Cobb County Oral History Series, No. 28
Interview with Ernestine J. Slade
Conducted by Kathryn A. (Kitty) Kelley
28 April 1992
Location: Residence of Ernestine J. Slade, 425 Fort Street, Marietta, Ga.
KK Ms. Slade, would you tell me your complete name and your date of birth?
ES My name is Ernestine J. Slade -- Ernestine Johnson Slade -- and my birth date is May 6th. I was born in 1913.
KK 1913 -- and that makes you how old now?
ES Next week I will be 79 years old May 6th.
KK So you're 78 now?
ES Seventy-eight now.
KK Where were you born, Ms. Slade?
ES I was born in Alpharetta, Georgia in old Milton County, but it's in Fulton County now.
KK Is there no Milton County?
ES No Milton County now. It was put into Fulton County several years ago .
KK So it just became part of Fulton County and basically disappeared?
ES That's right.
KK But the town was Alpharetta?
ES Alpharetta -- uh-huh.
KK And did you live there with your parents in Alpharetta?
ES Yes, I lived there with my mother and my grandparents. My father was deceased.
KK Oh, I see. Did he die before you were born?
ES No, no, no. My father died when I was eight or nine years old. KK How did he die? ES He had surgery. He had to have surgery -- my mother told me this -- he had to have surgery for a hernia.
KK Oh, my goodness.
ES And you know, back then medical science was not as advanced as it is now.
KK So he died from complications of that surgery?
ES That surgery -- uh-huh.
KK And how old was he, Ms. Slade, do you think?
ES Well, I would think -- now I'm not too sure, but he should have been in his thirties.
KK Well, after he died, did you then -- and your mother -- move back in with her parents?
ES No, we were living with my grandparents when he died.
KK Oh, I see.
ES And shortly after he died, we moved into Marietta -- Cobb County.
KK All of you?
ES My mother and father had separated and it was me, my mother and my sister then with my grandparents.
KK I see.
ES And then we moved with them here into Cobb County.
KK So there were three generations living in one household?
ES Yes, yes.
KK What did your father do for work before he died, Ms. Slade?
ES He was a cook. You know, then he was looked upon as being a chef.
KK And he worked in restaurants?
ES Yes, that's right.
KK And what about your mother -- was she employed?
ES Yes. My mother was what they call now a practical nurse. When we moved here to Cobb County, my mother worked for Doctor Warren Benson.
KK Doctor Warren Benson -- in Cobb?
ES Here -- and he had a little hospital on the Square here in Marietta.
KK Is that right?
ES Yes, he did. And he was impressed with my mother and her work and he and his nurses give her training in the nurse's profession. She was smart, you know, and caught on quickly and she worked there with him in the hospital for years; they taught her many things that she should know that would be helpful to her in doing her work.
KK So she had had no training, no formal training?
ES She had had no -- you know, she just took it up on her own.
ES And then when she came here and started working with him, he and his nurses trained her and she worked with him for a number of years.
KK Did she love that work?
ES And she loved the work and they said that she was so apt at catching on and so forth that she could -- well, she did work after that with the trained nurses and could do the work, you know.
KK Do everything they could do?
ES And she was supposed to do what they could do.
KK Well, then was it unusual at the time for a nurse to be trained by doctors and nurses rather than to go to nursing school?
ES Well, you know, yes. Yes, it was. And then we were a distance, you know, from any hospital then that would -- where she could get training. And see, she had -- she was maybe a little older than anyone else who would go into nurse training and then she had the responsibility of taking care of me and my sister.
KK Right. What was her education?
ES Well, she went to grade schools around in the Alpharetta area and then she went into Atlanta to Spelman, which was Spelman Seminary then, for her grade school.
KK Was that part of Spelman College?
ES That was a part of Spelman College. Then Spelman had the elementary grades and the high school grades. The courses they taught were called teacher's professional courses then.
KK That was for people who were going to be school teachers?
KK And then how far did she go through school?
ES Well, she went through -- would you believe it or not -- she went through -- I guess all of hers would be -- I know she didn't finish high school.
KK She didn't?
ES She did not finish high school, but she went through the elementary schools.
KK Do you know why she stopped going to school? I know a lot of people did stop it, especially girls. Education didn't seem to be very important for girls back then.
ES It wasn't and then at that time when a person went through grade school at Spelman, it was almost equal to you having finished high school. And then she was advanced and she was in her late teenage years when she had to go to work.
KK I see. And what kind of work did she do?
ES Would you believe she started in nursing? KK So she always had a passion for that? ES That's true, that's true.
KK I'm surprised you didn't become a nurse.
ES Well, no -- I didn't seem to like it too well, no. But it was just as old folks used to say and other people would say -- her name was Mary -- said, Mary is just a born nurse, born to nurse. She just had that talent.
KK What about you when you were a child, Ms. Slade -- what was your education and what were your interests?
ES Well, I went through the elementary grades. My mother had to work; so -- across the street from Spelman then, there was a lady that had a home called Chadwick Home; and she kept children that did not have parents. And then my mother knew her -- she became acquainted with her, I might say, when she was in Spelman. And so she went to her and asked her if she would keep me and my sister during the school time, during the session, so that she could work and be satisfied at work and knowing we would be taken care of. So she kept me and my sister for three years.
KK I see.
ES Uh-huh, so my mama could be satisfied at working. And Mama would bring us in September and then come back in May and pick us up and bring us here to stay with our grandmama, until she could get a place that she was satisfied with and that we would be -- and then that she would be satisfied leaving us, you know. So she built a house -- the one that's across the street over here.
KK From where you live now?
ES From where we live now. And we stayed there. Occasionally she would go up into Tennessee and nurse -- Ducktown, Tennessee and Copper Hill, Tennessee and other areas close around there. And the ladies got in touch with her and they would call her or write her and let her know when they were expecting their baby. And then she would go up there and take care of them.
KK Uh-huh. So she was like a midwife?
ES Yes. Now these women would have doctors to deliver their babies.
KK Oh, I see.
ES But she was staying in the homes there two weeks and take care of the mother and the baby until they were able to get up and see about themselves. And she did that for a number of years.
KK How did people hear about her all the way down here?
ES You know, through Doctor Benson -- and some of the people who lived here. And they had a little train then running from here up to Ducktown and Copper Hill and so forth. There was about three neighborhoods she would go into and take care of the mothers and the babies. And then they would call her and let her know they were expecting and when they were expecting, about what time they would be calling her to come to see after them. And she would keep that information and then sometimes she would see about three or four mothers before coming back home. And when she'd do that, she'd leave us with my grandmother -- to my grandmother to see after us until she could get back.
KK Well, how was that -- that's an unusual childhood -- how was that with you?
ES Well, we had a lovely grandmother and we knew she loved us and cared for us. And then we lived right around in here now -- and we were the only two children that lived in this immediate neighborhood. So all the neighbors looked out for us.
KK Did you miss your mother?
ES Oh, yes. We'd miss her, but we knew why she was going and we accepted that. I think children was a little different then, you know, from what they are now. We mind -- we had to mind every, all -- there were four houses in this neighborhood. We knew we were under all four of those people; and, you know, the time wasn't then like you had to be careful about the men and this, that and the other -- they were interested and concerned about us as they would have been their own children. And I can't ever remember one of those men saying anything or doing anything out of the way toward us.
KK So you felt protected?
ES Well protected. And if we needed anything -- my mama would send us so much money every week to take care of our water and light bill and buy our food and so forth. And we knew what to do, and then we knew we'd better mind our neighbors and my grandparents and stay in line.
KK Sounds like your mother worked awfully hard to support all of you?
ES She did, she did, she did. She worked -- we always wondered how she managed to work like she did.
KK Sounds like she was supporting your grandparents --
KK No? They worked?
ES My grandmother had her own income, my grandmother and grandfather. And in this spot where I'm living now I also had an aunt and uncle living here.
KK In this house? ES No, the house has been torn away. KK Uh-huh, but on the same lot? ES But on the same lot, uh-huh. KK So you've lived on this street almost all your life?
ES That's right.
KK When you stopped going to school, do you know what grade you were in?
ES I married when I was in the eleventh grade.
KK You did?
ES I did, uh-huh.
KK Did you fall in love and get married? ES Well, I thought I was. At least I did, then I started having children and then it was just -- well, you know, I was brought up you're supposed to raise and take care of your children and be good to them. And I loved my children and I stuck with them, and I worked and I was able to educate some of them well. I give everybody the advantage that would take it. And I worked until 1976. KK How many children did you have?
ES I have eight girls.
KK Eight girls?
ES Eight girls, uh-huh.
KK You never thought you were going to have a boy?
ES No. I just found out it was out of the question for me to have a boy. And I have eight girls living.
KK Goodness. And tell me about your husband -- how did you meet him?
ES He came -- now my grandmother lived up on Lawrence Street and she would keep boarders, and I met him there.
KK I see.
ES He came from down in Zebulon, Georgia to work for one of the outstanding white families here in Cobb County, and he was their chauffeur.
KK I see.
ES Uh-huh, and that's how I met him.
KK And did he board up at the house at your aunt's house?
ES No, my grandmother's.
KK Grandmother's house.
ES Uh-huh, he only slept there because he got his meals out where he was driving.
KK And what did you think of him when you met him?
ES Well, nothing. I never thought -- I don't know, it just -- just a fellow I had met. And the old folks said he was able to turn my head and tell me -- make me believe -- I said he was just it. I just couldn't shake him aloose. I was real young, you know. So I ended up marrying him.
KK Now when did you go to work in between all of these eight children that you had?
ES I always managed somehow to work. And having children, it was necessary to work. And when I started working out at Bell Aircraft, he was working on the day shift.
KK At Bell?
ES Uh-huh. And I worked at night.
KK So you coordinated your child care?
ES Yes. And my oldest children were old enough to kind of help, you know, see after each other.
KK Now what kind of work did you do before you went to Bell Aircraft? ES Housekeeping and laundry work. KK And did you work for people here in this area?
ES In Marietta?
ES Yes, I did.
KK Did you work always for white people or different people?
ES I worked for white during that time.
KK How did you like that work?
ES I enjoyed it because my grandmother had taught me how to do the laundry work. What I did was, I would stretch curtains -- do you know anything about it?
KK No. E
S Putting curtains on stretchers and you would charge so much for each pair. And I would do linens because you could get a little more money for doing linens than you could for just doing a whole wash. Although I've done the family wash, too, but my specialty was washing and stretching curtains and doing the linens, the tablecloths and things like that -- that's special work.
KK Did you work for more than one family or did you work for just one family at a time?
ES Well, in that laundry work I could do work for more than one family.
KK Well, I was looking around your house and you certainly are a wonderful housekeeper.
ES Well, I don't know -- don't look too hard, you might see a little of the dirt.
KK Well, everything looks lovely and it's so clean and all of your nick-nacks out, so I can tell that you take a lot of pride in your work.
ES Well, thank you.
KK So what a big change, then, from you doing laundry and being more or less self-employed, to going to work at a big company like Bell Aircraft. Tell me about -- how did that come about?
ES Well, I tell you, I had been working for this family of people helping them. And I was always one who wanted to make as much money as I could possibly make to help carry on the family. And I worked for this family of people I'm going to tell you about off and on for eight years. It was a little difficult when Bell first came here for a person who had a regular job, a domestic worker, to get on. Because, see, like they had an understanding or had discussed or didn't want to take nobody's help away from them, especially a person who was working for, you know, a well-to-do family.
KK So you mean the rich, white people had an agreement with Bell that --
ES If you went there, and you were working for one of these well-to-do families, you could not get on at Bell easily. And you made so much money at Bell -- much more money at Bell than you could make working for a permanent family. So me and my friends, we didn't go to the employment office here in Marietta. We went into Atlanta to the employment office. And that's how I got hired. Then I came back, and I told this lady that I had been working for, they hired me that day, told me when I could start to work. So that weekend, I told her. I said, "Now I'm going to start working at the Bomber Club" -- that's what we called it. Well, naturally, she didn't like it, but she didn't fuss too much about. And I said, "I'll be leaving you." And so I went on that Monday morning to work out at Bell.
KK So she wasn't very happy about that?
ES She wasn't pleased about it at all, huh-uh. She asked me what was I going to do when the war was over and the plant would be closed down. "Had you thought about you're going to need somewhere to work?" I said, "Well, I'm sure I'll find something."
KK So you were confident you had enough skills you could find a job?
ES Well, I had always been able to find work.
KK Now was your husband already working at Bell when you went to interview?
ES Yes, he was still working there. KK What was his job? ES He was in the janitorial department.
KK I see. What was his name?
ES Horace Slade.
KK Horace Slade?
KK And did he enjoy working there?
ES Yes, he did enjoy working there, but as time went on, he quit for some reason or other.
KK Now when you went to Bell, what kinds of job openings were there and what led you to the job that you took?
ES I can tell you what I did. It was something like the finishing department where they sent all parts that went into the airplane, regardless of how small they were, through some kind of treatment process. We would clean those parts, and they would put it in a machine and then some kind of solution and what-have-you. I don't know whether it was strengthening or just to be sure it was clean or what. And then sometimes, after they had got a part of the plane completed, we'd go inside of that plane and clean it all in the inside. Those long parts to the plane, sometimes we'd have to take something like steel wool and rub them; and then they would put them through this process I'm telling you about. And the little, bitty pieces like that, we had in the buckets, we'd drop them in. They'd put them through this process.
KK Did you work Monday through Friday?
ES Yes, yes, I did.
KK From like nine to five?
ES No, I went on the evening shift.
KK Because your husband -- that's right, your husband was working days.
ES Yes. We would go in around 11:00 or 11:45 and work until -- now my older children had started to school. And see, I'd get here early enough to see that all was well with them and that their clothes and everything were on properly and so forth, and they could get to school without being late.
KK Uh-huh. So you went to work at what time, then?
ES I think it was around 12:00, 12:45.
KK Was that noon or at midnight?
ES At night -- midnight. KK Midnight?
ES Uh-huh. KK And then you worked until about 8:00 in the morning?
ES That's right.
KK So when you came home then, some of your children were just getting up and getting ready to go to school?
ES Yes. I'd come in from work, do my cleaning, do my wash and my laundry work, wash the children's clothes, iron whatever needed to be done, then I would lay down and go to sleep. And when they would come in the afternoon, I'd get up and do their dinner, fix their meals for them, and have that ready for them so they could eat. Then I'd lay down again and take another little nap before going to work at night. I'd comb the girls' hair at home for the next day, and I put stocking caps over their heads so their hair would stay nice, and give them their bath and get them ready for bed and get them in the bed before I'd leave.
KK I see. Did they leave for school before you got home in the morning, then?
ES No, no.
KK But you didn't have time to do all of that?
ES I lived right over there just above the school. They could get to school in three or four minutes, you know.
KK I see. Was your husband a big help at home?
ES Yes, he was very helpful.
KK So he helped you with the chores around the house? It wasn't as divided as some people talk now, where the woman does all the housework and the man works outside of the home. Did you all work together?
ES Well, see, he couldn't do much toward helping me in the mornings because he went to work on the morning shift. But we managed, you know. We had an understanding and we managed.
KK How much money did you make at Bell, do you remember?
ES Oh, Lord. It was like a million dollars, my first paycheck -- it was about 33 or 34 dollars. I can't tell you the exact amount.
KK For one week?
ES For one week.
KK And what had you been used to being paid?
KK Ten -- seven and ten dollars a week. KK Now it sounds like a very small amount, but at the time, was that enough money for you?
ES It wasn't enough, but we had to manage, you know. No black woman made a whole lot of money. I remember some of our neighbors and friends used to work for five dollars a week.
KK What would a white woman make at that time compared to that?
ES You know, I don't rightly know.
KK But a lot more?
ES But it would be some more, it was a difference.
KK When you went to Bell, do you think black people and white people were paid the same for the same jobs?
ES Well, you know, I'm not sure about that. But I did hear them say that there was a difference -- it was a difference in the salaries, but more than what they had been used to making.
KK So as a black woman, you made more than you had made before, but you didn't necessarily make as much money as a white woman at Bell?
ES That's right, that's right. Uh-huh.
KK Well, that was about three times what you were used to making.
KK I can see that that was a lot of money.
ES Big money, big money -- I tell you. And I was proud of it.
KK Where you worked in your unit at Bell, was that all black women working together?
ES No, black and white worked together.
KK So the plant was not segregated at that time?
ES Not to an extent, no.
KK I'll bet that some jobs weren't available --
ES For blacks.
ES Well, you know not, no.
KK Some of the women that I've talked to that worked in secretarial services, for example, there were no black women --
ES That's true, that's true.
KK What kinds of jobs were available for black women at Bell?
ES Well, just they worked in the cafeteria.
KK Serving food?
ES Helping to prepare the food.
KK And cooking?
ES Uh-huh. Some of them had a little better job than I had and a better paying job. Because I can't say how much, I don't remember now how much.
KK But there were certain jobs that were available to you, but there were others that were not available to you?
ES Indeed so, indeed so.
KK And you said your husband worked in janitorial. Did he do that by choice or was that because he was a black man and that was limited?
ES Well, I think -- now I'm not -- when he went to apply for work there he was able to get what was available at that time. I know the majority of the black men worked in janitorial.
KK They did?
KK That's hard to understand now.
ES Yes, it is.
KK It's hard to accept. ES Oh, yes, it is.
KK You must have been a strong woman from your years at the work that you did for these wealthy white families. You must have been physically strong --
ES I was.
KK -- especially having eight children. So did you have any trouble adapting to the physical labor at Bell?
ES No, no.
KK It doesn't sound like it.
ES No, no -- none at all.
KK What did you wear to work every day?
ES Slacks -- I wore a blouse and pants.
KK Not a uniform?
ES No, but all the ladies working in my department, we were required to wear slacks and blouses.
KK Was that new for you?
ES Yes, indeed so.
KK What did you think of that?
ES Well, I was glad to have work. It was just quite all right.
KK Did you make your own clothes at that time?
ES Not pants and not blouses, no. I bought them.
KK That must have been very interesting to wear slacks to work?
KK Very liberating, maybe.
ES Yes, yes.
KK So how long did you work for Bell?
ES Well, I worked for Bell -- I think about two years; and I tell you why I stopped working -- I became pregnant again. So I had to give up my job; and it was just so funny -- I worked on in that department pregnant for about -- well, when I left I guess I was about seven or eight months and nobody knew I was pregnant.
KK You must have been a tiny woman.
ES No, I wasn't.
ES Larger than I am now.
KK Did you keep it a secret?
ES Well, I just didn't say anything about it and just went on working because I was afraid they might let me go before, you know. I wanted to be and so I just worked and said nothing.
KK So I take it they had no maternity leave?
ES No. I believe -- some of this stuff I've forgotten, but I'm thinking now in my mind if they had known ahead of time, they would have probably let me go.
KK I see.
ES And so I just said nothing about it and just kept working.
KK Well, at that time, pregnant women weren't considered to be healthy.
KK Well, I think that they looked at pregnant women as being too weak to do the work and so they --
ES Probably so.
KK -- wanted to replace you with somebody that they thought was healthier. Things have changed now, but --
ES And it would have been against the company if I had gotten hurt. You see, and they wanted to save themselves and protect themselves.
KK Well, that must have been awful for you to have to quit this job making all this money?
ES I hated it more than anything I know, but what?
KK Now which baby was this of your eight?
ES If I'm not mistaken, it was the fourth.
KK The fourth?
ES The fourth, uh-huh. I think it was the fourth.
KK Were you sick at all during your pregnancy?
ES No, that was one thing about my pregnancy -- I didn't have the trouble that most women have -- a lot of them, the morning sickness or what-have-you -- when I was pregnant.
KK Now was your mother still alive during all this time?
ES My mother was still alive and she was still working.
KK Did she ever come and help you with your babies?
ES Well, as I say, we lived together and we continued living with my mother.
KK Oh, you and your husband and your children lived in your mother's home then?
ES Uh-huh. But now my mother started -- she continued her nursing and she was working pretty regularly. And see, when she'd go to take care of the women and the babies, she would be there at night -- night and day. And she'd have so many hours off a day to come home. And sometimes she would be there. But if she was home, she was all the help in the world with the children.
KK Sounds like you loved her very much.
ES Oh, dearly -- very dearly.
KK What did you do for work then after your fourth child was born and you had quit Bell Aircraft?
ES I started working in a cafe or restaurant.
KK Here in Marietta?
ES Here in Marietta. KK What was the name, do you remember?
ES I can't think of the name, but it was out there on Fairground Street, just before you get to Bell Aircraft.
KK You couldn't go back to work at Bell?
ES I didn't try. You know, I just didn't know whether they would hire me having a small baby or not. So I was able to get a nice job out there at the restaurant, and I worked there for a long time. And when I give that up, if my memory serves me right, I took a job as an insurance agent -- collecting, you know -- selling and collecting life insurance.
KK I see. Was that a good job?
ES It was a very good job. I kept that for a number of years, and when I give up that insurance work I started working -- I guess I'm right -- because when I'd get on a job, I'd stay on it. I wouldn't just -- I worked in insurance, I know, ten years.
KK Now did you have to quit your job every time you had a baby?
ES Yes. I did, you know, because I did not believe in leaving a little, bitty baby at home. When I had a new baby, I would stay at home and take care of my children and the baby -- that's what I did. I started working with Atlanta Life Insurance Company when my last child was three or four years old
KK I see.
ES And I worked for them -- it was Guaranteed Life -- and I kept that job for ten years. And when I decided to give up -- let's see, what happened when I decided to give up the insurance work -- I found out I could make more money going back to start cooking again. I worked at the Marietta Country Club and that club was for the elites -- white here in Marietta.
KK Now that's not what is the City Club now?
ES It used to be the Marietta County Club. And I went out there and worked. My older children then had gone to school. My two older girls took nurse's training. They went down in Augusta, Georgia for nurse's training. And insurance work is fine to do, but you know, you're paid -- I was paid percentage-wise.
KK On commission?
ES On commission. And many times, you see, you had some people who didn't come up as regular as they should have and that would make my salary short. And with those two girls in school, I had to kind of know which the little money was coming and I stopped, and started working out at the Marietta Country Club.
KK How did you like working there?
ES I loved it. I had three other girls working under me and I did the salads and the baking. And I moved along very nicely with that. And then -- let me see, what did I do when I left Marietta Country Club? I stayed there about seven years. I can't think what my last job was -- it'll come to me in a few minutes. And see, the children grew older as they -- everybody, as poor as we were, everybody that would take an advantage, we would give it to them. We'd find out one was not going to maybe do as well as they should, I didn't bother with that one -- about trying to, you know, send them off to school. The two oldest girls took the nurse's training. I have one girl that mother give her piano lessons and she did real well with that. And Harriett got married at an early age, after Gloria had finished high school -- well, shortly after she finished high school, she married. That's the one that's named for me, at least she was able to go to school and she went further than any of them.
KK What did she end up doing?
ES Well, she's not working -- she's married, you know. All of them married along the way and she is now the executive assistant to the president at this college where she's working. I'll tell you the name of it in a minute. That'll come to me.
KK Is it a college here in Atlanta?
ES No, no, no. It's in -- it's not in Alabama.
KK Well, it's not that important.
ES Yeah, well, I'd like for you to know. She went to college, she finished college down in Carolina -- she had some help and then she went on to Indiana U. and got her Masters degree. Then she went to Ball State in Muncie, Indiana and she got her Ph.D. But now understand, she worked and helped herself along the way. And she had married and she and her husband worked together.
KK Did you think that education was important for your children?
ES Very necessary -- I knew it was.
ES Well, because if you have a real good education and conduct yourself and carry yourself like you should, you just go to higher heights. And I knew it was -- impressed on my children that it was, although I couldn't get all of them to go as far as they should have. Three of them have degrees and one of them has her Ph.D. But I tried to instill in them that it was a must in times like these to get your education.
KK What kind of times do you mean?
ES Well, the man that has -- that will conduct himself as he should and have money, has better advantages and they have a chance to advance and do better
KK Do you think that's different now than it was when you were young?
ES Well, it's almost necessary now because the person who is educated, they're the ones who get the better jobs. That's what I would know.
KK When you said as poor as we were, we tried to give our children advantages -- it sounds like you and your husband worked awfully hard all your lives. Were you poor? How do you measure that?
ES Well, we weren't poor in spirit, but we were poor financially and then see, now my husband died along the way. . . .
KK What were your choices when you have eight children and [no] husband. . . .
ES Well, I'm going to tell you -- my people were very religious folks. See, my grandmother and grandfather were slaves. Then my mother came along -- she came from a large family and my grandmother had to work hard to try to give them advantages. And then mama came along with us -- my father died and she had to struggle and work hard, you know, to make it with us. And I was always taught -- from the very early age I can hear my grandmother say, there's a God somewhere and if you will put your trust in Him and believe and depend on Him to guide you along the way, anything you will undertake to do or anything you want to do, you can do it.
KK And you believed her because she had survived slavery?
ES I did. I believed her and my mother was the very same way. And that was instilled in me and that's what I go on now -- that's how I've been able to make it.
KK Well, no wonder. Even though you worked so hard, you couldn't seem to get ahead.
ES That's right. But in the long run, you know -- well, now I have to still depend on Him because the children are married -- all of them are married. Some of them had good marriages; some didn't. They have families -- they are struggling with their families to try to make it. So I had to instill the same things in them that was instilled in me. And I'm a firm, firm believer in the power of prayer and that's what I go on from day to day. And it keeps me going, it keeps me happy. I don't know of anything that if it's necessary that I have to do that I don't -- if anything comes up, I learn to accept it and go on because I know -- I don't have to ask you, nobody or what-have-you -- there's a God somewhere.
KK Do you think you had a hard life?
ES No. I had a satisfied life. You know, I've always been satisfied and I thank God that I keep a satisfied mind.
KK It's very powerful what you're saying.
ES Well, it's the truth.
KK I know it's the truth.
ES You can take it, honey, you can take it and believe it. There has been times and days when I wouldn't know which way to go or what to do, but I can always remember and hear my grandmother say and my mother say, put your trust in God -- He's there somewhere and He knows what you're going through with. And some how or other I'd always manage to come out.
KK What could you tell me about your grandparents being slaves?
ES Well, my grandmother -- if she could have been educated, she was brilliant. She could get up in church and make a talk and if you didn't know it, you would think that she was a highly educated person. She was the most wonderful person you have ever seen and it was something about her voice when she would talk that would just look like do something for you or tell you something.
KK What was her name?
ES Her name was Maggie Garrett Fowler.
KK And where was she a slave -- here in Cobb County?
ES No, she told me that she was a slave in Clarksville, Georgia -- Habersham County.
KK All of her life?
ES No, no.
KK I mean until she was an adult?
ES Until she was freed. Until, you know, they were freed when?
KK About 1865?
ES Well, whenever -- when she was freed. And she -- oh, Lord, she worked. I've never seen anybody work like she could work.
KK She was a strong woman.
ES Strong -- honey, she was strong in mind, body and soul.
KK Did you take after her?
ES Well, I don't know -- I hope I did. But my mother did. My mother came along right in her footsteps. And my mother would -- just like I say, we moved from Milton County to Cobb County when I was five years old. And seemed like the Lord just continued to bless us because I told you how this doctor took her in hand and helped her with her training and so forth and she got work. And she built this house across the street that was our home place.
KK Your grandmother did?
ES My mother.
KK Your mother.
ES My mother. My grandmother had a house up here on Lawrence Street across the street from here. And Mama built that house. She made every rag we put on our back. She'd even make our coats. She was just a seamstress, what you say. And I remember when she used to go out and sew for white people here in Marietta. And using the needle was just like me writing with a pencil and she could do the most beautiful sewing. Just look at her work and you'd think that she was a seamstress. And she even made our coats; she made our suits. Now we didn't have a whole lot of clothing, but maybe in the winter we had one real nice dress. And when we became teenagers, she'd make us, in the winter, velvet dresses. We had -- and she made our underclothes and worked.
KK Because she had to?
ES Yes, yes, yes. But just think about that -- so many people who maybe had to and couldn't.
KK I see.
ES But see, they didn't have that talent. And I'd see her go out and work all day and then she'd come in at night and sew for us. And she made our underclothes.
KK Did the white people that she sewed for pay her well?
ES Oh, yes. It was well in that day. Now see, I can't remember how much they paid her, but I know she used to sew for a lady that lives up on Kennesaw Avenue that had a lot of girls and she would go there and sew by the day. But then if you made five or six dollars, that was big money.
KK For a week?
ES No, I mean -- well, yes. But I can't say how much the lady paid her a day -- I can't remember because I was so young.
KK What were those white people like to work for?
ES Were they kind and nice?
ES Yes, yes.
KK I mean, were they --
ES They were very nice to her, very kind. And she worked for a family of people -- they had two girls and two or three boys. And when she was not nursing, she would go to this family and help them and do whatever was needing to be done -- the washing, ironing, the cooking, the sweeping or what-have-you.
KK Obviously, it was harder for black families to make enough money to live on than it was white people --
ES Indeed so.
KK -- because you had such limited opportunities for jobs.
ES And limited pay. You see, like I might go out now and make seven or eight dollars an hour. They weren't paid no more than that or maybe not that much a week.
KK So the white people then were kind and nice, but they didn't pay you very well?
ES That's true. But this was to our advantage -- everything was cheaper. If you made five or six dollars a week, you could survive off of that. KK You mean cheaper for black people? ES For black -- I mean for black.
KK In what way? What was cheaper?
ES No, no, no. Wages were cheaper, but food and everything else was the same.
ES Yes. But the food was so much cheaper than it is now. Now I go to the grocery store now and I don't have to buy groceries but for nobody but myself and it is hard for me to take $20.00 and get enough food for myself. But you see, in my mother's day that $20.00 had to -- oh, that was like -- almost like a million now. When I was raising my children, my husband worked up at the Brumby Chair Factory for -- I don't want to tell a tale, because it was little enough, but it looked to me like -- I know he didn't make more than $12.00 a week.
KK At Brumby?
ES At Brumby. And that was for food, clothing if we needed it, wood or coal and -- well, that covered everything. And we made it somehow.
KK Do you think that your grandparents survived well spiritually their slavery experience?
KK Was it their belief in God that --
ES It had to be something. What about you working day in and day out and well, like in my grandmother -- now my grandmother told me, said, when she was just a strip of a girl, she used to say they had a white cap they would put on her and she had a little white apron she'd wear with her dress, you know, have on her dress. And she said, my job was to carry -- the way she'd say it, bless her heart -- the batter cakes from the kitchen to the big house. You know, they had their kitchens outside. And said, I had to take those in to be served to people every day.
ES Batter cakes -- she meant pancakes.
ES But she called them batter cakes. She said, now that was one of my first jobs. But now she wasn't paid anything much for that. Her parents got what little bit they were paid for.
KK And then her husband was a slave, too?
ES Yes, yes.
KK Did they meet -- were they working for the same family?
ES I don't know if my grandmother and grandpa met while they were working for the same family or not. No, because she told me she was a slave in Clarksville, Georgia -- Habersham County, and he was a slave somewhere else.
KK I don't know how people survived that kind of thing.
ES Well, don't you know, honey, the goodness of God. You knew He had to be Somebody somewhere and Something, honey, to help you survive.
KK And I suppose that by making your children strong and by instilling values in them, that you improve your own life, don't you?
ES Indeed so. And then when they go work ungodly hours -- as long as they wanted them to and then go to the slave quarters at night -- you know, they lived in the slave quarters. And she -- I remember hearing my grandmother say they didn't have dishes, you know, like we have now. She said they would use the salmon cups and the cans that the food came from to drink their coffee. She said, we just had the bare necessities.
KK A place to sleep and a hearth, I suppose, to cook?
ES Yes. She told me that they had a fireplace and then they had something where they could hang their pots over the fire to cook.
KK Was she bitter towards white people?
ES Huh-uh. Because -- no, no. You know, after they were freed -- now I don't know whether any of her children were born during slavery or not, but she met this lovely family of white people, Doctor Maddox. And she lived on his place and done his work and he was good to her.
KK As a free woman?
ES Yes, as a free woman. And her husband married and went on off and left her with a lot of children and she would always tell -- she'd tell me how nice Doctor Maddox was to her. Because the people were slaveholders, it didn't mean all of them were ugly to you.
KK Well, some of them certainly were.
ES Now we ask -- more than that, more than that. Because I've heard them say how they'd have to, if they were sick, get up and you had to go anyhow, you know. And then even after slavery, some of them were ugly to them. And, honey, don't you know some of them's ugly now?
KK Yes, I know that.
ES You know that?
KK Yes, I do.
ES Yes, some of them's ugly now. When I was working, I worked for some that was just as ugly as they wanted to be, but you knew you had to have something to go on and something to live on; so you just kept your mouth shut.
KK I bet you didn't want to sometimes?
ES No, you didn't want to, but you just kept your mouth shut and there you go again -- say your prayers and keep going. And you see how I went from one step better to another?
ES And so, see, when I quit work, my last job I had was Cobb Senior Services; and I was there 17 years and 8 months I worked for them. And everybody was just so nice to me.
KK Do you think things have changed for black people?
ES Yes, yes, yes. It's changed to a certain extent -- some good, good white people. There are some good white people, and then black people are getting better jobs. Not as well -- not everybody is, but things are much better for them.
KK Some of the disturbing reports today talk about America becoming segregated again, that -- what's called polarization -- that whites are pulling more together and blacks are pulling more together and there's even more of a separateness today than there was, say, 10 or 20 years ago. Do you see that?
ES Well, in one sense that could be true -- and that is true. But you know what I'm thinking about that? If Americans don't know it and can't see it, they've been a little ugly to other nations. And if they don't do different, the Lord is going to suffer them to have to take some of the things that we've taken. Do you know that? I just read the paper and think about it and I say, Lord, if they don't -- here in America, you know. Just different things you read and see how they are doing and how they are treating other groups of people. And some bad powers overtaking.
KK You're talking about the white people in power in this country?
ES Yes, yes. Because, you know, they'll just about step on anybody if they want to. And there has been a time when you couldn't do nothing about it. But, you know, the Lord is not going to suffer for them to continue running over and getting by.
KK Do you think that the strength or the togetherness of black families is a direct result of slavery and other injustices that have happened that perhaps drew the families together more when you were growing up?
ES Well, I think that had a lot to do with them coming together, you know. But, you know, sometimes we won't be as nice as we can to each other.
KK People are just people.
ES Uh-huh. That's true.
KK But I can certainly see that, for instance, with being slaves that you could be sold away.
ES Oh, yes.
KK And so when people were free, they would treasure being able to be together.
ES That's right, that's right. And then just think about, you just think about breaking up families -- we don't know who all we are kin to. Because they might take the husband out of this family -- be a strong, able-bodied man and sell him over there, over to someone else and leave the family here. Did you know that?
KK I have never thought of that before.
ES Well, that happened, uh-huh.
KK Well, I knew that it happened, but I hadn't thought about you having step-sisters and step-brothers when the men were taken away and started other families.
ES Starting another family. Now you just think about that. Now that was sure-enough sad. Said, if a lady -- a woman was a good breeder, maybe.
KK Well, that made more money for the slave owner because she had healthy children who were their property.
ES Yes, yes, yes.
KK Do you think your daughters have inherited your grandmother's strength?
ES Some of them, some of them.
KK I think we need it.
ES Yes, we need it. We need it and the thing that concerns me, though, sometimes you can't get them to see and understand some things that would be a help to them, that would help them along the way.
KK Sometimes we have to learn our own lessons, don't we?
ES They have to learn the hard way. Now I want to go back and tell you this -- do you remember me telling you about my daughter?
ES She is working at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.
KK I see -- good. So you remembered that.
ES You see, I tell you about this getting old --
ES Well, now that's where she is now -- she's working there at Hampton. She started there and -- Chairman of the English Department.
KK You're very proud of her.
ES I am. But, you know, you're proud of all of them, regardless. You can't help but be.
KK I understand.
ES And see, the others -- there are two others and I've got one, she's a registered nurse and she also got her degree. But they helped themselves, you know, along the way. They got out -- I taught all of them there's higher bushes out there with bigger berries and you go get them. One daughter, she lives in California now and she has a degree in nursing. And I've got another girl that's got a degree from Kennesaw. She had three girls. She and her husband separated. She raised those three girls and then she went on to school and got her degree.
KK Good for her.
ES Do you know you can't help but be proud of one like that? And she's got her a good job and pressing along and her children are on their own now.
KK What do you think had the most impact on your life -- obviously, your grandmother had a tremendous influence on you?
ES And my mother.
KK And your mother.
ES The two of them.
KK Women in your family, then, sound very strong, very resilient --
KK -- doing whatever had to be done?
ES That's true. . . .
KK To sum up your experience at Bell Aircraft, do you think that that experience changed your life at all?
ES Well, it was a help.
KK A lot of money?
ES Yes. Well, you know, a little more money. Yes, that was a help. Oh, Lord, it just helped in every way. I remember when I started working, I first paid off all my bills. Got my bills paid off and I was able to get some things that we needed in the home. The older girls had never had Sunday shoes -- they always had shoes, you know. I bought them some nice dresses, and I bought them Sunday shoes, an extra pair of shoes. And that meant everything in the world to them and me, too. When I started working out at Bell, I never could put no money in the bank. I didn't have a million dollars, however, now, but I was able to save a little bit.
KK You didn't put money in the bank?
ES Before I was out there. But see, when I started working at Bell, got all my bills paid, got nice things for the children like I wanted them to have, nice things in the house, I could put four or five dollars a week in the bank. But see, that was money -- sure enough money then.
KK One of the things that I remember reading about Bell Aircraft was that they did have a child care facility. Do you remember that at all?
ES I don't remember that at all. And if they did have it, I can't remember hearing any black say that -- see, I started working in the early years at Bell. I don't remember that.
KK So if they did have child care, it was probably for the whites?
ES Probably so. I just don't remember.
KK Well, I think you'd remember -- if you had three or four children I think you would have remembered if there was child care available to you.
ES Uh-huh. Well, now Lockheed might have that now. I'm sure they have it.
KK They do?
ES Because see, when Bell give it up there was another company took over, wasn't it?
KK I think Lockheed in a few years.
ES Well, then Lockheed took over.
KK Another thing that I have read in my research is that the cost of living in Marietta went up --
KK -- during the time that Bell was here because people were coming in. The population grew two or three times over.
ES Oh, yes.
KK And the cost of living got very high. Do you remember that that impacted you at all?
ES I can remember that, yes. I had to pay a little more for everything, but we were thankful to be making a little money.
KK Well, can you think of anything that we didn't cover thoroughly or was there anything else that you wanted to say?
ES Let me see -- well, Bell, as I said -- we've stated this -- was a blessing in disguise coming here to Marietta and then Lockheed following. It has certainly made a difference for the people in Marietta. And I hope nothing will ever happen where it will have to fold up and we not have Lockheed or someone here.
KK Do you think people have become dependent on Lockheed for their livelihood here?
ES Yes. Because, just think about now, what if Lockheed was to close up today and with this recession here, what would the people do?
KK Have you ever had any desire to move away from here? You've lived on Fort Street almost your whole life.
ES Well, no.
ES No. And the children -- I've got children that are living elsewhere and I'm here alone, but I've never had a desire to even leave. To me, this is home
KK Your roots are here?
KK Did you ever travel very much?
ES After the children got grown and married and moved elsewhere.
KK You went to visit them?
ES Yes. . . .
KK Can you think of anything else?
ES I can't think of anything else, other than to say -- I don't have any money, but I'm happy. I'm still having to, you know, make it on my own and I can't boast about having this, that and the other. I'm comfortable and I'm managing and I'm thankful -- just as thankful as I can be that everything is well and the children, my children are good to me. They help me see to my needs being met.
KK I'm glad that they do that.
ES Everyone of them, everyone of them. I wouldn't lie on them, they are good to me. They are respectful -- very respectful to me and they see to me having -- they try to see that my needs are being met.
KK I'm glad they appreciated everything you did for them.
ES They seem to. They are just as nice, just as good -- now I had -- a few weeks ago, I had a little incident to happen. I went off to church one Sunday morning; and I thought I had turned my stove off; and I left my meat in the stove -- just forgot it, but I thought I had turned it off. And when I came home from church and opened the door the house was engulfed in smoke to the extent that I couldn't come in the house, but I've got sweet neighbors over here. And I went to the door there and one of my neighbor's sons was sitting there and I told him, I said, come here quick -- I've got a problem, my house is all but on fire. And he came running and I told him what had happened. He said, give me your key, Ms. Slade. And I give him the key and he opened the door. But we couldn't come in, but by leaving the door open for a little while, he said, I think I can make it in there and raise a window or cut off your oven or something. So he came and cut off the oven and stayed out a few more minutes and he run over here and opened this window and he stayed out a few more minutes and went down the hall and turned on the air conditioner. And after awhile, you know, it kind of let the smoke out. But it took awhile -- had to call the fire department. And in the meantime, the word had gotten around among the children, those that were close around came -- those that were out of town, before the day was over, they had called them and told them what had happened. Well, that night I had to go spend the night with one of the girls and the fireman told me that at my age, he would suggest that I not stay in the house. Early Monday morning, the nurse that lives in California, after I had come from up at my daughter's -- telephoned and said, well, how you doing? Said, I understand you had a fire or something is happening. And I went on to explain to her what happened and she said like this, I will see you before bedtime. And do you believe -- would you believe she came? And stayed here until Sunday and helped me -- she was just right at my footstep and helped me with everything that I had to do.
KK I think you did a good job raising your children.
ES Well, thank you. But now, things like that makes me know that I've done something. She said, well, I'll see you before bedtime. Now she didn't get here before bedtime, but she got here before twelve o'clock Monday night and she stayed with me until, as I told you, Sunday afternoon. Now they're not rich and don't have a whole lot of money or anything like that, but they always work out something. And I can never make -- I can't make you know or anybody else what that meant to me for that girl to come to my rescue that quickly.
KK I think she takes after you.
ES Well, the others are equally -- they would do the same thing. But she was here -- she said, I told you I would see you by bedtime. But, now -- you know, it's strange how things - the Lord takes care of things. She was on the bus coming from work and -- I'll tell you what made it possible for her to come -- a few years ago she was on the bus coming from work and the bus had a wreck. And it threw her down in, you know, in the floor in the bus and it kind of hurt her up. And so, they hadn't settled with her on that, but somehow or another she managed to work out something whereby she could come. And the others were here, they were close.
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Updated on August 15, 2000