BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Wesley, Bernest, and John Hewett, September 10, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Wesley, Bernest, and John Hewett, September 10, 2004
September 10, 2004
The Hewetts have farmed their land for one hundred years. A black tightly knit family, they have purchased land a bit at a time for generations. The entire extended families (7 in all) have placed hundreds of acres into a land conservancy project to be held forever to show future generations ""nature as it was"". Many coming of age stories.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Hewett, Wesley, Bernest and John Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  9/10/2004 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length  56 min


Zarbock: Going to try that again. Take number two. Good afternoon, my name is Paul Zarbock, a consultant with the University of North Carolina’s uh.. University Library. Today is the 10th of September in the year 2004, and we’re video taping a contribution for the special collections uh.. grouping at the University Library. I’m on Hewett Town Road in Brunswick County, located generally in the area of supply, North Carolina. Uh.. there are going to be s- several members of the- of the Hewett family, that will contribute. But I’ll start off today by talking to John W. Hewett. Good afternoon sir.

Hewett: Yes sir.

Zarbock: How are you?

Hewett: I’m good.

Zarbock: I’m going to start off by asking you where were you born and when were you born?

Hewett: July the second, July the 2nd, 1917, Beulaville, North Carolina.

John Zarbock: Oh, b- a- and your parents name?

Hewett: Robert Hewett, and Rose Hewett.

Zarbock: What did your daddy do for a job?

Hewett: Well, he worked here in yonder, right on Peeper (ph) Farm. But back then it wasn’t paying enough. So of course, me and him picked these farm bins for 25 cents helper.

Zarbock: Twenty-five cents?

Hewett: Twenty-five cents a helper. That’s right.

Zarbock: How long would it take?

Hewett: Well, it’d- well we’d work all day. If you done good, if you got four helpers in a day. That’s right. And you carried your water in a jar in the field.

Zarbock: And that’s- that’s not an air conditioned field either, is it.

Hewett: No sir, it isn’t. So you see, back then it <inaudible> you let that sun, work hotter than it now. Yeah. And to have bad clouds, you know, come up. That’s right. What hard working, I know what that is. Horse begun grubbed it up, like the dead, shook it up tomorrow, and then burned it. It wasn’t no tractor mule either. He used to make tar. We hauled that- my oldest brother <inaudible> to the highway down to the old housethey made tar. Filled up them 55 gallon drums, and rolled it about a mile down there, or put it on barges. And I..

Zarbock: But how would you make that- how would you make the tar?

Hewett: All right, you put it all over the place lo- long as in here. About a ten or 12 foot wide or wider, put your- laid it down there. In the bottom you have trench go all the way down to the throat they called it. Had to trench it. And you lay your legs in there, and then put straw on top of that layer, put dirt on top of that, and you set the back end on fire, had a long pole to get the burning, work that bitty down. And the tar runned out there in the ground in a pit. We had a long- we had a long pole and a bucket in it, and a funnel going in and <inaudible>. That’s how you dip it and poured it. When it got full, you let it set <inaudible>. And you told- we had to roll it down the road about <inaudible>, I said a half a mile long, down to the river, rolled it on boats.

Zarbock: You mean you would really cook the tar out of the- out of the- out of the wood.

Hewett: I- I would light it. That’s right. I would light it.

Zarbock: Now let me understand. You dig a pit, you put the- you put the logs in the pit..

Hewett: That’s right.

Zarbock: You put straw on top of it..

Hewett: Right.

Zarbock: And dirt on top of that.

Hewett: That’s right.

Zarbock: Why would you put the straw on the- on the logs.

Hewett: Oh to- it’ll hold uh.. good heat to it, and then dirt would hold still more heat, and it causes that thing to run, and as it runs, it run down that trench in the middle of that thing. It had a big pit ground and dug, and a long pole and a bucket. Dipped it up, pour it in the ground. And then cut your stopples (ph) out of the wood, and then put it in the barrel and seal it- sealed it up. And we got as many as we want. He called the people- people called him, and they asked where there was ship some tar. He’d tell them. A many morning going to school, my mother would have breakfast before daylight, and her uhm.. we’d roll that tar down there, and uh.. cut a little route in the road, not as big as your arm. He’d been a roll his down and come back a half or three <inaudible>. He did all of that. He said, “I’m going to get another, and I’ll catch you on the way back.”

Zarbock: That- that’s- that’s a lot of muscle effort, isn’t it?

Hewett: Yes sir.

Zarbock: I mean it’s pushing and pulling.

Hewett: Yeah. That’s right. And see long then, once you <inaudible>, you got it off the farm. I seen the time we didn’t have no meat, we had one or two old hogs. When you- momma cooked that corn bread. You go by that lard can and give a smell. Keep getting up. Yes sir, that’s right.

Zarbock: But you had vegetables didn’t you?

Hewett: Yes sir, yes sir. We had vegetables, liked tomatoes, corn, beans, few okras. That’s right.

Zarbock: What would you do in winter for fresh food?

Hewett: Well, we just had to eat what we had. That’s right. See along then, my mother put up uh.. a lot of fruit. Had a lot of apple trees, peach trees. We’d sit down at night and peel them apples, and she’d cut them up, cook them, put them in a jar. That’s right.

Zarbock: Was it a wood sto- a wood cooking stove?

Hewett: Yes sir. And you see, then we got a- he’d go in the woods and look up at a pine like that, he’d say we got to cut that pine down and split it up for wood. And then pile it up until it got dry. In the morning you’d get up, it took you a while to make fire in that stove. That’s right. But seemed to me like then it was better eating than it is today. That’s right. You’d get up in the morning now, you electrocute your biscuits, your meat <inaudible> with that stove. That’s right. It was a long day. You uh.. had a wood stove. That’s right.

Zarbock: Was that also how you heated the house?

Hewett: Yeah. We’d of had a fireplace, and you go to the cut that wood, and then you had two dog piles, I call it, put in there and put a big chunk of wood in it, where it would- where it would roll over the floor. And then that would last I don’t know how long. I’d sit and pick potatoes, put them down there in front of the Sherman (ph), take a stick, keep turning them, and that telling you it would bake right there. Yes sir. And the- the- the quilts she had then, all the- all the rags, when you get out of them, you couldn’t hardly get out. What one thing he did do, if you did anything, he’d tell you, say I’m going to beat you. You go there and get it all <inaudible> filthy thing, he’d come out and say “Hey, what’d I tell you.” Your eyes would sparkle like a fox that had horns, you had tom come out from there. He ain’t pretty.

Zarbock: What- what did you do for recreation and fun?

Hewett: There was none. There was none. Well, he made us go to church, we walked from here, you know where that church on uh.. Housepine Road <inaudible>?

Zarbock: Yes sir, I do?

Hewett: Is <inaudible> here?

Zarbock: Yes.

Hewett: Zion Hill, he made us walk from there all the way out to, I know then apartments, I know when this road, yeah, we had to veer out and go around. It wasn’t a road. We’d leave the church and come all the way by them <inaudible>, and all the way by way down the monroes, you know, and then come on home.

Zarbock: How long would church last?

Hewett: Well, I’ll tell you what it did. When church would last then he cut enough splinters, fat lighter splinters, and put them so this was a part, when them burned out, he could light the rest of them. I’d seen him come home many a night, that tar on his hand blistered. Where he’s holding it up, you know. That’s right. Sometimes he’d get lost, come home through the woods. That’s right.

Zarbock: But the really- there really wasn’t any recreation? It was work and ..

Hewett: That’s all.

Zarbock: .. going to bed and getting up and work some more.

Hewett: That was it.

Zarbock: What about things like Christmas?

Hewett: Well I’ll you what we did. Well, we threw old crisper crumb <inaudible>. After a piece, and coconut, we had wine then.

Zarbock: Between the three of you?

Hewett: Yes sir. We had <inaudible>.

Zarbock: A coconut.

Hewett: Yeah, one coconut. That’s right.

Zarbock: Well that- I bet you. No, let me start that a- what you bought from the store was what? Meal and salt and..

Hewett: That’s all, meal, flour, and I remember when uh.. it was around 25 pound bags of flour, you could get them for a dollar if you had a dollar. And <inaudible>, like you see them on Sailor’s Way were- you could get them for a dollar.

Zarbock: If you had a dollar.

Hewett: If you had a dollar. And if you got a biscuit, down through that every month. You- you would eat that biscuit. You tote so long in your pocket that it looked like a bowl of soot. That’s right. I’m telling you now. And uh.. when you’re going to school, like these children now, they could change every day if they want. We wear that same thing for Monday morning to Friday evening, then wrap up in rags and wash that out for Monday morning.

Zarbock: How far did you go in school?

Hewett: Up to the fifth grade, I did. That’s right.

Zarbock: And tho- in those days, uh.. Blacks and whites did not go to school together.

Hewett: That’s right. That’s right.

Zarbock: It was all- it was all Bla- all- all the kids were Black.

Hewett: Yes sir, yes sir.

Zarbock: A- and what about the teacher.

Hewett: The teacher was Black. She used to come from South Collier (ph) every morning and Ocean.

Zarbock: Do you- do you remember her name?

Hewett: Yes sir, Sara Moore, she’s dead now. Her husband was named Bubba Moore.

Zarbock: Good teacher?

Hewett: Yes sir. Yes sir, sure was.

Zarbock: But- but if you were in school, you were not working in the field.

Hewett: When you come in at evening, you would work. See you’d have a big oat sacks, you know, like you’d plant uh.. some peanuts, coming in the evening, he’d be shook them up. And you put them in an oat sack, pack them down. Carry it up to the house, hung them up until you got ready to pick them off. That’s right. It was rough on then, yeah. That’s right.

Zarbock: But you don’t- you don’t sound bitter. Was it just that’s the way it was and ..

Hewett: That’s the way it was.

Zarbock: And everybody was doing about the same thing, weren’t they?

Hewett: Yes sir. If you- if somebody wanted you to work, your mother got a- a day of work out, you know, on a <inaudible>. But- so far as buying all these farm things, it had nothing to buy it with. No sir.

Zarbock: Did you ever get to town?

Hewett: Ever get what?

Zarbock: Did you ever go in to town?

Hewett: What is that? Only before you got you know where them cross bridge, Galloway and Floyd, that’s where we got. That’s right. See what you got then, you towed it all the way from supply down there in a sack. And sad as come we’d go- go and then shuck corn, Friday evening shuck corn to put it on in- in a bag, and that Saturday morning carried it to the mill up there and grind it. That’s right. And there was a man there had a cold-cut take a toll out so many course of corn ou- out your toll. And you see he’d grind that, and carry it to the store, and send it back to you if you hadn’t changed your board. That’s right. That’s right. He sure would.

Zarbock: Well, I- I- are you one of the- the family that uh.. left here and worked a little bit some place else, and came back and bought some land?

Hewett: Yes sir. There’s five of us, I’m the oldest one living.

Zarbock: All five of you did the same thing?

Hewett: Yes sir.

Zarbock: Where would you go and what would you do?

Hewett: Anything the man had for you to do.

Wesley Hewett: No, what he- what he asked did you- did you go off and come back and- and buy the land or y- you already owned the land.

Hewett: Yeah, well see we owned it, my daddy owned this land. He walked to Florida twice, him and his brother. Well, the second time his brother wouldn’t come back with him, he stayed down and got married. See when I come out of the service in uh.. ’40, January 8, in ’46, he got bought up in ’44, 45, one. See, he had a stroke, couldn’t get out the house. And wife had run off the pig, bribery. Come back, everything was gone. So then <inaudible> was like that kid, you know, <inaudible>.

Wesley Hewett: But they never had to buy- they never had to buy any land because they- their daddy furnished all of the land for them. And we never had to buy any land.

Zarbock: How many acres did you own? Or did the family own?

Wesley Hewett: I think it’s 400 and some acres more or less.

Bernest Hewett: Four hundred and ninety-three acres, more or less here.

Wesley Hewett: Yeah, right here.

Bernest Hewett: Now, our grandmother’s side. Grandma Rose, her side was uh.. 600, I think it was 680 acres in one plot, and then back in Joe’s field. What was that, uh.. 110 acres, 100..

Wesley Hewitt: I forgot how much <inaudible>.

Bernest Hewett: <Inaudible>, more or less.

Zarbock: You know, that’s a lot of land. How did a poor family ever acquire that much land?

Bernest Hewett: Working.

Wesley Hewett: By working. You know..

Bernest Hewett: They believed in work, man. Work goes down through the family, all the way around.

Hewett: That’s the only thing they had to do.

Bernest Hewett: Work.

Hewett: Work.

Wesley Hewett: That’s the reason why we so proud of our grandparents, of our father..

Zarbock: Excuse me, uh.. for the purpose of the camera, tell me your name Mr. Hewett.

Wesley Hewett: Wesley C. Hewett.

Zarbock: Okay. Go ahead Mr. Hewett.

Wesley Hewett: That- that’s the reason we’re so proud of our daddy, and my father, and my grandfather because they made preparations for us today. So we wouldn’t have to uhm.. buy no land, we wouldn’t have to buy no land. Our kids, my kids wouldn’t have to buy any land. That’s the reason we so proud of that. So- so thank them for this land.

Zarbock: Are you still farming it actively?

Hewett: Uh.. I- I’m not, but my cousin is. I farmed it up until uh.. my health went bad.

Zarbock: What kind of crops are uh.. do you raise around here Mr. Hewett?

Bernest Hewett: Mostly soybeans..

Zarbock: I’m sorry, and tell- tell the camera who are you?

Bernest Hewett: My name is Bernest Hewett. Uh.. I’m uh.. one of the sons of Robert Hewett, the eldest Hewett, his brother. Uh.. my brother did most of the farming, Frank Hewett. And mostly soybeans and corn. I ain’t got quite a few cows down here, but that’s <inaudible>.

Zarbock: No cows or ..

Hewett: No, beef cattle.

Zarbock: Beef- beef cattle.

Bernest Hewett: Beef cattle. But as he said that the land was left for us. Uh.. we didn’t have to pay for it, we didn’t have to go out there and struggle or pay. We had to work to keep it. And uh.. this is one of the reasons we put it in the land trust, there’s so much development on both sides of it. And if we don’t do something, we won’t be able to keep the property.

Zarbock: Mr. Hewett, tell me what you meant when you said put it in the land trust.

Bernest Hewett: Uh.. we found a program, the North Carolina Land Trust, that preserves the land, it keeps it natural. And they pay us to keep it natural. And we want our grandchildren to be able to see what the natural land looks like, not what the crowded community today, not the concrete and pavement. Children uh.. we want them to be able to see what nature looks like. Maybe see a deer, see a squirrel, see- see what life’s all about. Uh.. and we loose this heritage, that’s what our grandfather worked so hard for us to have. Uh.. and- and uh.. they worked hard by walking to Florida, that’s good distance.

Wesley Hewett: Hey, think about riding in a car. Think about riding to Florida in a car that far, and you think about walking to Florida. Now you think about how long it’d take you to walk to Florida, now.

Zarbock: And it was every step was walked.

Wesley Hewett: Every step was walked, twice.

Hewett: <Inaudible> my daddy and the <inaudible>, I walked from Sunset Harbor Road, Sunset Harbor Road would turn left, Southport twice. Said there was no work going on, you know, what was going on those fish boats. I left there, the sun was setting, right there, the sun set, it was Sunset Harbor Road trying to turn left, the sun was going down. I got to Southport at 12:30, every step of the way. I did that twice. The next morning, you couldn’t even hardly raise your leg up. That’s right. Talk about a good time. I had no good time. Well, but we’re living, all them hard things I read through it, and I’m still here. This past <inaudible> life. I’m 87.

Zarbock: But you’re a young 87.

Hewett: Yes sir, yes sir.

Bernest Hewett: The uh..

Zarbock: What were you going to say?

Bernest Hewett: The commercial fishing industry came along, see my- now my daddy, and he, and his brothers. Infact, they lost one brother through the commercial fishing industry. Uh.. they took off for work down there. That’s hard work. There’s nothing easy about that, that’s hard work.

Hewett: That’s right.

Zarbock: Where’d they work, Southport or..

Bernest Hewett: Southport, Moorehead City, uh.. to keep this land. They had to work to do that. And they had to work as brothers, the two- in a- in a unified effort to do that. Uh.. they worked all the time. When we came along, they taught us how to work. And we worked from day one to keep this land, keep it- keep it uh.. natural and keep it where we could live off of. Uh.. that’s something you just can’t settle with. You just don’t give it away.

Zarbock: Not- not everybody in the world is honest. You know that and I know that.

Bernest Hewett: That’s right.

Hewett: That’s right.

Zarbock: Di- were you ever cheated out of anything, or taken advantage of?

Bernest Hewett: Yeah, yeah, once or twice we were. But- but y- you know my parents always taught my daddy, and you know, my mother, and my uncle. Uh.. they always taught us, you don’t lay down. When you loose you don’t lay down, you get up and you keep on going. Uh.. and that’s what we’ve done, we kept on going, kept on working. And what we had and what we’ve gotten to- to uh.. achieve, uh.. we haven’t made it all, but we’ve so far done pretty good. Good work.

Wesley Hewett: Well, if you learn by your mistakes, a- and you never make that again.

Zarbock: Well, an intelligent person does.

Wesley Hewett: Yeah.

Zarbock: But there are people like me that keep betting, making the same fool mistake.

Wesley Hewett: Yeah, you learn by your mistakes.

Bernest Hewett: Though, we’ve been blessed with many things. The good Lord has- has blessed us uh.. with a many of thing.

Hewett: Me and my brother who used to say case their boy is dead, when they was really young. He said, “I want to show ya’ll something.” He too, he broke three sticks, then he broke one. And he told them to stick in a brick there <inaudible>. They broke it real fast. And he said, “Now break the three.” Couldn’t do it. He said, “That’s why they pay you all to w- work to give.”

Wesley Hewett: And then he broke a whole bundle, I think he said, but now he’d taken three, you could just about break them three. Now you take a whole bundle of them, put them together, you can’t break them as easy, you can one, two, three. If you always stick together, you can’t break them. You always stick together.

Hewett: But gentlemen, how did you find time to get married?

Bernest Hewett: By nature, I reckon.

Hewett: <Inaudible> that you had to work.

Bernest Hewett: Yes sir.

Wesley Hewett: Well, nature took it’s course, i- it took its course. But still, it come back around to thinking about your grand- you daddy and your granddaddy, how they worked for this land and stuff, and you- it settled in that you wanted to do the same thing, you want to do the same thing for your kids. You keep the land for your grandkids for your kids, and grandkids. You don’t want to see it taken away from, you know, them and yourself. Partly they had to work for.

Zarbock: So family tradition..

Wesley Hewett: Oh yeah.

Zarbock: .. is very, very important.

Wesley Hewett: Yes it is, yes it is.

Hewett: It’s very important.

Zarbock: And it came from your grandparents.

Wesley Hewett: Yes.

Bernest Hewett: And you see, they- they- they instilled in us, but they want- if you think you’re going to get your tail whipped, you’ve done something wrong.

Wesley Hewett: Yes sir, but.

Bernest Hewett: And then they instilled in us, and I’m glad they did. They instilled in- in us day one uh.. you have to have pride for one. And then you got to have a commitment to yourself that you want to do something. And- and- and when they started this uh.. we got this commitment, it passed down through the family generation- see my grandfather, once they acquired this land, the law my father taught me a- and all my uncle, boy would tell us uh.. he didn’t have to go out, because look what he done hard work on this land, but he didn’t have to go out and look for jobs anymore. He created his own job on this land, and it was hard for a Black man to live back in those days. Wesley tell you that. But now he burned that tar, and- and- and tar was a big business then. He- he burned that tar and stuff, and he made a living. He showed them how to make a living, and he taught us how to make a living. But it was all through hard work, hard work and dedication is what people going to have to have today to survive. But you can’t leave pride out. If you got no pride, I don’t care how hard you work, you ain’t getting it. You got to have some kind of uh.. something on the inside of you to make you want something. And that’s what they instilled in us. We- and- and- and me, Wesley Jr., and my brother and Robert the Third and all us, we came on together, we about the same age. And every one of them if we’d done something wrong, they catch up down here in to catch you, they’d take you up and send you to your momma. A- and if daddy didn’t get you, momma got you.

Wesley Hewett: Yes sir.

Hewett: Yes sir.

Wesley Hewett: If it was a beating, you got another one.

Bernest Hewett: Yeah. And they taught you that family came first.

Wesley Hewett: Yes sir.

Bernest Hewett: And that when you had honor in your family, then on the outside you can work with the world.

Wesley Hewett: Yes sir.

Bernest Hewett: But if you ain’t got that, you ain’t got nothing.

Zarbock: Mr. Hewett, were you- w- were you ever envious of anybody or any thing?

Bernest Hewett: Uh.. maybe being rich. I’ve never been rich. I was always of a rich man. Maybe I- oh- if I got rich I’d- I’d pray to the Good Master to keep me in my right mind, that maybe I could take what I know now, and help a lot of people through that way. But now as far as being jealous of a person, haven’t, no.

Zarbock: I’m- I’m going to ask you. Have you ever been envious of anybody or anything, and you’re next.

Hewett: No sir, no sir.

Zarbock: You were- you were satis- you were content with what you had.

Hewett: Right. Partly, the same question come up in Sunday School on Sunday, and the preacher asked why people do like they do. See, he’s teaching. I told them, well they don’t have anything on the inside. I said, if they had anything on the inside, it’d be easy control. Only if we control a mule, had to put the bits in his mouth. That’s right.

Zarbock: Now I’m going to ask you, have you ever been envious of anybody or anything?

Wesley Hewett: Well no. I- I always wanted to be able to buy some of the things I wanted, not everything I wanted, but some of the things I wanted. Uh.. as far as being envious of other people, no. No, no. Because I figure I uh.. my- if I was in good health, I could work this just as good as they could to get what I wanted.

Bernest Hewett: And see, that- that’s part of the theory they taught us, through work.

Hewett: Pardon me, that’s <inaudible> that Hewett house up there was fool enough.

Zarbock: I’m sorry, that- say it again, I didn’t..

Hewett: That’s the reason that _____ house <inaudible> was fool enough. People don’t want to work, want what you got. What you got, they won’t work. You go out to think they <inaudible>, they going to steel it or somewhere <inaudible>.

Zarbock: Now I’m- I’m going to shift a little bit. What branch of service were you in?

Hewett: I was in the tank store, in en- engineering. That’s right. I seen a many man go.

Zarbock: That’s a heck of a- dangerous a- uh.. activity.

Hewett: Yes sir.

Zarbock: But you knew that too.

Hewett: Yes sir.

Zarbock: I bet you made a good soldier.

Hewett: I did.

Zarbock: Once you get this chart, what was your rank?

Hewett: Uh.. well I was Sergeant. And uh.. a messed up soldier took that, I told him he could have it. You got to..

Bernest Hewett: <Inaudible> in the army.

Hewett: Yeah, well when you get that rank, you got a responsibility, and then you got men in there reaching at you, reaching at you.

Zarbock: Now, it was segregated uh..

Hewett: No sir.

Zarbock: It was a white and Black?

Hewett: Yes sir, in some uh.. some outfits they were. Yes sir, they sure were.

Zarbock: Where your officers white or were they Black?

Hewett: White. We had some, you know, colored like Sergeants, and a few Lieutenants were. So far as upstairs, they were white.

Zarbock: Did you ever have any racial difficulty in the army?

Hewett: No sir, no sir.

Zarbock: Well this is again, I’m going to ask the same question. Have you ever had any uh.. racial dif- or difficulties that were brought about by race?

Wesley Hewett: Uh.. yeah, I had some incidents, yeah, I have.

Zarbock: Would you- would you tell me? Would you tell history is really what you’re tell- doing.

Wesley Hewett: Yeah, well one place that we went in one time, I was in school, and uh.. went in to eat. And uh.. we ordered food, and after we ordered the food, the man come and told us that uh.. you could uh.. order food, but we had to take it out to eat.

Zarbock: And where was that?

Wesley Hewett: That was in Southport at uhm.. oh..

Hewett: That guy, he’s dead now. Oliver Per..

Wesley Hewett: Oliver Lewis.

Hewett: Oliver Greer.

Wesley Hewett: Oliver was- yeah, Oliver was right there by the water tank.

Hewett: <Inaudible> right there, it used to be right there, not too far from the water tank. That’s right.

Zarbock: So you could buy the food, and you could eat the food, but you couldn’t- you couldn’t do it under the- under his roof.

Wesley Hewett: Under his roof. And therefore I left the food there.

Zarbock: Mr. Hewett, how about you?

Bernest Hewett: Well, I- I’m presently President of the NAACP for Brunswick County, so you know, I get a lot of complaints and a lot of racist <inaudible> in my personal life. My first real recollection of racism, I mean the real hardcore uh.. my father every fall he used to buy clothes at the Five And Dime store in Wilmington. And uh.. they had a food stand there. Me and my brother, we wanted a hot dog. He said, “Boys, just wait, we’ll go in the slee- <inaudible> it’s a Black cafe up town. But we, you know, how kids are, we wanted a hot dog. So he came to the counter, and we getting couldn’t come to the front of the counter, you had to go around to the side. And he ordered a hot dog for us, and a soda for us, and he gave the lady told him, said, “You got to pay for it before you get it and take it out and eat.” And uh.. he paid the lady. And he sat there and we waited and waited and waited. And after a while he asked the lady, he said uh.. “You got my hot dogs ready?” And he said, “You got my change?” He gave her a 20 dollar bill, he sold tobacco. And uh.. she said, “You ain’t paid me.” He said, “Well that 20 dollar bill on top of the cash register, right, he set it right on top of there. Uh.. the lady called the manager and says to “You need to talk to that Nigger over there because he’s down there causing trouble.” And you see, we just wanted a hot dog. Uh.. the manager came in and- and the police walking the beat that day, he uh.. I guess he ate there, he came up and he said, “Check the cash register.” And they done the thing where they rung the cash register out, and they found out the money had never been added in, it was just laying there. Before she wait on him, she gave him his money back. Now that was my first real instance of- of the total racism of that day and time. But uh.. society has a way of- of uh.. I should say uh.. some of society have a way of- of not really uh.. accepting change, but it’s coming slowly. We’re doing better. We’re doing better.

Zarbock: Was there ever any violence in Brunswick County, or- or this part of Brunswick County sir?

Bernest Hewett: Not real violence, there were marches in this part, especially in Southport, there were quite a few marches down there where they’d be turn the fire hose on people. But just as far as actual real violence, like they had in other cities, no we didn’t have any.

Zarbock: What about the Klan or red men, or any- any of those groups?

Bernest Hewett: Oh yeah, plenty of Klan men around here, they’d have marches but they never really, really hurt nobody in my day. Now my daddy used to tell me about Koo Klux Klan coming around and shaving people’s head, and beating people up. So it’d be like that. Uh.. and they were saying that, I’ve seen Klan rallies.

Zarbock: What would they do at a rally?

Bernest Hewett: Well, they’d get together out in a field, and have a big fire going, and there’d be somebody talking, and uh.. just getting together I guess, uh.. planning the strategy of what they- they were doing. They- they would have a big rally here. I’ve seen several of them, cross burning out in the field. And it’s uh.. it’s about to become a thing of the past now because of the way the law is and because of changes in the law to Jim Crow laws where a- a Black man can defend himself now uh.. a little bit more. That makes a lot of difference. Uh.. I had an uncle years ago uh.. was attacked by the uh.. white man, and he took the shovel away from him and hit the man, and they gave him 30 days in jail just for doing that, uh.. defending himself. Uh.. nowadays, it don’t work like that, see. That makes it a little better.

Zarbock: So things have changed.

Bernest Hewett: Things have.

Wesley Hewett: Oh yeah.

Zarbock: Are they- are they better or are they just changed?

Bernest Hewett: They are better if we as- as a Black people were- a nonwhite, <inaudible>, Black, Indian, Mexican, whatever, uh.. educate ourselves to the law, yeah they’ve changed.

Zarbock: Educate yourself to the law did you say?

Bernest Hewett: Yes sir, we need to.

Zarbock: So if you- if you knew where the rule- if you knew what the rules were.

Bernest Hewett: Yeah, yeah.

Zarbock: Uh.. things have improved.

Bernest Hewett: Yes sir, if you know the law, things improved. Too many things used to slip by just because the rule of ignorant Southern law is no excuse. When you go to court, if you didn’t know the law, if you didn’t know what went by, and they had a fast talking lawyer, then things went their way. But nowadays, it would- through education, through training, uh.. through the- the newer type school systems that they started teaching these things from day one. Uh.. and- and if a child goes to school nowadays, and- and come out of 12th grade he can learn what he’s supposed to learn, he can educate himself to the law, earn a degree. He’s not a lawyer, but in a degree he knows what his rights are.

Zarbock: Do your children, and I’m going to extent that, yeah. Do the Black children want to stay on the farm and- and live in a rural environment?

Bernest Hewett: Some of them do, uh.. we got a lot of kids uh.. that leave the farm, but- but now uh.. basically I say uh.. about 80 percent of the Hewett’s have attached theirselves to the farm. They go off, get their education, then they come back to the proper uh.. here, and then some of them in Wilmington, some of them work in Southport, some of them work in Myrtle Beach. But they have attached themselves to this property, uh.. most of them. Not all of them, but most of them.

Zarbock: That’s wonderful.

Wesley Hewett: And they have all uh.. at least I uh.. <inaudible> is learning how to speak up for rights. Yeah, for right. Not for wrong, but for right. You know, you got to learn how to speak up. And I believe in that, speaking up, for right.

Hewett: And another thing brought it out, you could different places, you got to know how to act. You got to know how to act. See a lot of places you go in there, and if you don’t know how to act, the man will want to give you a boot, if you don’t know how to act. See what hurt the average person, <inaudible>. Is he can’t… his mouth.

Zarbock: I once heard that God gave every person one mouth and two ears.

Hewett: That’s right.

Zarbock: And you ought to- you ought to use the ears more than you use the mouth.

Wesley Hewett: That’s right.

Zarbock: The ears are not going to get you in to trouble.

Hewett: No. You got to hear somebody.

Bernest Hewett: Oh yeah. So you have two eyes to see better, twice as much.

Hewett: That’s right.

Bernest Hewett: Two ears to hear twice as much, and one mouth to talk less. So you see what you see, and you take it in through your ears, listen to it, then you analyze it and be careful how you put it out. I think if the whole uh.. and I don’t brag on my family because all of them don’t think alike, but I- I’d like to brag on my family. I was- I was pretty amazed and- and- and I was real, real glad that they decided to do this land trust. That they have pride enough to do the land trust to keep their property, and- and the whole family see it as a whole, that..

Zarbock: Did the whole family vote on this, or have..

Bernest Hewett: Yup.

Zarbock: .. how- how did that work, how did that come about?

Wesley Hewett: By coming together, by coming together, sitting down, the- the people, they having a round table, have a discussion about this.

Zarbock: Now how many people were involved Mr. Hewett?

Wesley Hewett: Uhm.. we’re talking about what, uh.. four families?

Bernest Hewett: Seven families.

Wesley Hewett: Seven families, yeah, seven families. Sitting down, right here, right in this same building, ladder under there, talking about this, discussing this.

Bernest Hewett: Took three years.

Wesley Hewett: Yeah, took three years.

Bernest Hewett: Three years.

Zarbock: How many acres did you put in the trust?

Bernest Hewett: Uh.. 135, uh.. through water quality, and 115 through uh..

Wesley Hewett: Conservation.

Bernest Hewett: .. conservation <inaudible>.

Zarbock: And it will be there forever?

Bernest Hewett: Forever and ever. Nobody can’t move it, nobody can’t touch it, we can watch the deer, the raccoons, the squirrels, all that go. We go through there and- and take bush hog path, be a road in it, as long as it’s dirt roads. Uh.. we got beavers over here, we got a beaver pond over here. You go down there and sit out all day, watch the beavers play or the fresh water fish play. Uh.. they- it don’t have to be something you see on TV never. It’s something that- that- that’s right there before your eyes. You know uh.. and I say this, it’s- it’s uh.. it’s a thing when I talk and see real life things. I got a cousin in Philadelphia, brought his son and his daughter down here, my brother had the cows in the field out there. And she said, “Daddy,” said, “That’s a pretty hog standing up out there.” She didn’t know the difference. He’s got a granddaughter that <inaudible> the cow a lot, and she could tell the difference. She lives here, she sees it every day. She can go out in the world and tell the world what she’s seen, and half the people won’t believe it because they’ll never get a chance to see. So you can tell her what a squirrel is, what a real snake looks like, and- and Lord knows we don’t want to see no snakes, but she can tell them that. Uh.. kids will never see that.

Zarbock: Do you have any gators on your property?

Bernest Hewett: Oh yeah.

Wesley Hewett: Yeah, uh.. there’s a lot of them down there in the swamp, quite a few down there. Yeah.

Zarbock: You know, there’s something scary about a big, huge animal with only a teaspoon full of brain.

Wesley Hewett: That’s right.

Zarbock: Really. I mean that- that’s- that’s one of the things you don’t want- I don’t want a pet.

Wesley Hewett: I was talking to one of the guys over uh.. doing the work over- on the other side of us over there, and he said he run up on uh.. I think it was a 16 foot alligator over there. Well, not only about two months ago.

Hewett: Yeah.

Wesley Hewett: Said he… the alligator just as scared of him and he was of the alligator. So he started, alligator going where he was going, he was going the other. See, that’s not always the case though.

Zarbock: No. And I think most people are surprised to see how tall an alligator is when they’re not in the water.

Wesley Hewett: That’s right.

Zarbock: When they’re standing up on those four clawed legs, they are a tall thing.

Wesley Hewett: And- and I wish people could see how smart a- a <inaudible> is, I mean not the <inaudible>, but the beaver. How the- how the beavers will work. That’s a smart animal.

Zarbock: Yeah.

Bernest Hewett: Very smart.

Wesley Hewett: They really are a smart animal.

Bernest Hewett: See, we even got a snake down here. We- we were, and I- I’ve been talking to <inaudible>. He said, “I don’t know, maybe we can get him to hid.” They tell me that uhm.. I’m trying to promote my land too much, but we got a snake down here. We call it anaconda, they say anacondas don’t grow down here. But we got a snake down here they see it every now and then, and that thing grows about 15, 20 foot long, and he be about that big around. And- and uh.. I’d like to see somebody study that. I’d like to know that my grandchildren can say well we’re the only one that’s got that snake. You know what I’m saying?

Zarbock: My land.

Bernest Hewett: Uh.. but uh.. it takes time to do that, and I’d like to get- to get some- some uh.. company or some college or some foundations who study these things to be able to say that we still own these things, we don’t own it, God own it, but we still own the land that these things are on, where people can come see it. Once this thing’s shut off, you’ll never see it again.

Zarbock: You know, I asked Mr. Hewett earlier, when he was- when he was a boy, what he did for recreation, and the answer was there wasn’t any recreation.

Hewett: No there weren’t.

Zarbock: Well, what kind of recreation do you have now? I’m going to go around and poll all three. What kind of rec- what’s fun for you? What do you enjoy?

Bernest Hewett: Well as far as with me, fishing pole, go fishing all day long, uh.. get me a good shotgun and- and go hunting. I have uh.. I’ve not enjoyed these things as much as I really would like to. But that’s recreation for me. Some time uh.. going hunting with my shotgun, and just watching <inaudible> is- is more enjoyable.

Zarbock: You really- you really enjoy nature don’t you?

Bernest Hewett: Yes sir, I do. It’s hard to find any more, and nature is being cleared away.

Zarbock: Oh yeah. What do you do- what’s- what’s fun for you? What kind of- what would you do for recreation?

Hewett: Well, the way there’s…, there ain’t none for me. What I mean, I can’t get around, you know, like I wish to. But I never did believe in too much recreation. Well when I was young, most of the recreation you’d be even then was the bottle because we had time. And you come in there, and if you went out for a little while you’d come in, them old people would smell that stuff on you. They’d walk up and down you. They didn’t like here, no. You have a certain time to come here. That’s right. You had a certain time to come here. Yeah. Now, I look at some of them now, stay out at night, and uh.. come in. Parents better not ask him where he’s been. Now, I’d come <inaudible> my parents, <inaudible> at Sunday School, come back, it’s chores time, after time <inaudible> ain’t got nowhere to go, go home sit down or lay down. That’s right.

Zarbock: I’m going to shift over to you. What- what- what was or is recreation for you?

Wesley Hewett: Well what was my recreation was uh.. I’d say hunting and fishing. But now, like I said, my health has got bad, and now my recreation now is my grandkids. Yeah, it’s my grandkids. I love for them to be around, and love for them to be all, man I say all over me, just about. That’s my recreation. And to be able to talk to the younger people, and trying to help them.

Zarbock: Do they let- do they pay attention to you?

Wesley Hewett: Well now, they’re still- they’ll pay attention to- a- at right then, if you’re talking to them, but I don’t know whether stick or not. But they uh.. they pay attention to you right then.

Hewett: But I do think what uh.. things they have to front today, they’re doing good. They’re doing good. See when we come on, like we didn’t have this to front with. Have this front with. What hurt me <inaudible> time, them old people, think they got it all upstairs, and look over the young kids. I don’t think so. They ought not to treat like that. If he me my <inaudible> actually, you done good, try it again.

Bernest Hewett: Yep.

Hewett: Yeah. A lot of them old says well, he- he wasn’t doing nothing. He- <inaudible>. Don’t- don’t- don’t pump that in his head. Don’t pump that in- I think what they growing up with today, they’re doing great.

Wesley Hewett: Well, I think everybody stumbles, but help- help- help him up, and uh.. you know, get him up, and- and help him on his way. Don’t let him stay there <inaudible> trample on him, just help him up and help him on his way.

Bernest Hewett: You know, today’s society, we had an uncle, the boys who uh.. he didn’t have any children of his own, but he used to get us boys uh.. he would tell us to do this and do that, and do the other. And he’d laugh, he’d chew- chewing tobacco. Would get him a big mouth full of chewing tobacco, put a piece of bubble gum in it, so it’d make it stick together. But he would teach us the basic purpose of life. I- I think kids need those kind of supports now. Uh.. you see kids going all different directions, all kind of waiting, no kind of leadership, nobody taking time with them. You see, hunting, you see, he’d have us all down through the woods, all back in other words. Now you image a bunch of 13, 14, 15 year boys out here with loaded guns. And that was fun to him. Boy don’t you shoot me, you shoot over yonder. Shoot over in the trees. A- and, you know, I’m talking about five little- five little ones, five <inaudible> at one time. But see, this is the kind of leadership that needs to be instilled in kids today. Somebody needs to take time out and teach them the basics. Make them feel like the- they’re a part of something where they can go on and live, and do something, make something incredible out of life. Uh.. we as a whole, and I say we because I’m part of the nation, uh.. the nation’s in bad shape as far as dependability, accountability. We uh.. look at television, and we look at our Senators, we look at our representatives, and they’re telling all kinds of lies to be elected. Uh.. it used to be you had to be accountable for what you said. Now they say, oh, it’s just a campaign speech, it don’t mean that. Uh.. those kids that look at that begin to believe what they’ve seen there. And that’s why we have the problems we have. Uh.. we need to uh.. to instill some kind of uh.. of- of not too much pride, but- but enough pride to make a kid want to do and improve himself. That’s what Uncle <inaudible> used to do with us. He- he’d laugh at us, boy sometimes he’d get mad because you’ve done something stupid, and he’d laugh at you. Then he’d pick you up, “Yo, come on, let’s go.” And he’d tell you what you should have done. That- that’s what we need now.

Wesley Hewett: And the main thing too, why he was careless hunting, and he never would carry a gun. He would always shake a vine, he would always shake the vine. But the main thing he was doing, he was carrying you in the wood to show you the boundaries of this land. He’d go and show you the boundaries of this land. Every time you were going hunting, uh.. my Uncle Boise (ph), Uncle Wilfs, Uncle Henry, but daddy never did go hunting with us a lot like they did. But uh.. they always went hunting with us, and they would always show us the boundary of this the- of this land.

Zarbock: There’s a Hewett Road and there’s a Hewett Town Road. And we’re on Hewett Town Road.

Wesley Hewett: We’re on Hewett Town Road.

Zarbock: What- what’s the difference between Hewett Road and Hewett Town Road.

Bernest Hewett: Different families.

Wesley Hewett: Yeah, different families.

Bernest Hewett: Hewett Road is actually Parker- on the Parker property. Out in uh… but anyway. This road here was named after our- our grandparents.

Zarbock: How far back can you trace your family?

Bernest Hewett: Well uh.. pretty- pretty on- on one side we can go all the way back to uh.. oh Grandma Rose’s side where they came over here on a barge, <inaudible> trading barge. <Inaudible> they said they came over here on a trad- a trading barge. And uh..

Zarbock: What’s a trade- trading barge?

Bernest Hewett: Uh… men used to ride barges back and follow the old sea way where they loaded the tar pits and all that stuff. Well, we could go back probably couple hundred years, so far.

Zarbock: Do you have a family cemetery?

Bernest Hewett: Uh.. we got two cemeteries, most of them church cemeteries. Uh.. with family buried it. Uh.. the biggest portion of our family is buried out of side- back outside here. Now, we got one that’s back on the Monroe farm up there that some of them are buried in. But the biggest portion of our family is inside here, <inaudible>.

Wesley Hewett: Dad, Bernest <inaudible>.

Wesley Hewett: The biggest portion of our family inside here.

Hewett: Here, uh huh, <inaudible> back on Monroe, most of them is full as you know. And the ladies <inaudible>. And uh.. Grandma Vollick (ph) was up there, and uh.. <inaudible>. They was all up there.

Wesley Hewett: Up where dad? Up where?

Hewett: Grandma Vollick is up there after the Monroe farm.

Wesley Hewett: <Inaudible> too?

Hewett: No, I believe <inaudible>. But back there then <inaudible> cemetery, they carried it with mule and cars. That’s right. That’s the only thing they had to get it around. And I remember they used to drive mule cars to church. Yeah. Taking a mule car out, <inaudible> spray them down with that old fly spray before you go inside.

Wesley Hewett: Can you remember the first time your daddy had uh.. bought a mule?

Hewett: Yeah, I believe I can. But it’s been so long I <inaudible> the first time I know where they bought one. He walked him from up there on 17th all the way through them woods. And the way they used to uh.. look at mules then, so well if he had a wide breast, he’s a good mule. Well he brought him he told him, daddy said, “That’s a rabbit breast mule.” His feet, you know, <inaudible> here. He’s a little mule. Yeah. Kept it until he died, and then he- we’ve got a way to get a horse, and uh.. one old big mule. And uh.. we kept them to all <inaudible> dead. I went after the boys were away and got a John Deere tractor. That’s right.

Wesley Hewett: Tell them- tell them about when your mule died how your uh.. you and your brothers had to do the court thing.

Hewett: Yeah. Well, his daddy had old- old pad on his shoulder, he put the back band on his shoulder, with rubber skin on. And pull the lighter from the other side of the highway all the way down in to that field. Me and my next brother, Boisey the cart wheel, and some of the ruts was that deep. You know, it was <inaudible>. And uh.. he sold that tire, that’s how he bought another mule.

Zarbock: We’re just about out of tape gentlemen. I was telling Mr. Hewitt on the telephone that as long as the planet earth can make electricity, this tape is going to be in the vault at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Now, you’re going to get a get a copy of this tape. But before we leave, s- since you- 20 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now, when somebody looks at this tape, they may be interested in a final comment, kind of a word of advice. I’m going to start with you Mr. Hewitt. Looking right to the- in to the camera. Tell the future, what- what would you wish for the- for the future.

Bernest Hewett: I would wish for good luck to the Hewett family to begin with. I would pray to the Good Master to keep us all in our right mind, and all the good sense. I would wish that the Hewett family continue this legacy forever.

Zarbock: Thank you. Mr. Hewett.

Hewett: Yes sir.

Zarbock: What- what- what wish would you have for the future.

Hewett: I’d wish they continue to work together, just like two fingers on your hand, and uh.. all this squabbling, forget about it because we never had that before. And wish that all the young people coming along would have a better future than I had. That’s the only thing I wish there to be. I know there going to be some mistakes, you know, made, but I hope be a better future.

Zarbock: Mr. Hewett, what would you..

Wesley Hewett: I hope and pray that it- it’s- this family, Hewett family, continue to work together and keep the work going on, and thank that our fore- fore parents and my daddy while he’s living, thank them for what they had did for us today.

Zarbock: Gentlemen, it’s been a real pleasure. Thank you.

Bernest Hewett: Thank you sir.

#### End of Tape ####

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