Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Working to help provide for the family farm

Like other local children, Ray worked as a child to help support her family's farm. She sold hog's heads, helped plant tobacco, and removed rocks from fields to earn extra money.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Geraldine Ray, September 13, 1977. Interview R-0128. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

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 ELAINE 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 ELAINE 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 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 ELAINE 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 ELAINE 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 ELAINE NAVIES:
You would help the children?
GERALDINE RAY:
You would help your uncle, your daddy, granddaddy or whoever was doing it.