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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Josephine Turner, June 7, 1976. Interview H-0235-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Hard work during childhood

"I come up on the rough side of the mountain," Turner says. She is referring to her work fixing meals and ironing for boarders who stayed in her parents' home. Her days started at 3:00 am.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Josephine Turner, June 7, 1976. Interview H-0235-2. 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

JOSEPHINE TURNER:
My father was a cement finisher, and my mother just worked at home. She had a rooming house. I've been working since I was about eight years old; that's when I started cooking, because she had a rooming house. And when Camp Butner was being built, you know… And she done a lot of washing and ironing. That's why I don't iron today; I had to iron all the time when I was small.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Oh, well wait a second now. She actually kept people in the house, roomers who were working on Camp Butner? Was that it?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes. When Camp Butner was being built and even before Camp Butner was being built she had a rooming house, and then washing and ironing.
KAREN SINDELAR:
For outside people or for the people in the house?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes, for the outside people.
KAREN SINDELAR:
So you'd have to help with the washing and ironing?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes. The day would begin at three o'clock in the morning and end at night. So I don't iron at all now. I won't even pick up an iron.
KAREN SINDELAR:
[laughter] I don't blame you. Three in the morning she'd begin?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
She would be out washing at three o'clock in the morning.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Washing and ironing. And you said you also had to do a lot of cooking when you were young?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Was that for the boarders mainly?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Boarders, right.
KAREN SINDELAR:
When did you start cooking? You said about eight?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Well, we started breakfast about 6:30, because they had to be at work sometimes at seven or eight. Then we had to fix their lunches, you know. In those days a balogna sandwich was, well, met with… You know, people don't eat them now like they did then. Then we had to cook supper when I wasn't in school. And when I'd come from school we'd have to work with the people, and then iron at night. So, I mean, I come up on the rough side of the mountain, you know. I hear young people now say they're tired; they don't even know what working is.