My Oral History With R. E. Hendrix
“We had to work back then”
For my oral history interview, it would only be fitting for me to interview my granddaddy. Unfortunately, I had to conduct this interview over the phone from my dorm in Athens, Georgia. I say that this is unfortunate because I would have like to have seen the emotion displayed on Granddaddy’s face when he answered the questions and see his reaction to his recollection of his past. I also think that if this interview was done in person that he would have been willing to disclose more information. I would like to go home and spend an entire day with him and let him walk me through all the places from his childhood while telling stories about each place. I wanted to use this interview to learn more about my granddaddy’s life story. I mainly was interested in his childhood, schooling, and career.
ME: Hey Granddaddy.
GRANDDADDY: Hey buddy. Well, how you doing?
ME: I’m pretty good. I’m going to a Hawks game tonight.
GRANDDADDY: Oh wow. OK. Well, what else is going on?
ME: Just working on this English project.
GRANDDADDY: You’ve worked on that haven’t ya?
ME: Haha, yeah. I’ve put a lot of work into it.
GRANDDADDY: Did you have some questions to ask me?
ME: Yeah is that alright?
GRANDDADDY: You can ask me anything you want to ask me.
ME: Alright, is it okay if I record this?
GRANDDADDY: Yeah you can record it.
ME: Alright, do you know what country our ancestors are from originally?
GRANDDADDY: I don’t.
ME: Through my research I found that our family originated from the Netherlands.
GRANDDADDY: I’ve heard that, but you know I can’t document it.
ME: Right. Do you know of any Dutch traditions that our family holds on to or practices?
GRANDDADDY: No I don’t. We kinda just do what my family has been doing for years. I farm, and your Munner (My Grandmother) cooks from our family cookbook.
ME: Who made this cookbook that Munner uses?
GRANDDADDY: Your Aunt Loraine made it. She used recipes that were passed down to her from her mom and so on. She got the book published, and well, pretty much everyone in our family owns one.
ME: So, you grew up in Portal, outside of Statesboro, in Bulloch County.
ME: What made you go to Metter High School instead of Portal or any other Bulloch schools?
GRANDDADDY: I went to Portal, but when my daddy died we moved. I was three years old, and we moved in with my granddaddy and grandmamma. And uh, the reason I went to school there was because Aunt Annie Laura and them I knew them the best and the school bus came close to the house, so I went to Portal. No, I went to Union School in the first grade. That was over there close to… You know where Union School is? Right over next to Martha and them’s house. (On the outskirts of Candler County)
ME: OK, yes sir.
GRANDDADDY: We all went to school there. Brinson and all of us went to school there, and I went from first grade there, and it closed. Well, I had to either go Metter or I could go to Portal. Well, I had more close kin at Portal, so I chose to go to Portal. I went to Portal school for two years, then uh, for some reason I decided to change and come to Metter then. Because I had to run down the hill, every morning I had to run down to meet the bus in the dark. It’d be cold going down the hill. Every evening I had to run back up the hill, so. Then the Metter bus came in front of the house, so I just started coming to Metter. And that’s the reason I came to Metter in the third grade then.
ME: You went to ABAC for college and then transferred to Georgia, right?
GRANDDADDY: That’s right.
ME: What was your major at Georgia?
GRANDDADDY: Uh-huh. I minored in business.
ME: How did you come across some of the people who work for you who have stayed working with you for all of these years?
GRANDDADDY: Well, I met Mr. Lamar (Head operator of the farm) back in the early 80s. He was just looking for a job, and he’s been with me ever since 80. A lot of them have been with me for 20 something years.
ME: Did you intend for Daddy to work alongside with y…
GRANDDADDY: No! No, no. Definitely not. We sent him to college to get him an education to get away from the farm just like we’re doing with you. And just time he got his degree he popped back up at the office.
ME: So, that wasn’t the plan?
GRANDDADDY: That wasn’t the plan.
ME: Why’s that?
GRANDDADDY: It’s too hard of work. I mean it’s too time-consuming, I mean you know. I mean I’m at it all the time. See I had to grow them, pack them, and sell them. Everything, I did it all. I didn’t want him to have to do that.
ME: What made you come back and live in Metter instead of Bulloch County where a bunch of our relatives are?
GRANDDADDY: Well, my relatives in Metter… I kinda lost contact with the Hendrix’s. The Hendrix clan wasn’t as tight as the Oliff clan (his mom’s side of the family). And see, I lived when my mother moved over here to where my granddaddy… to live with my grandmother. That just moved us all over here really. And then see, Momma married Dale’s (step-brother) daddy in Metter, so that put us in Metter. And then when your grandmamma and I got married we lived in Metter for, uhh, it just was the place to live.
GRANDDADDY: I mean there really wasn’t a reason to go back to Bulloch County. Everything was… You know I played ball in Metter High School, all my friends were in Metter, so that’s the reason I just came back here.
ME: What were your jobs that you had coming out of college?
GRANDDADDY: When I came out of college I went and worked for a lime company. A lime company is kinda like a fertilizer company. We sold limestone to fertilizer companies, and I traveled thirty-two counties around this area selling limestone to fertilizer companies. And I did that for three years, and in the meantime, I was still farming. I couldn’t get farming out of my blood, and so I just kept on farming, and I quit selling lime and went to farming, full-time.
ME: Didn’t you have a gas station or something?
GRANDDADDY: Yeah, and in 1970 I bought a gas station in Metter. And I kept it for three years. Then I sold it and kept on farming.
ME: What jobs did you have as a kid growing up? As in before or during college?
GRANDDADDY: Before college I started, the first thing I did was… well, when I was being raised up I worked in the fields, I mean we had to work back then. I worked in the tobacco patch and the cotton. I picked tobacco, and I picked cotton. I sold boiled peanuts. I would catch my uncle when I was twelve and thirteen years old, I’d catch my uncle up at the crossroads up at coming out of Aunt Lorene’s where the other road is at the highway with the big white house. I’d catch my uncle there, and I’d come to Metter, and I’d walk the streets of Metter, and I’d have me one-hundred bags of boiled peanuts, and I’d sell my boiled peanuts for a dime a bag. Then I’d walk back out to the highway, and I’d catch me a ride back up. People would pick me up, and I would walk back to the house. You know, I’d sell peanuts. Like I said, we had to work back then.
ME: What is the hardest job you’ve had?
GRANDDADDY: Probably picking tobacco was the hottest job. I mean it was one-hundred degrees out there with me barefooted in a tobacco patch. Then uh, as I was selling peanuts I was fourteen, I was running Mrs. Jeff Hensley. They owned the tobacco warehouse in Metter, and she kinda took a liking to me, and she let me become a water boy at the tobacco market. And I’d have water at the end of a sale, when they would come up and down the sale row of tobacco. Then she, next year she let me be on the floor I weighed the tobacco that came in. I was in a little booth, and they would bring sheets of tobacco in, and I’d weigh them. Like I said she liked me. She was paying me $200 a week, and that was unheard of back then. She’s the lady that gave me that blue coat that I wore to my Pink Rose Formal in college. She had our wedding rehearsal when Mama and I got married. She hosted our wedding rehearsal, and she was just good to me, she was a good lady. She helped me a lot. She was just a lady I looked up to, you know? And of course, in the meantime, I would work at the funeral home too. Make money, I’d go to school. I’d go to ABAC, and if they’d have a funeral on the weekend, I’d work, and make money, and go see your grandmamma.
ME: What job that you’ve had have you enjoyed the most?
GRANDDADDY: I reckon selling onions.
ME: Selling onions?
GRANDDADDY: Traveling the United States. I’ve seen the country.
ME: What’s your favorite place you’ve visited while traveling?
GRANDDADDY: Do what now?
ME: What’s your favorite place you’ve been to while traveling?
GRANDDADDY: Famous or favorite?
GRANDDADDY: Metter, Georgia.
GRANDDADDY: I mean I… I’ve enjoyed a lot of places, but I’ve always enjoyed getting back home.
ME: Outside of Metter, what’s your favorite?
GRANDDADDY: Alaska’s my favorite place.
ME: Do you prefer traveling more or did you enjoy staying at home more?
GRANDDADDY: Well I’d rather stay home, but I, you know, traveling was a way of making a living, so I had to travel to sell what we grew. Just like your daddy’s doing right now.
ME: Have you kept in touch with anyone you went to college with, other than those that went with you from Metter?
GRANDDADDY: Yeah, Allen Tillafall. My roommate from Sprakers, New York. He’s the furthest away. He came down to my wedding, and I went up to his wedding.
ME: What made you decide to grow Vidalia onions?
GRANDDADDY: Well farming was so bad back then, we was all going broke, I mean corn, cotton, and peanuts was all so cheap, so I just, I planted me six acres of onions, and that was a kinda unusual, new thing. There wasn’t many people doing it, and I just planted me six acres of Vidalia onions, and it seemed like it was a thing to do so I went from six acres and I kept going on up until I got to one-thousand acres and I quit growing all the other stuff, tobacco and all like that. I just concentrated on onions. That’s where we’ve been ever since. Growing onions and watermelons.
ME: When did you decide to start growing watermelons too?
GRANDDADDY: I started in the late 80s growing watermelons.
ME: What was your favorite thing to do as a child?
GRANDDADDY: In which job?
ME: No job, just what did you like to do when you were younger for fun?
GRANDDADDY: When I was younger for fun… I reckon I liked to… I loved to hunt. Is that what you’re talking about?
ME: Yes sir.
GRANDDADDY: Yeah, I loved to hunt. I still would love to hunt. I didn’t know what snow skiing was. I mean I loved to snow ski when I got older, but I didn’t… When I was younger, I didn’t know what a snow ski was.
ME: What would you attribute your success to?
GRANDDADDY: The good Lord and hard work
ME: Well that’s pretty much all of my questions.
GRANDDADDY: Alright. Are you gonna be in Athens this weekend?
ME: Yes sir, I will.
GRANDDADDY: Well, we’ll be there Sunday probably.
ME: Good, I’ll be here.
GRANDDADDY: Well, if you got any more questions just call me.
ME: Yes sir, I will.
GRANDDADDY: Alright, well I love you.
ME: I love you too.
This interview with Granddaddy helped me learn why he has stayed in Candler County. He has lived in and around it his whole life. Nearly all of his childhood and college friends are still near by. If he needs something, chances are he has a good friend who can get him what he needs. He has gone to school in Metter, it is where he built his career, and it is his favorite place out of all the places he’s traveled. He has found Metter to be the best place he can call home.
This interview also enlightened me as to why he has continued the family tradition of farming. He grew up working as a farmer. As a child, he was in a tobacco field or a cotton patch. He studied in college to learn more about agriculture. He tried his hand in the fertilizer business, but still couldn’t stay away from the call of farming, but regardless of his love of farming, he did not and does not wish for his children and grandchildren to follow in his footsteps in the produce business. He didn’t want anyone to have to do the amount of difficult work he had to do to become successful like him. He is selfless enough to not wish for the continuation of what he has built at the expense of others. Granddaddy is truly a man I aspire to be like.