The memoirs of Ngnat’s Great-Grandmother, Iva Wright
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Following the Annual Conference that November of 1936, Carl rode to Troy with the current minister to look things over before we moved, and what he saw was not very encouraging, but we were committed to go. The day we left, the weather was terrible. It rained the whole way, and the rain soon began to seep through the canvas top of the car we were in. It dripped on us for most of the nearly three hundred miles we traveled. We arrived late at night, near midnight, but we couldn’t go to the parsonage because the now “former” minister, his mentally retarded wife, and their ten children were still living there.
We could do nothing but drive up and down the streets until we found a place that had rooms to rent. It was sort of a hotel owned by one old lady. We had difficulty getting her to the door, but finally she let us in and showed us to a room.
Lilla Jo was four months old at that time, and was still being fed formula. By the time we arrived in Troy, the formula that I had prepared was gone, and I had given out of boiled water. I one more clean bottle, but I needed boiled water to prepare her formula. I told the woman I would need to use the kitchen the next morning to prepare the baby’s bottle and she told me where to go, but the next morning, I couldn’t find it. The baby was crying wanting food, so Carl dressed and went out to find a restaurant and get boiled water.
After breakfast, we went to the parsonage and soon realized that the former minister was not only still there, but not even near ready to move out. In fact they stayed in the parsonage a whole week after we got there. For some reason they were not able to move into the parsonage that was waiting for them. (This was before the establishment of a universal moving day for all ministers.) A couple that were members of our church finally agreed to take us in. We stayed there that week with our baby and all our things, eager to get into the parsonage and get settled.
Finally, the day came that they had moved out. We went to the parsonage and found that it was in such bad shape we had to take hoes and scrape up the old carpet and layered filth that was in the kitchen. Our work was interrupted by a knock on the door. It was the District Superintendent who had come by to see how things were going. He also said, “I have decided to send your folks to another place, a place in the mountains. Someone else is coming here.” Well, we were absolutely floored, but there was nothing we could. Before the end of the day, the couple he had now assigned to the Troy Circuit drove up with a big truckload of furniture. To my amazement, the minister was Professor Hart, my old history teacher from Snead Seminary. After I graduated, he had gone into the ministry full time. They unloaded all their things and piled them up in the parsonage.
The parsonage was so full of their boxes and their furniture, we only had little narrow pathways to get from one place to another. To make matters even worse, Rev. Hart and his wife had a three-month-old baby who had been born with a cleft palate. Every time the baby nursed, it took in lots of air and was constantly screaming with the colic. We also found out that they were completely broke and so were we. Among us we had only a few dollars, so we invested in some beans. We ate plenty of beans for they were there for a whole week.
Rev. Hart was very unhappy about the whole situation, and he had a right to be. The people at Troy had made it clear that he was not going to be accepted; they already had their minister, they said. The Bishop had sent them Carl Wright, and they did not want the other man. Carl and Rev. Hart, disgusted with the way the District Superintendent was disrupting things, went to see the Bishop. He heard them out and then said. “Carl, I sent you to Troy, didn’t I? Carl said yes. “Well, that is where I intend for you to stay. Rev. Hart, if he is dissatisfied, I will send out of the conference. We’ll find another place for him. That is what happened.
After Rev. Hart and his family left, we found that we had very little furniture in the parsonage. There was one double bed for us, a baby crib that we owned. In the living room a little half cot, a couple of rocking chairs, and a heater. In the kitchen a stove, a kitchen table, and a few chairs. That was it. We had no curtains at the windows, no draperies or shades.
It was difficult for us to make a go of things there, not only because of the lack of things in the parsonage, but also because of the lack of cooperation from the people. We had one small church in Troy and three churches out in the country. None of us had any money in those days, the Depression years, but the farmers who were members of our church did have plenty of food. If they had shared, we could have gotten along much better, but evidently they didn’t realize what our situation was. Many times, we could not make it from one Sunday to the next without running out of food We would have to wait until we got to church on Sunday morning, take the offering we were given that day, and stop at a store on the way home and buy food. Fortunately, we always managed to have enough milk for the baby, but that whole situation shouldn’t have been. I remember one evening we had only rice for our supper–just rice.
When Christmas time came along and I was homesick and eager to show my baby to the family–only Mother had seen her–that I decided, with Carl?s insistence, to go home for Christmas. The two of us couldn’t go together because we didn’t have enough money, but he wanted me to go. That was to be his Christmas present to me. I was able to catch a bus to Hamlet to get on the train. It would be a good idea, I had decided, to go by night because the baby could sleep and I wouldn’t have to fix so many bottles for her. Of course, that was a mistake.
I got her all settled on the train that night, and she went soundly to sleep, but she soon woke up when the conductor came through calling out the names of the places we would be stopping. And the train was making noises. She would scream every time the train made a noise, and it was that way hour after hour during that long, terrible night. I knew the others on the train were ready to throw me off, but I did everything I knew to do. Finally, a woman came to me and said, “Honey, would you mind if I hold your baby for a little while. Maybe I can help. I have had five of my own.” I said yes and gladly turned the baby over to her. Then I burst into tears. Soon the baby was sound asleep on her shoulder, but when the conductor returned to announce the next station, she began crying again. That was the way it was. When we got to Atlanta, my sister Vivian and her husband Henry met us. We were so worn out, so groggy from lack of sleep, and covered in soot. I know we must have looked terrible. But we Went to her house, fed the baby and gave her a bath, and she slept all day long. I was a much wiser mother after that.
While we were in Boaz the baby became ill and both her ears became infected. It was a scary time because we didn’t know just how sick she was. My daddy, typical of him, was just beside himself worried about the baby. He told me he didn’t think I ought to take the baby home and insisted that I just leave the baby with them. He told me I didn’t know how to take care of a baby anyway. I was hurt, of course, but said, “Well, Daddy, I’m not going to leave my baby with anyone. I might not know how to take care of a baby, but I’m going to learn how.” Finally she began to improve a little, and Carl borrowed a car to come to get us. We wrapped her up warmly, put her on the back seat, and drove all the way that night to get home. When we got there, we lifted her off the back seat and put her in her crib dressed wrapped just as she had been in the car. We didn’t even change her diaper. She slept through it all.
During that year, Carl’s mother died, and his father was living with his daughter Willie Mae in Boaz. He was not happy there, and he was also having problems with slight strokes. One day, a knock came at the door and when we answered it, there stood Carl’s father. He had decided he wanted to come live with us and had just taken it upon himself to come without the help of anyone.
Of course, we were glad to see him, and we were glad to be of help. We wanted him to stay with us, but it was a real difficulty because we had such a little bit to live on. We had no furniture for him, and we had no way of taking care of him as he should have been taken care of because he was sick. Before we left there, Daddy Wright had pneumonia and almost died. The people were very nice and finally helped us by sending a nurse to sit with him at night so we could get some sleep, but there was a period of time when we didn’t know whether he would pull through.
We were in dire need of a car. We had four scattered churches and no transportation. Carl had to either walk, borrow a car, or depend on someone to drive him. We did try to get a car, but when Carl went to the dealer, they asked him what his salary was. He said he didn’t know. He didn’t have a salary.
Later, when Daddy Wright came to live with us and saw how difficult things were, he suggested that we allow him to make a down payment on a used car. We agreed and became proud owners of our first automobile. It was an old car and not fine in any way, but it was ours.
During that year in Troy, we often felt we had been abandoned not only by our church members, but also by the Methodist Church. One family in Troy, however, the Hunsuckers?not even members of our church?did seem concerned for our welfare. We answered a knock on our door one day and the oldest Hunsucker child greeted us with a large beefsteak her mother had sent for our supper. After weeks of rice and beans, it tasted wonderful.
About that Carl began having trouble with his eyes. He had them examined and was told that he would need glasses, at the cost of twenty dollars. We didn’t have twenty dollars, of course, and had no prospect of getting the money, and with Carl’s eyes bothering him more and more, we decided to pray about it. Carl and I knelt together one night and asked the Lord to help us in our need. We prayed for twenty-dollars to buy glasses so that Carl could continue to do the reading and study necessary for him to prepare his sermons and serve his churches. The next morning, there was another knock on our door. This time it was the other Hunsucker child. She handed us an envelope and said, “My mama said she thought you might need this.” In the envelope was exactly twenty-dollars.”
That summer, we realized that we could not longer stay in Troy. Carl had even begun talking about returning home to rejoin the Alabama Conference. He felt that we might be treated better there since that was our home and people there knew us. Two things happened that persuaded us to stay in North Carolina.
First, in the 1930s a movement had begun in the Methodist Church to unify the three main divisions of the church: the Methodist Episcopal Church; the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; and the Methodist Protestant Church. These divisions had occurred around the time of the Civil War over the slavery issue. In North Carolina, the Blue Ridge-Atlantic Conference, of which Carl was a member, was aligned with the Methodist Episcopal or “Northern” Church. The North Carolina Conference was aligned with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In many communities there might be two or three Methodist Churches, one from each “persuasion.” The Blue Ridge-Atlantic Conference supplied churches all over the state, but it was weaker than the North Carolina Conference. In 1937 these branches of the Methodist Church joined and that open up possibilities for us that had not existed before.
Second, a friend of Carl’s knew of a place back on the coast that was needing a pastor, and he recommended it to us. That was how we arranged?with the Bishop’s approval, of course?to move to Hyde County and the Mattamuskeet Charge.