Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 2

The Archives recently digitized over two dozen oral history cassette tapes to improve access to our collections as part of the three-year, campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community grant at Davidson College. This decision also helps ensure the long-term viability of these unique narratives so critical for understanding change in our local communities.

With accessibility in mind, we then sent several of the digitized recordings to the Audio Transcription Center – making these interviews both browsable and screen-reader compatible.  While editing the transcripts for accuracy and spelling errors, we identified multiple connecting themes and topics. One of these subjects featured prominently in all five interviews – the evolving character of downtown Davidson.

In this second post, we will highlight how three of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses, churches, and neighborhoods near downtown Davidson between the early 1930s and early 2000s. You will find excerpts from their interviews alongside other archival materials related to each topic.

Our first narrator, Margaret Potts, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark, and local recreational facilities. Our second narrator, Mildred Workman, sheds light on downtown businesses and dining practices. Lastly, our third narrator, Mildred Thompson, discusses the Brady’s Alley fire which devastated several African American families in Davidson, NC shortly after World War II.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 154: Interview with Margaret Potts, January 2, 2001

Black and white image of the front of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Image of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Interviewer: How did you end up at the Sunday school [at the mill chapel]? 

Margaret Potts: Well I was teaching Sunday school in Davidson Presbyterian Church, early.  They wanted me to have the little ones, the two in, whatever hours it was, babysitting more than anything else, in the old church.  It was a terrible place to have little children.  But anyway, so just through the years, I would teach Sunday school and do things like that, whatever needed to be done.  And so, some of the students, some real good students here at Davidson took on the mill project.  And they got anybody that they could get to go and help there.  And of course, I knew a lot of the people over there, so I was willing to help.  (laughter) And until I went off to go to college, and then I had to stop doing that.  [Page 26]

On recreation in Davidson:

Davidsonian article from 1920 stating: "The Mill Sunday School is quite elated over the new playground equipment provided by Dr. Munroe and his associates. A considerable quantity of open-air gymnasium equipment, such as is found in city parks, has been received. The apparatus consists of swing."
April 29, 1920 Davidsonian article discussing the construction of a gymnasium for mill children.
Margaret Potts: Well, I liked the track meets; oh I loved the track meets.  I didn’t miss a single one of those.  And in the summertime, we used to come out, and [00:49:00] they would let us -- not complain, if we played.  We never did anything terrible.  But on this very spot, right here, where this library is, they had this tremendous jungle gym for adults.  And what, where they got that, I don’t know whose idea it was to put that thing together.  It was metal, big metal things, put together, and it had a ladder that went up two stories and it went all the way across.  Now this is was when I was a child.  It had -- was hanging down, and a place for you to sit, and you could swing back and forth.  It had the most interesting jungle gym I’ve ever seen.  They let us play on that.  We used to spend hours over here.  I think the -- [00:50:00] what was behind?  The gym was behind it.  And it was in front of the gym.

On Dining in Davidson:

AUDIO 158: Interview with Mildred Workman, January 11, 2001

September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
Mildred Workman: Absolutely no place.   
Interviewer: No place? 
Mildred Workman: No.  There was a little place called the Coffee Cup down on -- what’s the street where Jasper’s is? 
Interviewer: Depot. 
Mildred Workman: Depot.  Down on Depot Street.  It was just kind of a little greasy spoon.  You could get decent breakfast there.  But I remember when we moved in -- we moved in as I recall on Saturday.  And we inquired where we could go for Sunday lunch of the C.K. Browns, and they said, well, there really was not anywhere.  You must come to The Browns and have Sunday dinner.  And there was no place near around to go.  You had to go to Charlotte.  And there wasn’t much in Charlotte.

On the Brady’s Alley Fire of 1949:

AUDIO 159: Interview with Mildred Thompson, January 17, 2001

Photograph of the Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Interviewer: I know.  Asking about, or mentioning Carl reminds me, do you remember a fire in 1949 in Brady’s Alley, (inaudible) – 

Mildred Thompson: Oh, yeah, I sure do.  I remember that like it was yesterday.  Carl was the minister, and Carl was the one that, I’m not positive about this, but I’m pretty sure, he’s the one that started that children’s sermon before church, you know, that called the children down.  I think he started that, because I can remember him seeing him come down out of the pulpit, and the little children would just listen, and they’d turn around and say to their parents, “Is that true?  Is that true?”  When Carl was telling the story.  

But anyway, about that, it was almost time for church to be over, and this fire started, and the fire was just blowing, blowing.  And of course, everybody was apprehensive, “Where is it?”  Well anyway, it was down in that alley; that was pathetic.  Those people, I don’t know where they had water, I don’t know what they had, but what they had was pretty bad.  And so Carl, after that he went down there and he investigated everything, and he told, he got in the church, and he said, “I refuse to preach in a church where the shadow of the church falls on poverty.”  Honey, that afternoon, he took the young people around, it was terrible.  Honey, he really turned this place around. [Page 9 -10]

Each of the five interviews featured in this two-part series are more than one hour long, meaning the vignettes you have read represent only a small part of these individuals’ stories. Now that researchers will be able to keyword search our newly produced transcripts, we hope others will have easier access to these rich narratives.

For more information about any of these resources, contact us at archives@davidson.edu.

Works Cited:

Potts, Margaret. Interview by the Davidson College Archives. January 2, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 154. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Workman, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 11, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 158. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Thompson, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 17, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 159. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

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