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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Various living situations for railroad personnel

Strickland married shortly after he began working on the railroad. He describes his wedding ceremony, where they lived their first few years, and how having a family changed their situation.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

RALPH W. 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 W. 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 W. STRICKLAND:
Her sister, she had a bunch of girlfriends who lived up a place called Raleigh, about two miles above Warm Springs. There was 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 W. 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 W. 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 W. STRICKLAND:
No, Mrs. Keys, she run the boarding house.
LU ANN JONES:
Did you eat there?
RALPH W. 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 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 W. STRICKLAND:
Above Mrs. Keys' boarding house.
LU ANN JONES:
You mean it was in the same building?
RALPH W. 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 W. 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 W. 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 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 W. 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 W. 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.