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Black Appalachians Oral History Project
Interview with Christine P. Price, Interview 1

Date of Interview: 4 March 1991; Blacksburg, VA
Interviewer: Michael A. Cooke, Assistant Professor of History, Virginia Tech
Transcriber: Cindy Hurd

Note: This interview was done in 1991 as part of the Black Appalachian Oral History Project (Ms91-019) by Dr. Michael Cooke of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In this project Dr. Cooke conducted 22 oral history interviews (on 25 tapes) of and about blacks in Appalachia, predominantly in Montogomery County, Virginia.
Note: Underscores (e.g., ______) indicate parts of the tape that were unclear.

{ Tape 1, Side 1 - Tape 1, Side 2 }

Begin Tape 1, Side 1

Cooke: The day is March 4, 1991. I am conducting an interview with Christine P. Price of Blacksburg. Mrs. Price, can you give us a brief sketch of your life, your birthdate, your birthplace, education, and occupation.

Price: Well, I was born July 21, 1915 _______.

Cooke: And what town were you born in?

Price: Lawton.

Cooke: When did you first come to this area?

Price: As I've said I think about 60 years or more.

Cooke: So you hadn't even probably started school yet? So you never even went to school in Giles County?

Price: No.

Cooke: Did you have any older brothers or sisters that might have went to school there?

Price: Well I had three older brothers and five older sisters.

Cooke: What did your father and mother do when they were living in Giles County? What kind of occupations did they have?

Price: Well, he worked at the rock quarry and the farm.

Cooke: He did both?

Price: Uh huh.

Cooke: Did your mother work at all?

Price: Well she took care of the house.

Cooke: That's housework. That is work.

Price: Yes. And the garden and all like that. And the cows.

Cooke: That is work.

Price: Yes, that's work. That's what she done.

Cooke: Why did he leave the area of Giles County?

Price: Well just to get us closer to school so we'd have a school.

Cooke: Were there problems with your older siblings? They said they had to walk to school early before...

Price: Yes, they just couldn't go. The weather would get so bad they just couldn't walk that far. I forget how many miles they said they had to walk.

Cooke: And there was probably very few schools for blacks.

Price: Yes.

Cooke: That was very inconvenient from that stand point. So your parents moved here. What did they do upon moving here? What kind of jobs did they have once they got to this area?

Price: Well they didn't have any at the time, nothing but he had these team of horses. He plowed gardens and all like that. Back then you know they didn't have tractors.

Cooke: So he did farmwork?

Price: Yeah, farmwork.

Cooke: Now you mentioned before when we were off-tape and I guess we should get it on-tape, you said your father got hurt in an accident? Was that before he came...

Price: Yeah, that was before he came here.

Cooke: So that might have been one of the reasons he came?

Price: Well, yes I guess because it was my second oldest sister, I think they said she was a baby when he got hurt.

Cooke: Can you tell how he got hurt?

Price: Well they said a rock in the quarry. I guess they were blasting rock and it crushed his leg and they had to take it off.

Cooke: His leg was amputated?

Price: Uh huh. ______.

Cooke: He couldn't work in that employment anymore?

Price: Nuh uh.

Cooke: So he came here and did farmwork? Operated teams of ...

Price: Yes. Plowed gardens, everything around in town.

Cooke: When you first came to this area, what area of Blacksburg did you all settle in? Did you live here?

Price: Out in the part they call Newtown.

Cooke: Oh yeah, off of Gilbert Street.

Price: Out there where Hunter Bell used to be. It was a big ole' house between on this side the Mays' house out there. They got burned down and that's where we moved to.

Cooke: So how far were you from Hunter Bell's property?

Price: Oh, it wasn't too far.

Cooke: Actually I guess his wife, cause his wife was the one, her family really owned all that land there probably.

Price: Well yes, her family lived there. They owned that.

Cooke: I forgot Mrs. Bell's maiden name. What is it?

Price: Green. See one of my sister's married her half -brother, Johnson, legally __________.

Cooke: So you lived in Newtown? That was one of the larger black communities back in the past.

Price: Yes at the time. See that's where the Hall is now.

Cooke: How many people lived in Newtown?

Price: Oh well when I was ________ right many out there.

Cooke: If you had to guess, 50 or 100?

Price: Oh no, not quite that many but I mean I had two aunts out there but neither one of them had children. Ethel Bond, and then a family, Youngs, that lived right down below the Hall there was a house there.

Cooke: Oh you're talking about...

Price: St. Luke's.

Cooke: Artfellows/St. Luke's Hall which is now a carpentry shop I believe.

Price: Yes. Ethel Lytton and somebody worked in there.

Cooke: That's how I came across the order of St. Luke. Some materials and records that they had left in the attic and when they closed it, they probably forgot it. When the owner, the guy now who assumed ownership of the place was going through the materials he came across the materials in the attic. So that's how I came across your name.

Price: Well, that's where we had out meeting, out there.

Cooke: Did you have the meeting on the top floor or the bottom floor?

Price: The top floor.

Cooke: And both the Artfellows and the St. Luke's had their meetings?

Price: And the household group you know.

Cooke: How did they use the bottom of the hall?

Price: Well at times we would have a group of dancers or something like that.

Cooke: But they never let people go on the top floor.

Price: Nuh uh.

Cooke: Was it about the same size in terms of the top floor and the bottom floor were about the same size?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: That was your private domain.

Price: Yes, that was it.

Cooke: You didn't want anybody...

Price: We did private things up there and no one else if you wasn't a member was supposed to know.

Cooke: That's right. That's obvious. Because that was a fraternal order?

Price: Uh huh.

Cooke: Tell us about the Independent Order of St. Luke? Did both men and women belong to that fraternal order?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: Was that different than most of the orders?

Price: Well, yes. Now Artfellows, nothing but men belong to that. But the household group, men and women could belong to that.

Cooke: That was kind of the auxiliary?

Price: Uh huh. Of course the St. Luke's had a ________ as juveniles who could go in there. After we got a certain age we would be transferred over to St. Luke's ________.

Cooke: Were you a member of the juvenile division?

Price: Yes. I was.

Cooke: How did that work? Did your parents say, "I'm going to pay your dues." or whatever it was?

Price: Yeah. I believe it was 35 cents or something in there. Seven of my oldest children were in the juveniles too.

Cooke: How far does your family go back to be involved in the St. Luke's order?

Price: Oh well, a long time.

Cooke: Grandparents? Or just your father?

Price: Not that I know of. My Aunt Ethel and her husband were St. Luke's. Then my mother was and my Daddy too _______________.

Cooke: One question I guess I need to tie up is when did you come to the Blacksburg area roughly? That's a rough question.

Price: It sure is. I guess around 1920's or something in there.

Cooke: 1920's huh?

Price: 1921 or something like that.

Cooke: Yeah, because you would be, around '21, you'd be six.

Price: Yeah.

Cooke: So somewhere around '21, '22, somewhere around there.

Price: Yeah, somewhere along there.

Cooke: You said your children were involved in St. Luke's so it was kind of passsed down?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: Was that true of most families involved in the Independent Order of St. Luke's?

Price: Yeah, mostly.

Cooke: What kind of services did the Independent Order of St. Luke's provide?

Price: Oh well, it wasn't that much but it was something to us. I mean they gave, if you got sick or something, they'd give you three or four dollars you know _____________.

Cooke: Sickness insurance?

Price: Sickness insurance and all and all depends on what amount policy you paid for. See that was something the Grand Council in Richmond ____________.

Cooke: Was the order of St. Luke, was it just located in Virginia or elsewhere?

Price: Elsewhere. It was in West Virginia and all over.

Cooke: All over the place?

Price: All over the place.

Cooke: We're not just talking about some small local organization that might have been started up locally by someone. This was something that was a major institution.

Price: Yes. Meg L. Walker. I guess it went down after so many of the old ______ died out they had it in Richmond at the Grand Lodge down there.

Cooke: Her name stands out because she seems very prominent.

Price: Yes.

Cooke: What kind of activity besides social - did you all have scholarships or benefits? What were some of the activities that people were engaged in?

Price: Of course you mean the efforts of St. Luke's?

Cooke: Yes.

Price: Well yes, my oldest daughter got up and won a quilt for selling the most tickets you know on a quilt, watchacallit, she selling them on the quilt and all. She got a quilt for that. She still got it, sleep under that old quilt.

Cooke: So you could win awards and...

Price: Yeah, you could do different things like that. Miss Lily Reynolds, she was one of the matrons and my aunt Ethel Vaughn was one.

Cooke: Yeah, I remember seeing Ethel Vaughn there. You keep saying that name and I see it. So these people were your relatives?

Price: Ethel Vaughn was now Lily Reynolds wasn't.

Cooke: She's connected with Pat Burger isn't she?

Price: Yeah, she raised Pat Burger. She was Pat's daddy's, I mean...

Cooke: She was a leading member of my church, same...

Price: Yes, she was.

Cooke: There's a window in our church named after her. I can visualize it.

Price: Yes. Well Miss Anise Scott, she lived where the Snells live now.

Cooke: I think she's also a member of St. Paul right?

Price: Yeah, she was. She was a member since she was ___________ too and a household group, she was.

Cooke: Was there many people who had affiliation with both groups or several groups?

Price: Uh huh, yeah.

Cooke: So there was nothing wrong with being a St. Luke and then being a Household _______ or an Artfellow.

Price: No there wasn't a thing wrong with it.

Cooke: So they weren't really competing against one another.

Price: Nuh uh, no they wasn't. _______________________.

Cooke: There was no animosity at all?

Price: No.

Cooke: We can't let you in because we know what you are and you can tell all things to the enemies, right? It wasn't that kind of mentality?

Price: No.

Cooke: That's interesting. Well let's talk about education and talk about how you were _________. What are some of the things that stand out in your mind when you were a young girl growing up in Blacksburg?

Price: (Laughs)

Cooke: That's another loaded question.

Price: The main one, my big brother was born in '24 and I'd tell him everytime I'd get outside playing with the other children, he's wake up and mother would call me in to take care of him. I told him he totally messed up my childhood.

Cooke: So you didn't have one?

Price: She say, "Christine, the baby's awake!" I'd have to go in and take care of my baby brother.

Cooke: That didn't hurt your ability to go school did it?

Price: No.

Cooke: It was just when you were home?

Price: Home, yeah, just then.

Cooke: Can you describe what it was like for a young black woman or a young black girl at that time to be going to school in this area?

Price: Well, it was alright for me because it wasn't segregated or anything at the time.

Cooke: It wasn't segregated?

Price: Not when I went, no. I walked from out there at Newtown up in here to the Middle School.

Cooke: You mean it wasn't segregated?

Price: Nuh uh. It wasn't segregated around here...I mean it WAS segregated, cause my two children were the first two that went. My son that is in Colorado and my oldest girl.

Cooke: OK, let's get this straight. You went to a segregated school.

Price: No, I didn't. No.

Cooke: You didn't?

Price: No, I just went to a little one room school up on...

Cooke: You had black and white children?

Price: No.

Cooke: Just black?

Price: Just black. There wasn't no busses or nothing. We had to walk.

Cooke: What's the name of the school? What did they call it?

Price: They just called it the Black school.

Cooke: It was just a school?

Price: Uh huh.

Cooke: How many teachers? Just one or...

Price: They had two. Cause they had the little old school house for the other grades then they build another one of the other grades, the higher grades, and had a teacher for each one.

Cooke: Now, did they go all the way from first to eleventh?

Price: No, first to the eighth I believe.

Cooke: First to the eighth? That's right they didn't have a high school.

Price: No, they didn't have a high school.

Cooke: So you'd a had to go Christiansburg, or Christiansburg Institute if you wanted to go to high school?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: How many of these people were attending the school over the years? I mean the time that you were going could you give an estimate on how many Black children went to school?

Price: Oh it was right many of them. It used to be a right many over the years I told you.

Cooke: 25-50?

Price: Oh yeah. You know Laura Annison, I know her name must be down there ______. Now she taught me when I went to school and then she come around and taught some of my children.

Cooke: Any other teachers you can think of who were here then?

Price: Mrs. Sears.

Cooke: Is that the lady related to John Sears?

Price: Uh huh.

Cooke: Or was that John Sears wife?

Price: Which one you talking about?

Cooke: You said the one who was a Sears, Mrs. Sears. Was it W. C. Sears?

Price: W.J.

Cooke: W.J. I'm sorry. Was it W.J. Sears?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: And that was his wife teaching?

Price: Uh huh.

Cooke: John Sears was the guy who operated the barber shop?

Price: Yeah, he was one of them. Then the Carroll who used to live right next door.

Cooke: What was his first name?

Price: John.

Cooke: John Carroll?

Price: Warren. Warren Carroll.

Cooke: Oh, Warren Carroll.

Price: Then it was John Warren. He lived up on Lee Street.

Cooke: Yeah, Carroll and Warren right?

Price: There used to be a whole lot of Black families. Tillman ran the cleaning shop over at VPI.

Cooke: That's right. I guess various other people too. Charles Johnson now is the...

Price: Well, Charles is over ________.

Cooke: He's in the military probably.

Price: No he's in Wake Forest. His home's down in Wake Forest. That's where he come from. Charles finished CI and then I think John Sears barber shop used to be down here on College Ave. The Warren boys, the eldest Drury, one of _______ boys, he was a barber down there.

Cooke: I didn't know that.

Price: Pete, little Pete Carroll over here and all.

Cooke: Where did they learn their trade?

Price: I guess from like the fathers.

Cooke: Did they get any help from Christiansburg Institute?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: Because they had barber training here.

Price: One of my sons took barbering over there.

Cooke: Did you go to the Christiansburg Institute?

Price: No, I didn't.

Cooke: You never did.

Price: No, I just went...Miss Nettie taught to the tenth grade and I just went up here because my youngest sister come out and at the time we had to pay taxes to drive.

Cooke: Oh, yeah. There was no county so you had to pay. That kept some people from going.

Price: No county nothing. Uh huh. The brother next to me, he started here and then I quit and after he went to West Virginia to go to the mines, that was that so it fell on me so I just kept working a little bit and sent her.

Cooke: What kind of work did you do?

Price: Housework, cook, you know for private families. White families.

Cooke: Were they connected to the university?

Price: Well, no.

Cooke: I know from talking to some people that the professors quite often had live- in maids. Were you a live-in maid?

Price: Oh no. I just had to straighten up over her on Fergus Street, just old family. Now one of the daughters was a secretary down on the campus and one was a nurse in the infirmary over there. Miss Swopes.

Cooke: So were you still living at Newtown?

Price: No, we had moved up here. My daddy bought that house right up there.

Cooke: When did you all move from Newtown to this area?

Price: I really don't remember...about six, seven years when we bought the home up here.

Cooke: So in other words about the late 1920's.

Price: Something like that.

Cooke: Do you have any idea why you left the property in Newtown?

Price: Well, it wasn't for sale.

Cooke: Oh, you were renting?

Price: Uh huh.

Cooke: Oh, so you were renting. Do you know who you were renting with?

Price: Well, it was some family named Page.

Cooke: Another Page. Are these the Page's that you were related to?

Price: Well, they were from Wake Forest.

Cooke: Oh, these Pages are from Wake Forest?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: Your father was originally from Wake Forest?

Price: Yes, my father was from Wake Forest too.

Cooke: How close were they in terms of relations to you. You were a Page.

Price: Well, I really don't know.

Cooke: Might have been cousins or something?

Price: Cousin, yes.

Cooke: So he did look around for a property to buy?

Price: Uh huh.

Cooke: Did this community have a name? Over at Gilbert Street they called it Newtown. Did they have a name for this area?

Price: No I guess not. Well, it was called Bitter Hill.

Cooke: Oh, Bitter Hill like up on Lee Street.

Price: Yes.

Cooke: Oh that's Bitter Hill. I used to live over there. I interviewed somebody else and they said Bitter Hill and it didn't register. So Lee Street that's a high hill so that well deserved the title Bitter Hill.

Price: Well, that's where...not as I know of. See when we moved it wasn't a street it was all built up ______ in there. There wasn't a street there.

Cooke: So you really didn't have great service in access to the public road?

Price: No.

Cooke: Did you all ever petition the town and say, "Why can't we have a road or something?"

Price: Yes they finally got it through.

Cooke: Did you have a petition though?

Price: Uh huh. We did.

Cooke: Do you know when that road was built?

Price: No, I don't.

Cooke: It's been a long while.

Price: Yes, it's been a good while.

Cooke: Did any whites live in this area? or near Bitter Hill?

Price: Oh yeah, sure. There was a white family that lived all down here where these fraternity homes are.

Cooke: So those were private homes?

Price: They were at times. The Martins and...

Cooke: And now they're all kind of fraternities, the fact though the fraternity _______ the university.

Price: Yes. The trailer court was over here. A few years later. And all of them were white. So we really as far as I know got along pretty good. My daughter wouldn't tell that because she had a rough time going up here to the high school.

Cooke: What daughter was that?

Price: My oldest one. I told you.

Cooke: Her name is...?

Price: Anna.

Cooke: What kind of problems did she have? Was this during desegregation?

Price: Yes. That's when, I told you, she and my little blind son now was first ones to integrate up here at Blacksburg High School.

Cooke: Your son is named...?

Price: Philip.

Cooke: What kind of problems did Anna have?

Price: Well, you know, the kids picking on her and all like that.

Cooke: Picking on her just for being a kid...

Price: For being black.

Cooke: Oh for being black.

Price: There wasn't but two black even there.

Cooke: They must have been _____.

Price: See Philip, one of the teachers, Mary Louise _______ down here, kept him back from graduating, mixing folk, he just couldn't march in, she wouldn't ____________ of marching in with his class ________.

Cooke: So Anna didn't feel that she was very comfortable being the first?

Price: Nuh uh.

Cooke: Is she still living in town?

Price: Yeah, she lives out on the county, _________ into town, Cambridge Square.

Cooke: Is she married now?

Price: No. She's not married. Not she was working for AT&T until they closed. She's not doing anything. Looking for work.

Cooke: That's interesting. I would be interested to get her experiences.

Price: (Laughing) I don't know if she would or not. She can't stand it. Of course Phil will just laugh about it.

Cooke: Did they both graduate from there?

Price: Yeah, Anna marched in with her class. But I told her just ___________ for her brother. Her youngest brother now he's King Rex of Blacksburg High. First black, and there hasn't been one since.

Cooke: He was the first black to be what?

Price: King Rex.

Cooke: What was that?

Price: King!! Crowned the king! So that was Tony. He lives out in Heathwood, he and his wife and two boys.

Cooke: That must have been some experience. Did anybody ever bother you, call your phone or make harassing calls or mail anything of that nature?

Price: No, they didn't. I mean we seemed to get along alright.

Cooke: Just the children had a little problems?

Price: Course during that time, I believe he was a Linkous, used to live right down here on the corner of Wharton and Jackson in that old house there. He used to walk up every morning to school with Phil and his sister. I mean you know it's just like some people now pick on you. I mean some of them. You haven't got as far as you think you have around these white people. They don't get much better than that, some of them. And some of them do.

Cooke: That's the truth. That's a very good point. What about the black businesses in this area? Do you recall growing up if there were any black business establishments? Did they own any stores or dancehalls? We know they had the Artfellows and the Independent Order of St. Luke...

Price: Yeah, they had that and Kid Wade did own a shoe store right down here where the Post Office is on Jackson. Years ago he owned a shoe store right in there.

Cooke: Any other Blacks have any successful businesses? What about that Sanders cleaners, do you recall that? Right near South Main. Your not familiar with that?

Price: Well, what I'm thinking about is right across from the National Bank.

Cooke: Yeah, that's it.

Price: Well it belongs to the Warrens I guess, it did. But I can't remember...the only time I remember anything is Mary Taylor running the cleaning shop on campus. I know that building used to belong to the Warrens. It did, I don't know _______________.

Cooke: I just don't know. Any other business, black cab companies or black restaurants?

Price: No. Well there was a couple of black cabs. My husband drove a cab and his brother that lived up there, he drove a cab. There was only two black cabs.

Cooke: That was Leonard Price and his...

Price: And James.

Cooke: James Price.

Price: They called him "Chippy". Rett and Chippy.

Cooke: Who was which?

Price: My husband was Rett.

Cooke: I remember seeing that somewhere. Chippy was his brother. They worked part-time operating cabs?

Price: Yeah.

Cooke: Do you know when they were doing this?

Price: Well, Chippy did it up until he died. He was driving a cab when he died. But Leonard gave it up. He retired from the electric check-out here on the road. When he was working for the girls dorm on VPI he drove a cab.

Cooke: Was that Hillcrest?

Price: Uh huh. Then he stopped that and went over to the electric check-out.

Cooke: I don't believe Hillcrest today is a girl's dorm. Just making it for the record. At one time Hillcrest was a girl's dorm but I don't believe it is today.

Price: I don't think so, no.

Cooke: Any other black businesses that you can think of? Or fraternal organizations?

Price: No.

Cooke: Were there any dance clubs? I remember talking to one person, do you know an Aubrey Mills? Did they ever operate a dance hall or something?

Price: Yes. I don't if it was Aubrey or who but it...

Cooke: Was it on Penn Street somewhere?

Price: Yeah, on Clay and Penn. Used to call it Moonglow I believe.

Cooke: What did they do at Moonglow or did you even go.

Price: I didn't go that much.

Cooke: You stayed away from moon glow.

Price: I never was one, I never cared much about dancing or nothing.

Cooke: Moonglow.

Price: I think that's what. I think Sears and Richard Christian owned one down in Nellie's Cave, ran one down that way.

Cooke: They did?

Price: Uh huh. WJ Sears, Jr.

Cooke: WJ Sears, Jr. operated it.

Price: Well I think he and uh...

Cooke: Did he live in Nellie's Cave or he just operated it?

Price: He just operated it.

Cooke: Because he lived in this area?

End of Tape 1, Side 1

{ Tape 1, Side 1 - Tape 1, Side 2 }

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