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´╗┐Kevin Combs: Okay so this is Monday April 4, 2022 and my name is Kevin Combs and I'm talking with Chris Cooper. Chris, could you introduce yourself?

Chris Cooper: Hello my name is Christine Beamer Cooper, better known as Chris. I grew up here in Fries and I attended Fries High School. And in the middle [19]60s, I married, moved to Galax, and I ended up raising four children, and I went to work at Roses department store in 1977, actually. And I ended up staying 1:00there for about forty years. Yes, and I got into the management training program and I ended up going on the road as a special projects coordinator, and I did that for about nine years, traveling all over the south and the midwest. It was a great job. I really enjoyed it, but I finally retired--for a year and a half, and then I went back, worked for about a year or so to get it out of my system because I guess I wasn't really quite ready for retirement, but I retired again about a year ago and it's permanent this time. I'm very happy just enjoying life, having time to do things that I always wanted to do, enjoying my family and life is great.

Kevin: So you said you still had family up here, so it's part of the Beamer family, I guess, right?


Chris: Yes, yes. There are originally thirteen of us and there are only three of us left, myself and my two sisters.

Kevin: So you had twelve brothers and sisters?

Chris: I did, I did, so my youngest sister and my oldest sister and myself are the only three left and one, the oldest sister lives in Galax and the younger sister, she lives in Crumpler, North Carolina. My first husband passed away, I married again about seven years ago and we live in Mount Airy, North Carolina.

Kevin: So can you tell me what year you were born?

Chris: 1952. I am now seventy years old.

Kevin: I was born in [19]59 myself, were you born in Fries?

Chris: I was. In the house where I grew up as were most of my other siblings. My mother never went to a hospital, we were all born at home. It amazes me even now 3:00to think about it.

Kevin: What part of town did you grow up in?

Chris: The little town, I mean, the little part of town they called the Hollow back then. Yeah, little valley and it was just a great place to grow up. Very close-knit community, wonderful childhood, and we were all poor and didn't know it, so it was okay.

Kevin: So, and did you go to Fries school, twelve years or--?

Chris: Originally, I went to the little school, little Fries Elementary School, there in the Hollow, segregated, one room school and one teacher and it was very Little House on the Prairie like. But we had a wonderful teacher and she was very strict and just a wonderful, wonderful person. Pearl Johnson, she was there for years and years, and she left when I was going into third grade and the next 4:00teacher was Trula Young, later Trula Creasy. And she was there for three years, and after her was Doris Goins, she was there for one year. And the last teacher that there was Alice Blair and that was when I was in seventh grade and that was the last class that there was before integration.

Kevin: Okay and so what year was that about?

Chris: 1965.

Kevin: Okay, wow. And then you went to Fries?

Chris: Yes, then we went to Fries High.

Kevin: You mentioned you worked at Roses, started in [19]77, you say?

Chris: Yeah I went there in [19]77.

Kevin: You know, I think I remember you.

Chris: You probably do.

Kevin: What did you do there?

Chris: I was a fashion department manager, most of the time.

Kevin: Well, Roses, when it first opened, I mean, it was something else.

Chris: It was a big deal, it was.

Kevin: I can remember going in there and I mean, it was a department store. They 5:00had musical instruments and you know, records and, I mean, it was just--

Chris: Yeah there was nothing else like it around here at that time.

Kevin: And then they had a fire over there, didn't they? Were you there when the fire? No, that was--

Chris: I was there after the fire, but I do remember it.

Kevin: What year did you graduate from Fries High School?

Chris: I didn't graduate Fries High School, I left before that.

Kevin: Oh, okay.

Chris: Yes, but I still consider myself part of the class of [19]70 and I've recently reconnected with them online and you know, we kind of keep up with each other and it's great.

Kevin: On Facebook?

Chris: On Facebook.

Kevin: Isn't Facebook amazing?

Chris: Love it [Laughter].

Kevin: So did you or your parents ever work in the mill?

Chris: My father worked there for thirty-three years. I don't think he ever missed a day, I don't remember him every being at home. He was very faithful, 6:00very hard-working.

Kevin: What department did he work in?

Chris: I really don't know. He didn't talk about work much, we just knew that that's where he was everyday.

Kevin: Did he walk to work?

Chris: Walk to work, very short walk, uh-huh.

Kevin: Well, early on everybody walked to work. They lived in Fries but when cars came along, I mean, it's not that far a walk even from Blair Town, you know, to walk in.

Chris: I can remember when three o'clock, when their daytime work crew left and you know, my friends and I thought it was a very exciting thing to walk to town at that time, because there were so many people walking from the mill through town, it just seemed so exciting to us.

Kevin: Well you know, I grew up out in the country, but my dad would bring me down here on Saturday mornings in the [19]60s and it was like, I thought it was like New York City, you know. There were always people walking around and it was 7:00very busy, you know, coming from out in the country, it was like, you know, I wasn't around people much, you know? And so even to see the few people that were here, but it seemed like a big crowd. So you could hear the, a mill whistle and all that?

Chris: Everyday. Everyday, yes, that's what I heard first thing every morning.

Kevin: And was the bell still ringing?

Chris: It was, yeah, that bell was the first thing I heard every morning. First, I would hear, you know, dad would get up first and if it was time, he'd get the fire going to get the house warm and everything. And he'd be listening to country music on WBOB and he'd get off to work before all of us got up and about that time, we'd hear the bell. It'd be about seven o'clock and then the rest of us would get up and there'd be a mad scramble to get ready for school.

Kevin: So did your mom didn't work, I mean outside the home?


Chris: No, with all those children, that was her work between taking care of the house and all of us kids, she was constantly busy, she worked a lot.

Kevin: She didn't work outside the home, so I'm sure that kept her busy. What was your day like in school? I mean, what time did you get up and go to school and what time did you get out and what did you do and that kind of thing?

Chris: Well, in elementary school, we would have to be at school by 8:30 and it was usually, when I was younger, there would be like from twenty-five to thirty children in the classroom. And, you know, we would start the day with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer and we'd usually sing a hymn. That's how we started our day and then the teacher would call whichever class she was going to teach. I mean, it was one room, but she would say, okay, first graders. And she would spend her half hour with the first graders, and so on up to the seventh graders.

Kevin: So what would you do if you were in the seventh grade then, when the 9:00first graders were--?

Chris: Well, we were good kids really. There wasn't a lot of disruption in the class, you know, we were just trained to behave ourselves and we would just quietly do our work. You know, we would work ahead with homework or just read, or whatever, but we were occupied while the other class was being taught.

Kevin: Sure, and what time did you get off in there?

Chris: Three o'clock, went home at three.

Kevin: Yeah, and so can you tell me about what it was like when you integrated with Fries?

Chris: Oh wow, well there was a lot. First of all, we were actually disappointed that we wouldn't get to go to Scott Memorial High in Wytheville, because that's where the black kids went at the time, long ride, you know, back then the roads weren't as good then as they are now, but we were really looking forward to that because my brothers and sisters had gone there and they loved it. They talked about it all the time. I felt like I knew the people and the teachers there 10:00because, you know, they were just very enthusiastic about school. And my friends that were my age and older, we were actually disappointed that we wouldn't get to go there. And of course there was a lot of talk, you know, before we went, we didn't know how it was going to be because there had been so much trouble in other places. And our parents told us how we were supposed to behave and not make trouble or anything like that. And when that day finally came, of course there was lots of nerves, but it went so well we were astonished at how well it went. You couldn't tell that anything major was happening, but something very major was happening and you know, it took a few days, but we finally all warmed up to each other and became friends and it was just really easy. I guess I'm just speaking for myself and the ones that I was closest to at that time, but 11:00none of us ever really had any problems at that time. And we knew that other schools in this area were having a lot of problems. So we were very grateful. I did hear that principal, Ned Davis, had had an assembly with the kids before the school year began and he had told them he would not tolerate trouble. He said this would be a smooth transition and I don't know if that was a rumor or what, but that's what we heard. And I think it might have been true, because it was just pretty much seamless.

Kevin: And what year was that again, in [19]65 or so?

Chris: [19]65.

Kevin: And what grade were you in?

Chris: Eighth grade, I was thirteen years old. I have beautiful, wonderful memories of Fries High. The teachers were just great, I made good grades, I was an honor student and it was a really, really big deal when my best friend and I were selected to be junior varsity cheerleaders. It seems trivial now, but at 12:00the time it was really a huge thing [Laughter]--

Kevin: It's not trivial at all.

Chris: Cause no one expected that.

Kevin: No, I'm sure. So, were you the first--is she black?

Chris: Mm-hmm, yes.

Kevin: So you were the first black cheerleaders at Fries High School.

Chris: Yes we were, uh-huh.

Kevin: That's amazing, that's great. It's not trivial. I mean, even, in any circumstance, but especially that circumstance, it's a huge deal. You were a groundbreaker.

Chris: We didn't see ourselves as that at the time. When I look back, I see how big that really was. And you know, when we meet up with people from other areas, say Galax, Independence, and they found out that Jeannie and I were cheerleaders, they said, what? In that white school?

Kevin: That's great, so who were your favorite teachers at Fries?

Chris: Oh, goodness. Carolyn Lyons was really something special. She was the gym teacher. She was just a wonderful, sweet person. I really thought the world of 13:00her, and then Ms. Burnett, Enola Burnett, math teacher. I was never a fan of math and she was just a really extraordinary teacher and I really looked up to her.

Kevin: She had retired by the time I came to Fries, which was in [19]72, I think. Yeah [19]72. But Ms. Lyons was still there, even when I graduated in [19]77. Well that's great. What about your days at Fries school? I'm sure you walked to school or did you?

Chris: Yes, we did. It was about a mile and all of us walked to school everyday and just regular high school, you know, it was just a thrill to us being able to change classes, go to different rooms, and have a gym, a cafeteria. It was just 14:00great. And the football and basketball games were just magical. It was just so much fun and, you know, just great high school life. Great kids at that school. It was just, just a good experience for me. It really was.

Kevin: That's great, did you go into the town much? You said something about going in when the mill--

Chris: Well, you know, we just lived right up the road from town, so that was an everyday occurrence. It was a big deal for us to go check the mail at the post office, so yeah. Usually me and my best friends, Jeannie and Brenda, we would walk to town everyday to check the mail, just to be, you know, downtown and see all the people.

Kevin: And remind me again, where were you in the order of children?

Chris: Next to the youngest. I'm number twelve.

Kevin: Okay, and so your older brothers and sisters, they went to Wytheville. How long a ride was that, do you know?

Chris: Probably, I would say at least an hour, I guess. They would catch, we 15:00called it the little bus. Naomi Young drove it. It would at the end of the road and they would get on that bus and ride that one to the big bus at Charlie Vaughan's store, and from there they would go on to Wytheville.

Kevin: Up Spring Valley Road.

Chris: Uh-huh, yeah.

Kevin: I wonder why they went that way instead--well, I guess maybe to catch there were children--

Chris: In Elk Creek.

Kevin: Black children on Turkey Knob, or I assume they were there at the time.

Chris: They were.

Kevin: So, I know Linda Young who grew up and Turkey Knob and Turk Young--William, William--do you know him?

Chris: Yes, and his sister Cora.

Kevin: Okay, so yeah. They probably stopped at Charlie's to pick them up.

Chris: They did. In fact, it was their mother that drove the little bus, because 16:00Naomi was their mother, Cora, Linda, and Cornelius.

Kevin: Yeah, wow. Cornelius, is that William? The one I call William, or Turk?

Chris: Well, that's a different one. Yeah, him too. He's about to get Turk.

Kevin: It's hard to forget him. He was a character.

Chris: He was something.

Kevin: So your dad worked in the mill and did he retire from the mill?

Chris: He did, actually he retired in [19]65.

Kevin: Did he like it?

Chris: Oh, it took him a while to adjust because at one time, well actually for a period of years he had the full-time job at the mill and then he also had three part-time jobs. He worked for Mayor Earl Boyer and he cleaned up the bank and he also took care of the graveyard next to the ballpark. So he was used to 17:00working a lot, so it took him a while to get used to retirement. After a while, he was okay.

Kevin: Sounded like it runs in the family.

Chris: Yeah! Same thing [Laughter]!

Kevin: What did he do for Mayor Boyer?

Chris: Oh, he was just his handyman took care of all his property things.

Kevin: And so then you said you had a younger sister, so did she go to Fries at the same time as you did?

Chris: She did, she was two grades below me.

Kevin: And did she graduate from Fries?

Chris: She graduated from Fries. No, actually, no. We moved the same year that, of course, you know, we left Fries in [19]71 and that was the year she was a junior. So that fall, she had to go to Galax High for her senior year, which she 18:00hated, because she'd been with all these kids for so long and all of a sudden she had to leave 'em and go to a new school for her senior year.

Kevin: How was that transition for her?

Chris: It was difficult. It was difficult because she felt like she didn't fit in. She didn't really get close to anyone and she missed Fries so much, so it was really hard for her. She graduated and went on to Ferrum. It was Ferrum Junior College at that time.

Kevin: And you didn't finish at Fries either. What happened with you again?

Chris: Well-- I--

Kevin: You quit at the same time?

Chris: Yeah, I got pregnant actually. So I got married.

Kevin: And you told me a while ago that you went to college.

Chris: That was years later after my children had gotten older and I decided, well, I always loved school, so I'm gonna get my GED and I'm gonna go to Wytheville College. And I did and I was at Wytheville College for off and on 19:00for, I guess maybe five years or so. I never did quite get my associate degree, and actually that's one of my goals for retirement cause I only need maybe another semester to get my associate degree. So I figured, well the old brain is still working, so I'm thinking that probably this year, I'm just going to have to go back and finish that because I feel unfinished. So I think I've take care of that little detail.

Kevin: That's cool, I would encourage you to do that. You know people look at me and, you know, a white haired guy wondering why he's in school, you know, but it gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Chris: It really does, and I've always been academically inclined anyway. I really enjoy being in the classroom, and I figure, you know, as long as I'm mentally capable, I may as well finish. And I think it'll set a good example for all the young people in my life too.


Kevin: What did you study when you were at Wytheville College?

Chris: I was majoring in education, that was what I started. But then I started talking to teachers and they said, don't do it, don't do it! [Laughter] But I did switch, not mainly because of that, but because I wanted to get into something where I could make more money, like right away. So I started with the pharmacy technician program and I finished that and I went to work at Rite Aid as a pharmacy technician. I didn't like it very much and it was at that time that I was recruited into the management program with Roses. So that's how I ended up back there.

Kevin: And when you traveled you were with Roses and did you enjoy that?

Chris: That was a great experience. Yes, it was. I met so many wonderful people and had so many wonderful experiences. Even beyond the job itself, just the 21:00people, part of it was so great. Especially since I'd always lived in this area and then suddenly I was out in the big, bad world. We went to Delaware, Baltimore, Memphis, Ohio, all over Ohio. And of course all over North Carolina, because that's where Roses is based so they have stores in just about all those little towns. A lot of Mississippi, Alabama places that I otherwise would never have gone. Fifteen states, I think I counted that we worked in.

Kevin: What did you do when you were traveling?

Chris: Well our job was to set up new stores. They were setting up a lot of new stores at that time. So we were responsible for that from the ground up pretty much, you know, setting up physically as well as training all the personnel and when we weren't opening new stores, we were remodeling old ones, which was like 22:00opening a new one, except that you had a whole lot of mess to contend with from all the junk that had accumulated. But it was very interesting work. It was really good for my self-confidence, because I'd always been so shy, but that brought me out of myself because I was in a position where I had to lead all these strangers.

Kevin: And what years were those that you were doing that?

Chris: See, I think I started in 2009. I retired two years ago, three years ago, cause I went back so I would have retired [quietly counting years] 2016, maybe, I've lost track.

Kevin: I know. To me the years just run together, you know, it's hard to remember when things happened and it's just, time goes by so fast.


Chris: Yeah, it really does.

Kevin: What do you tell people when they ask where you're from?

Chris: I always say Fries. I'm from a little town called Fries, Virginia.

Kevin: Do you have to tell them how to spell it?

Chris: Yes.

Kevin: You know, the joke, fries in the summer and freeze in the winter.

Chris: Yeah [Laughter].

Kevin: I mean, I'm sure most people don't know where Fries is, right?

Chris: Yeah, I always tell them, it's not too far from Virginia Tech. Oh I know Virginia Tech!

Kevin: You know, I'm finding that in Carolina, it used to be that I would say, you know, when people ask where I'm from, I'd say Fries, it's near Galax, you know. They'd kind of look at me and I'd say, do you know where Galax is? Well, yeah. I know kind of where Galax is. But now I'm finding that more people know 24:00where Fries is than Galax, down in Carolina.

Chris: Well that's interesting.

Kevin: And it's because the trail, new river trail and the new river itself and you know, people just have started coming here and they like it.

Chris: They like it. The trail is one of my favorite places, I'm on it all the time. I met people from all over there. You just drive into the parking lot and you see all these tags from different states, it's great.

Kevin: It is. It is a wonderful asset for the town. The railroad brought a lot of commerce into here and took a lot out, you know, as far as bringing money into the town. But since the mills not there anymore, it's very good to have that attraction of the trail.

Chris: You know my dad was one of the people who helped build the railroad originally back in the [19]20s and early [19]30s. It sure was.


Kevin: Can you--?

Chris: He did that before he worked in the mill, he also worked in the coal mines in West Virginia. So you can see he was accustomed to hard work. Little man, but pretty strong.

Kevin: Well, tell me about him. Tell me what memories are of him.

Chris: He was not a communicator. He kind of kept to himself a lot. And like I say, he worked all the time. He was about five [feet] two [inches], one hundred ten pounds soaking wet. I would guess. He has always seemed to be a man of strength, he just always seemed strong and in control, and he was always there. I don't think he ever spent a night away from home. I certainly don't remember it. He was just always there and always working. And he kind of let me and my brother that's next to me and then my younger sister, we got away with a lot because by the time we came along, there had already been ten. So the three of 26:00us, he kind of, huh. We got away with a lot.

Kevin: I can imagine, what about your mom?

Chris: My mom was the most wonderful person who ever walked the face of the earth. She really was just a wonderful woman. Everybody loved her. I mean, even people who weren't related to us, they would call her mom and people wanted to be around her. She just exuded love and warmth. And she was just so kind and she never raised her voice. She never complained. And if ever anyone had a reason to complain, it was her. I mean, life was nothing but hard for her right up until she was a senior citizen. Everything was done the hard way. We had one of those old washing machines with the ringer that you pull the clothes through and she had a lot of ironing to do back then. We didn't have a dryer that could fluff 27:00your clothes so you didn't have to iron them. A lot of ironing and of course everything was made from scratch. There was no such thing as anything boxed or premixed, nothing like that. Homemade biscuits everyday, that sort of thing. And of course eating out was not even heard of. We didn't even know--that was in the movies and on TV. But yeah, she worked hard, always had time for us. And we were always fighting over who was going to sit on her lap when she was sitting down, there was always a kid on her lap. You know, she was just the best of the best. Very spiritual woman who didn't preach at you, but she exuded it. You know, you witnessed her spirit, just being in her presence. She didn't have to preach at you. She was just a wonderful person. We all still talk about her all the time.

Kevin: Did y'all go to church?


Chris: Well, my mother, she was in failing health as far back as I can remember, you know, even though she worked so hard to keep everything together, she just didn't have energy for anything. Of course she went to the church all the time, but until she started getting sickly, but yeah, us kids, we went to church. Church was right there. Church was also the school, by the way. On Sundays, Fries Elementary School became Little Zion Church. And we're all right there and we were all right there in our little community, so you know, we went to Sunday school in church, it was great. Yeah. My Sunday school teacher is still living really. I think she's going to turn ninety-nine this year. Wow.

Kevin: Who is that?

Chris: Susie Mae Anderson.

Kevin: Okay.

Chris: I've heard of her. She's another one of those little short powerhouses, like my dad.

Kevin: Was your mom small?

Chris: She was short and plump.

Kevin: You know, when I was growing up, our house was heated with wood.


Chris: Ours too.

Kevin: And did you use coal wood? All we had was coal with this one.

Chris: Yes we did.

Kevin: And you didn't have an electric stove?

Chris: Oh no. We didn't have electric stove until, actually we finally got an electric stove the last year we lived in Fries. Oh yeah. Mama did all that cooking on a wood stove. She was awesome. She was an amazing human being, she really was.

Kevin: That's crazy, I mean, my grandmother used to wood cook stove. Both of them, both my grandparents.

Chris: Yes.

Kevin: I just don't see how they did it.

Chris: Me either.

Kevin: Times are different.

Chris: Very much so.

Kevin: And tell me again, I can't remember if you told me where you moved to when you moved away from Fries.

Chris: We moved to Galax.


Kevin: Where in Galax?

Chris: Well it's called the old town community in west Galax. So that was a big deal because we had an upstairs and indoor plumbing and electric stove, a big refrigerator. I mean, it was just very different, very nice.

Kevin: So did your dad continue working in the mill after you?

Chris: No, he had been retired about five years before we left Fries.

Kevin: So why did you move to Galax? Just to be in a bigger town?

Chris: I would like to know what happened. They just announced at the mill to the ones that worked there that lived in the Hollow that we had to leave our homes. And I know there was probably a reason, but we didn't know. They never said anything about why, they just said, y'all gotta get out of there. And it was very traumatic, rumors going around, somebody said that it was because they 31:00were going to build government subsidized housing there. And some said that it was something about the water. And to this day, none of us really know why we had to leave, but it was a very traumatic thing for us to leave, because that was the only home that we had known, especially for my father. It was harder for him than anybody. So within a year after that announcement, we were all gone. We were like a big family, so it was very difficult for all of us to be separated from each other.

Kevin: How many houses were in Hollow?

Chris: Seven houses? All of them were identical, except the one at the end of the Hollow, it just had two rooms.

Kevin: How many rooms did your house have?

Chris: Four rooms.

Kevin: And two of them were bedrooms, or?

Chris: Well in our case, three of them were bedrooms. But that's the way it was 32:00in the other houses.

Kevin: And where was your father born?

Chris: He was born in a section of Grayson County called River Hill. Now they call it Baywood.

Kevin: And why did he move to Fries? To work in the mill?

Chris: Yes.

Kevin: What year was he born, do you remember?

Chris: 1900.

Kevin: So he was pretty young when the mill was built. I mean, you know, a childs--?

Chris: He was, I think they moved to Galax, I think they said in--I mean to Fries--I think they said in [19]34 or [19]35.

Kevin: Okay.

Chris: A long time ago.

Kevin: So what did you and your brothers and sisters do as far as entertainment and--?

Chris: Oh my goodness. There were so many kids that lived in the community and 33:00we were all just like one big family. And we were just always busy. There was always things to do. Nobody really had nice toys or anything like that, but we had vivid imaginations. We would create our own games. We played a lot of softball with our own rules and the woods were a big part of our lives. We were always going out in the woods. My brother Willard had made us a Tarzan swing. You know, we put a rope in, we could swing out on the rope and we would dam up the water in the creek and I would say swim in the creek, but it wasn't deep enough. So we would kind of mud crawl. Oh, it was just so much fun. But yeah, we were just never bored, there was always something to do. Always somebody to play with.

Kevin: Did you ever go in the river or play in the river?

Chris: No, we weren't allowed anywhere near the river, thankfully.

Kevin: Was that from your parents?


Chris: Because none of us could swim.

Kevin: Your parents wouldn't let you.

Chris: Right. We knew not to go in the river, but the creek made us happy, float all the way down the back of the houses and you know, we loved the creek and it would freeze over real hard in the winter time. We'd go out there and call ourselves skating. It was so much fun.

Kevin: Eagle Bottom Creek. That's a beautiful place up there, isn't it? Well, oh, did it ever flood the creek?

Chris: Not in my lifetime, but it did flood once, that's because I remember mama telling us about daddy getting everyone out of there. That may have been in the [19]40s, I guess.

Kevin: There was a bad flood in 1940.

Chris: That would be the one. That's the only time that I've ever know that it flooded.

Kevin: Do you ever go through Plateau? Do you know where that is?

Chris: I've never been there, but my daughter and her friends go there 35:00occasionally. I've never made it out there.

Kevin: My mom grew up on Elk Creek down below Plateau and they had one room school and it is right next to the creek and in 1940 it flooded. And if you said you'd looked at my pictures on Facebook, there's a picture of that school and you can see it right along the creek and the water got up on the building. It's just out of reach of your hand or right within reach of your hand if you stand up. So, I mean, it got really bad.

Chris: That's scary.

Kevin: It is. And apparently it flooded the town here in. I can't imagine that.

Chris: Yeah I've seen pictures in the Gazette, I think it was. It might have been on Facebook, I forget.

Kevin: So is there anything else that you can tell me or would like to tell me about Fries or growing up here?


Chris: Well, I just, you know, when I put it into perspective, I just feel like we were in a very, I guess, even call it insular community, because it was like the things that we would see on TV that were happening down south, it was like another world because everything was so good for us, you know? And I know now that we were shielded from things as children and when grownups would have the conversation, they would always say, y'all get out of here, grownups are talking. So I guess that was when they would talk about things that were going on because they wanted to shield us, but they did a really good job because we had me and my brothers and sisters, my friends and all, we all had good childhoods, you know, as far as I know, everybody seemed as happy as I was. I don't know, I mean, you never know what's really going on, but it just Fries 37:00just always seemed like a magical place to us because, you know, we were just surrounded by people who loved us and protected us and all of us kids had each other, you know, not just my brothers and sisters, but all the kids in the community. It was just so good. And it lasts till this day. I can see them after not seeing them for ten, fifteen years and it's like, we just talked yesterday. But now I realize how special it was, how special, I mean, an outsider coming in, let's say, somebody like you, that was coming to interview us back then. You know, all those poor Appalachian children, they're so poor, they go to that pitiful school and they got those raggedy clothes on. I felt so sorry for them, but actually, we didn't see any of that. You know, we would see commercials on TV about the unfortunate children and we thought, oh, they're so pitiful. We 38:00didn't realize that outsiders would characterize us as those pitiful children because they weren't living our reality. And our reality was pretty wonderful because of the very responsible adults in our lives. You know, we all had good solid parents and that makes all the difference in the world, it really does. And we had spiritual guidance and it just made all the difference in the world for us. And of course I know it wasn't all peaches and cream, but it's just that we were shielded from the bad.

Kevin: And you said there were seven houses there in the community.

Chris: I still remember everybody who lived in them.

Kevin: Was there any movement in and out, or was it usually the same people?

Chris: The same people, most of the time, I can tell you that. Okay, let's go to the house at the end. The Cox family lived there all through my childhood. They moved when I was probably eleven years old or somewhere ten, eleven years old. 39:00And the Crockett family moved in there for a while. They weren't there long. They were only there for about a year, maybe two at the most. And they moved and then the McKinney family moved there and they were the last family that lived there. Then the second house nobody ever lived there except the Anderson family and nobody ever lived in our house next door to them, except us Beamers, and nobody ever lived in the house next door to us, except the King family, and the next door to them, the Hash family lived there for many years and they moved probably I would guess around [19]63. And the Higgins family from Galax moved to Fries and they were the last family that lived there. The house next to them way back in the day, the Richardson family lived there. That's when I was a very little girl, I just vaguely remember them, although I know them now, but I could 40:00vaguely remember them from childhood and then after they left, see the Young's were part of their family too. Not the Buster Young family and Naomi and all them, it was there, I don't know if it was their cousin or what, but anyway, after they moved, the Jenkins family moved in and they were the last family that lived in that house. And then the little house next to them, the only families I remember living there was the Boysaw family. They lived there for maybe two, three years and they moved out and then it was vacant for a long time. And then in 1969, my girlfriend Brenda got married and she and her new husband moved in. I still remember them all so well.

Kevin: That's great. So why did people move out?


Chris: Better jobs.

Kevin: At different towns, that type of thing?

Chris: Different towns.

Kevin: You said that, I think it was the Young's that it was different from the Buster Young family.

Chris: Yes, they were related.

Kevin: Before we started the interview, you were telling me about the essay that you wrote. Can you tell me again what you told me a while ago?

Chris: Oh, well. It was originally a class assignment and so I wrote an essay about integration from my perspective. Other people might have seen it different, but I wrote what I experienced and what I felt at that time. And it was about ten of us. It was ten school-aged children in the hall at that time and it was about our experience integrating Fries High and all the apprehension. 42:00And then when that day finally came and we got to the school, it was really very uneventful, nothing unusual happened. They looked at us a lot, we looked at them a lot, and at the end of the day we were smiling at each other and we all kind of breathe a sigh of relief because we knew it was going to be okay. It was a pretty easy transition. It was very good experience.

Kevin: And you were telling me about the response that you got to your essay. Tell me about that.

Chris: Yeah, that was kind of awesome. It won a second place in the literary contest at the Chautauqua Festival at Wytheville Community College and then it kind of took on a life of its own. You know, I was asked to read it at several different churches and at a couple of gatherings here in Fries and then someone put it on Facebook and a lot of people read it and people would start coming up 43:00to me saying, hey, you wrote that. I loved it. And you know, I got a lot of that and my ego loved that.

Kevin: Well, it was great essay.

Chris: But yeah it kinda just took on a life of its own, it just keeps turning up. I've got it kind of buried in my papers and things, but it just keeps resurfacing.

Kevin: What year was it that you wrote the essay for the Chautauqua Festival? I mean, when it was entered then?

Chris: That would've been [19]97.

Kevin: Wow oh my, really?

Chris: Yes, so long ago.

Kevin: And when you read it at Fries Theatre, that was 2017 or so, something like that. So it is twenty years later, right, now twenty years later. That's amazing.

Chris: I wrote it about twenty-five years ago.

Kevin: Wow, all right. Well thank you so much.

Chris: Well, thank you.

Kevin: I really enjoyed it. And this will be a great addition to the history of Fries, I think.


Chris: Oh good, good.

[End of Recording]