Transcript Index
Search This Transcript
Go X

´╗┐Kevin Combs: Today is Sunday, April 24, 2022 and my name is Kevin Combs. I'm talking with Craig Wood, Craig, would you introduce yourself?

Craig Wood: My name is Craig Wood. I'm seventy-five years old, and I was born in Roanoke, Virginia but I was raised in Fries, Virginia.

Kevin: Okay, where did your parents live before you were born?

Craig: When I was born, we lived directly behind the train depot; first house up there. And when I was three years old, we moved to the house on Jackson Street, where I live now.

Kevin: So that's where you currently live?

Craig: That's where I currently live. I was gone for forty years during my working career, and I kept my parents' house. I moved back when I retired.


Kevin: Can you tell me about your-- when you moved away from Fries, where you went, what you did?

Craig: Yes, I went to a Junior College called Wingate in Wingate, North Carolina for two years, and then I completed my education at Wake Forest University. And after that I became a licensed practicing CPA. Worked in public accounting for several years, and then I went to work for a private corporation.

Kevin: And when did you move back to Fries?

Craig: Moved back to Fries in 2009.

Kevin: And when did your parents pass away?

Craig: My parents passed away in 2001 and 2002.

Kevin: So, you kept the house those seven years or so?

Craig: Yes, we used it for a vacation home and a weekend getaway. We were here 2:00actually most every weekend.

Kevin: Okay, do you have any brothers or sisters?

Craig: I have one sister, three years older. And she has been in Schenectady, New York since 1971.

Kevin: What year did you graduate high school>

Craig: 1965.

Kevin: So, why did you move back to this area?

Craig: I just love the area. My wife loved the area. She was from eastern North Carolina--a 'flatlander' we called her, but she just fell in love with the town and the first time she came here. We had some good times and we kept the parents home as a vacation home. And when we retired, we moved here full time.

Kevin: So can you tell me what it was like growing up in the town here?

Craig: Well, one of the first memories I have when I went away to college, I told somebody, I found out I was poor because you know, there was a guy across the hall from me, he had a brand-new GTO, and the situation was, he didn't have 3:00one right then, he had been there in summer school and totaled his GTO. So he was waiting for his daddy to get him another one, and I said, what is this? But you know, it was really culture shock to get out of Fries, but I love the town of Fries and really at this point in my life, I don't want to be anywhere else.

Kevin: So, do you have any memories of growing up here that you could share?

Craig: Yes, my memories are sort of foggy. I have memory issues right now and I don't know how much I'm gonna be able to remember as far as specifics, but I remember I worked four summers at the swimming pool as a swimming instructor and lifeguard, really enjoyed that. I worked two summers in the cotton mill, really 4:00learned from that I needed to get an education and get out of this place. But that was my more recent memories. My long-term memory. Well, my long-term and short-term memory are not real good right now. So as far as specific things about growing up here, I just know it was a great place. There were a lot of good people and you can't beat the people that [lived here]. I met one man in the cotton mill that was specifically memorable because he was such a kind person, and everybody was that way.

Kevin: Who was that you were talking about?

Craig: That was Guy Pennington. Do you remember Guy?

Kevin: Yes, I do.


Craig: And he was just such a humble person and such a nice person. He was so good to me. You know, I worked in the cloth room one summer and I was running a stitcher-shearer, you know what that is? You turned little rolls of cotton, a lot of little rolls into one big roll. And part of the job was to take those big rolls off so that somebody else could pick them up and take them to the next phase. And Guy was one of those people-- Guy and Wesley Hall, and they would both see when I was ready to take a roll off and they'd go grab the big roll. So I didn't have to deal with that because I was a 125 pound weakling at that point. So, they were so good to me, and everybody in Fries, you know, I don't know anybody that was really a bad person. You know, there were some wild times 6:00and some wild people, but everybody was always so nice.

Kevin: Who was the boss in the cloth room at that time?

Craig: Alfred McMillan was the boss, and he was my neighbor, my first three years of life. He lived in the house right behind us, and Wayne Martin was his assistant.

Kevin: Okay, you worked in the cloth room one summer, what other room did you work in?

Craig: I worked in the spinning room one summer [Hutch Stata was the supervisor in the spinning room].

Kevin: Okay. And what shift did you work?

Craig: I worked first shift in the cloth room and third shift in the spinning room.

Kevin: What'd you think of third shift?

Craig: Well, it wasn't bad, but the problem was we'd go in at night and it'd be 110 degrees and it was all the way down to 105 or so when we came out the seven o'clock in the morning. And one of the worst memories of the cotton mill was 7:00that you would have cotton dust in every orifice of your body. You know, you'd have a nose full of cotton dust, ears full of cotton dust, and it was not comfortable, and the heat was almost oppressive.

Kevin: What job did you have in the spinning room?

Craig: Spinning room. Do you remember the [vacuums] that they had that went through and picked up the dust, the cotton dust? Yes, I cleaned those vacuums. I cleaned those out.

Kevin: Oh, okay.

Craig: And I moved boxes, the boxes that the bobbins and the spools were put in. I moved empty boxes on the elevator down to the lower floor.

Kevin: And did your parents work in the mill?


Craig: My mother worked in the office. She was John Thorpe's secretary and John Thorpe was the general manager of the mill. And she worked there-- I always thought that she quit work and didn't go back after my sister was born three years before me, but I did learn that she went back to work and I don't know if it's just while daddy was gone during the war or if it was longer than that. She never worked that I remember, but I know she did work some after it was probably because of the war. She moved back to her mother and daddy's to live with them.

Kevin: And where was that?

Craig: That was on what's now Recreation Street, the little street that goes down just above the rec center.

Kevin: And your dad, did he work in the mill?


Craig: He was office manager. I don't know that he ever worked in the mill, he was shipping clerk and he was office manager.

Kevin: But he was the office manager of the mill?

Craig: He was the office manager of the mill, yes.

Kevin: What was his role or duties?

Craig: Well, he was supervisor so everybody that worked in the office, including the people that were in what was called the standards department, which would not be cost accounting. And they reported to him. His brother was the manager of that department, but everybody in the office reported to him for all the accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll. He signed the payroll checks. I got one, I can show you. That was his job there. My mother didn't work out of the home, but she was a town clerk for several years, and she would do that work at home. She prepared the water bills and she kept minutes of the council meetings and that type of thing, but that was strictly part time. And she did that from home.


Kevin: Was there a town office at that time?

Craig: Yes, there was. It was upstairs over the post office. You know where the outside stairs are?

Kevin: Yes.

Craig: It was up in that upper room there. That was the police station and the town office. So Bruce was there, she usually prepared the water bills at home, [but] sometimes she would do it up there.

Kevin: And Bruce, you mentioned, was the police officer.

Craig: Bruce [Smith] was the police officer, yes.

Kevin: Do you have any memories of him?

Craig: I have memories of Bruce and his cup of vanilla ice cream, with a wooden spoon. Bruce was a good guy. He was very soft spoken, very humble. But you didn't want to get on his wrong side. I have a friend who once told me that-- 11:00Well, I have two friends, one of them told me about it, where he picked one of them up by the front of his belt. He grabbed him by the belt and lifted him straight up off the ground. And I said, I don't know what I'm gonna do with you, boy, but you're gonna start behaving yourself. That was Jimmy Bird and he was quite a character. One of [Bruce's] sisters was [the] librarian at school and one of them was a teacher--fourth grade teacher.

Kevin: Where did Bruce live in town?

Craig: Bruce lived up in one of the boarding houses. The far one. There were two boarding houses that I assume were originally owned by the company for their employees. And I understand that one-time people didn't have individual rooms, they had a bed, and from shift to shift different people used that bed. So you'd 12:00have somebody on first shift, get up and go to work, and somebody on second shift would come in and take that bed. And somebody on third shift would come in and take it. So, the beds were recycled, but he and his sister ran the boarding house for years, and she was also the school librarian and his other sister was a teacher. I believe she taught fourth grade.

Kevin: Do you remember her name?

Craig: I think her name was Gertrude.

Kevin: And?

Craig: Elizabeth.

Kevin: Yes, okay.

Craig: Elizabeth was the librarian, Gertrude was the teacher.

Kevin: Okay. So, and your dad was the office manager. Do you have any memories of what he thought of when the mill was sold to Riegel Textiles or Mount Vernon?

Craig: I think it changed a lot at that time. I don't think he was real happy 13:00with it, but he continued to work there for several years. He retired at sixty-two and as far as I know, he loved it and he loved the town and everything about it. My grandad had a little bit about town Fries, they had a company store, and my granddad was manager of the company store.

Kevin: Oh, okay.

Craig: He retired in 1959. He lived in the house that looks like the Baptist patronage. I think somebody built those two houses. He built that about 192[5], I think. They had levied up on what was called Boss Row and house number five, which I understand burned down, was not rebuilt. But they lived on Boss Row, and I guess that's where my daddy was born. And he built his house [in Blairtown] around 1925.

Kevin: What year did your dad retire?

Craig: I believe it was 1972, not positive.


Kevin: So he really wasn't there when--

Craig: 1915 plus sixty-two years.

Kevin: That'd be [19]77.

Craig: [19]77, yep.

Kevin: I think Riegel bought it in [19]76 or so.

Craig: Yes, I think so. He was not happy with that, and I think that's why he retired in [19]77.

Kevin: And did you have any other jobs when you were younger?

Craig: I worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the Y for four years, I guess. The last two years of high school. First two years of college. And then dad said, you need to quit making so little and make a little bit of money to pay your tuition next year. So, I spent two years working in the mill.

Kevin: Did you enjoy the lifeguard duty?

Craig: Oh yes, I loved that.

Kevin: I can imagine.

Craig: Yes I was never real athletic except for swimming and I went through all 15:00the ratings up to water safety instructor. So, I was qualified to teach swimming. When I went to junior college for PHYS ED, rather than taking golf, which I despised, I took a swimming class. We had a lady instructor in there, and the first day, she was separating people who could swim and people who could not swim, and I raised my hand and said, can I teach the non-swimmers for you? And she said, can you swim? And I said, yes. And she said, do the breaststroke across the pool and do the reverse breaststroke on your back across the pool. She said, if you can do those two strokes, you're good to go. You can have them. 16:00So, I actually taught swimming down there one year.

Kevin: Oh wow, that's great.

Craig: It was a good experience, and from there I went to Wake Forest, got a degree in accounting. Eventually passed the CPA exam. Some folks passed it the first time, I was not that fortunate. I took it several times, I finally got to the point and I took it seriously and studied. I passed it. But I had a forty year career, about ten working in public accounting, and the rest for private corporations, and I really enjoyed it.

Kevin: I think you told me one time that you delivered the paper here in town.

Craig: I delivered the Galax Gazette. At the time it was [three times] a week. And that was interesting. But you know back then, you knew everybody, I could tell you who lived in every house in this town in the 1960s and [19]70s. Of course, I can't remember now, but you know, that's just the kind of town it was. You knew everybody.


Kevin: What was your route in town for the paper?

Craig: It was Blairtown, Newtown, and Riverview Drive. It was Riverside then, I guess, but I didn't--

Kevin: Railroad Street.

Craig: Railroad Street, yes. I did not do Main Street. There was another people that did Main Street and the streets up on the hill.

Kevin: Wow, so did you have to collect money and that kind of thing?

Craig: Yes, I'd go by on Saturday mornings and collect. I delivered the papers, I think they were Monday, Wednesday, and Friday then. So you'd go by and toss the papers on the porch. Jimmy Symmer was the one that had that route before me. I don't know if you remember him or not, but they lived right out the street and I used to go on his route with him, and when he got ready to give it up and go 18:00to college, he let me have his route. So, you know, it was enjoyable. You knew everybody and you got to stop and chat with them. Most days they'd be out waiting for their paper. So you know, you'd put your papers in your bag and you would fold them and roll them as you went, put a rubber band around them and toss them up on the porch. Yes, so it was enjoyable. It was something to do. You made a little bit of money and it wasn't enough money to pay tuition, which is why I went to the cotton mill for two summers, but the lifeguard and the paper route-- Of course, when I was lifeguarding and teaching swimming, I had to give up the paper route, but I did that for a couple of years before. But it was all very enjoyable. Fries, I have a lot of memories here, but my memories are at point now that I don't remember specifics. I have general memories.


Kevin: So, did you have kind of free reign of the town or when you were a kid? Could you go out the door and leave?

Craig: Oh yes. My parents were not real strict. I didn't have a car as a teenager, but I have free use of it. And--

Kevin: Like when you were a kid, I mean.

Craig: LIke when I was sixteen, seventeen?

Kevin: Yes, but I mean, I'm saying when you were twelve years old, that kind of thing.

Craig: Yes, pretty much. Going to the swimming pool. That was no problem, I did not really have a curfew as such, but, you know, you went home when the streetlights came on, and that was the general rule. Streetlights come on, you come home to eat. I did have one restriction: you didn't go into other people's houses. My parents were very private and they respected other people's privacy. And even if I was invited, I was not allowed to go in anybody's house.

Kevin: That's interesting.

Craig: That was my parents. And it was just a good life. My mom's parents both 20:00worked in the cotton mill. I think my granddad was a loom fixer. My mom's brother was a loom fixer. Also Fries' version of Otis in Mayberry. He was Fries' Otis. HE was an alcoholic, he definitely had problems, but mama wouldn't have anything to do with that. She didn't like me being around him, he was probably my favorite uncle. Mom had two brothers, one of them lived in Arlington, and he actually owned a Greek restaurant.

Kevin: Were they Greek?

Craig: No, his wife was, but he was not, but her family put him in the cafe and restaurant business and he was very successful at that. I had eighteen cousins 21:00on that side of the family.

Kevin: Well, just to clarify, you're talking about loom fixer moment ago. You meant in the weave room, right? Is that where the loom fixer worked?

Craig: Yes, anything that broke with a loom, they would fix it. And my uncle was known to have a temper tantrum and throw a wrench across the room every now and then, but you know, he was just Mutt. His name was Wilmer, but everybody knew him as Mutt. Most people didn't even know his real name.

Kevin: Really? What was his last name?

Craig: Marshall.

Kevin: Okay, Mutt Marshall?

Craig: Yes, mom was a Marshall.

Kevin: So when did her family move into the area? Into Fries?

Craig: I think they actually moved-- her grandparents--her maternal grandparents, whose name was Mabe moved here before the mill opened. They moved 22:00to Grayson County and when the mill opened, they moved to town. And her granddaddy moved from Allegheny County, North Carolina, probably not logn after the mill opened, and my grandmother was a Mabe. And she worked in the spinning room [as] a spinner, and the loom fixer was in the weave room.

Kevin: So, the family that moved here before the mill opened, what part of the county did they move to?

Craig: I have no idea. I found them on the census living in Grayson County, and I think that was a 1930 census or something. But I'm not sure when they moved here.

Kevin: And how about your dad's family? When did they move here?

Craig: My dad's daddy was born in Fort Worth, Texas. And he was raised by his grandparents. His mother died when he was about a year old, and his father came 23:00back to Fries and he left him in Texas with his parents; they raised him. When he was eighteen, he moved to Fries. So, he actually grew up in the Fort Worth Houston area, and soon as he turned eighteen, he showed up in Fries. So, I don't know if they kicked him out or he decided he wanted to come with his daddy. His daddy had come here when the mill first opened, had gone to work there.

Kevin: So this was your great-grandfather.

Craig: This was my great-grandfather, Wood. His name was Thomas Bamford Wood. my black miniature pinscher is TBamDog. My daughter-in-law was pregnant with her first child and I told her in all seriousness that my great-grandfather needed to have a child named after him. So, I expected them to name their son, Thomas 24:00Bamford. And she was horrified at that name, and she would ask her husband, is he serious? And he knew I wasn't, but, then he'd say, yes he's serious. And I let that go on until almost delivery day. And I said, Beth, I'm not serious about that. But if you have a girl, I'm going to call her Bamby, but we had a lot of fun with that.

Kevin: So, your grandfather moved here or great-grandfather moved here. And then he moved away to Texas right? Your great-grandfather?

Craig: No, he was in Texas before.

Kevin: Oh, okay.

Craig: And the lady he married was from Amherst County. She was a Woodruff from 25:00Amherst County, and I think at the time he was living and working in Lynchburg. And he came here when the mill opened, got a job as office manager. That's when the mill office was down next to the river and it got washed away. I think in the 1916 flood. So, then they built a new office up on hill. So he was office manager before daddy. He died in 1911, and there were a couple other managers before daddy. So I think there was a series of jobs that led to office manager that was paymaster, and there was assistant office manager, and there was office manager and they all went through that transition of jobs, and dad retired from 26:00that in 1972.

Kevin: You mentioned the 1916 flood. Do you remember anybody talking about that?

Craig: Not much really. There were professional photographs taken out by somebody from Cahill Studios in Roanoke, and I think I've got a couple of them somewhere. They took pictures and I've not seen a whole lot of pictures about it. It really wasn't about that much. The plane crash up in Providence was more talked about than the flood. Have you heard about that?

Kevin: Yes, well, talk about it too. I mean--

Craig: Yes. Well, it was an Eastern Airlines flight. I forgot where they came from, I think it was somewhere in South Carolina, and they were headed to Roanoke. And they crashed right across from the church down into the gully there next to the Spring Valley Road and they crashed up there and [there was one survivor]. So daddy was up there taking pictures. He was a photographer. He loved to take pictures. He would take pictures of anything and everything.


Kevin: Do you have any of his cameras?

Craig: I had his Kodak camera, I gave it to my son.

Kevin: Oh, that's good.

Craig: And I don't know if he's used it or not, but he likes photography and he's pretty good at it. But you know, he was a digital camera on him, but I gave him that, he was thrilled. And you can still find film, and you can find a few places to help developed it. So I don't know if he's used it or not, but I gave it to him a couple years ago.

Kevin: Do you know when the wall was built?

Craig: I think it was built after the 1916 flood, but I'm not sure. The railroad used to go down that way. Have you seen pictures of the railroad there?

Kevin: Yes.

Craig: And somebody pointed out to me not long ago, the tracks down there, but the trestle was also up with the tracks going in. And I assumed from that that 28:00they took the cotton in at one place and the trestle went up to the warehouse where the cloth came out. So I assumed that they had two spurs there for that purpose.

Kevin: Who were some of your friends growing up?

Craig: Well, the Durham boys, Ruth Durham's three sons. Rick and Mike and Freddy, You probably know Freddy.

Kevin: I've heard of him.

Craig: Freddy and Mike are still living, I think Rick is. Rick lives in Danville. But the four years I lived in Danville I think I saw him twice. I think he's still in Danville. But the other two, I think Mike lives in Galax and 29:00Freddy has moved to North Carolina. He has a lady friend down there, he says they're engaged and I say, when are you getting married? And he said, we're engaged.

Kevin: Who were some of your other friends?

Craig: Well, Ronnie Graveley. You remember Ronnie?

Kevin: Yes.

Craig: Ronnie's daddy was Alex Graveley. He worked in the mill and he was a preacher. And his cousin was Harry Boyles; Harry is one of my good friends. Harry is one of the few good friends I have now. I don't make friends very easily. Larry, his brother lives out here and Earley lives out in Carroll County. David Delp was a friend, you know David?

Kevin: Yes.

Craig: David is a good friend.

Kevin: So, they all lived in town?

Craig: Yes, they lived in town.


Kevin: I mean, back in the-- when you were born.

Craig: Back in those days, yes, they did. Yes. I'm trying to think of somebody else, I just-- I can't remember names.

Kevin: So, what would y'all do as far as when you would get together as kids or whatever?

Craig: Well, we'd play softball. We'd play ball up on the hill where Onita's house is. We'd play softball up there, and we'd spend a lot of time at the Y and you could bowls and swim. That was my two favorite things, it was bowling and swimming. I wasn't very good at bowling, but I was excellent at swimming and I loved it.

Kevin: Tell me about the bowling alley at Y.

Craig: Well, the bowling alley did not have manual pinsetters. It had human 31:00pinsetters. Bayne Grubb was one I remember, and-- who's the man that lived in the big house on Top Street? Ace Whitener. Ace's son, Billy, was one of my friends.

Kevin: So how did they get paid? Did the Y pay them or did--?

Craig: The Y paid them, and they got tips. So most of their pay was in tips, and if they were good, they could make a good living on tips. They had league bowling, and on league nights, they could make a ton of money. So, you know, they'd set up on the rail, on the ball return rail, and when somebody bowled, they'd set the ball up and it came back down the track and the bowler could pick 32:00it up. So, you know, those were the days. Those were the good days. I can't reme mber who the other pinsetters were.

Kevin: And what kind of bowling was this?

Craig: It was-- you could bowl duckpins, but you also bowl ten pins. They had both and they had leagues for both. So the duckpin bowling was not my thing. The ten pin bowling was, I even got to the point I bought my own bowling ball. So, I had one that fit my hand, my hand was so small. The balls up there were too big for me, and most of them were like twelve to fourteen pounds. And I got me, I think it was a ten pound ball that could be drilled to my specs, so I got a little better at it with that.

Kevin: So, was it busy there? The bowling alley?

Craig: Yes, it was busy all the time. And they had leagues on nights, but it was also opened in the daytimes sometimes. So it was a lot of fun.

Kevin: What else did you do at the Y?

Craig: Nothing really. I mean, it was-- swimming was my thing. I actually worked there in the off season from swimming. I worked nights at the desk. So, you 33:00know, they would hire their lifeguards. They always had school teachers that worked and there was usually a coach. The one you might remember was Don Martin.

Kevin: Oh, yes.

Craig: Don worked there and Ray Dunavant. I worked with him a couple of summers and I worked with Don a couple of summers. Richard Farmer, who's the mary of Fries now, worked there [as a lifeguard]. And his wife, who is Judy Byrd, I don't remember if you remember Don Byrd. Don was a rural mail carrier.

Kevin: He lived in Blairtown.

Craig: He lived in Blairtown, right next to Hesters.

Kevin: He was Doris' father?

Craig: Yes, he was Doris' father. Judy, Dawn, and Doris were the three daughters. And Judy worked there a couple of summers [as a lifeguard].

Kevin: So, what would you do at the desk?


Craig: We just took people's money for bowling, and people wanting to play cards. I don't think we had the pool table there at the time, we had ping pong tables. And we would keep the ping pong balls and paddles behind the desk. So somebody didn't just come in and start playing because they had to pay for ping pong and they had to pay, I think, they had to play cards, I'm not sure. But they had to come to the desk to get them. You were required to take a shower before you went to the pool, and you had to be clean. One of the lifeguard duties where you saw the lifeguard before you went in the pool, you rubbed their wrists to see if any dirt came up.

Kevin: I remember that.

Craig: You remember that?

Kevin: Yes.

Craig: You could rub the skin on their wrist, but that was one of the things, and I believe at the time they paid ten cents to swim. Which was a lot of money 35:00back then. But you know, I had some fond memories working there. My memory's gone so far downhill since I had COVID. I had COVID and then I had grief, and they both affected it.

Kevin: Oh I'm sure. Did you ever go around the river?

Craig: Yes, we had a canoe at the rec center and we would take it on the pond. We didn't take it below the dam. We'd take it above the dam, go down to the old boat docks and put it on the pond. And we had loads of fun up there. You know, we'd get in it, two at a time, and we would go out and we were all trained swimmers and lifeguards. So we were all very, very good at swimming. And we'd get out in the middle of the river and turn the thing over--on purpose--to learn 36:00how to turn it back and get the water out of it and get back in it. And you know, that was a real important part of the training because at later times we did teach canoeing, so we'd take a group up to the boat docks and get them out of the van and teach them canoeing. Freddy Jennings was one of the school teachers who worked there in the summers. And Freddy was a hoot. Freddy had a, I think it was a [19]47 Mercury, it was a deep purple color, and we got up there one day and put muddy hand and footprints all over his car and he was thrilled. He drove it till it rained. We had hand and footprints all over that car. He was a hoot. He was a good guy too. He was one of the good guys. There's so many 37:00names I just can't remember. You know, at times I could tell you who lived in every house in town, but I can't do that now. My grandparents lived and my mom grew up on that street, just this side of the rec center. It was a YMCA then. They had the theater, and that one street is now called Recreation Drive. So they lived in a little house on the left, down there. And my grandmother, Wood's brother and his wife lived in the second house. Next door was a Vaughan, had a son named Ralph, and Ralph and his wife live right around Lee Drive. Oh, okay. Second house on the right around Lee Drive. But there's just so many names that I can't remember. But, you know, everybody knew everybody else in town. It was that kind of town. And my daddy being an office manager, I guess we were sort of 38:00the elite. Somebody told me once that--I said, why didn't you really socialize with me and my sister when we lived in town. And she said, because of the aristocracy, and I said, you mean my mother's attitude? And she said, yes. She truly acted like she was better than everybody else. She truly felt that way because daddy was in management, but that was just ehr. You know, her parents both worked in the cotton mill and she had worked as secretary to the manager. So, she wanted to be important. That was her problem, not mine. But she really did have a sense that she was a little, just a little bit better than everybody else.

Kevin: Who lived in the house there, that white house that was on the mill 39:00property, the big house?

Craig: That was the plant manager's house. So, John Thorpe lived there for years. And the next plant manager, I guess, was John McAlister. Do you remember him?

Kevin: Yes, I do.

Craig: And they lived there and the house burned in the early [19]60s. I was actually out of town with a group at a ballgame with one of his daughters. And we came into town and her house was in flames. That was terrible. It was still smoldering. They had put the fire out at that time. Fries didn't have a fire department. They had fire crews for the mill, but Galax fire department was there, watering down the smoldering house. And we drove up and she said, oh my God, what am I going to do? So we found her parents, got her safe. But that was a tragedy.

Kevin: Everybody had gotten out of the house?

Craig: Yes, everybody got out. But you know, she was really totally terrified, 40:00and it's understandable. We found her parents and got them taken care of, and then they built the big house down here, the general managers. So they moved here , they moved to the bug house. They were the first occupants of the big house. But that was a beautiful old house up there. It really was.

Kevin: So, your grandfather was the manager of the company store. Will you describe the company store?

Craig: Well, it was a typical cotton mill and typical store. You didn't have to leave town. You could get anything you needed down there. A lot of people would go to Galax to shop, but they had what was called a drug store on the end. You 41:00did not get prescriptions filled there, but you could get all over the counter drugs. They had a soda fountain in there. You could get a Coke with crushed ice or you could get a wonderful milkshake or a sundae or anything like that. So it was really a soda fountain, and they sold a few over the counter drugs. Bud Nichols was the manager of that for as long as I can remember. And he actually bought that after they had closed it. And he still operated that for several years. And then they had a men's clothing department. You could get anything you wanted from jeans to a nice suit. And they had a lady's clothing department, which is where the shop that rents bicycles. They used to rent bicycles-- There 42:00was actually an elevator in the store, which went to the manager's office, which was up above the general office of the mill where the customers could go to pay bills or have complaints or whatever. And that was downstairs, upstairs, the front was closed with windows and the business office was up there. So my granddaddy and his secretary had an office up there.


Craig: At one time, Cy Bonham worked in the men's department. He worked there more than once. He would teach school for a while and he worked in the store for a while. But he was at one time manager of the men's department, you remember Charlie Vaughan?

Kevin: Oh, yes.

Craig: The store out at Providence. His wife, Virginia. I think they called her, they called her Ginnie? She ran the ladies department.

Kevin: So, and there was grocery store too as well?

Craig: Yes, there was the drugstore. There was the grocery store, which was a Mick or Mack Grocery. At one time it was-- I can't remember the name. I have a picture that has a sign out in front that it was a grocery chain from down 44:00around Winston-Salem had a store here. I can't remember the name of it, but it became a Mick or Mack.

Kevin: And that was a chain, wasn't it?

Craig: Yes, that was a chain. So it was part of that chain. And it became something else. Then you had the men's department, the ladies' department, and then there was actually a gap there between that and the bank. I don't know if you remember that or not.

Kevin: I don't, but I've seen pictures.

Craig: There was a stairway that went down and there was a restaurant under, actually underneath the bank. It was Fielder's Restaurant in the back I can't remember that man's restaurant. But he operated that restaurant down there for years. I guess it was there almost the whole time it was. But by the time I 45:00remember downtown, a building had been there. I don't remember what that building is now. It might be for the bank, but I don't think so.

Kevin: Was there a hardware store when your grandfather was the manager?

Craig: Yes, it was downstairs. The [main floor] was furniture and appliances, and they had an upstairs and a downstairs. So the furniture and appliances were up and down, and the downstairs. Basement part, was a hardware store, and you could buy everything from a .22 rifle to a shotgun to ammunition, to a hammer, 46:00paint brush. You know, everything you needed in the hardware line, you could get there. The town was totally self-sufficient. A lot of people chose to go to the big city of Galax to shop. But, you know, you didn't have to. And daddy was a company man all the way. So he was going to shop at the company store. And as I said, grandad was manager. He retired in 1957. And he passed away, I think it was [19]73. My grandmother died two years before, and he totally went downhill quickly after she passed away.

Kevin: So how did you pay for goods in the company's store?

Craig: You could actually pay for them with scrip, and you're familiar with scrip?

Kevin: Mm-hmm, well, then go ahead and explain it.

Craig: Okay, well. It's a little aluminum coins of various denominations. I didn't know it until a few years ago, but they went up to two dollar coins. And I have a two dollar and two one dollar coins that Harry Boyles gave me. And I have several others that my parents had had. Nickels, dimes, and quarters. And 47:00the nickel was the lowest denomination--you didn't have a penny. For some reason, there were little aluminum coins, tokens and sort of like a bus token.

Kevin: And where would you get them?

Craig: You could buy them. They had a scrip clerk who worked, who issued scrip, if you wanted scrip.

Kevin: But didn't the mill pay in scrip?

Craig: They would pay in scrip if you wanted it. But you had to go to the clerk and request scrip before your pay, or they would write you a check. And in later years, they cut out the scrip and daddy was office manager and the paymaster. So he signed all the paychecks.

Kevin: So did the bank deal in scrip?

Craig: They would, yes. And, you know, scrip was the currency of the company store. You could pay in cash if you wanted to, but they were there basically as 48:00scrip merchant. You know, that's the self-sufficiency of the town. You know, we'll make our own money, too. And you can spend it in our store. But that was the only place they can spend it or they could redeem it for cash.

Kevin: So going down the street you had the bank. What was past the bank from going that way?

Craig: Past the bank was a beauty shop, a barber shop, and the post office. And the upstairs office over the post office was the town hall and the police station. So that was Bruce's office. And in my day, Earl Boyer was the mayor. And he actually held court for the town. If somebody got a ticket in town, got arrested in town, Earl was the judge and jury. There was no jury trials. It was 49:00the town magistrate, I guess he was called. But he did a fine job of that. But you know, it was mostly traffic offenses, or somebody had a little bit too much to drink on Saturday night. And they actually had a jail at one time.

Kevin: And where was that?

Craig: It was the brick building right behind the town hall. They had a tragedy at the jail. They had a fire and the one prisoner in jail was killed. So if they needed a jail, they started shipping them to Galax. And in later years they went from Galax to, I guess it's Blue Ridge Jail at Dublin. So they would transport them elsewhere.

Kevin: Okay, and what about down in Blairtown? What businesses were down there?


Craig: Yes, Blairtown was not part of the town of Fries in the early days. It became part of Fries. It was annexed into the town much later. But everybody down there owned their own home--owned or rented the home. The first house on the left, as I told you, is where my grandfather lived. He built that about 1925, I think somewhere between [19]23 and [19]25. And it's pretty obvious to me the same people built the Baptist Parsonage. My grandmother, Marshall, mama's mother, lived in the second house on the right. There's a Carico Street that goes down to the river, and a second house from that, grandmother lived next to the store. Virgil Jackson had a store in that building. It's now a duplex apartment. But Virgil had a store there. There was a store building on the corner across from what's now Dollar General, and that was Don Jennings store. 51:00It was the same style. It had the asphalt shingles on the side, and Don Jennings ran store over there for years. And you probably remember him. I don't know if you do, he was Freddy's older brother.

Kevin: Yes.

Craig: You remember Freddy?

Kevin: Yes, oh yes.

Craig: So Don was his older brother, and they had a good business. You could buy anything you wanted in one of those stores or at the company store. So the town was totally self-sufficient. But everybody in Blairtown owned their own houses. Virgil Jackson lived there, the next house. The little White House on the corner. Little white frame house. That was Hurley Porter. Hurley was the town barber. Hurlie and Charlie Anders were the barbers. Charlie live up on Main Street, but Charlie was crippled. He could go anywhere and do anything on his 52:00crutches, but he would prop his crutches, stand up, and cut your hair. And later on, somebody invented a stool that could be attached to the barber chair and he could sit on that stool, and actually turn all the way around the barber chair if he needed to. But he cut hair from that stool for years. But Charlie was one of the inspirational people in town. He had it hard, but he never complained. And that's one of my most memorable things about the town is people like Charlie. You know, I mean. That really brings tears to my eyes to think about how courageous he was. Other people in Blairtown, well, across from Hurley Porter was Clyde Boyer. He was Earl Boyer's uncle, and he and his wife lived in 53:00that big house on the corner. Junior Anderson's daughter lives there now.

Kevin: Pless furniture. What do you remember about them?

Craig: Pless Furniture Company, Buck Rector managed that. Pless was in Galax and they opened a store in Fries which was very successful. And Garnett [Davis] Garnett lived right behind the store. But he was actually the store manager, but Buck was the finance guy. He was also the loan guy. He'd loan you the money to buy the furniture, and he'd also sell. But he was basically the finance guy, and he would go downtown every Friday, the mill paid on Friday, he'd go downtown. 54:00You remember the big concrete posts that were outside the hotel?

Kevin: Yes.

Craig: And a steel rail between them? Buck would park his butt up on that concrete post right next to the post office, and people would leave the mill, and walk to the bank to cash their check. And Buck would be sitting there waiting for them when they came back out of the bank. He had his little receipt book with him. And people would go to Buck to make their payment that week. So he'd sit there and collect bills for the furniture store and he would spend every Friday afternoon up there for a couple of hours as long as people were coming to make a payment. So he was the collections gent for the store, so he'd sit there and collect. He would sit down with his receipt book and he'd luck his pencil, lick that pencil and write that receipt. But he was a character. He was another Fries character. He was a baseball nut too.

Kevin: Oh, was he?

Craig: Yeah. Syd Harrell ran the hardware store. And there was another man that 55:00worked there, but I can't remember his name. There were two employees in the hardware store. Hardware and appliances. So that's pretty much my memory of the company store. But the town was totally self-sufficient. A lot of these non-believers believed in going to Galax to buy groceries and furniture things. But, you know, daddy was strictly company. If he could buy it here, he would buy it here. Bud Nichols, of course, ran the drugstore. He bought the drugstore. I think he actually bought the building. I'm not sure. But he had quite a good business there. Still no pharmacist, but over-the-counter drugs and a soda fountain. And he made a decent living at that.

Kevin: Was there a doctor in town?

Craig: Yes, the company actually had a company doctor. And the first one that I 56:00remember was Dr. Bing. B-I-N-G [and Dr. Marinus] was the company doctor for years. But B-J-O-R-K was his name. And he and his wife had one daughter--named Susan. And I don't remember much else about it. I think I told you one time, I remember when your granddaddy lived in that parsonage, but that was before-- my mama remembered when he lived there.

Kevin: Oh, yes.

Craig: But she had told me about him, and she remembered he lived in that house. But I think he died probably in the [19]30s, didn't he?

Kevin: Well, he died in the [19]60s, late [19]60s. But they moved out of the parsonage in [19]45 or so.

Craig: So that was long before my time. That was two years before I was born. But mama had mentioned them living in that house. I always compare that house to 57:00my granddaddy's because I think they were probably pretty much identical. So, it was totally self-sufficient. If you didn't want to go out of town, you didn't have to. As far as people, as I said, I once knew everybody who lived in every house, and now I don't know many people at all. And other people. Kyle Porter was our next door neighbor. His wife was Donna. Elmo Sumner [lived out the street]. Elmo had a son named Jimmy, he graduated from high school about 1960. And he later moved to Greensboro, and he passed away a few years ago.

Kevin: Well, Craig, I think that's pretty good.

Craig: Well, I hadn't remembered a lot of names.

Kevin: But I think you've done pretty good. I really appreciate the conversation.


Craig: I have enjoyed it, and I hope it helps you.

Kevin: Yes. Thank you.

[End of interview]