Marion "Peanut" Brown, Joyce Brookshire, and Opal McMichael Interviews

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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JAMIE STONEY: Okay and rolling

MARION BROWN: I stand up here, I look back to way in the 30s, (inaudible) and actually, when we moved here, I moved here in 19 and 19 right around [Rhineheart?] Street, and every Saturday night, we'd all gather down here. Some of us would pull out a fiddle or a banjo or a guitar and start some music. I remember we played on every porch on that side of the street over there. But we'd sometimes get -- be playing and we'd all (inaudible) song and something like that.


BROWN and F1, in unison: When it's springtime in the Rockies I'll be coming back to you Little sweetheart of the mountains With your --

GEORGE STONEY: I'm sorry, I'm going to have to ask you to do that again, because I was so (inaudible).

[break in video]

F1: Turn your volume (inaudible) --

BROWN: As I set here and I look across Cabbagetown, I harken back to the early days, when I was a little boy, young man too. And we used to gather up down here on Saturday nights and every night (inaudible). (inaudible) somebody's porch and somebody pull out a banjo and a guitar and we'd start singing. And it went something like this maybe. (inaudible)


BROWN and F1, in unison: When it's springtime in the Rockies I'll be coming back to you Little sweetheart of the mountain With your bonnie eyes so blue Once again I'll say I love you While the birds sing all the day When it's springtime in the Rockies In the Rockies far away My wild Irish rose The sweetest flower that grows 00:03:00 You may search everywhere, but none can compare with my wild Irish rose My wild Irish rose, the sweetest flower that grows and some day for my sake, she may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish rose.

GEORGE STONEY: Now ask those people across the street to join you -- with you, and then you -- when they -- well, then you can go springtime in the Rockies.

M1: Bring up the radio -- the radio Ron. Bring up the radio.

F1: (inaudible)


F2: Spent many a time on those banisters up and down the street.

BROWN: Ask them to join in.


F1: Every one of them [that can join?], yeah.

M1: (inaudible)


GEORGE STONEY: Ron, are you ready?

RON: Ready.

F2: I remember (inaudible).

M1: Okay.

GEORGE STONEY: He's going to ask you to join in in just a moment.

F3: Okay.

F2: Remember (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: Joyce! You're blocking the microphone over there.

(overlapping voices)

GEORGE STONEY: It's right behind you.

M1: You're sitting right on top of it.

GEORGE STONEY: You're sitting right on top of it, so get --

(overlapping voices)

[break in video]

BROWN: [They'll?] join in to start with?

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible) rolling.

GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible). Go ahead.

GEORGE STONEY: Alright, everybody join in here.

F4: What are we singing?

MULTIPLE: When it's springtime in the Rockies I'll be coming back to you Little sweetheart of the mountains [F1: Rockies] With your bonnie eyes so blue Once again I'll say I love you 00:05:00 While the birds sing all the day When it's springtime in the Rockies In the Rockies far away --


MULTIPLE: -- My wild Irish rose, the sweetest flower that grows You may search everywhere, but none can compare with my wild Irish Rose My wild Irish rose, the sweetest flower that grows And some day for my sake, she may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish rose.


F2: I was thinking how good it would be if (inaudible).

F3: Mmhm.

F2: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: [Can?] you tell us some more stories about Cabbagetown?

BROWN: [Yeah?] Cabbagetown. I harken back. You know, they used to have a -- used to put cinderblocks up and down the streets over there and they burnt coal in the mill and they'd take the cinderblocks and put them all up and down the street.

F2: Ooh (inaudible).

BROWN: And that's -- I remember when we moved here in nineteen-nineteen (inaudible) I thought we was moving to heaven. And --

F2: Well? You didn't?

BROWN: -- I got up the next morning, we got out and run up and down the streets [some of them?] cinderblocks had been burnt. I said, we didn't move to heaven, this is hell (laughs).

F2: (laughs)


BROWN: But we had a time it was bad on Mommas sheets. You couldn't get your feet clean after that. But we had some good times up and down here. And we had a few fights too, up and down here on Saturday nights. Somebody you know would get a little too much of that block and tackle and they'd take a block, take a drink, and tackle a tiger. I've seen a few -- a few fights [down up there near Picketts Alley in -- my wife -- I slipped right upstairs there when -- first time I met her. And we got married when she lived there in sixty -- nineteen twenty-nine. Same time Little Store opened here -- we got murdered -- I mean, married.

[overlapping dialogue]

BROWN: And we lived here until 1941, moved out, but I had some happy times 00:08:00running up and down these streets here. (inaudible) running up and down these streets. Years and years.

F2: Ours too.

BROWN: But (inaudible). But like I said, my wife, she lived down there and we going to play the here a song (inaudible) [we sung about this?] (inaudible).

[break in video]


M1: Rolling.

BROWN: Like I [say?], I met my wife back in nineteen twenty-nine, same time Little Store opened. She was living right upstairs down there in that building around there. And I've always sung this song to her. I sung it than and I'll sing it now. I met her in the [garden in a little?] Georgia town The sun was shining down 00:09:00 She wore a [gingham?] gown I kissed her as I passed her, a yellow tulip in her hair Upon my coat she pinned a rose so fair [Time?] has not changed my love to her She's just as sweet today I love her yet I can't forget the days that used to be when you wore a --

BROWN and F1, IN UNISON: -- Tulip, a sweet yellow tulip And I wore a big red rose When she (inaudible) it was sweet as a (inaudible) Best thing [no one knows?] You made my cherry, when you called me Gary But down where the blue grass grows 00:10:00 You were as sweet as a julip when you wore a tulip And I wore a big red rose.

GEORGE STONEY: Good. Joyce do you have any [inaudible] that you'd like to share with us? Youre cracking up over it.

JOYCE BROOKSHIRE: He said a big red rose and we said a big red nose.


(overlapping dialogue, laughter)

BROOKSHIRE: Ok, what are we doing?

BROWN: Next time it's rose, not nose. Well at least they rhyme

F2: Okay!

[break in video]

BROWN: Here's another song that we sung back in the early thirties, and the twenties. Way back in the twenties, yall can join in on it.


ALL, IN UNISON: Well, I ain't got a barrel of money I may be ragged and funny But we'll travel along Singing a song side by side Oh, we don't know what's coming tomorrow It may be trouble and sorrow But we'll travel along Singing a song side by side Through all kinds of weather What if the sky should fall? As long as we're together It really doesn't matter, doesn't matter at all 00:13:00 When they've all had their quarrels and parted Well be the same as we started Just traveling along Singing a song side by side Through all kinds of weather What if the sky should fall? As long as we're together It really doesn't matter, doesn't matter at all When they've all had their quarrels and parted Well be the same as we started Just traveling along Singing a song side by side Traveling along Singing a song side by side.


(overlapping dialogue)

BROWN: Yall sing one more to you.

F4: Okay.

[break in video]

(overlapping dialogue)

F4: Go ahead! O!

BROWN: Y'all sing one and I'll play it.

F4: Oh, okay. What are we going to sing?

FAYE: (inaudible) [you want to do that?]

(overlapping dialogue)

F5: Does it have to be (inaudible)?

BROOKSHIRE: Well let's do that one.

FAYE: What

BROOKSHIRE: "The Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia".

BROWN: How about that --

BROOKSHIRE: When we were -- when Faye and I were kids, and I guess (inaudible) was there too


BROWN: How about that beautiful number, you done stomped on my heart and mashed that sucker flat.

BROOKESHIRE: I'll let you sing that and we'll join in. When Faye and I were growing up here, you know the mill put in some little playgrounds around, with a swing and sliding board.

BROWN: Yeah.

BROOKSHIRE: And so we all used to get on the swings and we'd sing real high, we'd sing "In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia."

FAYE: (inaudible)

BROWN: What key? (inaudible)

(overlapping dialogue)




BROWN: E Flat? If I play it it'll sound flat. (inaudible), let's see.

BROOKSHIRE: It's been awhile, so.

BROWN: How about F

(overlapping dialogue)

BROOKSHIRE and FAYE, IN UNISON: In the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia On the trail of the lonesome pine If you eat green apples in Virginia You'll get a pain in your lonesome spine 00:15:00 Honk honk toot toot beep beep (vocal horn sound effect)

BROWN: Oh, (inaudible)

JAMIE STONEY: I'm glad I was rolling on a close up of you doing that one.

JAMIE STONEY: I mean, like this. We have the evidence and it'll be on America's Funniest Home Videos.

[break in video]

BROWN: -- about the first date I ever had. Right here up in Cabbagetown. And I remember I'd taken her -- they was having a ball up there and I'd taken her to a big [bash?] and we come out and we went to a restaurant, I don't know why I didn't have fifty cents and here's what happened. Well I took my gal to a fancy ball, it was a social (inaudible) Stayed all night till the break of daylight, just waiting for the 00:16:00 music to stop Into a restaurant we went, the finest on the street She said she wasn't hungry But this is what she eat A dozen rolls, a plate of slaw, a chicken and a roast A (inaudible), apple hash, soft shell crab on toast, chicken stew, crackers too, (inaudible) When she called for pie I thought I would die (inaudible) now she said she wasn't hungry and didn't care to eat But I've got money in my clothes that says she can't be beat Shed tuck it in so cozy she had an awful (inaudible) She said she wasn't thirsty But this is what she drank A whiskey skin, a glass of gin, it made me shake with fear 00:17:00 A ginger pop with rum on top, a (inaudible) full of beer A ginger ale, a gin cocktail, I should have had more sense She called for more I fell on the floor, for I had but fifty cents Now you bet I wasn't hungry and I didn't care to eat Expecting every moment to get kicked out in the street She said she'd bring her friends around someday and we'd have fun I showed the man my fifty cents and this is what he done He bashed my nose, he tore my clothes, he hit me on my jaw He grabbed me by my collar and he throwed me on the floor He grabbed me by the seat of my pants, he throwed me through the fence Take my advice and don't try it twice when you got but fifty cents.

[clapping and laughter; overlapping dialogue]


BROWN: I didn't date her no more.

[break in video]

GEORGE STONEY: Okay. Okay, start off with, "well, I don't remember about the National Guard."

BROWN: Well, I don't remember much about the National Guard because we was -- we was tied up with the strike, cause we -- I wasn't working in the mill at that time, but we would go around and [pray for them?] when they'd have their meetings around. And so, they did -- a lot of places, the United National Guard did come out and would drive them back. But I remember down here, we'd be playing over there -- have a crowd over there, you know, during the strike -- they'd come down, say, "you can't play over here, this is mill property, you'll have to get off. We'd just come right across the street here and start again. So they -- we had some pretty rough times back then, but they pulled through it. I 00:19:00wish that they could've won the strike, but they didn't. And I was sorry that they had all that time, put all that effort in it, and didn't win it, but they give it a shot, tried.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you talk about the sound -- the sound of the mill?

BROWN: Oh yeah. Boy, when I moved here, I -- we pulled by the old mill, it was running. The wheels of the spinning room, and the weave shop, and the old shuttle clacking back and forth. You could hear it for -- all through here, and it didn't sound right, boy, when that mill wasnt running. But -- when you couldn't hear it. But it was -- things booming, people that -- coming back and forth going into the mills. This is in the early days now, in the early -- [around?] in nineteen twenty. And people would come out, you know, had cotton 00:20:00all over them. People in other places would call them "lintheads," cause they had cotton all over them. And I got a job in there, and they put me to blowing off looms. I got that cotton all over me, I started blowing me off you know. When I'd come out of the mill, I'd blow myself off good. Boss comes around, says "Boy, we didn't hire you to blow yourself off!" Said, "We hired you to blow off these frames!" I said, "Well, I quit." I left, I had enough of it right there


[break in video]


[close up of street signs; "Pickett Street, SE" and "Carroll Street, SE"]

[break in video]

[medium shot of JUDITH HELFAND seated in a chair; no audio]

[break in video; new interview]

GEORGE STONEY: Okay. You were telling us about your father moving from the country and how he felt about the farm. Could you tell Jamie about that? Because he didn't hear that story.

OPAL MCMICHAEL: Should I start at the beginning when he --


MCMICHAEL: -- small?


MCMICHAEL: My father was raised on a farm in Carroll County. They had quite a large farm, there were several in the family and -- six of the boys and they had a lot of land and so he learned to love the land. And he was a good farmer, they always made good crops. And he farmed till he was, well -- I guess he was -- he married when he was 17 so, you know, he was still a boy when he got married. But 00:22:00he was still a farmer. And so he farmed every year, and we always made good crops. He planted a lot of cotton, he planted a lot of corn, and he planted a lot of sweet potatoes, the worst thing he could've planted for us children to have to pick up. We hated to pick up potatoes, but -- and he always had a lot of corn, but he wouldn't let us help with the corn. We wanted to pull [fodder?], but he wouldn't let us pull [fodder?]. But everything else, we both could help him with. He said we was his boys because he didn't have any boys then. So after a while when -- he made good crops for several years. Well only till I was I'll say 15, I believe I was about 15 years old. Anyway, it was in 19 and 26. And in 1926, the boll weevils came along. I don't know how long they've been around, but that's the year that they got my daddy's crop. And also, beside the boll weevils, we had a large hail storm that year. So he had always said that he 00:23:00didn't -- wouldn't leave the farm. And he particularly didn't want to go to a cotton mill. That wasn't his dream, he just dreamed of the farm, because he had at one time owned a real nice farm and all the cattle and corn, [inaudible]. So he was pretty well fixed up at one time, and it hurt him real bad when we had to move to the farm, but we had -- that year we didn't make anything. When we had to leave the farm, rather, I should've said. And so we went to the mill. And he stayed there -- he worked there for many years. I'll say, probably ifteen or twenty years. And when he retired, he went back to the country. But he wasn't able to farm. But he liked to live in the country. Lived there for several years, and then after leaving there, my brother bought a home in East Point, and he moved to East Point with my brother. And he lived to be 72 years old. But he never quit loving the land, he never quit working hard. And when he would 00:24:00work, everybody would tell us he was one of the hardest workers they'd ever seen. And I'm not -- I'm not boasting because it was my daddy, I'm telling you just like it was. But he was a hard worker. And so he taught us to work. And I can remember the time when we had a lot of cotton to pick that year. And he would tease us and tell us to try to keep up with him, you know. He'd said, "now boys --" he'd call us boys, he'd say, "now boys, we going to have something this fall." Well that would inspire us, we'd work hard, you know. So that -- one day, I was 14 years old, I picked over 300 pounds of cotton. The only time in my life I ever picked that much cotton and he was as proud of it as I was. And we worked hard every day until he had to go to -- until he had to leave the field and go to the gin. When he'd take his cotton to the gin to have the bales of cotton -- to have it made into bales of cotton, he'd leave us kids and that was a time we thought we could play and get by with it. I'll never forget that when -- times he'd get gone, we'd sit down behind the best cotton basket and we'd play all the 00:25:00morning. Along about the middle of the afternoon, we'd get weary and we'd discuss where we was going to put rocks in -- put some cotton in and then put rocks on top of it. But we was afraid we wouldn't get by with that. So we'd try -- we'd take our hands, you know, and we'd work the cotton around, and being kids, we tried everything under the sun. And so we'd be frightened when we'd see him coming, you know. We'd have our cotton pile way up, and he would know time he looked at it what we'd been doing. But he never would fuss at us about it because he knew we were still kids. And we just -- the farm life was a good life. We had watermelons and he always killed a lot of hogs, we had all of the chickens, and cows, and things like that. He just -- we just had it good living in the country. And nothing pleased him anymore than being in the country. And my mother was the same way. And they kept a lot of chickens and my job was if they found a hen nest, I don't care where it was, if it was under a six inch crib, by the corn crib, I was the one that had to crawl up under it. And I was 00:26:00afraid of snakes, and I'd -- they'd see (inaudible) go up under it and I'd get so far and I tried to look back and I couldn't look back, I couldn't see much ahead of me. But I had to get those eggs. So I would get the eggs and I was and carry -- when I was a child, I have carried one egg to the store and got a spool of thread with it. It just took one egg to buy a spool of thread. So, and first time I ever went to the store for -- something, I can't remember exactly what it was, and I saw a (inaudible) with one of the soft drinks. And I didn't know what it was, I seen somebody drinking one and I wanted it so bad I didn't know what do to, I never tasted one. But I couldn't get one. But in the meantime, we moved to LaGrange for just a little -- just a few -- about three months. We left the farm for about three months. He was [going around the store?], he and my grandfather. But that didn't work out he came back to the farm. But anyway, I finally -- on our way to LaGrange, my daddy bought us all a Coca-Cola. I was 00:27:00twelve years old. And that was the best thing I ever put in my mouth.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell us when you started working in the mill?

MCMICHAEL: I started working in the mill when I was 15 years old. And I worked in the mill for 23 years. And then I -- we put -- [run?] -- built the store and we run the store about 20. And I retired when I was 60. And then I stayed out a while -- stayed out from work a while and I got tired of staying at home. And I went to work in a florist and I worked in the florist until I was in my 70s. And so I -- I've had a busy life. In the meantime I raised three big old boys, so you know I had a busy life with them. But they were good children. They didn't give any problems.

GEORGE STONEY: Talk about -- tell us the year you started working in the mill and what it was like. What you did.

MCMICHAEL: I started working in the mill in 1926. And you talking about freezing to death in the wintertime, they couldn't get -- I worked in the winding room. 00:28:00And they couldn't get it -- they couldn't get it warm. I have worked a lot of days with a short coat and a long coat and all the other clothes that you'd normally wear, and my feet would be just like ice. And -- but we'd all be in the same shape, we was all cold. Well in the summertime it was right opposite. We would get to perspiring and they'd get so much in our shoes that you could hear the water squish when we'd walk. It was terribly hot. But you know we enjoyed it so much. And I'd run a (inaudible) winder, there was two sides to it. One lady runs the back side and I ran the front side. And we could -- we had fifty spindles to keep up, and back then the yarn that we were running was easy to -- it wouldn't break that -- it would run good until you got the spool all up. And so I could do that and go down and sit down on a stool, talk and laugh, and we 00:29:00could do that for a while. But along about 1949, I believe it was, they put in -- they called them blowers, it wasn't air conditioning. But they put in blowers that -- they traveled around up over the work. And that made it a lot cooler and there wasn't years much left -- I have come out of the mill, when I was 16 years old and you would've thought I was gray-headed then. There wouldn't be a place on my head that wasn't full of cotton. That's why my daddy loved the country so well. So --