Joyce Brookshire Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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 GEORGE STONEY: Okay we’re going|.

JOYCE BROOKSHIRE: My name is Joyce Brookshire and I was born and raised here in Cabbagetown. My mother worked in the cotton mill for 29 years. When the mills -- the mill at one time owned all the houses but in the mid 50’s they sold -- sold them and most of them went to outside landlords and -- that’s when the houses started to go down. And they just kept going down throughout the years but a couple of years ago some community people got together and decided to do something about it, so in order for the longtime residents to live here we knew we had to -- to introduce home ownership to the neighborhood because most of the folks were renters, so we formed what is called Cabbagetown Revitalization and 1:00Future Trust. We were a land trust and we built houses --we built these six houses on Savannah Street and we’ve rehabbed five houses. Another thing that we’re planning to do is redevelop the old cotton mill. We have a public private partnership and -- this picture shows a little bit of how its’ gonna look. We intend to have housing in there as well, low moderate income housing – so to tell you a little bit about the history of the neighborhood, and it’s called the Cabbagetown Ballad

[singing] We came in 1885 to work in the new cotton mill, for we had heard the pay was good. There were many jobs to fill. We said goodbye to our mountain homes, there to return no more. But we brought with us 2:00the way of life that we had known before.

We’re a mountain clan called Cabbagetown in the city of Atlanta GA, and if it be the will of God it’s where we’ll always stay.

Sometimes the way was hard to bear, our lives were never our own. To the owner of a cotton mill you’re soul to him belongs, when the bad times got us down and good times were so few, we’d sing old songs about our mountain homes, our 3:00music would see us through.

We’re a mountain clan called Cabbagetown in the city of Atlanta GA, and if it be the will of God it’s where we’ll always stay.

And now the smokestack smokes no more. No whistle blows at dawn. They’ve taken all they wanted from us, packed up their cotton and gone. And we are left to live our lives in the world that’s never too kind, but the strength of a mountain’s in us all and a new day we will find.


We’re a mountain clan called Cabbagetown in the city of Atlanta GA, and if it be the will of God it’s where we’ll always stay.

We’re a mountain clan called Cabbagetown in the city of Atlanta GA, and if it be the will of God it’s where we’ll always stay.

GEORGE STONEY: Now tell us a little bit more about the place where we are.

BROOKSHIRE: Well, it’s a unique kind of place -- unique I think especially from the rest of Atlanta mainly because it was closed off. It’s one mile from downtown Atlanta but it was closed off for so many years -- the boundaries of 5:00the Oakland cemetery, the cotton mill, the railroad tracks – and Memorial Drive – that’s the way people, you , were able to maintain our culture for so long. There used to be so many stores up and down Carroll Street, you know, where peopled did their shopping. Nobody had to downtown or go anywhere else to do their shopping. On Saturday afternoon it was just like downtown –

GEORGE STONEY: When you were a child – what schools did you go to, or did you feel like – like somebody who wasn’t accepted by the rest of the population.

BROOKSHIRE: Well. We were always called hillbillies, you know, and we went first to Grant Park Elementary and to-- to Grant Park Primary, and then to Grant Park Elementary then to Roosevelt and no, I never did feel quite comfortable at 6:00school -- There was always that something that, that kinda made you feel like you were second class citizens, specially when they knew you were from Cabbagetown. But you know at the time there -- we all banded together and it was -- you know -- we got through school ok.

GEORGE STONEY: Cut, beautiful. I like this. You got through it okay.

[break in video]

M1: OK, [child crying, inaudible] Hey, hey,Miss [inaudible], how you?

F1: Hey, how you?

M1: All right.



CHILD: Why do you need (inaudible) mircophones.


GEORGE STONEY: Now this one is a better microphone this one here is more direct. But sometimes people use that.

F1: Did you ever get in touch with Leroy? Did you?

M1: No

F1: Leroy McCoy?

GEORGE STONEY: Yes, he was over this morning.

F1: Was he?

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. Oh, we talked to him for a long time.

F1: Did you?

GEORGE STONEY: Yeah. He was -- oh he was very helpful. He’s a smart guy.

CHILD: What time is it?

GEORGE STONEY: It’s five minutes til four.

F1: So what are you going to do?

(inaudible converstation)


JAMIE STONEY: Its wet. It can get real voltage real fast and turn me into a hamburger. Some electronic equipment when it gets wet goes zap!

CHILD: How is that?

F2: Benjamin Franklin

[break in video]


M1:-- Miss [inaudible] you remember my dad back during the strike??

F1: Yes, I do.

M1: Tell me a little bit about that.

F1: Well, -- when they come out on strike why everybody went to his store and he fed ‘em all til they went back to work. He seen they had something to eat. I used to trade with your daddy years ago. You had a uncle I forgot his name.

M1: Uncle Barney

F1: Uncle Barney, he was there, he always delivered the groceries. And I talked to my sister a while ago and she come out on the track and Cleve, you know Cleve Callahan,--

M1: I -- , no I don’t remember that.

F1: Well he come out on strike but they put him back on a guard some way or another he worked out there as a guard while they was out on strike. But I 10:00don’t know what people woulda done hadn’t been for your daddy taking care of them during the time of the strike. Cause back then you couldn’t go and buy groceries without money but he took care of all of ‘em and your uncle delivered the groceries. Yeah I remember em well

GEORGE STONEY: Why do you think he did that;

F1: Cause I think he wanted to see the mill go back to work. [laughs] All of em go back to the mill. They all went back … the ones that strike went back—

GEOGRE STONEY: Were you working at the mill at the time?

F1: My husband, my boy worked there, my oldest boy worked there back before the strike but -- that’s when Rogers store was down there … you know they’d give them little coupon books. We’d go there buy groceries with them. I think he made about 7 or 8 dollars a week working down there. He worked til he went, he went in service, then he went in the service my oldest boy. My husband 11:00worked there after the strike. I never did work there but two nights, I worked two nights and quit.

M1: Pretty rough work, huh?

F1: Naw, it was all right, but I had to take care of kids in the daytime and I couldn’t sleep and that was it.

GEORGE STONEY: When were you born?

F1: I’s born in nineteen and one. I’m 88 years old. I’ll be 89 November 11.

GEORGE STONEY: Can you tell us something about the Depression.

F1: Well, it was bad. [laughs] we eat what we could get. we had to go to the bread house to get bread to live. Course my husband worked for the WPA back then and we didn’t have very much to live on but we always got by

BROOKSHIRE: How long have you lived in this house?

F1: I’ve lived here 70, uh … 67 year in Sept. I moved in here when James 12:00was three weeks old. I moved up on [tigh?] street and stayed my nine months but moved back down here, but when they convict me out of this house, Tom West, why I went to my boy’s and lived and put my stuff in storage then I moved back here. I guess I’ll be here as long as I live. I hope I am.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you ask her about what kind of groceries they got during the strike?

M1: What kind of groceries did they get back during the stike.

F1: Salmons and cow’s tongues and -- eggs and butter. We had to go to city auditorium and bring it back you know however we’d get it home. Back then my husband sold coal to a [inaudible] and he had to go on WPA and he worked on it. And the days would be so bad when he couldn’t work he’d come home and watch my children and I’d walk to city hall up through Oakland Cemetery and sew up 13:00there. I’d make a shirt for a shirt. Make one for one. That’s how I kept [inaudible] in clothes.

GEORGE STONEY: The mill was closed down then was it?


STONEY: Why did you have to go up there, was the mill closed down?

F1: The mill, no the mills were running then but I’d go up there and sew they had a sewing shop up there -- at city hall and I’d go up there and sew. The lady’s name that run that shewing shop her name was Miss Lyons.

M1: What was the store like back then?

F1: You mean the grocery store?

M1: Yeah, Dad’s store

F1: Oh we didn’t get our stuff in packages, we’d get in paper bags, you know sugar and stuff and they’d sack it up for you back then, it wasn’t in packages. We’d get our salt was the same way, we’d get it sacked up.

M1: How about that.

F1: Yeah, now the flour … I think it was in sacks, but the flour we got 14:00wadn’t white flour like it is now it was colored flour, you know, just wasn’t white flour, be plain flour. We used a lot of salmons and things like that. Salmons was a dime a can back then.

GEORGE STONEY: I was about to ask you how much salmon was.

F1: A dime a can. I think sugar was a nickel a pound and you could get a box of snuff for a nickel, a great big box, and chewing tobacco. My husband chewed tobacco sometimes and it was real cheap too and lard was 5 cents a pound Mr.[ Ladberry?] run a store up here in time of that, and I made soap. I made soap in a big wash pot back there and he asked me one day did I know how to make soap and I told him yeah, and he give me red [steel?] lye and the old steel lard he couldn’t sell and I’d bring it down here and make soap and after I’d get the soap made I’d cut it up in blocks and dry it out and wrap it in newspaper and he’d sell it up ‘are at the store.


M1: How about that?

F1: Yeah it was hard times back then but we always managed to have a little something but back then people didn’t want big piles of stuff. They got one thing they was satisfied with it. You could get a big old pot of beans for a dime or nickel, now look at em.

GEORGE STONEY: Did you have a garden?

F1: Yeah I raised the prettiest garden you ever seen back here in the back. I raised I think it was 25 big old pumpkins at one time I had back ‘are. And I raised beans and corn and my neighbors‘d come in they’d want to buy it … and I never would sell em nothing…one day was a woman come in here and I had my beans broke up, I canned a lot of beans and made pickled beans, and she asked me to sell her them beans and I said hon, I don’t want to sell nothing out of my garden. That‘s something I don’t do. And she give me 2 dollars for 16:00that big pound of beans. But I ain’t never sold nothing out of my garden ‘cept that and she just give me that. I always give it away. And I raised celery, the prettiest celery you ever seen and in the winter time when it goes to get cold I’d take half gallon fruit cans and turn em down and put dirt around em and have celery all winter. And I dried apples. I dried apples right out there on the porch then there’s a -- well it aint like it was then you could drive between there, there’s a driveway, and I’d put my screen door down and my sheet and I’d dry apples and make apple pies and have them in the winter I did my own churning. I got my own churn I’d churn my own milk. That boy that died over on Boulevard [inaudible] who was he? He’d bring my milk

M1: Sanders?


F1: No, his boy died down on Carroll, over on Boulevard what was his name he was the milk man through here

GEORGE STONEY: So you didn’t have your own cow

F1: Uhuh but the lady on the other side, she has her own cow miss [Lyons?] yeah she has her cow, kept it, and she had goats and chickens. I ain’t had no cow [inaudible] moved here. I wish I could think of that boys name. you know he died…. On Boulevard -- what was his name? –I can’t think of his name, but he lived a way down yonder somewhere and he’d come here and bring milk in and I’d get milk and churn it.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you talk about your medicine at the time?

F1: My what?


F1: We went to city hall we got our medicine. Yeah we went up ‘are and got it. I think Mr. Smith was – I think he was a doctor and then we got medicine 18:00down at the clinic at run by the cotton mill too. Dr.[Kaiser?] year we’d go up there and get our medicine at city hall. Back then we didn’t use much medicine we generally took whatever we could buy at the store. You know.

GEORGE STONEY: Was the store a meeting a place the way it is now?

F1: Meeting? No not particularly.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you talk about -- how you all got together. Did you have music or concert? I gather there was a bandstand.

F1: We had, no, we had prayer meeting here at my house every Monday morning. Holiness people would come in and all them people used to come are dead and gone 19:00now. I got a old piano in there and miss [inaudible] she played the piano and miss -- Alice [Summers?] she’d come out from Peachtree Street and she’d meet here on this porch and all the little kids’d gather here and she’d teach them Bible school here on my front porch. She’s dead now.

GEORGE STONEY: Tell me about your own education.

F1:I didn’t have none. [laughs] I had to work I lived down on the farm. and I went to school and I learned arithmetic good but I never could learn anything else for we had to work. We had to pick cotton, hoe, whatever there was to do. Now, my sister my oldest sister and my baby sister, they got to go to school and they got a good education but I didn’t .

GEORGE STONEY: Did you learn to read?

F1: No never did learn how to read. All I knowed was work. We had to go and take a big old, you wouldn’t believe this but it’s so, me and my sister 20:00would take a two horse ..plow [inaudible]…hitch two mules to it and we’d take, she’d drive and I’d hold the handles and we’d turn the land.

GEORGE STONEY: I thought that was man’s work.

F1: Well it wasn’t back then. We had to do it. Cause our dad died and left us …. Course my mama was alive and we’d wash for people, clean houses and all such as that. And quilt, we still quilt just like we do now. That’s about all I …sometimes we’d get to go fishing and pick blackberries, we’d pick blackberries and sell them for a dime a gallon, and I bought two pints the other day that cost me 4 dollars.

M1: Times have changed haven’t they?


F1: …changed but we’d can a lot of stuff down on the farm cause we raised our own hogs and had our own cows out on the farm, but we lived ten miles above Gainesville in Hall county. I lived there til I got married then I moved to I forgot the name of the little old town I moved to, then I moved here to Atlanta and I’ve lived here ever since. But I never was out of Hall County till I moved to Atlanta.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay I think that’s a big help. Now, Jamie

JAMIE STONEY: We need to give reverse questions.


F2: How bout if I take the kids out?

M1: Yeah, ok, (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: You guys are inspiring. Tell him another story.

JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible) questions that I didn’t get

M1: Like what?

STONEY: Like what the store was like.


M1: What was the store like back during the strike?

F1: Had shelves and everything, and stuff on ‘em. I remember your daddy so well.

M1: Yeah

F1: A good man

M1: Well, thank you very much

F1: Don’t know what people woulda done if he hadn’t been here to feed em.…

M1: Yeah, I understand and he did a lot of that. I didn’t realize it til just recently.

F1: You didn’t know it?

M1: No about the strike, No..I

F1: Lord mercy. [INAUDIBLE] over there.

M1: Rally?

F1: She lived up here on Pearl street a long time after but she moved in about ten year I guess

M1: Mrs. Simpkins?

F1: Mrs. Simpkins

M1: Yeah I remember her

F1: She got her leg broke [inaudible]

M1: Well, I’ll be

M2: Yeah


GEORGE STONEY: Now, you had question, right? [inaudible]

BROOKSHIRE: Well I forgot what it was.

F1: Her daddy was my husband’s [inaudible] now I ain’t said [inaudible] hurt feelings but he was a good looking man. He was a good looking man and a big man. Him and Frank Pelham together [inaudible]. He was a wonderful person.

BROOKSHIRE: Did you tell them how long you’ve lived in this house?

F1: I’ve lived her my count is 67 year, cause I moved in here when James was three weeks old. I moved up on [Tigh?] street and stayed nine months and back down here. When I moved in here I was paying 7 dollars a month and now I’m paying $250. But I had to move away you know again after Mr. 24:00-- Tom West convicted me. I was in Tennessee with my daughter she had cancer and I was up there with her and I had my rent paid up a month and a half and I called em and asked them. I felt like there was something wrong. I called [Grady?] and I said now I know Grady you’ll tell me the truth. I said what happened? He said well they put your stuff out but it got back in the house. But when I come back home, I had to come back home to go to court, and my stuff was in boxes. Everything I had was packed in boxes and I had to put it all out again and I stayed here then up til it was after Christmas and then I moved aways and come back then two year and a half.

GEORGE STONEY: Back during the Depression do you remember any people getting evicted from their houses?

F1: No, wasn’t paying much rent then, they could afford to pay it[laughs]

STONEY: The houses were all owned by the company then weren’t they?


F1: No that one up there was and there’s two down, three down the street ain’t they and one up here on above the church, two above the church and that’s all the houses down here. These here houses was built by Russ Moore. He lived up here on [Tigh?] street, a big old fine house, and he told me when I moved in here that this house was 50 years old and according to it now its about 120 years old this house. I don’t know. I just know what he told me. But I know I been here near bout a hundred.[laughs]

GEORGE STONEY: Do you do all your own gardening?

F1: Yeah, do my own work, own housework. I [inaudible] old [Gene Hunter?] come in here a while ago. Sometimes he’ll come and vacuum for me. Yeah I did all my work. I can’t walk nowhere much but they come and get me every morning and carry me up to the mission and I’ll go up there and quilt.


[break in video]