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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nancy Holt, October 27, 1985. Interview K-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

OWASA employed chicanery to achieve its goals with the Cane Creek Reservoir

Holt describes how OWASA used fear tactics to persuade older Cane Creek residents to accept the reservoir initiative.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Nancy Holt, October 27, 1985. Interview K-0010. 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

What do you think's going to happen?
Well I'll tell you. The methodology of OWASA was deplorable. In order to get the people to sell they used fear. And they went after the weakest links first. They went after the widowers, the lady widows, the elderly. And to me that is inexcusable. If you want a business arrangement and you want to negotiate, you negotiate straight out. Don't play on the fear of these people. All you have to do is to say to some elderly woman "Well, the courts'll take it away from you." And immediately, to these people, courts are the next thing to jail. And taking something away from you. The first two people that sold land here were recent [widows], [Gina McKiver and Pat Cates]. And it was the fear factor. They did the same thing to Coy Armstrong; he was just rampant, you know, he would not sell, this was his family home. And they worked on the fear. And they told him, "Well if you don't want to sell, we'll take you to court and the court will decide how much money you get. And I can tell you it won't be as much money as you would get from here. So, why don't you just go ahead and settle up now with us and then we can - with this money you can be taken care of in your old age." So it's fear again. And after you get the key people, and the key pieces of land, and if you once start bringing your bulldozers in and you start knocking these, these things down and clearing land, how many people have the strong psychological resources to say "Up yours. Leave us alone. That's all you're going to get. If you can put it there, on 400 acres, then you go ahead and do it"? But they - it doesn't work that way. Because then an older couple - now there's - the controlling people in this land and the land acquisition here was always elderly people. Always. And they know that they can accomplish this with fear. And they jolly well did it with fear. Now had they come to people of my age group or the, the next line people would have said "Up yours." But they didn't do that. The key pieces of land - not all the key pieces but the majority of it - was controlled by elderly people. And what are the fear factors and what are the things that creates the most fear for the elderly? Losing their home. Courts. Legal cost. Fear of being run off their land. Every one of these things was being used. Or somebody - the courts condemning your property and giving you a hundred dollars an acre. And your life is gone? Your livelihood is gone? You can't deal with that. There's no, there's no way that you can bypass, and overcome the detrimental effects of what they did. To me, it is the lowest of the low. To me, they used psychological warfare on these elderly people. And to me it's inexcusable. And if I turn on UNC TV and I see William Friday and he's talking about all the North Carolina people and how great it is, I think "You asshole. Do you realize what was done in your backyard?" And, and he interviews all of these elderly people and he acts like he reveres these, these things. And these elderly people were standing in his way. And William Friday is a political force to be reckoned with. And he could have stopped some of this crap. They, somebody could have jerked the chain of OWASA and stopped it. But it was something, you know, that was going to be done regardless of who it hurt, how it hurt, and the long term effects of this action. It was - there was an immediate need and somebody told Everette Billingsley to go do it and Everette is tunnel visioned all the way and there was nothing else but that. Nothing. And so, if he knew that when he was in charge of it that unless he died, it would be. Because he, he doesn't hear any opposition, he doesn't hear any divergent opinions, all he sees and hears is his goal.