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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ethelene McCabe Allen, May 21, 2006. Interview C-0316. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Limited displays of affection within the family

Allen discusses her parents' affection, or lack thereof, with their children. According to Allen, her parents rarely displayed overt affection towards their children, although she does offer two anecdotes regarding instances where they departed from the norm. Allen also explains that this lack of affection did not seem uncommon for people of that era and background.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ethelene McCabe Allen, May 21, 2006. Interview C-0316. 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

Let's go back to your father. Did he show affection to you? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Not really. A lot of people didn't then. Actually my mother didn't, either. They didn't pick you up and hug you. They didn't kiss you or say goodnight to you or anything like that. When Maverene was born, I was two years old that day. After that I knew I was on my own. Mama said I would put myself to bed at night. If she looked around and missed me, she might look for me and I'd be in there in the bed asleep. I'd go to bed on my own and do for myself. I learned that I had to look out for myself. I was fairly independent. I grew up to be independent and take care of my own needs. But, you know, Mama took care of us, but I remember Maverene sitting on her lap a lot, but I don't recall ever sitting on either parent's lap, ever. I do recall one time visiting neighbors. Walked to visit them, that next door neighbors down the road. This was the black family that lived close to us that we thought so much of. I played with the little girl named Dorothy. We called her Dot. We had walked down and visited them. I remember - I might have been four years old, it's one of my earliest memories. They stayed a long time. They would talk about the old times and we would play. Walking back home mama carried Maverene and he carried me on his shoulder. That's the only time I ever remember being carried – picked up and carried. I did – mama would go out in the field and work. We were on our own to entertain ourselves. I think I might have been four – that's one of my earlier memories too – just barely remember it. She went out after we had barned tobacco and she went out in the field to pick peas and I knew where she was. So I decided I would go find her. It was getting near night, late in the evening, afternoon. I walked out to the field to find her and I didn't find her where I thought- she probably went out to the other end of the row and came back to the house a different way and I didn't find her. I walked out to the old tobacco barn and I was tired, so I crawled up in one of those old tobacco trucks – had wheels on them and they had burlap up on the sides and I lay down in that wheel truck and went to sleep. So they started looking me. They missed me and didn't see me, so they wondered where I'd got to. They couldn't find me. They just knew I was lost somewhere, so they became frantic. They had all the neighbors looking for me. It was getting dark. I woke up and I walked to the house. It was a good little distance from the house. Oh, they were just overjoyed. Where have you been? I thought, what is all this commotion about. I knew where I was. I was not lost. [Laughter] You know I didn't even take it too seriously because I was not lost. I knew where I was. That was their problem if they didn't know where I was. I went home when I woke up.
You remember all the concern they showed. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: I barely remember – I remember the commotion that went on. I don't remember it all. It's somewhat vague, but I do remember there was a commotion about my disappearance and when I walked to the house and they found out I was not really lost. I didn't get a spanking for it or anything, for upsetting them, cause they realized that I just was looking out for myself. I didn't – they was afraid I had wandered off. They didn't know what had happened to me – they were looking in the woods
These were your parents looking, both of them, and the neighbors too. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Oh yeah. They had contacted the neighbors and they were all out scouring the woods and everywhere. But I didn't see it as a serious thing. A four year old doesn't see it as a serious thing.
Was your father easy to talk to? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: He's not one I would confide in, anything. We kind of kept things to ourselves. We didn't talk about a lot of things to our parents. We just didn't. They didn't talk about a lot of things in front of us. No we weren't what you would call close. I mean we relied on them. They would brag on me being a good student as I went on to school and made such good grades. They would brag on how good Ethelene does in school and I felt good about it. I knew my parents were pleased with me and satisfied with me, but they never talked about love or any of those things. They didn't mention the word love. They were – I guess they grew up without anybody saying anything to them like that. They were shy and didn't express their feelings. And it was back there in that time when men didn't express their feelings anyway. There were some certain ones that did in certain families I'm sure but mine was not one of those.
You don't remember any men like that. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: No, I don't remember any men that expressed their feelings like that.