It was a happy time to be growing up. When I was about 10 years old, I went to Myers Park Elementary School. My very good friend Boots Barbour lived on Beverly Drive, and we lived on the corner of Queens Road and Oxford Place. We would ride our bikes to school and play football—we girls played football with the boys in the backyard.
There was this area at Beverly Drive and Providence Road between Sherwood Avenue and Oxford Place. That was the land. We called it “the woods.” My brothers, who were older than I, would have fun camping in those woods. There was a little creek that moved through it. It was just a great place.
So Boots and I used to go down and play in the woods, and one day when we were eight or nine, we found an animal dead on the side of the creek, all stiff. We carried him home to my mom and dad, and they told us it was an opossum.
During those years, everything in my family revolved around World War II. I had four older brothers—all four served in the military. It’s hard for my children and grandchildren to understand how consumed we were with the war; we woke up listening to Bob Trout on the radio. My mother was highly involved in war efforts here in Charlotte. She wore a pin with stars—each star represented how many children a parent had serving. My mother’s pin had four. And Mr. Parnell, our postman, he’d ring the doorbell once to let us know mail was there, but twice meant we had a letter from one of my brothers, and we’d run to the door to see which one it was from.
At that time, there were a good many German prisoners of war being used in the Southeast to help with road building, bridge building—things of that sort. A group of prisoners was assigned to develop the area that would become Hampton Avenue.
Boots and I noticed that suddenly there was a lot of activity going on, trees were coming down, and we decided to go explore. That’s where we discovered these German soldiers with American guards. They wore khaki work clothes and were there cutting the trees and preparing to make roads. Boots and I would go over after school from time to time, and they’d give us chewing gum. I don’t know whether it was the sugar rationing of the war or what, but having a pack of chewing gum then was a treat.
Two or three of them—I can’t remember their names—were particularly nice to us. They spoke English very well, but they had thick accents. I can’t recall just what we talked about—I suspect it wouldn’t have been any deep conversation with a couple of 10-year-olds, you know, just, “Hey, how’s it going? Here’s some gum.” And I can’t tell you how many times we did that, but it was at least a dozen. I don’t remember saying goodbye. It was a real treat. —As told to Virginia Brown