Oral History

Janie Alston - On what she likes about her neighborhood (clip)

Interviewed by Hudson Vaughan and Alex Biggers on April 20, 2011

HV: What do you think, like, stands out most about, like, what do you like most about your home?

JA: Because I grew up here, and I grew up in the area. See, my kids don't have any connection, because they grew up in Connecticut. But, you know, we could walk – I'd come by here every morning and wait for my brother, and he would sit in here, watching TV, until the last minute, and then we could hear the bell ring from Northside. Man, we would have to run, all the way to the school, you know, and it was just so close! In the evening, we would sit here, and put the TV, have the doors open, TV out there, and, in that time, not a lot of people had TVs. My grandmother didn't have one at first, my mother had a TV. And a lot of people would come by, and they'd stop out there – kids, and, you know, watch TV, you know. And a lot of the guys were hanging down on the rock wall.

HV: Now where is the rock wall exactly?

JA: The rock wall is right in front of my – 400 McDade Street.

HV: Lilly Mae Patterson's.

JA: Right. That's my aunt-in-law, I married her nephew.

HV: Okay, I thought that was it. Nate Davis was debating me on that, he said it's the one up on Caldwell Street.

JA: No, that's, that's the rock wall right there.

HV: That's where the sit-ins were planned! That's where Harold Foster and those guys gathered and they planned the sit-ins!

JA: Right, right, right down on rock wall. And Harold Foster was brilliant.

HV: So a lot of the things that, a lot of the reasons that you love this home is associated with just how close-knit the community and family were around here.

JA: Yeah, it was home. Everybody knew everybody. You know, you could, if you went to school and you did something, we even got paddled in school. You know you go to the principle and he (JA makes a smacking noise) smacking me, Mr. Peace is the principal. He was my cousin, but it didn't matter. And, if you did something in school, by the time you came home your mom knew it, because they would call and tell them. Or if you did something wrong, somebody, anybody would -

AB: tell anyone.

JA: - chastise your child, you know make them do right, tell them, you know, you don't have anybody that's doing that? Don't do this, don't do that, you know. And you had the same teachers that you had at church, you know. And everybody knew everybody, you know. You left your doors open, you know. It was a peaceful place to be.

AB: Did you say, I was reading that, was your sister a teacher

JA: Rubie was a schoolteacher, yes.

AB: Where was she a teacher?

JA: In Chillicothe, Ohio.

HV: So yeah, we read that your family, a lot of the folks spread out all over the country.

JA: Yeah, they did, yep.

HV: You said you were here until 16, but that means you were here for the 60's, when you would have been young, but when a lot of the Civil Rights, the sit-ins and marches.

JA: Yes, I was. I remember Sutton's drug store, picketing, that's why I left, one of them left, said “I never could live back here.” Yeah, I remember sit-ins, walk-ins, and people spitting on you. Going to Carrboro, just to games, people come out and shoot at you, shoot up in the air.

HV: Albert Williams says that, they called it reddish Carrboro, because it was so dangerous, people did not go into Carrboro, because of the KKK.

JA: Yeah, and I remember one time I did see a KKK. They came to town, and we weren't supposed to be in the house. And Peaches and I snuck up the corner, because they burned a cross, right now, right where that building is.

HV: Which building?

JA: Right down the corner, where they built that tall building. Greenbridge. Right across from, Tate's over here, there was a house there, and they burned a cross right there. And we were peeping through the bushes to see.

HV: How did you, I mean, did y'all were y'all already wandering around, or did you hear something was going on?

JA: No, we knew it was going on, so we went to go and see it, so we snuck up there and peeked. And we saw it.

AB: Did you know a lot of thepeople involved in the sit-ins and stuff, or, in your family?

JA: Oh yeah, we knew, see when we were coming, there were so, not that many of us. You knew everybody in town, you knew everybody in the school, you know, because there wasn't that many of us. We stayed on this side of Franklin Street, you know, this was Park's Field, that was Sunset. That was it.

HV: Y'all had some competition between the two, didn't you? Sports competitions?

JA: Yeah, sort of, but mainly, you know, I didn't really know a lot of people from Sunset, because I was right here. Mainly the people I knew would be, if you were in my class, way ahead of me or way behind me, or you went to my church. And in the summer, in the month of August, at that time we didn't have a pool, for blacks. So, we would have to go to Raleigh, to the center.

Janie Alston - On what she likes about her neighborhood (clip)

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Oral history interview of Alston, Janie conducted by Vaughan, Hudson on April 20, 2011 at Home of Janie Alston, Chapel Hill, NC.

Citation: Marian Cheek Jackson Center, “Janie Alston - On what she likes about her neighborhood (clip),” From the Rock Wall, accessed June 13, 2024, https://fromtherockwall.org/oral-histories/janie-alston-on-what-she-likes-about-her-neighborhood-clip.

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