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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 >>

Community solidarity, foodways, and childhood remembrances

de-Heer again emphasizes the importance of community solidarity during her formative years and describes her father's role as a leader in the neighborhood. In addition, she describes some of the foodways of her family and neighbors, various activities, and her fond memories of visiting the countryside after moving to the city.

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

JILL HEMMING:
You say that you viewed your dad as a real community leader. Tell me a little bit about his civic involvement. What kind of organizations was he a part of, or how did he—
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Well, his involvement—my father, once we moved to the city. I call it the city, from where we were living that was the country, the county. The only thing that he would do was help them organize. If we were having a rent party or something, he would help organize that. He was gone mostly because his job took him out of town a lot. He was the one, if anything got rowdy or anything at that time, he was the pipeline to the authorities and everybody knew that. Because, he said, "Well, if this happens, I'm going to call the police." But that is basically what he did. If anybody needed to go anywhere—but as far as being a leader or anything, no. He would work with them in the neighborhood on the weekends when he was here. If somebody went out of town, one of the men had to go out of town or something, he kept an eye out on the house and would make sure food was there or something, that the families ate. That they had what they needed. And this is basically what everyone did. Looked out. The men liked to fish and they would try to fish or hunt and bring enough for everybody, or two or three families at a time.
JILL HEMMING:
True country boys.
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Yes indeed. It was country from their heart. Catfish, yuk! They had so much rabbit. But food was there. Chicken, of course plenty of chicken because they were at the Farmer's Exchange.
JILL HEMMING:
Chicken, chicken, chicken.
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Yes. We had stewed chicken, baked chicken, fried chicken, chicken, chicken. [Laughter] There was so much chicken. Then we ate chicken feed. You know, the chicken feed. And we used to love it. Because they used to stew those. They would boil them and put onions in it and a little thickening. It was good to snack on. Then cornbread and buttermilk. There are the things. Crackling corn bread. They would get meat. They used to go out and kill hogs, slaughter hogs. And the fat, the skin. They used to—they had a smoke house. My grandfather had a big smokehouse for the sausage. We had sausage, ham, and everything that goes in the smokehouse. And then the skin, some way my grandmother made crackling. And we had crackling corn bread. It was some good eating.
JILL HEMMING:
They did that right in Durham? This wasn't out in the country. This was right in their backyard?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Yes. Oh, they slaughtered the hogs in the country because we couldn't do that, but in the town they made the soap. They had this great old big black pot, and boil liquids. They made [unclear] soap. My grandmother and my mother, they used to make soap in town. But they slaughtered hogs in the country, where a lot of my family still live and lived. The older ones that are still here. So we would go out there.
JILL HEMMING:
So you still felt pretty connected to the country, even though your family moved to the city because there was enough family there that you went back and forth?
JULIA PEAKS DE-HEER:
Right. And I would love the summer when school was out in the summer, because I could go back, and it is in my bones now. As I think about it now, because wherever I go, I travel a lot, and wherever I go I would think about the country. And to me it may be a way of getting—those were my peaceful times. And I reflect back on it and the peace. So this is probably—it was a peaceful time for me. It seems to me when I moved to the city everything just went, like the hay wall. It was there for a minute, everybody around. That's why I paid close attention to what everybody did. And it was good. Hopkins Street is our neighborhood. That's my neighborhood. But Stagville, that's my home. That's a difference. A neighborhood and a home. We grew up in that neighborhood and the atmosphere was pleasant. There was a sense of unity and people looking out for each other. And loving, and sharing, and caring.