Bob Potter

Interviewer: Thomas Elmore Lacy

Person interviewed: Bob Potter, Russellville, Arkansas

Age: 65

"Sure, you oughter remember me--Bob Potter. Used to know you when you

was a boy passin' de house every day go in' down to de old Democrat

printin' office. Knowed yo' brother and all yo' folks. Knowed yo' pappy

mighty well. Is yo' ma and pa livin' now? No suh, I reckin not.

"I was born de seventeenth of September, 1873 right here in

Russellville. Daddy's name was Dick, and mudder's was Ann Potter. Daddy

died before I was born, and I never seed him. Mudder's been dead about

eighteen years. Dey master was named Hale, and he lived up around Dover

somewheres on his farm, but I dunno how dey come by de name Potter.

Well, now, lemme see--oh, yes, dey was freed at Dover after dey come

dere from North Ca'liny. I think my ma was born in West Virginia, and

den dey went to North Ca'liny and den to South Ca'liny, and den come to


"I raised seven boys and lost five chillen. Dere was three girls and

nine boys. All dat's livin' is here except one in Fresno, California. My

old woman here, she tells fortunes for de white folks and belongs to de

Holiness church but I don't belong to none; I let her look after de

religion for de fambly." (Interjection from Mrs. Potter: "Yes suh, you

bet I belongs to de Holiness chu'ch. You got to walk in de light to be

saved, and if you do walk in de light you can't sin. I been saved for a

good many yeahs and am goin' on in de faith. Praise de Lawd!")

"My mudder was sold once for a hundud dollahs and once ag'in for

thirty-eight hundud dollahs. Perhaps dis was jist before dey left West

Virginia and was shipped to North Ca'liny. De master put her upon a box,

she said, made her jump up and pop her heels together three times and

den turn around and pop her heels again to show how strong she was. She

sure was strong and a hard worker. She could cut wood, tote logs, plow,

hoe cotton, and do ever'thing on de place, and lived to be about

ninety-five yeahs old. Yas suh, she was as old or older dan Aunt Joan is

when she died.

"No suh, I used to vote but I quit votin', for votin' never did git me

nothin'; I quit two yeahs ago. You see, my politics didn't suit em.

Maybe I shouldn't be tellin' you but I was a Socialist, and I was

runnin' a mine and wo'kin' fifteen men, and dey was all Socialists, and

de Republicans and Democrats sure put me out of business--dey put me to

de bad.

"Dat was about twelve yeahs ago when I run de mine. I been tryin' to git

me a pension but maybe dat's one reason I can't git it. Oh yes, I owns

my home--dat is, I did own it, but----

"Oh Lawd, yes, I knows a lot of dem old songs like 'Let Our Light

Shine,' and 'De Good Old Gospel Way,' and 'Hark From de Tomb.' Listen,

you oughter hear Elder Beam sing dat one. He's de pastor of de Baptis'

Chu'ch at Fort Smith. He can sure make it ring!

"De young folks of today compa'ed to dem when we was boys? Huh! You jist

can't compaih em--can't be done. Why, a fo'-yeah-old young'un knows mo'

today dan our grandmammies knowed. And in dem days de boys and gals

could go out and play and swing togedder and behave deyselves. We went

in our shu'ttails and hit was all right; we had two shu'ts to weah--one

for every day and one for Sunday--and went in our shu'ttails both every

day and Sunday and was respected. And if you didn't behave you sure got

whupped. Dey didn't put dey arms around you and hug you and den put you

off to sleep. Dey whupped you, and it was real whuppin'.

"Used to hear my mudder talk about de Ku Klux Klan puttin' cotton

between her toes and whuppin' her, and dat's de way dey done us

young'uns when we didn't behave. And we used to have manners den, both

whites and blacks. I wish times was like dem days, but dey's gone.

"Yes, we used to have our tasks to do befo' goin' to bed. We'd have a

little basket of cotton and had to pick de seeds all out of dat cotton

befo' we went to bed. And we could all ca'd and spin--yes suh--make dat

old spinnin' wheel go Z-z-z-z as you walked back and fo'f a-drawin' out

de spool of ya'n. And you could weave cloth and make all yo' own

britches, too. (Here his wife interpolated a homely illustration of the

movement of "de shettle" in the loom weaving--ed.)

"Yes, I mind my mudder tellin' many a time about dem Klan-men, and how

dey whupped white women to make em give up de money dey had hid, and how

dey used to burn dey feet. Yes suh, ain't no times like dem old days,

and I wish we had times like em now. Yes suh, I'll sure come to see you

in town one of dese days. Good mornin'."

NOTE: Bob Potter is a most interesting Negro character--one of the most

genial personalities of the Old South that the interviewer has met

anywhere. His humor is infectious, his voice boisterous, but delightful,

and his uproarious laugh just such as one delights to listen to. And his

narrations seem to ring with veracity.

Bob Maynard Bob Samuels facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail