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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 >>

Carl Thompson's memories of growing up

Like his wife, Carl Thompson began working at a very early age. He describes how that affected his school experiences. He also describes how the local community celebrated when World War I ended.

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

Before we left there, though, I started at school in Fort Mill. And I didn't start at a schoolhouse. What I started to school at wasn't a thing but a little three-room house, what I'd call a little shotgun house. It just had three straight rooms; that's all. They call them, I think, little shotgun houses now. It was a little red house, built right beside of Harris's Store. And I can remember it just as well as if it was yesterday. And Papa told me, "Well, you're going to school today, Carl." I started to crying. And he said, "What you crying for?" I said, "Papa, I don't want to go to school." He said, "Well, you're going anyway." And I said, "All right." So I went, and after I got started a day or two, well, I liked it. And I went there through the first grade. And the next year, then, when I went into the second grade, they moved it from there over to another mill house, just right across almost in front of where we were living. And I believe the schoolteacher's name was Atwater. And he didn't have but one arm, and his wife was teaching. All the grades then was right in one room there; it wasn't separated. All the children was right in one big room, just like it is here. And Mrs. Atwater taught every one of them. I reckon there was about twenty-five or thirty kids in there in the second grade. And whenever school was out that year, for every day they would ask us to memorize a verse in the Bible. They said, "Now when you go home, you read the Bible tonight, and you memorize a verse in that Bible, because I'm going to ask you in the morning to quote a verse in the Bible." And so we would. Before we'd go to bed that night, I'd get the Bible down under the lamp light (didn't have no electric light; didn't have anything but oil kerosene lamps), and I'd set the lamp on the table just like that electric lamp, get the Bible down there, and I'd go to reading it, and I'd find a verse that I liked in there. And I said, "Well, I like that one." And so I'd study it three or four times till I'd memorize it. And the next morning when we'd go to school, she'd say, "Well, it's Bible time now for our verse. I want every one of yours now. I hope you all learned one." And so she'd call them out one by one, and every one of them would always memorize that verse. And so when school was out that year, she give us, every one, a Bible. And I kept that Bible until after my daddy died in 1936. And that Bible got misplaced somewheres or another. I've never seen it since. But it got gone, and I don't know what become of it. But whenever we moved the second time from Fort Mill, we moved back to Rock Hill. We moved there to what they call the Wymojo Mill. It was named after three people: Wylie, Moore, and Joe. And they called it Wymojo. And Armstrong from Gastonia was the owner of it and all. He would come down there from Gastonia three or four times a week and he would come through the mill and all and talk with all the hands and all, and every Fourth of July he'd give them all a picnic. We had a big place down there. They called it a park, but there wasn't a thing in it, only just a big open place and a lot of shade trees and all. There wasn't no activity or anything going on, but just a gathering. And that picnic, well, nobody didn't bring nothing. He furnished everything, and he would have two or three big tubs of ice-cold lemonade there. Said, "Well, there's plenty of lemonade now. Just drink all you want." And we'd spend that whole Fourth of July down there in that place, eating and drinking, but it was just for the community there. And I wasn't even old enough to go to work then. My first year of schooling over there at Rock Hill, I started in a regular schoolhouse. It was the first schoolhouse I'd ever went to, was down there at the Victoria Mill. And it was the Victoria Arcade schoolhouse, for the schoolchildren from the communities around. And so I went to the third grade down there, and the next year I went over to another schoolhouse, and I went to the fourth grade over there. And whenever I completed the fourth grade, I quit school then and went to work. And I'd have been fourteen my coming birthday, but I went to work the latter part of 1917. And I'd been working about ten or eleven months when World War I ended. And I can remember it just as well, whenever they announced that the Armistice had been signed and the War was over. They come in and said, "Everybody go home," and they shut down the mill, and everybody went home. And I remember going out. Oh, they was shooting fireworks and guns and pistols. And I was going home, and somebody'd shot a pistol straight up in the air. When I was going home, I felt something hit me in the head. And I said, "What was that?" And I seen it fall. I looked down, and it was the ball out of a pistol. Somebody had shot the pistol up, and it come back down and it hit me in the top of the head. It was just like a little rock hit me.
It's a wonder it didn't really hurt you.
I reckon it went so high till whenever it come back down it had done lost its force and all. And it was just like somebody just picking up a rock or something like that, and it come back down and hit me. I reached down and picked it up. I said, "Wow, somebody shot it." I said, "Yes, there was a cartridge shell where the ball fell back down and hit me in the head." I had on a cap then. Back then I wore a cap all the time, just about. I worked on and on till that mill shut down in about 1933 or 1934.