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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Vesta and Sam Finley, July 22, 1975. Interview H-0267. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

More on Vesta's trip to New York City

Vesta describes her trip to New York more fully, explaining who had organized the trip, what they did while in the city and what excited her most about being there. She also explains how naïve she was when it came to issues of safety in a big city.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Vesta and Sam Finley, July 22, 1975. Interview H-0267. 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

Marion Roydhouse: Who was it that took you up there? Who was it that organized the trip? Do you remember? Do you remember who it was that organized the trip that you took to New York?
VESTA FINLEY:
The organizer? It was Mr. Hoffman, Jimmy Hoffman. Marion Roydhouse: No, I mean, who arranged the trip to New York, when you went up to New York?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Pieler.
SAM FINLEY:
John Pieler was the organizer.
VESTA FINLEY:
Yes, he was the one with the local. And he was the one.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
I see. So they were sort of working in cooperation with the Southern Summer School women, like with Lois McDonald. Was she involved in that at all?
VESTA FINLEY:
Well, no. She was just a teacher. They sent us up there to raise funds to help feed the people that were out of work, had been thrown out of work here because of the union. And so we visited different local unions and sold buttons and little booklets we had concerning the mill village and the work here. You know, how people had to live under very dire circumstances. So we raised funds. And we had a lady from New Jersey that traveled with us, that took us around, you know, to these places. And we just made speeches and told circumstances here, sold our things we had to sell.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember the name of that woman who took you around?
VESTA FINLEY:
I ought to, but I don't remember [laughter] . I know she's dead, 'cause she had heart trouble. I was going to travel with her, and she had a heart condition. And her husband had something to do with the local union, some union there in. . . . I know he was busy all the time. He never did travel with us. And then too, a lawyer Cook from South Carolina lived up there. He and his wife were both lawyers. We were out at their home a time or two, and he carried us around and showed us different things: took us to the museum, and places there in New York.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Had you ever been away from home before?
VESTA FINLEY:
Not that far [laughter] , no.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Weren't you sort of scared to go out there and make speeches in front of eight hundred people [laughter]
VESTA FINLEY:
No. I thought about it a lot of times: we were out some mornings 'til two o'clock in the morning. Come in. . . . Maybe we went to New Jersey, or Brooklyn, or different places we had to go to make speeches. And sometimes it'd be two o'clock in the morning before we'd get back to where we were. . . . And this lady that lived in New Jersey, well, she'd get off and leave us two girls on our own to where we were living, on Lexington Avenue in more or less a women's hotel. We stayed there most of the time. We had another place we stayed a while. But no, I wasn't scared. But after I got back home and since I've grown older I thought, really, how much danger we were in, you know. And we'd come out on the streets at maybe eleven, twelve o'clock at night from those meetings, and people staggering all over the streets drunk. Of course, you know, I was ignorant of. . . . I was brought up in the country and the little place here where there wasn't too much of things going on. And really I was in danger, but the Lord had mercy on me; he knew I was ignorant and didn't know any better. But [laughter] there was so many things that now I think about would scare me to death. We'd have to get on the bus, maybe, and walk two or three blocks to get to. . . . And it would all depend on the time that we'd get in or the bus that we were on or. . . . You know, we'd have to walk. It was a dangerous thing!
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How do you remember feeling about it at the time? Were you excited, or were you. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Oh, I was excited by what all was going on. But mercy me, we were on the streets in the early morning, twelve, one o'clock. And people coming out from those movies and dance halls, and drinking and staggering; the streets would be full of people. But I wasn't afraid; I didn't have sense enough to be afraid [laughter] . I didn't realize the dangers of a big city, don't you know. That's right, the Lord had mercy on my ignorance, because. . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How did you feel about her going off to New York to do all of this?
SAM FINLEY:
Well, I didn't. . . .
VESTA FINLEY:
Why, he didn't care. He was so busy. . . .
SAM FINLEY:
I didn't think too much about it.