Listen to her story:
Sue Tuck Briggs
Sue Tuck: My grandmother would go to City Market most every day. I don’t think she ever bought pork, beef, or lamb at the grocery store. There used to be vendors inside the building at the City Market. There was a man named Mr. Cox and he had the finest meat in the world, and there are only two vendors that still sell at the City Market but one of them, Charles Coats, remembers my grandmother coming down and asking for foods. When he told me that, it just brought the memories back to me because I’d heard her say it. She’d said, “Mr. Coats, I want some corn. They’re just like baby teeth,” and she really did. She wanted white corn, [silver queen], and teeny tiny, and I grew up liking it like that.
Ronnie: You still go down all the time to Charles.
Sue Tuck: Yeah. Old habits die hard.
Sue Tuck Briggs was born in 1928, grew up at 302 North Blount Street and spent a lot of time down the street at her grandmother’s house, also known as the Tucker House. The Tucker House was moved to North Person Street after Sue’s uncle, Garland Tucker, donated it to the City. Sue Tuck and her husband Thomas Briggs, of Briggs Hardware, moved to Oakwood Avenue in 1975.
Sue Tuck Briggs (grew up on Blount Street, starting in 1928; she moved back into Oakwood in 1973)
Interviewed by Ronnie Ellis and Liisa Ogburn on August 27, 2013 at the University Club in Raleigh, NC.
Liisa: So I’m going to start it and I’m going to say that today is August 27th, 2013. I’m sitting at the North Carolina University Club with Ronnie Ellis and Sue Tuck Briggs and this is Liisa Ogburn, and I’m recording a conversation between Sue Tuck and Ronnie. So, just to begin, Sue Tuck, tell me how you came to Oakwood.
Sue Tuck: Well, I grew up on Blount Street and Oakwood was back there but, you know, I really didn’t much know anybody that lived in Oakwood. I had one school friend I think because I went to Murphy School and none of my friends that were always my friends lived over where I did. But it wasn’t any problem.
Liisa: Just be careful with tapping because it comes through on the recorder. I’m sorry. Where on Blount Street did you grow up?
Sue Tuck: All right. The Tucker house on [Person] Street was on Blount Street, and it was moved across the Murphy schoolyard. It was fascinating to watch it move because they were professional movers of course for a house that big and Ronnie and I were talking recently about how they had all that equipment but [really watched] a green Sprite bottle out on the end of a beam and they watched it every second. But it was fun to see it move. We didn’t know what they were going to do with it. My uncle [donated it]. They were buying up houses to use for state offices, and my uncle just gave the house to the city not knowing what they were going to do with it.
Ronnie: Now that was [Garland].
Sue Tuck: Right. That was my uncle who is nine years older than I am, and he was the baby in my mother’s family. She was the oldest and there were two more girls and then my uncle. The boy was the fourth child so of course they thought the messiah had come back practically. You are going to edit out some things, right?
Liisa: I am going to edit out some things, and you can tell me what you like. Now, can you tell me about an early childhood memory from growing up in that house?
Sue Tuck: Oh, gosh, yes. Well, I will tell you I saved the day at night one time. I woke up. We were living there, and I can’t remember exactly why we were at my grandmother’s, but my mother, my father, and I were all there. And I was an only child. And I woke up and woke my father up and said, “I can’t breathe. My throat hurts.” Well, the house was on fire and it’s really unusual I think that a child [would be the one to wake up], because you feel like they sleep more soundly than adults. I was the only one who woke up. And as soon as he sounded the alarm my grandfather just rolled off of his bed and grabbed the telephone and it turned out to be quite a fire. I mean, the floors were gone in the reception hall and in the library, and I don’t know how long--, I have no idea how long we were out. We didn’t live there anyway. We were just there for a certain length of time. But we moved into an apartment on the same block around the corner. There was an apartment house which was probably one of the very earliest apartment houses I guess in Raleigh. And it’s real funny. People that I knew later in life lived in that apartment as young [marrieds]. But the fire was, it was really something and it was a long time I think before they got back in the house.
Ronnie: It felt like the time, remember your house there on Oakwood and [Bloodworth]? Remember the time I went upstairs and smelled something and that real pretty quilt was smoking and it was getting to burst into flames up in the junk room, we called it.
Sue Tuck: I had put a paperweight down on a quilted bedspread… I didn’t think anything about it, and all of a sudden Ronnie walked in there and the sun had hit it, because with all that heavy glass it was getting ready to smoke up and start something. Gosh, it really was scary.
Liisa: What year do you think that the Tucker house fire was?
Sue Tuck: Let’s see, I was born in 28. Probably about ‘34, ‘33 or ‘34.
Liisa: Right around The Depression.
Sue Tuck: Right. Oh gosh, yes. I can remember hearing -- not that it meant anything to me at the time, but it does now -- that my grandfather never missed the payroll, and that was something to be proud of then. And, also, one night, on Halloween, I remember I had a little table in my grandmother’s dining room whenever we were there and when I told my daughter about this she said she thought that was terrible. It was a little table they had built for me. There was a chair or maybe two chairs, over in the corner of the dining room. They didn’t have highchairs then that you pulled up to the table. And Barbara just thinks that’s terrible that I was put over there.
Ronnie: By yourself.
Sue Tuck: At the table by myself. But, anyway, I was sitting there eating my same thing, I’m sure, mashed potatoes, vegetables soup, and spinach. I think I ate baby food until I was five, but all of sudden I saw my mother come through the dining room with a pistol in her hand. And I had never seen a pistol in any house in my life. And somebody had held up my grandfather knowing that he--, I guess then that people didn’t have night depositories. Is this the kind of thing you want to hear?
Liisa: Yeah, these are all details that tell us about that time.
Sue Tuck: Well, I guess they knew he was bringing the money and they always called it ‘the package’ and it was wrapped up in brown paper tied with twine. He brought it home every night and I don’t know where he put it, but, anyway, somebody had held him up and she had gone out the back with a pistol and the police got there but I think the man had gone and I think he got the money. I don’t absolutely remember that, but it was how I do remember it was Halloween night and my mother had on a costume, which I couldn’t understand, but she was going to take me downtown.
Liisa: And tell me about your grandfather.
Sue Tuck: Oh. My grandfather, quite a history. I’m going to tell you things and you take out, you know, because I don’t want it to seem like I’m bragging, because like Susanna said she wanted to have a party for the cast when the play comes here and said she’d like to have it at the Tucker house. And I said, “Why?” She said, “Well, you know, I just would. It’s my family.”
Ronnie: Family. That’s family.
Sue Tuck: Family’s house and I told mother we should--, we had no idea what was going to happen to the Tucker house when he gave it to the city. They could’ve torn it down. We didn’t know they were going to maintain it so beautifully, and they really have. They’ve taken care of it. But we should’ve reserved the right to use it, the family, I think. I don’t think they ought to charge us.
Ronnie: They just started up charging the Oakwood Society for using it, and we’ve never had to pay to use it for our meetings but they’re saying that…
Liisa: Matthew Brown contested that charge so I bet your family could contest that charge too.
Sue Tuck: Who contested?
Liisa: Matthew Brown because he said the neighborhood had put so many hours into maintaining it, and your family donated it so I agree.
Sue Tuck: I really do think--, I know somebody had a tea there for my granddaughter when she made her debut and they charged them. Charged [Sarah Knott].
Sue Tuck: It was a Tucker.
Liisa: So tell me about your grandfather.
Sue Tuck: He started out--, he was a young boy and his father died and he stopped school and got a job--this is what I’ve been told--to help out on the farm.
All of that land [somewhere?] was Tucker land. It was farm land, and we used to go every Sunday. Nobody did anything on Sunday except go out for a ride if somebody had a car, because everybody didn’t have a car then, but somebody in our family had one. Every Sunday we’d ride out to the countryside.
[Anyway] he started a furniture business. He was a remarkable man. He set up one of his brothers in a hardware business. The two other brothers didn’t live there… At that time, we had a huge meal three times a day and the cook would come and play like a xylophone. It was just a little thing, but to call everybody in to meals. Nobody ever went in the dining room until someone rang the bells. We had an African American named William Jeffries and he stoked the furnace and he drove [granny] some and he served some too. I can remember the two uncles, the one that [Garland] was talking about that kept moonshine in the closet and the other one. I can’t remember where Uncle Ed lived. Anyway, he was a handsome man and I was crazy about him. And the other one had a long time girlfriend. She was always around for meals but it seemed like everybody was always around. I don’t know how the cook ever knew how many to cook for because we really did have full meals. We had homemade hot bran muffins every morning and it was just part of it along with toast.
Ronnie: She never used any kind of recipes.
Sue Tuck: No.
Ronnie: Just a pinch of this and pull of that.
Sue Tuck: That’s right. And my grandmother was the first health food faddist, and I didn’t realize then that for some reason that seems to go along with ultraconservative politics. She went to [Bernard McFadden’s] place. She went to somewhere in Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains. A Doctor [Hayes] had a place there. She went to [Gaylord] house. I think she went to [about four] just to learn and claimed that her arthritis was so bad that she could not pick up the telephone. I don’t know. I never saw that because she certainly could pick it up after that. So we would go through these phases with her, and, had you known her, you would not have believed that she would ever go off on her tangent like that. She was anything but like that but she did, and she said that she fasted and then the next week she had orange juice. And the next week she had lettuce and tomatoes and the arthritis was gone. So, you know, who knows.
Ronnie: Home remedy.
Sue Tuck: But I can remember one Thanksgiving that we didn’t have any dressing with the Turkey because we were going through a stage where you did not combine protein and carbohydrates. She’s a little bit before Susan Summers’ time and all that I think, but we did. We only did that one year but we really did, and we had wax beans. Why I don’t know. Anyway, it was--, the Uncles always ate and it was--, I mean, it was just always a full meal.
I’ll tell you what I can remember. We had a room that I guess would be like media rooms people have now, that we called the radio room and it was the one on the right in the back. You go through the reception hall, which I always thought was the most ostentatious thing. But I think that’s what they called it because it wasn’t really a living room. I don’t know. Anyway, we called that the radio room and the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed they brought the radio into the dining room and plugged it in, sat it on the side board, and plugged it in so that we could listen to the radio and hear that. I remember that very vividly.
Liisa: Where did your family get the food that the cook would make? Was that at city market or were the vegetables grown out at your farm?
Sue Tuck: City market. My grandmother would go. William would drive her down there. She would go most every day. I don’t think she ever bought pork, beef, or lamb at the grocery store. There used to be vendors inside the building at the city market. There was a man named Mr. Cox and he had the finest meat in the world, and there are only two vendors that still go to the city market but one of them, Charles Coats, remembers my grandmother coming down and asking for foods. When he told me that, it just brought the memories back to me because I’d heard her say it. She said, “Mr. Coats, I want some corn. They’re just like baby teeth,” and she really did. She wanted white corn, [silver queen], and teeny tiny, and I grew up liking it like that. And William would tell--, well, I’d buy some and Barbara would cook it,” and William said, “This corn isn’t mature.” And I said, “It is. It’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Ronnie: You still go down all the time to Charles.
Sue Tuck: I still…
Ronnie: Call him up and tell him what you want.
Sue Tuck: Yeah.
Ronnie: How many butter beans you want shelled and…
Sue Tuck: Old habits die hard. I still go there when I can. I don’t drive anymore. When I can get a ride, I go to the farmer’s market if somebody would take me, but I much prefer to go to Charles and I’ll tell you why. Because he has a hand sheller and he shells his peas and butter beans as he needs them. At the farmer’s market they have to take turns and use the sheller when they can get to it and you might buy butter beans or peas in a ziplock that had been shelled two days before and kept in a cooler, so that’s one reason that I like to still go to Charles because the peas and beans are so much fresher.
Ronnie: The last time we went out to the farmer’s market you would smell them to see how fresh they were.
Sue Tuck: I do. I’m sorry. I’m not going to buy them if I smell mildew.
Liisa: So your grandmother would go choose the vegetables from city market. Who took her down there and how did she travel down there?
Sue Tuck: She drove. She drove and she also had William Jeffries, who worked there, who drove her some places sometimes, but she drove. She drove right on up till many years past when she should have. One time she backed out of the garage and hit a laundry truck, and the laundry truck was taking the laundry next door so she made them pay for her car damage because they had parked in her yard. And it made perfect sense to her.
And that was in the good old days when your insurance agent went to bat for you. It made a difference who you gave your business to then. Doesn’t now. It’s all a few great big companies. But [then] they would call up and say, “Miss Tucker’s had another wreck,” and so they didn’t know what they were going to do. She was so precious, and she really was, but nobody ever wanted to cross her about anything. And so they said, “Sue Tuck, you’ve got to come up with something.” I said, “I can’t come up...” “Yes, you can.” So it was the year that I was thrust into the junior league, which is not really my cup of tea, but I was and I was only 32. And I think still the youngest president they’ve every had, and I went to granny, and I hoped the lord forgave me because I never told a bigger lie, I said, “Granny, I need a chauffeur,” not that I ever had one, and I said, “Don’t you need a drive sometimes? Don’t you want to hire somebody to help out around here and drive you so you don’t have to look for parking places and everything?” She fell right into it. And it’s so funny because she was just as humble as she could be, but as she got older towards 90, she would come out of the grocery store and say, “I wonder where my chauffeur is with my car?” It’s so funny because that was so unlike her. So she always made them promise they would never put her in a nursing home, and of course there were no [Springmores] or Cypresses then. They were really just like nursing homes I guess. And so till the day she died three nurses and a cook maintaining that house. And [Howard], who was the African American man that drove her, my chauffeur, and he did take me to High Point one time when [Jean Bryant’s] little boy died, and I thought, “This is a good chance.” So I called granny and said, “I just got to have him.” Anyway, they kept him several years after she actually went out, and when I went to work several years later for the North Carolina Hospital Association, we went down to see the state treasurer about something because we were doing insurance when they had the big malpractice crisis. The hospital association started a company and I saw him dressed up in the finest uniform you ever saw. I was so glad to see him and he was glad to see me, but she had the cook and the three nurses until she died and stayed right there. And I think now, what a good time she would’ve had somewhere like [Springmore] because she was so gregarious and she loved people and they loved her. And she would’ve had a grand time but, you know, they did exactly what…
Liisa: Did she host many events at the house?
Sue Tuck: Oh, yes. All the children had their wedding receptions there. No one ever had one anywhere else. And then she got very religious about it in, I guess the late 20s maybe, and began to host bible studies a lot and different things like that. Because a friend of mine told me she was reading something recently and it mentioned that they had been to a bible class at Miss Tucker’s on Blount Street and this was like in 1929 or something. So she was early on with her food fad and her ultraconservatism and her religion, which was certainly sincere. I don’t mean to make light of it or imply that it wasn’t because it was. But she was a wonderful hostess and just--, and she was [fun].
Gosh, I went to New York with her when she was past 80 and Sue, my aunt--, it was my godmother that I was named for, and her husband went on business and they took granny and they took me, and granny snored so loud I could not sleep. I did not sleep a wink the whole time there. We were trying to figure out what Broadway show we could take her to that wouldn’t offend her. So we picked the King and I, which she adored and so did we. She loved that. She loved the King and I.
Ronnie: I think one of the real characters in Raleigh was your own mother, Francis. I mean, there’s some good tales about Francis.
Sue Tuck: Yeah, my mother was the oldest child. And she and my father were divorced when I guess I was seven. And then she remarried but only after I got married. And she and my stepfather were very devoted and very happy together. He was a wonderful, wonderful father to me and he was just superb. That’s when she got so interested in art, which she always had been, and she was one of those people that could walk in a warehouse full of junk and find one thing. She found a 16th century Italian painting one time, and my aunt used to die laughing and say that while she bought a picture of some little yellow ducks, my mother was buying this Italian treasure, and mother became very active in the museum and was a donor, gave them right many things. Nothing, you know, momentous because she couldn’t afford, you know, million dollar things, but she did give them some nice pieces. She gave the Virginia museum something too because my stepfather was from Virginia and after he died she gave them I think a [Natyay]. But she really was a character. She and granny were right different.
Ronnie: Didn’t she have a Mercedes?
Sue Tuck: She had…Hitler’s parade car. She had a four-door Mercedes convertible. She loved cars. Now, all a car ever was to me was something to get me somewhere, and I always kept one like a junk pile. I had no pride about an automobile. Mother loved cars and my Uncle [Garland], who is now 94, he loved cars. And I think he and mother were probably the only two in the family but they really did. Some people just, you know, love cars, and that Mercedes was gorgeous but it had dual carburetors--whatever that means. I sure don’t know. But, anyway, it was very hard to find anybody to work on it. So when she finally got rid of that, she ordered a Corvette, 1974. Corvette Stingray with air conditioning with--, they couldn’t even put power steering on one but they put something called power assist and air conditioning. And it had these tubes that were coming out. Anyway, I think it had 4,000 miles on it.
Sue Tuck: After she had placed the order, Mr. Anderson, who owned the Chevrolet dealership, came down the next day and said, “Miss Francis, I want to tell you I understand those salesmen. They get kind of carried away and I know you ordered something that you probably don’t really want.” She said, “Indeed I want it,” and she wanted it and she got it.
Ronnie: And that’s when she was married to Arthur [Levy].
Sue Tuck: Yeah.
Ronnie: She was a [Levy].
Sue Tuck: Uh-huh. And that was my stepfather and they lived on Blount Street at 302 North Blunt, which is--, the governor’s mansion’s here. Lane Street’s here, and our house was right there. And that was where I grew up actually, and that’s where I was married from.
Ronnie: Is that the DAR house? The brick house?
Sue Tuck: You know, I think maybe it was for awhile.
Ronnie: That brick house there across from the governor’s mansion.
Sue Tuck: Right.
Ronnie: Because the lady died and left it to, I think, the DARs or something like that--the old lady that had lived there, if I’m not mistaken.
Sue Tuck: Miss [Wilbur Budding] lived there after [Marbel]. And I was thinking maybe it was a visitor’s center but I can’t remember really because I got married when I was 19 of all crazy things. Stayed married to the same man, didn’t I, Ronnie?
Ronnie: Sure did, and had a beautiful marriage.
Sue Tuck: All those years.
Ronnie: We’ve had so many good times in Oakwood also. Barbara, Sue Tuck’s daughter, had probably one of the biggest, nicest weddings when Sue Tuck and Tom lived there on Oakwood and [Bloodworth] Street.
Sue Tuck: Oh, it was so pretty. We were decorating for Christmas anyway, plus being a wedding, you know, there were all kind of little extras and it was so much fun. It was so pretty.
Ronnie: That was the first reception ever held at--what?--the Capital City Club?
Sue Tuck: First wedding...
Ronnie: Was their first wedding reception and it had to be limited to 500. You couldn’t have any more than 500, could you?
Sue Tuck: No, didn’t have that many.
Ronnie: But I think the limit, that’s all it would accommodate up there.
Sue Tuck: Yeah.
Ronnie: At that time.
Sue Tuck: But we didn’t have that many. It was so pretty because the Christmas lights were on all over Raleigh and they hadn’t done a big wedding reception before. So they just went all out and I got real tickled because some of the girls who worked at [Fallon’s] had their husbands down there helping, working all day long. It was beautiful. She got married at Christ Church, as I did, and then the reception was down there.
Ronnie: Sue Tuck had a bouquet of violets and every violet stood straight. There wasn’t a sagging violet in Barbara’s bouquet. It was the same as Princess Diana’s.
Sue Tuck: It did have some lilies of the valley in it, and I got real tickled because that was the only thing--, I don’t even know that Diana had any of those but I loved lilies of the valley, and I was determined--, because we had had a little patch of them over in Oakwood over on the side, and so they got them from Holland and it was ridiculous what they cost. But they could not wait to tell me that they must have had a good day in Holland because they sent 24 for the price of 12. I never will forget that.
I wasn’t aware of what was happening there [in Oakwood] until it was done. And I was ready to get out of the house on [Williamsborough Court] after mother died. And so that’s when we started looking in Oakwood, and it was funny. The first house that we looked at that I liked was built by a Briggs, and it was one of Tom’s old [buyers]. I can’t remember if it was a James Briggs or a Thomas Briggs, but, anyway, [Spec] and Sam looked at it and said--, they were my realtor, said, “Mm-uh. You’re not going to buy that.”
Ronnie: Was that the one that looked like a barn that was on East Street?
Sue Tuck: It was on East Street, maybe like behind…
Ronnie: It’s right off of Polk Street there.
Sue Tuck: Behind Oakley [Heron], down two, three houses I think.
Sue Tuck: I loved it, but anyway.
Liisa: What year was that? What year did you move back into Oakwood?
Sue Tuck: Oh. I’m trying to think when. Mother died--what?--’73. Barbara graduated--, when she made her debut we were still on [Williamsborough Court] so I guess she must’ve been like 20. Mid 70’s I guess we moved back.
Liisa: And how did the two of you meet?
Ronnie: Forever ago. We can’t even begin to tell you.
Sue Tuck: Was it through Margaret the first time?
Ronnie: Through Margaret, yeah, Tom’s sister. Margaret and I worked at the hospital together and my family is an old Raleigh family also. Born and raised here. My great great great step grandfather was Governor [Holden] so we’ve just sort of been in Raleigh forever. And just got real real close with Sue Tuck and Tom through--, I guess it had to be through Margaret.
Sue Tuck: To start with, yeah. Then I moved to Oakwood.
Ronnie: Oh, yeah. And, lord, just had the best times with Sally Bird, who’s a little short and tiny, and Bird was her last name. We called her “bird.” Because she looked like a bird. She was so tiny.
Sue Tuck: And that great big house and she wasn’t that big.
Ronnie: We could just say, “Bird, we’re going to have cocktails tonight,” and, boy, she’d get around there whipping up and getting stuff ready.
Sue Tuck: It was just amazing. I was talking to my daughter about it. I said, “Do you remember that I could decide at 4:00 to have a dinner party and the silver was polished?” I don’t know how she just kept it all ready. But, I mean, I don’t ever remember the silver getting dirty.
Ronnie: And she never complained about anything, and one thing we always said: during a party she’d stand on the side of the room and fold her arms and we’d all be running around and picking up dishes and doing stuff. And she would just fold her arms watching everybody.
Sue Tuck: Yeah. She would do anything you told her to do. But she was just a part of the family for years, and years, and years.
Sue Tuck: She sure was. She lived right down Oakwood Avenue.
Ronnie: Never talked. You never said anything until she got in the car to drive [her] and then she’d be like a [sorting] machine, she wouldn’t stop until she…
Sue Tuck: And nobody could believe it because they had known her all these years and she never said a word. Then all of a sudden that bird in the corner’s mouth never stopped.
Ronnie: Fun times.
Sue Tuck: I still talk to her. You know, one of those boys goes down there and spends the night with her every night so she’s not in that apartment by herself. And that I think is wonderful that they do.
Ronnie: She pretty much raised all of them. She raised them.
Sue Tuck: Yeah.
Ronnie: Financially as well as support.
Sue Tuck: She sure did.
Liisa: Betsy [Buford] said that you would sit at Sue Tuck’s house often around Christmas time decorating balls and having cocktails and…
Ronnie: Oh, it was beautiful. We love decorating for Christmas. I always have. Sue Tuck has sort of scaled back a little bit because she lives with her daughter and the daughter’s husband there on [Marlow] Road…
Ronnie: Remember Kay and Lynne and how they had the baby grand piano there in the room that faces over by Oakwood Avenue, and at Christmas and at all different parties they’d get in there and they had some kind of a comic routine where they would play the piano and tell jokes and all this.
Sue Tuck: And sing.
Ronnie: And sing. And it was just a hoot and a holler. We had many wonderful times there as far as decorating and fixing. I’ve done Sue Tucks’ tree for years. [Jim Burnet] and a friend of his and myself have done every Christmas. It’s part of our tradition. We go to Sue Tucks, decorate the tree, and Sue Tuck will say, “That’s not enough lights. That’s not enough lights. Not enough balls,” or something. And one time we put so many lights on, she said, “Jim, guess where Tom’s been?” He said, “I don’t know, Sue Tuck, where?” “Down there to Walmart to get a dimmer to put on the tree. The lights are too bright,” and we thought, hell, for the first time ever she had enough lights on the tree! And we still, the two of us and Jim’s friend, Steve, the three of us every year do Barbara’s tree now and they keep seeing how big they can get. And Barbara can pick out the most perfect Christmas tree every time. I don’t know how she does it.
Sue Tuck: She beats anything I have, even when we were living in Oakwood. We bought our trees from a friend of [Ames’s] xxx.
Ronnie: Oh, Howard Singletary. The Singletarys.
Sue Tuck: And Howard would bring a truck and they were all bound up so you were buying a pig in a poke and Barbara got perfect ones then even.
Ronnie: Yeah. Howard every Christmas would bring a truckload into Oakwood and you would just buy it sight unseen but they were all perfect.
Sue Tuck: I know it. They all looked good.
Ronnie: And the thing about it, I knew in my house if I bought one and thought it was smaller we’d go to have cut trees and bring them back. Lord, then you couldn’t even get in the room because the tree was so big. Sometimes we had to cut the back of the tree off and push it in the corner up there and get in through the room there.
Sue Tuck: It was just a holiday house. I just loved it. It was so impractical.
Ronnie: They say Barbara, and Sue Tuck, and myself, the three of us, every time we bought anything we’d buy three. Three ornaments, all just alike, so Barbara would have one, Sue Tuck, and I would have one.
Sue Tuck: And Ronnie came back from Europe and he brought me a little China angel sitting on a box.
Ronnie: Yeah, it’s a little humble type thing.
Sue Tuck: But they didn’t have but one so he and Barbara didn’t get one. And every now and then I’ll say, “Barbara, where’s so and so?” And I’ll call Ronnie and he usually knows where it is.
Ronnie: But I bet if we moved in with Barbara I’d know where everything was.
Sue Tuck: Barbara and Ronnie are idiots when it comes to Christmas. They really are. Ronnie, tell her how many trees you have had at [one time at] the most.
Ronnie: At my house? Oh, lordy. Well, one in every room. A couple in the dinning room [on the side boards]. I’m just a Christmas freak I reckon and still buying and still getting friends giving me Christmas things also to decorate with, so one day I’ll have to weed out. And we’ve weeded out some.
Sue Tuck: I’ve been good about weeding out. I’ve moved so much but I still got more stuff than I need.
Liisa: Sue Tuck, there are not many people who remember Blount Street at the time that you were living there. I think I’ve only interviewed Garland [Tucker] and Peter Daniels, who’s family lived down the street, who--, he’s probably your daughter’s age. What was Blount Street like as a girl?
Sue Tuck: Well…
Liisa: I mean, for example, Garland told me about riding his horse down to [Fayetteville] Street.
Sue Tuck: Absolutely. He did. Oh, and they always raised chickens in the backyard. We never had a chicken from the grocery store. William Jeffries would kill the chickens and take them in and the cook would cook them. Most all of the houses were large, and it was an affluent neighborhood. Senator Bailey lived down the street and of course the governor’s mansion was one block up from granny’s house, and one thing that to me was very interesting now--I didn’t know any different then--but at that time when Governor [Hook] was governor and then [Greg Cherry] and about four or five governors that I remember ... If granny had a party, then Miss Cherry or Miss Hook would send somebody out to cut flowers and take them. And they [the governor and his wife] were part of the neighborhood. That was just the way it was. Because I had dated Bobby [Broughton’s] son and--, oh, a friend of his, [Morton Pisa], came over one night to my house when his father was in the governor’s mansion and we went to get a coke or something. Anyway, my grandfather saw us leaving, called mother up, and said I had left the house squeezed between two boys on the front seat of a car. Grandfather reporting in.
Ronnie: You remember going downtown…
Sue Tuck: Every day I went downtown, you know, if I wanted to because our furniture store was on [Hargett] Street and, of course, Briggs Hardware was on [Fayetteville] Street but I didn’t much about Briggs Hardware then. And, oh, I would walk down to the store and see mother and everybody--, you know, we just went back and forth downtown. You knew everybody downtown--everybody. And--, oh, and there were two or three drugstores. The cute boys and kind of bad boys hung out at [Blue] xxx. Some girls would go down there when they weren’t supposed to. But, Blount Street, you know, you asked me what it was like and it was just a quiet neighborhood and there was still children there and the [Bales] family, when they got rid of the street cars on Blount Street, they bought a street car and put it in the backyard, put the children to play in and so we played in it. And I remember the first charcoal I ever saw. They bought a bucket from--, I don’t know. I almost want to say [Abercrombie’s] because back then Abercrombie and Fitch was sporting goods and things as well as clothes. I reckon that man would turn over in his grave if he could see what they were selling now. But they had this gray bucket about that tall and it was full of charcoal, and we cooked hotdogs on them in the yard. And that was the first anybody had ever heard of doing anything like that.
Liisa: I heard someone had a roller skating rink in their house, is that right?
Sue Tuck: What?
Liisa: There was a roller skating rink in one of the houses in the attic of one of the houses?
Ronnie: Yeah. What’s the big house the state still owns and it’s sort of [caddy cornered] to where you live? The big..
Liisa: Is it the [Heck] house, the second empire?
Ronnie: The second empire that had a ballroom or something on the top.
Sue Tuck: Yeah. Now, ballroom, yes, but skating rink I never heard.
Ronnie: I remember my grandmother saying that they would go by carriage and they’d pull her under the Porte-cochère and go in and up on the top floor was a ballroom. And they went to dances there years and years ago. That was what they were probably talking about.
Sue Tuck: It might’ve been maybe London’s house directly across the street from where I lived.
Ronnie: I’m sure children got up there and skated if the parents wouldn’t have caught them or something. I don’t know.
Liisa: And you mentioned just a moment ago too that back then you always knew the person you were doing business with and now it’s very anonymous. What are other things that differentiate that time from now?
Sue Tuck: I really wonder if my mother ever walked to the grocery store. I mean, that sounds ridiculous but she ordered groceries, and to her dying day she would tell me that I would save money if I would order even though they were more expensive. You ordered what you needed. You didn’t do impulse buying.
Ronnie: My grandmother always order in for her groceries from [Pile and Griffith]. Fresh meats, good meats, and they were more expensive but, you know, all you had to do was pick up the phone and they would deliver.
Sue Tuck: That’s right. And just like mother said, then you weren’t grabbing stuff you saw.
Ronnie: You didn’t buy something you didn’t need.
Sue Tuck: That’s right. And so mother continued until she moved out and moved in with us because she had asthma so bad. Back then they didn’t know it killed you but they of course do now. When she got a divorce she went to work at the furniture store, and was running the other stores in the other towns, but she would order groceries every day and we had a cook, a [black] woman, Georgia who cooked. And it took me forever to learn to keep [house] because Georgia expected me to take off my clothes and drop them on the floor because she didn’t have anything else to do. Yeah, I grew up literally being waited on, not because we were affluent but just because we had her there and she had to have something to do. But it was a fun play place to grow up.
Ronnie: Now, on [Fayetteville] Street I came across the picture of mother with a hat on. Ladies wore hats and gloves all the time. You didn’t go downtown unless you were dressed up.
Sue Tuck: Uh-uh. You really didn’t. No, you put on a hat and wore [nice] clothes and gloves.
Ronnie: There at the Tucker house, there up that top floor was where the closet was for hats and all that.
Liisa: Was the Raleigh Junior League as present then?
Sue Tuck: Yeah, I’m trying to think when it officially--, I guess it was during the war ... When Raleigh was taken into the association, when it really became a junior league, they sent a telegram and they said “Raleigh has passed.” And the Western Union thought it was [regarding the war?]… And that really did happen. Funny. And I can remember the ice wagon for many years delivering ice even after granny had a great big electric refrigerator on the back porch, but there was still an icebox and a horse and wagon brought the ice every day.
Liisa: And did you grow up with many cousins in granny’s house?
Sue Tuck: No, because, see, I was the first one.
Sue Tuck: And because mother was the oldest and she got married very young and had me very soon and not too soon but within a year, I think, and it was just--, we played in the street, that I remember. I do. I remember that we would play under the middle of the street and I remember the ice wagon coming. I’m trying to think what else. We would walk almost everywhere. We used to go down to [Mordecai] Springs. Is there still a spring down there? Is there? Really? Well, we would go down there and have picnics, just me and one or two other people. That was just something that we did.
Sue Tuck: Ronnie, can you remember anything else?
Ronnie: That we let people know about?
Sue Tuck: Yeah. Absolutely.
Ronnie: I don’t know about that. You’re talking about ice. I remember Pine State, I remember they had the trucks. They had that crushed ice. I can remember they would come down where my family lived and we’d go out there and sneak back there to eat the ice off the truck while the milkman was delivering the milk bottles. We’d be out there, eating his ice off the truck, that’s crushed ice. A long time ago.
Liisa: All right. Well, thank you so much. Is there anything else?
Sue Tuck: But if I think of anything momentous I’ll call you. I really will.
Liisa: Please do.
Sue Tuck: Because I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot.
Liisa: You’ve remembered a lot.
Sue Tuck: Good, I’m glad.
Liisa: Many, many good stories.
Sue Tuck: Because I’ve enjoyed it. I really loved getting to know you.
Liisa: I feel the same way. It’s a real privilege.
Ronnie: We appreciate it very much.
Liisa: Oh, my pleasure.