1940s

Prodigal Parker.

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Wilson Daily Times, 28 July 1945.

In the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Sampson Parker, 56; wife Nancy, 51; and children Lou, 25, Cora, 21; Mira, 19; Caro, 17; Tedsy, 16; Prodigal, 14; Roda, 13; Grover, 4; and John, 6.

In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Elm City Road, farmer Progisal Parker, 24; wife Kizzie, 20; and children Oscar, 1, and Nancy, 3 months.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on 4th Street, transfer car driver Prodical Parker, 31; wife Kizzie, 28; and children Oscar, 11, Mary, 8, and Nathan, 5.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 117 Fourth Street, transfer proprietor Prodigal Parker, 41; wife Kissie, 39; and son Oscar, 22, daughter-in-law Ella, 19, and son Nathaniel, 19.

In the 1941 Durham, North Carolina, city directory: Parker Prodigal (c; Kizzie) slsmn h507 Gray.

Prodical Parker died 23 July 1945 in Fremont, Wayne County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1887 in Nash County to Sampson Parker and Nancy Jones; was married to  Kissie Parker; and worked as a merchant.

Teachers at Sam Vick.

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Teachers at Samuel H. Vick Elementary School, 1949-50.

Front row

Back row

  • John Maxwell Miller Jr. — J.M. Miller (1910-1995), a native of Chesterfield, South Caroline, was principal of Sam Vick Elementary from 1944 to 1968.
  • Irene Wallace
  • Carrie Herndon — Carrie Lee Herndon (1915-1986) was probably a Nash County native.
  • Classie Jones Jarman — Classie Jones Jarman (1925-1993) was a native of Tarboro, North Carolina.
  • Ann Bostic — Annie Watson Bostic (1915-1959), a native of Johnston County, apparently lived in Wilson only briefly.
  • Etta Givens — Etta Daisy Wynn Givens (1921-2002) was a native of Mount Olive, Wayne County.
  • Hattie Dixon Nemo
  • Alvis Hines — Alvis Ashley Hines (1918-1981) was the son of Ashley and Mattie Barnes Hines. (His mother was a daughter of Ned and Louisa Gay Barnes.)

This photograph, contributed by Jennie P. Kerbo, is reprinted from 23 February 1999 edition of the Wilson Daily Times.

The awning and tent company.

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Wilson Daily Times, 10 April 1946.

Hattie Henderson Ricks recounted the difficult work of men and women employed in the sewing room of Wilson Awning & Tent Company:

“There was a fellow when I was working in the tent and awning company. He was one of the boys that worked there that pulled the tent, the thing we had, where was on the table. You know it was a great big table, big as this whole length of this house. And he was on there and to pull the table, when you were putting them flaps, somebody had to pull it around and [inaudible] sewing then you sit in the cubby holes, and the machine was up there. And I was at the bobbin, I had to thread the bobbin. And time I’d get around it and thread – oh it was a big place, it was all the way ‘round and like a horseshoe. The way the sewing machines were made. And then this thing was built up, but it was this material to lay on, and somebody had to be up on that thing to pull it through the machine ‘cause they couldn’t push it. They’d just push it a little bit out, and sewing’d go along, and it’d pile up, and they had to keep it carried through. And I’d thread the bobbins.

“The war [World War II], I think, was over, but they were making, it was Boy Scout tents, like for camping tents or whatever it was. And so when I went there I was pulling on the table where was back there.   I didn’t like that, so I said, well, it was a white girl was threading bobbins and so she was sick or something one day, and she didn’t come to work, so they let me. I said, “Let me thread the bobbins.” They said, “Well, somebody’ll have to thread ‘em,” said, “Go ‘head.” So I went there, didn’t know nothing ‘bout how to thread ten bobbins on one spindle.   So I looked at the thing, and a girl had to show me. So I got a hold of it, and it was those little round bobbins where you put on this long thing, you slide ‘em on there and you thread when you start off with the first one, then it goes around it, jump right up and push the other one up there and jump up and … But you had to cut that thread on the bobbin, and so that’s where I messed up when I first got there. When I would take the razor blade and cut in there, I cut two or three pieces and every time they’d always be having thread breaking, the thread … and it was oil, and you couldn’t take it with your hands and break it. So then I have a shoebox – not a shoebox, but a cigarette box, cigar box, and that thing was full of bobbins. And I had to take it around, all the way ‘round and come up the other side, and back to place. Any time I [inaudible] piling up again, go ‘round again. “I’m out of thread! Bring me some thread!” I said, ‘Lord have mercy, these folks is there ‘fore I can get this thing together.’ And then it come to me how to work it. And, didn’t have so much oil in it. If you let the oil stay in there too long, it’d make it slick, and it didn’t half cut. But you had to put it in oil because it would break. Them little … And then it got the thing messed all up under there, and the white guy had to come there and take his pocket knife and reach down there and cut it out and take some scissors with the end and try to cut the place out. So then the white girl where was working there, she didn’t like it either. She didn’t like to thread bobbins, she’d rather pull the tent, had to have probably four, five of them girls up there pulling tents and that thing was just as big as that whole – it was big as this house. Bigger than this thing here, the table that it was on. And it [inaudible]. But I still stayed on there until the place closed up.

“And after I left there, that’s when I went over to the hospital [then the Eastern North Carolina Sanatorium, which opened in 1943 for the treatment of tuberculosis patients, now Longleaf Neuro-Medical Treatment Center] and worked. I was going over there one day and so, Lizzie – I’ll never forget what was her name – she said she was going over there to see if she could get a job. And I said, well, told her, “Come by for me,” said, “We’ll go over there.” And both of us went over there. They hired me and didn’t hire her. So I worked there ‘til I come up here to Philadelphia.”

——

Wilson Awning & Tent was located at 105 South Douglas Street during Hattie Henderson Ricks’ employment. The company closed this location and moved to Highway 301 South in 1948.

Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Bell hops at the Hotel Cherry.

In 1991, front desk clerk turned newspaper man Roy G. Taylor (1918-1995) self-published a memoir of his years working in Wilson. Though tinged with the casual racism of the time, My City, My Home offers fascinating glimpses of Wilson in the World War II era.

“Anyway, [hotel owner J.T. Barnes] had a suite on the mezzanine floor, 221 and 223. And Jesse Knight was his personal servant and also a bell hop. Lessie, Jesse’s wife, had worked for the Barnes family.” p. 9

“The roster of bell hops at the Cherry in the 1940s included Jesse Knight, whom I mentioned earlier; Ruel Bullock; Henry Potter, Robert Haskins, Clarence Holly, Fred Artis, Peacock (the only name he was called by), Louis Hines and “Rent” Gay, Uncle Charlie’s son. Uncle Charlie was old and had a stiff leg and he went around with a feather mop, dusting off things, and he loved whisky better than most men love women.

“… Henry was a large man and rather lazy acting. When he wasn’t busy he would sit in the lobby in a rather slouchy position, but jumped up hurriedly when the bell sounded. And he was the best one about going for the mail. But I’d have to say Henry was the ‘densest’ one of the crowd.

“Ruel was of light skin, and a rather handsome man. He was a family man and had 10 children. He worked during the day, as did Henry.

“Robert was dark-skinned and a rather tall, large man and he was a little more serious than most of the men. Robert worked mostly the day shift also but would work at night if it became necessary.

“Clarence was a night man. And talk about sly! He was something else. Of course, all the boys were sly, although all of them were always courteous to the desk people and all were ready to do whatever was asked of them. I never remember any of the bell hops being disrespectfuil while I was there.

“Fred Artis was a tall, thin man and he could swing from day to night duty. And Fred is still around. He is employed by the Arts Council of Wilson.

“Peacock always worked nights. He was the head night man. Peacock was nice too, and he looked after the guests. But he was a sly one too.

“Louis was a tall, well-built man that had a lot of charisma. ‘Rent’ was also thin and tall and very neat in appearance and as I recall, he worked mostly at night also.” pp. 29-30

——

  • Jesse Knight — Jessie Knight was an Edgecombe County native. When he registered for the World War II draft, he listed his employer as J.T. Barnes.

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  • Lessie Knight — Lessie Locus Knight.
  • Ruel Bullock — Ruel Bulluck was an Edgecombe County native. He married Louise Missouri Jones, daughter of Charles T. and Gertrude Johnson Jones, on 10 December 1930 in Wilson. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 412 Viola, owned and valued at $2000; Charles Jones, 61, janitor at Vick School; wife Gertrude, 59, a tobacco factory stemmer; daughter Ruth Plater, 35, divorced, teacher; grandsons Torrey S., 12, and Charles S. Plater, 11; son-in-law Ruel Bullock, 35, a hotel bellboy; daughter Louise, 30; grandsons Jacobia, 7, Robert, 6, Harold, 4, and Rudolph, 7 months; and granddaughter Barbara Jones, 6.

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  • Henry Potter — John Henry Potter was a native of Aurora, Beaufort County. In the 1925 city directory, Henry Potter, bellman, is listed at 719 East Green. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1210 Atlanta [Atlantic] Street, hotel bellboy John Potter, 40; wife Ruth, 28; and daughter Ruth, 9 months.
  • Robert Haskins — Robert Douglas Haskins was the son of Robert and Gertrude Haskins. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Haskins, 55, drug company salesman; wife Gertrude, 48; and children Mandy, 36; Elizabeth, 33, cook; Estelle, 29, beauty shop cleaner; Robert D. Jr., 29, hotel kitchen worker; Lossie, 24, N.Y.A. stenographer; and Thomas, 20, barbershop shoeblack; plus granddaughter Delores, 15, and lodger Henry Whitehead, 21.
  • Clarence Holly — Clarence Virgo Holley was a Bertie County native. He registered for the World War II in 1940 in Wilson. Clarence Holley died 4 May 1964 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 May 1919 in Bertie County to William Holley and Molly Smallwood; operated a shoeshine parlor; and lived at 300 North East Street. Informant was Elma Holley.

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  • Fred Artis — Probably Fred Artis Jr., who was the son of Fred and Mattie Lewis Artis.
  • “Peacock” — Levi Harry Peacock was the son of Levi H. and Hannah Polk Peacock. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 204 Vick Street, hotel bellboy Levi Peacock, 30; wife Elouise, 28, a public school teacher; children Jewel D., 4, and Thomas L., 14; and mother-in-law Etta Reaves, 50, post office maid.

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  • Louis Hines — Probably Louis Hines Jr. In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 303 Elba Street, Eva Hines, 50, household servant; son Charlie, 21, yard boy; and daughter Henrietta, 13, shared a household with Louis Hines Jr., 21, whiskey storage loader; wife Dolly M., 19, tobacco stemmer; and daughter Martha L., 6 months.
  • “Rent” Gay — Edgar Reynold Gay was the son of Charles B. and Ella Tate Gay.

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[Sidenote: perhaps someone can clarify what “sly” meant in the usage of the day? — LYH]

The Book and Garden Club.

An early photo of the Book and Garden Club, founded in 1948 by Anna B. Johnson and Norma Darden, who are seated at the table. Behind them, from left, Beatrice McCowan (fourth), Courtney Fitts (fifth), Willie H. Freeman (eighth, just over Mrs. Johnson’s shoulder), Johnnie Boatwright (ninth), Estelle L. Shade (twelfth) and Flossie H. Barnes (thirteenth).

Image courtesy of Anna Hines, reprinted in Wilson Daily Times, 15 February 2008. Many thanks to Mrs. Inez Dickerson Bell for helping identify some of the club members.

The last will and testament of Luther Locus.

Luther Locus left gifts of $50 to Saint John A.M.E.Z. Church, his aunt Gertrude Horton and  sister Frances Faison; $25 to aunt Mary Mitchell; a piano and a ’36 Buick to sister Lessie Knight; property to wife Eula Locus; and $1000 to son Robert Locus. Rev. J.A. Everette, Ethel Everette and D.C. Yancey witnessed the execution of the document.

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Perhaps, in the 1900 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John W. Locus, 27, wife Liddie, 26, and children Stillie, 9, Luther, 7, and Rolley, 8 months, and sister Lula, 17.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Buckhorn and Kenly Road, farmer John A. Pearce, 41; wife Frances, 37; and children Thomas E., 19, Madie, 17, Lenore, 14, Geneva, 12, John H., 9, Odester, 1, and James, 5 months; boarder Luther Locus, 17; and hired hand Rucian Joyner, 30.

On 15 April 1916, Luther Locus was a witness to the marriage of Lonnie Staton, 22, and Lessie Locus, 20, at 514 East Green Street, Wilson. Church of God minister Joseph Lancaster performed the ceremony in the presence of Lessie’s brother Luther, L.A. Moore and Joseph Johnson.

On 5 June 1917, Luther Locus registered for the World War I draft. Per his registration card, he was born 6 November 1892 in Kenly, N.C.; resided on Wainwright Avenue, Wilson; worked as a chauffeur and mechanic for T.W. Tilghman in Wilson; and was married with a child. He signed his name ‘Luther Locust’ in a clear hand.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Wainwright, butler Luther Locus, 27, wife Eula, 23, and son Robert, 6.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1108 Wainwright, cook Luther Locus, 37, wife Eula, 37, also a cook, and son Robert, 16.

Luther Locus died 17 September 1944 at his home at 1108 Wainwright Avenue (owned and valued at $1500.) Per his death certificate, he was born 6 November 1892 in Wilson County to Elie Locus and Mary Pierce, both of Wilson County; worked as an auto mechanic at a filling station. Eula Locus was informant.

On 22 January 1949, Lessie Locus, 45, married Jessie B. Knight, 45, in Wilson. Thomas J. Moore and R.R. Batts witnessed.

North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Saint Alphonsus school.

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This photograph of a classroom at Saint Alphonsus School, which was affiliated with the all-black (except for the priest) Saint Alphonsus Catholic Church, probably dates from the early 1940s. According to a history of the school, in 1948 the church purchased a surplus Army PX and transformed into a school building with classrooms, offices and an assembly hall. The school faced Carroll Street (and the rear of the church) between Faison and Academy Streets. With nuns of the Oblate Sisters of Providence teaching, Saint Alphonsus School remained open until it merged with Saint Therese School in the late 1960s. The building was then rented to Concerned Parents of Wilson, Inc., a non-profit organization that founded and funded Kiddie Kollege of Knowledge to provide quality private kindergarten education for African-American children.

[Personal note: I attended Kiddie Kollege of Knowledge 1968-70. The photo below was taken at my graduation in the school’s assembly hall; I’m on the right, holding my Bachelor of Rhymes “degree.” — LYH]

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Photograph of Saint Alphonsus reprinted from Wilson Daily Times, 29 April 1999; kindergarten photo in private collection of B.A. Henderson.