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Title: Oral History Interview with Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0833. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Coward, Clyda, interviewee
Author: Coward, Debra, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hartman, Leda
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 204 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© 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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-10-03, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0833. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0833)
Author: Leda Hartman
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0833. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0833)
Author: Clyda Coward and Debra Coward
Description: 148 Mb
Description: 52 p.
Note: Interview conducted on May 30, 2001, by Leda Hartman; recorded in Tick Bite, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by L. Altizer.
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.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
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Interview with Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001.
Interview K-0833. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Coward, Clyda, interviewee
Coward, Debra, interviewee


Interview Participants

    CLYDA COWARD, interviewee
    DEBRA COWARD, interviewee
    WALTER COWARD, interviewee
    BETTY, interviewee
    UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER, interviewee
    LEDA HARTMAN, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
CLYDA COWARD:
If he finds that I'm going wrong then he can—.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Chime in? Okay.
BETTY:
You want to move your chair over here where they'll hear you if you chime in?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:
Yes, ma'am.
BETTY:
Let's move the chair. Let's move it over so you'll be close to her. There. Okay.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Okay. Thank you very much. So the first thing I would like to ask you is your name, when you were born, and where you were born.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, my name is Clyda Bell Davis Coward. I was born February 28, 1933.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Almost a leap-year baby.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, that was why I hesitated because it was actually after midnight on the twenty-eighth, my mother said. So I have wondered about that a lot.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Tell me where you were born. You were telling me it's across the field.
CLYDA COWARD:
I was born right across—. Well, this is Tick Bite. Well, there is nothing except woods and farmland back here, and I was born across that field over there. I remember when this road wasn't paved, and we didn't have any electricity in this area.
LEDA HARTMAN:
No kidding? That would be back in the '20s and the '30s?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, it was back in the—. You see, I was born in '33, so it had to have been later than that.

Page 2
LEDA HARTMAN:
I see. That's right.
CLYDA COWARD:
As a matter of fact, I remember when they put Eleven Highway out there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What was there before?
CLYDA COWARD:
Dirt road.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How did people get around then?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mule and cart, and eventually they started getting the T-Model Fords—the ones that could afford them. They were very scarce. They were kind of like cake. [Laughter]
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah. Right. And so, because it was kind of hard to get around, did most people kind of stay in their community where they grew up at that time?
CLYDA COWARD:
Yes. Yes. The farm that I was born and raised on was the John Barwick farm. He had five tenant houses on this farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And your family had one of them?
CLYDA COWARD:
One of them. Yes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What all did you grow for him?
CLYDA COWARD:
What—on the farm? Well, we grew tobacco, corn, cotton, and the regular beans and then the garden stuff. We grew the animals. My daddy—I remember him breeding mules.
LEDA HARTMAN:
He bred mules?
CLYDA COWARD:
Uh huh.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Because you worked the farm with mules?
CLYDA COWARD:
Yes.

Page 3
LEDA HARTMAN:
How did it work? Like at the end of the year, did you have to pay the landowner the rent, or did you get to keep what you sold from the farm?
CLYDA COWARD:
No. Now to the best that I can remember, the way that went was my father worked the farm for Mr. Barwick; then he eventually started tending tobacco and corn and stuff for himself. Mr. Barwick would furnish my dad the fertilizer and the seed and what have you, and my daddy didn't have to pay anything to him until the fall of the year.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Then what did he have to pay—rent or—?
CLYDA COWARD:
No, it wasn't rent. He just paid back the money that Mr. Barwick put into Daddy's part of the crop.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Almost like Mr. Barwick was the bank sort of?
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How was it to get on like that? Was it comfortable? Was it hard?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, we did a lot of hard work, but my father was a resourceful person. My dad always grew everything we eat, really. He grew the corn. When the corn would get dry, we would have to shuck the corn, shell the corn, and then he would take it to a mill that would grind the corn into corn meal. We grew wheat, which made the flour. Well, we had animals that had the milk, hogs for the pork, and eventually my father started just raising all of this stuff by himself for himself—you know, the extra. And he bought a farm like that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Was that unusual in that day for him to be able to buy a farm?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh yes, it was. Very. But now, he bought the farm from Mr. Barwick. Mr. Barwick had some land that the road had divided, and he sold my father thirty-three acres

Page 4
of that land. And at that time, my father could tend five acres of tobacco, which would turn out enough money to support us for a year.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just the tobacco?
CLYDA COWARD:
Just the tobacco.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Then you'd have all the other stuff to eat, and then you'd have the tobacco for the cash? Is that how it was?
CLYDA COWARD:
We would can. My mother did. Well, I can remember we would put in tobacco days. That evening we would go in the garden [to] pick peas and beans. There was no refrigerator. We had an icebox. And so Mama would can the vegetables. We had a big pot-bellied wash pot. I don't know if you've ever seen one. You have? [With a note of surprise in her voice]
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yes.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, that was what she canned the vegetables in—in the wash pot.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And she heated the water how—over a wood stove?
CLYDA COWARD:
Uh huh. Over a woodstove.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And she had to get it good and hot because that's what you have to do for canning, right?
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's hot work.
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah, but we were outdoors anyway. [Laughter] So it really didn't matter.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How about the other families who were on the Barwick's farm. Did y'all play together—the kids—or did the other families help each other when you needed it?

Page 5
CLYDA COWARD:
We didn't have that much time. My father and mother didn't allow us to have much time for ourselves.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Hard work mostly?
CLYDA COWARD:
A part of Saturday and a part of Sunday after we went to Sunday school and church: then we could have fun until sundown.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It sounds like they were strict.
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah, very much so.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So when you could have fun, what did you do for fun?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I know that you won't believe this, but we had a lady in the neighborhood, and she lived in a converted tobacco barn right back there. The tobacco barns have poles. They call them tier poles that you hang the tobacco on to dry the leaves out. This lady had made stairs. Each one of those poles—I don't remember how many were in the barn, but I know that she had at least five sections in that one tobacco barn.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Of stairs?
CLYDA COWARD:
Uh huh.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So for fun?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, she had room to accommodate other people. She even took in people.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How clever.
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah, I thought it was neat. [Laughter]
BETTY:
I never heard that. That'd be neat.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So for fun would you go visiting over there?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, for fun. [Laughter] Now, our fun didn't always turn out to be really fun.

Page 6
LEDA HARTMAN:
No?
CLYDA COWARD:
No, it didn't. We would ride the animals until they died, which did not please my father at all.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You would work them?
CLYDA COWARD:
We would ride on them. They would overheat. They'd get too hot, and they'd die. [Sounds of activity in the background] Well, we would play ball. There wasn't very much that you could do. You see, we didn't have any electricity. We only had kerosene lamps. So when it got dark, it got dark. You want to cut that thing off a minute?
LEDA HARTMAN:
This is fine. You were telling me about playing ball. Did you get to play ball?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, you see we—. There was enough of my brothers and sisters to have a—. Well, no, not really because my parents had two sets of children.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How's that?
CLYDA COWARD:
My mother had four children. For twelve years she didn't have anymore children; then after twelve years, she had three more children.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Which batch are you in?
CLYDA COWARD:
The first one.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you have some brothers and sisters who are a lot younger than you?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, my baby sister was five years older than Debra.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Wow. So did you play with the other kids in the neighborhood?

Page 7
CLYDA COWARD:
Whenever we could. But you see, we would have to leave home—. The houses are spaced, and basically—. Now, like, we were living up there, and there was a house over there. Then about a mile back down this road, there was another house. Really, we didn't get to play much with the other people on the farm until we went to school. You see, we had to walk about five miles to go to school. So we got the chance to play plenty.
LEDA HARTMAN:
On your walk?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What grade did school start at? Did it start at first grade?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you're a first grader, and you're walking five miles each way?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. Each way.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You must have been a strong little girl.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I tell you what, you had to be strong to belong to my father.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How so?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, the girls had to do basically the same thing the boys did. If the boys had to work and shuck corn or shell corn, we had to do the same thing.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So there was no preferential treatment?
CLYDA COWARD:
Nope.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How far did you get through school?

Page 8
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, at that time, the first school that I went to, it taught up to the eighth grade. After that, I'd walk from over here all the way across the creek. I guess maybe that was about five miles. And I would catch a bus over there and go to Ayden to school.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You had to go to Ayden, all the way to the next town, for high school?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now was it unusual for you to go to high school because would most girls your age go to that length to go to high school?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, they didn't, but—. I don't know why I did; I did. I guess because Mama and Daddy made us do it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
They wanted you to?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Tell me what your first school was like—the one over here that went to the eighth grade.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, there were five rooms. They had one room: it was sort of like a closet—today's closet that everybody's coats and boots and what have you were put in that room. Well, we never were there when it got dark, but it was no electricity out there. We had a big—in the middle of the classrooms was a heater.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What kind of heater?
CLYDA COWARD:
Coal heater.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Coal stove?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. And on the back of the school, I guess the state—. I never thought about how we got the coals, I just know that they were always there. I guess the

Page 9
state must have put them back there. But for punishment, there was a lot of the boys would have to go and get them coals and come early mornings and start fires and what have you, like that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
If they did something wrong?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. But it was very few of them that did wrong because then the parents were real strict on children.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Like your parents were? They were typical, say?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What all did you do for your lunchtime?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mama would fix our lunch. We had a lard bucket and it was tin. We would have biscuits, and we would have a little jar of preserves and ham meat in there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
She'd fix it and you'd carry the pail to school?
CLYDA COWARD:
Then I would swap mine because I got tired of ham meat. The children that didn't have any, I'd trade.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What would you trade for? What did they have?
CLYDA COWARD:
Peanut butter or something like that. [Laughter]
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you ever tell your mama you did that?
CLYDA COWARD:
I sure didn't. [Laughter] Not until I got grown.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How about drinking? Did y'all have a water fountain?
CLYDA COWARD:
We had a pump.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And then outhouses?
CLYDA COWARD:
Yep.

Page 10
LEDA HARTMAN:
What was your house like?
CLYDA COWARD:
The house I grew up in?
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, our house had five rooms. Wait a minute, let me think. It doesn't seem like there were that many. Were there?
DEBRA COWARD:
There were.
CLYDA COWARD:
We had a wood stove that had a—they said it was a reservoir. It was a big cast iron section on that wood stove that you put water in; and when the stove was hot, then the water was hot. The stove had an oven, and it had four burners. And my brothers had to cut stove wood. We always had to have wood. We heated with wood. We cooked with wood. Now, we had no electricity; we had kerosene lamps.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Then you had an outhouse?
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah. We had slop jars.
LEDA HARTMAN:
For inside for the evening or whatever?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you had both the outhouse and the slop jars?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, you see, when it got day, then we'd have to take the slop jar and take it to the outhouse. Then we'd have to come to the reservoir and get some hot water and put in the slop jar and clean it out.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And that was just how people did? That's how everybody did?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. That's how everybody did. Nobody had a bathroom.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Do you remember when electricity came in—what year?

Page 11
CLYDA COWARD:
I sure don't.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Do you remember how it changed people's lives, anyway? How, for instance, your house would be different because it had electricity?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I'll tell you, I was just so glad to see it, I could've eat it if it had been possible. But it was really an experience for us because we had been in the dark for so long. We would go in in the afternoon, and Mama would tell us we had to get our lessons. And we had these lamps—. That was something else I didn't like: we always had to wash the lampshades. We would turn the lamp up so it would be brighter, but it would smoke. She never said anything to us until the next day; then she'd tell some of us—which ever one of us done it—"You got to wash all the lamp shades this evening." And that was what we had to do.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you didn't have to bother with that any more when electricity came in?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, no, no. No more of that, and I was glad.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did your parents tell you any about your ancestors, like how long your people have been in this area?
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah. My grandmother was a slave.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Here in this area?
CLYDA COWARD:
No, she come from Mississippi here.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So she was a slave in Mississippi, and she was free here in North Carolina?
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't remember how she told us that she got here, but I know that they traveled at night somewhere. I don't know how that was done, but that was the way that they got down here in North Carolina.

Page 12
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did she ever tell you why they decided to come to North Carolina out of Mississippi?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, the living was terrible, and there was a lot of people being beat to death and all that sort of thing. Well, you didn't have nothing. You couldn't even call your own name. Your name was whatever your—. What did they call them, Debra—the people that was over them?
DEBRA COWARD:
The owner of the farm. [unclear]
CLYDA COWARD:
Yes, ma'am, that was it: the master.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So, you didn't have anything, including your name? You took the master's name?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And they thought things would be better in North Carolina?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. Peoples was always trying to run away.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did she run away?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, no, I don't think—. Her parents brought her. She don't know why they did it, but she said that her parents brought her.
LEDA HARTMAN:
After freedom?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's interesting. And did she remember things about Mississippi, like to say that North Carolina had better conditions?
CLYDA COWARD:
If she did, she never told us about it. I don't know.

Page 13
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's pretty interesting though.
CLYDA COWARD:
And up until the flood, I had pictures. You should've seen the way that the people—my people—dressed back there. My great-great-grandfather had on a hat that looked like it would hold almost a bushel of corn. I wish—. I had those pictures until the flood.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What else did you have until the flood from back from your family? Pictures of them and—?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. And wash pots and stuff like that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How old?
CLYDA COWARD:
I guess there were some of them about fifty, some older.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you have things that belonged to your grandparents or going back?
CLYDA COWARD:
Not very much. I know that I had pictures of my grandparents and my great-grandparents. I had some dishes that was my great-grandmother's, that she brought here from Mississippi.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Wow. What were they like?
CLYDA COWARD:
They was real thick—real thick and real heavy.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Like pottery dishes?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. My daddy had a shotgun that was my great-grandfather's shotgun that my husband have now.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you still have it?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.

Page 14
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's probably a treasured thing. That was one of the things that survived the flood?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, not exactly because the water got up about twenty-seven inches in here. [Indicating with hand] Up about like that. And the gun—[Indicating with hand] I guess about as long as from here to here. So it was about halfway up the gun.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it halfway survived the flood.
CLYDA COWARD:
Halfway.
WALTER COWARD:
It got rusty.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah, right, exactly. Before I ask you more about the flood, I just want to get a picture of what your life was like. Can you tell me what it was like when you were courting, how y'all met, and how you got married and so on?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, there weren't very much recreation around.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah, where would you meet a fellow?
CLYDA COWARD:
You'd meet him at school.
LEDA HARTMAN:
School? Or church, right?
CLYDA COWARD:
That's it. Those were the only two places: school and church.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So is that where y'all met?
CLYDA COWARD:
We met at school, yes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What grade were you in when you met?
CLYDA COWARD:
I think I was—. I went to school out there. Was it out there that we met, or was I going to school to Ayden at that time?
WALTER COWARD:
You was going to Ayden.

Page 15
CLYDA COWARD:
Okay. So then I had to have been either in the ninth grade and sixteen years old or—. Oh, that's something else: they didn't have no age limit on children going to school. Whenever you got old enough that you could follow your brothers and sisters, you could go to school.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You could go to school when you're three?
CLYDA COWARD:
If you could follow your brothers and sisters, you went to school. But that was more or less whatever your parents decided.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So how old were you when you first went to school, then?
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. I never even thought much about that, and I didn't even ask Mama. I sure don't remember.
LEDA HARTMAN:
But you were a teenager—and not a very old teenager—when you met your future husband?
CLYDA COWARD:
No, no because we was all going to school together. He went to the same school that we did, even though he didn't live on the farm. He lived down there in town.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Well, why did you like him? [Laughter]
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. I have often wondered that myself. [Laughter]
LEDA HARTMAN:
Well, why did you like her?
WALTER COWARD:
I don't know. I just took on to her, I guess.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How long did you court before you got married?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, about three or four years.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In those days, what did courting mean? What could you do, given that everybody was so strict?

Page 16
CLYDA COWARD:
There wasn't nothing you could do. You could hold hands. After I got seventeen, my daddy would let me have company. The irony of it was, I had a sister that was two years younger than me, and I was supposed to have been taking company, and she was supposed to have been in there watching for Mama and Daddy.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Chaperoning.
CLYDA COWARD:
Uh huh. But she started taking company too. [Laughter] Yep, she sure did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That doesn't seem fair. [Laughter]
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, if it wasn't, you didn't say it. You do, nobody better not hear you.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah, yeah. So when you were seventeen, that was okay? That was old enough to have a man visit you?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. But now, my daddy always enjoyed 9:00. Every boy had to be out of our house by 9:00. Yeah.
LEDA HARTMAN:
When you got married, did you have a special breakfast or dinner, or was there any kind of celebration?
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, no. We got married to [sic: at] the preacher's house; and the preacher's wife and two or three more people in the community was witnesses.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it was kind of low key?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm. Well, I never even heard of a black wedding at that time.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How was it instead?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, they got married to [sic: by] the justice of the peace or had a preacher to marry them.

Page 17
LEDA HARTMAN:
You mean that in that time, a couple who married who was black wouldn't have a big celebration at church like people do nowadays?
CLYDA COWARD:
Unh uh.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Why not?
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. I never thought about that either, but they did not have no weddings. I never remember a wedding being in our church until the 60s.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It was more plain? Not a big celebration like people do these days? Thousands of dollars?
CLYDA COWARD:
No. Didn't nobody have it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you have a honeymoon?
CLYDA COWARD:
No. You get married, you go home, and that's it. You be happy if he came.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And you just start setting up house, that kind of thing?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Where did you come back to when you did get married?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, when we got married—. Walter didn't go to school as long as I did; he went to work. He had built a house—three rooms. There was no bathroom there. We had the parlor; we had the bedroom; and we had the kitchen. I had a wood stove, just like my mother did, and we had the slop jars and the toilet back behind the house. Well, I guess we had been married about eight or ten years when he put in a bathroom, and we got a gas stove. By that time, electricity had come through, and we had lights.
As a matter of fact, Debra, go down there and burn that lamp. I want to show you a lamp that was my grandmother's. I had one of my great-grandmother's—.

Page 18
DEBRA COWARD:
Where is it?
CLYDA COWARD:
Down there in Walter's room.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That would be about late '50s, 1960s—something like that—when you got the bathroom and the electricity and so on?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And that must've made life a lot more comfortable.
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, it sure did. It sure did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did y'all keep farming through this time?
CLYDA COWARD:
No, he never farmed. It was me. I was on the farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So how did you all make your living?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, he first went to Newport News—. [Debra brings in Clyda's grandmother's lamp]
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh, isn't that lovely.
DEBRA COWARD:
I'm not sure this is the original shade though.
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't think it is.
LEDA HARTMAN:
But that's the original base?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Isn't that gorgeous? That does look very old.
DEBRA COWARD:
And it's real heavy.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How old is that do you figure?
CLYDA COWARD:
I know that it's older than me because it was my grandmother's. My mother had it; and then my mother died, and I got it.

Page 19
LEDA HARTMAN:
How did you save it from the flood?
CLYDA COWARD:
It was always up, and the flood—. You see, the water in the house—.
DEBRA COWARD:
[Indicating with hands] Just got up to this level, and so things that were on top of the dressers and things didn't necessarily—especially things that you could wash —.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Yeah, glass—not paper or something.
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So, you were telling me how you all made a living and raised a family and so on.
CLYDA COWARD:
That's our family. That's all our family.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So what did you do to raise her? You were in Newport News.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, he come back from Newport News, and he started to work at the Camp Lejeune.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Doing?
CLYDA COWARD:
He was—. [Addressing Walter Coward] What were you doing with them stones, them rocks—making bridges or something?
WALTER COWARD:
Rocking the river up.
CLYDA COWARD:
Rocking the river for a bridge? [Walter gestures affirmatively] That was down at the Camp Lejeune.
DEBRA COWARD:
And that was in the early days of the base when they were first starting out getting it built.
BETTY:
When they were building it.

Page 20
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just constructing it and so on.
DEBRA COWARD:
And that was—what—in the 40s?
BETTY:
Was it before World War II?
WALTER COWARD:
Forty-eight.
DEBRA COWARD:
He was there in '48. So it was after the war.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just after World War II?
DEBRA COWARD:
Yeah, but it was when the base was first getting started. I mean, they remember when DuPont first got started.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, that was in the late 40s, early 50s.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What was it like to have a big company like that come in here?
CLYDA COWARD:
Very exciting time.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Really? How come?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, you know what? At the end of the World War II, we had Germans over here working.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Did you really? POWs?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Doing what?
CLYDA COWARD:
Working on the farms and working like convicts—you know, cleaning the fences and things like that. Sure did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That must've been weird.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I was scared of them, and they was scared of us.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just because you didn't know about each other, the lack of familiarity?

Page 21
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah, that was what it was.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Then they left, I guess?
CLYDA COWARD:
I guess they did. I don't know what become of them, but I know that they were over here working.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So when DuPont came in, what was it like to have this big new business come into a rural area like this?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, it was very exciting for everybody because there was a lot of young peoples that really did not want to farm. But they had to; they didn't have much choice. When DuPont come, I had two brothers that worked at DuPont.
BETTY:
And we came too.
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, you did?
BETTY:
Yes, because we didn't want to farm. [Laughter]
DEBRA COWARD:
But it gave opportunity to black folks—
BETTY:
And white.
DEBRA COWARD:
—because up until that point, there was no place for black folks to work except on the farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Debra, can you come over here so I can get you a little closer? Thanks. Just tell me that again if you would.
DEBRA COWARD:
What I was saying was that with DuPont and other—the big industries—it gave opportunities for black people to have jobs other than farm work. I guess that was the first equal opportunity employer because they did hire black people.
BETTY:
They surely did.

Page 22
DEBRA COWARD:
I don't know what level of jobs they had, but, like with my uncle, he went from farming to DuPont.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Steady salary?
DEBRA COWARD:
Uh huh. Indoor work. Just a very big change in the lifestyle—
BETTY:
Insurance.
DEBRA COWARD:
—for the people of the community. A year round job with a good salary— that was security. And that was considered one of the plum jobs to have back then. Camp Lejeune or DuPont were the main employers for black folks in the community. That kind of raised the economic level of folks that made a difference in the people. You know, if you had those kind of jobs, then you had a different lifestyle than if you still worked on the farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it was a way to break out—
DEBRA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
—of—?
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, I can't say poverty because even then—. My grandfather owned a farm, so he was a little different than just a regular sharecropper that waited for somebody to give him the money. He always had money in his pocket. And he had a car. It wasn't a new car, but he had a car. So there was just differences in people because of that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And so, DuPont coming in was a way just—?
DEBRA COWARD:
As Mama said, it opened up whole new avenues for folks in this community. People commuted from all around—from Greenville and places—to work—
BETTY:
Sixty miles away.

Page 23
DEBRA COWARD:
—to work—to DuPont.
Or like, my dad traveled—he left home 5:00 in the morning to go to work—to Camp Lejeune. And did that for thirty-four years.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's a ways from here.
DEBRA COWARD:
Yes it is, but he did it every day, rain or shine.
CLYDA COWARD:
And one part [of] the time we didn't even have a car. He'd walk all the way to Grifton to catch a bus to go.
BETTY:
To commute.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Everyday?
DEBRA COWARD:
For thirty-four years.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Was it that this was such a great job or was it that the opportunities around here weren't so numerous that if there was something like that, you really had to take advantage?
WALTER COWARD:
Well, there wasn't nothing around here for me to do.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, you see, I think that at that time there was so many people trying to get jobs to DuPont. That was the only big [Someone says something in the background]—uh huh—that was around here. So instead of him waiting, trying, keeping right on waiting to get on at DuPont, he just went on to Camp Lejeune, where he got a job. But it was a laborer job. But it was a regular job with a regular paycheck.
DEBRA COWARD:
I think the other thing was my father chose to stay. He didn't hop from job to job. So maybe there would've been the chance to have gotten a different job, but he chose to stay where he was, where he was secure and had that steady income.
CLYDA COWARD:
And he did get promotions.

Page 24
DEBRA COWARD:
And never got laid off.
CLYDA COWARD:
And we did have the opportunity to send our daughter to college and things like that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So how was your life different because you had this good job than it would have been if you'd stayed with farming because there was nothing else?
CLYDA COWARD:
That's right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How was it better or different?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I guess maybe the security and the fact that we had never—well, I had never—lived in poverty, per se. Daddy always worked us hard, but we lived good.
DEBRA COWARD:
He had something to eat and something to wear. They had wood in the wintertime because they'd go out in the woods and cut it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So there was always enough of what you basically needed.
DEBRA COWARD:
It was not just subsistence. They could eat, and they could even share with somebody else. But the difference is, I was the first in my family to get an undergraduate degree, the first in my family to get a graduate degree. Opportunities presented themselves.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did you get your degrees in?
DEBRA COWARD:
In social work.
CLYDA COWARD:
When Debra was going to school, I started Debra taking music.
DEBRA COWARD:
I was nine. Piano lessons.
CLYDA COWARD:
I was paying three dollars and a half, six dollars an hour for Debra to take music, and I was making fifteen dollars a week.

Page 25
LEDA HARTMAN:
Those music lessons were important to you to give to her.
DEBRA COWARD:
She was doing housework and not making a dollar an hour.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Who were you doing housework for?
CLYDA COWARD:
I worked for—. Miss Betty, how would you say that? I worked for Mr. Tom's mama—(Miss Eleanor?).
BETTY:
(Was it Miss Eleanor or?) Gower?
CLYDA COWARD:
The Gower family.
DEBRA COWARD:
Various families in the community.
CLYDA COWARD:
The Barwick family.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So even though you were only making fifteen dollars a week, why did you feel it was so important that you spent six dollars on piano lessons?
CLYDA COWARD:
I have always known that I didn't want her to ever have to do the things—. She can't do what I can do to live.
DEBRA COWARD:
But I have done housework.
CLYDA COWARD:
When the flood came, we didn't have anything. I told my husband—I said, "Now, if you can get us two bricks and a tin pan and something to cook, we can eat." Well, Debra wouldn't know how to start that because she never had to do it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
The survival skills that you had because you didn't have the electricity and what not?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
DEBRA COWARD:
But at the same time, I had the mentality to survive. We were going to survive.

Page 26
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, yeah.
DEBRA COWARD:
Mama never told me that I was too good to do anything. She didn't feel like I had skills to do certain things.
BETTY:
And still doesn't.
DEBRA COWARD:
Yes, ma'am. [Laughter] But I had worked with her doing housework. I've done farm work. There was nothing that she said that I was too good to do. It was just a matter of, do you want to make a living at it? Do you want to do this the rest of your life, versus, do you want opportunities to do better? That was what they always tried to do was do better.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How about the people in the community around here who have spent their whole lives here in this community? Do you think that younger people like yourselves had goals that were different from, say, your parent's generation or your grandparent's generation? Were more of the younger people like you where they said, "Well, I want this opportunity for more education or a better job or what have you"? Did you see that change?
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't think that a lot of peoples was motivated. People thought that my daddy was silly to have twenty-five or thirty hogs to sell, and they're out in the woods, and he had to catch them. And it was a lot easier not to do it. Well, we had a lot of people in the community and surrounding area like that. We had a lot of people that my dad would turn right around, and he would feed them.
LEDA HARTMAN:
He sounds exceptional.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, he did.

Page 27
BETTY:
Industrious.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Industrious.
DEBRA COWARD:
He was going to be a survivor too. He was brought up without parents, and he came up the hard way, and he always tried to make a living at whatever he did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
He was brought up without parents?
CLYDA COWARD:
His mother died when he was—I think he said he was five. He lived with an older sister. I think by the time he was ten, Mr. Barwick had him by that time, and he was working every day. My daddy couldn't read and write, but you know what he could do? He could count money. [Laughter] Now, that's the truth. But he couldn't say one and one is two—not unless it was money. If it was figures or numbers, no, no, no.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So he couldn't read or write, but he made all of you finish high school?
CLYDA COWARD:
That's right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In a time when especially girls didn't have to finish high school.
CLYDA COWARD:
Right.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Nobody had to actually.
BETTY:
All seven of you went to high school?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I had one brother to die when he—.
DEBRA COWARD:
When he was a toddler—about two or three.
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah, because he had colitis.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh, dear.
DEBRA COWARD:
Back in the 30s, that was.
CLYDA COWARD:
At that time they didn't have no cure for much of nothing really.

Page 28
DEBRA COWARD:
And a sister to die at sixteen. But all the rest went to school. They were expected to go to school.
CLYDA COWARD:
So, there was five out of the seven.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How did your sister die?
DEBRA COWARD:
She had a heart condition.
CLYDA COWARD:
She was born with a heart condition.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So two of them really had some medical troubles. And then the rest—y'all went to school? Y'all went to high school?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's really interesting that he knew that was important even though he didn't have it for himself.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, he used to tell us stories at night. We started out with a battery radio. Believe it or not, we had a RCA radio, and Daddy would buy one battery a year. When that battery started to going down, he would have us to heat up the wood stove, and he would put the battery in the oven until the juice started to coming out. And do you know, them batteries would last twelve months?
DEBRA COWARD:
It charged it. I don't know what kind of battery it was. [Laughter]
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't either.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's wild. I wonder how he figured that out.
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. But I'll tell you something else: during this time Mr. Barwick figured out how him and Daddy together—they could put down a well of water that would run cool enough to keep milk from spoiling.

Page 29
LEDA HARTMAN:
Smart. Maybe it was deep in or something?
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, it seems that in this area they had what they thought was artesian water—almost like a spring, real pure water. It's only been later years that we've polluted our environment. And it was right up there. They had a dairy that they could leave the milk out, and it didn't spoil, and good, clean water.
CLYDA COWARD:
The water would run right under it, and it would just keep it cool.
DEBRA COWARD:
It seems Mr. Barwick was a very smart man.
CLYDA COWARD:
He and my daddy made medicine.
LEDA HARTMAN:
They both sound pretty smart. They made medicine?
CLYDA COWARD:
I think Mr. Barwick. I don't know. He—.
DEBRA COWARD:
He read a lot—Mr. Barwick did.
CLYDA COWARD:
He raised my father, you might say.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Because your father was out working from job to job, and he stayed there at Barwick's?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's kind of interesting.
DEBRA COWARD:
But I think that people did that—that white people did take in folks.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Took in black folks like this man did?
DEBRA COWARD:
If they were so impressed with somebody, they'd take them under their wing.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So your dad must've impressed him even as a child?
DEBRA COWARD:
That he would work hard, he was industrious, and he stuck with him until Mr. Barwick died.

Page 30
BETTY:
I am impressed with what I am hearing you say because your values and your experiences are so much like the Barwicks' were.
CLYDA COWARD:
Really?
BETTY:
Yes, very much like the Barwicks' were.
DEBRA COWARD:
But see, they've been part of my life all my life. I've always—. In fact, Mr. Barwick helped my gr—
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

Page 31

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
DEBRA COWARD:
—that they thought the world of my grandparents.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I'll tell you what: when the flood come, Mr. Sam Barwick's sons—. He's got—let's see, Gene, John, Alan, and Jimmy—four. Two of them is a doctor. But the first time it really hit me was when the first one come up and brought me a check for five thousand dollars. You see, my brother Walter was flooded out too, and he give him a check for five thousand dollars. From there on, every week they were down here.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Doing what?
CLYDA COWARD:
Whatever needed to be done.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, the gentleman who gave the five thousand dollars was the brother of —?
DEBRA COWARD:
The grandson of the man who took in my grandfather.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Oh, okay. So men who are about, say, your age?
DEBRA COWARD:
My mama's age.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So the closeness between the families had lasted more than one generation?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Tell me what things were like around here before the flood came. How was the community? How was the house?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I'll be honest with you, it was a very pretty place to me. Maybe it was just me, but it was a lovely area. There was a lot of people. Even though they were in mobile homes, they had their little nice things around their mobile homes. It was right

Page 32
on—I guess about five hundred yards from here to down there. Back in Tick Bite was a whole community of people.
DEBRA COWARD:
This was more of a middle class area. This wasn't a slum. This was a place where the folks had nice houses. It was a good lifestyle out here. You know, you didn't have shooting on Saturday nights and all that kind of stuff in this area.
BETTY:
[unclear]
DEBRA COWARD:
No ma'am.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Blacks and whites together? That's the community that was here? People kind of intermixed together?
DEBRA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And neighbors know each other and so on?
DEBRA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Tell me more about that: what the neighborliness was like.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I need Mary Ann (again?) to tell her that don't I?
DEBRA COWARD:
Again, the people that lived here back then were folks that had grown up together. Earl Braxton down the street. It was one of those things of, if you had an abundance of squash, then you brought somebody squash.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it went back a generation or two or three as far as the people? [A number affirmative responses are made]
DEBRA COWARD:
And if somebody got sick, then everybody visited. It was a concern of everybody.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That must have been a nice place to grow up in?

Page 33
DEBRA COWARD:
It was. There was security, and certainly I didn't experience a lot of the problems that people might have in other places because I knew nice people—black and white.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How many people have come back since after the flood would you say— like half or two-thirds or one-third?
CLYDA COWARD:
Miss Betty, what do you think?
DEBRA COWARD:
It just depends on where you are.
LEDA HARTMAN:
This particular area, your neighborhood.
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, on this street—.
BETTY:
More than half.
DEBRA COWARD:
All except one house or two.
BETTY:
But down in Tick Bite, not even half.
DEBRA COWARD:
It just depends on where you're talking about.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Closer to the creek, down at Tick Bite?
BETTY:
Oh, down at the end of the road.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Down at the end of the road, not even half.
BETTY:
But they were closer to the creek, and they probably got buy-out money more than people in this neighborhood did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So does the neighborhood feel the same now?
DEBRA COWARD:
No.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How is it different?

Page 34
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. That's something I've been trying to figure out ever since I've come back here. One thing, there's areas where the earth moved. That sounds ridiculous doesn't it? But it's true.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Can you explain more?
CLYDA COWARD:
Around the curve down there, did you ever see those big piles of white sand?
DEBRA COWARD:
She might didn't go back in there.
CLYDA COWARD:
She didn't have to go in there.
BETTY:
You can see them.
CLYDA COWARD:
I think that the force of the water shifted the earth.
DEBRA COWARD:
That doesn't explain why we feel different.
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. I feel like I have been invaded.
DEBRA COWARD:
There's just an uneasiness. It's not as—
CLYDA COWARD:
It's not as comfortable. It's not as—.
DEBRA COWARD:
—as secure, if there is such a thing.
BETTY:
The security is gone. You don't know if—.
DEBRA COWARD:
It's just different. We've been shifted about so much and moved from pillar to post. Whereas before, Mama said she only moved twice from her daddy's house to my father's house; now, she's moved more in the last two years than she moved her whole lifetime.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Tell me where all you went. Like, what happened the night of the flood? Where did you have to go?

Page 35
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, we was evacuated on Friday. The flood came on the sixteenth, I think. We was carried by boat. The boat was up over my doorsteps. They took us across the—. No, we didn't go to the Ruritan Club until later that evening.
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, that was where we ended up. We were in a lady's yard until we went—.
CLYDA COWARD:
To the Ruritan Club.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You stayed in a lady's yard until they took you to the Ruritan Club?
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, we had nowhere else to go.
CLYDA COWARD:
Elizabeth Smith.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What could you take with you?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, we didn't have time to take nothing because—. Well, I hadn't got out. Debra had tried to go to work, but the bridge down here had overflowed. Then water cut off over there. So there was no way that she could get by. So she had come back. But we didn't know that it was a flood.
DEBRA COWARD:
That's stupid isn't it?
BETTY:
No, because you didn't know.
CLYDA COWARD:
The lights went out here on Wednesday. We didn't have no telephone, no lights. Nobody told us nothing. We didn't know.
DEBRA COWARD:
We didn't listen to the radio because we were used to sitting out storms. That's what we did in this community. You didn't have to have lights to live. So we didn't listen to the radio.
BETTY:
I could see the flood, and I still didn't know it. You know? It's denial. I could see it out the back door.

Page 36
DEBRA COWARD:
Yes ma'am. We could see the water.
CLYDA COWARD:
I saw it coming. The road was dry just like it is there now, and the sun was shining; and these people come by and told us we had ten minutes.
DEBRA COWARD:
No, they told us to pack up and leave because the water was going to get higher because it was already in the yard in places.
CLYDA COWARD:
We could see it coming down the road. Just as far as we could see, there was nothing but water. I still didn't think that it was going to flood our house. I really didn't.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Had you ever seen anything close to this before in your life?
CLYDA COWARD:
No.
DEBRA COWARD:
Because in '63 the water came up to the intersection down there. But it never—. This was high ground.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In the past disasters like '63 or Hurricane Hazel or things like that, how did people deal with it then?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, it wasn't near as bad as this water. It seems that people could deal with the wind and what damage the wind done a lot better than they could this water.
LEDA HARTMAN:
You mean like from past hurricanes, they could prepare for that a lot easier than this flooding?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
DEBRA COWARD:
We didn't have the extent of the destruction. That was the difference because it was just a few houses. Back in the other, wind damage on a house down here, here and there scattered, but not whole communities wiped out.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Never anything close to this?

Page 37
DEBRA COWARD:
Unh uh. In their history.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And so, in your lifetime, in past floods or storms or whatever, how did people react? How did the community deal with it then when it wasn't as bad as what happened during Floyd?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, the people in this area—and when I say this area, I'm saying from Tick Bite all the way out to Eleven Highway—the people always helped one another. If one person could do one thing, then somebody else could do something else. Everybody got together and done what they could do. It was just like ants carrying a crumb. It was getting done.
DEBRA COWARD:
It was a rural area. You always had chimneys, so you could have some heat; people would go buy ice; you had a source of water. So you could survive. It was not the most modern way to do it. It was not convenient, but you could survive.
BETTY:
You didn't have to leave home.
DEBRA COWARD:
No ma'am. You could survive.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And just wait it out like you said?
DEBRA COWARD:
Mm hmm. Even when we had the destruction from the other storms and you didn't have lights for days, you could still survive.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How was this different?
DEBRA COWARD:
We were displaced. We had nowhere to go.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did the community do?
CLYDA COWARD:
Then the next thing you see this water, it really took away the opportunities that we did have. Because, you see, like I said before, if I could get three bricks and a pot, I could cook. But you see, there was no bricks and no pots.

Page 38
BETTY:
If there had been, somebody would've stolen them before you got back. [Laughter]
DEBRA COWARD:
Yes, ma'am.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now tell me about that because before you said people would've done for each other. Each person would have done one thing—.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, you see, this affected so many people. It was so widespread. Really, there's so many people right now I don't know where they are.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Some of your neighbors that you—?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, not our neighbors in this area but some people that we knew, that we would go to church with and things like that. They just moved.
DEBRA COWARD:
They had to leave and haven't come back, and we don't know where they are.
LEDA HARTMAN:
People that you knew for how long?
CLYDA COWARD:
All my life—sixty-eight years.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And you don't know where they are?
CLYDA COWARD:
No, but I know that they're all right wherever they are. I know that there's a lot of peoples [that] have located over in Ayden. I don't know where all else.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So what's that like to have these people that you've known all your life and lived nearby and now they're not there?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, you see our churches was a central location for so long. And our churches have gotten destroyed.
LEDA HARTMAN:
By the flood?
CLYDA COWARD:
Uh huh. And our particular church is not built back yet.

Page 39
LEDA HARTMAN:
Which church is that?
CLYDA COWARD:
That's the Methodist church down at the end of the street.
LEDA HARTMAN:
The AME Zion?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I've seen it.
CLYDA COWARD:
So the people that we would normally see at the end of the week on Sunday—there's a lot of them, with the church not being there, we just have not seen them. I don't know. I pray for them. I hope everybody is doing well.
LEDA HARTMAN:
But because the building is gone, there's no place for people to gather.
DEBRA COWARD:
You see, [there were] some people that she would see them in the grocery store up until when she got sick; then they didn't go to the grocery store as much because there was a time you went to the grocery store about everyday, wasn't it? And now, she doesn't go to the grocery store quite as much to see people—the older folks that she would have seen—to the grocery store, to the doctor's office, that kind of thing.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So even though you've been back in your house now—?
DEBRA COWARD:
It's not the same. [Addressing Clyda] Is it?
CLYDA COWARD:
No. And it won't ever be. To be honest with you, when we come back in here, it was almost like when we left the shelter and went in an apartment. I never lived in an apartment in my life before.
DEBRA COWARD:
Never had to pay rent before.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you went from the Ruritan club to a shelter—?
DEBRA COWARD:
No, ma'am. We went—.
CLYDA COWARD:
Yes, it was a shelter. We went to LCC. We had a number over there.

Page 40
LEDA HARTMAN:
So Ruritan Club to a shelter in Grifton?
DEBRA COWARD:
In Kinston. They wouldn't let us have a shelter in our community because it wasn't Red Cross approved.
BETTY:
[Whispering] I've heard that before.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What does that mean?
DEBRA COWARD:
I've never heard the explanation, except it wasn't Red Cross approved.
BETTY:
I can tell you what it is. It has to have certain regulations about a certain number of beds and a certain number of—
DEBRA COWARD:
Somebody's got to be in charge of it.
BETTY:
—supervisors and got to have cooking facilities—
DEBRA COWARD:
People willing to—.
BETTY:
—and be sure that sanitation is okay. We ran into the same thing in Grifton.
DEBRA COWARD:
So we had to move.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, we didn't never have no cots—no beds. We had the floor.
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, even at the shelter where we were—. See, we didn't have a lot of preparation time. It was all I could do to get them to get their medicine and get a couple days worth of change of clothes when we left home. We didn't get pillows and all this kind of stuff; so we didn't have a lot of personal stuff. So I didn't have a lot of conveniences for them and couldn't go buy it. We didn't have a car either. Our cars got flooded.
BETTY:
And the banks were closed.

Page 41
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, I had gotten money from the teller machine because I knew—. You know, you hear about that. You go ahead and get your money from the teller machine; so we had cash. But I couldn't get anywhere. Couldn't get a taxi.
CLYDA COWARD:
We couldn't spend it.
DEBRA COWARD:
That's the truth. I had cash money.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you went from the shelter to an apartment building?
DEBRA COWARD:
From the shelter [to] a family friend.
CLYDA COWARD:
A family friend took us, and we stayed there about seven or eight days. Then another lady wanted us, and we left there—.
DEBRA COWARD:
And stayed in a sewing room. Had a big room.
CLYDA COWARD:
This lady across the highway over there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
The three of you?
DEBRA COWARD:
The four of us.
CLYDA COWARD:
We had another man.
BETTY:
Yeah, they got another man.
DEBRA COWARD:
A family friend who is an amputee that my mama was taking care of. We had to make sure he was all right too. He didn't have a place to go. He got flooded. So we took him too wherever we went.
CLYDA COWARD:
And he was some kind of happy when he found us. Well, he didn't really find us.
DEBRA COWARD:
No, we had to send for him.
CLYDA COWARD:
He had peoples looking for him.

Page 42
DEBRA COWARD:
Because he had to be evacuated by boat too because he was in an area where they had gotten warned and been told to leave. But he wouldn't leave. I guess because he didn't know where to go. But when he was told that we were sending for him, then he came.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it was after all that moving from place to place to place, you stayed then in an apartment for a while?
DEBRA COWARD:
From October to Dec—. Well, we actually moved January 6 of 2000.
LEDA HARTMAN:
To the apartment?
DEBRA COWARD:
We moved to a house. We were in the apartment from October until January.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Where was that?
DEBRA COWARD:
In Grifton.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Then you moved to a house?
DEBRA COWARD:
In Ayden.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just to stay for a while until this place was finished?
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, we actually bought the house. It's on the market now. Are you interested in a house? [Laughter]
LEDA HARTMAN:
It's a little far from where I live, but thank you. I love Ayden.
Did you think that you would have to spend the rest of your lives in Ayden? Were you planning to resettle there, or you knew it was just temporary?
CLYDA COWARD:
No, we didn't know. There was one thing that we did know. We knew that in the condition our house was in, we had lost everything. We didn't have no appliances. We didn't have nothing. Then slowly our little savings got gone, and there was no way

Page 43
between here and hallelujah that we could build back this house by ourselves. We couldn't do it. We really didn't know what we were going to do, except we were going to serve the Lord. We knew that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How were you able to buy the place in Ayden?
CLYDA COWARD:
I don't know. I have always been able to ride my daddy's (back?) and get anything in this world I wanted, even if I didn't have enough money to ever even pay it because that was what happened there. I borrowed a hundred thousand dollars and can't work a lick.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So, even though you had that place, why did you want to come back here?
CLYDA COWARD:
This was home. I was born over there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
It's as simple as that. Who fixed up this house?
CLYDA COWARD:
The Baptist Men. That's been our lifesavers. They have saved a lot of people, and they saved us.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Tell me what all they did, like what kind of shape your house was in, and how they put it back and all that.
DEBRA COWARD:
It was completely gutted: no floors, no ceilings, no walls. There was nothing in here.
BETTY:
Nothing.
DEBRA COWARD:
And they redid it.
CLYDA COWARD:
You see, we had volunteers that went over and beyond the call of duty. There was about eight days there that—well, you could still drive the boat up there, but the freezers—. Well, most people have deep freezes, and they had a lot of food and stuff in them. Believe it or not, in September and in 1999, it was warm.

Page 44
DEBRA COWARD:
It was hot.
BETTY:
Hot. Hot.
DEBRA COWARD:
So everything was spoiled.
CLYDA COWARD:
Those people come in, and even though they had to have gloves and masks and boots and what have you—
DEBRA COWARD:
Because the refrigerator had overturned.
CLYDA COWARD:
—nobody acted like, Well, this is too nasty for me. Everybody just done what had to be done.
DEBRA COWARD:
The floor was slick. You couldn't half walk on the floor—
CLYDA COWARD:
Couldn't stand on the floor.
DEBRA COWARD:
—because it was slick with slime.
BETTY:
Slime. (And when it got?) hard, you couldn't wash it off.
CLYDA COWARD:
We had hardwood floors and that [unclear] .
DEBRA COWARD:
And they had buckled.
CLYDA COWARD:
They had buckled up.
DEBRA COWARD:
People gutted the house, and then the Baptist Men's organization redid it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
To where it is now?
DEBRA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
BETTY:
With new windows and new heating.
DEBRA COWARD:
Floors and ceilings. We wouldn't have had anything if they hadn't done it because we were not going to invest in fixing the house back.
CLYDA COWARD:
We couldn't afford to. You see, my husband is seventy-one, and I'm sixty-eight, and don't neither one of us work, and we certainly don't have that kind of income.

Page 45
Well, I guess maybe during the time of that flood and the year and a half following, he and I couldn't have survived if it hadn't have been for Debra working (carrying?) us.
BETTY:
And then you had a stroke.
CLYDA COWARD:
Then the big one come along.
LEDA HARTMAN:
When did you have your stroke?
CLYDA COWARD:
The eleventh of December, 2000.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So about six months ago or five months ago?
DEBRA COWARD:
Mm hmm. It's not six months yet.
CLYDA COWARD:
There was about two weeks I was just as blind as a bat. I couldn't even see.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Do you think the stress had something to do with bringing it on?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just because it was so much of a shock finally or what?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I had a lot to do, a lot of things; and I guess maybe I just am the kind of person that (burrows?) things that is just not even going to happen in my mind that they're going to.
BETTY:
Also she was taking care of this elderly man who was an amputee. They feel very responsible for him. Two times a day you were driving from Ayden?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
BETTY:
To bring him meals.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's a lot of work.
BETTY:
And still look after him.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So even though you were displaced yourself, you felt like you needed to give some care to this friend?

Page 46
CLYDA COWARD:
Well we had to.
DEBRA COWARD:
We didn't have any choice. He had to be taken care of.
LEDA HARTMAN:
If you didn't do it—?
DEBRA COWARD:
Nobody else was going to. He was not a person to seek out help.
BETTY:
He wasn't able to access it. Still isn't.
CLYDA COWARD:
He would sit right there and die (in?) there.
BETTY:
First time I visited them when they were in the apartments and then I saw Clyda, I knew that you were so distressed, so distressed, and I knew that you needed help worse than he did. So we got busy to get him a trailer at his house, and that helped.
CLYDA COWARD:
It sure did.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Has it made you feel better, has it done you good to be back here even though it's not the same neighborhood? You think it's helped you?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, yes because—I don't know—there is a satisfaction out of being here. I think that in time we will eventually get it back to where it will feel like home again.
DEBRA COWARD:
My daddy's got all this garden. He's out from the time he gets up in the morning until it gets dark.
BETTY:
Hiding.
DEBRA COWARD:
But he enjoys being outside. Didn't have that in Ayden, didn't have that in the apartment. I think there's some satisfaction when doing what they do.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, you see, I didn't know that if you live in an apartment, that you have got a space to park.
BETTY:
This is the second time we've heard about parking spaces.

Page 47
CLYDA COWARD:
I have never in my life. I didn't know what you do, really. I really didn't. And I thought it was terrible when the police come out there. Somebody had called the law.
DEBRA COWARD:
Not on us.
CLYDA COWARD:
Not on us. I hadn't done nothing. I don't do nothing to nobody.
DEBRA COWARD:
Not about the parking either. But they were used to space and not used to people being close to them. Having a lot of space.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Do you ever feel afraid of coming back, that it could flood again here, anything like that?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, no, I didn't think it would ever flood to begin with. I don't believe we will live to see another one. But I know that with the conditions being like they is, that there is a possibility because all the creeks and things like that, they can't hold the water like they used to. It's filled up. There's too much stuff in there. So when a lot of water comes, it's got to go somewhere. If it can't stay in there, it's got to come out.
DEBRA COWARD:
I think we'll be more mindful of conditions in the future.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just watch it.
DEBRA COWARD:
Not as certain that you can ride it out anymore. I'll always, I think, be a little more attentive when I hear that there's a storm to what I need to do.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Do you want to stay your whole life here?
DEBRA COWARD:
I think I'd really rather move eventually. Of course, to move again—. But I've got to let them get satisfied that they've stayed here as long as they want to.

Page 48
LEDA HARTMAN:
I just have a few last questions. And it's very interesting. Thank you for explaining it. [Laughter] It is.
How do you explain what you've been through for the last year and a half, right? How do you do that? You know how you were saying before the flood came, neighbors would do for each other?
CLYDA COWARD:
They still do.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How is that now, even though not everybody is back?
DEBRA COWARD:
One Saturday morning—in fact, I guess it was the Saturday we moved—we were going back and forth; and one of the trips we came back, there was a tin of muffins in the door. No name on them.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Because people had seen that you were moving back?
DEBRA COWARD:
And one Saturday again, we ran an errand. We came back, my daddy had received this huge pineapple cake that somebody had just chosen to give us.
BETTY:
You don't know who it was?
DEBRA COWARD:
Yes, ma'am. We finally got that one figured out. But there's generosity. There's people that care. It's just that it isn't the easiness of mind and spirit that it used to be that everything is okay because I guess you just kind of feel like nothing will ever be quite as secure as it was. And it might be that reality's hit; that, yeah, nothing is really certain except that you live until you die, and you do the best you can along the way.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And maybe there's something healing in coming back here. [Affirmative responses in the background] This is the place that you've known all your life and so on.

Page 49
Well, I think I'm just about all set unless there's another thought that you had that I didn't think to ask you or that other people need to know who haven't lived through what you have lived through.
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, I hope nobody else don't ever have to live through it no more. I really do. I wouldn't wish this on nobody.
DEBRA COWARD:
I hope that people in communities appreciate each other and respect each other. All the differences that you think you might have, all it takes is something like a flood or a natural disaster, or even maybe not even that, for the humanity to come out in all of us. I know I have a lot to pay back.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What do you mean?
DEBRA COWARD:
So many wonderful things have happened. So many people have opened their hearts, their pocketbooks, have done things for us that they didn't have to do. We were always pretty much self-sufficient before, and when you don't have a pot to cook in or a window to throw it out, it makes a difference.
CLYDA COWARD:
Then, you see, we had such a let down because for so long during the time that the water was up when we couldn't get in anywhere, we didn't belong nowhere. This area in here—.
DEBRA COWARD:
Because it's so close to the county line.
BETTY:
It was deserted. It was absolutely deserted.
DEBRA COWARD:
But I meant, we didn't belong to Pitt County, and we certainly didn't belong to Lenoir.
CLYDA COWARD:
Therefore, we weren't getting any help.

Page 50
DEBRA COWARD:
So, except for the generosity of individuals who would choose to do things, we would have certainly been left out because governments—we didn't quite fit with anybody.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Officially.
DEBRA COWARD:
Yeah. But people were good to us anyway.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And the people who would have done for each other were all—?
DEBRA COWARD:
Scattered and couldn't come together that you would've usually done when there was something to go wrong—that people would've come by and seen what they could do and just do it.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Because they were in the same shape themselves?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, you see I had a double portion of it. For two years before the flood, my mother was sick. My mother died on the seventeenth of April in 1999. The flood come the sixteenth of September, 1999. And I think it was on the seventeenth of September that my daddy came up out the grave and—.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I'm sorry, you said your daddy?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
DEBRA COWARD:
The family cemetery is down there in Tick Bite.
BETTY:
Because it was flooded.
CLYDA COWARD:
I just think that I had gotten completely stressed out.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That's a crazy thing to have happen on top of everything else.
DEBRA COWARD:
But it does when there's water.
LEDA HARTMAN:
In a flood. I know it. I know it.

Page 51
DEBRA COWARD:
In fact, we were very fortunate that more of the bodies didn't come up out of the cemetery. That's again what you're kind of used to. And anybody that—. Because I don't remember now who it was that told us they tied down my grandfather, but it was somebody white back there that said that they saw—. And they tied the coffin. I mean, that's what people do.
BETTY:
They had a state agency that came in that's called Mort and tried to find them and—.
CLYDA COWARD:
Secure.
DEBRA COWARD:
But it was somebody from Tick— somebody we knew—that tied—.
BETTY:
Oh, somebody from—.
DEBRA COWARD:
Because that's what you do—you help people.
BETTY:
Lots of heroes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Lots of heroes. And your daddy's grave is back?
DEBRA COWARD:
Oh, yeah.
CLYDA COWARD:
After the water went down.
DEBRA COWARD:
You have to wait a while because I guess the ground stays saturated with water for a long time.
LEDA HARTMAN:
That must be good to know that he's back where he belongs.
CLYDA COWARD:
Yeah.
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, see my mother is an A personality. She wants things done, and she wants them done [snaps her fingers] now. This has been a waiting period. We've grown a lot.

Page 52
CLYDA COWARD:
I have always been—I guess it was because of the way I was brought up—if I wanted something done and I couldn't get nobody to do it, I'd do it. But you see, I got to where I can't do it. That really is hard for me.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Frustrating?
CLYDA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
BETTY:
[unclear]
CLYDA COWARD:
Because if I wanted my house painted, I'd paint it if I couldn't get my husband to paint it. If the shingle blew off up there, I'd go up there and put them up there.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So, you have to be a little more dependent on other people, and you have to be more patient?
CLYDA COWARD:
If I can.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And that's hard.
DEBRA COWARD:
That's a life cycle too. We appreciate—. Now, what are you going to do with all this information?
LEDA HARTMAN:
Well—.
END OF INTERVIEW