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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carl and Mary Thompson, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Mary Thompson's childhood

Mary Thompson's parents were very strict with her, emphasizing religion, moral uprightness and thriftiness. Despite this austere upbringing, though, she believes that she had a better childhood than the children of the late twentieth century.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carl and Mary Thompson, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0182. 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

JIM LELOUDIS:
What do you remember about your childhood? What things stand out in your mind?
MARY THOMPSON:
[Laughter] Well, there was a whole lot that was different than it is now with childhoods, I know, because we had to behave ourselves or we got punished, and we were raised to go to church. We didn't have any recreation, only what church put, out, because we wasn't allowed to go just anywhere. Some people may not have been as strict on their children, but my father and them did. Anything the church had to do, parties and all, we got to go to, but we wasn't allowed to go to dances. And our mother and father was strict; they were good, but they were strict. It's entirely different, the way it is now. And when I went to school, we had to do all of the washing and hang it out before we went to work in the morning, and come home and do all the ironing after we got home. Mama had a houseful of children. And we were made to work. I had to milk the cow every morning. We had a cow and a hog, and we lived right there in town. We still had the cow and hogs and chickens, and my job was to milk the cow every morning. And I've got up under a cow many a time when it was snowing [Laughter] and raining in the milk. Oh, it was all fun. I can look back now and say we wouldn't gripe about what we had to do; we was raised not to. And anyway, there wasn't no use in griping. The biggest thing I ever done, that I regretted mostly, was quitting school when I did, not finishing school, which I could have done. But parents then didn't make you go to school if you didn't want to. My daddy give us the opportunity; if we didn't want it, why, we had to go to work. But we had a happy childhood. We didn't have much, but we didn't know we was poor, so we were happy. [Laughter] But if it was a time like it is now, why, they'd be putting us on welfare, giving us some Food Stamps. At least I think they'd think we was on starvation [Laughter] . What clothes we got—we didn't even have no clothes much—my mother made them all. After we got big enough we made our own, but we never did have nothing but one dress for Sunday to go to church. Our Sunday clothes, you know, and then we had two dresses to wear to school. We wore one one week and one the next week. But we'd wear them a week at a time. But it was different than it is now, whole lots different. Maybe I'm wrong, but I really think we were better off than they are today. Children today get out and complain about nothing to do. Have to build parks for them so they can go smoke their grass and all and drink their liquor. We was always too tired. We didn't even have to think about being bored to death. We did get to go to parties, mostly church parties and sometime a friend's house, but they didn't have no dancing.