Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Katherine Sudderth Interview 1982 – Part I

F.P. Cover and Sons Tannery Andrews NC – The second major industry in early Andrews
(Photo from “Marble & Log The History & Architecture of Cherokee County, North Carolina” 

Katherine Sudderth Interview June 29, 1982

I grew up in Andrews. There were exciting times, good times and bad times. I was the oldest daughter of nine children. I had to work when I was growing up. As a little girl I had to go out in the fields with my mother and father and help them. I was born on the Walker Farm in Andrews. I lived there for a while when I was growing up until I was about seven or eight years old. Then we moved from that farm. My daddy worked in the Tannery in Andrews. We lived in the company housing. That is where I grew up, down on the river. The reason we called it down on the river was because the Valley River ran just down in back of our house. While living there my greatest thrill was learning to swim there in that river, and learning to fish there, too. I grew up with two older brothers. I would follow them swimming. They would pick me up and throw me in the river. I had to learn to swim or drown one.

As I was growing up I was made to work. I learned to clean house and cook as a little girl. We didn’t have inside plumbing. We did have water out in our yard. My mother learned me to wash in a tin tub and on a scrub board. We boiled our clothes in an old iron black pot. My mother was very particular about her clothes and on wash days. She always had three tubs of water. One tub to wash and rub those clothes on the scrub board. Put them in the pot and boil them for ten or fifteen minutes, then they were taken out and put in another tub of clear water. Then they were rinsed out of that and put in the second water. The third water was the bluing water, for the purpose of whitening your clothes. To me they couldn’t get any whiter than after they came out of the boiling pot. But anyway that was the way we washed the clothes then. My mother made her own starch at that time. In those days you starched your clothes. I learned to make starch with flour and water. At that particular time we didn’t have electric lights, we had lamps and kerosene oil. I know that my mother always taught me to put a little bit of the kerosene into the starch. So that the black smoothing irons that we ironed with would’n stick to the clothes. But as time went by, evidently we got electricity. I think that was one of the biggest thrills of my life, the day that I would reach up in our house and turn on the electric lights. Then we got an electric iron. That was thrilling to me because in those days we had to iron everything. Even the sheets (some of which were made from feed sacks) my mother had ironed. She was so particular. We had to iron those sheets and pillow cases.

My mother was a very particular housekeeper. We would scrub the floors with a broom and a tub of water. Then we would take a mop and mop that up. I would do that every day. Before I went to school every day, I moped the kitchen and washed the dishes. I walked four and a half miles a day to a one room school house. I guess it took us about half an hour to walk that far. We would get out at 11:30 and we would walk from were we lived to what was known as “Happy Top” (that was where our one room school was). We would come home for our lunch. We had to be back in school at one o’clock. If were were on second over that we were in trouble. We’d play along the way of course. Those were some enjoyable times. There were somewhere between twenty-five and thirty children in the one room. When we would walk back home in the afternoon, it was then work again. I would have to help my mother fix supper. My job was always to wash the dishes. We always had to sweep that kitchen after the dishes were washed. That was one thing we always had to do. That was a must. Sweep that kitchen. Then we had the privilege of going out and playing but just until dark! Then we would come in and get our bath in a tin tub and off to bed.

—Excerpt from “The Heritage of Cherokee County, NC, Volume II”


I hope you enjoyed hearing from Katherine Sudderth. I’ll be sharing the rest of her interview in the coming weeks so be on the lookout for it.


Appalachian Cooking Class details

Come cook with me!

Location: John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, NC
Date: Sunday, June 23 – Saturday, June 29, 2019
Instructors: Carolyn Anderson, Tipper Pressley

Experience the traditional Appalachian method of cooking, putting up, and preserving the bounty from nature’s garden. Receive hands-on training to make and process a variety of jellies, jams, and pickles for winter eating. You’ll also learn the importance of dessert in Appalachian culture and discover how to easily make the fanciest of traditional cakes. Completing this week of cultural foods, a day of bread making will produce biscuits and cornbread. All levels welcome.

Along with all that goodness Carolyn and I have planned a couple of field trips to allow students to see how local folks produce food for their families. The Folk School offers scholarships you can go here to find out more about them. For the rest of the class details go here.

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  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 28, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Tipper just reading such good comment what will children today have to pass down to their grandchilden going to WAl Mart or the maid misplaced their favorite shirt or going out to eat all meals

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 28, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Tipper I sure enjoyed Katherine Sufderth interview in 1982. Mother told me about taking tanbark to the tannery in Andrews with two of my brothers must been around 1929 She would drive a wagon from Marble to Andrews with a load of stripped bark wished I had payed more attention to older folks . Now I am old and you bring out great stories from us that needs to be told Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 28, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Tipper I enjoyed Kathrines interview I remember mother (Miss Julie) Tell about taking stripped bark for dyes to the tannery in Andrews in a wagon with two of my brothers they called it tanbark that had to be around 1929 from Marble to Andrews . I wish I had listen to more of the old timers stories .

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    March 15, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Very interesting! I like to read about how times were when I was a kid. We had a well, a wash pot and an outhouse. I would rather not go back…reading about it is enough. We finally got electricity and my mother bought a used fridge for $15.. she was so proud of it. We no longer had to keep the milk and butter in a bucket 50 feed down in the well. I think I’ll keep my HVAC and indoor plumbing.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    March 15, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    This interview is super interesting. A window into the past.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    March 15, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    The engineer in me couldn’t get the walking out of my mind. I googled it and to walk one mile at normal pace is 20 minutes and at a fast pace 15 minutes. To those little legs, I don’t think it was as far as it seemed.

    • Reply
      March 15, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      Harry-I kinda wondered about that too. I walk a mile every morning on the treadmill, as fast as I can go, and it takes about 15 minutes.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    March 15, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    when I grew up, my mother washed with black wash pot. They used it when a hog was butchered too. I bought it from her many years ago. She said I could have it, but I told her I didn’t want my other two brothers to complain about it so I paid her for it.

    One of my earliest memories is my brother and I scouring the woods for lighter’d knots for her wash pot fire.

    I am surprised that they took a bath every night. A cloth wipe down but not a real bath.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    I enjoyed the story. Times were hard then but no one knew, it was the way all lived. They were better off then than kids now that have a school bus stop at every corner like where we live. Thank you for the story.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    March 15, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Sure am glad I don’t have to do those chores today. It makes me tired just to think about it. I thought it was torture just having to do dishes or mow the lawn for my allowance.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    March 15, 2019 at 11:13 am

    I love reading Katherine Suddeth’s interview. She shore had it rough, if you can think of it that way.
    Kids today don’t have to work that hard or walk that far to school. Folks were tougher back then. …Ken

  • Reply
    March 15, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Her mother was particular. I do remember stories of my grandmother doing her washing in those old black iron pots and I have thought about that many times when I toss my clothes in our electric washing machine in the comfort of our home – air conditioned in summer and heated in winter. My daddy helped his mother do the wash and I thought about that boiling water in the summer when it was probably 100 degrees in the shade. I wouldn’t have survived.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 15, 2019 at 9:01 am

    That is a far cry from the life of kids today. It sounds like a hard life with lots of work and responsibility. I guess every generation has their challenges.
    Thanks for this peek into the past and thanks to Katherine for recording it!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 15, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Wow! Her Mom sure was very particular. Ever think that ironing is another one of those things that has faded away? I remember the sprinkler head mounted on a cork that my Aunt had. Just stick it in a bottle and have it handy to sprinkle the clothes to keep from scorching them. Same era as the pants stretchers that I think were mentioned here once.

  • Reply
    March 15, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Gosh, this really makes my housekeeping standards look even worse than I thought!

  • Reply
    Janis M. Zeglen
    March 15, 2019 at 6:28 am

    This story reminds me so much of my mother. She lived in the Piedmont, but many of the stories you tell are very much like the way that my mother’s family lived. Thank you for sparking my memories!

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