BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with John Swain, February 22, 1996 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with John Swain, February 22, 1996
Date:
February 22, 1996
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Swain, John Interviewer: Date of Interview: 2/22/1996 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 50 minutes

Interviewer 1: Let's start by letting you tell us your name.

Swain: Well, my name is John, Julius, J-U-L-I-U-S, but I never did like Julius, Swain.

Interviewer 1: That's all right. We'll call you that anyway.

Swain: They call me that. My wife shortened it to John.

Interviewer 1: Well, put the Swain in there.

Swain: The Swain yeah.

Interviewer 1: John Julius Swain. Were you born in Southport, John?

Swain: Yes, I was.

Interviewer 1: May I ask you when?

Swain: When?

Interviewer 1: Uh huh.

Swain: I was born in August the 10th in 1921.

Interviewer 1: That puts you right in my age bracket.

Swain: I know.

Interviewer 1: I was in '20. What were your parents' names? Mention your mother's maiden name.

Swain: My father's name was John R. Swain and my mother's name was Carol Thompson Swain.

Interviewer 1: Okay. The R in your daddy's name was Richard?

Swain: Rutland, R-U-T-L-A-N-D, Rutland.

Interviewer 1: Were either of your parents born in Southport?

Swain: As far as I know, they were all born in Southport.

Interviewer 1: What kind of work did your father do?

Swain: Well, my father was a plumber.

Interviewer 1: I remember him mostly as being the plumber of Southport. Tell us something you remember about his work? It was many years that he did this.

Swain: Well, my dad started doing plumbing work--he lived on a farm at first but then he came to Southport and met my mother and they married. They lived, like I say, on the farm but he took up plumbing. My grandfather Thompson was also a plumber but he worked for the city of Southport and he helped run the light plant out the road out here.

Interviewer 1: Yes. By the hospital.

Swain: And so he took up plumbing and learned plumbing work from my grandfather.

Interviewer 1: What was your grandfather's name?

Swain: Mike, M. G. Thompson.

Interviewer 1: I remember him. I didn't know he had been a plumber.

Swain: M. G. Thompson.

Interviewer 1: That's interesting. What are some of the things you remember most about your dad? You did help him at times, I think, didn't you?

Swain: Yes. It seemed like my whole family sort of were plumbers or something but, when I got out of high school, I went in the service. Then, when I came out, I started working with my father. I worked with him until I went in the service. Then, when I got out of the service, I came back and worked with him for about ten years until I went to work with the government in 1955.

Interviewer 1: You knew all the sewer lines in Southport.

Swain: I knew quite a bit of them, too. I knew a lot of them.

Interviewer 1: At that time, I believe you and your father were the only two that were available.

Swain: We were the only plumbers in Southport that I know of back then.

Interviewer 1: Tell us something about your schedule.

Swain: Well, we'd get up in the mornings and somebody or other would knock on my dad's door and I remember a lot of things--we may be on a job somewhere but they'd come by and say, "My sewer line's stopped up." They'd say, "Would you please come by and see if you can unstop it?" Well, back in those days, you didn't have bulldozers to unstop a sewer line and some of these sewer lines around Southport were over six foot deep. We would have to go, both of us, would take about three and a half hours to dig a hole six foot deep to get down to the sewer line to unstop it. That took up quite a bit of time, doing something like that.

Interviewer 1: Sure it did.

Swain: That's the only way you could get to it is by digging it. You could almost put a automobile in the hole whenever you got through digging it.

Interviewer 2: Did most of the people in Southport have sewer lines?

Swain: Yeah, most all people in Southport had sewer lines back in those days but they were all out of terracotta pipe and, therefore, the roots went into the cement joints and then they started growing and they got larger and larger until they stopped the lines up.

Interviewer 1: Yeah. There was hardly ever a day you didn't have one.

Swain: Well, yeah. It was quite often that we had to do this.

Interviewer 1: And you not only unplugged the lines, you installed new ones.

Swain: Yes. Back in those days, they don't use plastic pipe like they do today. You hardly ever hear of any cast iron pipe any more, it's all gone to plastic pipe. Back in those days, you had to cork the joints and lead them and have a pot that you had to heat your lead and it took about three and a half to five pounds of lead for each joint. So you'd use sometimes 200 pounds of lead to do a plumbing job. That took a lot of lead back in those days.

Interviewer 1: Where did you get your supplies?

Swain: Well, we bought our supplies in Wilmington. I had a truck. Before then, my dad, when he went around Southport, he went all over Southport toting his toolbox on his shoulder for several blocks doing the job. Of course, when I came along and started working with him, I wasn't about to carry anything on my shoulder so I bought a truck so we had it a little bit easier to work with. (laughter)

Interviewer 1: Your dad, if I remember correctly, became right famous with his garden. Did he retire and do that or did he do it all along?

Swain: Mostly that came about after he retired with his garden and he had a beautiful garden.

Interviewer 1: Yes.

Swain: In his backyard.

Interviewer 2: Where did you live?

Swain: We lived around on the 111 Davis Street, I think it's right by the courthouse.

Interviewer 1: Let me ask you a little bit about your mother and your brothers and sisters. You said she was of the Thompson family, she was Mike Thompson's daughter?

Swain: Mm-hmm.

Interviewer 1: I believe she died before your dad.

Swain: She died in 1975.

Interviewer 1: And your dad died in?

Swain: He died in 1988.

Interviewer 1: What about your brothers and sisters?

Swain: Well, I have one brother that's dead, George, which lived with my folks. My youngest brother, Joe, he lives in Anderson, South Carolina. I have a sister, Emma, who lives down in Ocean Isle Beach.

Interviewer 1: Now, is the house you were born in still standing?

Swain: No, I think it's gone now.

Interviewer 1: Where was it?

Swain: I can't remember what street. I can't remember.

Interviewer 1: It wasn't on Davis Street?

Swain: No, uh-uh. My grandfather Thompson bought a lot of homes around here. My dad was lucky, he didn't ever have to buy a home. He was lucky. Not like me. You had to go buy one but he was lucky that his father-in-law gave him a house to live in.

Interviewer 1: That's wonderful. When did you move into the house on Davis Street?

Swain: Gosh, I was still . . .

Interviewer 1: You were still in school?

Swain: I was still in school back then. I was--I don't think I had quite gone into high school back then. We used to live on the waterfront down here and then we sold that house and, of course, my grandfather, again, had another house so we moved up there into one at Davis Street.

Interviewer 1: This is the one that's across from what we call the city . . .

Swain: It's in the historical house over here. In fact, my dad used to tell me that--I was curious to know about the construction of that house. He also told me that the banister post in that house is still there and the house cost $600 to build back in those days and a banister post cost 25 cents to build.

Interviewer 1: Did he ever tell you who built the house?

Swain: No, he didn't but the house next door to him where Ms. Reece Reese lived, they both were built identical.

Interviewer 1: I know they were.

Swain: Everything in it, about it was identical.

Interviewer 1: I think the architecture book and Carl Lounsbury did probably tells who built it.

Swain: Yeah, in fact, they had put the plaques up on that house where my mother lived there.

Interviewer 1: The house adjoins Wilson's office now, right next to it.

Swain: Yeah.

Interviewer 1: Tell us something about what Southport was like when you were growing up, the waterfront, Franklin Square, and whatever you want to.

Swain: Well, when I lived on the waterfront down there, back then, I remember one hurricane we had and, of course, back then, we didn't know when a hurricane was coming.

Interviewer 1: No, of course you didn't.

Swain: It was there and I remember it came in and it blew a lot of the trees down in front of my dad's house and the water came right on up there. Back then, we didn't know when a hurricane was coming.

Interviewer 1: No, we sure didn't. We had to take it when it came.

Swain: Yeah. Really.

Interviewer 2: All you could do was look at the barometer and if it was falling.

Swain: That's right. And it came in and nobody seemed to prepare for anything because they didn't know when it was coming.

Interviewer 1: Well, that's right. Did you play in Franklin Square?

Swain: Oh, yes. Back in those days, and you probably did, too, they had what they called field days. They let all of the schools in the county out and they all came to Southport and had a day of it in the park. They'd have all kinds of . . .

Interviewer 1: Races?

Swain: . . . races and all kinds. They had flag poles and children would go around the flag poles.

Interviewer 1: Yeah. Dance around it.

Swain: Dance around flag poles and all that stuff.

Interviewer 3: Maypole dance.

Swain: This is something that you never would ever hear of today. All of the schools in the county were turned loose and come to Southport.

Interviewer 1: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: There would be a lot of kids nowadays.

Swain: Oh, my goodness.

Interviewer 1: Do you remember the group that was graduating, from what we called graduating from the seventh grade going into the eighth grade always had a parade?

Swain: Parade, yes.

Interviewer 1: Marched downtown.

Swain: Yeah. Yeah.

Interviewer 1: Show off.

Swain: Show off, yeah.

Interviewer 1: Getting promoted into high school.

Swain: Going to high school.

Interviewer 1: We went into high school when we went to eighth grade. Outside, well let's see, maybe I should ask you this. Where did you play a lot besides in the park and on the waterfront? Did you play anywhere else?

Swain: Well, no mostly, I played just around town, you know?

Interviewer 1: Around the garrison.

Swain: Around the garrison, places like that.

Interviewer 1: That's what we did, too.

Swain: There really wasn't a whole lot to do.

Interviewer 1: No.

Swain: Not much.

Interviewer 1: We made our own fun.

Swain: Made our own fun. That's right.

Interviewer 1: What was the most exciting thing you can remember when you were growing up?

Swain: Well, the most exciting thing that I remember growing up, back in those days, they made me wear knicker pants and I had them knicker pants and those socks was always falling down. When I graduated out of them, I thought I was a man then. But they made me wear those things. They were--in the wintertime, they were warm but they were made out of wool.

Interviewer 1: Oh, yes.

Swain: They paid off in some way. I remember when I was in Mrs. Hood's room in school, we did something wrong, I don't know what it was, me and Donny St. George, and she got after us and she took both of us right up in front of the class and poor Donny got elected first. She told poor Donny to bend over on that desk up there and she blistered him with a paddle and made him cry. So, when she turned around for me to get up there, of course, here I was, I was prepared. I had on them big, old, thick pants and when she told me to lean over on that desk, she beat, beat, but she never made me cry. I could not cry because I didn't hurt. (laughs) And she didn't know it. But I remember that's one of the most--and I'll never forget that as long as I live.

Interviewer 1: I guess you won't. Who, other than your family or a teacher, do you remember admiring the most?

Swain: One of the people I always admired was Marvin Arthur's mother, Ms. Jessie Taylor.

Interviewer 1: Oh, yes.

Swain: She was the sweetest person.

Interviewer 1: She certainly was. I agree.

Swain: I always liked her.

Interviewer 1: She really believed in young people.

Swain: Yes, she did.

Interviewer 1: She supported us in everything. Did your mom and daddy have you do chores around the house?

Swain: Oh, yes. Well, I was staying with my grandfather. I would live over there with them at night and I had a room because we lived in a big, two-storey house and I would stay at night with them but, when my grandfather worked with the light plant out of town here, back in those days, we had coal stoves, you know? It was my job to, every evening, to make sure that I had enough wood and enough coal in that house to last to the next day. That was one of my jobs.

Interviewer 1: Well, that was a good job.

Swain: Two-storey house and one of the rooms where we had a stove, the second floor had a opening up there and the heat from that would go up and it would warm the second floor up there.

Interviewer 1: They were pretty clever. What kind of toys did you have? Do you remember anything in particular?

Swain: I didn't have any-- well, I had some toys but one of the things that I always wanted when I was little was, for Christmas one time, I wanted a bill goat. (laughter) And the reason I wanted a billy goat, I saw some of these other colored fellows around town that had a billy goat hooked up to their cart and he was having the most fun with that thing. I wanted one, too.

Interviewer 1: Billy had one, didn't he?

Swain: Yeah. So I got a billy goat. I got a billy goat for Christmas and I tried to get him hooked up to a cart but I never did. (laughter) He turned out so mean that I finally had to get rid of him.

Interviewer 1: Who were some of your best friends? Some of these guys who were always getting in trouble with you?

Swain: Well, I remember Donny St. George, played around with Donny a lot. Of course, Donny's been dead for a long time. There was Basil Watts and the other guys I knew were Southport boys but they are gone, they're not around here anymore.

Interviewer 1: What were some of the things you all did together?

Swain: Well, a lot of things we did. We liked to go down on the waterfront down there when they had the shrimp houses down there. We used to like to catch these fish down there, catfish. Back then, they had the catfish would bite anything, they'd bite a hook, you could just drop it with nothing on it but they would hit a shrimp and they'd fall down through the chutes. We would bait a hook with something and put it down there and catch those great big catfish. Today, you don't hardly ever see any catfish anymore but we used to catch some that weighed 10 pounds.

Interviewer 1: What did you do with them? Take them home?

Swain: No. The only thing I wanted to do with them back then, they had two stones in the back of the head and we'd beat the things to pieces to get the two stones out of them. They had two great big white stones in behind the head. We'd kill them and bust it out and get those pretty stones and keep them.

Interviewer 2: Nobody ate catfish.

Swain: Yes, they did. The people from back up state would come down and that's what they'd fish for, catfish, and they would take them back in great big huge bucketfuls and they loved them.

Interviewer 2: The people around here wouldn't eat them.

Swain: We wouldn't eat them. No, sir. We wouldn't eat the catfish. But I imagine the meat was probably good.

Interviewer 1: We didn't do much eating shrimp, either. We sold those.

Swain: Yeah, and back then the shrimp down there, the colored folks would go down there and, in fact, the colored lady that worked for my daddy cooked and, after she cooked, she went to the shrimp house and worked until midnight down there de-heading shrimp down there. They got five cents for ten caught bucketfuls of shrimp. That's what they got, five cents. I loved to go down there. I thought it would be fun for me to go down there . . .

(Tape Skips)

Interviewer 1: . . . located. Did you go to both?

Swain: I went to both schools.

Interviewer 1: The one in Franklin Square.

Swain: Yeah, one in Franklin Square.

Interviewer 1: And where was the other one?

Swain: The high school that we had that burnt.

Interviewer 1: Where the post office is?

Swain: It's where the post office is at, mm-hmm.

Interviewer 1: What did you like best about school?

Swain: Well, I don't know. I just loved to go, that's all. That's where I met my wife.

Interviewer 1: Oh, well, that . . .

Swain: That's why I went, I guess. (laughs)

Interviewer 1: Before you met . . .

Swain: And I drove the school bus, too.

Interviewer 1: Before you met her, what was your favorite subject?

Swain: My favorite subject?

Interviewer 3: Pauline?

Swain: Pauline, yeah, that was my wife. My favorite subject back then, I don't know. I don't really have a favorite.

Interviewer 1: Well, who was your favorite teacher?

Swain: Oh, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Marilee Norman.

Interviewer 1: Why? You're the only one I ever heard say that.

Swain: Well I did like her.

Interviewer 1: Well, when you got out of high school, what was your first job? I believe you said you worked with your daddy first?

Swain: Yeah, I went to work with my dad. It was back during the war and he was working up at Camp Davis and I went up there with him and we'd be gone for a week and we lived in Wilmington. We had a room in Wilmington to stay but we'd stay up there all week and then we'd come back home on the weekends.

Interviewer 1: Well, my daddy worked at Camp Davis but he worked in the post exchange. Who took over the plumbing business then?

Swain: Nobody that I know of. But I always hope nothing--

Interviewer 1: Ray start--

Swain: Ray could have done a little bit of it. I don't know.

Interviewer 1: I don't remember for sure.

Swain: Back then, I don't remember who would have ever done it because I didn't know of any other plumbers in Southport but my dad.

Interviewer 2: When did you get out of high school?

Swain: I got out in 1942.

Interviewer 1: Very shortly after that, you went in the service?

Swain: Shortly, yeah, I went in the service.

Interviewer 1: After you came out of service, what kind of job did you do?

Swain: Well, that's when I started working with my dad. I worked for him for about--

Interviewer 1: But you did some right after high school, too?

Swain: Yeah and then, when I came back, I started working with him and then, when I went to work with the government, my youngest brother, Joe, filled in my shoes and he started doing plumbing work with my dad.

Interviewer 1: So it was running in the family?

Swain: Running in the family.

Interviewer 1: I believe you retired from your service at Sunny Point. What have you done since retiring? I've heard that you had some very interesting hobbies.

Swain: Well, yes, I've always wanted to learn how to paint. So, when I retired, I went to art school for about five years. Rusty Hughes taught me for about five years from everything- showed me how to do everything, even stretch a canvas. Tell me how to buy my canvas by the yard and I made my own frames in my shop.

Interviewer 1: I started to say, you did woodworking, too.

Swain: Yeah. And I don't know, I just loved to keep doing something with my hands all the time and I've got interested in carving birds and stuff now so I've done some shore birds and I'm working on a boat I've done. It's one of the old pogie boats. If I ever finish that thing, I want Mary to see it after I finish it. It's just a scale model. I'm coming along with it but it's going to take me awhile yet.

(overlapping conversation)

Swain: And I've just finished a sailing schooner that I've done.

Interviewer 1: If I remember correctly, you made some candle holders, some of those lantern-type candle holders?

Swain: Yeah, I've done so many things. It comes up in the head as something I want to do and I just--I've got more patterns that I have saved over the years. I won't throw them away, I keep them because I never know when I might want to go back to it and do it over again.

Interviewer 3: You made a bunch of those for the museum.

Swain: Yeah, I made a bunch of little tug--bunch of those little tug boats and things like that for her to sell. Surprisingly enough, some of the wood that I have done these boats and things out of, I have found the wood down on the waterfront. There was a tree that drifted up down there on the waterfront that I saw. I got the guy that works for the city, he said he would cut me up some of the pieces of it. He cut me up a lot of it and I brought it home. I've had it dried. After it dried I took and ran it through my band saw and it's beautiful wood and it's just come from out of the ocean.

Interviewer 1: Great.

Swain: It's pretty wood.

Interviewer 2: Salt dried.

Swain: Yeah, some of it's salt. I can't--I don't really know what kind of wood it is but it's beautiful wood.

Interviewer 2: How does this relate--you kind of skipped over what did you do in the military and what you did at Sunny Point. What was your job in the service?

Swain: When I was in the service, well, you won't believe what I used to do in the service.

Interviewer 1: Yeah, we will.

Swain: Huh?

Interviewer 1: We'll believe you.

Swain: That's the reason I make these cakes and stuff like that. I was a cook in the service.

Interviewer 2: Okay.

Swain: I cooked--

Interviewer 1: Oh, what recipes you would have?

Swain: I was stationed out at Fort Caswell during the war, too. I was looking after getting stationed over there and I cooked for about 500 or 600 people over there. We had a big kitchen over there.

Interviewer 1: We'll have to remember this food we're having.

Swain: I loved to cook in the service and that's where I started doing a lot of it.

Interviewer 2: When you went to Sunny Point, what was your job there?

Swain: My job, it fell in the same line as what I was doing. I was a pipe fitter out there and I took care of the whole base with plumbing a steam fitter. We had to take care of everything pertaining to that base plus all of the quarters that are down here and the common's quarters down here. We had to keep all those up. It was quite a job back then. I didn't have--there was another guy with me so I only had one more person to help me.

Interviewer 1: How long did you work there?

Swain: I went in 1955 to 1983. Yeah.

Interviewer 1: After you got out, I believe you did some volunteer work as well as your hobbies. You're still doing some volunteer work?

Swain: Yeah, I volunteer for the hospital, flea market volunteers and I work at the flea market over there on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings. Then, on Tuesdays, I wound up with Pauline's job at the hospital. It was really her job but she went back to work and I went in to help her for a couple of months so I knew what to do. So when she went back to work, well, I just filled that in myself. What it is, I help get out the billing out there, sending out the bills. I love to do that kind of work.

Interviewer 1: Great. Now I'm going to get a little personal and ask you about your family. You're married?

Swain: Yes, Pauline and I have been married--well, let's see, the boys celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary and it's been two years since then.

Interviewer 1: Where did you meet Pauline?

Swain: Where did I meet Pauline? I met her while we were in school and I never let her get away from me.

Interviewer 1: Did she ride on the school bus?

Swain: Pauline rode on the school bus and sat right behind the bus with me. I would always carry everybody else home but her. (laughter) So I could be with her as long I could. (laughter)

Interviewer 1: This is quite romantic. Tell us, what was her maiden name?

Swain: Jessie Pauline Smith. She's a Smith.

Interviewer 1: Where did she live?

Swain: She lived out on Old River Road up above McCracken's farm, you know where that was at?

Interviewer 1: Yeah.

Swain: Her father was retired and he was a Spanish-American war veteran.

Interviewer 1: That's great.

Swain: A Spanish-American war veteran.

Interviewer 1: And Pauline was the youngest one?

Swain: She was the youngest one of them. There were four children and she was the youngest.

Interviewer 1: Was she a native of Southport?

Swain: No. They came from--I think it's Clements' County or something.

Interviewer 1: Delco?

Swain: Yeah, Delco.

Interviewer 1: Do you have children?

Swain: Yes, I have two boys.

Interviewer 1: Where do they live?

Swain: My oldest son lives in Wilmington. His name is John Alan.

Interviewer 1: Who did he marry?

Swain: He married Victoria Aldridge's daughter.

Interviewer 1: Yeah. Old Southport . . .

Swain: Old Southport family. Then I have a younger son, Jerry, which lives here in--well, his home is over on the beach.

Interviewer 1: Do you have any grandchildren?

Swain: Got one, just one grandson.

Interviewer 1: The most wonderful one in the world?

Swain: That's the one.

Interviewer 1: You spend a lot of time with him, don't you?

Swain: Really.

Interviewer 1: We're going to end this up in a little bit but we always try to end it up with a little bit of genealogy. We don't want to miss genealogy. Let me ask you a little bit about your grandparents. What were their names? Both sets of them.

Swain: Well, my father was John R. Swain and mother--

Interviewer 1: No, I mean his parents.

Swain: Oh, his parents? His parents were Fred Swain and his mother was named Evelena. They lived on a farm.

Interviewer 1: Just outside of the . . .

Swain: Just out of Southport. I used to love to--he used to come through what they called a cottage back in those days, back through the this way on a horse and buggy. To this day, I don't never forget his horse. She was named Nelly. Nelly brought him into town, he'd probably come about once a month, to buy groceries. He would come in through this back way of town here and tie him up back there and they'd come in and buy their groceries then I'd go back with him a lot of times on the weekends and spend the weekends out there on the farm. I had the most fun out there back then. Children today have missed so much.

Interviewer 1: They really do.

Swain: Don't know anything about farming, you know? It's really a shame.

Interviewer 1: You already told us about your grandfather, Mike Thompson. What was his wife's name?

Swain: Molly.

Interviewer 1: Molly.

Swain: Molly.

Interviewer 1: Do you know anything about their parents?

Swain: No, I don't.

Interviewer 1: You don't know anything about your great-grandparents?

Swain: No. And . . .

Interviewer 1: You know a bit on your Swain side, don't you?

Swain: Yeah.

Interviewer 1: I believe Carl Swain done some . . .

Swain: Yeah, some genealogy. We're getting quite a bit of that now, too.

Interviewer 3: You can go back to blockade running, can't you?

Swain: Yeah. Uh-huh. Well, I have two grandfathers who were blockade runners.

Interviewer 3: That would be nice to tell about.

Swain: I can't . . .

Interviewer 1: Oh, yes.

Swain: Joe Sam Lachlan gave me a picture that he got from somewhere. You may have a copy of it.

Interviewer 1: Yes.

Swain: Has the blockade runners in it.

Interviewer 1: Yeah. Which ones on there were your great-grandfathers?

Swain: That's where I got my name through them . . .

Interviewer 1: Julius?

Swain: No, that was through the . . .

Interviewer 1: Julius Dozier?

Swain: Dozier, yeah, Dozier.

Interviewer 1: Oh, my. That ties you to another old Southport family.

Swain: Yeah, that's right. I was thrilled to death that Joe found that and gave me a copy of it.

Interviewer 1: He gave me . . .

Swain: To tell you the truth, those people there, they look like they were rough characters. You saw that? With all the beards and all that?

Interviewer 3: They do.

Swain: Yeah.

Interviewer 1: They really do.

Interviewer 3: That was one great-grandfather, who was the other?

Swain: It was on the Brinkman side, I think.

Interviewer 3: Tell us.

Swain: Thomas Brinkman.

Interviewer 1: The one that was drowned at sea?

Swain: Yeah.

Interviewer 1: Yes. That ties him in.

Swain: So the Swain family goes way back.

Interviewer 1: The Lachlan name is a fairly recent vintage but they came from the Brinks and the Davis.

Swain: So our families go way back.

Interviewer 1: Yeah, you sure do.

Swain: Way, way back.

Interviewer 1: Your roots are deep in . . .

Swain: Really deep.

Interviewer 2: So all those blockade runners burying all their gold in the backyard, so you're rich, you just don't . . .

Swain: Yeah, I don't know where they buried it. (laughter) I haven't found anything of it yet.

Interviewer 3: Harrelson is related.

Swain: Yes. Through the Brinkman. Joe Sam Lachlan. Someone said you can't talk about anybody in Southport because you'll all be kin to them. (laughter) You never know when someone's kin to somebody.

Interviewer 1: Nowadays that holds true because many new people have moved in. Talk about them.

Swain: That's right. Right.

Interviewer 1: Well, that's all of my questions. If any one of you want to ask him something or think of something I missed.

Swain: Well, I was really spoiled back in my days. When we lived across the street from my grandmother, down on the street down here, it's a wonder I didn't get tattled a lot because, if my mother or daddy was going to scold me for something, I'd run across the street to my grandmother Molly and I would get under her shirttail and Mother would come over after me and I never got a whipping. (laughter)

Interviewer 1: Molly wouldn't let her.

Swain: No, she wouldn't let her. (laughter)

Interviewer 2: You started telling a story about somebody taking you to school.

Swain: That was my Aunt Virginia Thompson. She was a Thompson.

Interviewer 1: I remember her.

Swain: Well, a lot of times, she would dress me and all and take me down the street and things like that but then, when I started in school, they had a time getting me to stay in school because, if I didn't see her outside the window or whatever, I'd get up and leave.

Interviewer 2: This is when you're a little guy.

Swain: This is when I was real little, first grade. It was in the first grade.

Interviewer 1: The only grandchild then.

Swain: Yes, back then, I think I was the only one. So I was really spoiled. In fact, Pauline says that's where I get it from today.

Interviewer 1: She thinks you're still spoiled?

Swain: Yes. Thinks I'm still spoiled.

Interviewer 2: Well, we think this is all for the grandchildren. This whole program is for the grandchildren.

Swain: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: Talk about how neat it would be if you had a tape of your grandfather.

Swain: That's right. I wished I did. There's so many things that I would love to have asked them that I just took for granted that I knew. I don't know. I really don't know. When my grandparents died and my father and his brother and sister sold the farm out there, the farm sold for about $1,300. It's out there where the old cemetery is at out there. You know where the cemetery is? The Shannons went out there and cleaned it?

Interviewer 1: Yes. Out by Beaver Dam.

Swain: By Beaver Dam. That's where my grandparents are buried out there. The people bought that property out there, they destroyed that farm.

Interviewer 1: Oh, yes.

Swain: They took all the topsoil away and left the cemetery probably up high, I don't know, they ruined the whole place. I often thought about it back when they sold it, if I'd had the money, if I could have bought it myself and preserved it because it was a beautiful place.

Interviewer 1: At least the cemetery has now been preserved.

Swain: Yes, it has. I went up there and helped the Shannons clean it up back there because it was neglected so many years.

Interviewer 1: I went out there with them one time.

Swain: There is people buried back in there long, long years ago, even some of the slaves were buried back in there. There's probably some in there that the markers and everything is gone. I did discover one thing out there, it's the cedar post that's been in there for years, probably hundreds of years and that cedar post was probably one of the people that was buried in there, a fence around it but one of the posts is still there.

Interviewer 3: That was on the Georgetown Road?

Swain: Uh-huh. It's nice that they could go in there and clean it up and fix it up.

Interviewer 1: Yeah, because, at one time, the main road was sort of in front of it.

Swain: Yeah, they used to . . .

Interviewer 1: Cedar Creek, I believe it is, whatever the waterway is.

Swain: Yeah. It's not too far from the river down there from where they lived, you know? My grandmother used to--of course, they didn't have any ice back in those days and my grandmother would carry her milk down there in a stream down there and tie a string around it and put it down in that water that was running over the stream and it kept that milk cool. Whenever they wanted milk, they just went down and got it and brought it back up to the house.

Interviewer 1: At all their farms, they had chickens and cows and everything. It was a self-supporting farm.

Swain: Yeah. I remember she had a pantry there. Back then, he'd buy the stuff in 50 to 100 pounds, you see, flour and all this stuff, and they'd keep it in her pantry. I remember, too, when I was small, I'd go out there and, if I wanted a cookie, she had a safe out there and her cookies were molasses cookies and she'd take those cookies and had a safe and the safe, I was wondering what in the world those cans down there were doing, the legs of them were doing in that can with water in them.

Interviewer 2: To keep the ants.

Swain: To keep the ants out of it. Keep the ants out of the safe. That's what they did.

Interviewer 1: I remember seeing that. We had one of them up on the back porch.

Interviewer 2: Did you say you still have the Davis Street house?

Swain: No, we sold it. We sold that one.

Interviewer 2: Where do you live now?

Swain: I live on Frank Drive, 110 Frank Drive, up in the new section. Back then, when Suzie and I went to school, that was all woods.

Interviewer 1: Tell them what we used to do on Sunday afternoons when that was the woods.

Swain: Well, we'd run all up through that place and go up to where the old lighthouse was at up there.

Interviewer 1: Yes. Price's Creek.

Swain: Price's Creek Lighthouse. But, see, every bit of that, from the cemetery on to back that way, was all woods. There was nothing.

Interviewer 1: Did you ever pick Chinquapin?

Swain: Yes, I did. My gosh, we'd look for Chinquapins when we'd go up there a lot and now you hardly ever see them.

Interviewer 1: I can remember picking what we called huckleberries, wild blueberries.

Swain: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: Is that where Bobby Shannon was talking about finding some Civil War guns and things?

Swain: I don't . . .

Interviewer 2: At the beginning of World War II that they turned in for scrap?

Swain: Could have been. I don't remember that.

Interviewer 1: I don't remember that, either, but maybe he was more adventurous than I was.

Swain: When I moved up there, where I'm at now, there was only a few houses up in that area because it hadn't been developed.

Interviewer 1: Do you remember who owned the development when it started?

Swain: Davis Harring, I think . . .

Interviewer 1: Bud Frank and Davis Harring.

Swain: And Davis Harring had owned that property up in there. Subdivision. They really opened it up in there I think.

Interviewer 1: Yes, they did.

Swain: There's a Frank Drive. I live on the Frank Drive.

Interviewer 1: And Harring Drive.

Swain: And Harring. Frank and Harring Drive.

Interviewer 1: A little bit further down is deep . . .

Swain: Well, that part back there where Mary lives now, that hadn't been developed back then.

Interviewer 1: No, that hadn't even been developed then.

Swain: No.

Interviewer 1: I can't remember now.

Interviewer 3: I think the Harpers owned a great deal of that property.

Swain: Jimmy Harper probably owned.

Interviewer 1: I was working for Bud and Davis when they opened Frank and Harring subdivision so that's why I remember that. Should have named it after you, too.

Swain: Really.

Interviewer 1: I know it.

Interviewer 3: They named a city for you, Carson City.

Interviewer 1: They gave me the first lot there. I couldn't build a house and they didn't want to give it to me unless I could build a house but they weren't paying me enough money to build a house.

Swain: I'll tell you something else, too, back when I built mine up there, the lots were cheap. They were not but $1,000.

Interviewer 1: Yeah. And said they were going to give me that and expected me to build a big house on it.

Swain: Yeah.

Interviewer 1: But they weren't going to raise my salary.

Swain: Yeah. That's what the lots were going for then are $1,000.

Interviewer 1: Also, I did not have an automobile and I couldn't drive and I would have had to walk into town every morning to work.

Interviewer 2: You'd have to get a bicycle.

Interviewer 1: You can't ride a bicycle.

Swain: But, you know, I built right next to the Parsons up there and they gave the Baptist church the property to build that church on.

Interviewer 1: Yes, they did. Was that two lots they gave them?

Swain: It was two lots but they only gave them a lot and a half. Then, when I found that lot where I wanted to build, I didn't know there was another half a lot there so I got a lot and a half for $1,000.

Interviewer 3: Excellent.

Interviewer 2: Yeah, that's good.

Swain: I don't know why they didn't go ahead and give the church the whole two lots. It didn't make sense to me.

Interviewer 1: I guess they figured they didn't need any more.

Swain: Well, they were nice lots.

Interviewer 1: Yeah, I know they are.

Swain: They run half of the whole block in there so they laid it off so it's really nice lots in there. Most of them were about 100 foot wide.

Interviewer 2: When was this? What year are you talking about?

Swain: I don't know. It's been a long time.

Interviewer 1: It was in the early 1950s.

Swain: Yeah.

Interviewer 2: You don't remember when you built your house?

Swain: I built it in 1958.

Interviewer 1: We built the parsonage in 1952.

Swain: It was built before.

Interviewer 1: Yeah. We built the . . .

Swain: It was built in 1957.

Interviewer 3: Which house is the parsonage?

Interviewer 1: Where our pastor lived.

Swain: The Baptist parsonage.

Interviewer 1: Where the parson lives now.

Swain: Next door to me.

Interviewer 3: I didn't know that was the parsonage.

Swain: There's three houses on that street.

Interviewer 1: There's a Methodist one up there too, but the Baptist one is . . .

Swain: They built a--Roy Swain built that parsonage for the Baptists. It's a great big house. Big house. A lot of nice room in it. But he individually probably chose every piece of wood that went into that house.

Interviewer 1: He probably did. And Louis Hardy supervised it so you know it was done right.

Swain: Yeah. Sure did.

Interviewer 1: Is there anything else we need to put on this tape?

Interviewer 2: Looks great.

Interviewer 1: I'm glad . . .

Swain: Wow, thank you.

Interviewer 1: I'm glad we got into the Frank and Harring subdivision. That's one of the very earliest subdivisions.

Swain: Yes, it is. The first one. And that's really, when we started expanding, that was the first one back in that way, yeah.

Interviewer 1: If I remember correctly, Frank and Harring bought all of that big tract of land in there at a foreclosure sale. The city sold it for taxes. They bought it.

Interviewer 2: What's called Highland Heights.

Swain: Yeah. Before the government bought Sandy Point, that road went on up that way. That was the way you went to Wilmington until they cut it off and that's how come we got the other road going to Wilmington this way. When the government bought that, they shut it off to Walden Creek, you see?

Interviewer 1: Highland Heights was older than Frank and Harrings subdivision. Highland Heights. We say Highland. It's older but it was never really developed until fairly recent years. It shows on some of the old city maps.

Interviewer 3: Margaret Harper has a wonderful map of the layout of the malls through the middle.

Interviewer 1: There's one other thing that John mentioned in his talk that maybe we should clarify. It said, "What would you say about down near the Cottage?" That's what we called it but it was a tract of land in the western part of the city. It was originally known as the Cottage Close and there's a map where it was laid out as streets and blocks and all that. But we always said, "Over the Cottage . . ."

Swain: Over the Cottage.

Interviewer 1: . . .or down to the Cottage or something. It sounded like it was just one house but it was a subdivision. That was done back in the--

Swain: Yeah, and that was never developed through there. It was just . . .

Interviewer 1: No, it was laid down about 18--maybe the 1890s.

Swain: There's a path that--it was just a path that went through there, like a horse and buggy path that went through there. Now, if you go around, you could go that way but, if you went around headed to Long Beach, and back over behind where Advance Auto Place is at, that's where my grandfather and them first had their home way back into there. But, see . . .

Interviewer 3: That was the Georgetown Road.

Swain: Yeah. So it's not any distance back in there now but, back in those days, it was . . .

Interviewer 1: It was . . .

Swain: . . .a long ways to there. But now it's . . .

Interviewer 2: Especially if you're walking.

Swain: Yeah. But now it's not. So that's why I say come through the Cottage. I remember I used to ride and get in that old horse and cart. It took him about over an hour and a half probably to drive back through there.

Interviewer 1: You'd load the wagon down with . . .

Swain: Load the wagon down with supplies and all that stuff and get in that thing and head back through the woods.

Interviewer 3: Right over the Dutchman Creek Bridge.

Swain: No, there wasn't a bridge at Dutchman Creek back then.

Interviewer 1: You didn't go in that direction

Swain: Didn't go that way.

Interviewer 1: You often went in the Junior Creek.

Swain: Cross that creek, somewhere back then in there, there was a bridge that went across it.

Interviewer 1: Yeah. I can't place it.

Swain: An automobile couldn't go across it because it wouldn't have supported it but just the horse and a cart, it would.

Interviewer 3: You're heading towards Southport?

Swain: Uh-huh.

Interviewer 3: That was Dutchman Creek Bridge. That's what it was called.

Interviewer 1: If you read in the book, you can tell some of the times that various areas were opened but those of us who remember when Southport was just this little bitty place here at the mouth of the river, now it's spread out. I think that's probably all we got to say.

Repository:
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