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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Margaret Skinner Parker, March 7, 1976. Interview H-0278. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The effects of World War II on Coolemee, North Carolina

Parker and Huske describe some of the effects of World War II on Coolemee, including rationing, gasoline shortages, and air raid drills, as well as concerns for friends and family fighting overseas.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Margaret Skinner Parker, March 7, 1976. Interview H-0278. 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

MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
It was at that time that they were having to do some work on the little house that we had on Center Street, and they moved us into this house at 7 Church Street where Mrs. Rice was living (and she was alone). So they told us to come over and live here while they worked on our house. And they were having air raid drills then, and Mr. Jarvis, who lived up the street, was the air raid warden on this block. And we had a grate (and all of us were sleeping in that room across the hall, in the one bedroom) and it had a fire in it. And your father was working late at the mill office, and somebody tapped on the door. And Mr. Jarvis said, "I'm sorry, but there's light showing, and you'll have to do something about it." And I said, "Well, we have the shades down as much as we can get them, and all we have for light in here is this grate, you know, ." He said, "Well, we'll just have to do something about it, because we can't have a little ray of light." So he came in and put ashes all over the fire and put it out.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
What about rations? Were you working at the store during the war?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Sugar was rationed.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
Yes, and coffee, and gas.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
But you know, frankly there at the hotel I can't say that we really suffered for anything.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
We didn't suffer for anything, except we had two casualties in the kitchen. We burned out a percolator and couldn't get another one. We used an old tin coffee pot for the rest of the war. And my eggbeater stopped working, and I couldn't find one high or low, in spite of the fact that my father had a hardware store. We just couldn't get an eggbeater. And Bright Carpenter's father had a little country store way up there somewhere near Cherryville, and when she came back she brought me a small, short, inexpensive eggbeater, which was probably the last one in North Carolina! [laughter] And I still have it [laughter] ; I've never prized anything so much in my life.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Of course, the gasoline shortage, I guess, affected…
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
We had to really plan our trips to go shopping in Salisbury or anywhere, and we could hardly get home. That was one of the things that bothered me. My brothers were both overseas, and I could hardly get home to see my parents. And they were there alone and, you know, suffering it out with their boys overseas. And that was during that bad winter of '44.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Why was it bad?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
That was when the fighting was so intense, and so many casualties overseas. You'd listen to the news every morning at breakfast and wondered if you'd hear anything about where your family was.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
I never will forget, talking about the war, VJ Day. We were eating supper (we always ate at six o'clock), and I went upstairs. I was standing there at the lavatory and I had my radio on. And it said that the war in the Pacific was over. And I don't know, you just stood there and the tears just started rolling.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
And the neighbors all gathered out in the front yard in the neighborhood on Center Street, and just stood there and looked at each other; we couldn't believe it was over. I remember that we said, "Isn't it wonderful that it's over." And then we started saying, "But it's too late for so-and-so, and too late for so-and-so." And it sort of took all the joy of the occasion out, you know.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Did a lot of women go to work in the mill since the boys were over-seas? How did they deal with the labor shortage?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Well, I guess that was it.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Can you think of anybody who would have done that?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Mabel can probably tell you about that.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Were there a lot of children working in the mill during the time you…?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Well now, you see, you've got your labor law.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Around '34 you did, yes.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
And World War II was in the forties. So that protected that.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
There's one thing that didn't get in talking about in '34 when the National Guards were here. Now, that's when all the churches had prayer services.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
To pray for what?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
The situation here, because people were really afraid.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
Yes.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Afraid of what?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
Violence.
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
Well, violence, yes, and this crowd that was coming in that were trying to organize (because as well as I remember it was sort of a rough crowd).
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
I remember the morning those people, the National Guard, came in. About six o'clock in the morning we heard all this noise coming down the road, the little road there in front of our house. And they were coming in, just a convoy of National Guard.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
They were coming from Salisbury?
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
From that direction; I guess they were coming from there. It was the Pine Ridge Road, you know.
W. WELDON HUSKE:
Well, did the mill request that National Guard come in?
MARGARET SKINNER PARKER:
I would think so.
MRS. ISAAC HALL HUSKE:
That was my understanding.