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Interview with Ruth Hodges, October 25, 2006 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Ruth Hodges, October 25, 2006
October 25, 2006
A 90-year-old resident of Mt. Olive, NC, Ruth Hodges has been interested in art from childhood. Unable to attend college due to her family's financial reversals during the Depression, Ruth was able to gain admittance to nursing school in Wilson, NC, where she subsequently met her husband. Now married, Mrs. Hodges and her husband moved to Charleston, SC, where he worked for the naval shipyard during WWII. In 1948 the couple moved to Wilmington, where Mr. Hodges had accepted a job as an electrician for the FAA at what is now Wilmington Airport. While in Wilmington, Mrs. Hodges developed a renewed interest in art and took classes at Isaac Bear school under Claude Howell, during which she assimilated into the local art community. She continued to study under Howell at Wilmington College, and credits him with much of her knowledge and success. A friend to many successful artists in southeastern NC, especially in the Southport/Brunswick County area, Mrs. Hodges continues to paint with a select group in her home studio.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Hodges, Ruth Interviewer:  Jones, Carroll / Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  10/25/2006 Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes


Jones: Today is October 25th, 2006. I am Carroll Jones with Sherman Hayes for the Randall Library Special Collection Oral History Program, and today we're with Mrs. Ruth Hodges, a native North Carolinian, a working artist and who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. Good morning, Mrs. Hodges.

Ruth Hodges: (laughs)

Jones: How are you this morning?

Ruth Hodges: I'm fine, thank you.

Jones: Can we start off by just having you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you were born and raised, something about your family, and your remembrances of growing up?

Ruth Hodges: Well, I was born in Mount Olive, a small little town in Wayne County, just a few hundred people, and hmm, and then I started school when I was seven years old. My mother thought that I should be not started off right. A teacher lived across the street from us that she knew, she said that I should wait, and another one said, "No, she should go on." Another one says to her, "She's left-handed and she should try to change it" and the other one said, "No," so I went with the one that said no. So obviously I'm left-handed. He said no, that said everything. But anyway, I admired my teachers, I just about worshipped all my teachers, enjoyed them and worked really hard to try to make good grades and it was just a small class, you know, we was just 27 in our class. Red said says you shouldn't say anything about that, just tell them you were, (laughs) but I was the valedictorian in my class and I had an average of 96 for the whole four years in high school. And so I wanted to go to college, and my friend, whose aunt was stationed at Meredith College, managed to get me a working scholarship there, and it was like a hundred dollars now, that's the scholarship, they didn't have any of the student loans or anything at that time. And so, but I didn't have sense enough to know, I was poor as I don't know what so I didn't have sense enough to know that if actually I got there, I thought, "Well, how can I pay for the rest of it?" I was gonna get a job in the cafeteria, she was going to get me a job there and then we'll give you a hundred dollar scholarship (laughs). Now that sounds like nothing now, you know, but then it was much. But then I decided that well, what am I gonna do for the rest of it? I wasn't thinking that when I got there if I did it, I probably could get more help, you know, so I didn't go.

Jones: What did your father do? What kind of work did your parents do?

Ruth Hodges: What?

Jones: What kind of work did your parents do?

Ruth Hodges: My parents, my mother at that time, it was during the Depression. My father had been a teller in a bank, which was then a pretty prestigious job. He came from a well to do family in South Carolina. His father owned a plantation and he had slaves, my grandfather, and he thought that when he lost his job during the Depression, that it was too menial. He was offered a job in a factory there that my mother's first husband's family owned, this factory that made baskets and things for produce, you know, strawberries and things, he was offered a job there, but no, his position was too good, he couldn't take that kind of job, so we kinda, I didn't kinda like that. As I look back, I see my mother working really hard and there's five of my sisters and I, I had four more sisters, and she was working really hard to try to keep all of us fed and clothed and everything. So finally he just didn't do nothing. Now that really got me because I thought, "Well goodness, my mother's working herself to death," she's working out in the fields, we'd go with her and help her, and finally she opened up with the help of my two half-brothers, a little dining room, and so we had this, just served home-cooked meals and we didn't have any café equipment or nothing, just anything. But that's the way that she provided for us all the time I was in school. And then went I'd get out of school, I'd have to help her, you know, and I had to study. I would study and put my books out at night when all the customers had left over the table and studied my lessons when I was in school.

Jones: Was it unusual for somebody at that time to, in your circumstances, to go on to college?

Ruth Hodges: It was, yes, because everybody there in that little town was poor except one girl, she graduated and her family gave her a car. We thought that was the greatest thing in the world, gave her a new car, you know, and now a friend of mine, she worked on a farm and her family were pretty wealthy. People worked, they had tenants themselves on their little farms but there were not any massive thing, but you know, they made a good living. In fact, one of her brother-in-laws was a prominent farmer there and he was, you know, he had a lot of tenants working with him and he had a little store for them. They'd come up and get, a long time ago they'd have a little store, a little country store and the family owned that and there was tenants and people that worked with him come there and get groceries and things.

Hayes: Is that the pickle company?

Jones: Yes.

Hayes: Was that pickled made then even?

Ruth Hodges: What?

Hayes: Mount Olive, is that pickles?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, that's the pickle factory.

Hayes: Was it even back in the '30s?

Ruth Hodges: Yes, they had a pickle factory then, but it was just in infancy and probably, you know. Yes, I remember those big barrels they had out there they kept the pickles in and all.

Jones: So how long did you spend at Meredith?

Ruth Hodges: I didn't ever get there. I didn't get there because I thought well, there was a wealthy man that lived in that town, how naïve I was, I thought that he was an old bachelor and I thought that.

Jones: Now we're talking about (inaudible)?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, manor, that Liddy, I could borrow some money from him, you know, I'd just go and ask him. I did. And he said, he was nice and polite and all but gosh, you know, I ought to have had sense enough to know he wasn't ever going to put any money into me going to school, you know, because it was hard enough getting it in, but I don't know whether he was a lawyer or not but anyway, so that was out, so I said well, finally I worked right after I got out of high school and helped my mother with her dining room and I decided well that I just didn't want to live the rest of my life in Mount Olive, I just wanted to get out and do something different. And the only thing I knew, a friend of mine who was the salutatorian when I was the valedictorian, she had gotten a job and she was going to take nurse's training, and at that time you had to go three years to be a nurse and you had to work, it's not like it is now, you had to do everything from down to scrubbing the floors in the operating room or whatever, so I thought, well, I don't want to stay here in Mount Olive the rest of my life (laughs). That's the truth, I never get away from there and that's what I wanted to do. I don't want to live here, I want to get out and do something different. So anyway, I just went into nurse's training.

Jones: Where was that?

Ruth Hodges: Well, I started out in Wilson and the teacher there was terrible, I mean the Superintendent of Nurses, and so finally I just quit. Well then finally I decided well I've got to do something so I applied to Rocky Mount and the (inaudible) and then I go there and I stayed there and trained for about a year and then I had met my husband at that hospital in Wilson and so he kept coming in. He had jobs all over. He did electrical work, and so he would work at all these big jobs. Like he ended up when I was going with him on one in Charleston, South Carolina in the Navy working on those destroyers, building ships, you know, he worked on the electrical systems.

Jones: Now where was he from originally?

Ruth Hodges: Originally? What?

Jones: Where was your husband from originally?

Ruth Hodges: Oh, he was from Durham, North Carolina. Yeah, his family came from around Durham.

Jones: But you met in Wilson?

Ruth Hodges: Yes, uh-huh. So finally he kept saying, and the war was going on about that time and he said he had to go up to the board or whatever to get checked, you know, to see if he was fit to go. One time they'd say he had flat feet, but somehow or other he got accepted, especially when he went down there to work in the Navy yard. That was a good way to stay out. He didn't want to have to go in the service in World War II, you know. So then we got married and we moved to Charleston and he still worked in the Navy yard and then my two children were born there in Charleston.

Hayes: So what was your maiden name?

Ruth Hodges: What was what?

Hayes: Your maiden name, what was your?

Ruth Hodges: My what?

Hayes: Your maiden name, what was your maiden name?

Ruth Hodges: Oh, my maiden name. It was Bethen, yes.

Hayes: Spell that for me.

Jones: That's a big name around here.

Ruth Hodges: Bethen, and it was originally a French.

Jones: B-E-T-H-E-N?

Ruth Hodges: B-E-T-H-E-N. Uh-huh.

Jones: Okay.

Hayes: And so in World War II he was working primarily at that yard building destroyers?

Ruth Hodges: Yes, in fact I think when they bombed Pearl Harbor, we were living in Charleston then and they had been announcing it out on the streets there. We had a little apartment right down in near downtown area and yeah.

Jones: So you never finished nursing school?

Ruth Hodges: No, I didn't finish.

Jones: You met your husband, you married him.

Ruth Hodges: Right, and we moved down there.

Jones: And then you moved to Charleston?

Ruth Hodges: Yes. Best thing I ever did in my life.

Jones: To move to Charleston or to marry your husband?

Ruth Hodges: No, to marry my husband (laughs). Because, if it had not been for him, I would not have all this now and he was kind of a self-made man. He had an eighth grade education, he opened up Hodges Electric Company here in Wilmington.

Jones: I want you to talk about that but finish with Charleston and then how you happened to come to Wilmington, because you never lived here before.

Ruth Hodges: Yes, he was working down there, he got a chance to work with what was called the Civil Aeronautics Administration then and go around to all the airports, keep up the facilities on the airports, the lighting and runway lights and ...

Hayes: Now was that during or after the war?

Ruth Hodges: That was after.

Jones: Just after the war, okay.

Ruth Hodges: And so he just stayed on there, well he worked, we stayed there awhile and he had to travel then to go to the different facilities, because he kept up the lights, the runway lights and the generators and things at the airport, and then so we got a chance to move to Wilmington to, they wanted somebody here, so he came here.

Jones: Civil Aeronautics Administration?

Ruth Hodges: He was still working, it was called the Civil Aeronautics Administration, that's the FAA.

Jones: Right.

Hayes: Was that Bluethenthal then?

Jones: Bluethenthal.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, right, right, he had a little office out there and he had a little storage room there where he kept all his supplies. This was his headquarters, and he had supervisors over him.

Jones: You're getting ahead of me. He must've at this point built up quite an operation and had a number of people working for him. Did you work with him at all?

Ruth Hodges: Oh yes, when we opened up our business.

Jones: When did he open it up, what year?

Ruth Hodges: 1957.

Hayes: You had several years though where he worked at the airport? Was that a long-term?

Ruth Hodges: Well, he decided he was going to open up his own after awhile. After he left working, you know, in the Navy yard, he got a job with them and then he decided well heck, he says, "I'm going to go into business for myself" and then he got a lot of contracts. That's where he made his money. With the FAA, doing work on their airports and things, and like he would take crews and he would go in a town and he would hire the people. He'd go down to the work market or wherever they got to hire somebody then. He had one or two men he carried with him that lived here, one of them lived in Elizabethtown, that he carried with him all the time, and they just went from one job to the other and he did that for awhile and then he got tired of doing that and he decided well, he was just going to open up his own business. But he really, I mean, at that time I have filled a lot of forms and all that when he would apply for these contracts and jobs and he was lucky because one time they gave him a contract to tear down a big tower. Well, he was getting ready to do it and a storm came, a hurricane, and it blew the tower down (laughs). Like I said he was the luckiest guy in the world, and so he got paid for all that iron that was in that tower, he sold it to somebody, and he came back home one night and he had a shoe box full of money. He said, "This man paid me off in nothing but just this money. Just don't say nothing about it, stick it up on the shelf in the cabinet, in the closet and we'll get it out when we need it."

Jones: So, the Civil Aeronautics brought him to Wilmington and he worked at Bluethenthal?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah.

Jones: How did you happen to come to Wilmington and make this your home at that point?

Ruth Hodges: Well, he was transferred here. He finished his job there, yeah.

Hayes: Did you move the whole family then?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, we moved up here. I cried when we came back up. Oh, I can't stand it ... Well he said, "Well, don't worry, it's about like Wilmington or Wilmington is a little smaller, you'll like it."

Jones: What was Wilmington like at that time?

Ruth Hodges: Oh.

Jones: Your children were young.

Ruth Hodges: Oh yeah, it was like about.

Jones: And this was in the mid '50s?

Ruth Hodges: This was 1948 when we moved to Wilmington.

Jones: So that was right after the war.

Ruth Hodges: Right.

Jones: Before the Coast Line.

Ruth Hodges: They had had, I think, the first festival when we came here, the first Azalea festival.

Jones: That was a little later.

Ruth Hodges: Was it, or maybe the next year because I remember that we ...

Jones: It was a golf tournament, wasn't it?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, they had the first one or second one, you know, and yeah, I remember that. We came about the time just before the festival.

Jones: And so what was the flavor of the city, the town like then?

Ruth Hodges: Oh, well, it was just a small city. I mean it was a lot bigger than Mount Olive and it was not as big as Charlotte, but it was a small city and I liked it because, you know, well I've been here so long now, I just feel like I'm a native really (laughs).

Hayes: So where did you live when you first came?

Ruth Hodges: We lived over in those apartments off of Carolina Beach Road, well it's on Sunset. The first ones, they were made out of brick there and I've forgotten what they called them, but they were right there near where the shipyard was, you know, over there in Sunset Park, they're out on Jackson Street or something. And we stayed there a month and then we bought a house on Woodlawn Avenue, which is a little street that connects from Carolina Beach Road over to the lake, it's a little short street and so then we lived there until 1965 we built this house and we moved here, because I've been living here.

Hayes: We're on Oriole Street?

Jones: Oriole Drive.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, Oriole.

Hayes: But this was way out then in 1965.

Ruth Hodges: Oh yes, yes.

Jones: This was in the county, wasn't it?

Ruth Hodges: This was in the county then and the city and just a two-lane road out there.

Jones: And there was no college?

Ruth Hodges: No college there at all, nothing. The Trask got a lot of property, you know. Trask owned all that land, I mean, they were the wealthiest land owners here, you know. And I think he gave the college a lot of that, didn't he?

Jones: Some of it.

Hayes: He sold it at a reasonable price.

Ruth Hodges: Oh, he did? Right.

Jones: And of course they're doing more developing.

Ruth Hodges: Well, I thought that he was one of the wealthiest families.

Jones: So how many children did you have?

Ruth Hodges: What?

Jones: How many children did you have?

Ruth Hodges: I had two.

Jones: You had just two?

Hayes: So they were born in Charleston, you said?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, they were born in Charleston.

Jones: And you moved down here, they went to school here?

Ruth Hodges: We hadn't been here very long, but I heard about Floyd Howard teaching at Isaac Bear and so I went to some of his classes he had. He was still working at the coastline then and he was a stenographer.

Jones: I need to interrupt you here. I want to ask you about your interest in art, when it developed and how it came along to the point where you decided to go...?

Ruth Hodges: I've always been interested in drawing from when I was in grammar school. I would draw these little drawings and sell them to my classmates for five cent apiece.

Jones: Okay, that's what I wanted to hear.

Ruth Hodges: Five cent apiece. And I loved to do these Viking ships and I'd look at the books in there and I thought they were the greatest things and I'd draw a lot of those ships, you know, I thought they were really like. That's what I did. And then when we were married, well I had the two kids and I didn't think about even doing any artwork then. They were little, you know, we moved when one of them was two and the other one was four years old in Wilmington, so.

Jones: Not even for your own self?

Ruth Hodges: No, I didn't, I didn't do anything, and lived in Charleston, you know, and I had these two little babies so I didn't do anything but look after them. Yeah.

Jones: So when you came to Wilmington you decided to renew your interest?

Ruth Hodges: Then I decided to go, I heard about his class there, the Isaac Bear building and I decided.

Jones: On Market Street?

Ruth Hodges: On Market Street and I wanted to go study some more, so that's where I met Claude.

Jones: Now did you take his art history class?

Ruth Hodges: Well, it was just a painting class and we painted in oils and things, I remember. I remember I did one of some of those steps over there, and I thought now today well where are they, where is that painting because I don't remember what I did with it, but I came home and I probably took a picture of it, a photograph you know, and then I came back and did a painting, but so I've been painting ever since. And then I got into watercolor later on. I think it was Mary (inaudible) probably, I mean I started it there.

Hayes: So what year did you go down to Wilmington College to take a class?

Ruth Hodges: Oh, the Wilmington College, well, let's see, my daughter was, I think she had just started teaching up at Slippery Rock, she's taught at Slippery Rock. Have you ever heard of that little school?

Jones: Yeah.

Ruth Hodges: They used to send the football scores, Slippery Rock won so and so and they'd put it up at the end of every time they'd (laughs), or Slippery Rock did so and so, but she taught school up there awhile and then she went back to college, she went to Bloomington to get her Masters in comparative literature and she also had a Masters from Chapel Hill in teaching arts, so she met her husband there in Bloomington.

Hayes: Are you talking about Indiana?

Ruth Hodges: Indiana University, yeah.

Jones: Bloomington, Indiana?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah.

Hayes: Now what's your daughter's name?

Ruth Hodges: Vicki.

Jones: So she went to Indiana University?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, she met her husband there, and he was ...

Jones: I have a son who graduated from Indiana University.

Ruth Hodges: He did?

Hayes: I graduated from Indiana University.

Ruth Hodges: Oh, did you? Well, she loved it and we helped her, you know, and she met her husband there, and he was studying, he was working on his Masters in business administration.

Jones: Now was this at the time you were going to Bloomington College? You were all going to college together?

Ruth Hodges: Yes, about that time, because she went out there with me about, let's see I was 50 years old, now I said, "Oh, I don't think I can", she said, "Oh, mother, you come over, we're going out to see the Dean there" and we went out and this lady who she's since died but I've forgotten, and she had black hair, a nice-looking lady that was the Dean of Women, so we went there and talked to her and she said, "Oh sure" so I just, I mean, well whatever. I just started taking regular courses, like I was going to be. I took English and...

Hayes: I think her name was Dr. Morton.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah. But then when it got to chemistry and biology, I thought, "Well, God" and like I would see Claude Howell walking up and down the hall but I had had some classes before, you know, at Isaac Bear like a decade ago before then, so and he kept saying, "Well, why don't you come and take some classes with me?" And I thought well what in the world am I doing taking something, I'm not going to teach school, and so anyway I was going to take chemistry and I had had chemistry in high school and in nursing I had taken chemistry and I said, "Oh, heck no, I don't want to mess with that. (laughs) I'm gonna take Claude's class."

Hayes: So what happened from a time standpoint was you started just taking classes down at Wilmington College because Claude was there?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah.

Hayes: So you were just taking classes ...?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, it just ended, it did.

Hayes: And were the other people like you, just taking art, or were they students trying to do the program?

Ruth Hodges: There were some people just like me that would just go there and decided they wanted to see if they could paint.

Jones: So you really didn't have a goal in mind, it was just something to nurture artistic self?

Ruth Hodges: Just something I did. Yeah, well, I kinda like painting, because when we were in, he had to go down to Kinston to be a supervisor building the big airport terminal, so we went down there and stayed a year, but when I came back, I decided that, and my daughter she had gone off to college and she went out there with me, and she said, "Well, why don't you come back here and go if you want to go?" But then I decided when I saw Claude and I had met him before here about 10 years before, I said, "Well, I just want to stop and take art classes. I'm not going to do it."

Jones: You mentioned to me I think on the phone about getting to know him and working with him and maybe you could tell us a little more about that relationship or about him both as an art teacher and as a person, Claude Howell?

Ruth Hodges: Well, I remember that about that time, like I said, and that was before I had even started taking out here, we went to Sunset Beach I believe it was, and I don't know whether there was anyone else but I'm sure I had a bunch more people in the car with me, but I don't remember anything about them, I just remember Claude went to sleep on the way back home, and he did some sketching and all that day, but then later, you know, is when I decided I would go, and when I got out there and met him again, I decided.

Jones: At where there university is now, on College?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah.

Jones: You took classes from him?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, I just took a few classes and remember going, well I probably went once a week maybe down to the Isaac Bear building and he had some classes and took them.

Jones: So you were becoming more of a serious painter?

Ruth Hodges: Right, right. I was becoming more interested in art then, especially I liked his style and he never demonstrated when he was teaching at all, he just would go around and tell us what we did right or wrong. There are a lot of teachers who'll get up there and show you things, but no, he never did that.

Jones: Did you really learn from him?

Ruth Hodges: I did, I learned a lot. In fact, besides art history, which made me more interested, and I've got all these notes that I kept when I was with him.

Jones: Really?

Ruth Hodges: Yes, I have all those notes and what he said about this and that, and how he was influenced. In fact, he went to Greece one time and I think he was influenced more by the light and things in Greece than he was in Paris, because he got some kind of scholarship, a Guggenheim scholarship or something to go to Paris to study.

Jones: Did you ever go abroad to do any painting?

Ruth Hodges: Did I do what?

Jones: Go abroad? Did you ever go to Europe or anywhere to do painting?

Ruth Hodges: Oh yes I did, I went in the year 2000, my daughter and I went to Paris and stayed 10 days, and then about the next, let's see was it the next year, about 2 years later we went with a friend of hers who is incidentally coming Friday with her here, we went to Italy and stayed 10 days, and right in Florence.

Jones: Well, that's the place to go.

Ruth Hodges: Oh yes, and that was great.

Hayes: And is the light different? It really is different?

Ruth Hodges: Well, I don't know that. I didn't notice, but he said the light, he especially talked about the light in Greece.

Jones: Well, there is a lot of light because the buildings are white, and it's always sunny.

Ruth Hodges: I always thought I'd like to go but then when I got over, I think it's really hilly there, they tell me and I cannot go up and down those hills.

Jones: When did you start painting seriously and then we talked about the Arts Council when it began here, getting involved with the art community?

Ruth Hodges: Well yeah, well this friend who was an artist so to speak, he did animals, you know, and mostly well he was self-taught. His name was Henry Worthington and he used to put on these craft shows and all. He kinda quit that, he was so sad and all, he had later on he had to stay in a wheelchair before he died, but so then I got to meet a lot of other artists. There were more craft people in the shows but there were a few artists too, so I got to meet some more artists there. And too I went out to college and that's when I met some more people that were interested in art.

Hayes: And who were some of those people? Were these fellow students or...?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, yeah, students, yes.

Hayes: Who were some of those?

Ruth Hodges: Oh well, one of them was Yvonne Jones, well, she went a little bit after I did I think, I had already quit going.

Jones: She was there in the early 70s.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, she and Madeline Raymond, a friend of hers went, yeah.

Hayes: What was that, Madeline who?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, Madeline Raymond.

Hayes: Raymond?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah. Their husbands were affiliated with being in the service together.

Jones: Well, you know, Bob Jones worked at the University and was the one who put together the first Army ROTC.

Ruth Hodges: You mean Yvonne's husband?

Jones: Yes.

Ruth Hodges: He worked at the university?

Jones: Yes, he was responsible for heading up the first ROTC up there.

Ruth Hodges: Well I didn't know that.

Jones: Yeah, and to this day is very good friends of, people still affiliated like Tyrell etc.

Ruth Hodges: I've been friends with Yvonne when they lived over here.

Jones: Right, before they moved to Town Hall.

Ruth Hodges: Yes, and that's when I first met her. Now how in the world did I meet her? I think it had something to do with some toasters or something we had, and I had a big one and she had a little one and I didn't need the big one so we swapped or something, so now and then we always laugh about that.

Hayes: Were there other teachers besides Claude, a small group?

Ruth Hodges: I didn't know Yvonne for I don't know, eternity because she lived over there at least since '65 or ...

Jones: We're going to interview her in about two weeks.

Ruth Hodges: What?

Jones: We're going to interview Bob and Yvonne together in about two weeks.

Ruth Hodges: She told me, she said (laughs), don't tell her what I said, but she said "Tell me how you did," she says, "because she wants me to be next." I said, "Don't you tell ..."

Jones: I love her.

Ruth Hodges: She is so.

Jones: I want you to talk about some of the artists who survived and went on to do their work and have exhibits that you met during this period. It must've been fascinating.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, well, most of them I met because this guy that I was telling you about formed the Wilmington Art Association. It was a new nucleus and then he passed on and now it's gotten to be, I know he would be glad to know what it's turned to be because it's really a big, good organization now.

Jones: Well, now wasn't the first Arts Council was dissolved and kind of petered out and then they had a new (inaudible)?

Hayes: Well, is this the Wilmington Art Association?

Ruth Hodges: Well, it was not even called the Arts Council, they just.

Jones: That's what it evolved into.

Hayes: No, I think she may be thinking of the Wilmington Artists' Association.

Ruth Hodges: Oh, yeah, that's the one. The Arts Council is something else, isn't it.

Hayes: Does it have a gallery downtown?

Ruth Hodges: Well, they did, but during one of these storms, it flooded.

Jones: They're going to open up on Capital Street.

Ruth Hodges: Are they? Well great, good day.

Jones: Last week I talked to two of them and I went down and took a look.

Hayes: But the Wilmington Art Association were the artists themselves, right?

Jones: Yes.

Ruth Hodges: Right.

Hayes: But the Wilmington Arts Council was kind of a governmental umbrella.

Ruth Hodges: You're right, it has nothing.

Jones: But they dissolved and then those people went.

Ruth Hodges: Yes, the association is a whole different little entity.

Hayes: So the Arts Association were practicing artists, right?

Ruth Hodges: Right. Well now, I would say they were because they wouldn't be there, but they didn't exhibit in the Wilmington Art Gallery because you had to get juried in so many paintings to get in there, so that was kind of a little difference. You could be, like right now, I got out of the gallery. I was in it about a year and exhibited but I got tired of having to go down there and work and clean up the place and do all that other stuff that went along with it, you know, and look after, because I like to talk to people about the art, but I didn't want to go around there and vacuuming the floor and doing all that work until I was older. And I had to go open up every morning, you know, I had to work there and once a month, Greg said, "Mother, my gosh, once a month is nothing." I said, "Well, I just got tired of doing it." I just didn't want to do it anymore.

Jones: But did you enjoy this group?

Ruth Hodges: I did.

Hayes: And who were some of the other folks then over the years that were part of that? One of the reasons we ask is that few famous artists, right, like Claude we keep remembering, but there are people practicing that you don't remember who they were.

Ruth Hodges: (inaudible) like Penny for one.

Hayes: Like Penny.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, that's one of his works up there now, I bought at a show a year or two ago and the group that's next to the post office, they were in that gallery working. I mean, he exhibited down there, and some of them from Southport. At this time too, then I got to go and do a group of us would go to Southport for years, several years and take classes with the artists. They had practically a free thing, you didn't have to pay. It was probably sponsored by the county or the Arts Council of Brunswick County, and so we would get in that and take classes. We'd just go once a week. There were a group of us like Dee Galler [ph?], the painting there.

Hayes: What was that name again?

Ruth Hodges: Her name is Dee Galler, Delores Galler. She did that painting up there and the one...

Jones: Was Joanie [ph?] Repi [ph?] a part of that.

Ruth Hodges: No, she was not there. It was Dee and the ones that went, Sandra [ph?] Brothers [ph?] and Dee Galler and Angela Glacioni [ph?] and Dee, we would all go every week down to these little painting classes they had. Victor Garodin [ph?] was the main teacher there, and he's since died. He had come there to work with the Arts Council and he had these classes and we just paid a minimum, like maybe a dollar or three dollars at the time we'd go just to help pay for some of the expenses.

Hayes: Was that at Franklin Gallery? Is that where you went?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, yeah, that's it. They've got a good bunch of artists there and I've met a lot of their artists there. Ortrud Tyler became a good friend of mine. What's her name? Her last name is Riley [ph?].

Hayes: Which Tyler was that?

Ruth Hodges: Ortrud Tyler.

Hayes: Ortrud, yeah, that's her name. She's a Truman, isn't she?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, she is working, I think in your element, so she did. And let's see, Joanna Hancock and Mike Penney [ph?] and another artist I can't recall the name has that gallery right next to the post office, and I have not been in there. I've got to get in there and see them, because I know all of those Southport artists, a lot of them.

Hayes: A question. I don't know if you know, you worked with this too, but had Eloise Bethel [ph?]?

Ruth Hodges: Oh, wait a minute there, yeah. Well, Eloise Bethel, she was way back there in ...

Jones: She was early.

Ruth Hodges: She started, how did I get to do that? Oh, I think Eloise Bethel and Mary Ellen, they did a video together and worked together. And so then _____ Eloise had some classes, she taught some pen and ink, I took some pen and ink classes with her. She was a really good teacher. And then since then I've bought her book. Have you got that book?

Jones: Yes. As a matter of fact, actually the book was an unauthorized version of her biography.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, yeah.

Hayes: It's full of fiction.

Ruth Hodges: No, it's the truth, because she had one child.

Jones: Mary Ellen gave me a book about a month ago signed by the author to take to the university library.

Ruth Hodges: Right, I've got it.

Jones: So we have two other copies.

Ruth Hodges: I've got that book.

Hayes: Do you think it was Eloise?

Jones: It was.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, but let me tell you, I didn't know that she was so wild (laughs) until I read that book.

Jones: Mary Ellen said that this was pure Eloise, that Eloise had contracted with this gal who's a friend of hers to do the book and use a nom de plume, but it was taken from letters and everything else that Eloise had.

Ruth Hodges: Well, that's a (inaudible), that's the truth.

Hayes: Actual tapes, there's actual tapes.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah.

Hayes: I didn't think the writer who worked with her wasn't embellishing much was there?

Jones: She was embarrassed evidently, from what I understand but then who knows.

Hayes: But she was a good teacher?

Ruth Hodges: Very good teacher. But I remember in the class she told me that she had one son and she said that she grew up in Mexico, she told me about going to Mexico, she told us about going to Mexico and so when it came out and I was down at Mary Ellen's, she said, "Well, I've got this book about Eloise" and then she was like "Oh yeah, yeah, I wanted everything." (laughs) And so I bought it.

Hayes: Please come out and visit Carol at the university and in special collections we have many Eloise Bethels and we have the ink drawing, an original and the book she did for Mexico.

Ruth Hodges: They bought one of my little things of something that I did there at some point when I was down at the Gallery selling. Somebody went down there from the library and bought something. Oh, was it you?

Hayes: That was me.

Ruth Hodges: (laughs)

Hayes: We buy regularly from that gallery because we want the people from the area to be represented, and that's why it's so great that you are telling me about some of these people.

Jones: Yeah, I think I've mention to you that right now we have an exhibit of only local artists, up in the special collection (inaudible) and throughout the library and I've encouraged people to please come.

Ruth Hodges: You work in the library?

Jones: I work in the Special Collections Department. We jokingly refer to it as the penthouse. It's artifacts, rare books, paintings.

Ruth Hodges: Well now, is it easy for me to get there, because I'll tell you now when I drive, I limit my driving to exactly how I can get there, and I've been to that college over there now.

Jones: Parking is a problem, so one day give me a call and I'll pick you up and take you out there and I'll let you (inaudible).

Ruth Hodges: Oh my God, that would be wonderful.

Jones: We have some Hiroshi pottery, we have all kinds of things. It's marvelous. I love art, I love creativity, so to me it's good to see people express themselves in different medium, and it's interesting to talk to Mary Ellen, who says she does not like watercolor. When I talk to you, you're the first artist I've talked to who says "I love watercolor."

Hayes: Well tell us about that. What's important about watercolor to you?

Ruth Hodges: It's the unpredictable. I mean it's really hard to work with. If you play around with it too much and put more than three colors together, you're gonna get mud or something, and you've got to be careful. And you try to keep it as transparent as you can, which is hard to do, and you try to use the colors that are not like a whole like those earth colors, because they're not as transparent, you know, and some of these synthetic colors, you know, so that's what I do is just try to stay away from any kind of ...

Hayes: Well, you showed us one of your works at earlier and I was struck that it isn't, what should I say, sometimes watercolor around here has a reputation of being kind of an ocean scene and so forth, and you were using very bright and vibrant, almost abstract.

Ruth Hodges: I do, I like abstract better and sometimes, I'll show you one that I did of Claude [ph?] that was influenced by him and it's a big oil. No (inaudible) credit because I've never, what is this thing and then I picked up on the day and say I saw it in _______, it is _______ and my husband loved it and it was over his bed, and I mixed realism with abstraction.

Hayes: But you mainly do rich colors in watercolor, right?

Ruth Hodges: Right, yeah.

Hayes: You do watercolor, right?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, yeah, I do. And I'll show you something I've just done that my son wants me to get it framed because he says, "This is a winner." He's got all original things in his house and he's got this, and I like to work with charcoal powder too, which is unusual. I just took a big sheet and take it out in the yard and spray water on it, and then I sprinkle charcoal in it and then I spray a fixative on it and then finally I go back in and pick out things that have worked with him. It's longer than that watercolor, but it's about that size, because that was an elephant sheet.

Jones: Is it too big to pick up?

Ruth Hodges: Oh, yes, it's as long as that one there. In fact, I had to cut off the top. I messed up the top. That guy gave me a big sheet of that elephant paper and told me to paint and finally I got around and did it, but I had to cut off the top of the painting.

Jones: We have to get it at a point where you can see it.

Ruth Hodges: This is a collage mostly, this is all colored paper that I've tinted.

Jones: I'll hold it so that you can ...

Ruth Hodges: It's layered and then I think I might have gone back over it maybe but it's just colored tissue paper, and it might've been just plain tissue paper, just ordinary like a roll.

Hayes: Now could you have gotten in watercolor those deeper colors too?

Ruth Hodges: To tell you the plain truth, I don't know whether this is watercolor. I think this is just watercolor because that is dark. I do a lot of collage now and a lot of times I've put collage over watercolors, but I think this is a watercolor.

Hayes: Yeah, look how rich that is, Carroll, that's so.

Jones: It's beautiful.

Hayes: And so, did Claude say go abstract or practical? You went abstract. Was Claude any particular style you think?

Ruth Hodges: No, he didn't say too much about that.

Hayes: He didn't care what you did as a student?

Ruth Hodges: I was trying to find some things that we had to do. Mostly we had to do it in a credit, because we had to do a painting a week and we had to take it back to him every week and we had to do, and I don't know what I did with all those things. I've got picked (laughs) and I'd say, "Well what in the world happened" because we had to get one every week out of that.

Jones: Isn't that an awfully short time to do?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, because we had to work in our credit and we'd do one about like that. I've made an album the other day of all the things that I could find that I had made pictures of, the painting I've done and find it, but when you get to it, I'll show you. It's so big, you could, (laughs) (inaudible) or you can take a picture of it, though. I like to work bigger. I really work much bigger than most of my friends. They work on little things like that, but I like, and when I start working on something, I should probably look at the normal measurements of things so it's easier to get frames but I don't and then I just go buy a frame and go to the framing place and say "Fix me a frame for this thing here". I don't consider how (laughs). I should.

Hayes: The watercolors that we have are a little later but I don't know if worked her but was Virginia Wright Frierson.

Ruth Hodges: I've heard of her.

Hayes: You haven't worked with Virginia, okay.

Ruth Hodges: No, I've never worked with her, but.

Jones: She does various mediums.

Hayes: But watercolor is one of those.

Jones: One of them. That's where her illustrations.

Hayes: Children's illustrations she used watercolors.

Jones: She found it easier to work with watercolor for her book illustrations.

Ruth Hodges: Well yeah, yeah, I've heard stuff. I think I went to her studio one time when they had a different ones you could walk in through there, but I never.

Hayes: I just didn't know, because you've got lots of circles of friends that you just don't know.

Ruth Hodges: (laughs)

Hayes: You know, I was going to ask you about, did you work with St. John's then? If you were an active artist, did you work with someone?

Ruth Hodges: At one point down there, I did take a few classes with Hester Donnelly.

Jones: Oh you did, good.

Hayes: I wondered about that.

Jones: Now she did a lot of charcoal, pen and ink and such?

Ruth Hodges: Yes, she did I think, yeah.

Jones: She did a lot of buildings downtown, didn't she?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah.

Hayes: So you would take there?

Ruth Hodges: (inaudible) her to another artist friend of mine who was just a friend, her name was Lillian Sneedman [ph?]. You know Lillian?

Jones: I know of Lillian.

Ruth Hodges: Lillian is a good friend of mine from way back, because I remember when she went out there and said. "The reason I'm going out there, I'm gonna major in art." I said, "Well, good for you, I wish I had the opportunity" (laughs) but I didn't, I stopped. She's a good artist.

Hayes: Yeah, we have Lillian Sneedman's work in the library. Now besides Claude, did you take classes from any other professors?

Ruth Hodges: Well, I took some from Ortrud Tyler a lot but Ortrud works in a different kind of way, it's kind of a southwest thing and people are always drapes of Indian, you know, something like that, and I don't like. With art, Ortrud had the tendency sometimes to come over there and start trying to work in your work, and one lady really got mad about that but I try to be discrete because Ortrud liked me and I didn't want to upset her and she and I get along pretty good, but she and Phyllis were good friends. Phyllis Riley's a good artist too from Southport, but anyway.

Hayes: You know, one who came later, it's a little bit different generation, but Gayle Tustin went through that program. I don't know if that was a little later than you.

Jones: Gail studied under Claude Howell when she was first, her whole movement was evolving, and this was necessary for her, and she's gone on from there to be ...

Ruth Hodges: I don't know her. I think there's another artist too that does a lot of work. Her husband was a lawyer, what was her name?

Hayes: Gladys Farris?

Ruth Hodges: She works at some studios downtown off of Forest [ph?] Street somewhere in that group, with that group.

Hayes: The Acme Art Group?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, Acme, yeah. One of them's Gail Tustin but the other one's name is.

Hayes: Pam Towle [ph?] perhaps?

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, yeah, isn't her husband a lawyer?

Jones: No.

Ruth Hodges: Let's see.

Jones: Well, that's all right.

Hayes: There's lots of them.

Jones: There's a group ...

Hayes: What about Gladys Farris [ph?]? Do you know Gladys?

Ruth Hodges: Oh, I know Gladys Farris really well.

Hayes: She's a watercolorist too.

Ruth Hodges: I've taken some classes with her, yeah, many years ago, yeah. She's a good. Is she still painting now?

Hayes: You bet.

Jones: Yes, she is. Have you ever taught art? Have you ever had students work with you? I have run across a few people who time to time would take a small group of students into their home if they had a studio and work with them, and they were already people who perhaps had art classes, but have you ever done that?

Ruth Hodges: Well, like I'm telling you, Sandra Brothers and Angela and Dee and me, we started. They'd come over here when it was bad weather and we'd paint in my studio and we would discuss each other's work and critique each other.

Hayes: But you didn't ever take paid students yourself? You never had students?

Ruth Hodges: No, uh-huh, never. We just did it alone, but a lot of people wanted me to teach those, you know, but I've never.

Jones: You don't do that?

Hayes: You know Sally Bullers?

Ruth Hodges: Sally?

Hayes: You mentioned Sally Bullers. She's a good friend of yours?

Ruth Hodges: Oh yes, she's just a good friend of mine.

Hayes: Yeah, her daughter is a professor at the university.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and she lives out toward Black River area, Kure.

Jones: Tell me about during this time, how did your husband, was he involved with your work or did he just sort of let you do this?

Ruth Hodges: My husband, well he was so interested and I would say "Oh, I don't know whether I want..." and he says "Don't think about the cost of anything, just buy what you need, do what you want to do."

Jones: So he encouraged you?

Ruth Hodges: Oh yes.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah.

Jones: And your children grew up with an appreciation of art.

Ruth Hodges: Yeah, yeah, yeah, they do. And my grandson's got work that I've done and my son has got, believe it or not, he's got (laughs) a few of my originals in his art collection (laughs) over there.

Jones: Mrs. Hodges, do you see Wilmington having grown over the years...

Ruth Hodges: Oh yes, yes.

Jones: ...and being a magnet for artists?

Ruth Hodges: Yes, (inaudible).

Jones: When I say artists, I mean all encompassing.

Ruth Hodges: There's so much more, you know, now because of all these people that's coming here, essentially those people that live over in Brunswick County and they were more affluent I think maybe, and that, Brunswick County used to be nothing, and it's because of all these people coming here, and it's made it a better place to be I think. I mean, there's a lot of artists that come here, you know, people that appreciate, you know...

Jones: Have you seen styles evolve into something different? You can take a look at a piece of work of art from the most part almost dates some of it, but have you seen changes take place?

Ruth Hodges: I think people are more aware of the arts here and are more interested in it now than they were, much more than when I first moved here.

Hayes: A couple of other names to see if they crossed your path. There was a teacher at the high school who was one of the first teachers in the state to even teach art, Emma Lawson [ph?].

Ruth Hodges: Oh yes.

Hayes: Did you know Emma?

Ruth Hodges: I knew of her. My daughter I think or my son took, no I don't believe he took anything from her, he took something from some other. He was interested in art, he took art classes in high school, and when he was in college he took print making and things like that. So he could do some. He does funny little sketches and he can do hilarious. He did this thing one time, (inaudible) and always kind of had a kind of curl on his head, he's got this very, very thin body and he says, let's see, well they were at some meeting, both of them were in a meeting, so (inaudible) they were doodling around, you know, on papers, (inaudible) (laughs) and so I got some of them (inaudible) his dad is leaning back like this and his stomach is just like this and a big curl hanging and he says, "One pound of shrimp, two pound of fish, a peck of oysters, Dad" and then Carl would draw one back that (inaudible) you know, he would add more to it because he was funny, he had something funny to say all the time and he had the most positive attitude you ever seen, my husband did.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Hayes: And tell us your husband's first name?

Ruth Hodges: What?

Hayes: What was your husband's first name?

Ruth Hodges: His name was Carl.

Hayes: Carl.

Ruth Hodges: Carl, yeah.

Hayes: And your son's name is?

Ruth Hodges: It's (inaudible) he's kind of funny in spurts, yeah, but not like his daddy, was never saw a stranger. He was the President of the United States and just treat him just like he was a regular person, you know, whatever. He never saw a stranger. My won would get aggravated with him, because one time we were in a little lunch room, and we were in San Francisco, and we went out to New Words. I think and we were sitting at this little restaurant, and he looked over to this guy right next door and started talking, right next door, he started talking and saying something, and "Daddy!" And he says "Well, I'm just talking." And he'd see a stranger and anyway he'd just start talking to them. He said "What!" He says "What are you saying?" I says, "I don't know what he's saying telling him something funny", you know, this is how you can (inaudible) all his life.

Jones: Just a couple of more questions. What are you working on now, if anything? You probably are.

Ruth Hodges: Well, I've got something that I've got a problem with and I was gonna destroy it. My daughter says, "Don't destroy it, fix it" and I said, "Well, I can't fix it I don't think" and then but I just finished something I like a lot and I'll show it to you two and my son, he thinks that's nice, but the other thing he says, "Well, I don't like that you're working on it every day" but Vicki says, "Well, Mom, you keep it there and just do something else to it, Mom" but it's a beach scene that I'm trying to do.

Jones: Are you working with a group, any group at all?

Ruth Hodges: Not, not right now, but we go to get-togethers. I'm still working with (inaudible) we haven't had a chance to get out since. Now Sally's got a workshop, Sally Bullers has got a workshop Friday, on Yupo paper, I don't know whether you know about that or not, it's a different kind of a surface.

Jones: No, I don't.

Ruth Hodges: You work watercolors on it and you move it around and it's just a synthetic piece of paper.

Jones: I'm curious now, you know so many people, you've been around and involved and studied so much, who do you admire as an artist, who do you admire? Anybody in particular, any style particularly?

Ruth Hodges: Who do I like?

Jones: Yes, that you admire as a creative person, an artist?

Ruth Hodges: I like the work that Sally Bullers does, because she more or less does, she's got a feeling about art that I have kind of. I mean, she and I kind of see things the same way when we look at something. I mean, we talk about that. I say, "Well, yeah" and she'll say, "What should I do to this one?" and I say "Yeah, well, you need to put some more color here" or something like that and she'll tell me the same thing. And of course we're all doing that and we do it, you know, and nobody gets mad about anything about that, but see we're helpful to each other, you know, so Sally I think really does things more what I like to do.

Jones: What are you proudest of?

Ruth Hodges: But I abstract mine much more. I do more abstractions than Sally. She puts something, she loves the realistic stuff but she doesn't do too much stuff, she don't play around in it and she just does a few strokes here and that's it, and she'll say, "Stop, stop, stop, Sally, don't do nothing else, that's it." And she's like, she'll take her (inaudible) and I say, "No Sally, please don't do no more" and she says, "Oh yeah, you're right, you're right, you're right, you're right, I got it." (laughs)

Jones: Mrs. Hodges, what are you proudest of?

Ruth Hodges: What?

Jones: In your life what are you proudest of?

Ruth Hodges: What? Did I do what?

Jones: What are you the proudest of? Do you feel that you've accomplished ...?

Ruth Hodges: Well, I feel so pleased that I have gotten to know so many artists, you know, that I admire, their work and I just, that is my whole life, I mean I have more enjoyment doing art, and when I'm doing that, I'm forgetting everything, anything to worry about or anything, it's just making me feel really good.

Jones: That's good. And Wilmington is a good place for this?

Ruth Hodges: A good place?

Jones: Well, I thank you so much for talking to us.

Ruth Hodges: Yes.

Jones: It's been enjoyable. I think we could go on and on.

Ruth Hodges: (laughs)

Jones: Maybe another time, but we do want to invite you to come and visit us next time.

Hayes: Thank you.

Jones: Thank you.

Hayes: Wonderful.

Ruth Hodges: Well, I...

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