Flora Carson White

This collection began with the Kentucky Oral History Commission’s effort to establish oral history programs in each of the state’s 120 counties. County libraries worked with local volunteers to collect interviews. Since 1987, county oral histories have been generated primarily by recipients of technical assistance grants from the commission that provide training and equipment to volunteer interviewers. Interviews donated by independent researchers are also included. Original collection held at Kentucky Oral History Commission/Kentucky Historical Society Access copies available at Lincoln County Public Library. Authorization must by granted by KHS to use or publish by any means the archival material to which the Society holds copyright.

LINCOLN COUNTY ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW 

FLORA CARSON WHITE INTERVIEWED BY OLIVIA COFFMAN 

April 26, 1981  

Ms. Coffman: Could you tell me something about your parents and grandparents? 

Mrs. White: Well, I don’t remember my grandparents.  My grandmother on my father’s side died when my father was young and his grandmother raised him.  Her name was Harriett (sic) Carson, and…. 

Ms. Coffman: Let me see, can you tell me his name a little something about your grandfather? 

Mrs. White: My grandfather…my grandfather’s name was Ike (sic) Carson. 

Ms. Coffman: Okay, can you tell something about your father? 

Mrs. White: My father’s name was name was Alfred…Alfred Napoleon…Alfred Bonaparte Carson…Napoleon Bonaparte Carson was his name…. 

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes). 

Mrs. White: And, he married…my mother was Elizabeth Lackey (sic) before she married, and she was from Roland, down below Stanford.  And, on my father’s side, it was eight in the family and they all died young, except my father and two brothers, Uncle Will and Uncle John. 

Ms. Coffman: Could you tell me what they died of? 

Mrs. White: No, I don’t…I don’t know.  I remember when Uncle Will died.  But, just old age is only thing I can remember. 

Ms. Coffman: Okay, can you remember anybody that was in your family that was born a slave or set free as a slave? 

Mrs. White: Well, my great grandmother was a small…small girl, eight or nine years old, or maybe a little older, when the slaves were set free. 

Ms. Coffman: Do you remember her name? 

Mrs. White: Her name was…her name was Harriett Carson. 

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes). 

Tape goes off and then back on 

Ms. Coffman: Can you tell me some of the things that went on while you was a little girl? 

Mrs. White: Yes, well, it was a lot to talk…it’s a lot to talk about, but when I was a little girl, things was a lot different.  People…the men-folks, most of them, did farm work, and some worked on…some worked on the railroad and my father helped build…helped to lay the rails for the streetcars in Lexington.  And, he helped to build this water tower over to Stanford.  And, he did farm work. 

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes). 

Mrs. White: And, times was hard then, and the women did washing and ironing…took in washing and ironing, and the children helped the best that they could. 

Ms. Coffman: Do you recall the horse and buggy days or…. 

Mrs. White: Yeah, I remember horse and buggy days, and that was the way we had to…that was our transportation.  And, if you had a horse and buggy, it was just like somebody having a car nowadays.  If you had a horse and buggy, or either a horse and wagon, why, they’d just put the family in there and just go right on; go wherever they was going; go ten or twelve miles.  It didn’t make any difference.   

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes). 

Mrs. White: And, they would go from place to place to see the family and just pile the children in there, and if it was in the wintertime, they took quilts and wrapped around us and heated bricks.  That kept our feet and hands warm, and we just went right on. 

Ms. Coffman: Uh, can you tell me something about preserving food and…. 

Mrs. White: Well, they canned food, canned a lot of it, and what they didn’t can, they pickled and put it up in salt brine and, you take fruits and vegetables…they would take them and bury them.  They dug a hole, a real deep hole in the ground and you lined it with straw and you put your fruits and vegetables in there and covered it up real good, and when  you got ready for it, you went out and opened a little hole and you got out whatever you wanted and as much as you wanted to use. 

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes); was there any other ways of preserving foods? 

Mrs. White: Well, they used to sulfurize (sic) apples. 

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes). 

Mrs. White: You’d take a…take sulfur and put it in a barrel and set it on fire, and as the smoke come up, you’d hold the apples over it, and sulfurize the apples and put them up and they’d keep all winter.  And, when you got ready for them, why, you went and got out as much as you wanted and washed them off and ate them like raw apples. 

Ms. Coffman: I know some people used to have smoke houses and wells where they kept things.  Did you all have any old wells where you kept anything? 

Mrs. White: No, cellars, no, we didn’t have any cellar.  That’s the reason why we dug the hole in the ground to keep root…those that had cellars, it was the same thing.  Of course, they used to keep milk, too…milk and butter in the cellar. 

Ms. Coffman: What about ice?  Did you have any ways of preserving ice? 

Mrs. White: Well, they…they…they would have a special well just full of ice, and during the wintertime, they’d go out on the pond and cut this ice and haul it in and put it in this well, and they would do that until they got the well full, and then they would put the top on the well, and it would stay there all during the summer. 

Ms. Coffman: As time went on, was there any occasion where maybe somebody came around selling ice, or anything like that? 

Mrs. White: Yes, in the later years, when it got so we used iceboxes and people…it would be any certain one who had a wagon, or buggy where they could haul ice, they’d go and get it once a week and bring it around and sell it. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm.  Did you all have any family recipes, like making sorghum or pull candy or anything like that? 

Mrs. White: Yeah, when it come to candy pulling, why, they pulled…they made candy and pulled it and when they had a party, that’s what they did.  They pulled candy and just had fun like that, had a get together, played games and made the candy and pulled it and sat around and eat it. 

Ms. Coffman: What about making sorghum? 

Mrs. White: Well, yes, we used to make sorghum.  Everybody wouldn’t raise the sugar cane, but those that did, they’d raise the sugar cane and in the fall of the year, when the time come to make the sorghum, they’d cut it and haul it to one that had the grinding mill and everybody would bring their sorghum there, and they would have a horse and they would put a burlap bag over the horse’s face, and then he would go around and around and around, and that would grind the sorghum.  You put the cane in one end and the juice would come out on the other end.  When the juice come out, well, they’d collect that and boil it down and make the sorghum. 

Ms. Coffman: Did they have any special way of preserving the sorghum? 

Mrs. White: Well, they usually put it in…those that had kegs, they put it in kegs.  And, if they didn’t have enough for that, why, they’d just put it in crocks and jars and fill it up and keep it. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm.  Now, do you remember, at any time, there being a war that you remember living through? 

Mrs. White: Oh, yeah, World War II.  I lived through that. 

Ms. Coffman: Could you talk a little about that? 

Mrs. White: Well, that was a war that looked like it hit every…most every family; somebody had a sister…a brother, a father that was gone to the war.  And, it was just…it was just sad.  Everybody had somebody that was in there…in the war, an uncle, a brother, a cousin or something, and everybody just seemed to be so friendly, even when you went out of your neighborhood, why, they was still friendly and people would all sit around and…they all had that in common. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm. 

Mrs. White: And, we’d be gone to town sometimes and when the convoy would come through, sometimes it would take them about two hours to come through, and everybody would just stop what they were doing and just stand out on the street and look at them and wave at them as they were going through. 

Ms. Coffman: Did you know about where these convoys were going to? 

Mrs. White: No; they would be going from one camp to the other. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm.  During this time, you said World War II? 

Mrs. White: Yes. 

Ms. Coffman: Was this the year they had the WPA (sic)? 

Mrs. White: No, WPA was before that, but during this war, that’s when they had the rationing.  They rationed sugar, canned goods, shoes.  And, besides that, you had a book of stamps, and you could use a stamp a week to get these things.  And, besides that, there was so many different things that was hard to get that wasn’t rationed, you had to stand in line to get certain…well, beef, and shortening and butter and cigarettes. 

Ms. Coffman: Do you think that the people were…was there anybody that could save any money during this time? 

Mrs. White: During the war? 

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes). 

Mrs. White: Yeah, a lot of people could save money during the war, because during the war was the time when the factories began to open up to hiring more blacks, and a lot of people left…well, they just completely left Kentucky and went other places in order to get jobs. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm.  Was there any soup lines or anything like that? 

Mrs. White: No, there wasn’t any soup lines. 

Ms. Coffman: Do you remember the…. 

Mrs. White: Even in the…during the depression, I don’t remember any soup lines, but they had a relief where they gave away certain foods; staples. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm.  Do you remember some of these staples? 

Mrs. White: I remember grapefruit and rice and I can’t remember what else they gave away. 

Ms. Coffman: Were these for everybody or just for certain people? 

Mrs. White: Well, it was…it was for everybody that qualified for it; those that didn’t have jobs and wasn’t working.  I think it was flour that they gave away. 

Ms. Coffman: Would you talk a little about…a little bit about living accommodations?  How did people live during the depression? 

Mrs. White: Well, during the depression, everybody was just about in the same boat.  People tried to help each other.  If they had something that you didn’t have, well, they was glad to let you have it. 

Ms. Coffman: It seems like there wouldn’t have been too much for black people to have done for entertainment.  Did you have any kind of recreation that you went to? 

Mrs. White: Oh, yes, and more in the wintertime.  We had the schools, and the school plays and programs.  And church…we had programs and plays and socials.  They’d have cake walks and pie suppers and box lunches and that was our entertainment. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm. 

Mrs. White: And, then, they would have revival, tent meetings, and they’d have singers and ministers from different places that would come through here and they would stay two, three and sometimes four weeks at a time.  And, they would stay just from one house to the next. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm. 

Mrs. White: And, during the summer, they would have ballgames and picnics and everybody would get together and just sit around and have a nice time. 

Ms. Coffman: Have there been any really great changes in the place from the time you were a little girl until now? 

Mrs. White: Oh, yes, there’s been lots of changes.  Now we have a…we have a…one black topped road, we have electricity, and we can have all the convenience of city living.  We have bathrooms and just anything that you could want to work to get, you can have it. 

Ms. Coffman: Do you remember any different presidents or get to hear any of them make speeches or any of their slogans or anything? 

Mrs. White: No, I don’t remember too much about that, because I always had to work.  I didn’t pay too much attention to that until World War II…. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm. 

Mrs. White: Which I remember the one from World War II on that. 

Tape goes off and then back on 

Ms. Coffman: We talked about horse and buggies and…but we didn’t talk about cars.  Do you recall riding in a model T or any…. 

Mrs. White: Oh, yes, I remember that, it wasn’t but one man out here that had an A model Ford and it…. 

Ms. Coffman: What was his name? 

Mrs. White: Jim Hayes. 

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes). 

Mrs. White: He had an A model Ford and then later on, why, several of the boys, they got an A model Ford and, wherever they went, they just filled the car up and everybody else would just go right on, just pile in there as many as you could get and go right on, wherever they was going. 

Ms. Coffman: Would you say that this one car was used for community services; like taking people to the doctor, or anything special? 

Mrs. White: Yes, if there was anything like that that had to be done.  They would take them. 

Ms. Coffman: When people didn’t go to the doctor, do you know any of the home remedies that was used? 

Mrs. White: Well, they usually used teas and rubs and go out and get broom sage and horehound and made tea for colds and pneumonia and they used catnip.  Made a lot of catnip tea for children who had measles or chicken pox.  Why, they would give you that tea.  And, they would fix…some kind of…some kind of liniment to rub you in and put you to bed and that was it. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm.  Now, let me talk about something that’s just a little bit more sadder.  When older folks died, do you remember the customs of the funeral?  Did they bring them at home, or dress the dead…would dress them at home and…. 

Mrs. White: Well, when old people died, they would…well, they would get a bunch of women and they would wash them up and clean them up and usually put them on the ironing board…called it the cooling board.  And, they stayed on that until the undertaker come.  When the undertaker came, he would come and get them and take them to his place and then he would dress them again in what they was going to be buried in and bring them back to the house…. 

Ms. Coffman: Uh huh (yes). 

Mrs. White: And, then set the coffin up, and then the family and the friends would sit up with them from two to three nights, days and nights, and then they would take them out and have the funeral and bury them. 

Ms. Coffman: During these two to three days and nights when the family sat up with them, was there anything special going on?  Was there any singing or…. 

Mrs. White: Well, sometimes, they had…it all depended on if they belonged to a lodge or club or something like that, where the lodge would have a night, and they would have their services, and then if they belonged to a proud band, well the proud band would have a night and they would come and have their services, which was mostly a praying all night. 

Ms. Coffman: Was there any great difference in the coffins in the way they were set up then, and the way they are set up now? 

Mrs. White: Well, yes, it was a difference.  The coffins used to be made out of wood.  Now they are made out of plastic…hard rubber plastic. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm. 

Mrs. White: The older coffins used to be so heavy. 

Ms. Coffman: Do you remember any of the styles of any of the clothes that women wore? 

Mrs. White: Yes, I remember when old women wore long dresses and bonnets and high button shoes and the men…well the men wore the little derby hats and they had high button shoes too. 

Ms. Coffman: Mm hmm. 

Mrs. White: And, the pant legs was real slim.  We used to call them pistol pete’s. 

Ms. Coffman: Well…let me see, some of the other styles were the chemise and the hoop skirts?  Do you remember those? 

Mrs. White: No, I don’t remember those. 

Ms. Coffman: Do you remember the can-can underskirts? 

Mrs. White: No, I don’t think I do. 

Ms. Coffman: Now, this is Olivia Coffman who has just interviewed Mrs. Flora White, age 65, here in Stanford, Kentucky.  This is for the Oral History tape at the Somerset Community College.  And, any time after two or three weeks, you can go to the library in Stanford and hear your recording. 

 

 

END OF INTERVIEW 

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