June Seay

Interviewed by: John Allen
Date: November 26, 2006

John Allen reports:

" On Sunday, November 26, 2006, I interviewed Ms. June Seay. For my simple questions, a woman who has lived a simple life had only simple answers."

Interviewer: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

Seay: I was born in Mill Creek Valley in McDowell County, North Carolina. That is where I spent the majority of my childhood.

Interviewer: Did you live there your whole life?

Seay: My father was a fireman on the railroad, but when the depression struck, we moved to Asheville when I was fifteen years old.

Interviewer: Who were your mother and father, and what were they like?

Seay: My mother was Myrtle Peace Raffield, and my father was Rans Lowe; they were both very serious people with no nonsense type of attitudes.

Interviewer: Did you have any brothers or sisters, if you do who are they, and how many?

Seay: I had one sister, Carrie, and we were inseparable.

Interviewer: How far from the nearest town did you live, and how long did it take to get there?

Seay: The closest town was Old Fort; my mother always called it The Fort. It was about ten miles away, which was quite a long ways: it usually took all day to go there and back. Everyone always went to town on Saturdays.

Interviewer: How many of your relatives live close by and who were they?

Seay: I will spare you the names, but I had many aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived nearby--well, kinda near.

Interviewer: In detail, describe the house that you grew up in.

Seay: It was very small by today's standards, a big living room with a bed in it; all the mountain folks back then had beds in the living room. It had a big fireplace with a small kitchen and two bedrooms.

Interviewer: Describe the area where you lived and where relatives lived and neighbors.

Seay: Well, my family was a little isolated up the creek from the rest, but my kin lived down the creek, across the creek, across the holler, and about everywhere else in the valley. It is a little hard to explain if you have never been there.

Interviewer: How far away was the closest church?

Seay: Brookside Baptist was only a mile or so down the road.

Interviewer: What was a typical Sunday like?

Seay: Church, of course, in the morning, then dinner, and then if we had the kerosene to fill the lantern we'd go to night church that evening.

Interviewer: How strict was religion growing up?

Seay: Pretty strict. [pauses] Very strict!

Interviewer: What were some old superstitions you heard growing up?

Seay: Well I can't remember any original ones off the top of my head, but because our family is Scott-Irish and those people loved fairies, there were always superstitions about a particular Poplar tree on top of a hill, and that tree having some connection with fairies. I can't exactly recall though.

Interviewer: What were some weather beliefs growing up?

Seay: Well one was that if the corn husks were thick that fall, then it was going to be a cold winter. Another one was that you could always tell the temperature almost exactly by how much the laurel leaves curled up in the winter.

Interviewer: Did anyone in your family or any of your neighbors ever mention Snake

Seay: No, I know what you're talking about though but no. Our religion was so strict, any mention of snakes or handling of snakes was considered a little evil. I guess you could kinda consider snakes being a bad sign.

Interviewer: What was your favorite superstition growing up?

Seay: Not any one in particular, but I always like the ones about seasons just to see if they came true.

Interviewer: What was the most used superstition, and did it always happen?

Seay: Umm, well I can't remember, but there were a lot that were used often: Mountain folks are always talking about some superstition, and most of the time, it really did seem to happen. That's the fun in superstitions--sometimes you can't figure out if it's all in your head or if they are real.

Interviewer: How much did/do you believe in these superstitions?

Seay: Not as much now as I did when I was a girl. When you are young, isolated, and all you have to entertain you is your family and friends, and nature, then your imagination is quite active. Nowadays, I don't really ever pay attention to them anymore.

Interviewer: What was the worst job growing up? What was your favorite?

Seay: The worst was probably fetching water from the spring because we didn't have running water, and we didn't have electricity in the valley for a long time either. My favorite was probably fetching the cows. Everyone had a couple cows in the valley, and after morning milking, we would let them up the creek; if they didn't come back in the evening, then we would have to fetch after them.

Interviewer: If you could have grown up anywhere else where would have it been?

Seay: Probably Asheville, even though it was peaceful growing up in the valley, I still would have liked the convenience of living closer to a town.

Interviewer: What were some life lessons you learned growing up where you did?

Seay: Growing up there taught me to be hard working. It also taught me to keep in mind that you don't have to live an extravagant life to be happy, and that sometimes being in a place that pristine is a blessing, but growing up there, you were truly blessed. [The Interviewer adds: "That quote was my favorite. I think she heard from her mother, so it was kind of special to her, and me; it is also just a beautiful quote."]