union, but they paid off for a railroad worker. We got a good contract they had at that time. But it took years and years of blood, sweat and tears, lady. Those old people back there, they had to do it the hard way and was slow a-coming. But they kept working and increasing and having negotiatios from time to time. General committee would meet, they'd go up to Sauls office in Portsmouth and draw up all thos contracrts, working agreements, seniority.
LU ANN JONES:
Were you kept informed as a member of the union about what kinds of negotiations were…
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Yes, that's right. We'd go to lodge meeting. We belonged to 794 in Hamlet later on. We'd go down at lodge meeting and the general chairman, local chairman, they'd tell us what was going on, what grievances they'd take. Local chairman, he'd go to the superintendent's office with a bunch of grievances and a bunch of tickets, infractions, railroad company violated the rules. Boys would claim time for it. He'd make an appointment with the superintendent's office, go up there and handle grievance. Sometimes they'd agree to pay them, sometimes they'd agree not to pay them. We kept informed. Local chairman, they kept us informed, told us what was going on.
LU ANN JONES:
What was some of the grievances, particularly in the 20's, 30's and early 40's?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
Different things. Sometimes the crew clerk could call the wrong man. You worked first in, first out on the extra board. Sometimes,

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they had in their contract, go into detail, you had to call a certain man. Sometimes that crew clerk would make a mistake and wouldn't call the right man for that job. The man that was entitled to it, the contract give him the right to that job. He put in the time claim for it. and prove that he was entitled. His seniority, his promotion and everything entitled him to make that day. The crew clerk failed to call him for it. He claimed payment. The local chairman, he'd go to the superintendent. They'd pay it too. Nearly every time, they paid those time tickets.
LU ANN JONES:
What were some other grievances?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That was one of that. Sometimes they'd get in an argument about who's going to catch what job, extra job. One time they had a work train down there. Our contract read that if a work train was in yard limits, if the total day's work was within yard, a yard crew would man it, but if it's a part-time road, part-time yard, the road would man that crew. Sometimes they'd run a work train in over here and work it all day in the yard. We'd find out about it, a conductor and two switchmen or a whole yard crew would claim time. Find out they worked that work train in the yard and didn't run him outside the yard, they'd claim time. They'd argue about that a whole lot. Sometimes they agreed to pay it, and sometimes they wouldn't. They just any number of infractions they claim time for.
LU ANN JONES:
What led up to the strike in 1946?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
That was a wage agreement. That was a nation-wide strike too. Truman was President. That was the big four organizations. You got the engineers, the firemen, the BLE and the BLF, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, and the ORC, the Order of Railroad Conductors. They called them the big four, operating unions. They pulled a nation-wide strike and every railroad in this country was stopped.

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LU ANN JONES:
What was it like here, what happened here?
RALPH WALDO STRICKLAND:
We stayed on strike four days. President Truman, he got on the radio and asked the Brotherhood to call this strike. This country was still in war. We still in war 1946, we pulled that strike. He got on the radio, Truman—I never forget the night—he come on radio and said, "I appeal to each and every railroad worker in this country to return to work immediately. You're striking against your government. A government still at war." That's the very words Truman said, "You're striking against your government, a government still at war." The next morning, the Brotherhood, our heads—Al Whiteney was president of railroad trainmen—they sent wire messages, and they called the strike off. They negotiated. They created a fact-finding board. They granted us … we got a raise in pay. We got some raise and some change in some working conditions, so we benefitted by it, but it didn't last but four days. We had every railroad in the United States shut down at that time. Back in them days, you stop all the railroads, you do that now, and if somebody go hungry, it'll be a state of emergency right quick around here, if you try to stop every railroad in this country for just a few days. Those people around Washington, New York, and all these metropolitan areas, somebody'd go hungry.
[text missing]
END OF INTERVIEW