Jimmy Stronach was born in Oakwood in 1928.
Interviewed by Liisa Ogburn and Jerry Blow on September 22, 2011 in his home at 414 North Bloodworth Street.
“It was an old farmhouse and my grandfather converted it into what you see now. They did the whole thing in 1874. In 1939, when we moved up here, when my grandmother died, there was no central heat and we still have the gas lines from before we got electricity… I remember in 1936, I stood out and watched them pave the streets. They had the street lights just on the corners. It was pitch black. And I remember the horse and buggy. They used to bring the milk and the ice. Cars were available, but that was during the depression. Good milk, too. Kaplan’s Dairy. The cream was that thick in the glass bottles.
“I went to Parson’s School of Design in 1953. I had a friend there. I wanted to do something in art… I wasn’t happy here. I didn’t know what direction to go. Then I got a job with a coat and suit house on 7th Avenue, drawing and designing. The I went to Paris and I spent three years working at Dior.
“My father was very sick so I came home and I helped him. I didn’t know what I was doing. I took all these houses and renovated them. I did painting, sheetrocking, roofing. I did everything. At that time, Oakwood was nothing. It was maybe a project for the City to run a highway through.
“It’s all like a dream sometimes, ya know?”
Jim Stronach was born in Oakwood in 1928. His grandparents bought the farmhouse located at 414 North Bloodworth in 1874. Jim moved into this house with his family in 1939, when his grandmother passed away. Jim continues to live in this house today.
Jim: I hate the truth. I’m holding.
Liisa: Very well too. Very well. Well so Jim we’re just going to ask you some questions today.
Jerry: Do you want to give him a heads up about just how sensitive this is?
Liisa: Yeah so Liz probably told you this is pretty sensitive so if you’re rolling around in bed I might, yeah you can hear everything.
Jerry: Every little thing, every little thing.
Jim: Got ya
Liisa: So if you start to rustle a little bit that’s fine I might ask you to answer again.
Jim: Ok sure
Liisa: Alight so I am sitting in Jim Stronach’s house with Jerry Blow. It is Thursday September 22nd 2011. First of all, can you introduce yourself?
Jim: My name is Jim Stronach. 414 North Bloodworth Street. Raleigh, North Carolina. January 19th,1928.
Liisa: Is that when you were born?
Liisa: In this house?
Jim: 2 houses down.
Jim: The old house where we lived before my grandmother died. After she died, we moved up here.
Liisa: So your family has lived on this street for I’m told-
Jim: I don’t know how many years, but quite a few years I guess you know and when we moved up here we didn’t have any central heat in here. It was a central furnace in the middle room. Is this ok to be telling you this?
Liisa: Yes, I might move this clock Jerry, thank you.
Jerry: I’m not sure if that’s, I think it might be that.
Liisa: Oh that’s ok. That’s fine.
Jim: In 1939, when we moved up here after she died, my grandmother, there was no central heat. And we still had the gas lights before they had electricity installed on the walls in the back porch. So I don’t dare touch them or nothing or they’ll explode. And also I remember in 1936 I stood on the corner and watched them pave the street. It was all dirt. Absolutely, there was nothing and I remember the horse and buggy bringing the ice and the milk and bottles. The cream was on top. The ice man would come and bring the ice, put it in the refrigerator. We had an ice box. It was around 1936. My father was making quite a bit of money.
Liisa: You have so many great stories I don’t’ want to miss one. [Talks to someone in hallway and asks him to be more quiet].
Jim: That’s ok. No problem, no problem at all.
Liisa: Let’s get it here. That’s enough? Ok Jim let’s start even further back. What year did your grandparents buy this house. Did they build this house?
Jim: Yes, it was an old farmhouse and my grandfather converted it into what you see now. It’s a big queen Victoria something. I don’t know. And they did the whole thing in 1874 or 73 or something. I think they moved in here in about the 1880 possibly. It was a farm house. And the oldest house on the block is the one across the street. Where we’re sitting now and that was the oldest house in the area. In 18, 1700, I’m not sure. And of course there’s a lot of renovations. A lot of years gone by. And my stories, I’ll continue about my father. My father, he made quite a bit of money at the time because he was bringing big vats of whiskey down the driveway where we lived down here. And I’d say “daddy, the liquor man’s here” and he’d say “shut up you little bastard.” Excuse me. He stacked all the money in one of these big wardrobes and I had to get in there, I was a kid. And I saw all this money… 500 dollar bills stacked up. I said, “hmmm.” I pulled one out, put it in my pocket. I had a good time. It was a lot of money at that time, you know. We had to entertain ourselves somehow. We didn’t have much of anything. We had what was necessary and my grandmother… she took care of me. She looked after me. Cut my hair and you know, kept me well groomed. My mother had a lot of problems. She had problems with depression. Well anyway, we survived and here I am lying in the old bed that my grandfather and my grandma had. I don’t know hold old the furniture here is. It must be quite old I guess. But yeah then I had another little uncle. He was named Thomas Northly and he died of something. I don’t know what he died of, but they had the funeral in that living room over inside because I hadn’t been born yet. I’m not sure.
Liisa: So tell me… you were a child living right down from your grandparents. Did you have other cousins around here?
Jim: I had cousins across the street who owned the Oakwood Inn and they all just went different ways, you know. The majority of them went to Asheville. Well, I haven’t seen them in years, you know. And I have cousins here. I think families lose their connections as you get older, your directions are different and you really don’t keep up with what’s going on. And I have family in, well cousins, in Wilmington(?).
Liisa: Ok so tell me what it was like growing up as a young boy along Bloodworth.
Jim: Well it was quiet. I mean the neighborhood didn’t have too much going on because there was nothing to do. They had the street lights hanging down on each corner. It was dark as pitch. Only for those lights… it was very like living in London maybe. You know the dreary lights you know. And that’s something at each corner there’s a street light. And it was really very quiet. The kids would play out in the street or something like that you know.
Liisa: What would you play at that time?
Jim: 1, 2, 3 stop red light, the chairs. It was just you know, just playing, kids. And I used to get a wallet and tie it to a string and hide behind the bushes. And when they’d come out, I’d pull it in real quick. Well, some guy actually slapped me. It was a great life.
Liisa: I heard there were liquor houses down –
Jim: Oh yeah that’s right, exactly. My pa, maybe he got whiskey from those people. I don’t know but he had vats, absolutely stored up in that basement. That was unbelievable, you know. I remember when he built the house on the corner there. You know the one that lives on the corner there. Well right back there, there’s a little blue house. They built that in 1936 and I was sitting on my back porch watching them build it. It was a vacant lot there, was nothing, you know, so my father built that. Then he built some house on East Street, in the 600 block. That was nothing there then. I can remember going down there. And we used to go sleigh riding down on Lane Street. That corner house. The big white house with the big columns. It’s a very steep driveway and we used to go sleighing. They used to come down and get us because we wouldn’t come home. I didn’t miss anything
Liisa: You mentioned the horse and buggies.
Jim: Oh yeah, they used to bring the milk and the ice and you know there was no other, well I mean cars were available but that was the Depression in the 30’s, early 30’s. And they’d bring the milk, tie the horse. They had those blinders on the horse so they wouldn’t run away. And they’d attach it you know to the posts on the street. And they brought the milk, good milk too. Kaplin’s Dairy it was called. Kaplin’s Dairy. The cream was that thick. It came in bottles. I was a kid and I didn’t know any better what was going on, you know. My father made a lot of money in whiskey. I hate to say that but it’s true. So I’m happy, I’ve never been more content in my life
Liisa: So Jim I heard you went off to New York at a certain point
Jim: Yeah, I went to New York. I went to Parson School of Design.
Liisa: When was that?
Jim: In 1953, that’s a long time ago
Liisa: How old were you?
Jim: 24, 23. Yeah.
Liisa: And how did you decide to leave Raleigh for New York? That was a big deal back then.
Jim: I had a friend there. I wanted to do something in art. I just wasn’t happy here. I was happy but I didn’t know what direction to really go. And I felt I like I could do drawing so I went to New York, went to school, then I got a job with a coat and suit house on 7th Avenue, drawing, designing. And then I went to Paris and spent 3 years working at Dewul(??). I started out sewing and cutting. I remember I worked on a beautiful sort of small white jacket with a nice hood, beautiful. It was for the duchess of Windsor. I was adept at cutting and sewing. But I learned a lot too. Oh, and I went to Paris. We took French in high school here. The teacher spoke French with a southern accent and she’d say now you “comment allez vous, ya’ll”. So when I went to Paris, I thought, boy, I’ve got it made. When I got there, I introduced myself. I said “comment allez vous, ya’ll”. What? What the hell is he saying? You know? Stupid Jim. But I did learn to speak French adequately. I’ll put it like that. I could understand, but it was a wonderful experience.
Liisa: How was it going from Raleigh up to New York? I mean, do you remember that first year?
Jim: Oh yeah, it was very, you know, it was very safe then. It was wonderful, you know. Christmas in New York, it’s unbelievable. It was so nice. You know beautiful and I really enjoyed it. You know there’s art school. If you look in the bathroom you can see one of my drawings on the wall. Norma has some of my drawings on the wall over there. Have you seen them?
Liisa: I have. They’re beautiful.
Jim: Thank you. Yeah, you know, I did some drawings for Bataldos (?). Do you remember Bataldos here? I did these big black roll of paper with drawings of the, I don’t remember. You know I had a crazy life. I’ll put it like that. Like a gypsy, but I’m here now and fortunate.
Then I came home and my father was very sick so he said, “I need your help.” Well, my father and I were not too close but he gave me everything in the world. He was good in that way to us. My mother was not well. Anyway I came home and helped him, his business. I didn’t know what I was doing when I did it. I took all these houses that he had, and renovated all of them. I did sheetrock, I did painting, I did roofing, I did everything. I got them together and I think I helped save Oakwood. I think individuals together saved Oakwood. I mean all I did was a minor part in fixing up the houses you know and I bought houses.
Liisa: So he called you while you were in Paris?
Jim: No, I came home for a visit
Liisa: For a visit?
Jim: And he says, “I want you back because I need you” and I said, “wellm ok, I don’t know what I’m doing.” He says, “you’ll learn.” I did it the hard way. I was renovating 408 down here and I rented a tractor to pick the dirt up off the ground and put it in the truck. All the old walls. You know the way they did it years ago. Spackle over the lathes wood. I dumped it all in there. I put it all in the yard. So I got in the darn tractor, loaded it up, threw it back in the house by mistake. I tell you, but I did, I worked on all these houses, all of them. They didn’t even have heat in them. They had stoves in those times.
Liisa: What year was that?
Jim: In 1965.
Liisa: So that was a huge departure from drawing and-
Jim: But I made it, I did it. It was hard, I learned a lot. I still don’t know a damn thing, but I’m learning, you know. I really appreciate my house now, you know, and my sisters, they all thought after I had the 5 bypasses that, “oh, poor Jim, he’s not going to make it.” Well I waved to all of them. They all said “bye Jim.” They left us first. Wow, that’s it.
Liisa: So you came back here and you decided to stay in the 60’s?
Jim: I had to because of my father’s business [makes falling sound]. At that time Oakwood was nothing. I mean it was just maybe a project for the city. They wanted to run a highway through here. Excuse me, but we all saved it together. We worked and it’s the best place to live in Raleigh now. It really is. We don’t have a lot of crime. Of course you have crime everywhere, break ins and so forth, you know. But people here help each other. That’s what it’s all about. [Some people] think money saves you. Money doesn’t save you. Money either makes you a better person or a jack ass. Boy, I’m getting good.
Liisa: So you were here before Aims Christopher and all of those guys.
Jim: Oh yeah, they came in later. There was nobody here and people came in and started buying and they said to me well, what are we going to do. I said well, fix it up, you’ll get your money out of it. You may not get a fortune. I told you they wanted to bring a freeway through here. I told you about that and I said you’ll get your money when you fix it up. Everybody started working together. Boy, I was on the roofs doing roofs and I did everything. Painting. And then the slump came. Which you know about 5 years ago, when did things start going down the drain? 5 years ago? 3 years ago? Well, I sold stuff 5 years ago. I don’t know why. I had the feeling... I thought well, I’m getting old. I need to sell this stuff. I sold it at the right time, everything. And it’s wonderful not to worry about something, a tree fell in this house you know, and my sink stopped up, but it’s passed. And I look at stuff I had. People… they’re buying their old homes now. They’re not renting. They don’t rent them out like this anymore here. Well maybe just a few houses. Well you know what I mean, I’m saying a few people who have houses fixed up and they rent them out or something you know, but not really a lot of rentals.
Liisa: So when you came back -- I mean you had been travelling in a very cosmopolitan circle in New York and Paris -- did you have a similar life here with Aims Christopher and that group? Were you close to them?
Jim: No, I wasn’t close to them. They were friends and they bought the house down on Lane Street. Now, was it Elm Street? Lane Street? I can’t remember that street down there across from Oakwood. Yeah, I knew them. They’d have parties and they’d invite us you know, and we’d invite them. But I was working. Not going out, you know I had to work. And I would drink once and a while which was part of what I did and I have no regrets in anything I’ve ever done and I’d probably do it again. I’ve survived it all. A lot of mistakes, story of my life.
Liisa: So I mean I heard from Richard Black, and Eric Ennis, and Ronny Ellis that you were with the first group to do that candlelight tour.
Jim: Oh, first one in 19...? 40 years ago. The first tour we had here. Yeah, that’s right. It was quite successful you know but now things have changed so greatly you know. It was cheap. I don’t know what they charged then for the tour. I think it was 5 bucks. I’m not sure but I think they had 600 people in 1972? I mean 40 years ago, excuse me. But it was a nice success for that time you know and everything was fixed up. It was quite nice.
Liisa: When did you move into your grandmother’s house?
Jim: Because we had to have radiators put in. And boy did he put the radiators in. Two of them in this room. Boy, if you don’t open the window, you roast. I cut the heat down of course but it was it’s wonderful. And then I got the idea of putting duct work here. I took one of the radiators out of the other room and the other room over there. Then I thought “jimmy you’re nuts.” Radiator heat is the best heat you can have. You know it stays hot. So I went out and got another one at the junk yard cast iron one. And they connected it for me and it works real good.
Liisa: Did, so you moved in, when you returned you moved into this house? And your sisters were they still here?
Jim: My sister lived next door. Brenda lived in that nice colored house. I like it. Everybody has their own way, doesn’t bother me. Look out there, you can see a blue sky you know, but yeah my sister lived next door. My other sister lived across the street so we had a nice compound with my family and they were good.
Liisa: Did you keep drawing when you came back?
Jim: No, not really. I would copy some. There’s one in the hall you want to see when you go. Did you see that one?
Liisa: No, I want to see it.
Jim: It’s on the wall there and I’m pretty good at that. I mean don’t get me, I’m not putting any graces on myself, but I think I have a talent. Put a ribbon on me. They’re better. They look like the originals and I haven’t done anything. I lost it, you know not lost it, but I got tired of it, I guess, you know. And when you get older things change, you change and maybe I’ll do some more. I have enough time I think in the years to come yeah, but anyway that’s the way it is.
Liisa: Yeah, go ahead.
Jim: Oh I was waiting for you.
Liisa: I can’t imagine that you turned that switch off in yourself. I mean you were an artist at heart so you must have-
Jim: Well, I think at one time, you know, I had my responsibilities here, my responsibilities with my family and it kept me so busy that I didn’t have time to think about it. I’d be depressed. I don’t get depressed. I get a little jumpy, anxiety. That’s better than depression I think. And I handle it quite well and all things worked out.
Liisa: So 1940, a lot of people left Oakwood at that point.
Jim: Sure, they left Oakwood, when segregation came. People were scared. But the neighborhood really went down the drain. It was very scary, but finally it became better. It cleared up and as you said a lot of people did leave, but now it’s on the up, you know.
Liisa: But your family didn’t leave.
Jim: We stayed here. We stayed here and had that iron fence out up out there. My father put that up in 1939 just after my grandmother died. He got the whole fence for 500 dollars, but that was a lot of money then. It’s cast iron. And it’s a nice protection. I tell you there were times that were not too good in the neighborhood you know, but I really enjoyed being here and it’s very comfortable, comforting that you have such wonderful people surrounding you. You know and I’m so glad that I’m here. I guess that’s the end of my story.
Liisa: I’ve heard you really have some really beautiful photographs up in your living room of different points in history with your family.
Jim: Yeah, they’re in there. If you want to go take a look, you walk up there and look. My grandmother and my aunt are in there. My grandmother’s mothers there on the table. My grandfather and oh and we have a little bed that my father was born in up in the attic, a baby bed. That attic is so full of stuff… I don’t know what’s up there. I’m scared to go in there. It might grab me. But someday, I told Quincy, we got to clean that out when it gets cooler, but it’s too hot in the summer. You can’t go in that attic. It’ll burn you up. I don’t know what we got in there to tell the truth. Old paint pictures and all that.
Liisa: Now was it your grandfather who would write words inside the garage?
Jim: Oh that was my father who would write all these notes. “The weather’s bad. It’s going to be a cold day.” They’re still in there if you can find them. Time has worn them out. He did it in the 30’s and 40’s and if you can go in there and make them out, fine, but it’s hard to see them now because it’s so long ago and…
Jim: ...Yes, amazing.
Liisa: So for the candlelight tour, did you work with Ames Christopher and-
Jim: Well, he was on the board of something. I think we all worked together on this thing.
Liisa: Tell me how you came up with an idea that was audacious at that time. You pulled it together.
Jim: I don’t know who came up with that idea to be honest with you. I didn’t. I don’t know who came up with the idea, but it certainly has paid off for the historical purposes, you know. It doesn’t - shut up, Jim - the thing is, and it’s really a pain now, I think that’s the reason the thing is so well-done, because people get together and help each other, help this tour. And that’s the whole story, I guess.
Liisa: I’m sure you have questions too, Jerry. So you came back from Paris, and you started renovating these houses, and the houses you were renovating, they were in apartments, is that right?
Jim: No, they were in houses, two houses in the back. Duplexes (unintelligible), it’s all over Bloodworth Street. I didn’t have that many, but we had quite a few. What were you asking me? I’m losing my thought now.
Liisa: Were they all rentals, or...
Jim: Rentals, yes. It was a younger crowd, and I think that’s what kinda got it started. The rents were low. The economy was kind of level, I think it was, I don’t know. It must’ve been, because I got all the work done. Because I had help, I could do it all myself, but I had lots of help. Everything went well in those times, shut up Jim you know, anyways, I’m a survivor.
Liisa: Any funny stories you could think of over the years?
Jim: I don’t know if I could think of any... My friends who lived across the street, I was a kid at the time. There was a wonderful woman named Nanny, Nanny Allen. Missus Reagan, I drove there a lot. They were so wonderful. Just plain wonderful country people. We had the best times, she was the best cook. Our children - shut up, Jim - the children were just, absolutely, played together and had a good time. Oh and something else over there in that house. In the backyard, there was an outhouse, and this outhouse had a toilet. You go to the bathroom, you got up, the top right rises and flushes by itself. I wish - no hindsight - I had that now. I never saw one like that in my life. It was an outside outhouse with an automatic flush toilet. I was really kind of taken with that.
Liisa: Did you ever go to Person Street Pharmacy as a child?
Jim: Oh, absolutely! Person Street Pharmacy was across the street, where that empty building is, down the corner. Treadwell! Mr. Treadwell was the owner. They had milkshakes but they had it now across the street. Where the pharmacy is now, there was a dime store. A five and ten... it was an old store. People could go in and buy what they needed, you know. It had a basement, a nice size basement and that’s right, people needed little items.
Liisa: Where was that Krispy Kreme?
Jim: Yes I do. I remember when they started. The little building... you know where Pie Bird is, at that spot? I think it’s right next door, they started, that little place. Then they moved around the corner, across from the pharmacy, in that little backstreet there. Then they went there. I remember when they started...
Liisa: Tell me about it.
Jim: I think it started in the early 50s. I’m not quite sure what date. But I used to go get the donuts. The donuts were very, very good and of course, when you’re young, you could eat anything. You could eat stuff that’d kill you! We used to go in and buy the donuts, that’s where they started. They’re expanding across the street. And where they expanded was a beautiful old house. The woman had an antique store there, a shop. I remember going by there; there was a big old sled in the yard. And, of course, there was a lot of houses, not too many, but quite a few. It was amazing to go by there and see, but you don’t think about it now, cause its part of the past, and it’s what you see at the moment. And I really appreciate so much is happening. I really appreciate what the neighbors have done. They’ve done a lot for me too. And that’s the reason why I’m still here.
Liisa: Tell me what they’ve done for you.
Jim: Well, they promoted the area, they had neighborhood parties - you know what I’m talking about, the parties...
Liisa: The athletic club?
Jim: The athletic club! Cause I used to go - I don’t go anymore, I can’t cook - so I don’t take anything, I don’t go.
Liisa: You know, there’s an anniversary athletic club this Sunday.
Jim: The 25th. Where’s it gonna be held?
Liisa: At the Tucker House.
Jim: Right! Maybe I’ll go if I get up and carry my suitcase with me. I’ll be in good hands with Allstate.
Liisa: Did you ever play at the cemetery? The Oakwood cemetery?
Jim: Did I what?
Liisa: Did you ever play down at the cemetery?
Jim: Oh yeah, when I was a kid. They used to have, Fourth of July, they used to have a band down there with all the unknown soldiers. Yeah! I used to go down there and I used to swim in the swamp down there. We all went swimming in the swamp. I don’t know how we didn’t die of diseases, but we managed to stay alive. It was wonderful! When you were young, everything was good, until you fall in a well or something, then that’s the end. But then there was Fallon, where those houses are now, down Polk Street to the right. Fallon had greenhouses there. Of course that barn went away too. And they did a fantastic job.
Liisa: Did you have any family members go off to World War I? Or II?
Jim: I’m sorry?
Liisa: Did you have any family members go to World War I or II?
Jim: My uncle Charlie did, went to World War I. And a letter that was written to my mother - I know it’s somewhere in the house - and he wrote from France, I think it was. That was in 1917... of course the war started in 1916 I think. Did it end in 1918 or 17? I’m not sure.
Jim: Okay, well he wrote a letter to my mother from - I don’t know if it was Paris, but France - and we have it here somewhere. If you ask me to find it, I can call you next year. But, shut up Jim, anyways...
Liisa: I think, your nephew, Bob, also talks about... or maybe it was someone else who talked about during World War 2, walking around the neighborhood.
Jim: Oh, my father was a warden. “Turn off the lights,” he’d say. The wardens had flashlights. There was nothing. But you know, it’s part of what the world was going through, you know - shut up, Jim-
Jim: I was a little boy at the time, but I remember that. I was about 15, something like that, 14.
Liisa: So he had liquor in the basement, he was the warden.
Jim: Oh yeah, that. What you know, well he had to be respectable, whether you’re a warden or not! We kinda looked like white trash at one time, but it’s just wonderful to have a good time.
Liisa: Tell me about your grandparents, can you describe them?
Jim: I’m sorry?
Liisa: Your grandparents, describe your grandparents.
Jim: My grandfather had a horse and buggy business. He sold buggies, and I remember going down with my father in 1934, 35, and we went in there, and there was a big old stove with all these men sitting around it. The building my grandfather built. He built all those buildings at that time, and I went in there with my father and saw all this, the buggies. Ford Motor Company came to my grandfather, you know about this? They said, “we want you to sell Fords.” He said, “the buggy ain’t never going out of business,” but he lost. So Sander’s Motor Company took it over, I’m not sure when. But that’s life.
Liisa: Do you remember the first cars, coming down these streets?
Jim: Oh yeah! Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. Unbelievable, yeah.
Liisa: Was there a trolley that went to-?
Jim: Oh yes, a trolley, that’s very good, you bet there was. The trolley went down Polk Street, went down East Street, turned at Lane, went down the end of Lane, then turned around, came back up, went up the same way, went up Polk Street, to downtown. My grandmother took me, a prissy lady, she took me on the trolley to go Uptown. Well, this is the truth, I’ll never forget it. Everytime I would go down that curve, at East and Polk Street, I think of my grandmother. She fell out of the seat, on the floor. That thing went around the corner like that, and she went on the floor. She was quite a lady.
Liisa: Did you go to Pullan Park?
Jim: Pullan Park? Yes, they used to have a swimming pool there, a public pool. They also had a carousel, which is still there. I think, things change so quick, that it disappeared. It just took it and went away with it. There was a lot of conflict during that time too, but we’ve all managed.
Jerry: Jimmy, did you go to Murphy School?
Jim: I went to Cathedral School, up on Hillsborough Street. I didn’t like school very much. Anyways, they had to throw me out to graduate me.
Liisa: Did you go to church there as well?
Jim: Went to church... I don’t go anymore. I just can’t stand it, excuse the expression. Church is fine. I think it’s fine for young people who try to find out what’s going on. Then you leave it and go do your own thing, and as long as you have a heart that’s connected to everyone else, it’s all. I think that’s the most important thing in the world, help one another and love one another. And don’t get mad, and if you do, tell ‘em you’re sorry. And if you wanna choke them, you don’t tell them that, just tell them you’re sorry. You’re gonna delete a lot of this stuff, I’m sure. I don’t know anything else that’s good... I can’t think of anything. It’s all so gone, so far away. I think of little things sometimes, but then they disappear too.
Liisa: Did you come here on Sundays for Sunday Dinner with your grandparents?
Jim: Sunday Dinner? When we came up here, or I’d come up to Grandma, and she’d serve me. Dinner was 1 ‘o’ clock, Sunday. The dinner was fried chicken, lima beans, mashed potatoes, iced tea, which I never liked and never drank it, although as a kid I took a little bit. That was it, dessert or whatever. Oh, we cooked on a wooden stove back there, in the kitchen. That was good, cause I didn’t know how to cook so I watched everyone else cook, but it was good stuff. I enjoyed the food, cause I don’t remember half the food I ate, but at that time, it was good.
Liisa: So if this was a farm, did anybody when you were a child, still have animals?
Jim: Oh, we had rabbits. And we had chickens in the backyard. And I’d go out in the yard and find horseshoes. I don’t know how old they were, but they were really rusty. I’d find marbles - and all that, but yeah, it was something. There used to be a well here, I think there was a well, there had to be cause there was no water at the time, I don’t know where it was, I had no idea.
Liisa: I heard your Sunday dinners were very formal.
Jim: They were. My grandma was very proper, you know. She didn’t get along with my mother. She loved her, but she was very proper. She was a dear. And my grandfather was something else, but it’s all like a dream sometimes... shut up, Jim. The thing about it is, you have good memories. And I have some, not really bad memories. I’ll tell what we do to ourselves is that we bring all these bad memories because we had moments that we didn’t want to be cooperative with people that loved you, and wanted to do well for you. And I think that makes you… wonder sometimes. Did I do well? Did I do enough to bring on this love that was given to me?
Liisa: If you had to pick a couple of items in this whole house that were really special to you, what would they be?
Jim: That old microphone in the middle room, some of the parts are gone, like the speaker that goes under the thing. I don’t know where half the stuff’s gone. They had this round thing you’d just slip on. I used to play with that as a kid. And also, I wish I kept it, but it wasn’t mine… my grandma had a telephone - a wooden telephone, on the wall, right there at the wall corner of the other room. And I used to pick it up here at the party lines going... it was trashy but it was nice. I remember that, the old telephone. It’s just unbelievable. But, it’s good memories.
Liisa: How do you compare life today with then? The other day, I interviewed Ruby Bullock, who is 96 years old, who makes the cakes for Person Street...
Jim: What was her name?
Liisa: Ruby Bullock. She didn’t move here until the seventies.
Jim: Where does she live?
Liisa: She lives on Bloodworth, next to Lisa Berry and Tom Berry, close to the Salvation Army.
Jim: I don’t know her.
Liisa: But she said, that she has great-great-great grandchildren now, and she said that life is just so different, that it’s so fast paced and...
Jim: Oh sure! There were no cars like they have today. Cause the population is absolutely overwhelming. But there were no cars. It was very quiet in the 30’s here. The oil truck used to come down and spray the road because we’d sit out there, go in the house before they sprayed. My mother said, “Where are you?” I was covered in dust, and she’d laugh cause it was a joke. But we did get covered in dust.
Liisa: Were you friends with Mamie Bridgers?
Jim: I knew Mamie. She lived down East Street. Yeah, I knew her. We were friends, but it was a different time. And Valley, I knew Valley very well. Valley was something. But she did a lot here. I mean she helped promote the yards and the trees and so forth. She planted that pear tree up here. I wish she was living… (unintelligible) I’d hang her, because that tree, it’s awful. It’s the worst smelling tree in the summer you could have! Of course, it’s gotten humongous - I got to call the city to trim the limbs so people could walk on the sidewalks. The city would take care of it, and she’d know too. And she had it planted for me. Valley was good. I liked Valley. She did a great deal here.
Liisa: And did you know the Cranes? The Cranes?
Jim: Where were they?
Liisa: Oh boy, they lived down on Polk. They’d been here for five generations... they lived on Peace Street Extension, when he was growing up.
Jim: The Cranes... were they on the left hand side going down the street? Was her husband a mailman?
Liisa: I don’t know what he did, but I spoke with them. They’re in their 70s now, but their grandfather built them the house on what was Peace Street Extension. And they’ve had different houses in the neighborhood. You don’t know them, that’s okay.
Jim: If I’d see them, I’d know the father and mother probably and then I’d (unintelligible)
Liisa: Right, right, no they’re not.
Jim: And so, I’d probably know them if I had to see them.
Liisa: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: The Bashwoods lived across from my grandmother, up there on Polk Street. He got killed in the war, their son. They all moved away...
Liisa: Who was your best friend growing up?
Jim: I don’t really... I had friends, but I never had a best friend. Just friends. I was kind of a loner, in a way. Just myself. But I enjoyed people. We had a good time.
Liisa: Well, you’re always so social when I walk by with my dogs.
Jim: Yeah, I learned that to be nice and social. I was very social. I’d be very outspoken to people. I never held back. I loved sitting on the porch. I had one couple come by here, and I was sitting out - It was dark, and I had the lights off. And she said to her husband or boyfriend, “That’s where that old crazy man lives.” Because they’d see me sitting in my bathrobe all the time. I didn’t open my mouth, you know.
Jerry: Jimmy, did you know Lillian Hummer? She was a big old girl that knew you.
Jim: On East Street? Right, I knew Lillian.
Jerry: Right, she was about ten years older than you.
Jim: She died, didn’t she?
Jerry: I think she’s still with us, physically, but not mentally.
Jim: Is she at some rest home or something?
Jerry: Right, right.
Jim: They sold her house didn’t they?
Jerry: They have.
Jim: I don’t know who lives there, but I’ve seen them. I think I’ve met them but I’m not sure. He’s Spanish, isn’t he?
Jerry: Actually, they had even moved. There’s some brand new people there.
Jim: I met them. They were a nice couple.
Jerry: I enjoyed talking to Lillian over the years. She’d sit on her front porch and work her crossword puzzles and I’d sit there with her and we’d talk. And I was impressed that she told me, that in all of her 94 years, she lived in two houses. Both in the same block of East Street. The one she was in, she’d been in for 60 to 70 years. She said, “See the one across the street? About two houses down? I was there for about 40 years.”
Jim: It’s amazing.
Jerry: And I’m impressed that your family stayed downtown.
Jim: I stayed here.
Jerry: Back in the 40s and 50s, so many folks were moving out to the suburbs.
Jim: Absolutely. Exactly. I think they had an idea of what was coming, and I think that was what people got wind of and decided to leave.
Jerry: And we were told then, folks were told then, my parents were told, that they should have a house of their own with a big piece of land. At least half an acre, or an acre, and you couldn’t have that downtown.
Jim: I’m lucky I got that lot next door. It’s a separate lot from this house. And I’m lucky to have all this show up. You take things for granted, and when you look at to see things, you’re like, “Oh, it was here.” But I could lose everything tomorrow, if a big storm came through here, I’d be out on a limb. Absolutely, on a limb! Swinging!
Jerry: We’ve (unintelligible) them in.
Jim: Ah thank you very much. I got a tent in the yard. I’ll bring my own outhouse. Oh god. I don’t know anything else to tell you wonderful people.
Liisa: This has been such a pleasure.
Jim: My pleasure too! I enjoyed it too.
Liisa: Thank you so much.
Liisa: We will have a hard time editing this, because you have so many great stories, thank you.
Jim: Well, I appreciate it. I want you to look at those pictures I got on the wall back there. On the side wall. Look in the living room and see if that (unintelligible), all the crazy people.
Liisa: I know Jen and her husband told me that you have wonderful pictures up there.
Jim: Yeah. It’s two ‘o’ clock. I got a talking watch.
Jerry: To remind you to...
Watch: The time is... two ‘o’ clock pm. Today is Thursday, September 22, Year 2011.
Jerry: Just in case you need to be reminded.
Jim: That’s the case, in case I can’t see too. My sight is failing.
Liisa: Well, I really appreciate your time.
Jim: My pleasure, darling. You come back! I’m having a little party Christmas time, Billy. Bring Missus Blough. It’s not gonna be a minute, I can’t stand it. You know, you don’t have to bring tips or anything, just come and enjoy the food. I’m gonna let her do it down at the side street.
Liisa: I interviewed her yesterday. Mary-Lou.
Jim: Mary-Lou. Ain’t she something else? She got that thing started down there.
Liisa: She did.
Jim: I was a kid, it was a drugstore and a pharmacy. And when I was a kid down there, Miller’s Sundershop.
Liisa: Well, didn’t hear that. Well, thank you.
Jim: My pleasure, darling, come back. Billy, thank you.