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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Julia Peaks de-Heer, January 8, 1999. Interview K-0146. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Describing neighborhood decline

de-Heer describes how the Hopkins Street neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina, had steadily declined over the years, particularly when some of the homes were converted into boarding houses. Her comments offer a descriptive foundation for her discussions later in the interview about her efforts to improve the community in later years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Julia Peaks de-Heer, January 8, 1999. Interview K-0146. 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

At that time Mrs. McCollough bought his house. And she just used that as a boarding house. That how the boarding houses, you know, like people started moving into because she started boarding. And other properties, if nobody moved in or—she bought another house next door and used as a boarding house. So, then, this is how people different started coming in also. Other people started to come in.
JILL HEMMING:
How did your family respond initially to these new neighbors who were in boarding houses?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
You know skeptical. At first it wasn't accepted. It was a question—where are they coming from? Are things going to be the same? What kinds of changes—and she assured that—it's going to be fine. The people and this and that and the other. So, trusting as we were at the time—okay, what can it hurt? We'll just would love, we would do this and that and maybe things would be all right. But after, I'd say about a few years, then we began to see that it was about the money. The people wasn't being screened as you say that they were. It was just economic—I want this, greed set in on that side. And it was something to have to see. You know, to have all of this going—and there's always one in the camp. It's always one in the camp and you try. You don't want it to be or you don't want to accept that its somebody in the camp that is going to sell you out. But it happened. It happened and it was behind money. We still stood our ground then. And gradually some of the relatives of the people that were rooming started to come in and then we started to see little alcohol, little changes, like the drinking and the fighting and this is totally different than what it was. Where did all the love go all of a sudden? Things just started gradually turning over. Like changes, changes. But even though the changes came, it was like on the weekend people would just let go. They'd go out and drinking, and do their little thing. It wasn't to the point that people were—people yet held their jobs, and yet respected the neighborhood enough. It wasn't like an all day, every day thing. People didn't do that then because people believed in working and keeping like the yards and everything good. That's the way it was. That's just what I remember. So even with that change then, it wasn't as traumatic, as dramatic as it is today like with the people standing out there from the time, I guess, they get up until the time that you go to bed. Because sometime we might get out of church at 11:00, 11:30 and people are still standing. Just standing. Nothing can be good of that. Why are you just standing here? I know there is a place to work. They have twenty-four hour places to work. It's something. With standing over top of trash.
JILL HEMMING:
Your family moved in what year? And was there a final straw that pushed you to do so?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Well, after everyone left and then—they wanted my mother to just leave because she was the only one that you know—just move to another neighborhood until—. She stood. She stood. She was determined that she was not going to move because her roots—but after the girls and her siblings and my father passed there. Had they passed, she would have let it go easier then. After he passed—and she moved out here in '90—my father passed in '89 and she moved out here in '91. Was it '90 or '91? About a year or two later after he passed.
JILL HEMMING:
So they moved in in about 1940?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Yes, say about '40, '42 something like that, '40.
JILL HEMMING:
Until 1991.
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Um-hum. '89, '89 he died, December 15th, 1989.