Camera Rolls: 312:09-11
Sound Rolls: 312:05-06
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Maggie Taylor , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on October 27, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
So let's, let's start by just talking about your farm, and you were telling me that before, what kind of crops your father raised. Can you tell what kind of farm you had?
Well we just, it was general farming. Of course, he raised cotton, corn, capricorn [sic], potatoes, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes, peanuts, whatever a farmer could raise, plus cows, hogs, chicken, turkeys. All that kind of stuff.
And he raised cotton, too, though, didn't he?
Oh yes, cotton, acres and acres of cotton. We used to pick a bale of cotton a day.
You did, too? The, the kids?
Yeah, and people, people were asking, the people that lived there with us, we'd, you know, go to field and pick, you know. He'd take a bale tonight, and we'd have a bale when he'd come back tonight. Sometimes we wouldn't sleep about for three or four days, because he'd, we'd give a bale of cotton in the field and he'd come at night and he'd go and get that bale and bring it to the house, and we'd be sleeping. He'd leave the next morning and we'd still be sleeping.
And during the Depression, so we're talking about 1929-1932, I know some of the prices dropped. Can you tell me what happened when prices of different farm crops started to drop?
I just don't know what caused them to drop. I'm not all into that. I was, I was there. I just remember that cotton went down, and everything stopped getting as much to get for a bale of cotton, plus if you picked cotton for somebody, you didn't get as much, pick one hundred pounds, like you used to get. And the price markets just went over, I guess, and they stopped getting the money for it, as far as I know.
And what happened when the price of cotton started going down, and how did that affect the people that were picking it?
Well, it just, they would pick, see they would pick it, they knew it, they, they could hear it just like the rest of us folk could the prices were down. And of course it just means they had to pick more to get more money, I guess, and things like that, you know. And it was all over this area, and, you know, on the what not, and people, some people, began to go out Western Oklahoma. They tried to go where it was more cotton and more they could pick when that's all they would have. But, just, it was quite a lot of, see it was a lot of cotton. People were raising a lot of cotton, but it just wasn't for sale.
And did, so did people start leaving slowly? Or did they...?
Well, yes, for the most part right around here they [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] . They began to just like anything else. They have cotton, see, if the cotton was here, and they'd pick cotton, and when we'd pick out what you had, pick with somebody else. And you'd get in the store, spend less, and everything else, and you knew wasn't this much money going to be for cotton, and you had to store for the winter and whatever, whatever you're supposed to do. And some people would hear, especially kind of singing people out over here, places over in Western Oklahoma, some other place where still was a lot of cotton and they were wanting cotton pickers, well they'd get on loads of wagons, or covered wagons, or cars, or whatever, what have you, and go over to that area, and pick it for a couple of months until it picked out, what not, come back home, and have a good time in the winter eating and sleeping and staying around home till the next spring come.
And during the Depression how did, how did your family fare? What did, how did, what did you do to get by?
Well, as I already said, my daddy, we had cotton, and he would pick the, we'd pick the cotton, everything. And he and my mother were very good providers for us. There were five children of us, and they would provide for whatever we needed, and we understand that. My mother sewed. I was sixteen years old before I wore a ready-made dress.
She'd sew, and we would sew, and the only things that we'd have—
Sorry, I'm sorry. I have to stop you.
OK. So sorry I had to cut you off in the middle there. You were telling me what your family did to get by during the Depression?
Well, as I said, we just learned, I guess, that you worked while you had plenty, and then store up something for the rainy day, so to speak. And we always, the Lord was with us, I guess, with my mother and daddy. We didn't, we didn't suffer too much, and we always could help somebody else, you know, kind of [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] about us, because we just, just one of those things. And we knew the Depression was there, we just learned to eat less [laughs], wear less, and do those kinds of things.
Do you remember anything in particular that your mother did to help make things a little more comfortable?
My mother did about everything, and she would see that we did everything. She would raise the garden. We'd always have a garden. We'd always have a surplus garden, garden if we could share with someone else and, the "truck patches," we'd call them, bean patches. We used to pick beans and peas and something like that by the cotton sack and then thrash them out, put them in a great big can, a can in the winter time, you see, like you go into the store and buy beans, like you go and buy bag of beans now. Just go in get out a cup of beans or something like that and put something to cook.
Could you tell me, we talked about this a little bit, but explain to me, your father, now he did, you were just saying he rented the land. Now, I'm a little confused here...
Leased. Leased, because leased.
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
Because leased. Land, the land that we lived on, as I understood after I grew up, was, seemed to been Indian land, there's a lot of Indian land out there. And this, this, this was the [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , leased the land, my daddy leased the land from him, he leased the land. And Poppa had his own tubes, had his own stock and everything and worked the land, and he paid so much for the lease each year, whatever the case might be. And we lived like we thought maybe we owned it, because for us we knew that we stayed there so long [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] . My—
So was he a tenant farmer, then? What's the difference between a tenant farmer and a sharecropper?
Well, a tenant farmer, I mean a sharecropper, like if you, you have, you have some stock of horses, cows, what everything, and I rent them from you and I go and work my crop with them, and we pay so much for you each year and so much for the crop sometimes it takes three fourths, if I make four bales of cotton, maybe two bales, one bale'd go to you, a half, whatever the case, whatever agreement we get, come up here, go to you and what not. Other than that, when you lease, you lease it for so much, and then you, whatever you make, you pay that, pay, pay that lease. And if you lease it from... More money, if you happen to come out from you make more than that, you were the beneficiary, that's whatever, whatever the case might be, because, well, at that time, we didn't know all the details of it, because kids to listen to peoples', old folks' business. [laughs] You just went to work and did what they told you to do. And we never had, came [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] to do that. We'd ask them [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] mean to us or nothing like that, but, and they'd tell us anything we'd ask them, but we just didn't need to, need to know. We just knew that we'd get on all right. We had a cars, one of the people that got cars out in the country there, there we had a car. My daddy had cultivators. He had mowing machines and had all other kinds of things that, that a lot of other people had down there that owned their land and had done everything else my daddy had, owned it. And we didn't, we're always accustomed to those kinds of things. We'd come to school over here, we, when school's out, we'd go home, go to work.
In—do you remember hearing about Pretty Boy Floyd during the Depression?
Not, not in the Depression. Pretty Boy Floyd, we heard, we'd hear about Pretty Boy Floyd along in 1932 when Birdwell came in here, into this bank and things like that.
We'd hear about Pretty Boy Floyd
** and those kinds of things, but we didn't ever, and some of the outlaws, I can't think of their names now
** ,over here and down in Texas, that would be loose, and we'd hear about them. And mostly we had to talk about
** them, we didn't know about talking about all this sex and stuff kids talk about now. We'd talk about that kind of stuff, you know [laughs], and get a lot of fun out of it.
What do you remember talking about outlaws?
We'd just hear that they was—now, if we had some relatives, you know, sometimes lived in some of the areas, they would tell about maybe they was down that area at one time and, and what happened down in that part of the country and so forth like that. We'd talk about it sometimes like that, especially down in Texas. My mother's people, my mother's father's people were in Louisiana, and then we had some relatives down in Texas, and they'd, sometimes they'd hear from them and they'd tell them that Pretty Boy Floyd, some of those outlaws came through here the other day [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] something like that, you know.
Did you ever see his pictures in the newspapers? Or—
Not, when I, I think I started teaching when I saw, I started teaching in '32. I finished high school in '30, and two years after I went to college and got two years of basic work, I started teaching and going back to school, to college. And I didn't, I didn't, you know, lot, lot of things I would hear and read about then that I didn't read about before. And, you know, for a long time, we didn't have, we didn't have any TVs and that kind of stuff back in that time. We had radios.
Could you tell me the story, I know that you're saying that some, Pretty, Pretty Boy Floyd came into town one day to check out the bank, and some young—
Well, that's what they told us, [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] and Floyd and them. Some of the young, young men that would be on the streets around, and they said that they, they, they, they were noticing strange cars, anybody would come into town, and kind of check them out, so to speak. And they said that someone came in town, and right down on the corner there, where, where the post office is now, it was a three story building then. And it was a café at the bottom, and the whole town was just really rushing and everything, and it was up and down the streets, and so they noticed that. See, the bank was, was right across the street from that. And they noticed any kind of strange car come in town, they always pay attention to it. They noticed this car had came and that it had a lot of mirrors. This man sat there, look in, focused these mirrors and everything and round about. And they began to say who it was, and they, and naturally boys, lot of times, from time to time, they'd pick up on pictures and whatnot, and they know what the picture looked like, someone that they'd seen or heard about or whatnot. So they say that they thought that was him, that he came in that, and he was looking around, he was trying to see what the situation was. Well, I was out teaching when, when Birdwell and the group came in here. [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
Why do you suppose that everyone was so suspicious about a new car coming into town? Were people really aware of this bank, was it a bank robbing spree? Or—
Not that I know about. They just, oh, I mean, any time a car come in town it could be you or anybody else or just whatever different, a different car would come in town, you know, so they would just really notice it, kind of notice it, you know what I mean, pay attention to it.
Well, with all the bank robbing going on, do you think that anyone in Boley ever have a fear that maybe the bank was going to be robbed? Or did you ever feel that you might be part of that?
I didn't know about it. I didn't think so. I just remember Mr. Turner lived up the street up there. He just, just, you know, back in that time, sometimes you had some person that, oh, would just kind of look out for the whole town, and was a banker and everything, and provide for the small man as well as the big man and so to speak and everything like that. And I hadn't never heard it whether he talked about it or not, because I don't, like I said, I was working out of town. I never heard him saying anything about it, that there was fear or anything in particular about the bank robbing. But they prepared, he prepared for it, because he had the alarms, and he had a fellow named John Orange who had been a policeman that he didn't, he didn't back down off of nobody, he just wasn't fearful of nobody. But he'd come through the country sometime, we would, riding his horses, they'd go bird hunting, several of them come out in the rural. And you'd see them coming, and they would turn or somehow, make, get off the road, saying [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , you know how people, kids would say at that, that day and time. So he had a market up the street, and he had one of these [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] within his place, and I don't remember right now, but there was a couple other places seemed like they had, their attachment was there. And way they had it, suppose they had it, were in the bank, was some money under this alarm. [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] If you pull the money out, the alarm would go off. It wouldn't make a lot of sound particularly there in the bank, but it would at that place, let them know something was happening at the bank. And so up the street there on that day when, when he asked Turner for the money, and Turner started, [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] well he put a bag on there, but he started giving him, getting the money, he just reached over and he pulled, he pulled, he pulled this [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] . He said, "You pulled that alarm." And Mr. McCormick, when he was up there, when he was up on that hill as you go out on the highway to that house that sits on the hill, straight on up south there, was [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , was in the bank. And he was always mindful of what is happening and what is going on around about him, and [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] . And when they pulled this, well, this alarm and what not, he just kind of—
Excuse me, I'm going to interrupt. Cut.
OK, so let's see. Where did we leave off? Oh, I wanted to ask you about back during the Depression, I know a lot of people were having hard times and prices have dropped and all of that, so farms were being foreclosed and different things were happening. And you had four banks here in Boley, I think.
Three banks. Three GNs, I mean.
Three banks. How were, what was the relationship of the bankers to the people here in town?
Very friendly. They would really—and a lot of the bankers, I think, several of the bankers were kind of stockholders, you know. If they would [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] when they'd get up, you know. I mean, I don't mean the bankers, I mean the farmers, the people that were doing real well and had their farms accumulating something, they, stockholders, they were reliable kind of people that... The banks, I don't, I don't ever know if they had any white people to come here and do... They ran their own business, you know, they take care of their own business, and was done real well, and set up merchant stores from way down there, one, two, three. And right here there used to be an undertaker's place used to be on this corner [laughs], way up in this corner there'd some kind of business on, on down on Main Street here. That they had their own businesses, had businesses, seemed like they used to earn real well, whatever else.
I'm sorry, let me ask you, I know that, getting back just in the Depression again, if you, and things, you know, getting tough, because this was a time when things were pretty tough, I imagine, here. In some places in Oklahoma they thought Pretty Boy Floyd was, you know, sort of a good guy, a Robin Hood.
What did, what did you think about that?
Well, I mean,
we just heard about it. We don't know him coming in here doing anything for anybody in this area. We would just hear about it, call him a kind of Robin Hood
** that he was robbing from the rich, giving, helping the poor, something like that, you mean? We would hear about that. Now there was some of these fellas, Bob Brown and them, that came and they, when we had what you'd call a, what is this that the boys go at, have this school, not a school, C.C. Camp. You heard of C.C. Camp? Well they came in, a lot of fellas came in here from the C.C. Camp, and the camp was located just about a half mile out here on this area. And, of course, they, they, a lot of them knew about some of these things that we're talking about, and they would talk about in that area what's been happening, things like that. But we didn't ever have, we never had nothing, boys just come in and do that kind of thing like that. The people always, too, would kind of stand together. We had lawyers here, those kind of people that kind of see about our affairs, and what—
Do you think that anyone in Boley ever go to the point in terms of being, you know, down and out, that they thought maybe it was OK, or what was the feeling? Were you guys, you know, against the bank robbers, or do you think that ever anyone here sort of thought, "Well maybe it's OK because times are so hard"?
What you mean, about the bank robbers?
What you mean about them? [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] we'd kill them if they'd come, know what I mean [laughs] if we could. We wasn't going to let them come in and take advantage of us. Women, men and boys and women children, whatnots, you know, I mean, they were looking out for the interests of the town, far as that, far as I knew of at that time, and as far as I've ever heard, that they. And I've heard some older people and some folk saying not too long ago, he said, he said, "My grandpeople used to live in Boley," he said, "They always look out, Boley, they look out for each other," and this thing, that, and the other, said, "That's what we were taught, to look out for each other's interests," and so forth and on like that. And it was the, that was true, because people didn't...
Did you ever have occasion for, I know the Red Cross was helping people sometimes, did it, did the Red Cross ever come here to help?
The only time I know the Red Cross coming in here in '42, when the storm tornado came through out about four miles out here, [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , coming down from this, what is this, southwest, and I mean just kind of toward that part of the country, going on across out in that area. And the school out there, they had a nice big, big school, a four teacher school, I think it was four big rooms there. They kind of came in and kind of turned it kind of like a hospital. They had one room for a while for women and one for men, set it up kind of like the Red Cross.
But nothing during the Depression?
No, no. No, I don't remember anything about the Depression. Nothing.
Were there any charitable groups? Or, how did, I mean, that, there must've been, I imagine there were some people in Boley that had it really tough. How did they get along?
Well, I, just like I said, I just really don't know. Only thing that I can remember mostly, the ones that had it helped the ones that didn't have it, and that kind of stuff. I just don't remember nobody suffering. I don't, children and whatnot, with their clothes, and going to school, whatever was going on with them, if they had to go some place, we'd see that, we'd see that they would get there, fix food for them, whatever the case might me. I just don't remember that, we had no suffering groups, you know, just suffered. [laughs]
Oh, OK. I'd like you to tell me the story about how when cotton go so...
Well, cotton, see, each year, all right, say you're raising cotton pretty well, you're going on next, last year you did pretty well, and, such and so on, next year you decide to expand a little bit more, you know, or do something else. And cotton was, and you've had some pretty good cotton years, whatnot. And so the cotton then began to just going down. And I remember that back in that day and time, you heard... Now my mother, she had some feather mattresses, she'd pick geese, and they would make feather mattresses, and have these cotton mattresses. And they had cotton [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] you called them, we called them, something we called them, back [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , something that you could do cotton with, that you'd quilt, you know, make quilting matting like what you'd buy, what you buy now at the store, but quilting, make it soft. Well they'd do this cotton look like that and put it in the mattresses, and you'd have really good sleeping mattresses and things like that. So my mother and seven other ladies down there, my mother didn't do no picking cotton any too much, she'd come out in the field a little bit, but she'd always do the cooking, fix our dinner food, and, and that kind of stuff. But, but they went picking cotton was just left in the field, folks said, "No one is picking it, going to the gin, because it's not costing, not, not, can't get nothing out of it too much." They decided well, we, we can renew our mattresses. They started going picking cotton, and my daddy, I know my daddy did and some other men, they'd carry it to the gin, to the gin, let them gin it, get all of that seed and everything out of it, you know, and make it, you know, soft, and all that kind of stuff, and get it out there. And they'd do the, the mattresses. We had, I think, we may have some [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] pillows and things like that. And of course the cotton just got so cheap, and then they began to leave it in the fields. You see, cows would eat it, eat the cotton, out of the, pull it out the bowls, the seed in it, chew it. So then they would turn the cows out in it [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , and so my mother felt like, she said, "Oh, the Lord done let us raise this cotton just to turn it loose and give it to the cows and everything like that. We need to do something with, with it worthwhile." Some of the ladies, you know, they made mattresses and things like that, and made some for other people, that kind of stuff, because it got so cheap.
Did, did the government, what was the feeling in Boley, if you remember, about whether not the government was helping the people during the Depression? Did you get any government help then?
I just don't remember any, too much helping, I guess, because I
Could you wait for this car to go by? OK, thank you.
Not saying with any reflection, particularly, I said, but I know wasn't nobody I can remember just so connected with my family that was on government too much, that, that I knew he was being helped, because everybody that kind of was related to us. In fact we always had a bunch of beans, bunch of peas, bunch of something to share with them, you know, kind of help, that kind of stuff. And syrup, I remember my daddy, my daddy and my mother and their [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] came from Louisiana. And they would always maybe send back there and get what we, we called the ribbon cane syrup. They liked that, because I guess I grew up here and I kind of like the sorghum. But some sorghum got started, for got started, was in the cotton seed, and was planted in our cotton. And it grew up, and so Poppa gave it to somebody, and they came on and cut that sorghum, and mills, a couple of mills were close by where they made sorghum syrup, [gestures] you know how they... And they made the syrup, and so he made quite a lot of the syrup, and people would always want to come and work for him, and he'd, he'd.. 50 cents a gallon. 50 cents a gallon, ain't that something?
How much was cotton at that time, do you remember?
Oh, it wasn't, wasn't, wasn't too much, but I'm trying to say, but he was giving 50 cents a gallon. They'd come and work for him so many days, you know, and chop cotton, chopping cotton for a couple dollars a day, and that kind of stuff.
Great, thank you, that was wonderful.