Surviving the Great Depression in Polk County: Fannie Roddy

Published 10:22 pm Thursday, August 27, 2015

By Robin A. Edgar

Fannie Roddy was born 1927 on a farm on Coxe Road. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth Hauser, from Rutherford County and her father, Creyton Roddy, who grew up on John Watson Road in Polk County moved to the farm after they were married. The farm belonged to Fannie’s mother’s parents but they lived on Green River Plantation, where Grandfather Hauser worked as the overseer until he died of a brain tumor in 1932.


“We moved in with Grandmother Hauser on the Green River Plantation when I was five and my brother, Albert, was nine. The house had three bedrooms a kitchen, a sitting room, a back porch, and a big front porch. I slept on a cot in the bedroom with mother and daddy. There was a telephone on the wall that we could use to call anywhere in Rutherfordton but we didn’t have power until 1940 so we used a large kerosene lamp called an Aladdin Lamp. Miss Maude Coxe, who owned the plantation, was rich but she did not fix up the rental houses so our bathroom was an outhouse.


“Dad planted corn for himself and paid rent to Miss Maude.  There were several black people that worked for her chopping wood, keeping the house fires going, tending the flower garden and mowing the lawn with a push mower. There were also two black women, Mamie and Sarah, who cooked for her and took care of the big house. Fletcher Twitty was a butler when she had company and Lizzie Staley and her husband lived over the kitchen.


“I started school when I was seven at the school in Green Creek. We carried lunch to school, usually peanut butter and crackers.  Mrs. Richter’s class in the third grade was so full they brought in a teacher, Miss Jettie Wilkins, from Green River and I moved into her class. She was a wonderful teacher.


“They let us out of school for about a month in the fall to pick cotton. We had a large vegetable garden and cows, pigs, and chickens and I had a lot of chores when I got home from school. I had to draw water and carry in wood for the wood stove in the kitchen. I had to help can green beans, vegetable soup, and peaches. Mother joined the Women’s Home Demonstration Ladies Club of the NC State University Co-operative Extension and learned how to preserve with a pressure cooker.


“Back then, we didn’t have much money, but we always had plenty to eat. If a neighbor got in a bad way, we would bring them food. People who lived in the mill village really suffered.


“My parents bought us shoes in Rutherfordton at Dalton General Store. We also went to Stamey’s Department store, which had an upstairs and had about anything you needed. My folks always made sure we had something from Santa Claus. One year, I got a doll that my mother made a dress for. Miss Maude always would give a gift to everyone on the place, too.


“We played with other children on the plantation. Right behind the house was the Green River where would swim in the summer. Friends would come over to listen to the “Lum and Abner” or music programs on our Philco radio. My Uncle Jim and Aunt Wilma Hauser and their son Jimmy lived across the road from us.  Uncle Jim was Miss Maude’s chauffer and he would take all of us to the theatre in Rutherfordton to see movies like “Gone with the Wind.”


“When we could afford the gas for our 1929 black Ford A-model, we went to the Green Creek Baptist on Coxe Road where N. A. Melton was the pastor. Miss Maude had an Episcopal church at the back of her house with services on Sunday evenings, so we went there sometimes, too.”

COLUMNPersonalLegacies8.28 Fannie Roddy with her doll


When Fannie graduated high school in 1947, she took a job sewing pockets on men’s shirts at Doncaster Collar and Shirt Company in Rutherfordton. After taxes and insurance she made $18 a week.  After that, she went to work at the Spartanburg Drayton Mill. She never married and stayed active in Green Creek Baptist Church.  Her advice for future generations is to go to church and live right, and her keys to survival are that if a neighbor got in a bad way, bring them food.


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