From an interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks (1910-2001) by her granddaughter Lisa Y. Henderson:
“‘Cause I know I used to go with him out to the school. I swept out the Five Points School. Out there for three years to get a bicycle. So I could ride back and forth out there. I hadn’t got the bicycle this morning. But I run all the way from over there from where we lived on Elba Street out there past Five Points going out there Edmundson’s store about a mile up that road where that school, whatever school that is, Five Points School. I went out there three years and swept up that whole building by myself. And when the wind would blow and the door would slam, I’d run and get under the table, the teacher’s desk, and peek out and see. They said the cemetery was there, before the school, and I was scared to death. Papa’d be down there in the front, be a-plowing, and so I’d rather be around him and do anything rather than stay with Mama. She was just the fussy kind. So I’d just rather be round him all the time. I’d follow him everywhere he’d go. On the old wagon. They all called me a tomboy.
“And so I went with him. Up there to First Baptist Church, help him dust the seats, and he’d run the sweeper and all that kind of stuff. And when he was over to another school up there, the college. He used to be janitor to the college. And then he had the school out there at Five Points. Winstead School out there at Five Points. That was the last one he was to. Then he died. And I would be the one at all those places. Go cut Professor Coon’s grass, I’d be right with him.
“I went out there – I was in school ‘cause I run all the way from up the school, came by the house, get me a bite to eat and run from there to clean to Five Points School where was out there – white folks. And sweep up that whole building by myself. Papa’s down there in the field, up there by – uh, what is the people be putting them … they had chains on their legs and had the white stripes … convicts. It was a place up there. And I’d go ‘round there and sweep that whole building up by myself. Papa was gon get me a bicycle so I could ride over there. ‘Cause, see, he had the horse and wagon, and so he was already over there, and he had been there by where the pigpen was down by that little stream, that little ditch. And I’d come back on the wagon at night with him. But he was plowing, ‘cross the street over there where he had a acre of cotton. Old Man Price was in a house over on one corner, and the school over here. And Papa was working, plowing that garden where was on the side. Professor Coon let him have whatever he put in it. He would buy all the stuff to go in the ground, if he would just work it. The part there where was to the children’s playground. But they had it barred off, the children didn’t actually go over in that part. So he’d plant that, and then me and Mamie had to get up two o’clock in the morning, go down there and pick up potatoes. Light night. It’d be so bright you could see ‘em. He’d plow it up, turn that ground over, and all them old potatoes down there, we’d put them in baskets, and what we couldn’t see ‘fore it got real daylight, we had to go out there and pick ‘em up when it got day.”
- Five Points School — now Winstead Elementary School, operating in a newer building on the same land on Downing Street at Ward Boulevard. Five Points School was one of two white graded schools in Wilson in the 1920s.
- Elba Street — 303 Elba Street, in east Wilson.
- Papa — Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. (1856-1926) migrated from Dudley, Wayne County, to Wilson circa 1905. He worked first as a hostler for Jefferson D. Farrior, then as a janitor at a church, Five Points School and Atlantic Christian College, and performing odd jobs for the school superintendent.
- Edmundson’s store — the 1920 city directory of Wilson lists Andrew J. Edmundson, grocer, South Goldsboro at the corner of Mill Road, Five Points.
- Mama — Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver (1872-1938) was Hattie Henderson Ricks’ grand-aunt and adoptive mother. Sarah migrated from Dudley to Wilson with her husband Jesse A. Jacobs.
- First Baptist Church
- The college — Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College), private liberal arts college founded in 1902.
- Professor Coon — School superintendent Charles L. Coon.
- Her school — either the Wilson Colored Graded School or the Independent School. Judging by her description — “I run all the way from up the school” — my guess is the Graded School, as the Independent School was close by her house.
- Convicts — The state of North Carolina operated a road camp in Wilson County just south of the Wilson city limits, beyond Five Points. The site is now home to the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Highway Division 4. For the history of North Carolina’s prison systems, which included convict camps whose inmates built the state’s roads, see here.
- Old Man Price — unidentified.
- Mamie — Mamie Lee Henderson Holt (1907-2000), sister of Hattie Henderson Ricks.
- Picking potatoes by moonlight
Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, copyright 1994. All rights reserved.