BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Heyward C. Bellamy, April 5, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Heyward C. Bellamy, April 5, 2005
April 5, 2005
In this first interview with Dr. Heyward Bellamy discusses indepth his family's geneology, life in Horry County, childhood and move to Wilmington. His recollections provide insight into Depression and pre World War II life on the southeast coast.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Bellamy, Heyward Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Gerald Date of Interview: 4/5/2005 Series: SENC Notables Length 58 minutes

Mims: Today is April the 5th, 2005. I am LuAnn Mims with Gerry Parnell for the Randall Library Special Collections and today we are talking with Dr. Heyward Bellamy of Wilmington. Good morning to you sir. We'd like to start by asking you some questions about your early life. Where were you born and raised?

Heyward Bellamy: I was born in Conway, South Carolina. People think I'm a native because Bellamy's been an old name in Wilmington since a member of the same family came here in 1838, but I didn't make it until 1935. My folks has been in Horry County since the...practically the early days of settlement. I have the Bellamy land grant, the first one, dated 1765. They finally put it on record in 78 and covers three hundred acres on Buck Creek off Waccamaw River. And the other branches of my family, the Vereens, had come even earlier. The Vaughts, my German ancestry, my mother came after 1750 to that...that part of the world. And all my English ancestors were all about also. That's my geneology, French, German, and English. Ah...

Mims: But you say you are related some way or another to the Bellamys that came to Wilmington?

Heyward Bellamy: Yes. Ah, it gets gets very complicated. The...the short answer is, the father of the man who built the house at Fifth and Market was my great-great-great grandfather.

Mims: Hum.

Heyward Bellamy: And his daughter by his first marriage to Sarah Frink married...married her first cousin who was the granddaughter of his brother, um...Abraham, who was my ancestor. So if we seem a little strange in the Bellamy family, we...we've married a lot of cousins. Weren't many other people around because it was a...pretty sparsely settled. All of them and I didn't mention the Gores also were part of my family...and all of them took part in the revolution. Ah, I had German ancestor fought with Francis Marion, ah, finally wound up, I guess with the militia, lost a leg at Calpins. My Bellamy ancestor, Abraham was with Marion. He was one of Marion's lieutenants during the revolution. And the Gores were very much involved in the revolution and...and other members of the...the family. Incidentally, my Vaught ancestor had been born six days at sea out of Charleston. His parents were...left Hanover and came to Charleston, and he was born six days at sea, but he got caught up in the...the revolution and joined Marion. Ah, one of the Vereens, Joseph Jeremiah, who was my direct ancestor about five great-grandfathers back, was also with...with Marion's brigade. And he had the distinct pleasure, after the war, of entertaining George Washington. One morning he got up on his little farm in Horry County and looked in the yard and there was Washington's entire entourage on his southern tour. And they...he entertained them, and Washington spent the night with him and you can imagine the thrill on that man's...

Parnell: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: When the commander in chief and the first president showed up at his farm house after the...the revolution. So they were very much involved in early history.

Mims: Where they primarily farmers, or what where they...what was their occupation, their livelihood?

Heyward Bellamy: Farmers, great-great-grandfather Vaught was also a teacher and a lawman, which was very appropriate because the...the Vaught comes from the...the German for bailiff or lawyer, or law enforcement.

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: So that was very appropriate. And he was a...a great land owner. He just amassed tremendous amounts of land including about half of Sandy Island. I wish I still had that...where the...the black community developed sort of in an autonomous fashion...still there. Ah, just a delightful place visit. interesting ancestor from that period was Anthony Sweet who ah, best I can determine, came from Carlisle and was in the British Navy. A ship wrecked off of the Outer Banks...rowed a spar ashore, and made his way to South Carolina. And his progeny married my family and also one of them moved to Georgia and was the ancestor of Margaret Mitchell who wrote Gone With The Wind. we...we got spread all about.

Mims: Very rich heritage.

Heyward Bellamy: And the...the early 1800's when Florida was open for settlement, my great-great-great-great-grandfather Abraham, ah, moved down there, so I'm kin to all of those Bellamys. And left his son William in Horry with the holdings there, and that my tie back to the Bellamys. John, who came here, was the family of the third brother John...John, Abraham, and Richard. And he came to Wilmington in 1838. Ah, they...they were prosperous by the standards of the day...the agricultural standards, and they were...they were land rich. Ah, that's mainly what they...they owned. They didn't build imposing mansions on the...the plantations. The one that I remember that my Bellamy ancestor built in 1775 was a...just a plain farmhouse. I should have gotten the picture I have of it out. It's torn down now. A cousin, I found out, who was also incidentally a superintendent of schools in South Carolina at King Street...he came to see me when he retired and told me he had torn down the house and used the timbers to build his retirement home Lake Marion. So I told him that the next Bellamy reunion we were gonna put a contract on him. But he did save the...the timbers and the...the wood. And its still in the old house. But the houses, could tell they didn't value that kind of material thing. The amassed a lot of land, owned slaves, ah, raised cotton, rice, tobacco, and apparently from what the old timers have told me, in the early days raised some indigo. Cause they'd point out the...the indigo bushes still growing wild in the...the forest down there. I don't know if it survived all the development or not in Horry. But it was a...a fascinating place to be. They're near the ocean, could get to the food chain...ocean was full of fish, clams, oysters, crabs, you name it, shrimp. Even into my childhood we'd net on that gradually sloping, beautiful strand and...and water, and just rake the fish in by the piles...and take 'em...and of course by that time we were into the Depression when I could help with the net, and when...had such a catch, we'd share that with everybody when we got home. That was one of my childhood jobs, to run down the street and tell 'em the fish are in the front yard. But, so it was a main source of food.

Parnell: Does your family still own property in Horry County?

Heyward Bellamy: Ah, some of them do. Ah, many of the...the black Bellamys have held on to their property. Ah, a slave...I remember the...the...some of the slaves who were owned by the family. It's's amazing to think that that is so recent in our background. But one of the earliest companions I had as a little boy was Uncle Cy who had been my great-grandfather's slave, and who was in fact what we call, I guess, the nanny to my grandfather. And he said he'd spank him when he misbehaved and kind of kept him straight. The old gentleman lived a hundred and three years. I have my ancestor's estate settlement. He didn't leave a will, so they had to leave large amounts of paperwork to settle his estate. And so he has all the slaves listed and their worth, and who's gonna get each one. And Uncle Cy went to my great-great-grandfather. And Aunt Tyre, T Y R E, they...they gave the slaves unusual names...and both of those people lived over a hundred years and were very active and alert into old age. Ah, Uncle Cy, was, well you might say he was given a farm, by my grandfather. It's recorded on the books in Horry at thirty five dollars. So he...he...they were just so close each other. And it was hard for me to imagine, still is, that anybody ever...could ever say they owned Uncle Cy or Aunt Tyre, who was a, just a absolute delight. When she'd come to see us, it was a party time. We would stop and talk to Aunt Tyre. She taught me and my family...I'm from a big family...there were eight children. of the...the children died, the boy just before me, ah William Dreher, and...but seven of us survived and were all home when Aunt Tyre came to see us one day, and the...the wasps had built nests along the end of the old country porch, at Wampee where I was living at the time. And she sent my oldest brother to get a tobacco stick. And she took that tobacco stick and rubbed it under her arm and ran all the wasps away. And I...I laughed about that until about thirty years ago...I was painting the back porch here and the same thing happened. And I got me a broomstick, I said "I'm gonna see of Aunt Tyre was...was a voodoo lady or if this thing really works". And it works. And I've done it a dozen times since. They cannot stand close human odor and ah, try it sometime!

Mims: (laughing).

Heyward Bellamy: One of of the pieces of folklore that they...they could pass along...and of course they knew all the treatments, the herb treatments that we great...great-grandfather William Cuckon was of the country doctors. There were two or three of them in Horry. But he came to Horry...had an interesting story himself...he had been found at sea as a little boy, in a boat and the ship picked him up, make him cabin boy, made him the cook, finally named him William Cook and he added the O N. C U C K O N is my middle name. And I'm sure the...the ships folks helped him get an education. He went to med school at South Carolina and Harvard, and came to Horry as the country doctor. And I've got his daybook. Sometimes the...the university might want to copy that. I have a copy of it. But it's...I'll show you when we get through recording.

Parnell: Okay.

Mims: Definitely. That's another project.

Heyward Bellamy: If you'll make a note of really is a treasure. Not just the medicines, but the comments and notes. Vaught ancestor, Peter Vaught, paid him for a visit one time with a copy of Byron's poems. And there's an entry where somebody else paid him with a country ham and somebody else paid him with a can of shellac, and somebody else fixed his buggy. So he sort of took what was there.

Mims: Um hum, that sounds fascinating!

Heyward Bellamy: He...he...they were prosperous as I say, as far as land and...and agricultural produce. That was it. There was...when the Civil War ended, there was one sawmill in Horry County. And I understand that the man who had built the sawmill was from the north and he met the...the union soldiers and asked them to please not burn the mill...that this was the only industry that could...could afford some work for the people of Horry. And after the war, of course, the world sort of collapsed. Most of my folks had joined the Confederate Army, either the First South Carolina Infantry, which was in just about everything Stonewall Jackson was in, and later AP Hill. They were at Cole Harbor, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Gettysburg, Sharpsburg...they called it Antietam. Ah, you name it. And they were there with him. And of course at Manassas. And um, a very interesting side line on that...writing a letter to National Geographic...they've done a Civil War article in the latest issue but they...they mention black troops in the union army, but they apparently, whoever wrote it, didn't understand that blacks also served in the confederate army. There's a humorous note in the...the first South Carolina records, at Sharpsburg, the discovered that this black man in the band was a slave! He had gotten in the band and was just having a great time serving in the band for the first South Carolina infantry. And they discovered it and made him go home.

Mims: Yea, we've come across where slaves accompanied the soldier into war.

Heyward Bellamy: Yea.

Mims: So that, you know, we know they were involved some how or another.

Heyward Bellamy: Oh yes! Yes they were. So I...I'm...I've written the letter to ask Geographic to send somebody south and find out what was really happening. But of course that ended the slavery and the relationship changed with the...the workers. And it also, I guess you'd say, played havoc with the arrangement of land and its use. You didn't have this big backlog of laborers to do rice fields. About nine miles from where I was born, the daughter of Robert Austin, the Civil War governor, who married Pringle...was left at home after the war with...I think he had either seven or nine plantations including Chicora where they lived...and that girl kept those rice fields going and hired the former slaves, and let them use the houses, and kept that...that rice operation going until 1922. Elizabeth Pringle. If you ever get a chance to go to Chicora, once and a while they put it on...on tour. And it's owned now by J. Paul Getty's granddaughter, so she keeps it beautiful shape and it' tells you a lot about the low country culture that is still there and can be seen. Ah, one of great-grandfathers, who I remember very well, ah, Joseph Dewitt Vereen was in the twenty sixth South Carolina. They were the...the group that had been sent to relieve Vicksburg. And somebody rode out on July the 4th and told 'em to get back before they ran into trouble because the...the...Vicksburg had surrendered. So they went...were sent then to Virginia and he wound up in the siege of Petersburg and Ambrose Burnside, the union general, had a plan to dig a mine under the confederate lines and blow out a huge hole...the hole's still there...which he did. They could...ah, Pat, my great-grandpa, said that he could...they could hear something underground but they didn't have any shovels or anything to try to counter dig. So one morning this tremendous hole blew out of the lines and they were rallied around the edge of the...the rim of the crater, became known as the battle of the crater, and he...he took part in the whole thing. At the end of the day, Pat thought they'd blown the really wasn't disaster until somebody could...could make Burnside stop. But he finally was overrun at Hatcher's Run just several days before Appomattox. And had one great uncle die up there, William Avaton Bellamy, but the others made it home. My great-grandfather Bellamy, William Avaton, was with his sons. He took two sons with him with the first South Carolina, and two others joined Manigault in the campaign to fight Sherman in the...Georgia. And one of the boys, William Jr. died. And Seth was wounded about three times in the...when he was wounded at Chancellorsville, same day Jackson was killed, he...they gave him a furlough. And he got the train and came home, and William Cuckon attended him, I've got that record. And they thought that...that Seth brought smallpox with him because at about that time there was an outburst break of smallpox and my great-grandmother and my great-great-grandmother both died with smallpox about a month after Gettysburg. But Lee was so hard pressed by then that he couldn't let my great-grandfather come home to see about the family until February, so they had to...had a pretty hard time. I' letter...I don't have any correspondence except what shows up in the record in the archives, but I do have one letter written by a great aunt that describes conditions in Horry at the time soon after great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother died. Some others in the family and as I understand it, several slaves died at the same time. But poor Seth got the blame for bringing it. He...he got back as soon as he could and was pronounced A-wall, but they didn't do anything to him because he apparently was able to explain the difficulty in getting back. But he...he fought the rest of the war with a lame leg...lived till 1918. Ah, everybody called him Uncle Dump, because he had that limp and of course had live with a laudanum bottle because of the pain from the osteocolitis. And so it was became pretty harsh in Horry from 1865 until the Depression. The Depression just added...added to it. We still had access to land when I was a boy. My father had done a little bit of everything. He taught a one room school, he was a policeman, he was one of the early what became highway patrol, they called 'em rural policemen then.

Parnell: Was this in South Carolina, or North Carolina?

Heyward Bellamy: North Caro...South Carolina.

Parnell: South Carolina, okay.

Heyward Bellamy: Yea, Horry County. Ah he was active for a time with prohibition, of course. I lived through prohibition.

Parnell: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: Ah...which I told somebody when they...they passed the amendment, they created a...immediately created a new criminal class including many of my relatives because they...they had, since colonial days, the still was essential part of plantation life. In the state settlement for William Bellamy they have his Chippendale chairs, I think were valued at eleven dollars, and his still was valued at forty five dollars.

Mims: What was your father's name?

Heyward Bellamy: D. Frank Bellamy. And he married my mother who was Louise Anna Vaught.

Mims: Is that V O U G H?

Heyward Bellamy: V A U...G H T is the way he spelled it. It's the same name. It's spelled so many ways. Probably when they immigrated, it was spelled F A U T...

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: German. Ah, but we wound up with V A U G H T in South Carolina.

Mims: An there were eight children, seven surviving, and...while you were growing up.

Heyward Bellamy: Yes. As you know, South Carolina, the low country especially, was the...the place where many Huguenots settled.

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: And the Vereens were Huguenots. I have the passenger list where they...they...the first Vereen came with an English captain. They were happy to get the Huguenots because they were artisans. And the group that my Vereen ancestor came with in, what was it, 16...1685 I think it Charleston. They asked that they be placed in the latitude of the Carolinas and said we will do whatever you'd like for us to do in the way of livelihood. Ah, silkworms, wine making, three or four other things, there were silversmiths and all among the Huguenots. And some of them did actually try the silkworm industry but it didn't...didn't work out, I guess the...

Mims: Humidity, maybe, or...?

Heyward Bellamy: Ah, probably and also competition from the Orient...

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: ...was probably too great. So they...they wound up mainly with agriculture. And they were...they were great farmers. Even in my day before we came to Wilmington, I can remember the...the bounty that a cousin, who my father had put on the farm while he worked as the police chief in Loris, South Carolina, and the wonderful produce that the men would turn out with that farm and bring to town. And those were...those were very unusual days. There was so little money. I can remember that was Will great-grandmother Bellamy was a Hickman...he came in his little stripped down truck to our house to bring us a pile of things from the farm and my father noticed that his license plate was out of date. And he said "Will, you gotta get a new license tag for that now, don't...the patrolman's gonna pick you up". He those days, South Carolina would do one year of black background and an orange numbers and the next year they'd reverse it, so the patrolman could tell from a distance...and he said "don't worry about it, I've got a can of orange paint and a can of black". (laughing) And he was just a serious, I guess he tried repaint his license tags. It was a...a kind of a measure of scarce money was.

Mims: Did your family farm have a name? Was it called anything, or...?

Heyward Bellamy: My aunt who wrote the one letter I've got surviving from 1863 called her plantation Tallwood. But so far as I can tell the Bellamys, nor the Vaughts, nor the Gores gave names to their...their plantations.

Mims: Just probably known by the family name.

Heyward Bellamy: Yes, yea. And there was one time after they started doing the census when great-grandfather didn't show up in the census. So everybody speculated about what happened. Was he mad at the census taker or what? Because in those days, you know, you actually went to the house and sat down and counted everybody and all of your furniture, and really did it right. But they...the ones that do survive, I have, and they are a tremendous help to genealogists to seen what to um see what you can just see the families develop and you can see the freed slaves then begin to show up as names, you see the book. The slaves couldn't legally marry but the...the slave who was the Bellamy family, who was kind of the straw boss for the farm, named Friday was just loved by everybody, just giant man. And he married with a promise the ah, one of the Gore women, and after the war I...I went to the courthouse in Whiteville one day, I had heard that this had happened...after the war they'd send circuit judges through the countryside to see if there were former slaves who wanted to legalize their marriage. And I have the...the...a copy of the page on which Friday and the Gore lady had legalized their marriage with the courts.

Mims: Hum.

Heyward Bellamy: So finally worked out for them. And my father remembered him fondly. They were...he must have been quite a better person.

Mims: Hum.

Heyward Bellamy: But the Depression...

Mims: And what year were you born?

Heyward Bellamy: 24.

Mims: 1924.

Heyward Bellamy: Um hum. September 25th. Ah, Horry was already depressed...had been especially since the 1860s. My folks lost a lot of land. One of my great-grandmothers papered a room in the house with confederate bonds...

Mims: (laughing) that's about all they were worth.

Heyward Bellamy: And I've often wondered if any of them were on the Bank of Charleston, because I found out about twenty years ago, the Bank of Charleston made all their bonds good. Only place, as far as I know, in the south. I said "well I bet my great-grandmother's wallpaper was worth something after all"! But I think we've got two confederate bills left. But it was a pretty depressed place to be. I've got my grandfather Vaught's clock. He was born in the middle of the war, 1862, so I know the date the old clock on the mantle in there came into the family when he was twelve years it's 1876. And he remembered those days as pretty stark. They had to really make things for themselves wherever they could on those farms. The land that was left. My father told me when I was a little boy that he was a right big boy before he ever knew about store bought shoes...that they used the little lasts and the leather that they would treat and the little wood pegs to make the shoes that they'd wear.

Mims: Hum.

Heyward Bellamy: And he was a...a...I guess a teenager before he ever had a pair of shoes bought in a store.

Mims: Hum.

Heyward Bellamy: I incidentally ran into the South Car...Horry County library a ledger from the store that was there before the Civil War and during...Buck and Beatty at Conway, and that's an interesting thing to see. Shot and powder, Lindsey Woolsey, entry by an Uncle Seth of the earlier generation, he bought seventeen pairs of brogans at one time. And of course you know what...they were the work shoes for the...the slaves. And as I say, it's hard to believe that that is so close on our heels back there. That how fast the world has changed in a...just a few generations from that period.

Mims: What number child were you?

Heyward Bellamy: Pardon?

Mims: What number child were you in the family? What number child were you? Were you like the...?

Heyward Bellamy: Oh! I'm...I'm the youngest son and I have two younger sisters. All brothers were older.

Mims: And you said that growing up you did a lot of stuff near the water. You were doing the fishing...?

Heyward Bellamy: Oh yes, yep. When I was a youngster in school I could...I could make a net. It was all cotton and hemp rope, and lead and cork, and twine. And I learned to use the needle to sew a net. When we'd take the net and catch fish, one of my jobs the next day was to hang the net and dry it out and clean it, and patch any holes where a shark had run through the net.

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: And I could do that with the needle. And I told Mary just yesterday that...that if I could get some netting and rope and somebody would show me again how to use that needle I could make a...make my own net...which we all...which we did in our yard. And my father was a great hunter...had a great reputation as a hunter. People would come to see him to learn to hunt turkey, deer, everything else. He knew Carl Akeley who went Africa with Roosevelt and the Osa Johnson and her husband who made the movie in Africa when Teddy Roosevelt went on safari. They'd come to hunt in the Green Swamp area where everything was pretty much the way it was when the...when the early settlers landed...including bears, which are still there incidentally even though the development is beginning to push...push the animals out. But woods was full of...full of things to hunt. But the 30's the things had gotten pretty grim in Horry. My father had resigned his police job because the mayor wouldn' fact, had turned out a criminal. He went down to the little jail, which was still standing the last time I went through there, and the mayor had gone down after a threat and turned the man out. So my father said "I can't...can't live with this, I have to quit". So he had to make a living so he sold insurance, he farmed in what we call the old place which was about eight miles from where...where we lived in Loris. I dropped out of school to help with the farm, the thirty four...we were gonna do a crop of tobacco and try to get ahead. And of course the...the farm prices dropped out. I think we...if I remember correctly that tobacco sold for a nickel a pound...none left to pay for the guana that we used to fertilize the sandy soil. And I can remember the...the farmers gathering at our house in Loris to ask my father to word and send a night letter to President Roosevelt to tell him how desperate the situation was for farmers. And I'm sure this must have happened all over the south because the...the farm subsidy program grew out of that...that crisis that I witnessed first hand with the farm.

Mims: Was that typical for a kid to drop out of school go on and help their...their family.

Heyward Bellamy: Was it what?

Mims: Typical, I mean, what you did was...

Heyward Bellamy: Yes. Yes it was. I...when I came to Wilmington I...I counted up one day, I had been to school in Conway...I...I was in the first grade, ah, I guess not quite half a year and we had to leave because all the jobs disappeared and we went like Dr. Zhivago back to the...the home place, we called it, and lived in one of the farmhouses. And brought Will Hickman, the man I mentioned, to help us farm. So I missed that. Ah, when my father got the job at Loris as a police chief, I was put in...I found...I knew later from what went on that they put me in a...a first and second combination and so that made up about one year. Plus the one half at Conway. Then I attended the third grade, so that's two and a half. And I attended half of the fourth year which was three. So when I got to Wilmington I had attended school three years and I was a...really should have been in seventh grade. But they...over at Cornelius Harnett School, the one their tearing down at Sixth and Harnett now, that incidentally is a scholarship cup from my seventh grade year at Cornelius Harnett...they just used common sense about where to put me, and put me in the sixth grade. And I had a good year, except my father had to teach me fractions at night. He was a good mathematician, so that caught me up. The only problem I had. And by the seventh grade, Ms. Williams...Ms. Mary Williams gave me the little scholarship cup, which stayed in every Huggins place of business from the time they closed Cornelius Harnett as a white school and until he closed his shop...cause Ms. Williams had given him the, I guess the thirty, forty two...the last one named there, to put the name on. And they'd moved her to Lake Forest, and she hadn't had time to go back and get it. So when he was closing his business he told me he found something with my name on it and brought it to me. And I've had it silvered again. You don' doesn't look like it now, but...

Parnell: What brought your father to Wilmington?

Heyward Bellamy: Ah, I...I had aunt and her family who had come to Wilmington and had opened stores, and the girls had gone to work in the stores in Wilmington, and she came to see us several times and said "there's prosperity in Wilmington, you need to get out of Horry County with this family". So in 35 we sold out little house and my father took the money and came to Wilmington, and started a...a general store over on Tenth Street and we followed him shortly thereafter. And I'll never forget my first few days in Wilmington. I thought I'd gone to heaven. My aunt lived on 812 Princess Street and we came in a November, cold, rainy night. And we...

Mims: Did you drive up here?

Heyward Bellamy: cousins who were...had been here, took their truck and helped us move. And...Aunt Josie...Josephine Bellamy Clardy...Clardy, we called it in Horry, had supper waiting for me and then she got me warm, and threw me in the bed with my two beautiful cousins. I used to embarrass them as long as they lived. When I'd get 'em in a crowd, I'd say "these are the first two women I slept with...(laughing) in Wilmington". But they were so sweet to my family and helped us get a start in business and things prospered for us from...from that time. And I could not believe it when I went school here and found that the school furnished the textbooks, because in Horry and throughout South Carolina, you still had to buy the textbooks, and that was a traumatic thing every fall for the family. I can remember the children whose parents were able get their new books, were the envy of the school. And the rest of us, even the little bookstore was poorly stocked. And he'd get some books in, he'd try to get used ones when he could, but to get a quarter or fifty cents for a used speller, or history book, or arithmetic book was a real problem for the families. And when they could buy it, could get it, and you'd gradually work into the...the use of the textbooks, the teachers had to be pretty inventive that period. Had some good teachers. But I couldn't believe it when the...the school issued me the books in Wilmington and I didn't have to pay for them. And I found out that Wilmington, New Hanover County, which had consolidated in 1921, had the first free textbooks in the state...first consolidated system in the state. This is where it all started, right here. And I think we probably had the first paved road...paved roads in the Wilmington. We...I had wonderful teachers at Cornelius Harnett. Freda Gunter was my sixth grade teacher and Ms. Mary...Ms. Manley Williams, my seventh grade teacher...she was my seventh grade teacher and the principal, with one little telephone in a little office about as big as from here to the door, no secretary. And she still did a wonderful job of...of teaching a big class of about thirty five.

Mims: Hum.

Heyward Bellamy: And in 1936 we...Wilmington...New Hanover County decided that we needed to do some upgrading of the schools. Here were are in the depths of the Depression now, and the county decides to have a twenty cent tax vote put before the people. And the teachers and the school children on the day we had the rally try to promote the vote for the supplement, we called it, together, marched all downtown and really pleaded with everybody to pass the...the supplement. And they did!...passed it in 1936. And before that time, we had seven grades in the elementary schools and then we skipped to the new New Hanover High School for four years, but they called those years nine, ten, eleven, twelve. So the supplement allowed us to add the eighth grade at Tileston and Isaac Bear, which was across the street from New Hanover where the sign indicating the beginnings of Wilmington College now stands, and William Hooper. And Cornelius Harnett students and Wrightsboro students, and the usual Hemingway district attended the eighth grade at Hemingway. So I picked up a lot of new friends. And...but we thought when that happened that we had been really put upon because they were making us go to school another year. And, but we soon saw what the...the wonderful advantage was to having that...that year added. And in the meantime, people had told us that we had the best high school in North Carolina, and so we were anxious to get to New Hanover. And we class...we still meet, by the way, we're...we're the "meetingest" class, I think, that ever graduated from New Hanover.

Mims: What year was that?

Heyward Bellamy: 43 is when the class graduated. I had enough units by January that I left early. I'll tell you that story. But...but when we to New Hanover, we soon found out that that was right. We were in the best school in the world, we thought.

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: Best teachers. And it was just absolutely wonderful. Very few cars. Most of us walked, a few rode bicycles, we had a bicycle rack...had...

Parnell: Where were you living at this time?

Heyward Bellamy: Ah, at then...then, I was living at Fifth and Brunswick, next to the corner house, 721 North Fifth. And Mary was living her. This is her old family home. So we both walked to school.

Mims: You met her in high school then?

Heyward Bellamy: Uh huh, we were in the same class.

Mims: Uh huh.

Heyward Bellamy: And so...and I'd...I'd walk Mary home in the afternoons. That was the only courting we could do, because I had to go to work. I worked every...every day and didn't...didn't get much social life...very, very little. Because I knew how critical the...the work was to the welfare of the family.

Mims: Well what was the name of your father's store?

Heyward Bellamy: Ah, just Bellamy's Grocery.

Mims: And so what did you...what kind of work did you do for your dad?

Heyward Bellamy: All of it. I was a grocery boy for people from Red Cross Street to the other end of Love Grove.

Mims: So you delivered the groceries?

Heyward Bellamy: Um hum. And filled the orders. I was a pretty good butcher. And I did it all. I...just after a year or two I could buy the stock, pay the bills, calculate the sales tax, break up a steer...

Mims: Um.

Heyward Bellamy: the market, and...all of which still serves me in good stand.

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: I can take a chicken or big piece of beef and just practically take it apart blindfolded from all that work. But the...the learning the people from that period...most of our customers were black and I learned a lot about black people. I had known a lot from the Horry culture, but in Wilmington I...I was in their homes, delivering groceries, I made friends, I've eaten some wonderful meals when I'd deliver groceries because they'd be cooking all this wonderful stuff. I think all my customers were master cooks. And I'm still trying to make soup as good as Ms. Carrie Ellis could make. Cause when she was making soup she would make me stop and eat a bowl of soup. And on Saturday nights when all of our...our help were...were neighborhood folks who helped, and generally on Saturday nights, especially during spot season and mullet season, the black churches would raise money by doing a fish fry. So we'd look forward to that and come suppertime on Saturday night, which we'd stay open till the wee hours with a store in those days and fill the orders. You know you filled everything from bulk, you put the...the rice and flour, and everything else by bulk.

Mims: Cause...cause this is in the day before self service, when...

Heyward Bellamy: Oh yes.

Mims: Right.

Heyward Bellamy: Yea. And so I'd stop and go to the fish fry and get a plate for everybody, and a piece of potato pie. And so I...I really looked forward to the fish fries. And when I'd go, I...I'd usually have to stay because I knew everybody and they were...while they were frying the fish and people were coming to be served there, we'd have sing-a-longs.

Mims: Hum.

Heyward Bellamy: Just an absolute delight. It's a shame they don't do that more now. I learned more...more songs and heard more beautiful voices, ah, going to the...the ah, fish fry. And they'd do it in somebody's front yard where they had plenty of room and the porch to sit on, and it was just a relaxed, wonderful time. And somebody'd show up with a guitar or whatever they could play and the singing would start, and it was just so beautiful. I...I made lots of friends, still have a lot of 'em around who remember those days. And we have a good time reminiscing about...about that.

Mims: Well, this tape is getting ready to wrap, I wanted to stay real quick on the subject of grocery stores. Do you recall the groceteria? That was supposed to be the first store that people could go in and shop for themselves.

Heyward Bellamy: Yea. The groceteria on Market Street was also the...the place in town that carried the top quality of everything. He carried...Bannerman, Kyle Bannerman...carried the top quality beef, even the canned goods, he'd seek out the very best that he could find, so that everybody all over town knew that, there was no jealously that a tall, we had carry a line of goods that would...would fit the budget of people. We had a tremendous credit business which you almost had to do during the Depression, especially before things picked up with the shipyard. I can remember the...the folks that worked with the WPA...

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: ...being so delighted that there was something to do. But Wilmington had a...a buffer of support with the coastline, which was here. We had several lumbar companies, such as Corbett and the Colucci plywood industry at the end of Love Grove,...

Mims: Right.

Heyward Bellamy: ...which was a pioneer in its day. And of course the river, the shipping.

Mims: Um hum.

Heyward Bellamy: And...

Parnell: We've got about fifteen seconds...

Mims: So we're gonna go ahead and stop here for now.

Heyward Bellamy: Okay.

Mims: Sorry to stop you cause you're on a roll here...

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign