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Title: Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Ray, Geraldine, interviewee
Interview conducted by Navies, Kelly
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 192 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© 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:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-31, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0128)
Author: Kelly Navies
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0128)
Author: Geraldine Ray
Description: 149 Mb
Description: 47 p.
Note: Interview conducted on September 13, 1977, by Kelly Navies; recorded in Weaverville, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series R. Special Research Projects, 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.
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Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977.
Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Ray, Geraldine, interviewee


Interview Participants

    GERALDINE RAY, interviewee
    KELLY NAVIES, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
KELLY NAVIES:
Today is September 13, 1997. My name is Kelly Elaine Navies and I'm going to interview by second cousin Mrs. Geraldine Ray. We are in Weaverville, North Carolina in the livingroom of her home and will you identify yourself?
GERALDINE RAY:
I am Geraldine Ray.
KELLY NAVIES:
Today we are going to begin the first of a series of interviews with the purpose of constructing a life review. For the first part of this interview, I'd like to focus on the early part of your life. So, I'd like to ask you once again to state your full name.
GERALDINE RAY:
Geraldine C. Ray. The C stands for Coon. My father was Howard Coon. He married Odessa Whiteside.
KELLY NAVIES:
That's C-O-O-N?
KELLY NAVIES:
What is your birthdate?
GERALDINE RAY:
7-10-37
KELLY NAVIES:
Where were you born?

Page 2
GERALDINE RAY:
I was born in Weaverville, North Carolina, across from where I presently live.
KELLY NAVIES:
Right across the street?
GERALDINE RAY:
Right across the street.
KELLY NAVIES:
In fact you were showing me that earlier -there is a community center.
GERALDINE RAY:
Correct, which used to be the schoolhouse. It was the first— Well, really it wasn't the first—It was the second colored school at that time-that was in the Weaverville area. You also had schools in Barnardsville, North Carolina where I was raised up. You also had one at Flat Creek and you also had one at Alexander, which is all in a little area just like-uh . . . three or four miles into each little town. And as I said, I was born here in Weaverville, was raised up in Barnardsville and I went to school here in Weaverville.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, when you were born there, that was a schoolhouse?
GERALDINE RAY:
That was a school, but it wasn't at the present site. It was down the hill-say fifty to a hundred feet further down the hill than where it is now.
KELLY NAVIES:
So you all lived right there?
GERALDINE RAY:
No.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, how were you born there?
GERALDINE RAY:
There was a house at the back of the center—off a' Reems Creek Road—The present site is still there—It's dug out and we used to play in it when I was in Grade School. There are still some scrub and stuff there that was from the present house.
KELLY NAVIES:
So this house was—I'm trying to understand-was it a house where women came to give birth or—.
GERALDINE RAY:
No, it was just a residence. That was where my grandparents lived. Where Will and Annie Whiteside lived.

Page 3
KELLY NAVIES:
I see, that was where—.
GERALDINE RAY:
That was where my mother was and that was where they were living. It was also called the Pres-Flack home. I don't know whether he was the one that built it but he was the one that lived there before they[ her maternal grandparents] lived there and as far as I know they were the last people to live in that house. But, the house was not torn down - I would say up until the last of the forties or early fifties.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, while we're on that subject-What is the full name of your grandparents and your parents?
GERALDINE RAY:
My parents are Howard G. Coon, which was Grover, mother was—I can't remember her first name but Odessa is what she always went by but she does have—I can't remember the first part of it, which she didn't know until here—when she started to get her social security and I went to the — to the courthouse to get her birth certificate and it didn't have Odessa on it and we had to trace it back from Will and Annie Whiteside. Annie was a Stevens and she was born and raised up in Leicester, North Carolina, which is about forty miles from Weaverville.
KELLY NAVIES:
Hmm— So, Annie Stevens, your grandmother was raised in Leicester and William Whiteside—
GERALDINE RAY:
Was born in Rutherfordton County.
KELLY NAVIES:
And where exactly is that?
GERALDINE RAY:
Rutherfordton is between Forest City and uh—. Well on one side-Hendersonville, I guess you would say-anyhow, it's offa'—. is it highway 70-anyway it's between Asheville and Charlotte. It's down that way. And you've heard of Chimney Rock?
KELLY NAVIES:
Mmmhmm.

Page 4
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, it's a little town outside of Chimney Rock—not too far from Chimney Rock.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, a little later I wanna get back to that and find out a little bit more about them. So, you born across the street. How long did you live over there?
GERALDINE RAY:
I really don't know. It couldn't a' been too long, because my father had built a house in Barnardsville and that's where he took us to. I imagine maybe two weeks, maybe. I don't know.
KELLY NAVIES:
In Barnardsville?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, in Weaverville. I lived in this house maybe two weeks or more.
KELLY NAVIES:
And then you moved to Barnardsville?
GERALDINE RAY:
Right.
KELLY NAVIES:
Is Barnardsville in Buncombe County?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes.
KELLY NAVIES:
It is? Okay. How long did you live there?
GERALDINE RAY:
'Til I was twenty-three years old.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, so we'll start with Barnardsville . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
But, in between when I came out of high school I went to Cincinatti and stayed up there almost a year.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really? How old were you then?
GERALDINE RAY:
I was seven—sixteen. I came out of school at fifteen. I graduated from high school at fifteen.
KELLY NAVIES:
At fifteen?
GERALDINE RAY:
I came out in June and I turned sixteen in July.
KELLY NAVIES:
You must a been pretty smart.

Page 5
GERALDINE RAY:
Lucky maybe. [laughter]
KELLY NAVIES:
So—let's back up. You're living in Barnardsville —umm— how old were you when you started attending school?
GERALDINE RAY:
Seven. Six and a half or seven.
KELLY NAVIES:
And what was the name of that school?
GERALDINE RAY:
Weaverville Colored School.
KELLY NAVIES:
So this was a segregated school?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, it was the same school that we were talking about in the beginning. I went there from the first through the eighth grade. And I graduated eighth grade here in Weaverville. I rode a bus, I walked I would say three-quarters of a mile every mornin to catch the bus. I had to get up and be on the road by and be waitting on the side of the highway at 7 o'clock to catch the bus.
KELLY NAVIES:
From Barnardsville?
GERALDINE RAY:
From Barnardsville. And so after I graduated from here, I still had to walk to catch the bus and come to —and then the little towns that we came through going and coming to school was Flat Creek, Democrat, Dooley Springs, Alexander, Weaverville and then when I got in High School we went from here to when they desegregated—But, I came out two years before they desegregated and I went to Stephen Lee High School.
KELLY NAVIES:
Can you describe Weaverville Colored School?
GERALDINE RAY:
It's a two room building. It had a cloak room with a partition to cut off the two classes. We had two teachers and one of em was my cousin . . .
KELLY NAVIES:
Really, what was her name?

Page 6
GERALDINE RAY:
Monny Flat Jones. She was the principal. She taught me the last four grades. The first four was Amanda Horn. In which, we lived—my mother in law bought her place in which we are presently living here now. She lived here, on this spot, only closer to the highway up there and uh she left when I was in the eighth grade and went to Philadelphia, because her husband had passed and her daughter lived in Philadelphia so she went up there to stay with them and we had one more teacher at that time which was Miss Margarite Dixon. Marguerite Dixon uhh—. Macarath.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, these segregated schools—Well, I'm asking about yours specifically, all of your teachers were black?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes
KELLY NAVIES:
To your knowledge were all of the teachers in the segregated school black?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, to my knowledge
KELLY NAVIES:
So, what kind of memories do you have of this school? Did you get a good education there?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, when you left there and went to high school—. 'cause back then—they did the best they knew how. You had a good basic in reading, arithmetic, and writing. Now as far as some of the other subjects—. We had never heard tell of until we went back, 'til we started high school and when we got in high school —I'ts just like starting over in school again, because we hadn't had that.
KELLY NAVIES:
Like history?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, and all this stuff. See you had some history—but you had geography at that time. And uhh— see when we got in high school you had extra curriculum, you had home ec, you had science, you had algebra, you had core and all this which we hadn't heard of

Page 7
down here. We just had books, well which were hand me down books. And they did the best they could with what they had.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, did you feel like you had to catch up when you got to high school?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, as I said in reading, writing, and arithmetic and spellin I always made good marks in spellin—I always made a hundred on that. So, I made a fair—good report, because I enjoyed going to school.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you didn't have much of a problem adjusting?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, I didn't have a whole lot of problems adjusting. The main thing adjusting was being throwed in with all of these black folks-because see I was mainly brought up around with the whites. And that was kind of strange to me.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, the high school was also segregated at that time?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes
KELLY NAVIES:
So, when you say you were brougt up around whites, you mean in Barnardsville?
GERALDINE RAY:
And out here too. [Phone ringing]
KELLY NAVIES:
[announces that there was a telephone interruption and that the interview will continue with a discussion of Geraldine's experience growing up around whites, while attending segregated schools].
GERALDINE RAY:
(Geraldine continues) Well, where I grew up—as I said-which is in Barnardsville, North Carolina—and they— at one time there were a lot of Blacks there—but when I grew there were only five families and most of the ones I grew up with were whites, which I had no problem. I didn't have any problem with em. When I left there I ran into more segregation among the blacks in high school and down here in elementary school than I had with them.

Page 8
KELLY NAVIES:
What do you mean by that?
GERALDINE RAY:
What I mean by that— I was considered— Well, at that time they kept saying, "Well, you think you pretty". I was among the ones with long hair, light [skin] and a lot em was jealous— and they treated me as so. So, I had more segregation among them then I did the whites and I got a lot of that when I first went to high school until I got to the point where I ignored it. And then they learnt me for myself and then I got along fine. But, I never—really as far as—. I've had some to call me nigger, but that didn't bug me because some of them were darker than I was.
KELLY NAVIES:
Some of the white people?
GERALDINE RAY:
Some of the whites and some of them had black ancestors even down to their grandmother and some of em was much darker than I was—
KELLY NAVIES:
And you knew that then?
GERALDINE RAY:
I knew that then. Which when I said, "Well, you just as black as I am" I never had that no more. So, they kind of looked out for me, 'cause I was there usually one by myself. There was another family there that had actually ended up having sixteen children, but they lived a mile from me. I saw them when we were going to school but during the summer and the weekends when we was home I hardly ever seen em. So, I was more or less with my cousin, which was L.D., my uncle's son, he and I was there together, but he was four or five years older than I was. So, I was a little girl and he was a little boy. Back then they didn't let you run around with little boys and play.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, who did you play with?
GERALDINE RAY:
I played with little white kids.
KELLY NAVIES:
And you didn't have any problems?

Page 9
GERALDINE RAY:
I didn't have no problems. I can still go home and have no problems. I was out there, in fact, yesterday. [Laughter]
KELLY NAVIES:
In Barnardsville?
GERALDINE RAY:
Mmhmm. I didn't have no problems.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you were saying some of em called you nigger-when was the first time that someone called you a nigger?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh, it was a guy that lived below me I think he was the first-I was coming home from school one day and he hollered out "hey there little nigger".
KELLY NAVIES:
Was it like he was bein' friendly?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, he was bein smart. And I said, "well,you black as I am." Which I happened to know that his father was whi . . . black too. He was actually dark as I was or darker, really.
KELLY NAVIES:
He didn't know it?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, he knew it. [Laughter]
KELLY NAVIES:
He was actually passing as white?
GERALDINE RAY:
He was just being smart. Well, his mother was white and his daddy-so far was white-you know, that's the way he was.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, he was living as a white person?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, he wasn't livin like no black person. but, uh—. Then it was some little girls that used to live next door to me then one of em got mad at me one day 'cause I run em off from the house. I was lookin after em and told em to quit doin' something, and one of called me nigra, "Ya nigra". She couldn't talk good and so uh I told her, "Since I'm that you stay home. You don't come back up here" So, I made her stay home for over a week and she came back and she begged me could she come back and I said if you can

Page 10
behave yourself you can come back. So, I let her come back after a week and she never did say that anymore to me. So, you run into that— You still run into it. You run into now around—where some of these people-you just might as well say they are ignorant— they live back in these hills and they got these little children believin' black folks are bears.
KELLY NAVIES:
Are what, now?
GERALDINE RAY:
Bears.
KELLY NAVIES:
Bears?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, "Mama is that a bear?". J. T. and had that happen to us one day in the store, grocery store. Little baby, just big enough to talk, "Mama, that's a bear." They ignorant. It's very ignorant, so, as I said I got along fine.
KELLY NAVIES:
Who were you living with at that time?
GERALDINE RAY:
I was living with my grandparents. My father's mother and father, which he died in '48, in 1948.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, he died when you were very young.
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, I had just turned 11 years old. I turned 11 on the tenth and he died on the twelfth.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, what did granddaddy Whiteside and grandmother Whiteside have to say about race relations? Did they tell you things about that at all?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, he was—See, his daddy was white. Granddaddy Whiteside's daddy was white. So, there's really nothing he ever said because he ran with em too. So, I've never heard them speak one way or the other about it.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, what was his father's name?
GERALDINE RAY:
Who?

Page 11
KELLY NAVIES:
Granddaddy Whiteside
GERALDINE RAY:
His name was William—he was named after him, and they called him "Doc". Believe it was ‘Doc’ they called him.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, his first name was William Whiteside, but they called him Doc?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, that's what I was told. William Marion, I think was his name.
KELLY NAVIES:
Yeah, you've told me about him before, I just wanted to get it down.
GERALDINE RAY:
Mmhmm—William Marion, but they called him Doc.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, I'm curious about-what about the teachers in the colored school, did they ever talk about why the schools were segregated or anything like that?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, that's something . . . I mean you knew it was segregated, you knew you was going to your school, you knew if you walked up the street you didn't drink from the water fountain, you . . . well, as I again, there again, I had more segregation away from home than I did at home where I was surrounded. But, they never really said a whole lot in the schools at that particular time about it.
KELLY NAVIES:
What did you think about the fact that water fountains, as you say and things like that were segregated, did it bother you?
GERALDINE RAY:
It didn't bother me 'cause I never drank out of em noway. So, I just—well, you know it's some things you did and some things you didn't do and that was one thing. Well, they had—city water was out here. We had well water. Well water was so much better than city water and it was more pure, so I hardly ever drank any water away from home.
KELLY NAVIES:
Is this still well water out here?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, this is city water.

Page 12
KELLY NAVIES:
How about inside the downtown areas of Weaverville and Asheville, were they segregated too?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, they was segregated and you still have a bunch here that would be segregated if they could get by with it. But, there are so few of us they don't pay us any attention. But, now since integration has started, you've got a lot of blacks that's living around here, but they don't 'sociate with the blacks that was already here.
KELLY NAVIES:
Because, they're movin in . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
They movin in. You see em they pass and repass and some of em hardly ever speak to you. So, we not bothered with that. You knew who was segregated and you had a certain class of the blacks that didn't want you to come in their front door. You was segregated by them. And so, that's just the way it was. See, a lot of em had a lotta white in em, so there really wasn't a whole lot they could say, you see.
KELLY NAVIES:
A lot of the . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
The blacks was mixed in with the whites.
KELLY NAVIES:
But, they still weren't allowed to go certain places?
GERALDINE RAY:
They wasn't allowed to go certain places.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, if you went shopping in Asheville, for example . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
You went-You knew where you was welcome, you knew where you weren't. So, you had a tendency to go where you knew you could go and not be bothered. Like we had-what we used to call ‘the block’ which was Eagle street and Market street, which is still there.
KELLY NAVIES:
The streets are still there?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah.

Page 13
KELLY NAVIES:
Are they still predominantly black?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, and they call em ‘the block’ but it's mixtry now [I believe this means it's a mixed street now]
KELLY NAVIES:
It's mixed now?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, I mean you see white down there now as well as you do blacks. Those were the places- and South side, you had South side which was predominantly black, you had Hill street which was predominantly black, Mountain street and all of those little far away places-Shiloh where granddaddy and them used to live at one time.
KELLY NAVIES:
Shiloh?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uhhuh.
KELLY NAVIES:
Was that in Asheville?
GERALDINE RAY:
That's in North Asheville-No, not North Asheville, South Asheville.
KELLY NAVIES:
Did you ever think that race relations would change the way that they have around here?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, not really. Because, as you have-as I said as the older generation dies out you don't have as much of it, but you have it from the people movin in. Now, the younger ones that has grown up since I—my kids have grown up they don't have the malice like some of their—their foreparents. And you had some of them foreparents-everything was supposed to stay the same and that's what they wanted. You were black you go in the back door, you ride in the back seat. That's the way it was and see when you grow up with that, you don't think nothing about it. I mean that's just an everyday life thing, you just go on and do.
KELLY NAVIES:
It didn't make you mad at all?

Page 14
GERALDINE RAY:
Naw, what's the use in gettin' mad. It didn't help you none.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, were you surprised when that part of segregation—when it was made illegal?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, Mmhmm
KELLY NAVIES:
You were surprised?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, I was surprised. [Brief pause, her oven alarm goes off, she is baking a cake]
KELLY NAVIES:
[When we return I leave race relations and go back to exploring her school experiences] Can you remember any games you played in school?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh, yeah—Ring around the rosies, Little Sally Walker, uh . . . hide and seek, well we jumped rope, we played baseball with a tennis ball and in fact one time I got knocked down with a baseball bat. Knocked cold.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uhhunh—.Daniel, Kyle and Wi . . . ? was playin and he went—I was hindcatching and he rared back and moved and hit me cross (I can't make out this part) there—Well, then on Fridays when we was in elementary school that was the only time we had an hour out for lunch. You had to bring your own lunch, you bring your brown paper bag or bucket or whatever you had and uh on Friday they'd let us walk down to the creek, which was down here. If we didn't do that they'd let us come back on the hill and play ball. But, our principal had a girl and a boy side, the girls wasn't supposed to be on the boys side and the boys wasn't supposed to be on the girls side—
KELLY NAVIES:
all day long? —
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, but that was slipped around and that was done anyway, but she tried to stop it—which we didn't hear of that anywhere else. That was just some of her own rules.
KELLY NAVIES:
Which one of those games was your favorite?
GERALDINE RAY:
I always loved to play ball. And I have a rock in my knee from jumpin rope, now.

Page 15
KELLY NAVIES:
Really? A rock in your knee? How did that happen?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, they used to put rocks—We didn't have no grass, we had cinders where you'd bring—see we had potbellied stove in the school and the potbellied stove—well, J.T. for one, which is now my present husband, used to go down there and start them early in the morning before we got to school or Robert Cown or Nathaniel Brooks and when the cinders—they used coal— and when the cinders burn down to where they wasn't gonna burn, they'd take the cinders and spread em on the ground and every so often they would brings cinders from other places to keep the ground from being muddy. So, we was out jumpin rope to see how high we could jump and my foot caught and I went down on my knee and I still got the scar and I got a little black place on my knee where the cinder went in it.
KELLY NAVIES:
You weren't able to get that out at the doctor?
GERALDINE RAY:
One little spot still there.
KELLY NAVIES:
Did you go to the doctor?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh, yeah. Well, see back then they sent you to the Health Department where we had a Health Nurse. It wasn't so much a health department, it was a Health Nurse that went around and she was located up here in the town hall in Weaverville. And you would go up there and they'd dress your knee, give you your shots you had to have for school and all that. So, that's how that was done.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, that's where you went?
GERALDINE RAY:
Mmhhm—.then most of the time if you got hurt at home you could wash it out with kerosene oil or alcohol or something and put a rag on it and you'd go on.
KELLY NAVIES:
Kerosene oil?

Page 16
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah. If you stuck your foot on a nail—they would—You'd go pour some kerosene oil down in your foot and that would stop the infection and you would heal.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh. I did that once—stepped on a rusty nail. It went all the way through my foot.
GERALDINE RAY:
I've had that done twice. (laughs) I've had that done once since I've been married, I've stepped on a nail had to go up and get a get a tetanus shot. See back then, back then they did not take you to the doctor for everything.
KELLY NAVIES:
Why is that?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well they fed you herbs. They'd give you herbs for colds, castor oil for colds, cod liver oil to keep you from havin a cold, but mainly when you got sick they'd bet on castor oil or Boneset tea or Life Everlastin. You could smoke the Life Everlastin, which the common name was Rabbit Tobacco. And they'd make all this stuff, well they had certain things when they thought you had worms, they'd give you uhhh—what was it, scullcap—.no, it wasn't scullcap. But, you had a herb that was scullcap, I've forgotten now what the used that for. You had, I can't remember now the name of the one that they used for worms.
KELLY NAVIES:
Was it Pennyroyal? You told me that once.
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, that was what it was. And see they went [every fall?] and dug roots. You had rattlesnake root, you had Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Boneset, Rattlesnake root (again), Wintergreen, and they kept all these little herbs.
KELLY NAVIES:
Now, when you say they, who are you referring to?
GERALDINE RAY:
My grandparents. And that's what they uh . . . Well, to make me sleep they'd give me Catnip tea. There's an herb named Catnip, they'd make catnip tea and you'd go to sleep.
KELLY NAVIES:
Grandma Whiteside would do this?

Page 17
GERALDINE RAY:
Grandma Coon also. Both grandparents would do that. See, I never really stayed with grandma Whiteside much. I was just in and out of their house.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, so you were talking about your father's grandparents (parents).
GERALDINE RAY:
Right. I was raised by them.
KELLY NAVIES:
I was confused there. Did you grandfather ever do that or was it mostly your grandmother?
GERALDINE RAY:
Both of em. 'Cause, he was a logger and he would go in the mountains a log and if he found things like that he would bring it home.
KELLY NAVIES:
Would he administer it to you if you were sick?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, he'd bring it to her and she'd know what to do. But, he was a spoiler. I was his pet. I could sit in his lap and do anything.
KELLY NAVIES:
What was his full name?—What were both of their names?
GERALDINE RAY:
His name was Chester Lomas Coon.
KELLY NAVIES:
And was your grandmothers name?
GERALDINE RAY:
Geneva Estella. She was a Flack.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you stayed with them until you graduated from High School?
GERALDINE RAY:
Until I graduated from High School. Then in the meantime, daddy was remarried when I was in the ninth grade. He married a West Indian lady by the name of Ruby. Ruby, Ruby—. I can't remember what her last name was. He lived in New York for a while, but he always sent money home for me, ten dollars a week. That's how I went to school on ten dollars a week. And I had—which was a lot of money back then—when I was in elementary school I carried my lunch, but when we was in high school we did have a

Page 18
lunch room, which cost us a dollar and a quarter a week. So, I would take my ten dollars, I'd buy my shoes, buy my paper, and I'd pay for my lunch for the week.
KELLY NAVIES:
You didn't have to pay for books, did you?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, we had to pay for em if we tore em or anything like that. But, other than that they'd just issue em to us and we turned em back in at the end of the year. And see the next class that come in would use em. So, you didn't buy books persay then. In fact, they was hand me downs, very seldom would you get a new book. Every now and then you would get a new book.
KELLY NAVIES:
I'm confused when you said that someone died in 1948, that was.
GERALDINE RAY:
Granddaddy Coon.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, granddaddy Coon. He died in 1948 and then you just lived with your grandmother?
GERALDINE RAY:
Right, she and I stayed there together. She got down sick when I was in high school. She had Rheumatoid Arthiritis and a year-I come out of school in June, I went to Ohio in December of that year and uh we took her with us at that time she could still get around. But then, my Uncle's wife died so she came back to the funeral and she stayed. So, that following July I had to come back and stay because she had gotten to the point to where she couldn't do anything. She was on crutches, then from crutches to the wheel chair, from the wheelchair to the hospital bed, and looked after her for the next twelve years.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, really.

Page 19
GERALDINE RAY:
Uh huh. So, I stayed with her and so I worked on the farm from the time I was five years old. I went out I helped set tobacco, I carried water, I learnt to milk, I learned to feed the cows, the horses, pigs, whatever had to be done. And she stood me in a chair at the age of five and learnt me how to cook cornbread and stuff. I was short, she stand me in a chair and show me how to do things, that's where I learned to cook. I never cooked from a box until now, really if I'm tired or something if I got somethin in a box, but I always cook from scratch, because that's the way I learnt. And back then, she would make my dresses out of feed sacks, because when you buy the cowfeed, and the horse feed, they had pretty sacks which made beautiful dresses.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yep. And then you had flower sacks which was made . . . You could get a flower sack that was a head scarf. And the way you'd (unintelligible ?) it out you'd have a pretty scarf or you could have a pillow case. Then you started gettin washin (unintelligible?) with washin towel in it. So, you—.see a lot of that stuff you had but mainly the food that we had was raised in the garden which at one time I dug up almost a half an acre of land and made a garden and I canned over two hundred cans of food that year.
KELLY NAVIES:
How old were you then?
GERALDINE RAY:
I was maybe twenty, maybe.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, did you know how to sew dresses from the burlap ba . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
I learnt, she learnt me to sew at a early age. I learnt to crochet when I was five.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you learned crochet, you learned to cook . . .

Page 20
GERALDINE RAY:
I learned to sew, I learned to cook and get out there and when she would make a garden, when she was able to make a garden, I always made a little un in the corner-my own.
KELLY NAVIES:
What would you put in your own?
GERALDINE RAY:
Whatever she had. I had corn in mine, I had greens in mine, I had beans in mine, whatever she had, whatever she had in hern I had in mine.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, she taught you how to do that too.
GERALDINE RAY:
Right, and so when I had to dig it up when she was down sick, cuz we couldn't afford to pay nobody to plow it, I dug it up with a mallet and I planted it and I had a beautiful garden.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, she taught you quite a bit.
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh, she taught me, yeah. She started me out when I was little. You don't do like children do now, we didn't have lights in the house until nineteen and fifty. So, you used a kerosene lamp. I went to school by a lamp. That's the way I got my homework. When I got in from school, the first thing I had to do was eat somethin, I'd get my homework, and I 'd do my work I had to do outside like gettin in the wood for the fireplace and for the cook stove, if I had to go milk I'd go milk by five o'clock and get that done then I'd sit down and do my homework. That's the way you did things. I mean you didn't sit around and be idle, like children are now.
KELLY NAVIES:
She taught you how to can?
GERALDINE RAY:
She taught me how to can and I still can.
KELLY NAVIES:
Did she teach you how to use herbs as well?

Page 21
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, but some of em I have forgotten since I been away from home, but some of em I still know how to do.
KELLY NAVIES:
Do you use them from time to time?
GERALDINE RAY:
Every now and then, some. Like catnip or something like that and see you got Ground Ivy out here they used to use that for babies when they was hollerin, when they was babies and the yard out here is full of it. I could show you some of it.
KELLY NAVIES:
Yes, I'd like to see that.
GERALDINE RAY:
But, uh . . . you didn't . . . see, the only thing we mainly bought from the store back then was . . . cuz we had chickens, we had cows, we had hogs, we had horses, my father was a licensed butcher (K asks if it was her real father and she replies yes) and like I said they all logged at one time. And my uncle could kill hogs, my father and him would sometimes kill twenty hogs within a day for different people and they would bring me the heads and I would sell them for a dollar. That was my little spending change.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really? The hogheads? How would you carry em around?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, I'd call and tell somebody if they wanted it, I had it and they'd give me a dollar for it. So, that was my little spending change.
KELLY NAVIES:
And they'd just come and pick it up?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uhhuh . . . And see so you had your meat, corn—We lived on a farm, we had a hundred and something acres. Which some of the whites said we were living better that they were. But, it still was hard work. You set out tobacco, you raise tobacco, you raise corn, you raised hay for your livestock, and the corn for your livestock, well when the field was prepared for your tobacco, first you burn -back then you could burn your tobacco beds-that was to keep the weeds up-you sowed it and you covered it with canvas-when the

Page 22
plants got big enough to set out, you went and set em out and usually on the end-within the tobacco bed on one corner they'd plant cabbage plants, tomato plants and that was for your garden. You didn't go to a stand and buy your plants, you raised em along with your tobacco plant and uh then when it become time to set out your tobacco, you'd prepare your land, you carried and you dropped them plants and used a stick to put em in the ground until they invented a tobacco setter which you did with your hand and you jabbed it down in the ground and you drop it down in there and when you'd squeezed it and pulled up on it, it would set it in the ground.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really, and that was called a what now?
GERALDINE RAY:
A tobacco setter and it had a little reservoir on it where you poured the water so when you pulled the lever up the water would go in with the plant. So, that's the way you'd set em out and then somebody would come behind you and fill the dirt in around it. So, I done that when I was little.
KELLY NAVIES:
Hmmm, so if you had anything extra, would you sell it?
GERALDINE RAY:
They did. All the children went out and worked. If they had to go and pick up rocks they would go a certain time of year and picked up rocks off the field. You go get on that sled and you help them pull up them rocks. You'd do the best you could.
KELLY NAVIES:
You would help the children?
GERALDINE RAY:
You would help your uncle, your daddy, granddaddy or whoever was doing it.
So, you didn't uh . . . [Phone ringing]
KELLY NAVIES:
[I announce the brief pause and resume the interview with the subject of life on the farm]

Page 23
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, going back to what you raised and what you had to buy to eat. You had your chicken, you had your corn, you had your hogs, you had your milk, so what you . . . and you had your garden and your raised everything that your could. And the main things that you bought from the store was like flour, not meal because you took your corn to the mill and they grinded it and you put it in a can and you take a big sack, maybe two and they grinded it and you put in a tin can and that would keep weevils and things out of it. So, you bough—.you didn't have to buy your eggs, 'cause you had your eggs from your chickens, you had ducks, so you didn't have to anything about gettin duck eggs or anything. We had ducks. We had geese and we bought cereal sometimes, but back then you only had Corn Flakes and what was the other un daddy? (J. T., her husband, had just walked into the room) (It sounds like he says Cream of Wheat, but Geraldine answers Shredded Wheat) and grits . . . (J.T. corrects her "Cream of Wheat") Cream of Wheat and Grits. And see you bought rice if you wanted any, you bought rice. Well, and see you made biscuits and you made cornbread, so you didn't buy bread at all. You didn't buy bread.
KELLY NAVIES:
You guys were living pretty good.
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, but it was hard. It was hard. It was hard. That's the life on the farm.
KELLY NAVIES:
You did a little bit of this. Can you describe for me a basic day? Say when you were twelve years old-from the beginning, waking up in the morning til you went to bed.
GERALDINE RAY:
You say twelve years old? (K must have nodded because she begins) Get up at five o'clock and be ready to go school by seven, be down to catch the bus by seven, be back home at five, time you got home you went and got your wood, got your night water. If the cows were down-certain times of years they'd move the cows to higher fields which was

Page 24
on the mountains, and if the cows weren't down where they was usually to be milked, you went on up on the mountain and got em and you brought em down and you milked em. We had two. And uh—then you have supper. You always, even when you had—.you ate breakfast, you ate lunch, you ate dinner. You always had three meals. It might not a' been what you wanted -and in the long run after she got down sick they would not help us in any way, because of her- because I'm there and she had this farm.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you mean the government?
GERALDINE RAY:
The government wouldn't help us. So, a lot of times we went to bed with milk and bread. Make a cake-corn bread and crumbled it in your milk and eat it and go to bedlong as you was full. You was . . . how, can I say it? You didn't think about it. I mean that's just somethin you done, at least you had a full stomach and you went on to bed and you done. You made your quilts.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you also knew how to quilt?
GERALDINE RAY:
I made my first quilt when I was in high shool and I made my first big crochet piece when I was in high school.
KELLY NAVIES:
Do you still know how to do those things?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh yeah, I still crochet a lot and I still make quilts. I've made all my children quilts and I've started on all my grandkids. I made the two boys one each last year for Christmas. I've got three more to make.
KELLY NAVIES:
I'd like to see some of those.

Page 25
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, they all got em. I've got one in there on my bed. Well, it's not in there now -it's in there on the bed where you are. But, uh . . . those is things that you learned to do.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, let me get an idea of the community in Barnardsville. You lived on the farm with grandmother Coon and granfather until he died. Who else was around you in terms of family and friends.
GERALDINE RAY:
My uncle and his wife, which was Dennis, L.D. which was his son. His name was Daniel. And his wife was named Ada. Ada is the one that died in '56. She died in January of '56, last part of January. Then when I came back home he got down sick, so I had him and my grandmother. He (Uncle Dennis) had bone cancer. I went to call him for breakfast one morning and he couldn't get up and I went in to see about him and I pulled him up and when I turned him loose, he fell. So, I spent a day in the hospital and not find out anything-brought him back home and kept him there a week, was givin him the medication, then we had to put him back in there and they found out he had bone cancer and his back was in [two?]. That's why he couldn't set up. So, looked after him for a while til I could get him into a nursing home.
KELLY NAVIES:
This is when you were graduated from high school?
GERALDINE RAY:
I was out of high school then. So, that was—.that was most of my life. I worked hard all my life. You didn't have toys like kids have now. My first toys that I remember—I would say I was six or seven years old -that I can remember was a tea set, a little tiny china tea set, with a willow pattern. Which I still have.
KELLY NAVIES:
You still have that?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, I gave it to Dottie, but I think got em back there in the room. If I don't, Dottie's got em and uh they were china. And I think out of the whole set that they gave me, I broke

Page 26
three. And that year I got that and a little curdoroy pants and coat, which burn up in the house when the house burnt.
KELLY NAVIES:
When did the house burn down?
GERALDINE RAY:
It burned down in '67, I think it was. Yeah.
KELLY NAVIES:
How did that happen?
GERALDINE RAY:
I was told that somebody set it. 'Cause see I was married then and living out here and uh the next Christmas I got a Napoleon puzzle.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
KELLY NAVIES:
You were telling me about life on the farm in Barnardsville and how you had to work real hard.
GERALDINE RAY:
And the next Christmas as I was saying, I got a Napoleon puzzle and when the tobacco was sold I got a tricycle, but that was before Christmas and I got down with the chicken pox, no with the measles—
KELLY NAVIES:
And what year was this?
GERALDINE RAY:
It was in the fifties—.maybe '53 or '54 and I wanted a pair of skates and my dad got me a pair and I learned to skate in the house.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, your father was back then?
GERALDINE RAY:
He was in and out, cuz see my grandmother was sick too and he was in and out. And then him and his second wife had divorced and he had married a third wife. Her name was Gladys Campbell. She wasnt too nice to me. She had uh split personality—She'd had

Page 27
a plate put in her head and nobody knew it and she was moony and there was days that you go and say something to her and she'd shut the door and wouldn't talk to you or nothin. So, she would try to keep money-he would give her my lunch money and things and she wouldn't give it to me, she would send it home to her mother in Marcusburg? Tennessee. So, he found that out. They moved and went to Cincinatti where they split and he didn't remarry after that.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you graduated from Weaverville Colored School in 8th grade?
GERALDINE RAY:
Mmhmm . . . and I graduated from Stephen Lee High School in '55.
KELLY NAVIES:
1955?
GERALDINE RAY:
1955.
KELLY NAVIES:
What was your favorite subject in high school?
GERALDINE RAY:
I liked Home Economics and I liked Art. I took two years of Art and I took two years of Home Economics. And I also liked library service. I liked library service.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, how was it that you managed to graduate so early?
GERALDINE RAY:
Good question. As I said, I liked going to school. I just enjoyed it, because that was my outing and I guess in a way of speaking that was my freedom more or less, when I was out, cuz when I was home I was always out with the older people and workin'. So, I enjoyed going to school. I hated to miss a day of school. I never failed a class, never failed a class.
KELLY NAVIES:
And you generally got really good grades?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uhhuh.
KELLY NAVIES:
What was the school year like? Did it start in September and go to June or was it different?

Page 28
GERALDINE RAY:
Start in September and go to June.
KELLY NAVIES:
And during the summer you would work in the fields?
GERALDINE RAY:
That's right.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, being such a good student, did you ever think that you might want to go to college?
GERALDINE RAY:
I did want to go on. But, you see at the time she was sick and—she had raised me so I had to stay with her. Now, my aunt had five children, but she wouldn't let them stay with her. So, it was me, because I guess that was my punishment for her raising me.
KELLY NAVIES:
Punishment?
GERALDINE RAY:
I would say, the way she did it, it was more or less like a punishment, you know. The way my aunt done it, it was more or less like a punishment. She told me, "that's yo job, you have to." But, uh . . . nevertheless, right after I got out of school, I took a commercial art course, correspondence. And uh, then I married in 1960.
KELLY NAVIES:
In 1960?
GERALDINE RAY:
January 12, 1960.
KELLY NAVIES:
I'm going to get to that next. So, in your mind if you hadn't had to stay with your grandmother, then you would have gone to college?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, I would have loved to went on.
KELLY NAVIES:
What do you think you would have gone into?
GERALDINE RAY:
I don't know, it was a lot of things I liked—might a went into cosmetology or I could a went on into art. I don't know, as of now, and I might have ended up bein a nurse, because as I said, I've looked after a lot of people.
KELLY NAVIES:
Sounds like it.

Page 29
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, see I've looked after my grandmother, my uncle, J.T.'s mother, his grandmother, I helped with his grandmother, his aunt, and all of them and then I've looked after two white ladies.
KELLY NAVIES:
Who?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uh—the lady that left me the car. I looked after her mother. Her mother died in my arms.
KELLY NAVIES:
What was her name?
GERALDINE RAY:
Her name was Olivia Fichett.
KELLY NAVIES:
And how did you come to be associated with her?
GERALDINE RAY:
She was here in the community. She was the mother . . . Olivia was uh a postal worker and she was always here in the Post Office and I was a little girl going to school. So, I've always knowed her.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, when she got sick you went and helped her out?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, I helped her and Dottie also helped her. My daughter also helped her and I would stay with em at night when she got so much worse and Dottie would come in from school and work for em in the evening and I'd go at seven o'clock and stay til the next morning.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, this is something where you guys had been friends or she was just somebody in the community you decided to help?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, she was just—she was an old Southern lady from down in Charleston somewhere, but she always seemed to love J.T. and uh she knew us growin up—and I can't really tell you how we got into it. It was just something that happened.
KELLY NAVIES:
That you just did. And so, who was the other woman that you said you helped?

Page 30
GERALDINE RAY:
Her daughter.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you helped both of them.
GERALDINE RAY:
Helped both of them and also J.T. was workin for a couple that moved here from Mississippi. He was from Mississippi—I mean he was from Kentucky and she was from Mississippi. They were the Quizzendairies and we helped them. Well, ended up both of them got down sick and we had to look after them. So, I've spent most of my life helpin other people. Which is does take a toll on you-Now my health-because the doctor told my husband-Well, he wasn't my husband at the time, if I didn't quit liftin and goin on with my grandmother, because you see she was completely helpless, I was gon be in the cemetary and she'd still be here. Because, I'd messed up my back-just different things. But, you do what you have to do and you go on-I mean it just becomes a part of you, you go on and do it.
KELLY NAVIES:
Yeah. So, what did you do between 1955 and 1960?
GERALDINE RAY:
Looked after my grandmother. I worked for a while when I was in Cincinatti with a lady that had cancer.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, how did you happen to end up in Cincinatti?
GERALDINE RAY:
My father was living there—I had been goin there ever since I was four years old. My uncle lived there.
KELLY NAVIES:
To visit?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uhhuh and I remember when I was four years old going there and I remember going to the Cincinatti zoo and seein the snakes. That's what I remember of then. And then we would go back cuz my grandfather's brother lived there, to visit and then dad after he left

Page 31
New York, he ended up up there with him. And he lived up there until he came back here and stayed until he died.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, how many times did you go visit Cincinatti?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh, goodness, I don't have any idea—I haven't been back up there since dad left. Dad left up there in the seven—.uh last part of the sixties.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you would say several times throughout your childhood?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, just several times.
KELLY NAVIES:
During summers?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, sometime after graduating from high school like when you were sixteen years old you decided to go there?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, and uh when she got sick that's when my aunt called and told me to come back.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, I see. So, you were going to stay in Cincinatti and maybe go to school out there?
GERALDINE RAY:
Right, see I was right down from UC [University of Cincinatti]. I could have just walked down the street and went to UC. Cuz, we was livin on street where the end of the street was UC.
KELLY NAVIES:
I see, so you had a job there?
GERALDINE RAY:
I had a job helpin a lady who had cancer. I came home like on a weekend and the next weekend she had died. She had terminal cancer when I was there lookin after her. So, I've always ended up helpin people-it just look like that was my . . . my
KELLY NAVIES:
Your calling.
GERALDINE RAY:
My calling, helpin people.

Page 32
KELLY NAVIES:
So, when your were living here before you got married, taking care of your grandmother did you have an outside job?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, I couldn't cuz uh I had to look after her. Cuz see every move was mine cuz she couldn't do it, see she had a wheel chair then.
KELLY NAVIES:
Did you have hobbies, things that you did for fun?
GERALDINE RAY:
I sewed, I drawed, I crocheted, that was it.
KELLY NAVIES:
Hmm. do you have any of your drawings from that time period?
GERALDINE RAY:
I think I got one or two somewhere. I don't know exactly where they are, but I do have one or two.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you're an artist.
GERALDINE RAY:
I coulda been, but see after I start havin children, I put that aside. 'Cause, I didn't have time-'cause you have to have a place where you can lay stuff down and not be bothered when you doin that. When you drawin everything don't come to you at the same time—.distractions and things and everyday you can't go just pick up something and say I'm gon draw this and this gon be there and this gon be okay. You can't do that.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, one of the things that we haven't talked about that I wanted to get to before I went into your own married life and your life as a mother is your own mother. You didn't talk that much about that and you were tellin me—
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, I never knew her. As I said her and daddy separated when I was eighteen months old and I never seen her anymore until to remember her til' 1948 when my grandfather died. And I saw her- My dad went up to Reems Creek and got her and she came to the funeral and she left the next morning and she was carrying Melvin then. She was married to Charles Davis.

Page 33
KELLY NAVIES:
I see.
GERALDINE RAY:
And I saw her again the year I graduated. She come to my graduation in 1955. She went back home . . .
KELLY NAVIES:
Where was she living?
GERALDINE RAY:
She was living in Washington. And she was working for the Browns'.
KELLY NAVIES:
The family she worked for all those years?
GERALDINE RAY:
Right, yeah . . . and she uh brought Louise and Virginia down here when they was little. They was about four and five years old, maybe five and six. Anyhow, they came to stay with our aunt Pearl for two weeks and I kept em a week. And uh that was the first time I seen them and I didn't see her when she come back and pick em up. So, I never seen her anymore until 1979.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, what kind of impact do you think that had on your life, that your mother wasn't around very much when you were growin up?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh it has a big . . . uh . . . I always wonder . . . why? You can't help but wonder why. Why leave me? You know, things I could have talked to her about I didn't have her to talk to and see older people didn't talk to you like your mother would . . . things I told my daughter, I didn't know I just went into it headlong wonderin what's happenin, you know cuz they didn't tell you things so you found out the hard way.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, things like your menstruation—
GERALDINE RAY:
Right, I didn't know nothin about that. I'd got here in school and it come on and I was scared to go home, because I was bloody all over. I didn't know why I was bloody.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you couldn't talk to grandmother Coon about that?

Page 34
GERALDINE RAY:
And when she saw me, I was trying to hide it and when she saw it she said, "well, I'll get a . . . " and she went and got a sheet and tore it and made me a belt and showed me what to do and give me some rags to put on it . . .
KELLY NAVIES:
And that was the first time she ever . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
That's right. That was the first time she ever mentioned it.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, did you go to the doctor to have . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
No, she told me what it was.
KELLY NAVIES:
She just told you . . . how did she explain it.
GERALDINE RAY:
"Aw, that's nothin I know what it is go in there and get me a sheet." She was in a wheelchair then. Went and got a sheet-she was havin problems-she wasn't completely past goin but she was havin problems and she went got a white sheet, tore it up into strips and made me pad and padded it-took one and made a belt and give me two safety pins to pin it on.
KELLY NAVIES:
Did she tell you it was gonna come every month and how you could have children and that kind of thing?
GERALDINE RAY:
I don't remember she ever tellin me that. But, quite naturally I found that out, of course.
KELLY NAVIES:
How do you think you figured that out?
GERALDINE RAY:
Next month!
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh yeah, but I mean the part about having children.
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, that didn't come-I heared that through the grapevine. [laughter]
KELLY NAVIES:
How old were you when you started?
GERALDINE RAY:
About eleven . . .

Page 35
KELLY NAVIES:
About eleven, yeah
GERALDINE RAY:
Eleven to twelve. Between eleven and twelve . . .
KELLY NAVIES:
So, tell me about J. T. You mentioned him . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
We went to school together.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you are about the same age?
GERALDINE RAY:
He is three years older, almost three years older than I am.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, this is your husband and you knew him all of your life?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah, uhhmm.
KELLY NAVIES:
He went to Weaverville Colored School?
GERALDINE RAY:
That's right. He lived here, he was born and raised here also, about well we wasn't hardly a mile apart, cuz he was raised on East street. He was born on East street.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, when did you start dating him?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh shucks, that was bout '59.
KELLY NAVIES:
Tell me about it. You already knew him, so how—?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh, we knew each other and we kept each other out of trouble. We were friends, we were real good friends. He had girlfriends, I had boyfriends. If one of seen that we were gon have any problems the other un would tell us . . . We'd tell each other, that way we kept each other out of trouble. He went to service. There was girls after him and they was that said she was pregnant by him, but he was in Germany when she got pregnant so that was impossible. And uh . . .
KELLY NAVIES:
So, he went to service in . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
The last part of '56, '57. He came out in '59, he was there two years.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay.

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GERALDINE RAY:
And we really didn't start datin until he came back out the service. And we married in January 12 of '60.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you dated for about a year?
GERALDINE RAY:
Maybe, maybe.
KELLY NAVIES:
Well, when did you know that he was the man that you wanted to marry?
GERALDINE RAY:
I didn't really know when we got married. [laughter] That was just one of them things, that's just one of them things. But, he always helped me, after he come back he would come up and help me with my grandmother. He'd come and bring me out here to get her medicine. So, he was always nice to me and he was the one person . . . his mother and father had separated and his father was killed in the service in '45.
KELLY NAVIES:
In World War II?
GERALDINE RAY:
In World War II. And so, he was one child himself and I was too and we just had a lot of things in common.
KELLY NAVIES:
And you guys were already friends—
GERALDINE RAY:
We were already friends, we always knowed each other. So, it was just—here we are.
KELLY NAVIES:
How long have you been married?
GERALDINE RAY:
We'll be married 38 years coming the 12th of January.
KELLY NAVIES:
What kind of wedding did you have?
GERALDINE RAY:
Justice—well, it wasn't no Justice of the Peace. We went and got our license—we got married all in the same day. We went and told the doctor that he had to go back in the service that night so we left home Monday morning-we got married on a Monday. Went and got our blood test and everything, then took the blood test up to where they do it,

Page 37
went back and picked it up at two, went to the courthouse and got our license, went down to Reverend W.M. Hamilton's house, but he was sick in the bed.
KELLY NAVIES:
W.M. Hamiltion?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uhhuh. W . . . William M. Hamilton. and he sit up in his bed and married us.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really?
GERALDINE RAY:
He sure did.
KELLY NAVIES:
Who was present? Just you three?
GERALDINE RAY:
His wife, and they called the next door neighbor in and he married us and the next day they took him in the hospital and he died in the hospital.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really?
GERALDINE RAY:
Mmmhmm . . . we were the last people he married.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, J.T. went back to the service right after you were married?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, he was out. We just told em that so we wouldn't have to go through all that rigamarole.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, I see. So, then what happened after that? Where'd you live?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, uh we stayed out here the first night and then I went back home and he would stay up there with me every other night. And he came up there one morning and I was washing, I had been sick but I hadn't said nothin—I was so sick and I didn't feel like washin the week before and so I was out washin in 32 degree weather on the porch. clothes was freezin and I was takin em out and I had pneumonia, but I didn't know it. And he come up there and caught me washin. He wasn't sposed to come that morning and uh he come and took me to the doctor. I was leaning up against the tub . . . we had the ringer, just an old-fashioned washing machine with a ringer and a black pot in the back

Page 38
to heat the water. And so uh, he brought me to the doctor and the doctor told him I had pneumonia, he bring down to his house, he brought me down to his mother's house and put me to bed. So, I been here ever since.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you guys were married, but you weren't living together for a while?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, we . . . every other night. See, he was workin. He didn't have a car at the time. We had the principal, our teacher-Mrs. Monty Jones' car. And so, he had to stay where she could use the car too. He drove her and so uh we uh he'd come every other night.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, how long were you living in that manner, before you went to go live with him?
GERALDINE RAY:
Maybe a month.
KELLY NAVIES:
Maybe a month. And where was grandmother Coon?
GERALDINE RAY:
She was there. I was with her and she ended up with me. After I come down with pneumonia, he had to put me to bed, he called her daughter told her to go out there and see about her. She wouldn't go that night. She came the next day and went and the door had stayed open all night. Gradually, she took pneumonia and there was a white lady that lived out there had gone see about her, called me and told me that she was sick. So, I called J. T. off the job and told him and he went out there and seen that she was spittin up just a mouth full of blood. He washed her up and dressed her and brought her to the doctor and they put her in the hospital. She had pneumonia, she had double pneumonia. Well, stead a my aunt keepin her after she got out the hospital, she took her back out there, she took it again [pneumonia]. So, when she come out the hospital that time, I brought her to my house and we kept her.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you kept her her down here with J.T. and J.T's mother.
So, where was J.T. working?

Page 39
GERALDINE RAY:
The telephone company.
KELLY NAVIES:
The telephone company. Is that the job he held for a long time?
GERALDINE RAY:
32 years.
KELLY NAVIES:
Until he just retired. So, um did you ever work outside the home after you were married?
GERALDINE RAY:
Between children, I tried. But, everytime I'd do it, I'd end up sick so I was spending more going to doctor than I was makin. So, I mainly stayed home and took care of the children.
KELLY NAVIES:
What kind of jobs did you try to do?
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh housework and stuff—different ones—I always tried to be where I could look after the children, my children.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you and he seem to be really good supportive companions of each other, actually.
GERALDINE RAY:
We'd talk about anything. That's just the way we were and uh—But, I mean wasn't no love there at that time, I mean what I'm saying is we were just real good friends. If I see somebody was trying to do something to him, I was gon tell him and he'd do me likewise. We just had a real good relationship as just friends.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, when did the love kick in?
GERALDINE RAY:
It just happened. That's one of them things that just happened.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, one of things that I wanted to ask you about that I haven't touched on yet, is religion. All this time when you were growing up were you attending church regularly?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, every Sunday that we had it-bein out there in a rural area, Reverend Hamilton was the pastor and he'd come I think two Sundays out of a month.
KELLY NAVIES:
The Hamilton that married you?

Page 40
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, so see he knew me from a child and he also knew J.T. from a child.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, he'd come out to Barnardsville two Sundays out of a month. Where would he preach at?
GERALDINE RAY:
In the church, we had a little wooden church . . . real small little church.
KELLY NAVIES:
What was the name of it?
GERALDINE RAY:
Uh, was it Mountainview—I think it was Mountainview. It was mountain -something.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, basically you guys only attended church two times—
GERALDINE RAY:
Oh well we went other places to church . . . we went to Mars Hill Church, come out here if they had something. When we'd get a way.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, did you consider yourself a very religious person when you were growing up?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, not really. That was just something you done. You went to church, you went to church and uh you 'bide accordingly. See, the older folks didn't play with you like the young folks. When you went to church, you went and stayed all day. You was there for Sunday School, you was there for service, then you was back at 2:00 or 3: 00, then you was back [in church] at night. So, you were in Church. You didn't get up and run out like children do now. You went there and you stayed. You went out, they'd get a switch and come and get you. That's just the way it was.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you still attend a Baptist Church. The church right across the street there.
GERALDINE RAY:
Right.
KELLY NAVIES:
What's the name of that church?
GERALDINE RAY:
Little Mount Zion Baptist.
KELLY NAVIES:
And you attend regularly?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, I'm the secretaty.

Page 41
KELLY NAVIES:
You're the secretary. So, would you consider yourself now to be a very religious person?
GERALDINE RAY:
I try to do what's right. I believe in the Bible . . . If you're saying am I a fanatic, no.
KELLY NAVIES:
No, I wasn't saying that.
GERALDINE RAY:
No, I'm not a fanatic in that . . . but, I believe in it.
KELLY NAVIES:
You believe in the Bible. Would you say that it's one of the main things that guides your life?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, it is. The Bible tells you a lot if you read it.
KELLY NAVIES:
What are your favorite passages?
GERALDINE RAY:
I have several. I like the 100th Psalm, I like that quite a bit. And there are some others, but uh see even when we were in school down here that was one thing-see every Wednesday we had Bible study.
KELLY NAVIES:
In the school?
GERALDINE RAY:
In the school, then. See, even in high school we had Devotions. We always had Devotions, not until the atheist come in and stop that did that stop here. So, that was just a part of you, that's something you'd go and do so then you I really knew the Bible good then. Better than I do now, now I can't remember things, I can't remember where I find the passages and things like I could then. It's the matter I'm not trying, but I just can't contain it, due to some sickness and some of the medication I have that has affected my memory. So, that's another reason for that. I'm almost through reading the Bible. We have been seeing how many can read through the Bible and I'm almost through, but I can't retain it like I used to. But, when I hear it, I know it. If that makes any sense to you.

Page 42
KELLY NAVIES:
It does, it does make sense to me. So, did you belong to the church choir or anything when you were growing up?
GERALDINE RAY:
We didn't have no choir out there 'cause there wasn't enough of us to have a choir-we had one or two days a year like homecoming and stuff and going to decorate the cemetery and stuff like that.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you did that. So, is the practice of decorating ceremony, which I'm gonna have the honor of participating in tomorrow, is that something that most of the black churches do around here?
GERALDINE RAY:
Especially, the rural ones. I don't-they have homecoming at the churches in Asheville. They always have a set time for homecomings and which some of the people that belong to the church come back that has belonged there going down through the years, come back home. But uh, most of the rural churches-we just had one in Mars Hill last Sunday-first Sunday in September every year is homecoming in Mars Hill, which they go and decorate the cemetaries after service. That's a part of it.
KELLY NAVIES:
Can you describe for me exactly what homecoming is?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, it's like I said, the people that have moved away from home, they set a time each year for em to come home and they go in and they have services and stuff like they used to. They have two services. They have dinner, fellowship there and then after the evening services is over then they go and decorate the cemetaries and then they go home. See you have em livin in Ohio and different places and they come home, the ones thats able come home each year at that time, cuz that's a set time.
KELLY NAVIES:
Does that time ever vary or is it always . . .

Page 43
GERALDINE RAY:
I'ts always on the first Sunday in September. It might vary-like this year your had five Sundays in August, so it fell a week later, which is usually a week earlier.
KELLY NAVIES:
Do you know why it's this time of year?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well that was just a time that they always set and had it, because you have so many reunions- and they start in the first part of August and they run through the first Sunday in October. But, first Sunday in September has always been the one they had in Mars Hill. So, I don't know what-why they set at that particular time. Since I was a little girl they've always had it. That was just something you went to.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, tomorrow when we go to the one for Mars Hill, I understand that we're going to be visiting-some of them are slaves' gravesites?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, that's all there are and there are no churches there. You have two cemetaries. One is not as far up the mountain as the other and the other is about a mile straight up on top of a mountain with four graves in it. Which my husband's grandmother and grandfather are in two of em. I forgot who was in other two. Now the highest point is only four graves, but now the first one I haven't never been up on it so I don't now how many is up there-they say quite a few are there. But, I've never been up on the first one. I went up on the last one and promised the Lord and two other people I wouldn't be guilty any more.
KELLY NAVIES:
Is the first one harder to get to?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, it's easier to get to (laughs) But, I went to other one cause I'd always heard about it and see when you get up there you looking down the mountain this way, one way over here-it's something to see. You ought to have your camera. You have a camera?
KELLY NAVIES:
I have a camera? So, what exactly do you do when you get there?

Page 44
GERALDINE RAY:
They clean up the grave and they put flowers on it and they have a prayer and they come back, then they come back, then they spread on the ground and they eat.
KELLY NAVIES:
Do they sing or anything?
GERALDINE RAY:
They have prayer. They didn't sing the time I went up there, they had prayer, but they didn't sing.
KELLY NAVIES:
Who leads the prayer?
GERALDINE RAY:
Some of the ones thats up there. Some of the older ones thats up there.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, it doesn't have to be a Reverend?
GERALDINE RAY:
Unhunh . . .
KELLY NAVIES:
It can be any member of the community?
GERALDINE RAY:
Anyone's thats got family there.
KELLY NAVIES:
A man or a woman?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yeah. It don't make any difference.
KELLY NAVIES:
It don't make any difference. So, I'm looking forward to that—so, have you had a female preacher at any of your churches?
GERALDINE RAY:
We've had some to come in and preach, but not as uh not elected, but that come in and help service for the other pastors.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, how is that accepted in the community?
GERALDINE RAY:
Really, it's so much of it now that you don't really pay a whole lot of attention.
KELLY NAVIES:
It's no big deal?
GERALDINE RAY:
No big deal, unh . . . unh.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, back to your married life-how old were you when you had your first child?
GERALDINE RAY:
I was twenty-four. I had it in '64, Howard. I lost one in . . . I lost twins in '60.

Page 45
KELLY NAVIES:
Did you carry them full term?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, I carried them four months.
KELLY NAVIES:
You were talking about that earlier. What were the complications?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, I'd get to the fourth month and I'd start having complications. Finally, on the last child they said our blood wasn't compatible. But, they let me go through all the suffering. I think with Howard, they had to give me something to hold him to keep from losing him. Then they had to walk me on my birthday, try to make me have him. Cause he was overdue, so they finally had to force him and uh that was back during the time the Thalidomide first started . . .
KELLY NAVIES:
Did they give you Thalidomide?
GERALDINE RAY:
I'm not sure. But, I almost feel that I did have some. But, alot of medications I'm allergic to and theres just so much they put me on they had to take me off. But, they told me he would be deformed, because I spit up the whole nine months with him.
KELLY NAVIES:
Who? Howard? But, he wasn't . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
He's got curvature of the spine. And he had that little eye, which they put? in his eye.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, do you think that Dottie's condition might be caused by Thalidomide?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, we have just found out that she had juvenile arthiritis.
KELLY NAVIES:
And that's something hereditary or no?
GERALDINE RAY:
Well, see my grandmother had rheumatoid arthiritis-see she's got full blown rheumatoid arthiritis now, but it started out as juvenile arthiritis and it started in her face, in her eye.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, she was born with that then. You don't think that might have been related to any medication?

Page 46
GERALDINE RAY:
Of all the tests and things that she had. It didn't show that it was.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, did you and J.T.-being that you were so close and everything did you plan to have children?
GERALDINE RAY:
No, as I told you before, I was on birth control pills got pregnant with that, got pregnant with diphragms, so the last two was oops!
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you ended up having . . . of course I know thier names . . . But, let's list their names . . .
GERALDINE RAY:
Howard . . . John Howard, Felix Hilton, Reginald Jerome, and Dorothy Geneva.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, and that's the order.
GERALDINE RAY:
That's the order they were born in.
KELLY NAVIES:
What years?
GERALDINE RAY:
Howard was born in '61, Hilton was born 16 months later in '62, Reggie was born in '64, and Dottie was born in '69.
KELLY NAVIES:
It's interesting you and J.T. both were the only children in your family.
GERALDINE RAY:
I have a sister, but we didn't grow up together.
KELLY NAVIES:
When you guys had four children, did you make a consious decision to raise them differently than you had been raised?
GERALDINE RAY:
Yes, yes.
KELLY NAVIES:
In what ways?
GERALDINE RAY:
In a lot of ways . . . uh when we were growin up lets say like if you had company—all the preachers was? to come to your house at that time and you always had to stand back and let the old folks eat and you ate what was left. That was one thing that we said we wasn't gon put our children through. If they couldn't eat when we eat, then wasn't nobody else gonna eat. So, that was one of the things and you always-I think most people try to do

Page 47
that-you try to make life a little better for your children than what you went through with, because some of the stuff you went through, you don't want to put children back through it. But, we always made them mind. They were spanked. We didn't let them get by. If they was told to something or go somewhere and be back at a certain time, they was to be back. And so that they did.
KELLY NAVIES:
You know what? I think I want to pick up our second interview on this topic. I want to ask you more detailed questions about being a mother and raising your children, but I think we've had-this interview has been going on for a while and I want stop the first interview. Thank you so much.
GERALDINE RAY:
You're welcome.
END OF INTERVIEW