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An interview with
Miss Sara Jane Craig
April 21, 1977
Interviewed by Mrs. Frances M. Oberschmidt
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Lincoln-Lawrence-Franklin Regional Library
Oral History Project
Brookhaven and Vicinity
[Miss Craig was the Home Economist for Lincoln County for 35 years. She discusses Extension work, canning, and mattress making. She passed away in 1978.]
OBERSCHMIDT: Miss Craig, you say you came to Lincoln County in 1930? What was the condition of things around in Lincoln County as to your work?
CRAIG: I followed a very capable Home Agent, Miss Hatten, who married and was Mrs. Butler. I came to a county that had a very efficient County Agent, Charlie Ashford, who stayed here about three years while I was here. I did not have any Home Demonstration Clubs in the county, but there was an excellent 4-H Club organization moving with the help of many adult leaders and certainly, Mr. Ashford was an excellent youth worker. I feel that perhaps those years that when we did that 4-H Club work, we made many contacts with the families of our 4-H Club people. And we immediately began the organization – or perhaps I should say the re-organization, because there had been Home Demonstration Clubs, and I don’t know whether I’m supposed to say this or not, but perhaps the thing that I am proudest of is, one year (and I can’t remember the year) the women in Lincoln County presented me with a plaque and I believe there were twenty Home Demonstration Clubs there. And if you think a woman can’t keep a secret, I am going to tell you that they had purchased a very elaborate plaque that I’m very proud of and I had no idea it was even being thought of until that day that every Home Demonstration Club in the county had a representative there and they presented me with this plaque which I would like to show you.
OBERSCHMIDT: I’m sure you deserved it. Did you have an assistant 4-H Club worker then or how long was it before you had one?
CRAIG: We were perhaps the first county in the district to get an assistant county agent and at that time, she was a Home Agent: she was not employed by the county. The state sent her in here, but shortly after she was in here, the County Board did employ an assistant Home Agent. That was perhaps in 1942 or ’43. I had a great deal of help from the Chamber of Commerce. I can’t type and I can’t play the piano and I never tried to type. The Board of Supervisors – I mean the County Chamber of Commerce employed the first secretary that I had and they paid her with Chamber of Commerce money I suppose. Mr. Jay McGrath and Mr. Higdon and several people. Mr. Virgil Youngblood – I think I ought to say right here that in our 4-H Club work, we had the strongest support from Mr. Virgil Youngblood. He served on the State Board – the Advisory Council – and in this county Miss Minnie Dickerson was the first President of the Advisory Council. That Council has grown a great deal since those days.
OBERSCHMIDT: It shows that you deserve a lot. Did quite a bit with the young people for the Chamber of Commerce to employ this assistant. Who was she?
CRAIG: The first secretary I think was Geraldine McKee who has gone from here. She lives in Atlanta, I believe.
OBERSCHMIDT: Was there an agent before you?
CRAIG: Lincoln County had the first Home Demonstration agent in the state and there were two of them who worked. One was Miss Renfro, Miss Fanny Renfro, and the other one was Miss Mattie Furr. They did strictly canning and I think largely tomatoes canning. They used the old type canner and they had to use some sort of wax to seal the cans. I never used that. By the time I moved into the canning situation, it was largely beef that I canned. And if I have anything that stands out in my mind, it is that beef canning season that we went through. You know beef just didn’t bring much on the market. Cows were selling for very little and we just canned beef after beef. The Board of Supervisors co-operated. Perhaps I ought to say that through the years I’ve been here, I’ve always had perfect co-operation from the Board of Supervisors, except once in the depression years when there was an attempt made to cut county expenses, and in fact, included cutting off the extension department. But it was never personal and the Board of Supervisors bought four canners with sealers. I don’t think the public today would even know what those things are, but we canned all over the county, and Pearl Reeve worked in the office with me and I would like to pay tribute to Pearl because at that time I had a tragedy in my life and was gone and Pearl was a big help in the work that we did in the office.
OBERSCHMIDT: She kept the office going while you were away?
CRAIG: She did a lot toward keeping everything going.
OBERSCHMIDT: Was there anyone ahead of that, any agent in between Miss Renfro and Miss Furr?
CRAIG: Constantly. A Miss Wiseman served here and Miss Hatten served here and Miss Eva Leggett served here. Miss Eva Leggett still comes, I think, to see the Burns at certain times. She and her brother both worked with the extension here and I believe they were quite interested in Mr. Burns – now, not Frank, Mr. Leon – in getting started in the nursery work.
OBERSCHMIDT: It’s gone into a great organization there in that nursery. Was there a Miss Kirk? Somewhere in my mind there was a Miss Kirk.
CRAIG: She worked with the Extension Department as the marketing specialist and so did one of the Hardys--she was a Mrs. Somebody, but that was before my day. When I came to the county, we had a contract with an Atlanta gift shop in one of the hotels that bought all the pine needle baskets that we could afford. Mrs. Nygaard and Mrs. Helen Ripley made pine needle baskets. Mrs. Ripley was a strong supporter of Extension work and Mrs. Nygaard – who, incidentally, still owns her land here in this county though she doesn’t live here – also made fig preserves that we sold to the Pullman people. After a while they decided that they could buy commercial preserves cheaper. We lost our contract with the Pullman people but for years we did send the fig preserves to the Pullman people.
OBERSCHMIDT: I remember as a child there was a Miss Kirk and Mrs. Ripley that had the 4-H Club. I joined it and I learned to make baskets, but I wasn’t very adept with it. That was before your time, too.
CRAIG: Yes, it was and possibly Miss Kirk was a Home Agent. There was never a time when Lincoln County didn’t have a Home Agent after that first period.
OBERSCHMIDT: They saw the need of it. Lincoln County has been very broad in the things that they have worked with – the Supervisors and all – in keeping Lincoln County more modern. I had to talk to Mr. James Price, County Agent, and he told me how wonderful the supervisors supported him, the health work, and your work.
CRAIG: I think perhaps you’d like to know this. Of course, we had no rural electric lines when I came to the county – not that it had any connection with me – but then, the first letters that went out for organizing an REA went out from this extension office. We met at the City Hall. The Farm Security, which is now the Farm Home Administration – Mr. Ashford, was County Agent. Mr. Ashford was at home because his father was dying and I went to see the three men who became the supervisors of the Farm Security work. That was Mr. Smith – Roddy Smith who still is active – and Mr. Hollis Willoughby and Mr. Pearl Summers – both of those are deceased. And we met with Mr. Clifton Clark and I believe a state supervisor and a Mr. Chance who was working here. That was the beginning of the Farm Security.
OBERSCHMIDT: Didn’t – wasn’t’ that organized soon after you came? It seems I remembered it.
CRAIG: Well, it was after the Depression. I would guess it was in, nearer the late 30’s – ’37 or ’38. The Depression really didn’t begin, I don’t think – well, about the time, a little while before the banks closed. That would have been in Roosevelt’s term.
OBERSCHMIDT: It seems to me, observing the Depression, it was in the paper all the time that the crash was in 1929, but it seemed to me that Lincoln County did not feel it until around 1932.
DRAIG: I think that’s right. I think that’s right. The first indication that – the first time I ever really saw it, they came in here with a thing that if I remember was the FERA – that was the Federal Emergency – and the Board of Supervisors insisted that I take it over and State College released me for a month or two. The area I worked in was Mount Pleasant and the Dinkman Lumber Company had closed and the people there had not prepared themselves – as very few people do – for the thing that was coming. And of course there was no Social Security or any of those things and there really was real want in that territory. I visited with intelligent, I would say really very, very nice people who really didn’t have any money. I mean they had no source of income at all.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did that FERA - didn’t it develop into NERA?
CRAIG: It developed into WPA. It developed first into PWA and went on for a number of years and I think did a very good service in this county.
OBERSCHMIDT: It helped keep people from starving.
CRAIG: I think it helped. I’ve always thought it helped and we – the one thing I would like to say is that I have met with such extreme kindness in Lincoln County. It’s given me far more than I ever gave to them, but I have loved Lincoln County people and received many, many favors at their hands.
OBERSCHMIDT: They love you and you deserve it because I don’t know of anybody that has done more for young people that you have. I’ve been told that you even educated some young people.
CRAIG: We have helped with the young people and all of them have been a credit. I would not like to call their names because they might not want them called, but I would say this much, every one of them have been a credit to us.
OBERSCHMIDT: That’s good because sometimes they don’t appreciate it.
CRAIG: I have heard that, but we certainly have not experienced it.
OBERSCHMIDT: You say “we.”
CRAIG: Miss Huff lives with me. Miss Huff and I own a home together and she helped me with the young people that we worked with.
OBERSCHMIDT: She was a nurse.
CRAIG: Miss Huff was a nurse until she retired and put in a little shop downtown.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then she sold that.
CRAIG: Yes and she is completely retired now and she stays in here half of the time and stays out at Topisaw half of the time. That’s where her home is.
OBERSCHMIDT: With her family?
CRAIG: Yes, her mother and father are both deceased and she stays with her two sisters out there.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you have any kind of connection with the County Health Office?
CRAIG: We lived – we had the same building and the Health Department people were very closely related to us. And Dr. W. R. May, who was the Health Officer for my entire time that I was there was a close personal friend of mine. He helped set up the Health Improvement thing that was used. Well, I should say the Health Improvement plan that was used throughout the state. He said, “Why should you pick out the healthiest girls? Why don’t we have a program on health improvement? People who have made the most improvement in their health?” The first health winner we had in this county is now a Home Economist with the Brookhaven High School – I’m not sure exactly what she is – which program she worked with now. She was Elsie Smith, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Nick Ed Smith; presently, she is Mrs. L. H. Graves.
OBERSCHMIDT: In which – in what way did he set up the program? You say that the state followed it.
CRAIG: Well, we just presented it to the Health Specialist at Mississippi State and she was very impressed with it and they kept a record of their improvement. It also included personality improvement and grooming and that sort of thing. Dr. May was quite interested in it. I think they still carry it on. I’m not sure.
OBERSCHMIDT: It seems to me, Dr. May would go out in the communities and make examinations, give examinations to small children, even pre-school age. Was that true?
CRAIG: I think so and he did go out. I remember one time that we had a run on trying to get children’s tonsils that needed to come out. I don’t know whether it’s even the thing to do now, but Dr. May had a clinic – a health clinic for the women, the Home Demonstration women, and he had said to me that there were several lives – he’s even called the names of some women who went in there for examination – physical examinations. We had them at the hospital at that time – it was the old hospital. Those clinics were in the basement. I remember one woman asked Dr. May if it was alright for her son to drink a half gallon of milk a day. He said, “Well, the half gallon of milk might not hurt him, but he needed some foods, too. How was he going to eat some more food?” Dr. May was very frank and open in what he said. But I think that clinic did a great deal to get women conscious and I think maybe women now are more conscious of the need of physical examinations.
OBERSCHMIDT: That’s true. I imagine transportation and the lack of money had a lot to do with their not caring for themselves as they do now.
CRAIG: And Dr. May of course received no compensation from the women for that work.
OBERSCHMIDT: No, that was just over and above…
CRAIG: He worked all those days and he gave everybody that would take it what you call a pap smear now. Some women wouldn’t have it. They would have the other part, but they wouldn’t have that.
OBERSCHMIDT: Too timid? Possibly. Well now, coming on to, with Mr. Price and the county work – you say you all cooperated. In what way did you do that?
CRAIG: Well now, you know when we had the cotton program, I went out to the school with – to help sign up on the cotton program. Incidentally, we didn’t have lights at that time and we worked with coal oil lamps and lots of people had what they called ad—ad---
OBERSCHMIDT: Aladdin lights?
CRAIG: Aladdin lamp and they gave a real good light.
OBERSCHMIDT: You’ve seen a lot of changes in Lincoln County, haven’t you?
CRAIG: Yes, and I think the thing that’s been remarkable about Lincoln County is that the people who got money – oil money – and there was a good bit of that came into the county – spent it very wisely. I think our churches have shown much improvement. A great many of the rural churches now have excellent facilities for having programs like a banquet, and I think that the homes, the people, of course people bought cars. They needed cars. But I think they did an awful lot of home improvement too. I could say that if I had one aim as a Home Agent and I may not have done it very well, I tried to emphasize more than anything else and I think Lincoln County women have done a good job.
OBERSCHMIDT: I think that’s largely due to you because I remember being in the clubs and that was always a part of the program – was on home management.
CRAIG: I think if any woman in Lincoln County ever loses her land by just giving it away under stress and all, she can’t blame me because over and over I have said, “Keep what is yours as long as you possibly can.”
OBERSCHMIDT: That’s a very wise thing to do. I can remember as a child that you could spot a country woman at least as far as you could see.
CRAIG: That’s changed.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now, what about it?
CRAIG: No, I don’t think that’s true at all. The thing that has changed so much too is that everybody buys their milk and eggs in town. At that time, people had their chickens and their cows. I don’t know – they had a pretty happy time with them, too. The thing that I told my mother when I went home from Lincoln County is, “I think the women work too hard.” Then I saw the appreciation that their boys and girls gave to them and the war came on you know, and the boys went to war and I saw the letters they wrote their mothers; so I think maybe they didn’t work too hard. And anyhow, my mother said, “The men are working just as hard. They’re working in the field.”
OBERSCHMIDT: Don’t you think that is kind of with the change of times? I can remember seeing women even plowing in the fields, but then the Stahl-Urban Factory came along and the women started working there. And in my life, with my husband having a store, the first thing that they would get would be a deep freeze and a washing machine. Then the next think you’d know, they’d have butane gas and they would insulate the house, and the next thing you’d know, they would have a more lovely home – possibly brick or anything. It just thrills me to death to go over the county and see all the lovely homes now.
CRAIG: I think that’s what I was trying to say just then, that our people seemed to have put their money to good use. The churches have certainly flourished.
OBERSCHMIDT: Yes, they have. We have some lovely people in Lincoln County.
CRAIG: I remember one thing. Dr. May asked me when – it doesn’t seem possible, but it is true that he was here when we did the first polio drive – and he called, came in my office, and he said, “Now Sara, I think I have got everything set up but these two communities and if you can’t get them set up, they just won’t be set up.” So I said, “Well, I feel sure that I can.” And we did get them set up and we did help with the drive. The Home Demonstration women helped with that sugar deal. Do you remember when they did that?
OBERSCHMIDT: Yes, I do. Back to Dr. May and you helping with the county work. Lincoln County was one of the highest percent of – well, I don’t know how to express it – worm infestation.
CRAIG: Hook worm.
OBERSCHMIDT: Hook worm and tape worm and all. Did you help any with that program?
CRAIG: No, I didn’t do anything at all about that. They had worked out that hookworm deal. I think we had a neighboring county that had more infestation than we did, but we had our share of it. But the hookworm drive was over before I got here.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, it was really well taken care of.
CRAIG: Yes. Dr. May was an excellent Health Officer.
OBERSCHMIDT: Yes, he was.
CRAIG: I remember Mr. Red Oswalt, who was with the State Health Department, came in my office on a very, very rainy day and he said, “Now, if you don’t get any help with this Cancer Drive, we won’t have it in Lincoln County. I have worn myself out trying to get somebody.” And I called Mrs. Maurice Reeves – who is also deceased – but she was President of the Home Demonstration Council, and I asked her would she let the council take over the Cancer Drive? She said that she would do her best, that was all anybody could do, and I believe, until the time I left work that every Home Demonstration Club in this county made a contribution to the Cancer Drive. I personally am still quite interested in the Cancer Drive though I have no connection with it in the county.
OBERSCHMIDT: Didn’t the demonstration office – the agent – Home Economist, didn’t she help put on a drive with Dr. May to have tests there in the office?
CRAIG: Oh yes, and he was very co-operative.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did they have the blood pressure test?
CRAIG: No, no.
OBERSCHMIDT: When you were there or after you left?
CRAIG: No, they do a lot of things in the Health Department. Now they have so much personnel.
OBERSCHMIDT: Yes, they do.
CRAIG: And I think they are very efficient.
OBERSCHMIDT: I had an interview with them and it’s amazing what they’re doing, what they are accomplishing. Back to your home management. Now, how did you go about putting this program over with the rural women?
CRAIG: I’m not sure I put it over; I just worked hard to do it, mostly with talking. Of course, we had literature from Mississippi State College.
OBERSCHMIDT: You did work through the Extension department there?
CRAIG: Yes, oh yes.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did they work up these programs for you to follow? Or…
CRAIG: To a certain degree they surely did.
OBERSCHMIDT: And if they suited your situation, you used it. You didn’t have to use it though.
CRAIG: The only time I balked was they sent a program down here on family relations and I wrote them I believe that just an old maid was not up to that and I didn’t do it.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did that precede the birth control pill or…
CRAIG: No, I was long gone when the birth control pill came out. I don’t suppose that is over five (5) or six (6) years old, is it?
OBERSCHMIDT: No, I don’t believe it is. That must have been – they realized that there were too many children and they were trying to educate them to the need of family planning.
CRAIG: I did not do any family planning. I told State College that I simply was capable of that.
OBERSCHMIDT: Well, it takes somebody with a whole lot of know-how to put it over.
CRAIG: Yes, I can say this. That in the programs that we had, I never heard a mother say anything but that her children were good. And mamas would tell me, “My child tells me everything.” My reply was, “I didn’t tell my mama everything.”
OBERSCHMIDT: I don’t think any of us do, but it’s nice for them to think it and trust them. Something else along in your line of work. Did you have courses in cooking, food cooking or did that come through the schools?
CRAIG: Yes, we had nutrition programs and we had yearly, monthly meetings. When that was the program, we had a dietitian – oh, I think we did a lot of nutrition work. Gardening too and believe it or not, I did the poultry work. It passed over to the man agent, but I have caponized many a bird in Lincoln County.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then you taught your girls to do it?
CRAIG: I never taught caponizing. I was always nervous when I did it myself, but I did a lot of it. If people wanted it done, I tried. I remember one time I went out to the Allmands on the edge of town here and I was going to help them with their chickens; they were hens. I gave them the worm capsules and also tested them, you know, for the tests we gave chickens at that time. And when I got ready to leave, I looked around and every hen in the yard had its feet straight up and I just knew they were going to die. I called my brother who was in the poultry business. He came and tried to reassure me, but I called State College then and they said, “But they will be alright by dark, but next time don’t give it to them in the hot sun.” And didn’t a single bird – Mrs. Allmand told me, in fact her egg production increased. She was very nice about it. Of course, Mrs. Allmand is gone now, but I remember that as a very dark day.
OBERSCHMIDT: That was one of those hardship times, wasn’t it?
CRAIG: Yes, it was.
OBERSCHMIDT: Do you know of any hardship times that you had as County Agent?
CRAIG: I was trying to recall and I do not know the name of this person fortunately. I have really forgotten it. But he came in and borrowed the canning equipment from me and I let him have it, because I was going another direction to can a beef. Then in a day or two, he came in and said, “That beef we did spoiled and will you come out and help us?” I said, “Yes,” and I gave him a date. I went out there and he had re-flanged every can that that meat had spoiled in. He wanted me to put that beef he had canned in those. He wanted me to use the re-flanged cans. I told him that I just couldn’t do it because botulina is a very dangerous thing to deal with. I came to town and I called Dr. Savage and I didn’t get him. I called some other doctors and I finally got Mrs. Collins, Dr. Collins’ wife, and she found him. He came to the office. He told me, “Don’t you use those cans.” I said, “But what will I do?” He said, “You just go buy them one hundred (100) cans.” At that time they cost three dollars and a half a hundred. That was a kind of a financial strain on me, but I bought the cans. That was not the interesting part of the story. We canned that beef and came through it. You have to leave the cooker out there, because you go into the night with it. He didn’t bring it in for a week or two and when he brought the cooker in, he said, “Miss Craig, I just killed another cow after you left and we used those cans and we canned that beef.” After that, I met him on the street and he said, “We’ve eaten every bit of that beef that we put up in those re-flanged cans and haven’t a single one of us died!”
CRAIG: But I felt that precaution was the better part.
OBERSCHMIDT: Yes, it is. They say “An ounce of prevention is worth its cure.”
CRAIG: I would hate for agents now to have to do a beef canning program though. I don’t suppose they’ll ever do it again.
OBERSCHMIDT: I imagine those freezers and processing plants have stopped that.
CRAIG: Yes, yes.
OBERSCHMIDT: You saw a lot of changes in a lot of things.
CRAIG: Yes. I remember the first demonstration that we had on freezing in this county. At that time, very few people had freezers and I myself didn’t know much about it. I went to State College and stayed a couple of weeks, I believe, and studied it. They have the agents in for those things. The thing I had the hardest time with was the sewing and ironing.
OBERSCHMIDT: You didn’t like to sew?
CRAIG: No, I – I – you have to make a suit.
OBERSCHMIDT: You do?
CRAIG: And I had to make a suit for myself.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you wear it?
CRAIG: Oh, yes. It did alright. I just was extremely slow.
OBERSCHMIDT: Lots of people that cannot sew and do not enjoy sewing don’t want to wear what they make. I was just wondering if you did.
CRAIG: I was talking in the Missionary Society the other day about people who know things that – I trained girls in ironing a shirt. That was one of the demonstrations. I can tell you now how to iron a shirt, but I can’t iron a shirt that anybody would wear.
OBERSCHMIDT: There is a talent for doing that. However, this wash and wear material…
CRAIG: You just don’t have to iron anymore.
OBERSCHMIDT: There’s a lot of easy things. All these TV dinners and all that makes life lots easier. Yet, you seem to be busy – as busy as you were in those days.
CRAIG: Without seeming to brag too much about things, I think the office in which I worked as a Home Demonstration agent was unusual in the fact that they were in complete harmony. We were recognized as the outstanding county. The specialist who came in here, I don’t know if I should put this on tape, but…
OBERSCHMIDT: Why sure, that’s what this is about.
CRAIG: One of them said to me, “Sara, I feel real funny. I’ve been here a week (incidentally, she was having a tailoring school) and not one member of this concern has taken me off and told me the other one’s faults.” She said, “That’s just unusual!”
OBERSCHMIDT: That’s remarkable.
CRAIG: So I think the fact that we worked in harmony was good for us. We were recognized from Washington. A man came from Washington. I’ve got the plaque hanging in there now [indicated her room] that we got for the fact that we co-operated with each other.
OBERSCHMIDT: You did not only home managing, but you did office managing.
CRAIG: I don’t think I did it.
OBERSCHMIDT: Oh, yes, there has to be a leader and you were the head of the department and that’s part of…
CRAIG At that time, we had an unusual assistant agent, Mrs. Willy Felder. I’m sure you remember her. Incidentally, Mrs. Felder went on to be head of the Extension work.
OBERSCHMIDT: She did?
CRAIG: And Miss Purdy, Miss Marilyn Purdy, came in here as an assistant Home Agent and she is presently the head of the women’s work in Extension. So I think Lincoln County has a lot to be proud of.
OBERSCHMIDT: I think so too. I’m glad you told that. That’s of note. How many assistants did you have or do you recall?
CRAIG: No, I don’t I remember. Anne Ruth Saxton was an excellent assistant agent. At one time, I believe that when she was assistant agent, that she had six (6) or maybe she had five (5) girls and there was one boy who went to Club Congress, and you know, in the state there’s not over thirteen (13) or fourteen (14) and five (5) of the girls came from this county. Annie Ruth married Coach Hartwell McPhail. She comes by to see me sometimes now.
OBERSCHMIDT: That is remarkable.
CRAIG: Yes, she did excellent work with the youth and Mr. Jimmy Coomes, who was – worked at Woolworth, was Woolworth manager. I don’t know, you can cut this out if you want to, but we were going to have a Halloween party for the 4-H Club people for money-making and for fun too. We got permission to have it roped – the street roped off from the Post Office down below the Methodist Church. And after we had everything ready the mayor called me and said, “Sara, the Methodist preacher don’t want you to have a cake walk in front of the church.” I said, “But we’ve already planned it and we will just have to go ahead with it.” He said, “You’ll have to talk with the preacher.” And I won’t call the preacher’s name. So I called him. Incidentally, I was on the administrative board at that time in the church. I told him we would not ask him again to let us do it, but that we had to ahead with this. You know what he said? “Sara, can’t you move it down to the Episcopal Church?” Now, you know I tell that because at our church – at the First United Methodist Church – they had a cake walk recently in the church, in the Fellowship Hall. That just shows you how much the times have changed.
OBERSCHMIDT: Times have really changed. I can remember that if you played bridge or you danced you were thrown out of the church.
OBERSCHMIDT: And now they condone it.
OBERSCHMIDT: In fact, some churches teach all that.
CRAIG: Yes, they had a class at our church that teaches different things during the summer months. Now, I know that the other churches do that sort of thing. Personally, I think it’s very good.
OBERSCHMIDT: I do too. I think this Family Life Center at the Baptist Church is tremendous.
CRAIG: I do too.
OBERSCHMIDT: I wish they were not in the same building – that’s a little bit. I guess it’s a quirk with me, but I hate to see too much fun activity in the same building of the church.
CRAIG: With the sanctuary? I really did not know where it was.
OBERSCHMIDT: But it is in a little bit – in a different area, but still that is connected and I would like to see it in a separate building, but that would be a tremendous expense.
CRAIG: I’ve had one other surprise in my life. We were having a Farm Bureau meeting, I believe, at the office. I took my own personal silver down there. We didn’t have much equipment at that time. About midway of the meal, Gussie – Mrs. Gussie Grafton who is gone from here now – came in and said, “Sara, I have to have your help.” I said, “But I can’t leave.” I should have suspected something, because Mr. Tadlock, who was County Agent, said, “Oh, we can take care of this.” He never had said that before and so I got in the car. I said, “What about my silver?” He said, “Well, I’ll look after your silver.” I got into the car with Gussie and she told me a tale about something had happened out on the highway and she had to go see about it and she turned in at the Country Club. I said, “Well, why would you go in here?” She said, “Well, we’re going to meet in the kitchen with this man.” And when I went in – if I remember right, it was Mr. Lofton, W.D., who pinned a corsage on me; then I realized something was going to happen. Frankly, Frances, I don’t think I knew at the time that they gave the Golden Deed Award. I don’t remember.
OBERSCHMIDT: You were one of the first.
CRAIG: I don’t remember it. And then when I got it, Mr. Tadlock said he wished he’d been there because I was speechless. Mr. Royce Hart presented it to me and I sat down on it and broke the glass..
OBERSCHMIDT: You were so excited.
CRAIG: I couldn’t say anything; I couldn’t even say thank you because I was so completely surprised. But I am very proud of it.
OBERSCHMIDT: You see, women can keep a secret.
CRAIG: Yes. Somebody kept that a secret, because my father was here and if he had known it, he would have told me.
OBERSCHMIDT: You think he would?
CRAIG: I think he would have let me find it out. He just couldn’t keep a secret. I don’t keep a secret very well either. Don’t tell any of your life secrets to me. I don’t keep them well.
OBERSCHMIDT: I remember I kept on quite well, when my sister and her husband married secretly for two weeks. That was a funny thing the way that came about, how it was found…
CRAIG: Was that Yvonne?
OBERSCHMIDT: …unusual names. Yes.
CRAIG: That was the first dollar that I spent, I laughed at Yvonne about that. That was as I came to the county and we all gave a dollar. She said she still has the dishes; we bought the dishes. I don’t know how many we bought.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now, gifts are so expensive it’s almost prohibitive to do a nice thing for a young couple.
CRAIG: I remember that it was a dollar.
OBERSCHMIDT: And that was hard to get.
CRAIG: We didn’t have it. But I think everybody was happy to give it, because Yvonne – I did not know Dr. McRee so well – but Yvonne was most helpful, always in the office. She did everything she could to help us.
OBERSCHMIDT: She did all she could. She was good in that work.
CRAIG: I think she was good at the factory too. She was kind and compassionate.
OBERSCHMIDT: She had the individual at heart as well as the company that she worked with.
CRAIG: I think so. The courthouse and all has changed a great deal, because there was just so few of us at that time. Now there are just so many people working, and once I said to Ruby Larkin, I said, “Ruby, I expect you and I are the only two people who know everybody who works on the court square.” She said, “I expect we are. Sara, who is that woman who works for so and so?” And I expect she could have asked me, too.
CRAIG: Because I worked closely with Mrs. Baird too. I went to their staff meetings. Mrs. Baird was, she ran the Welfare. I don’t really remember what her title was, but she was very efficient.
OBERSCHMIDT: Do you remember when it started?
CRAIG: No, I don’t remember, I surely don’t, but Mrs. Baird was excellent in her work.
OBERSCHMIDT: Yes, she was.
CRAIG: She had some very able help in her office, too. I think.
OBERSCHMIDT: One of her daughters followed her in that, didn’t she?
CRAIG: Yes, Mr. ______, a man followed her and he’s there now.
OBERSCHMIDT: Mr. Who?
OBERSCHMIDT: We’ll skip that. I’ll try to find that for you, then.
CRAIG: I know him quite well.
OBERSCHMIDT: Her daughter followed in that work.
CRAIG: She is a child worker.
OBERSCHMIDT: She’s doing an awfully good job.
CRAIG: Yes, she’s a nice person.
OBERSCHMIDT: Let’s see, it’s Mary Ann?
CRAIG: Now, Mary Ann is a Reading Specialist with the State Department of Education.
OBERSCHMIDT: She’s gone quite far.
CRAIG: She’s very capable.
OBERSCHMIDT: Very capable. I understand she has made several foreign trips with that teaching.
CRAIG: Yes, she did.
OBERSCHMIDT: Didn’t she start that method of teaching to read the reason she has gone so far?
CRAIG: I don’t know, but I know she’s very efficient.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then Mrs. Baird had another daughter, Bird.
CRAIG: That’s the child welfare worker.
OBERSCHMIDT: Bird Brennan.
CRAIG: She works with the children.
OBERSCHMIDT: Story, I believe is the name. She’s quite capable too.
CRAIG: Mrs. Baird has had a tragic life and it’s a pity that she’s sick now. One thing, Frances, that has made more people take notice I think, of the Home Extension work – during the time that I was Home Agent – and I had a lot of help on this. Alma Durr was a lot of help; my sister-in-law Annie Ruth Craig was a lot of help, and Mrs. Sam Cole, who has passed on. But I believe I’m telling you the truth when I tell you that we’ve visited every state in the Union except Alaska.
OBERSCHMIDT: I’ve been on some of those trips.
CRAIG: But just a very few of us went to Hawaii; but we did go to that meeting in Hawaii.
OBERSCHMIDT: They finally went to Hawaii, but not with the Home Demonstration group.
CRAIG: Yes, we went to the Country Women of the World Meeting. That was the reason we went. And we also went to Scotland to the Country Women of the World. Mrs. Johnson and I went.
OBERSCHMIDT: Was that a convention?
OBERSCHMIDT: I remember you all went and you went on over to Paris. Did she go with you?
OBERSCHMIDT: Was that a part of that tour?
CRAIG: Yes, but we went because I had to go to school or go on that trip.
[Begin Side Two of tape]
OBERSCHMIDT: Miss Craig, you said Mrs. Johnson went with you to Ireland and Paris. What Mrs. Johnson was that?
CRAIG: Mrs. Vera Johnson. She is dead now.
OBERSCHMIDT: She was the one that was so active in the Home Demonstration work, wasn’t she?
CRAIG: She was very active. Would you give me just one minute to pay tribute to my secretaries?
CRAIG: I’ve had the best secretaries of anybody in the world. Mrs. Johnny Jackson worked with me for a long time. She was very capable in every way and Mrs. Wells, Mrs. George Wells worked with me and she also was very capable. We’ve had others, but I especially would like to call their names, because. I still stay in touch with Johnny Jackson. She’s still very efficient.
OBERSCHMIDT: Was Neicie Blue one of your secretaries?
CRAIG: No, she was Mr. Tadlock and Mr. Price’s secretary, but she was always exceedingly nice to help us when we needed it.
OBERSCHMIDT: I’m going to go and ask a few questions to get settled in our minds some of these things. You were talking about working with poultry. When you had the 4-H Clubs, did you help teach them to judge the poultry and also the judging of calves?
CRAIG: Yes, yes, I did. I can’t quite believe it, but I did work with the calf club. We also had butter-making demonstrations. Nobody churns anymore, practically nobody, but we had churning demonstrations. You remember that has been thirty (30) years ago.
OBERSCHMIDT: That’s right. Did you have a demonstration making cheese or what was done?
CRAIG: Yes, we did. We made cheese all over this county. Some of it spoiled and smelled terrible, but some of it just worked out beautifully. We had one family that made cheese for a long time. They have died now.
OBERSCHMIDT: How about yogurt – did you make that?
CRAIG: No, I don’t know how to make yogurt. You have to have a…
OBERSCHMIDT: A start.
CRAIG: Yes, you do. I do not know how to do that.
OBERSCHMIDT: I think that has come into vogue just recently. You mentioned the Nygaards. I believe they lived down at Old Sogaard. Did you ever come in any contact with any knowledge of the immigration? Why these people came here? There were several.
CRAIG: Mr. Sogaard was with the Diplomatic Service. I understand he was a con…
CRAIG: He retired and when he came here, he asked the Nygaards to come. He helped them with their land. You know, Mrs. Nygaard’s brother was in diplomatic service in Denmark. When I went to Denmark, she gave me their names to look up. I didn’t get to see them, but I learned that they were people who had very good jobs, I guess you’d say in the capitol.
OBERSCHMIDT: Prominent people?
OBERSCHMIDT: Now, that was from Denmark?
CRAIG: Yes, that was in Denmark.
OBERSCHMIDT: Do you know many different families that…
CRAIG: That was the only family I knew that he brought down here. Mr. Sogaard was dead before I came here. I didn’t know Mr. Sogaard.
OBERSCHMIDT: I know he died quite a long time ago.
CRAIG: Now, Mrs. Rhoda Buie has a bowl that Mr. Sogaard evidently gave her husband, Mr. Buie…
OBERSCHMIDT: Percy Buie?
CRAIG: …that she prizes very much.
OBERSCHMIDT: He raised peaches, didn’t he? Didn’t they have an orchard down there?
CRAIG: Now, the Nygaards had a peach orchard and Mr. Buie had a peach orchard.
OBERSCHMIDT: How about Mr. Sogaard, what did he do?
CRAIG: I do not know, not after I came.
OBERSCHMIDT: Something else you mentioned that I’d like to ask more questions about. You said, “When the oil, when the oil field came here.” About when was that? Seems to me it was during World War II.
CRAIG: I thought it was later than that, but I’m not sure.
OBERSCHMIDT: The reason I said that, Ted’s brothers bought up some leases and all then, but Ted was gone and he didn’t have that opportunity. He was in service then.
CRAIG: I thought it was later than that, but I really don’t know.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you see very radical changes in the county after that production came?
CRAIG: Sure, I think the money, the economic conditions improved a great deal. People who didn’t get oil money got lease money.
OBERSCHMIDT: Just in this area was where it was felt the most or did this lease money help quite a bit?
CRAIG: I think the lease money helped a lot.
OBERSCHMIDT: You could see a radical change in all of that?
CRAIG: Yes, you know one thing we did, that we made, I believe a little over three thousand (3,000) mattresses with cotton that people couldn’t sell or didn’t sell. You know, cotton was very low on the market. Now, that was in the late 1930’s, I know. Mr. Claude Bowen had charge of this stored cotton. He was a cotton buyer and we used that and we made over 3,000 mattresses. But that was very hard work. We had a lot of help.
OBERSCHMIDT: Mr. Price touched on that, but he wasn’t sure where it was and he wasn’t sure of how many. He knew that you helped, but he didn’t know to what extent that you helped with it.
CRAIG: I stayed there all the time.
OBERSCHMIDT: Then you taught the ladies how to make the ticking?
CRAIG: Yes, we had two girls – one of them became a Home Agent, Mary Evelyn Weeks and Miss Williams from Topisaw – who made the ticks. Now, I believe the people bought the ticks themselves, but we bought a cotton blower and it blew the cotton into the mattresses. We turned out some right pretty mattresses.
OBERSCHMIDT: Now that was to people that were poor?
CRAIG: Well, I don’t know whether they were poor or not, but they had to sign up to the extent of their income and I don’t remember how much that was.
OBERSCHMIDT: This was done following the plow-up program?
CRAIG: No, the plow-up program was in the early Thirties (30’s).
OBERSCHMIDT: Then, this was the production that they had made over their allotment?
CRAIG: I think so, pretty well.
OBERSCHMIDT: I was wondering how you got hold of the cotton and how it was carried on.
CRAIG: I don’t remember. I thought everybody furnished their own cotton, but I’m not sure.
OBERSCHMIDT: I gathered from my interview from Mr. Price that this was the – over the amount that their yield.
CRAIG: I guess that’s right.
OBERSCHMIDT: Because they had learned to use more fertilizer and better tillage and…
CRAIG: My only part was in running the thing down there where we made the mattresses. I had nothing to do with who could get them. There were one or two people who were offended because they said that they deserved them and they didn’t get them. But your income had to be a certain amount. I mean had to be less than a certain amount.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you run into anything in your work in the county, any kind of old methods – medicinal methods – that the rural people used – herbs or anything?
CRAIG: I don’t think so or I don’t remember it. I remember it with my own grandmother, but I don’t remember it in the county.
OBERSCHMIDT: What did they use?
CRAIG: My grandmother thought you could cure pneumonia by – I think it was onion tops that she boiled and made a poultice of. I had a sick cousin and the doctor said he was going to die anyhow, let her do it. She always thought that poultice cured him. But he had good medical attention and a trained nurse with him. So I don’t suppose that…
OBERSCHMIDT: You don’t know
CRAIG: Dr. Markette told me one time mustard plaster helped the people who put it on.
OBERSCHMIDT: I’ll tell you it does help congestion sometimes, if it burned deep enough.
CRAIG: I don’t remember anything in this country that people used that was not… Aspirin was pretty freely used by the time I got here.
OBERSCHMIDT: As a child, I remember some neighbor children wearing an asafetida bag during the flu epidemic.
CRAIG: Now, I never saw that.
OBERSCHMIDT: The only thing I could say was it smelled so bad, it kept everybody away.
CRAIG: I do not remember anybody here wearing it, but they might have been. The most I remember is that I have an awfully bad habit of rubbing my eyes. I’ve had it forever. It’s a habit, I’m sure, and two or three times I got what they called “pink-eye.” I’m sure that I got it from the schools. I don’t believe they have it now.
OBERSCHMIDT: No, that was taken care of by the health office, as so many things were taken care of.
CRAIG: I never saw a child with itch in this county and knew that they had it. Never saw a child with lice in their head and knew. The only child I saw with lice in the head was a Brookhaven child.
CRAIG: Her mama called me one day and told me. Her mama recognized it. When I came here, the schools had just begun their consolidation programs and they were pretty well into it, but still had several one and two teacher schools.
OBERSCHMIDT: Did you ever run into the history of the Old Jackson Military or Wire Road out near Loyd Star?
CRAIG: Nothing but just to see it. I know where it is, but I don’t know why it was named that.
OBERSCHMIDT: I’ve been working on that with some of the interviews and I found some interesting things. I thought maybe you might could enlighten me a little more about it.
CRAIG: No, I don’t know anything about it.
OBERSCHMIDT: Back to your awards, did you have any national recognition?
OBERSCHMIDT: What was that for?
CRAIG: I was just recognized on a national level. I didn’t get to go. You know, they recognize two agents, I believe, and I was one of them that year. My mother was quite sick. They tried to – just fly up there and stay a day, but I didn’t go.
OBERSCHMIDT: What was that for?
CRAIG: An award, I’ve got it here – it says just outstanding service. We used to say it’s just longevity.
OBERSCHMIDT: I thought maybe it might have been working with something specific.
CRAIG: I don’t think so. It was just that. I think now there are so many Home Agents, they have to be selective. I know I was three years getting my reports in. Finally, Miss Cresswell called me and said, “Now, if you don’t send in that thing, I’m going to fire you.” Of course, she was just joking, but I never cared for it. I’ve never been interested out of Lincoln County. I’ve been vice-president of the Home Agents Association in the state. I was the first vice-president, but I deferred the president. I don’t like – I was satisfied with Lincoln County. I could have moved a time or two.
OBERSCHMIDT: Yes, I know that.
CRAIG: I was just satisfied with Lincoln County.
CRAIG: I believe they are saying – that Miss Huff – if she can get out – your car…
OBERSCHMIDT: Let me end this and I’m going.
CRAIG: Oh, yes.
OBERSCHMIDT: Miss Craig, I have enjoyed this very much and I appreciate you doing it. Thank you.
CRAIG: Thank you.
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