Interview with S.S. (Bud) Jenkins, October 8, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Interviewee: Jenkins, S.S. (Bud) Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman / Roberts, Beth Date of Interview: 10/8/2003 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 90 minutes
Hayes: Okay we’re here today and it is October 8 and we’re interviewing S. S. Bud Jenkins, Jr.
Jenkins: My first name is Sanford S. Jenkins, Jr.
Hayes: Okay, the interviewers today are Sherman Hayes, university librarian at UNCW and Beth Roberts, administrative secretary at Randall Library, also from UNCW.
Hayes: We’re interested in several levels. We’d like to find out who you are as a person in your own history, but most importantly how it’s connected to a very long history of Brunswick County and southeast North Carolina. So tell us a little bit about the Jenkins heritage. Where does that go back to?
Jenkins: Well I’ve had trouble with the Jenkins heritage a bit. I know my grandfather died in 1911, so it’s a little hard to do much tracing. He was a Methodist minister and he was a circuit rider. He was in places like Lumberton and Leland. He rode horseback every Sunday morning I guess to preach at various places and every Wednesday night he did the same thing. In fact, the day that he died I understand that he had come back from preaching and got off his horse and went to bed and died.
He was young at the time. I think he was in early 50’s. The only information I can really trace is from his obituary in the Methodist Journal out of Duke University and I have copies of that. I probably could send that to you if it would help. His parents apparently were Edward and Elizabeth Jenkins and he was born in Onslow County somewhere just to the west of here, we think somewhere around Snead’s Ferry, but I’m really not too sure of that.
I have trouble tracing him back farther than that. There were some other Jenkins that possibly tie into him. There was a John Sanford Jenkins in South Carolina before the Revolutionary War and there’s some possibility that that’s connected because of the name. It is an unusual name. My father’s middle name was Swindell which is also a very common name around this area around Boford for example. I don’t know if those were family names or if they were friends’ names. It’s my impression that the Sanford and the Swindell were friends and possibly relatives somewhere along the line.
The other side of the family is much easier for me to trace. I can go back to John Bassett Evans who was originally John Evans Bassett. There’s some confusion, I think he was Welsh, pretty sure that he was Welsh. I’m pretty sure that he came here maybe as an impressed sailor. Well the English did that quite often and the Welsh didn't like the English very much anyway, nor did the Irish or anybody else (laughter).
The possibility is that he jumped ship. We think this happened possibly in Charleston and came north. In order to not be in trouble, he changed his name from John Evans Bassett to John Bassett Evans taking on his mother’s maiden name. He came up to Brunswick County, I don’t know what brought him this far, and he farmed. They were all farmers and you trace this back and I think they’re true tarhills.
They also took the pine tree resin and boiled them and all the other business. So I think they’re true tarhills because that whole swamp country down there is full of pine trees which are good for resin. I guess that stuff was shipped to Southport along with the local cotton as caulking for the boats that went out in those days because Southport was a big port at that time as was Wilmington.
John Bassett Evans had several children and I don’t have the complete list with me unfortunately, but his son Daniel Bassett Evans’ house is still there in Town Creek. It’s on Churning Lane and I can’t remember the name of the people who live in it now, but I still have a picture of it.
Hayes: You use the term Town Creek. Where is that?
Jenkins: Town Creek is a little town that’s a small town south of Leland. In fact, the address a lot of times is Leland. But Town Creek was apparently at one time a community of some size and the Evans had a store there also. In fact on one of the early Civil War maps that I have of this area, there’s a notation “Evans’ store”. Now this apparently was somewhere prior to the war itself because forts are shown and for some reason their store is shown there too so it had some significance.
Daniel Bassett Evans had a mess of kids too, one who was my great-grandfather who was an Anchram which is another interesting name, Anchram Harris Evans and Harris is a family name also which is prevalent in this area. He married Elizabeth and her name was Robinson, I’m pretty sure. She was also somehow a Kelly. So there’s an awful lot of Irish, Evans and everything mixed into this group of people in that area.
They really had a lot of kids. My grandmother was the second daughter. The first daughter was Kate. Kate was born just about the beginning of the war just after he had gone into the service. My grandmother, Blanche Estelle, was born sometime after the war as I understand it. I’m pretty sure. I have those dates too.
Hayes: Is this the Bassett that the letters are from?
Jenkins: That’s correct.
Hayes: Oh good, well this is a good opportunity…of course Beth and I are privy to the information in the letters, but you might just talk about that, the gift that you just gave the university because my people are asking me about the relationships of those folks.
Jenkins: Okay, they were my great grandmother and great grandfather. Interesting side point, they were Troy’s grandmother and grandfather. This is Troy Henry who is my first cousin once removed because there is a generation difference. His mother and my grandmother were sisters so that’s what makes the generation difference and then what comes in as once removed.
There were I think about six kids. Troy’s mother was the last of the line. Mr. Henry married the third girl, Evans girl, Hilda, and she died in childbirth after several children so he turned around and married the youngest daughter, Evans daughter, and had two children, Elizabeth and Troy Henry. I got those letters through Troy Henry. They are of his grandmother and grandfather, my great-grandfather and great-grandmother.
Hayes: What were their names?
Jenkins: Anchram Harris Evans and Elizabeth Kelly, I think, Evans, Kelly Robinson.
Hayes: In the letters she was Bettson.
Jenkins: They call her Bettson, Betty, Liz, Lizzie. There’s apparently an awful lot of Elizabeth’s in this…I think and you’ll see this later, we have a spooner that Troy gave me that I think belonged to Elizabeth Evans’ mother who was Elizabeth Robinson and on it is engraved Lizzie. It has an interesting dent on it. It probably hit Mr. Robinson on the head (laughter).
Anyway it’s a lot of history and it’s something that I cherish, something I can pass on to my children. I don’t know if you’re familiar with a spooner, but years ago and especially in English tradition, spoons weren’t all part of the table setting. If you needed a spoon, there was a thing that sat on the table that held these spoons and you could pick out what you wanted for tea service or whatever else. As I understand this stood in the slab which was the sideboard in the dining room. It was called a slab instead of a sideboard or a serving table or whatever for many, many years. So Elizabeth, wife of Anchram, had this also.
Troy found these letters. I think it must have been in the early 50’s. They were under the stairwell in the old house which is now gone. I have pictures of that. In fact I have a painting that was made of this house by Martha Cranking who was a very great watercolor painter. It hangs in the house. The house was in pretty decrepit shape at that time. The porch is falling off. It was in pretty bad shape. It’s now gone. Of course the property is still there.
That property eventually ended up with my grandmother who was Blanche and then she willed it to her five sons when she died. There was a lot of goings on with this thing. My mother and father obviously living in Maryland didn't want to fool with it so they sold out their interest to two brothers who were still here in North Carolina. That property as far as I understand is still part of a family. So there’s the property there.
Hayes: So back to the letters, what was the contents of the letters?
Jenkins: Well the letters were all from while he was gone. He started off apparently it was the 51st Regiment North Carolina troops and he went to I guess basic training somewhere around Sugar Loaf which is just north of the Cape Fear River but south of Brunswick town and that area down there.
During this thing he was transferred around quite a bit. I think his commanding officer was a Brigadier General Hokes, I’m not sure of that, I’ve been trying to check that. He was at Petersburg I think when the crater was formed in the battle. When the union army set off the ___ to destroy the fortifications there, an underground tunnel went in. I think he was there then. I can’t prove that, but the dates seem to show that he was.
Anyway after that he went back to, he was shipped back to North Carolina. I guess the whole regiment was. In February of 1865, he was in Sugar Loaf again, apparently one of the forts down in that area. That’s the last letter that I can find anywhere. Information I can’t figure out what happened after that. I’d love to know what happened between February and April when the war was over. I kind of hoped to be able to find his warranty that he had to sign.
I have a copy of the warranty he signed by Harris Yopp who was also one of the members of the family so it gets kind of confusing. This is where Troy was such a wonderful found of information for me because I really didn't care much about it. I guess I was kind of the black sheep in the family. Whenever my parents turned their back, I was gone. It’s not that I didn't love them, I just wanted to see what was around the corner.
My life’s ambition was to see the world and fortunately I’ve been able to do that. All of a sudden I guess when you get older, you’d like to pass on what your history is and hope that you know something about it and your kids might like it when they get old.
Hayes: Now these people were writing, do we have letters from both sides?
Jenkins: Both sides. That’s the interesting part of it. Both from wife Elizabeth or Betty or Lizzie or Liz as they called her and from Anchram from wherever he was posted. He must have brought the letters back with him, saved them and I guess on every furlough he had, he brought those letters back and they were stored.
They were under the stairwell according to Troy and they had been there for years and nobody knew they were there. I guess when my Great-Aunt Dixie died who was another one of the daughters of the Evans, Troy found those in the house and preserved them.
Hayes: Well I wanted to tell you some things we found out already. Many of them are in excellent condition. Our processor is wondering did he at one point come back, and he shouldn’t have come back because he was demoted. There’s several history points…
Jenkins: Well I think he wasn’t. As I understand it, he was threatening to come back and there was some talk about demotion. Interesting that people were elected. I didn't realize that. I guess he had run either for lieutenant or captain and somehow he was cut out of that. He was rather disappointed and I think that may have been when this occurrence was. Then later on he was elected commissary sergeant for the whole regiment which he carried to his grave. On his gravestone, is commissary sergeant, CSA. He was very, very proud of this.
Hayes: And where is that gravesite at?
Jenkins: It’s at the Zion Methodist Church in Town Creek. All the family is there. They’re all laid out there. So the history is pretty well…in fact my grandfather Jenkins is there too right next to his wife Blanche. Blanche and Willie May, that was my grandfather’s name, William Armond Jenkins, were married. They had five sons who lived, but they also had several other children that didn't make it. I think there was a couple of daughters also.
My father was the oldest. I think he was about 20 or 21 when my grandfather died in 1911 so he was born in 1889 I believe is what it was. Anyway he went on to school. He went to Trinity College which became Duke and graduated with a degree in chemistry and later went back and got his Ph.D. I think he got his Master’s from the University of North Carolina, but I’m not sure of that. He got his Ph.D. from Duke.
Hayes: Now this is your father?
Jenkins: My father.
Hayes: What was his name again?
Jenkins: Sanford Swindell Jenkins Sr. He took a research fellowship after he got his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins to work on some special organic chemical things a semester and stuff that was all brand new and that’s where I was born. I was born in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University in 1931. I’m pretty sure I was conceived in North Carolina (laughter). So anyway they hadn’t been there long.
So my two sisters, Jacqueline and Genevieve, were both born in Durham. My older sister had died. My younger sister Genevieve has multiple sclerosis. She lives in Delaware. Her husband recently died. She’s there now.
Hayes: Now you were telling me your dad’s family was highly educated, correct?
Jenkins: Unbelievable. The five boys, there were three Ph.D.’s. My father, my uncle Bud we called him, Wilbert A. He was a plant pathologist, got his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins. His Master’s and his Bachelor’s I’m pretty sure were from Duke, no excuse me, Cornell. His Master’s was from Cornell and then his Ph.D. from Hopkins.
Then Theodore Roosevelt Jenkins was next to the youngest. His Ph.D. was from Duke and it was in theology.
Hayes: So there are five boys.
Jenkins: Five boys and three Ph.D.’s.
Hayes: What are the other two boys?
Jenkins: The other two, Carlysle and I don’t know his middle name, I think he was sort of a free spirit. I understand he wrote some pretty interesting books (laughter). I’m not sure they were ever published, but I understand there were some really interesting books. He was very seriously hurt in a shipyard accident and I think he was confined to a wheelchair for a long time.
Roy who was the third son was very talented in painting. He ended up with the Department of Transportation here in North Carolina I think doing the early roadsides, painting those sort of things. I have a desk plate that he did for me when I was in the Army. It’s a little walnut desk plate that has my name on it. It’s really nice. It’s a beautiful thing he painted on the thing, so he’s very talented. But he was a hunter and a fisherman and that’s what his whole life was. That’s what he really wanted to do.
Hayes: These five sons, so your grandfather, was he the minister?
Jenkins: He was a Methodist minister, yes.
Hayes: So is that the sense of where educational commitment came from?
Jenkins: Apparently this is where it came from.
Hayes: How about your grandmother?
Jenkins: Well no, as far as I know, she had no formal education other than whatever was available in Wilmington at that time. So I don’t think it ever went past that. It’s amazing to me and I have a few letters from her, their handwriting and their grammar, if you realize that there was a difference in grammatical things in those days and now, it’s unbelievable. It’s the same with Anchram and Elizabeth. If you notice, you read these letters, they’re not scribbling.
The handwriting is very good. Grammar and spelling are good. It’s amazing to me how good it is. There were some good genes that spoke well for education no matter how you got it.
Hayes: Your dad was born you said in the late 1880’s.
Jenkins: ’89 I believe, yeah.
Hayes: He was going to be school in the early 20th century. A Ph.D. was just…
Jenkins: Unbelievable, unheard of, yes.
Hayes: And you had three.
Jenkins: Three of them. It’s always fascinated me.
Hayes: From Town Creek?
Jenkins: From Town Creek. Well the other boys… my father was born in Town Creek. I know that from his passports and stuff like that and his military records. The other boys, I’m not sure, they were either born in Leland or Lumberton or one of those towns that my grandfather was preaching in. Apparently he was really good at what he did. He was hell, fire and damnation I’m sure.
I have some notes, somebody has his bible and I’m not sure which cousin has it, but I have some notes that were on the side of it. Pretty strong about some of the things he said. But apparently he must have been tough on the boys as far as education was concerned. It’s a shame that I don’t know more about him. He was very tall and I have a picture which shows him in almost a Lincoln top hat which even increases his height immensely.
Hayes: A Methodist minister wouldn’t necessarily have to have an education, but he had gone to Trinity…
Jenkins: Well no, not my grandfather. I don’t think so. As I understand it, he had been trained as a Baptist minister. His parents moved somewhere, from Onslow County to Wilmington and I don’t know what kind of training the Baptist had at that time. There must have been some sort of church school there that he went to. For some reason he ended up in I think the Fifth Street Methodist Church there which is still there in Wilmington. He listened to these people.
There’s a gentleman by the name of Tuttle who was also a minister who wrote his obituary and said that for some reason the Methodist ritual and its basis was important to him and he switched from becoming a Baptist minister to becoming a Methodist minister. I think he was ordained there in that church on Fifth Street. I’ll send you that. I can get that stuff for you and send it to you.
But he must have been an interesting character. I have a letter that he wrote to my grandmother which is very, very formal asking to see her. It’s a wonderful thing. His writing was very good and he was obviously a very Victorian gentleman might be a good way to put it I guess which I guess was pretty common in those days. But I wish I knew more about him cause I just can’t trace it back far enough. I can put names in, but I have no cross references to truly pin them down.
If it’s possible, I think that his father was in the Confederate Navy which was really unusual because there wasn’t much of a Navy. I think he was buried in Wilmington in an unmarked grave which is also, I’m not sure about. The tax records don’t show anything on him so whether they were poor or what…and then there’s so much confusion in the Jenkins genealogy here in Onslow County and Carteret that I’ve tried to track it down and I get pieces back and forth. I’m really not sure who’s who.
Hayes: Well we know who you are. So your dad was at Johns Hopkins…
Jenkins: He was on a one year fellowship.
Hayes: And you were born there and that city is…
Jenkins: In Baltimore, Maryland.
Hayes: And then where?
Jenkins: Then he left teaching and went into industry. I guess teachers in those days did not make a lot of money. College professors, it was pretty bad. He had three children and he wanted to provide a half decent life for them so he went into industry as a research chemist and ended up with _____ Cork and Seal in Baltimore as their senior research person and had several interesting inventions I guess.
Cork was becoming a desperate thing just because it all came ______ with wars and all those things, it was getting hard to get. He had found a way to take scrap cork and glue it back together, grind it up and glue it back together and make, you know the old beer bottle caps, he was gluing it back together and somehow roasting it. I guess that’s the right word. I guess it a resin of some sort.
So it was chopped up and put it into these beer caps. Then he later developed the glue… remember that little spot that was on a beer cap, a little aluminum spot that was on the cork and this was to keep any taste from the cork getting into the beer. Aluminum is a real problem because it’s hard to glue. The story was, I think I remember this, he woke up in the middle of the night one night and said, “I have the answer” (laughter) you know kind of like “Eureka, I found it”.
It was to put oil in the glue, this is all pretty hazy, to put a little oil in the glue so that the glue would stick to the oily aluminum foil. That’s apparently why it worked. He also did work on these glued on tops on bottles like on mayonnaise. Well most all of them have them now where you have to peel the top off. That was becoming fashionable at that time. He died in 1954. He was just 64 years old.
He was a great carpenter. Interesting enough he was very good with his hands. His ambition was to build a boat and sail it down the Chesapeake. We built a boat, he and I. He did most of it. It was a 16-1/2 foot runabout. It was all cedar with white oak and not a nail in it, all screws. We had a three horsepower Champion outboard motor. He traded that to a man who had had a 70 foot sailboat and it sunk in the shipping lanes there in Chesapeake.
The Navy raised it. It was a model A Marine converted engine. We put that engine in this boat. It was kind of interesting. It was a good little fishing boat. It was pretty fast. We’d run it up and down the river at 30 mph, 25-30 mph. We had to put a big prop on it because it didn't have an rpm’s to them, so we just put a great big heavy pitch prop on the back.
Anyway my father went to France. I think he was teaching at Emory in Atlanta. I’m not sure whether he had his Master’s in or not. When the war broke out in Europe, he immediately volunteered. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the field artillery and went to France. He went over with the 77th New York Division which always galled him (laughter).
He got to France and I guess they were looking for people…I guess there was all kind of sickness in the trenches so since he was a chemist, they put him in the sanitary corps. One of his major jobs was to make sure that the big old canvas ____ bags had the proper chlorinated stuff and I guess he ran between trenches. I don’t know, that’s the story we heard. As a kid it sounded pretty interesting to me.
Anyway he met a little girl in Dancevoir which is about 165 miles from Paris, it’s southeast of Paris. He said “I’ll be back to get you” and after the war was over he went back and got her and convinced her parents that she should be allowed to marry him. She was only 19. He was 29. He was 6’1” and she was 5’ max, probably had to stretch to be 5’.
Hayes: This was your mother?
Jenkins: This was my mother, yeah.
Hayes: And what was her full name then?
Jenkins: Her full name was Lucy Marie Berta Briot.
Hayes: So now we have Town Creek and a French lady.
Jenkins: Yes, a French lady from a town of Dancevoir, tiny little town.
Hayes: So at least they were both from small towns (laughter).
Jenkins: And my French grandfather who was Francois Briot was the town mayor. He was the international harvester dealer, interesting. He wore that hat and he was a blacksmith. The blacksmith shop is still there. The house that she grew up in, it must be about 600 years old now, and my cousin still lives in it. The shop has been preserved. It’s still there and the all the tools, the early tools.
Hayes: Now did your father ever explain why he was upset to be with New York people?
Jenkins: Well he was a southerner. Number one, he was a field artillerymen, he was a southerner and he really wanted to fly. He had put in for the flying corps and I guess he was too old so they wouldn’t take him.
Hayes: Did he literally marry her and come right back or did he have to go back to France?
Jenkins: No, he married her in France. They think they were married after the war, August of 1919. So he was there after the war was over. They came back of course to North Carolina and I think he became the Superintendent of Science for Durham schools in those days. That’s when he went on to get his further degrees and get into research. Interesting guy.
I remember conversations between these two uncles with Ph.D.’s and my father. I remember sitting on the floor as a kid listening to these intelligent conversations. It was unbelievable just to listen to these three guys. My Uncle Bud was a plant pathologist and at one time was I guess one of the leading authorities on tobacco diseases.
In fact he was convinced that he could breed a tobacco that was not subject to black shank which was the thing, the fungus that destroyed tobacco here for years. He was at the University of Virginia at that time and they told him if you can do that, we’ll let you do it on your own in your spare time so he did. I was there, I don’t remember exactly when this was, but we were in Chatham, Virginia and the farmers were lined up outside the agricultural station, they were trying to get this seed that had taken him some five or six or eight years to develop.
Of course he had hoped to get rich off of this and then the state took it over I guess. He was really a brilliant guy. He died very early of course of lung cancer because he was a very heavy smoker.
Hayes: But they didn't know at the time?
Jenkins: No, apparently they didn't know or didn't to talk about it anyway. Everybody smoked. Let me tell you about my father a bit. My mother and father had three children. I was the youngest. My oldest sister, Jacqueline…oh the interesting, let me say this. The interesting thing is that my mother’s mother and my father’s mother were both Blanch, that was their name except in French it was Blanche and had an “e” on it. Of course it means white. That was my French grandmother’s first name and my North Carolinian grandmother’s first name. That kind of an aside… but…
Anyway my older sister, Jacqueline Blanch, was an interesting person, just a brilliant woman. She attended Goucher College in Baltimore which is now Goucher University, but it was a very excellent women’s school. It’s no coed I guess like everything else. She graduated in 1942 in math and psychology which is kind of strange. She went in the Navy and was in the first class of graduating WAVES out of Mount Holyoke in Connecticut and became a Naval officer.
The interesting thing is she was on the crew that broke the Japanese code during World War II. She was a really interesting person, brilliant, unbelievable IQ and beautiful on top of it. She was just an absolutely beautiful woman. Her husband was a Johns Hopkins graduate in 1940 and he went to work for Morrison Knudson which was a big construction company and he was sent to Wake Island to build a flying boat base there, the original base on the island and he was captured by the Japanese in December of 1941 after the war broke out.
He was in prison there until 1945. He was fortunate to get off the island because they machine gunned most of the people that were left on the island. He went first to Shanghai and then from Shanghai to northern Honshu on the main island of Japan. He was very lucky to get out because they really didn't know where they were and it was late in September or October. The weather was getting pretty nasty in northern Honshu when he was liberated.
He came back and I can remember that day. My sister, everybody wondered what she’d do when he came back. You know, here she was a WAVE officer. They weren’t married when he left. They planned to marry when she graduated from school when he got back. Anyway I can still see this. He was a Washingtonian. His family was very interesting too. His name was Nye, very old Washingtonian family.
Hayes: Washington, D.C.?
Jenkins: Washington, D.C. When he came back, I can still him. He only weighed about 90 pounds at that point coming back. She spotted him down the track and you weren’t allowed to go down the track with a conductor. You couldn’t wait down the track. My sister hit that conductor’s arm like a linebacker (laughter). So they were married soon after that. They had three children.
Hayes: And he survived.
Jenkins: Yeah, he survived. He lived to be 80. He had a lot of problems. He also had ataxia which was a family disorder, a nerve ending disorder and of course that was not helped any by years in prison camp. His kids have it which is unfortunate. It’s a genetic disease. There’s a whole group of these things that are like M.S. and all these things are kind of together.
They had three children. The oldest girl lives in Providence, North Carolina. She was last married to a fireman in Danville, Virginia and they lived across the line in Providence, North Carolina. She’s still there. He unfortunately died at a very young age with lung cancer. The second son, Edwin Darby, his father was Edwin Darby Nye, so he’s Edwin Darby but they call him Darby, he’s a purchasing agent for the Lenfant Plaza Hotel there, the big Loews. It used to be Loews, it’s somebody else now, but it’s a big hotel there in Washington, on Lenfant Plaza.
The youngest son, some of you may know, he’s Bill Nye, the science guy. So he’s the youngest son of my sister Jacqueline.
Hayes: No I don’t, tell the listeners who might not know.
Jenkins: He’s a Cornell graduate and he went to Seattle to work for Boeing as a mechanical engineer and disliked being at a drafting table. He always wanted to be a standup comic. So he won a Steve Martin look alike award or something and he went to work for a program in Seattle called Almost Live. It was really a good show. He did a lot of writing for them. He did skits for them and that’s where he developed this science guy routine.
He carried it on and worked for Disney. Disney hired him to put this thing together. I think it was five or six years that he did this, all the episodes. It was mainly for children, but the interesting thing about is that all the adults that I know who have seen it are fascinated because he does a beautiful job of explaining why things occur, natural science.
He’s now developed a new program. He’s trying to sell it right now. It’s a take-off. I guess it’s really aimed at the kids he was teaching before. Now they’re a little older so he can take them up a little farther. I understand one of the episodes is on cloning and the ethics and everything else about it so. But a very interesting character, lives in Seattle. Is thinking about moving to Los Angeles, either that or New York because that where it much better to do his kind of business.
Hayes: Your sister kept going back to school?
Jenkins: She got her Master’s in 1942 and got her Bachelor’s from Goucher in ’42, her Master’s from George Washington University in 1972 and her Ph.D. in Education in 1982. I was used to kid her all the time. I always said “Jacqueline, you’re not too smart. It took you 40 years to finish” (laughter). But she was just a great one. She worked for the government for quite a while. She discharged after the war. Then she didn't work at all when the kids were little and then went back to work when they were all grown.
Then she went to work as a volunteer at the SCORE for a long time which is the Special Corps of Retired Executives. She did a lot of work for them for a long time. Interestingly enough she ran into long distance cousin, one of the Mercer’s. I think I mentioned to you that the Mercer’s are executors of Charlie’s estate. He’s buried in the David A. Mercer Cemetery.
There were some problems that even though all his family was in the Zion Church, Methodist church there, there was some problem that he really wasn’t an active member so he got mad at them. They came through the Evans line also. So it’s just a complicated, interesting family from a little place in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of nowhere in France.
Hayes: We have been modest so far but you also have a Ph.D., is that correct?
Jenkins: No, no, I’m strictly…I have a Bachelor’s degree in Geology.
Hayes: But you’ve had a career in science. Did you have a brother beside your sister?
Jenkins: I had two sisters.
Hayes: And what did she do?
Jenkins: She was just a Bachelor of Arts degree also from Goucher. I will say I had a lot of credits toward my Master’s, but I never did go one with it. When I got out of the Army, I decided I wanted to make some money instead of going back to school. I never did pursue it. I never was that good of a student anyway.
Hayes: But I think it’s still interesting that even when you were getting out of the Army, what year would that have been.
Jenkins: It was during the Korean thing. I was commissioned just at the end of the Korean mess.
Hayes: Well I’m just saying there still was an educational tradition that started way back. The assumption was that you were going to go to college, right?
Jenkins: Oh, there was no question that I would go to college and I really thought I didn't really want to do that. I had so many other things I wanted to do, but there was some pretty heavy pressure on going to school and I assume that came right down the line. The pressure continued on. I was telling you about Edwin Darby that my sister’s son has two sons. One has got an absolute full scholarship at the University of California Berkley to finish his Ph.D.
He is a graduate of Cornell in math and the second son is just graduating from I think it’s George Mason in applied math. There’s an awful lot of …… In the case of my other sister, oh her husband was a graduate of Johns Hopkins. Their kids are all college educated. They all have a college degree.
In my case, I have three, out of the 3 of my children, one who finished. She was Sum Cum Laude from the University of Missouri and my son sort of fiddled. He had enough credits, but they weren’t enough. I keep bugging him to go back and finish it up. I think he probably will. And the oldest girl was just too interested in horses and still in the horse business so. But she did end up as a medical technician so she did do that pretty well.
She was absolutely brilliant horsewoman. If I had the money to buy the horses, she’d have been … she was really the best and still does it. Still ____ training which is like the Olympics style riding. She takes a horse from nothing and brings it up through all these levels and does very well at it. I’m a little worried about her. She had her first son at age 41. She’s getting up there. It’s hard to believe that my kids are that old.
To give you a little of my history. I started off as an oil doodlebugger. They called it doodle bugging in those days. Went through this seismic exploration gravity meters, the whole works. Looking for fossils and just decided this really wasn’t going to be my bag. It was too confining.
So I happened to see an ad in a magazine called the “Explosive Engineer” looking for technical representatives in explosives business and it turned out it was Hercules Powder Company in Wilmington that had the ad.
Hayes: Wilmington here?
Jenkins: Wilmington, Delaware. So I went up to see him, went through the long interview process and then I thought well jeez while I’m here I’ll just to see ____ Powder Company which was also there and then talked to them and figured as jeez as I was already here, I’d go see DuPont. DuPont offered me the unheard of salary of $470 a month. I couldn’t believe it.
Hayes: This was in the 50’s?
Jenkins: Yeah, early 50’s and I thought God, I could never spend all that money. Plus a company car and and an expense account which was pretty lovely. So I did a little training around the east coast and then went out to Seattle and we were there in Seattle about five years. We went from there to Chicago and from there to a laboratory in West Virginia and then to Australia. I lived in Australia for a couple of years. Took for the first DuPont Explosives into Australia which was kind of fun.
I was able to go anyplace. I could hire a pilot and a plane. At the time I could say I was underground at every mine in Australia. It was a fascinating period. We lived right at the beach just like this except it was high up, it was on Whale Beach, just north of Sydney, beautiful. Came back from there, went back to Chicago and got into a lot of other stuff. I had 11 other salesmen working for me. I ended up going on to Dallas and a few other places (laughter). And I had some marital problems in all this mess.
I ended up retiring from DuPont after 30 years and that’s 17 years ago and went into the consulting business. I lived in Singapore for a while too so I knew a lot of people around the world and I’d helped put together an explosive plant in Hong Kong right on Stonecutter’s Island. I had never been to Hong Kong, but that’s a fascinating place especially when it was still a British colony.
The plant was right on Stonecutter’s Island which…you could see when the planes came into Kai Tak Airport, they would make a turn right over the island there. So you always knew where you were when you made that turn. When you came into the old airport there at Hong Kong, you could look out the windows of the plane and see the people’s apartment houses, that’s how close you were to everything, fascinating.
In all that time in between Australia and Singapore, I traveled and traveled the world. I worked in something like 25 countries and I’ve been in about 70 of them. More countries than there were when I was studying geography in grammar school. There weren’t that many countries. I’d been to places like Lesotho and Swaziland and Bucatrazo and all these crazy little places in Africa and spent a lot of time in Nigeria.
Hayes: You were… this was your own company at this point?
Jenkins: No, no, I was with DuPont. I was doing technical work for DuPont showing people how to use these explosives and do a lot of specialty work, special types of blasts. Uh…
Hayes: But always been tied around the mining industry?
Jenkins: Yes, always around the mining and quarrying industry. I did a little work in demolition. I dropped a building in Chicago for a friend. And then I went as a consultant.
Hayes: Was this a legal drop?
Jenkins: No, no, legal, yeah. I went to England with a friend of mine, Victor Ogden, who had was in the quarry business but he wanted to get into the demolition business. He wanted to be the first one to drop a building in England with explosives and he was having trouble with the local councils and all the other engineers so he actually told DuPont to send me over. I went over to convince the _______ council and all the other people it could be done if you could drop one of these buildings which he did successfully.
So I didn't have any actual explosive work, but that was the first building that was dropped in England with explosives. That was kind of fun. I looked at several others. He had some in South Africa and Malaysia so I looked a lot. It was fun, all that sort of stuff. Then when I retired since I had a lot of friends around the world, in fact that’s when I met Katherine when I came back from Singapore. We were living three doors apart in townhouses in _________ Missouri and Katherine’s husband was killed in a plane crash and my wife had died in Singapore.
Anyway we kind of learned a path back and forth for several years and finally decided we wouldn’t ruin a good friendship by getting married. And it’s been nice, been… it’s almost 20 years and it’s pretty nice and I had known her for about 3-4 years before we got married.
So I started this consulting business because I had these friends. In fact one of these trips, I took Katherine with me around the world to meet all these nutty friends I had. We had access to a boat in Singapore and in Hong Kong we had a junk. We had a junk that we could just use anytime we wanted. We went to Australia and Tahiti and a bunch of other places. We took about 6-7 weeks and went around the world which was kind of nice. It was the second time I’d been all the way around at one time.
The consulting business was good. After a while you wear your friends out and so I thought I had this chance. I had a good friend in Australia who had invented this bore hole plug when he was with DuPont.
Hayes: Spell that.
Jenkins: It’s a bore hole, B-O-R-E H-O-L-E. It’s a drill hole in the ground.
Hayes: Is that one word or two?
Jenkins: Well it’s both depending on who’s writing it, but it can be either one. This is a self-inflating, chemically inflated bag that will block the bore hole at any depth. It’s used for…I’ll show you this little 7 minute video that shows that it actually does. We can reduce the amount of explosives and still get the same results in a lot of cases, in fact in some cases up to 35%. So it’s a very useful item. It can be used for all sorts of things.
If you’ve ever been down a roadside and seen half of the bore holes along a clean wall where the area’s been shot in the rock, you’ll see half of the holes all around there, that’s a thing called pre-splitting and done with very small explosive charges to give you a very stable high wall, stable wall. You can do that with these plugs too using an air deck principle of air between the explosive charges. That gives you very interesting explosive results.
The opening shot of this video I’m going to give you is 5,000,000 pounds of explosives going off. It’s in Wyoming and there’s 2,000 holes, a little over 2,000 holes. The shot’s a mile along. As a matter of fact when we did the video, we had to bring the sound up so the sound coincided with what the shot was because the shot was moving faster than the sound. It’s just taking the overburden off the coal scene so you could get to the coal.
(End of Tape).
Hayes: Okay, today is October 9th, oh I’ve been corrected, it’s October 8th, and we’re once again with Bud Jenkins, Sherman Hayes, Beth Roberts. We didn't mention in the first tape, we’re actually at a beach house in…
Roberts: Emerald Isle, North Carolina, Carteret County.
Hayes: Bud, we were working on your career, but I wondered if you could talk to us about various times that you came back to North Carolina, what was it like when you came back because your dad was from here?
Jenkins: Sure, we came back quite a few times to Carolina Beach. And my father, especially when my dad was teaching, we’d just spend the summers there. I remember Carolina Beach pretty well especially all the fish. We ate fish just about fish every day, three times a day I think. It was wonderful. Seeing my great aunt Dixie, she was always my favorite. She was really a very interesting woman. She was I guess really a flapper during the twenties.
I don’t really know what happened, something happened. She had a bad love affair or something and she went back to the farm with her sister Kate and they stayed there. So when we’d go back to the country, we’d go into Town Creek and there was nothing there.
Hayes: What were some of your earliest memories?
Jenkins: Oh, this would be in the thirties. We were down here I know in 1941. I remember that well. I was getting a little older then. It was just really… it was all dirt roads, there was no electricity. Just a really different part of the world from what I was used to. Then my sister and I came down here in 1949. I’ll never forget that too. I had just gotten out of high school. I got out of school in February so we decided we’d come down and see Great Aunt Dixie.
And you can imagine, this woman when she was young, there were pictures of her and she was a beautiful woman. She came up through her house. When we got to her house, she wasn’t there. So we waited and she came up in a two wheeled donkey cart and still beautiful features. This beautiful gray haired, beautiful features, but she had hands almost like a man from all the hard work.
That morning she’d just shot a big rattlesnake. I may be exaggerating this, but I think it was 19 rattles, that sticks in my mind. It may not be true (laughter). She had a couple of lovely dogs and they had just turned the electricity on the week before we got there in March 1949. It was just a different, different, completely different world. On top of that when we came here, we couldn’t find the house because there were all these little dirt roads going all over the place. There was a small store not any bigger than this room, maybe a little bigger than this room.
What I found out later was in Henry town which was ____ folks, stopped in there to ask directions and there were two men in there working. One of them was sweeping the floor and I was going to ask directions how to get out to Aunt Dixie’s. One of them looked up at me and he said, “You’re Sanford Jenkins”. And he said, “You couldn’t be, you must be his son”. It was like a walking ghost. Apparently we were that much alike in those days.
So anyway I went out to see Aunt Dixie and she was just a wonderful person. The old house was still there. It was in good shape then. It was, well, good furniture. It uh… there was paneling in the living room and there were really nice area rugs, hardwood floors.
Hayes: So the two sisters farmed?
Jenkins: They stayed there and farmed the land, what was left of it. I think a lot of it had been, you know through the years, a lot of it had just gone by the by and uh... I guess some of it was sold and lots of other things had happened. Then when Aunt Dixie died, that was a Great Aunt Dixie, that was a little less chance to come back down, but I’d come down a few other times and the house was going to pieces and I guess a bunch of hippies lived in it for a while and then it just rotted out and went. Nobody took care of it. I think I told you I have a picture of it that Margaret Cranking had done a painting of it which is pretty neat. Those are the things I really remember and seeing all the old, all the cousins, it was kind of fun.
Hayes: Now your first cousin removed, Troy Henry, you commented that he became kind of a history fanatic and uh…
Jenkins: Yeah, he was really the keeper of the Evans family, he was the one who… he had all the records because…he and his mother lived in Bolivia and his sister just down the road from Town Creek. I guess they’d go out and see Aunt Kate and Aunt Dixie. They used to talk about that quite a bit. Of course he didn't know any of the older people because they all died before he came along.
Anchram and Elizabeth were both gone by then. My grandmother was still alive. She lived in Durham still until she died which was in 1942. We came down to see her. She had a little house on Second Street which was almost on the old Duke campus. The thing I remember is a grape arbor in the back there, a beautiful grape arbor, covered with grapes there. Of course it’s a North Carolinian tradition ________.
She was really a nice person. She was a lot of fun to be around. Of course the things I remember about Durham in those days was things that would impress a kid like the local dairy where you could see the milk bottles being filled. Of course it was all glass and you could stand there and watch these glass milk bottles. I’ll never forget that. I wasn’t very old at the time, but it was very impressive.
Of course being almost on the campus, we would walk through the campus itself. The old campus is still there and the house I understand is still there. But uh, you know Duke has moved outside of town there, a much larger campus now.
Hayes: How about Troy himself? Over the years you’ve stayed in touch until recently when he passed away.
Jenkins: That’s right. Troy was a real collector. He just had an insatiable desire to collect things that were interesting. He had beautiful collections of seashells from all over the world. I don’t think Troy never ventured very far. He wouldn’t fly. He could go to see his sister in New York and that was about as far as he ever went. He lived in Florida for a little while with the railroad. But up and down the east coast is as far as he’d ever gone. We tried to get him to come to Missouri a couple of times and there was no way, he wasn’t going to do that, too far.
Kind of like my cousin in France who says he would never go any farther than when he could hear the church bell. That was as far as he’d ever been and Troy was a lot like that. He just was, he wanted to stay where he was. His house was…it was almost like a museum, but it was an unorthodox museum in that things were not categorized. He had paintings that were stacked up against the wall. In some of the rooms the path would be this wide and there’d be paintings just stacked up against the walls.
I remember looking at one of them. I didn't get too close because you couldn’t get to it. One of them looked like it was a Matisse. All the colors of Matisse. Whether it was or not, I don’t know. He also had a tile that was made by Salvador Dali and it was, I think it was the last days, No, might have been… it was the 12 steps of the cross. I’ve seen pictures, his sister-in-law now has that tile. So he collected all this stuff. He would go into a house in Wilmington and just buy the whole, all the furnishings, everything in it and truck it up to the house.
Hayes: So he really knew what he had? Was he an expert of sorts?
Jenkins: He knew a lot of it was junk, but he liked it anyway. But he knew what was good. I remember him showing us a Tiffany, sort of a candy tray and he said he’d bought that in a thrift store for 25 cents (laughter). So he knew what he was looking at. It’s fascinating to talk to people like that. Of course he had books all over the place on various forms of, types of antiques and seashells.
Just before he died he bought a big collection of seashells that had belonged to some people in Virginia Beach who had been in the seashell business for years. I guess they would buy and sell them, but this collection was the one they kept for themselves. They died and left them to their son and their son didn't want them so Troy bought the whole works. He was in the process of categorizing when he died. There must have been hundreds of them.
Hayes: What about his dogs?
Jenkins: He used to call his dogs his doorbells. These were old hounds ______ hounds and they were a mixture of fox hounds and everything else, probably a walker in some of them. He had about 25 of them. That literally was his doorbell when people would come in through because the dogs would start to bark and he knew somebody was coming. Of course the dogs loved him. He fed them all and he took care of them. They would meet him and they’d go nuts when he came home. It was an interesting thing.
He left in his will, he knew nobody would want them so he wanted to make sure they were put away quietly. There were at least 25 of them. His favorite was one named Bubba and he was taken by an alligator down there in the black water. There’s still some big alligators down there in the Town Creek area. The creek went right around him. In fact they’re negotiating, the executrix is negotiating with the conservation organization to buy part of that land so they can actually run by canoe or something down the Town Creek.
There used to be a boat that went from the Evans store, a steamboat, that went into Wilmington. That’s how they got back and forth to Wilmington was on this little boat and it ran I guess twice a day or something back and forth. It was a long way by horse or by carriage into Wilmington. The steamboat I guess in those days could make pretty good time down the river. I’m sure it’s overgrown now and a lot of it’s been filled in, sediment and everything else.
This conversation, pardon me, conservation group was hoping they could get it back in shape so people could actually travel down the river the way it used to be done.
Hayes: Over the years, Troy would generously give you things and tell you the stories?
Jenkins: Yeah, that’s what I wanted, the story of the family and that’s why I got the initial letters, all the transcriptions that we made. Then we arranged to have them transcribed. That’s where the disk came from. The little girl down there was a neighbor that was on the computer and she transcribed a lot of it on that disk and her idea was to publish them and hopefully in some form that would fill in the gaps in between the letters themselves kind of in a novel form because they were a couple of interesting people.
Those letters are a real love story. I mean these are people that just obviously were very devoted to each other. It’s a… there’s a few little risqué things in there, kind of fun you know. But as we’ve talked about it, in those letters there’s not too much that’s about the war, a little bit, but not too much.
Hayes: Tell me again, after the war he came back and was a farmer.
Jenkins: That’s right. He actually was a store owner too, a storekeeper. He was kind of a funny poet too. I guess he had an advertisement that used to run in the paper that just told…it was in poetry, it was what they sold in the store all the way from gloves to everything and it just was a… I’ll send you that too, it’s cute. I think it was in the Wilmington paper even, at least the local. They ran the store for years and then the farming also.
It was kind of bare bones farming. A lot of…they’d ship two barrels of grapes or four barrels of peas. It was not a big farming thing.
Hayes: And the uh… the tar and turpentine was…
Jenkins: I think that was the major income producer although I don’t think there was a lot of income at any time.
Hayes: That whole industry collapsed with the steam engines.
Jenkins: Sure, yeah and with getting rid of wooden boats and that sort of stuff. That was kind of the end of it.
Hayes: Well we’re about done and I wanted to give you a chance to reflect on kind of North Carolina roots of your family and it still seems to be a factor, you’re still coming back to visit.
Jenkins: Well sure, well it’s fascinating to me because these people were really unusual. I think that the combination of that plus the French has made me something kind of interesting. I have a cousin who was married to Philippe Devogele who was head of French intelligence during World War II and then he was stationed in Washington after the war. And he’s the one that told Kennedy that the missile sites in Cuba were hard. For that DeGaulle kicked him out of the country because you know DeGaulle didn't care much for us.
Leon Uris took his notes and wrote a book called Topaz, which was the problems in France with the Communists at that point. Then Philippe also wrote his own book called Lamia which was kind of an autobiography, history. On both sides of the family there’s just some really fascinating people. I don’t know how I ended up, I’m just kind of the strange one I guess.
But I’m glad, I think it’s just wonderful that you’re taking this stuff down because obviously it’s important to me and I hope it’s important to other people here. And you know Wilmington is full of Evans and I’m sure if you start looking at these people, you’re going to find the other Evans families other than Anchram and Elizabeth. I correspond with one in Saratoga Springs, New York, Paul Evans. He’s the last of the Jacob L. Evans. Jacob Alexander Evans line which is kind of disconcerting to him. I think he’s lost some kids or something.
But he was a minister also and getting old. So it’s kind of fun to see these people and find out how many people we are related to from Adam and Eve on, it sure expanded rapidly (laughter) even in our short history if you think about families hat were 8 or 9 kids and they all had 8 or 9. It just went very rapidly. It’s very hard to keep track of who’s who.
Hayes: Well listen thank you very much, I want to thank you for the interview, I appreciate your sharing the family history and your own personal history.
Jenkins: Well thank you and I really appreciate your doing this.
Hayes: Thank you.
(End of Tape).