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Title: Oral History Interview with Renee Lee, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0284. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Lee, Renee, interviewee
Interview conducted by Thompson, Charles
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Kristin Shaffer
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2004
Size of electronic edition: 180 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2004.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-12-08, Kristin Shaffer finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Renee Lee, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0284. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0284)
Author: Charles Thompson
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Renee Lee, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0284. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0284)
Author: Renee Lee
Description: 155 Mb
Description: 47 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 19, 1999, by Charles Thompson; recorded in White Stocking, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Renee Lee, December 19, 1999.
Interview K-0284. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Lee, Renee, interviewee


Interview Participants

    RENEE LEE, interviewee
    ASHLEY LEE, interviewee
    CHARLES THOMPSON, interviewer
    ROB AMBERG, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This is Charlie Thompson with Rob Amberg on December 19, 1999 in the home of Renee—. [Recorder is turned of and then back on.] So we're in the home of Renee Lee. Hopefully, we'll talk with Ashley Lee in a few moments. We're on Route 53 in a trailer that one of Renee's friends has been kind enough to let her stay in as she recovers from the flood. So you want to tell us about some of the pictures that you have out now and describe them in your words. You were going to show us those.
RENEE LEE:
Okay. I want to start with my bathroom and the master bedroom. As you can see, the tub is full of the water from the flood. It's all dirty looking.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It's about the color of dark iced tea.
RENEE LEE:
Yes. As you can see everything is—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Flooded.
RENEE LEE:
It looks like a tornado went through there. I have one here with my son's shoe. It's on the windowsill of the bathroom window. [Pause] Okay in my bedroom, my television was on top of my bed. My clothing in my drawer was—everything was all soaked with water. I believe the water came about four and a half feet into my home. [Unclear] This is the picture of the shoe on the windowsill. I guess it floated up there. [Laughter]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And just hung on by the heel onto the—
RENEE LEE:
Windowsill.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Windowsill.

Page 2
RENEE LEE:
It was under my bed, so it had to float from under my bed into the bathroom. I guess this is where it ended up on the window shield, windowsill. The living—in my living room everything is upside. My floor model television is standing straight up sideways, as you can see there. The furniture's all pushed in the middle of the floor. The walls are all molded. You can see all the mold on the floor and the wall. It looks like to me someone just backed up a dump truck of mud and had a party. And some of the furniture's broken. You can see that mold.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How long did it take you to accumulate all these pieces of furniture and lamps and so forth?
RENEE LEE:
Oh boy. Well I lived there—I've been there twelve and a half, about twelve and a half years I lived in this home, and most of my furniture was paid for. But I worked for it. No one gave it to me. I worked for everything that I lost. Everything that I lost I worked for. No one gave it to me.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Can you go back and describe the community a little. Where you live is called White Stocking—
RENEE LEE:
It's called White Stocking Road. Most of the families that live there are related from the beginning of the road to the end. The beginning is the Robin Barts. Most of those, like the mobile homes you passed as you came down there, and the brick homes—those are all family members. And then as you get further down the road almost to the end of the road is where my family begins. I have an eighty—five year old grandmother. She's been there all her life, was born and lived there. And she has never in her life seen anything like that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What was her name?

Page 3
RENEE LEE:
Jesse P. Ballard. I also have a great aunt lives about a half a mile from me, where we were living. She's eighty-six, and she said the same thing my grandmother said. Both of them are living.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
We saw her house yesterday. She lives about—
RENEE LEE:
The little white house.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
A hundred feet from the river, would you say?
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
From the northeast Cape Fear River.
RENEE LEE:
About a hundred feet.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. Then her house is beside of your—
RENEE LEE:
Uncle's.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Uncle's house.
RENEE LEE:
He's sixty years old.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And then across from your grandmother is—
RENEE LEE:
Is my parents' house. It's about, how many feet would you say?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
From the river?
RENEE LEE:
From my mom's to my grandmother's.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Seventy-five, a hundred.
RENEE LEE:
And then I live two houses from my parents.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Your house was a mobile home.
RENEE LEE:
Yes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And did you buy that mobile home?
RENEE LEE:
No. I was renting from a relative.

Page 4
CHARLES THOMPSON:
From a relative. Okay. So you grew up in that community. And did you go to school here in Wallace?
RENEE LEE:
We moved here my senior year. Moved down September '79.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
From?
RENEE LEE:
From Brooklyn, New York.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Your parents had left home to go up there.
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm. My parents lived up there seventeen years. They had me here. I believe I was about four when they moved to New York, and they lived up there for sixteen and a half years. Then they decided to move back here.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Do you remember why? Have they talked about the—
RENEE LEE:
Well you see, my father wanted to get away from the country for a while. And once they got up there he had a real good job and they decided to stay.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And what was he doing?
RENEE LEE:
He was a barber for about thirty-two years. And she—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In the city.
RENEE LEE:
Taught school for thirteen years, my mother did.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. And you went to school—
RENEE LEE:
I went to Pender High School here in Pender County for just one year, my senior year.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you went to school in New York for most of your years—
RENEE LEE:
Yes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And then came here and finished.
RENEE LEE:
Yes.

Page 5
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And graduated.
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm. I went to school up there from K through eleven. And my senior year I finished here.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What a huge change from—were you right in the city?
RENEE LEE:
We lived in the city. We always lived in a two-family house. We never stayed in like the project. You know the high story apartments? We never lived there. It was always a two-family house we stayed in.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What did you say when your parents said we want to move back?
RENEE LEE:
Oh, I was not happy. I begged them to let me stay, and they refused. Said, no you're going. My father's oldest sister lived up there, and I asked them if I could stay with her and complete my last year of schooling. And they told me no, that I had to come with them. So I wasn't too happy my senior year down here. But once I graduated I went off to college.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Where was that?
RENEE LEE:
I went to Central for about three years. I quit school. I was tired of school, so I quit. When I came home I really wanted to take a break, and I didn't go back. And my mother said, "Renee, you might as well go ahead and finish up." And the year I stayed out I got pregnant with my daughter and I didn't go back. I got a job at the hospital and that's where I ended up. For about seven years I worked at Pender Hospital in the business office, and then I got pregnant with Rashard. That was Patrick. And he was born Downs and I had to take—I just had to give my job up to be home with him because he was so sick.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And your oldest daughter is fourteen.

Page 6
RENEE LEE:
She's fourteen.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And Patrick is—
RENEE LEE:
Eight.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you have a seven year old.
RENEE LEE:
And Rashard is the baby.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So where do you work now?
RENEE LEE:
I work at this plant in [Unclear] called Ultra-Foam. They make furniture chairs. It's worldwide. I've been there about three and a half years. My position is quality control, and I like it. I like my job. The pay's not that bad. I get paid every week. Great benefits. It's convenient because I'm closer to, you know, to schools. If they call I can just-a minute or two I'm there, you know, with the children.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you raised these three children there in—right near your parents.
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Were you living with your parents at one point?
RENEE LEE:
Oh, yes. I stayed with my mom until I believe Ashley was five, and then I moved out.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. Have you worked and put your children through school as far as they've gone so far?
RENEE LEE:
Sure have. I'm a very independent person. I wish my mother was here. She can tell you that. I did it all for my kids. Their father, you know, he's pretty good with them. We're not married. He does pay child support, and if there's something they need, you know, he usually comes across. But I try to do it myself, you know. I don't bother anybody. I'm pretty much a quiet, self person. I love my children. They come

Page 7
first, and when you see me you see them. I've never been into partying even in high school—even when I went off to college I pretty much stayed to myself. I wasn't, you know, I wasn't dating anyone up there. And when I had Ashley everything was Ashley, then Patrick and Rashard. So it's all about the kids, you know. I spend a lot of time with my children. They're my life, you can say.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And your family members, do they help out in some ways?
RENEE LEE:
My mother, my stepfather, they're pretty good. But hardly ever do I bother them. But if I need to, like, go somewhere, just want a break, they are right there for me. But I try to—I try not to bother them. My mother had five kids and she raised all hers, and I feel like these are mine and I can do the same thing.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Were you the youngest?
RENEE LEE:
I'm next to the oldest.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Next to the oldest.
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm. I have a sister, thirty-eight. I'm thirty-seven. One, thirty-six, Kathy, [Unclear]. My brother is twenty-nine and my baby sister's twenty-three. I'm very independent though, very.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I believe it. And so you're also community minded.
RENEE LEE:
I love children. I'm a member of Sandhill AME Church. Our church was destroyed in the storm. I work with the youth a lot in the church. And if you could've came down before the storm hit me you would've said, "Boy that lady's running a big daycare." You know, living in a single-wide my yard stayed full of children. Even on the rainy days, you know, it's raining here today, it was probably two or three inside during the rainy days. And I didn't have really a whole lot of space. But the kids, they

Page 8
just feel at home at my house. And a lot of days I was tired and I'm like, "Not today, Ashley." But when they come and knock at the door, I say, "Let them in." I never turn them away.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What do you want to teach them when they come in? Or what do you say?
RENEE LEE:
Do with them? I speak to them. A lot of times they're wanting to use the bathroom or something to drink or an Icee. You know, I keep a lot of snacks for the children. I guess I was the snack house and the [Unclear], you know. And I [Unclear] a full-time job. It's like some of their parents. But it didn't matter, rain, sleet or shine they were there. A lot of times I would rent movies, you know, and just call them over and bake cupcakes for them. And, you know, let them put icing on them. My sister said, "Don't you get tired of children?" I said, "Not really. You?" I just wish I had a big house where I could keep them every weekend. I didn't have a husband, so I guess the kids—whatever makes the kids happy makes me happy. As long as my kids are happy, I'm happy. And it wasn't all about men. She'd say, "You're too young for that, Renee." That may be true. But it all boils down to the kids again. She said, "But you need to go out. You've got to go out." I'm like, "Well, once the kids get grown then maybe I'll find that one, you know." I spend a lot of time with the kids. On weekends I will take them skating. Some of them—my car couldn't hold them all—so I said, "If you can get your mom to drop you off I'll watch you. Give them a time to come back." And just to do something with them. We don't have anything, recreation, here in Pender County for our children. A lot of times we would meet at the church, and we had a large, pretty good-sized dining hall. We would play games with them, you know. Had a ball—play ball in

Page 9
the summertime with them because we had a big field in the back, to keep them out of trouble for one. There's not a whole lot you can do with them in Pender County, you know. They go to school all week, and when the weekend comes they get bored. As they get older, they're finding trouble if you don't, you know, keep them busy. But mine, you know, I try to do something with them. I have some friends that work and they don't do anything with their children. I was important that way. I lived in the city, and every Friday my dad and mom would take us to dinner. Saturday we would go to the amusement park, somewhere, museum. I mean, they did things with us. Here—for one thing, you have to have transportation in the south; otherwise you're lost. Up there you can [take] the bus, the train, you know, walk to a lot of stuff. The movie theater, you'd walk. It was like six blocks from where we lived. We were surrounded by different stuff. But here they don't have a whole lot to offer the children, you know. And since the flood come I'm living here in [Unclear] on this busy highway. Home, back in White Stocking, I had a big yard. You saw my yard. Trampoline. The swing was gone. They had a swing. I could put the kids in the yard and not worry. Out here I can't do that because of that main highway, you know. I just cannot put them in the yard and come inside. I have to sit out there with them. It's a deck out back here. The backyard is pretty huge. This trailer's on five acres of land. I just cannot put my kids out there, and it's so inconvenient, you know. Before the storm I—the kids would leave for school and come back home. Now I have to get a babysitter for Patrick because of living somewhere different, you know. I didn't have that babysitting bill before. Now I have a babysitting bill. I've collected another bill, you know.

Page 10
ROB AMBERG:
Where your trailer was before, was most of the land right around there owned by your family?
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm, my grandfather.
ROB AMBERG:
Okay. That had been in your family then for—
RENEE LEE:
Yes. For, gosh, for years.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How far back have you heard stories?
RENEE LEE:
My grandmother—from-about the storm?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Just about that land.
RENEE LEE:
Okay. Actually it's my grandmother's land. Okay, the house that was directly in front of me, the little—the old house—that was my grandmother's parent's house; that's where my grandmother was born and reared. And my mom, my mother—which it would have been her great grandmother's house—they all was born and reared in that house across. Their house is probably—it's over a hundred and some years old, that house itself, because my grandmother's eighty—she just turned eighty-five August the eighth. So before we moved here from New York there was only that house, my uncle's house, my grandmother's and my mom's house on that road. Them other homes were not there on that stretch. All of that was wooded land. And then as the years, you know, passed, a great aunt from Ohio moved and put a trailer beside mine. And then the piece I'm on belongs to my first cousin. He lives in D. C. He said he would never reside here. And he let his mother put a mobile home there and rent it out to me, you know. I tried to buy it but he said my grandparents left it for him, and he didn't want to sell it. They left—gave land to two grandchildren: the two oldest, my sister and him. And he didn't want to sell it.

Page 11
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you ever hear how they first came? How far back and why they decided on White Stocking? Any stories like that?
RENEE LEE:
I don't know where that name come about, you know. That's a question I never asked. All I know is great great grandma and grandpa, that was their home, you know. They was born and reared down there. That's—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And the Lees have been there ever since, or your family have been there.
RENEE LEE:
The family, um-hmm. I'm going to ask them where that name come about, because—
ROB AMBERG:
When you—in three or four months, when hopefully you get your new trailer, will you put it back over there?
RENEE LEE:
See, I'm going to try and put one back there. That's if my aunt decides not to put one back. She did ask me Wednesday if she bought another one would I move in. And I asked her—I responded, "I'd rather you not do that because I'm going to try and buy my own." You know, she owns three mobile homes. Plus, her home was destroyed by the storm. And I feel like now I've saved up some money, and with what they give me I have enough for a down payment on my own. And, you know, here's my opportunity.
ROB AMBERG:
So you would like to put it right back on the same spot.
RENEE LEE:
Not necessarily that spot. Maybe the road down from the church. I don't know if you looked down that road.
ROB AMBERG:
We did.

Page 12
RENEE LEE:
It's a mobile home development down there, and they had some lots for sale. I might consider there. Now, my uncle owns a lot of land on that road. But where it's at there is no homes, like up near the cemetery.
ROB AMBERG:
Right.
RENEE LEE:
I don't want to go too far up there by myself, you know. I would like to be closer to some of the family members.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Can you tell people who listen to this tape why you like being close to the family?
RENEE LEE:
I'm just a family person, I guess. I just like being around my family. You know, they're good people. At the [Unclear], you didn't get to walk down there. But there was a shed my granddaddy built years ago. And what he done in the summertime, he would rent it out—not rent it out. Whoever wanted to use it could use it. It was a patio with a shed, the grill. You could barbecue and just have your family reunions or if you wanted to have a party, Christmas party, your job. He would just let you, as long as you contacted him to make sure no one else had it. And during the summertime, they had this way back—they were called—they would catch fish. They called it pulling the [Unclear]. I don't know if you ever heard of that. They put a great big net in the water and they go around with the boat. Then they wait a few minutes and they go back around and pull it in, and all the fish would be in the net. And they would bring it up to shore, and get their fish out and clean them and cook them and then we would have fish fry. It was really fun. They used to do that in the summertime, too. And, usually—every summer we have lots of cookouts down there. The kids would go. We do have some relatives that come and even swim in that water. Now me, myself, I don't think I would

Page 13
because I don't like water. But they—I watched my cousins swim all the way across that river and back. There's no bottom, you know; when you go midways out there's no bottom.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You can't touch the bottom.
RENEE LEE:
No. And they would wade out and say, "Renee, we're standing up." And my uncle said, "Well how far are you?" And he'd say, "Well, this is as far as I can go. If I step back I'm gone," you know. They swim. They tell you how far they can go before it goes down. And they—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It goes down to about fifty feet.
RENEE LEE:
I don't know how far it goes down. But I know they would race. Swim across and back. And then the boats come through. In the summertime the boats just come—pretty boats. And some of them would even stop. If we're down there cooking out, they just pull it—if they're not that big they can pull close to the shore where we are, and they would talk to my uncle. But what my granddaddy really wanted to do, he wanted to have it—dig up the grass and plant new grass, you know, where it'd be pretty and green like on the other side. And, you know, just somewhere for the family or whoever wanted to go, you know. But then he died with cancer, my uncle. It was too much for him to keep up. I don't know if you noticed the little shop building beside my grandmother's house. It's a little white building.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Yes.
RENEE LEE:
We used to call that the shop. What that was was like a recreation building for grandkids and the children of the community, even if you wasn't related to us. He had a pool table in there, like two or three pinball machines. It wasn't free

Page 14
because granddaddy had made little coins, you know. And then he had—would sell food, had a drink machine. On the weekends they would fry chicken, have chicken sandwiches, you know. It's no violence there, you know, just something to do. And my mom said when they were coming up that was his store, the White Stocking little store. She said he had detergent, you name it he had it; soap. Where they used to have to come to [Unclear] to the store for like toothpaste and stuff, he had it there at the little store. And the ones in the community would go there and buy the items they needed. She said he even had an account for different families that may not have the money to purchase it. But he would—they would pay him at the end of the week or the end of the month. And—[Children running]. Excuse me. [Unclear]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Kind of nice hearing the cooking going on in the background on the tape, I'm sure.
RENEE LEE:
Oh gosh. [Unclear], he don't eat cabbage.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So there was—as far back as you can remember there were people getting together for eating, and there was community—
RENEE LEE:
It's always been a—they always—the community down there, they always stuck together, you know. You can probably go to bed at night and not even lock your door. You didn't have to worry about someone coming in or breaking in because it was like community watch, you know. We looked out for everyone. If we—if someone pulled in your yard and you're not there your neighbor would, you know, make sure, you know. They just didn't ignore it. They would go over and say, "Well, may I help you? They're not home," you know. That's how it is down there. Everyone looks out for one

Page 15
another. And it's a very peaceful place, you know. It's quiet. I don't know. Everybody gets along.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Does pretty much everybody go to the same church at Sandhill?
RENEE LEE:
The family members, we have—like Thomas Hand. You've met with him. He doesn't belong to our church. And Pearline Johnson, she's another family. They don't belong to our church. I believe Loretta Murray—and we have a pastor that lived down there, Reverend Pickett, Bert Pickett.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
RENEE LEE:
Those four families do not belong to our church. But the rest of them—the Persons, the Browns, the Ballards belong to Sandhill AME Church. The Picketts, Connie Pickett, they belong to our church.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now, in the past with everybody in the church together if there was somebody in trouble—let's say there was a sickness in the family—
RENEE LEE:
In the community?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In the community, like your grandfather had cancer and so on. Did the church respond to help the family?
RENEE LEE:
He built that—he helped that church. Yes, um-hmm. The ones in the community, everyone knew him. He was like—what do you call it—when you're so old and—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Elder?
RENEE LEE:
You remember, say for instance, he remembered you when you were born. And everyone looked up to him, you know. And they came down and did like a fundraising for him at the river with gospel singing. And all the funds went towards his

Page 16
hospital bill, being that he was self-employed, you know. They had a lot of stuff to help granddaddy out. My grandmother never worked. She had seven kids and he did not want her to work. She stayed home and kept house. You know how it was back then—had the babies and kept house. That's what they did. Of course, I don't think I could have done that. [Laughter] That's what she mostly did. And I think when my aunt, which is my grandmother's baby daughter, when she went off to college my grandmother decided to work part-time at the hospital. She worked there for a few years, you know, just a few years. She was bored at home even though my granddaddy, he didn't want her to work. She said she couldn't stay in the house no more because she had no babies, and she worked out there for a while.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
When people die in the community are they buried at the cemetery up the road from where you live?
RENEE LEE:
Some of them are. Anybody can be buried in that cemetery, black or white. It's up to you. If you want to buy a plot there, you can be put there. It's not our cemetery. As a matter of fact, this man on the road sells the plots to the family member. And, you know, anybody can be buried there. It's called the White Stocking Cemetery. It's not the Ballards'; everyone in that cemetery is not a Ballard. We've got people from Bargar, New York. We had two relatives die from New York. They did not have a plot there, but they wanted to be buried home because White Stocking was their home. They're out there, you know. So anybody can really be put there in that cemetery.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Do you have family members who have been buried there?
RENEE LEE:
Yes. I have two aunts. And two of my mother's sisters died with breast cancer. They're there. Granddaddy, my great great grandparents are in that cemetery;

Page 17
great, great, great grandparents are in there. I never met them, but I did meet my great grandmother. She was ninety when she died. She died the year before we moved—the year before we moved down here. She—her and her husband. I never knew her husband. He was dead. He died before I was born, which my mom called Popa. But I've seen pictures of him. But I did know my great grandmother, because she's the one who put the tobacco on you. You know how when you come in from New York and everybody wants to hug you? In the city we don't do that. We speak or we don't, and we go on about our business. In the south when you meet someone the first thing they want to do is hug and kiss you, you know.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
She dipped snuff a little bit.
RENEE LEE:
Oh, yeah.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
She got tobacco on you?
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm. And I didn't like that. I would like speak, and I wasn't being ugly. And my mom's like—my mom's like, "Renee, you hug her." And I'm like, "Mom, I love Mama Julia but I can't hug her because she's going to put that stuff all over me." I was a little girl. But you know, we had to do what our parents tell us. And it would be coming down her mouth sometimes. And my grandmother—that was my grandmother's mother. And then she got—she was real sickly, you know. And then she'd say, "Come here, girl." And I'm like, "She's going to [Unclear], you know." And we would come down every summer. I mean, my mother would like push me over there and [Unclear]. But I had to go, you know. They put that stuff all over you.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How long did you stay in the summer when you came down?

Page 18
RENEE LEE:
The whole summer; we stayed a whole six weeks. My mom would bring—my parents would bring us when school was out because they worked and they didn't want to leave us at home in the house. So they would drive down to bring my sister and I and my brother. And about a week or two before school starts back they would come and take their vacation and spend with their—my mom, her mom, and take us back to New York. We was down here every summer. Every summer.
ROB AMBERG:
When you graduated from high school you moved back down here, and you talked about being upset that you came down here your senior year. Did you ever think that, you know, [when] I've graduated from high school I'm going to move back?
RENEE LEE:
I wanted to. But you know what, during that year, my senior year, two of my good friends were killed, just killed, you know, murdered. And they don't know why.
ROB AMBERG:
In New York?
RENEE LEE:
In New York. And it's like, every two or three months somebody we knew from the block we lived, or knew that lived up there, was murdered. And, I'm like, Lord I thank you for leading my mother out of there, because my brother was in elementary when we moved here. And even after I graduated from high school and as he got older—he's never been a troubled child, you know. He always did what he was told. I was always afraid of him getting tied up with the wrong people, you know. And even some of his friends that he went to school with were—they, I guess, got involved with the wrong people, and they ended up dead. And I said, "Lord, I thank you because my brother could end up the same way." And it not necessarily happen in New York but here, too. He never drank. He never smoked. See, I'm thankful. I'm blessed, you know.

Page 19
So now he's married with a family of four. He drinks now, but he holds a full-time job. He can control it. I'm talking about back then, you know. The city has changed so much. And we go back—we go up there three or four times a year, but I don't think I would ever want to move back to New York. [Laughter] I don't think I would ever want to move back because it's changed. It's the fast life now, you know. It's terrible up there. It's really terrible.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But you always want to try to live in White Stocking as soon as you get back—
RENEE LEE:
There's something about White Stocking. You're not going to believe this, but I've had probably about fifty people or more ask me, do I intend to move back. I respond, "I want to. Yes. I do want to move back." They even ask me, Do you want to move back to the same spot? I respond, "Yes, in a way." You know, as long as I can get—to me that's home. That's my home. This is my home here. Just being around my family, you know. Someone asks me that every week. Do I want to move back to White Stocking?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Are they thinking about the floodwaters and so forth?
RENEE LEE:
Yes. But you know what? That water—they're saying it's a hundred year flood. Now, it may be another hundred years before it happens again. But at my age I won't be around to see it, you know. I want to go back. I really do want to go back. It's just, I don't know, something about it. That's the roots down there, you know. Those are my roots down there, and I love it. The kids love it. And it's not a bad place to live, it's just the flood came in sort of and messed things up. But who says it can't be rebuilt? It can be rebuilt.

Page 20
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I'm going to talk about that flood, and let's talk about the rebuilding. But I was thinking—the story about Cheryl standing up in church and making an announcement about us coming is an interesting story, because she said that you came up and you wanted to tell your story about the flood.
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm. I did go to her.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What was on your heart at that point?
RENEE LEE:
Someone needs to know what we have been through, you know. A lot of people don't know. You know what? When that storm came the water wasn't really hitting Burgaw. It was here on the creek, 40, back our way. No one really knew how bad the water was, even the county commissioners. They didn't know how bad it was. You know, it's like, all your work for all these years has gone under water, and then the county ignores the situation. What do you do? Who do you go to? They act like, well, it's just a rain flood. But all these people, families, are out of their homes. Don't have vehicles to drive, you know. No one gave them nothing. Anything they lost they worked for. And some of those things can be replaced, but some of them can't. Some people, like you say, are afraid to talk, but I don't see any harm. My situation is different from some of the others. I can tell what happened.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, let's talk about what happened on the—
RENEE LEE:
The eighteenth. The storm came on the seventeenth.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
RENEE LEE:
Hurricane Floyd came the seventeenth of September. The storm didn't do much damage. Thursday I drove to Burgaw to the store—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
After the winds.

Page 21
RENEE LEE:
Yes, sir. I got in my car and drove to Burgaw, my daughter and I, to the store, and bought two bags of ice. I went through the community, looked around. There was no water.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
No trees in the road.
RENEE LEE:
No trees was blocking the highway. I mean I drove straight to Burgaw and back home. I was in Burgaw probably about an hour and a half. There were some streets in Burgaw that had water laying in the road. You had to make, like, detours. But other than that, that was it. Went back home, parked my car. Sometime late that evening my uncle stopped by and said the water was rising up near the cemetery. That if you wanted to put your car on the opposite side he would—to meet him up there and he'd bring us back home. That particular area, usually when a storm comes or heavy rain, it's low; the road, the water goes across the road and it, you know, can get high at some times. And you wouldn't want to drive your vehicle through that water, because it'd mess it up unless you had a real high truck. So what my father done, he moved my car and took it up to the road so in case it did rise we could get out. Go, you know, go out to the store and come back up. You know, he can use his boat and come back across to the opposite side. And I believe my mom cooked out; she cooked on the grill because we didn't have no electricity. And then later on, a few hours later, my uncle come back and said the water was still rising. And I don't think my mother had taken her car up, so my father went and took her car and put it up. But see, he went out, too; he drove to Burgaw and came back. And he drove her car across the water. So my mother's car ended up being back home, back in the yard. He didn't leave it because he said there wasn't anybody up there and he wasn't walking. So he drove it back to the house. And Friday

Page 22
morning whenever we woke up, my mom was the first one up. She normally goes out on her deck—the first thing she does in the morning—and she was hollering. So I jumped up out of the bed and run to the door, deck door. And all I could see was water. I pushed the storm door and went on the deck. And I mean, it was just like we was in the middle of the ocean. The current was very strong. And as far as you can look on either side was nothing but water, just water. And immediately my mom, she went back inside and called the sheriff's department to let them know, you know, about the water. The river had overflowed. And it had never done that before, not that bad at least. It comes out, but not that much. And I put on my father's wading boots and stepped down the deck. The water came almost up to my chest, and I just stepped down to the third step on the deck. So you know that water had to be high. And according to my father and them, I believe they said it was rising about two and a half feet per hour. We had put a tape measure against the house, taped it there, to see, and it was rising fast. But we knew there was no way we could get out of there—not unless we did call, you know, call for some help. And when my mother did call the sheriff's department, they said that several families had notified them of the water in the area. And they'll be—told us to meet them at the church. But we couldn't meet them at the church because the water had gone into the church. So what my dad done, he had a boat. He took his boat from the carport and pulled it around side to the deck. And he paddled us up. He paddled. Put us in the boat to meet the sheriff. It took them about four hours to come and get us out of there, you know, because he said he had other families before us. And when we got to the destination to meet the sheriff's department there were other families waiting to cross in the boats. And the police department didn't have but two boats to move people back and

Page 23
forth to meet the other rescue people. So it was hard. It was terrifying. I would never want anybody to experience something like that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
When you—all of these people were waiting together for the boat?
RENEE LEE:
No one fought, you know. We tried to let the older, the elderly people go first, black or white, because they lived down there, too. And no one argued about who's going to go. They only let, I think, three or four at the most in each boat. And these police boats had motors. I told my mom, I said, "I can wait." So we waited. My mom took—see, she can swim. We waited with my kids because all they had to do was go up and meet the bus, and you got off this boat and got on a bus. And from the bus they put you on a National Guard jeep. So, you know, it was like three vehicles you had to meet. So we waited, and then the second load we did get on. And it was some cousins of mine that wanted to go, you know, they wanted to go with us. But we were next in line to go. They were young like me. So my mom said, "We're getting on here. I'm ready." I really wish I had time to get some clothing, but at the point, at the time—you didn't have time.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What all did you have?
RENEE LEE:
What was on my back. All I had was what was on my back. I did get my dad to stop by my trailer on my way out, and I went in my house. There was so much water he just pulled the boat right up to the top—we just rode right up on the deck. He just backed it right up in there. I stepped out of the boat on my deck and then opened my door and went in my house. I took my license and fifty dollars out of my wallet, closed my door back, closed by storm door, put a chair in front of my storm door so the wind wouldn't blow it open and got back in the boat to meet the sheriff's department. I didn't

Page 24
get clothes. I had no idea. Even after seeing the water I still had no idea the water would get into your—would get into our homes, you know. I wasn't thinking.
ROB AMBERG:
But there wasn't water in your home at that point?
RENEE LEE:
No.
ROB AMBERG:
Okay.
RENEE LEE:
But it was all—it was like on my third, reaching my fourth step on my deck at my house.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And rising so you could watch it rise.
RENEE LEE:
Oh yeah. I sat on my mom's deck and I watched that water. And I'm like, "This is unbelievable", you know. Had no film, a camera with no film—two cameras with no film, you know. And I—it was something. It really was.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Where'd you go that night?
RENEE LEE:
When we left the National Guard jeep they took us to Burgaw, to the shelter. But after we got there I told my mom I could not stay there because it was a lot of people. People just didn't have any where to go: Mexicans, all kinds. And it was like stuffy, you know. It was warm. It was very warm. It was in the summer. Not in the summer but later September was hot here when that storm came. So what we did, we had him take us over to a friends' house and we spent the night there. About eleven thirty that night my dad called my mother and told her the water was coming up through her kitchen floors.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
He was still at home?
RENEE LEE:
He stayed. He didn't come. He didn't come out with us. He wanted to stay and see. He and my uncle kept saying it's not going to come into the home. They

Page 25
had so much to lose down there, you know. They didn't want to just leave the homes like that, so my mom told him, "Well, you go ahead and stay. But if it gets too bad, you call so someone can come and get you." The water was rising so quick, and being that there wasn't no current he didn't know how much water was outside. There was no current. He had the generator going when we left, but he had to turn it off. He had to bring it inside; he brought it in the house, the generator. So all his light was—the kerosine lights was what he had to go by. And then when the water began to come into my mom's house, he said he called over to—called on the cellular phone over to my uncle's house and told him he was coming over, because the water was coming up through the floors. And he had to paddle from our house to his house in the boat in the dark. I probably would have panicked, you know, and just blacked right out. At that time my mother told him to try and call the sheriff department and see if they can come and get him, and he did. He said they told him that they should have came out when they was rescuing people. At this time they could not chance it, risk their people in coming back up in there because they don't know what those boats were riding over because of the, you know, the water. So they couldn't do it. But the next morning they were there to rescue them. But they still had to paddle out, you know. So it was hard.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So he stayed where overnight?
RENEE LEE:
Over to my uncle's.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And that was—
RENEE LEE:
Across from my mother's house.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And there was water in that house, too.
RENEE LEE:
But see, he had an upstairs.

Page 26
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
RENEE LEE:
But the water was in his bottom level, up top it was coming. But it did not hurt them, you know. It covered his den, the downstairs level.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did they stay up all night?
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm, yes. My grandmother, my eighty-five year old grandmother was there with them. They was up all night, he said, because they was worried about my grandmother. She had never seen that happen before, and she wasn't talking much to them. And it kind of shook my uncle up, you know. So he was just trying to be strong for her, you know, because he didn't want her to get sick down there and no one to get in to get her. But it was very terrifying. I had an uncle that lived down there, Robert Jordarn, Sr.—
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
RENEE LEE:
Two boats. He had just bought a motor boat for his birthday, and it was nice. And then he hooked his regular boat to that because he had his daughter, her husband and two grandkids, plus him and his wife, his mother, which is in a wheelchair, and his sister, the one that lives with her to take care of her. They all came out at twelve thirty that night with flashlights through all that water.
ROB AMBERG:
That would be [Unclear] I think.
RENEE LEE:
But they didn't know. I don't think she knew.
ROB AMBERG:
She [Unclear].
CHARLES THOMPSON:
We're talking about Ashley now. That she— [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

Page 27
RENEE LEE:
The pictures from the water [Unclear] my sister had those pictures. What, the ones I packed?[Baby crying.]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you—were you there in the boat, too, and travel with everybody that night?
ASHLEY LEE:
: I didn't leave that night, I left that evening.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh you did?
ASHLEY LEE:
Because we had went [Unclear] my uncle and my aunt. And then after two hours I came back and the water had gotten real high. When we got back it was all over the roads.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Were you with your brothers, too, or just you?
ASHLEY LEE:
I was with my aunt.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What do you remember about that night? Do you remember the water rising up and being scared? Or did you think it was fun, or how did you feel about it?
ASHLEY LEE:
I didn't [think] it was going to get that high. [Unclear] come to that house and then we woke up that morning. And it was like we were in the middle of the ocean.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you and your aunt got in a boat, and where did you go?
ASHLEY LEE:
We took it from the house all the way up the road where they was taking everybody out of White Stocking. They was taking them to Burgaw.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you—did you take anything with you?
ASHLEY LEE:
The clothes that I had already had.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you remember what you were thinking when you left? Did you think, "Well we'll be back tomorrow" or, what did you think?
ASHLEY LEE:
[Unclear] for another two or three months.

Page 28
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You did? [Sound of pots and pans clanging.]
ASHLEY LEE:
When we had left it was like [Unclear] coming into my grandma's house. [Unclear] our house, too. And we weren't going to get back home in time.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And so where did y'all go?
ASHLEY LEE:
We had went to my aunt's cousin's house and stayed with her for a while.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you keep going to school?
ASHLEY LEE:
No. I think I missed one or two days. It was closed for two weeks.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, the whole school is closed because people were staying there. It was a shelter.
RENEE LEE:
It was a fallout shelter. [Unclear] school was a fallout shelter.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Yeah. So how was it to stay in the shelter? Did you have other friends there? Oh no, you were staying at the—
ASHLEY LEE:
House.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The house. Did you have other friends or relatives staying there?
ASHLEY LEE:
Yeah. Most all of my relatives stayed there. But the rest of them, they had went to the shelter, and then some of them stayed at the shelter. And then they had let some stay at Camp Kirkwood for a few weeks.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's the Presbyterian camp, isn't it?
RENEE LEE:
Yes, um-hmm.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So, how long was it before you got to go back and see your house?
RENEE LEE:
Two weeks, which, Ashley went—it was about two weeks before she went, because the first time I went it was about fifteen days, the first time I went back, and she went after me. She didn't go with me the first time. So probably about sixteen

Page 29
or seventeen—I think I took you the next day. We took the kids down just to look, because the water was still in the road and the yard.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you took them in the car?
RENEE LEE:
We went in the truck, my dad's truck. And he, the truck—you needed a truck to get across the water. But the smell—you couldn't even take the smell.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What did it smell like? A nasty smell?
ASHLEY LEE:
Old rotten hogs or something.
RENEE LEE:
Like dead animals.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And that was your house—everything, the whole area—
RENEE LEE:
The whole area—you couldn't stand it. And then the environmental health and the health department, they came. They was at the beginning of our road. They really didn't want you to go in, you know. You had to show ID to get into White Stocking. You had to be residents up in there to get in there. And, you know, it was a hazard to our health. They said you're risking yourself by going in even though you're just going to see what damages were done, because we didn't know. They wouldn't go down and tell you. So a lot of residents took it upon themselves and said, "Well we're going to go ourselves." Some of them brought their own boats back and big trucks, and the policeman let us through. But you had to come out at dark. There was a breaking point where no one could go back up in there, you know. Everyone had to be out at a certain time. Believe me, no one stayed down there that long. Just enough time to see your damages. A lot of them couldn't handle it after the first time and they didn't go back. They wouldn't let them go back, you know. It was hard. We had to have shots, TB shots, everyone; they recommended that we have shots. As a matter of fact, they had

Page 30
the mobile at the end of the road. They was giving the shots before you went up in there because they had to, because they didn't want you to touch anything.
ROB AMBERG:
That was Tetanus shots?
RENEE LEE:
The Tetanus shots we had. Even the children took them. They gave it to the kids if you hadn't had one within ten years.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you have to have one?
RENEE LEE:
Ashley had just had one last year, so she didn't take another one. I didn't have to take one. And then my boys, they didn't—they didn't touch it. They just peeped into the trailer. I didn't let them give them a shot either, you know.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you're driving in the truck, and Ashley was in the truck, Renee's in the truck. Who else is in the truck?
ASHLEY LEE:
On the back.
RENEE LEE:
Who was on the back? Do you remember? When [Unclear] had Rufus' truck and we were on the back on the truck. We go on the back of the truck because we all couldn't get in the truck.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Were there other family members riding in with you?
RENEE LEE:
My aunt. She just happened to be there and wanted to go across. She had not seen her home for the first time. That's the one that lives beside my grandmother. And so she—I had her get inside the truck and I got on the back. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So y'all are driving in in this truck. What are you saying to each other as you first start to drive down?
RENEE LEE:
Well, the smell. I was complaining about the smell. Then when I saw the dead animals I'm like, oh my God. I don't know if I can handle this.

Page 31
ASHLEY LEE:
There was a dead catfish on the side of the road about—
RENEE LEE:
In the cemetery. It was about fifteen or sixteen feet long, a big catfish, you know. Everything that washed up from the ocean, from the river—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Sixteen feet?
ASHLEY LEE:
She means inches. You said feet.
RENEE LEE:
Oh, inches. I'm sorry. [Laughter] Beside the road. [Laughter] But it was a lot of dead animals, and the smell was terrible. The smell was really bad.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And that's what you were talking about mostly? When you saw your house—
RENEE LEE:
I was there at the door and broke down.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You started crying?
RENEE LEE:
I did. I didn't expect to see nothing like that, because at the time no one knew how far the water had gone. It had gone down around your house, but like on this picture, you see the water there? Now we went in. But I didn't know the water had reached the home, you know.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
These pictures were taken the day you went in.
RENEE LEE:
No. It had gone down a little more than this. Lanie had broke my bedroom window to—he said everything was floating when they came down two days after the storm. He said your television, everything, your refrigerator was turned over. He said everything was floating in the trailer. But it was much higher than that. Now, when we went down there it was lower. It was—it wasn't on this main stretch here but it was in the yard still, because we had to hop up on the deck and then, you know, the door. But it was—it was something to see. Like all these vehicles here at the cemetery, they

Page 32
were covered; everyone of them was covered with water. So you can imagine. It was something, something to see.
ROB AMBERG:
What you were thinking when you first looked like in your room and you started seeing your stuff, your things, all your possessions? What were you thinking about?
ASHLEY LEE:
They were all gone.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you go look for anything?
RENEE LEE:
Special. What were you in there looking for? You was looking for something the first day we went down there.
ASHLEY LEE:
Oh, my uniform.
RENEE LEE:
She's a cheerleader for her school, and the first thing she was trying to locate was that cheerleading uniform. And that's—it was like she cared about nothing else. That's the only thing she came out of the room with. It was wet and messed up, too.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you save it?
RENEE LEE:
We got it cleaned up and she's able to use it. It belonged to the school; it wasn't hers. But I don't think she cared about nothing else. She was excited about being a cheerleader—
ASHLEY LEE:
My trophy.
RENEE LEE:
Her trophies, yes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you get those? What do you have trophies of or for?
ASHLEY LEE:
Pageants, and I took dance for ten years.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Dance and beauty pageants?

Page 33
ASHLEY LEE:
Um-hmm.
RENEE LEE:
She took jazz, tap and ballet for ten years. And she had all her trophies from dance. What'd you get one every two or three years—
ASHLEY LEE:
Three.
RENEE LEE:
Every three years she got a trophy. And in her tenth year she got a trophy, big trophy. She stopped at ten years. And then she was [in] two or three pageants. She got the title in one, she came in first place on one and then third one, didn't place.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What is that first place one for? What is that called?
RENEE LEE:
Jabberwock, AKA Sorority. But most of all Ashley's clothes were destroyed. Anything that was lower than her room—what was in her dressers, a television. The t. v. didn't work. She had a bed full of stuffed animals, big animals, in her room. All of those were destroyed. She had a stuffed animal on the wall, which was the tiger she held a crown from the pageant. She did save that. That stuffed animal was up high in the crown. So we do have that. Her—what is it Ashley, your book?
ASHLEY LEE:
Scrapbook?
RENEE LEE:
Yeah, her scrapbook, we saved that. In her closet there was a rack on top. Everything up there was saved: her diploma, her cap and gown from kindergarten, you know, sentimental things. A couple of baby pictures, which was up there which I was able to get because everything else was gone.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh good. There's your scrapbook.
RENEE LEE:
Yeah. That's something you can look back on.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Can you tell us some of the things you have in your scrapbook?
ASHLEY LEE:
Baby pictures, [Unclear]

Page 34
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Uh-huh. Did you make this by yourself?
ASHLEY LEE:
Uh-hmm. My mother helped me. And certificates—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Certificates for reading?
ASHLEY LEE:
Uh-huh. That was kindergarten, I think.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
From kindergarten.
ASHLEY LEE:
It's an old certificate from—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh you were a—
ASHLEY LEE:
[Unclear]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, isn't that sweet. [Laughter]
ASHLEY LEE:
I was missing a tooth there in kindergarten.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What's the most special thing in that book to you?
ASHLEY LEE:
I think the baby pictures.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Ashley's eating plate and napkin. Oh, the first birthday cake. And that's the plate that you had?
RENEE LEE:
There's a baby picture when she was a year old, first birthday party. I didn't even know that was in there.
ASHLEY LEE:
First birthday picture.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh.
RENEE LEE:
Eighty-seven. [Unclear] I didn't know it was in there. [Unclear]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Second grade. What grade are you in now?
ASHLEY LEE:
Eighth.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Eighth grade. Fire certificate, Bible verse. Is that when you memorized one?

Page 35
RENEE LEE:
They used to give them out to them. They liked for the child to say a different one every Sunday. At one point they were giving them out to them.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I see.
RENEE LEE:
And the next Sunday they'd memorize it.
ASHLEY LEE:
[Unclear]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You went for this early on, didn't you? You went into the closet to see if it was still there?
RENEE LEE:
Look there. And this is one of the pictures that I used on the fliers to help raise the money for her pictures to take in this pageant.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you got money from people in the community to sponsor her?
RENEE LEE:
Yes. I mostly went to the businesses in Pender County. I went to a few businesses in Wilmington. And they made donations. Her talent, she did a dance routine. Basically, it was whoever could raise the most money. And she had the most money out of all the contestants.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's great.
RENEE LEE:
First grade picture. Now see, that's good. That's right in my mother's yard, right in White Stocking. That's the first day of school.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Ah.
RENEE LEE:
That's in her classroom. I had no idea these were in there, because all of our pictures were destroyed by the water. I have the photo album. But it's just—you can't tell the pictures, you know. The baby book, anything, the coloring is gone.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you saved the albums even though you can't really see the pictures.

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RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm. I saved all the albums. I was hoping that—. Some of them you can see. I mean they've dried out. I still have the albums. Kindergarten diploma. Something like that you can't, you know—it's sentimental. Even though it was in there [Unclear] first picture, class pictures. I didn't even know I had that. That's probably been in there ten years—her graduation from kindergarten to first grade. There were the principals. She was my chemistry teacher in high school.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
No kidding.
RENEE LEE:
I hated her. [Laughter] I shouldn't say that. I had her for math, too, and chemistry. I said, All I need is English to graduate. I don't need chemistry and this math. And he give me a hard time. And I said, "I'm getting out of here, Mr. Baker", you know. "I'm going to march with my class." I should have marched with my class in New York. But my mom moved down here my senior year, and he knew I didn't like that school. But then he made principal of her school. Now he's the principal of the high school again.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Uh-oh.
ROB AMBERG:
You'll get him next year, Ashley.
ASHLEY LEE:
He'll be our principal.
RENEE LEE:
[Unclear] Ashley a hard time. She was in her cousin's wedding here. This is a wedding picture.
ROB AMBERG:
Oh, right. Man, what a smile. Gosh.
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm. That's a real good picture. I need to take that out. I didn't even know I had one.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Cute.

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RENEE LEE:
This is when he's stirring her aunt's yard. Now, here's some baby pictures. Something to look back at. Lookie here, this is at the courthouse here in Burgaw. They was doing a dance routine. That's a good picture. [Unclear] Here's her sponsor letter. [Unclear] copy of it in here with a picture, the donations and the sponsors and how they, you know, contributed towards her. It was really nice. Another picture—she was two and a half months here. You've come a long ways, child. Here's my baby shower pictures. See, I didn't know all these were in here. Her first Christmas. I didn't even know they was in there. And here's something from your first birthday party. This is down to the river. See?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh. Your first birthday was at the river.
RENEE LEE:
Uh-huh. This is the water. This is the shed my granddaddy built, cemented with a top. And we grilled out and had parties down there.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh. What'd you have?
RENEE LEE:
Probably hot dogs and—
ASHLEY LEE:
Hamburgers.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And cake.
RENEE LEE:
And cake and junk.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Look at that cake. It looks like it's a doll.
RENEE LEE:
It's a doll baby. It's a little doll sticking up. Um-hmm. It sure is. And this is a baby picture. Gosh. I didn't know these were in here.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This is out at the church?

Page 38
RENEE LEE:
Yes, um-hmm. This is one of my other—my father's mother. She's eighty-three. This is my mom's mom. This is the eighty-five year old. My grandma died. [Unclear] That's your first Christmas, two and a half months old.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now you're having your fourteenth Christmas.
RENEE LEE:
This is her biggest Christmas. This is when you got those twenty-two outfits.
ASHLEY LEE:
I had a puzzle—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Twenty-two outfits?
RENEE LEE:
I had a puzzle of a picture of her daddy taken. And what he did, he had taken it to someone and they made a puzzle out of the picture. I mean, it was this picture right here. It was this picture that he had them put on a puzzle. They made a puzzle out of the picture. And Ashley's fourteen. I've had it for fourteen years—thirteen years, because she's turned fourteen after the storm. Her birthday's the third of October. [Unclear] And this is her picture in the church.
ROB AMBERG:
Ashley, what do you think about now, three months after the flood? You know, what do you think about all that now?
ASHLEY LEE:
I [Unclear].
CHARLES THOMPSON:
When you or your friends talk at school do you talk about the flood?
ASHLEY LEE:
No.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's pretty much gone by. What do you hope you have in the future? Are you looking forward to having your own home back in White Stocking?
ASHLEY LEE:
Yeah. I hope it don't never flood anymore down there like that.

Page 39
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, as you build back are you both thinking about having anything special in the house? Or have you talked about that at all?
ASHLEY LEE:
An attic. [Laughter]
RENEE LEE:
That would be nice to put all our valuables, huh? Well, we're going to definitely get more room wherever we are. We need more room than—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You're from White Stocking right, Larry? Okay. Oh, we went down there fishing and—
RENEE LEE:
Eating to my grandma's table. You know how they do in the country. It's not just one family. Everybody adopts your children. Like I was saying how they all come to my house. If you passed you'd thought I was running a nursery, because all the kids hanged out at my house. That's how my grandmother's house was, too.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's where you got it, probably.
RENEE LEE:
You're probably right. And then where do you get the patience. You know, you always have a house full and yard full. I'm like, I don't know.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That sounds like that's what you miss the most about—
RENEE LEE:
The kids?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Being up there. You miss—
RENEE LEE:
I do miss those children. It's never a boring moment down there, you know. Those kids are very exciting. Sometimes my kids—I won't let my children out to play. They'll ask permission to play on the trampoline, you know. They'll say, "Renee, can we play out."—and I'm like, "Go ahead. But Patrick and Rashard cannot come out if Ashley's not there." And they'll play in the yard with my kids' toys, and I'm in the house with my children—with them, you know. I trust them enough to take care of it as

Page 40
if—like it was their own. And if they want—like I said—if they want to use the bathroom or want something to eat or drink, they'll knock at the door.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Yesterday we saw you with a number of children.
RENEE LEE:
Yes. Those were my brother's kids. I had the twins and his oldest son. Before summer I used to keep them just about every weekend. But now that I'm living down there I can get them maybe every once a month.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And what are their names? I think they're in a lot of pictures.
RENEE LEE:
The oldest one is Paxton, Jr. Then the twins are Careen and Calile. They're a handful, they are. You saw yesterday. Now, I don't know how to spell their names.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Careen and Calile.
RENEE LEE:
Calile.
ROB AMBERG:
And what is their last name?
RENEE LEE:
Lee.
ROB AMBERG:
Lee?
RENEE LEE:
Um-hmm. [Unclear] I always put twins on everything I buy. My brother said it's so easy to spell it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Careen.
RENEE LEE:
I think it's K. Both of them starts with a K. I put twins. I don't worry about the spelling. And they didn't want to go home. I left them crying. You know, when I left you I told her I was going to drop them off. Their daddy was there and they fell out at the door as usual. They always did that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What do you miss most about the church, with the church being closed?

Page 41
RENEE LEE:
Our services.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The pastor's from Wilmington.
RENEE LEE:
Yes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What's her name again?
RENEE LEE:
Sandra David.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. And, Larry, you're a member of the church, too, aren't you?
RENEE LEE:
Yes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And, do you have any special recommendations for people who have been in floods like this or who might be in floods like this in the future? Are you—anything that happened with FEMA or anything you'd like to talk about? Hold on. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
RENEE LEE:
What was your question?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, I was asking a lot of different questions. So, I was giving you a choice of things you'd like to talk about. How about—would you like to talk about the FEMA process that you went through and whether you feel that was fair? Have they helped you very much?
RENEE LEE:
No, I don't think it was fair. For someone to lose everything and they give you a few thousand dollars and expect you to start over. And then when you call them, you know, just to ask them a question, the representatives, they have attitudes like we've done something wrong. And all you're doing is calling, you know, for some help.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What would they say?
RENEE LEE:
Actually Red Cross done more—I would say more for me than FEMA.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What did the Red Cross do?

Page 42
RENEE LEE:
Positive. They had positive attitudes. They gave you vouchers for clothing, furniture, food, whatever your needs were they gave you vouchers for. They didn't give you money. It's a voucher to wherever you wanted to shop.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you want to go to the furniture store in Burgaw or Wilmington—
RENEE LEE:
You'd give them the name of the store. They would put it on the voucher with the address and a phone number, and you could take it to that store and spend it just like cash on whatever you wanted.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The Red Cross, did they give a significant amount of money in vouchers?
RENEE LEE:
Yes. It was based on how many was in your household. For instance, the clothing part, I have three children. And the first voucher I received was for one pair of shoes for each one of my kids and myself, and an outfit. The outfit, they gave you sixty dollars for an outfit. And I think thirty or forty dollars each for a pair of shoes from Wal-Mart. They gave me a voucher for households such as linen and stuff I lost: dishes, pots, you know, you can buy that type of—towels, blankets, you know, you can—they had a list of things you could purchase with that voucher. You just couldn't spend it any kind of way. You couldn't buy a gold bracelet, you know. You couldn't buy jewelry. They specified what it could be used for.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
RENEE LEE:
And you couldn't get cash back. You had to exhaust the whole voucher, otherwise you lose, you know. Say you didn't want to spend the whole four hundred dollars. If you didn't spend but three hundred and fifty, you'd lose the other fifty. It goes back to the Red Cross. With FEMA, FEMA give you [Unclear] to go. They did come down and do an assessment of my home. They wasn't interested in how much nothing

Page 43
cost. As a matter of fact, they didn't even ask you how much anything cost. The inspector went in. He went from room to room. He measured each room. And he had his laptop computer, just keyed in one washer, one dryer, giving you no amount of what—didn't ask me. He didn't ask me five questions the whole time he was at my home. He said, "I can do—I'm doing this. If you want to go out there with the kids or whatever" because I had my kids in the car. And it's like he really didn't even need me. And then four weeks later I receive a letter from them saying how much money they were going to give me for my contents. And I was not pleased. I had sixty days to appeal it, which I did. And I have not heard anything from them yet. And I call every week to get an update on my claim. And they want to give you a hard way to go. If you ask them a question usually they'll say, "Well, that's not our department. You need to call such and such." And they'll give you another number to call, and you'll call that number. They refer you back to FEMA. So it's like they're giving you the run around. And then they want you to—most people apply for the SBA loan. You see, I didn't qualify for that. I did apply. I did not qualify for the loan. I was eligible for the grant.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You weren't eligible for the loan? Why?
RENEE LEE:
For the loan. He said it was based on income. I guess I didn't fall in that category.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And I've heard that you have to own your home to—
RENEE LEE:
Right. You cannot be a renter and get that. You have to own your home to get those loans. But you know I know some people—actually, my sister, she was a renter also and she qualified for the SBA. But her income was so much more than mine, too, so it can make—I guess it has its advantages and disadvantages. So, but FEMA

Page 44
gives you the run around. They say, "Well, if you find a place we'll pay your rent up to eighteen months." Okay. I've been here since the twenty-first of September. FEMA has not paid my rent one month.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh no.
RENEE LEE:
They have not paid my rent.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you've notified them and thought that you filled out all the forms.
RENEE LEE:
Well they say everything is pending. The money I spent when I, you know, bought our clothing and shoes and food during the time of the shelter, they asked me to send my receipts in. I sent copies of everything. They said, "We will reimburse you." I heard nothing. As a matter of fact, I sent another copy last week to the main office in Raleigh. They have not responded yet on that. I couldn't sit back and wait on someone to give me clothing. I had to go immediately and get, you know, what I needed for me and my children.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You have to have clothes to wear to work.
RENEE LEE:
Exactly. And my car, you know, I lost my car, too. I had to get a rental car, which cost—I missed two weeks of work without pay. They told me to file my claim, that FEMA would reimburse you if you were out of work a day. I have not been paid from that. Contacted ESC last week to get an update on that claim, the lady I needed to speak to wasn't in. They told me to come by this Wednesday to reapply again, you know. What do you do?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you have to take work time or—
RENEE LEE:
You have to take—I have to take the time off work. Exactly. You know, I had the lady from FEMA tell me the other day, "Well didn't you pay rent to where you

Page 45
were living before?" I said, "Yes, ma'am I did." I said, "It's not your fault. It's not my fault the water came." I said, "But my rent is a hundred dollars more where I'm staying now than it was before the storm came. Do you want to send me that hundred dollars and I can pay my rent?" That's what I told her. But then I kind of caught myself because I didn't want to find myself getting upset with her, because she was a representative trying to help me. But I thought she could have kept her remarks to herself, negative remarks. You know, you don't tell a client something like that after you've just been through an ordeal like I've been through, you know.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Blaming you somehow.
RENEE LEE:
Uh-huh. I said, "Ma'am, it's not that I cannot pay my rent, you know. I am back to work. But it's more than I was paying before. I have a budget. I'm a single parent with three kids and I have a budget that I go by." Then she kind of changed her tone, you know, as far as talking to me, but they put you through a lot. They put you through a lot. The Red Cross, they would come, the truck would come around to the motel. If you wanted food, they provided hot meals for you twice a day, you know. If you lived in a shelter, wherever, the truck came around, the Red Cross truck was there with water, snacks for the kids and two hot meals a day. And if you had transportation they told you where the destination was that you could go and get these meals. But a lot of them didn't have transportation, you know. And the trucks—they had several trucks that would go to each area at a certain time. Like Camp Kirkwood the [Unclear] out there, the truck was there every day, twice a day, and we would go up there some days.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
For how many weeks was that?

Page 46
RENEE LEE:
They was up at Camp Kirkwood for seven weeks. I was in a motel for one week before I found this home here.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This home was vacant before you moved in it.
RENEE LEE:
Yes. No one was living here. Actually, the owners live in New York. It's their summer home. They come down about twice a year. And they opened the doors to me, which I thought was wonderful.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It's a nice mobile home.
RENEE LEE:
It was fully furnished: three bedrooms, two full baths, washer/dryer. The lights were on. The phone was on, you know. What more can you ask for. It's a roof over your head when you have kids and nowhere else to go.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
RENEE LEE:
So all I had to do was move my body in here. [Laughter]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So, I was asking before about what advice would you have for anybody who's been through for— [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
RENEE LEE:
And just call me when you get a chance and you can come back and you might can even interview my sister.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Wonderful. We have a limited number of interviews we can do now, but we are getting people's names and we'll get back in touch should we have other means to continue.
RENEE LEE:
Okay. Because I'm sure each one has a different version.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
RENEE LEE:
You know, they would like to tell.

Page 47
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Everyone has a different version and a different experience to tell. But then there are so many thousands of people who are exactly in the same boat, is another way of looking at it, you know—black and white and Latino, and there's also poor as well as middle-class and well-to-do people who have lost everything.
RENEE LEE:
That's right. That's right.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But thank you very much for your time.
END OF INTERVIEW