Partial Transcript: Did you think as a young man, growing up, perhaps in high school, maybe even as you got into college...
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about his goals as a writer growing up. Talks about his extended family, especially his uncles. Talks about the different places his family lived.
Keywords: "Coalfield Progress" newspaper; Authors; Businesses; Families; Fathers; Goals; Journalists; Merchants; Norton (Va.); Uncles; Writers
Subjects: Family history; Kentucky; Pearce family; Pearce, John Ed.
Partial Transcript: My mother, uh, was named, uh, Susan Leslie. She was from Tazewell, Virginia.
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about his extended family on his mother's side, including his maternal grandfather, uncles, and aunts.
Keywords: Aunts; Brothers; Businesses; Families; Genealogy; Grandparents; Marriages; Mothers; Newspapers; Uncles; Writers; Yankees
Subjects: Family history; Grandfathers; Mothers; Pearce, John Ed.
Partial Transcript: Now your father, where did he go to school?
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about his father going to college. Talks about his father's preaching and concert tours. Talks about his father's attempts at ranching in South Dakota, and moving back to Virginia and founding the Coalfield Progress newspaper.
Keywords: Baptists; Concerts; Education; Georgetown College (Georgetown, Ky.); Mandolins; Musicians; Preachers; Preaching; Ranchers
Subjects: Fathers; Newspapers--Ownership; Occupations.; Pearce, John Ed.
Partial Transcript: And it--from the beginning, it was enormously profitable.
Segment Synopsis: Talks about the births, namesakes, marriages, and careers of his siblings.
Keywords: Brothers; Careers; Colleges; Education; Marriages; Military; Namesakes; Norton (Va.); Siblings; Sisters
Subjects: Brothers and sisters; Pearce, John Ed.
Partial Transcript: Now I've read the, I've read your essays, one of your essays, about having five daughters.
Segment Synopsis: Talks about going to a Baptist boarding school. Talks about moving to Pineville, Kentucky, where his father founded the Cumberland Courier newspaper. Shares stories from living in Norton, Virginia.
Keywords: Childhood; Cumberland Courier; Education; Norton (Va.); Schools; Sons
Subjects: Pearce, John Ed.; Pineville (Ky.); Relocation (Housing)
Map Coordinates: 36.763056,-83.699444
Partial Transcript: I'm surprised, uh, thinking about some things--I've seen what you've written about your mother and thinking about this...
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about his mother's relationship with his father. Talks about his maternal grandparents and spending time at their home when he was a child. Talks about his mother running the newspaper while his father was away. Talks about his mother's housekeeping.
Keywords: Families; Grandfathers; Grandparents; Housekeeping
Subjects: Housewives; Mothers; Pearce, John Ed.
Partial Transcript: I was always rather fond of my mother and didn't like my father much. I was scared of him.
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about singing with his father in church. Talks about getting whipped by his father. Talks about distancing himself from his father and other adults. [Tape stops and starts again during segment.]
Keywords: Children; Fathers; Fears; Punishments; Spankings
Subjects: Fathers; Pearce, John Ed.
Partial Transcript: From the time I lived in Norton, in the evening we were all together.
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about always loving to read and what he liked to read as a boy. Talks about what type of music he enjoyed and trying to save the family piano from floods. Talks about the flood wall in Pineville, Kentucky.
Keywords: Books; Childhood; Flooding; Floods; Hobbies; Literature; Magazines; Music; Pastimes; Pianos; Pineville (Ky.); Rivers
Subjects: Floods; Pearce, John Ed.; Reading
Map Coordinates: 36.763056, -83.699444
Partial Transcript: Right there on the river.
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about living next to the Cumberland River. Talks about staying with his uncle in Texas. Talks about snipe hunting with his friends. Talks about interactions with African Americans as a child.
Keywords: Boats; Childhood; Fishing; Houston (Tex.); Hunting; Norton (Va.); Pineville (Ky.); Traveling
Subjects: Cumberland River (Ky. and Tenn.); Pearce, John Ed.; Race relations.
Partial Transcript: Now w-when you, you moved to P-Pineville when you were five or six. Your father set up the Cumberland Courier.
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about moving to Rutherfordton, North Carolina and what he did for fun there. Talks about high school. Talks about what he did at Chimney Rock Camp for Boys. Talks about revisiting the camp in later years.
Keywords: Basketball; Chimney Rock Camp for Boys; Depression era; High schools; Moving; Sports; Swimming
Subjects: Camps; Pearce, John Ed.; Rutherfordton (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 35.366389, -81.958889
Partial Transcript: And then one day, in about '32, I knew that something was wrong. I think that there's a chemistry about people.
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about his father losing his newspaper business during the Depression. Talks about being devastated to leave Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Talks about his father struggling to provide an income.
Keywords: Businesses; Depression era; Families; Moving; Norton (Va.); Rutherfordton (N.C.)
Subjects: Depressions--1929.; Fathers; Newspapers--Ownership; Pearce, John Ed.; Relocation (Housing)
Partial Transcript: And when I was a sophomore, my mother and sister got me and told me that, uh, I'd have to quit school half a day.
Segment Synopsis: Pearce talks about having to only attend school for a half-day to go to work and how he felt about it. Talks about summer jobs that he had. [End of tape.]
Keywords: Depression era; Embarrassments; High schools; Humiliation; Pride
Subjects: Depressions--1929; Pearce, John Ed.; Teenagers; Work.
PEARCE: -- in the beginning God created [chuckle] John Ed Pearce.
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, n--- Yeah, that -- that's one of theplaces we want to start. I wanted to ask you first, John Ed, -- And I told you off -- before we started the tape that I think interviewing a writer is -- I haven't interviewed a lot of writers, but I -- I think interviewing a writer is very difficult.
PEARCE: It is?
PEARCE: [Okay ?].
BIRDWHISTELL: And I was wondering, just to start off here, beforewe go back and pick up on -- as you say, on -- in Genesis, did you think as a young man growing up, perhaps in high school, maybe even as you got into college, that you would pick up the Kentucky History Encyclopedia in the '90s -- 1990s and read about yourself that you are quote "one of the most widely read writers in Kentucky"?
PEARCE: No. But then,I didn't expect to stay [chuckle] in Kentucky [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. Well, n--- You know, I wasn't born in Kentucky.
PEARCE: I was born inVirginia, came here to go to school. And I more or less expected -- I hoped to start out in New York. I like New York and I find exciting, and I always wanted to work for the Herald-Tribune.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, you did?
PEARCE: And after the war,they went out of business and it pretty well left the Times, and I never could get a hold on the Times. But --
BIRDWHISTELL: So, you --
PEARCE: I --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- you thought you might be a widely r--- readwriter, but not necessarily in Kentucky.
PEARCE: It never occurred tome to wonder.
BIRDWHISTELL: [Chuckle] Never -- never came to your mind.
PEARCE: Not whether I wouldbe read or not, because I had no idea what I was going to write or --
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Yeah. Well, as you mentioned, you --you're not a native Kentuckian. You were born in Norton, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- Virginia.
BIRDWHISTELL: September 25th, 19---
BIRDWHISTELL: --19. I'd like to go back as far aswe can with your memory, and then I'd like to find out 00:02:00as much as we can about what you know about your family's history. And let's start out with some of your earliest recollections as a child. Now, you're in -- I know you eventually moved from Norton.
PEARCE: Yeah, we moved around,you might say.
BIRDWHISTELL: But -- So, how long did you live inNorton after you were -- after you born there?
PEARCE: About six years.
BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. So, from the time you were born untilyou're six, do you have any memories of -- of --
PEARCE: Oh, yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- that place?
BIRDWHISTELL: Tell me about some of those.
PEARCE: Well, my father founded,and operated, the local newspaper there, which was optimistically named the Coalfield Progress.
BIRDWHISTELL: Coalfield Progress.
PEARCE: Coalfield Pro--- It'sstill in -- in existence. [Chuckle] I think he sold it for $24,000, since he had no business sense at all [chuckle--Birdwhistell] and it -- you'd pay at least two million for it now. 00:03:00 It's quite prosperous.
BIRDWHISTELL: Two million for that.
PEARCE: Oh, yeah. Theypublish the paper for Norton, Clintwood, Big Stone Gap, all around there.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, did he create a rival paper or was --w--- was there already a paper in Norton --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- and he -- he founded a r--- ri---
PEARCE: He --
BIRDWHISTELL: He [found the p--- ?]
PEARCE: -- just went inthere and founded the paper.
BIRDWHISTELL: Founded a paper.
PEARCE: Yeah. My fatherwas a Kentuckian. His mother was a Pickens from South Carolina and his father was John Quincy Pearce, whose family came down from Massachusetts and settled I think originally around Albany, Kentucky, and then moved over to Pineville, Kentucky where my grandfather was the first principal of schools there. And then he went into -- all I know, 00:04:00it said the mercantile business. He then moved to Norton where he started the Mountain View Hotel, and was a merchant. That's -- I got these from the obituary. My father never spoke much of him.
BIRDWHISTELL: So you -- your -- your father's father wasn't --had died by the time you were --
PEARCE: Yes. By thetime I was born.
BIRDWHISTELL: By the time you were born.
PEARCE: And the Pearces weren'tespecially long lived, but he had three -- no, he had two brothers -- three brothers. One was Chilton, Clarence Chilton Pearce, a doctor who lived in Pennington Gap, Virginia. A large man. Over six feet and weighed around two hundred and thirty-five pounds, and was the idol of my young years. I loved to go 00:05:00to visit him. My uncle Richard was also rather tall, slender, and apparently something of a rake [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. He had five different [chuckles] wives. At five different times, I must --
BIRDWHISTELL: I'm --
PEARCE: -- [at least admit?].
BIRDWHISTELL: -- glad you pointed that out. That's important.
PEARCE: And he was --he was nice looking, he was handsome. I remember i--- when he was sixty, he could chin himself with one hand [chuckles].
BIRDWHISTELL: Where did he --
PEARCE: [Not ?] --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- live?
BIRDWHISTELL: Houston, Texas?
PEARCE: He'd wandered off toHouston, Texas and --
BIRDWHISTELL: [Wow, that was a ?] --
PEARCE: -- [where he was?] -- where he --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- that was quite a trick back then, wasn't it,--
BIRDWHISTELL: -- to go out there.
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, --
PEARCE: Anyhow --
BIRDWHISTELL: No, I meant to -- to move -- Youknow, he moved further than the other members of the family, out -- out west, I guess.
PEARCE: And then there wasUncle Will, who played the violin and died [chuckle]. And that's about what I know of him. He --
BIRDWHISTELL: So there are four brothers.
PEARCE: No -- no sisters.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, where did Uncle Will live?00:06:00
PEARCE: He lived in Pinevilleand died in Pineville.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, did they all come down from Pennsylvania --
PEARCE: I think from Massachusetts.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- from Massachusetts to --
PEARCE: In the early partof the 1800s.
BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. So you all migrated --
PEARCE: Uh-huh, south.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- south.
PEARCE: And finally came throughOhio into Kentucky, and settled around the Tennessee border. In fact, I think my father -- my sister told me that my father was born in Jackson, Tennessee, but I don't know that that's true. I wish I had kept better records. I just didn't have 'em to keep, I guess. My mother was named Susan Leslie. She was from Tazewell, Virginia. Her people on her 00:07:00father's side, my grandfather, came from Richmond. He was a Baptist minister. I don't know whether he was ordained or not. But when he came to Pineville -- to Tazewell, Virginia from Richmond, going west, he was for a while a Baptist minister and then he bought, I think, from a man named Kelly the Clinch Valley News. And he ran the paper there, the only paper in Tazewell County, he ran that for his entire life.
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Okay, now this is your --
PEARCE: He married Ella Bland,B-L-A-N-D, whose people came down from Pennsylvania. And she had -- 00:08:00my mother had two brothers, Frank and Joe, and three sisters. My Uncle Joe was the editor for a while of the Norfolk Ledger Dispatch.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really.
PEARCE: And -- yeah, hewas a trustee of the University of Richmond. My Uncle Frank, a sweet, mild-mannered man who never seemed to have a great deal of ambition but sort of enjoyed life [chuckle--Birdwhistell] there in Tazewell. He took over the newspaper when my grandfather died. He and my Uncle Bland, who also stayed in Tazewell all of his life.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, is that newspaper out of the family altogether now?00:09:00
PEARCE: It is now, andonly recently.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
PEARCE: Uh-huh. Bland's daughterNancy inherited the paper, more or less, and married a man named -- that's embarrassing, I'm getting old -- Jack something. And he persuaded her to sell it. This outranged the family, I'll guarantee you [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And to this day, I think most of the people in the family won't speak to Jack.
BIRDWHISTELL: Is that right?
PEARCE: Yes. But --Nancy has a sister named Louise, Louise Leslie, who is a writer. A single lady and the most charming, I think, of my relatives.
BIRDWHISTELL: When you say a writer, what type of writing doesshe do?
PEARCE: She writes mostly historybooks of Virginia.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
PEARCE: Yeah. She's a00:10:00great world traveler and she writes travel articles.
BIRDWHISTELL: [Well?], --
PEARCE: Now, my mother had-- let's see, my mother's sister Nancy was short, plump, and interesting as she could be. She was a pianist and a very fine one. She also taught music there in a little small town, and she had sort of a bohemian studio [chuckles]. And she ran off once to Chicago, where she studied with Percy Granger. And had a big time. Aunt Nancy smoked cigarettes [chuckles]. [Interference] Did all sorts of [ra--- racy ?] things [like that ?].
BIRDWHISTELL: All right. You got -- You came unpluggedon me, here. So, she went off to Chicago. What [interference] [inaudible] [for a time ?]thing here, like in the Teens, would that be the --
PEARCE: I imagine, early '20s.She died about ten years ago. She was a dear 00:11:00lady. The other one, Aunt [Isabel?] married a Yankee, a Mr. [Gard?] from up in Wisconsin. And they sort of turned her picture to the wall, [chuckles] marrying a Yankee. I never knew her well.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, 'cause that side of your family, the Leslie side,Bland side, they would consider themselves Southerners, whereas the Pearce side were transplanted Northerners, right? As I underst---
PEARCE: Well -- Now,my grandmother Pickens was from South Carolina.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, that's right. Okay. So, from the --
PEARCE: And she --Umhmm.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- okay, from the --
PEARCE: And there's a veryinteresting story about that. Her father was fairly well-to-do at the time of the Civil War. He family was anti-slavery, although they were all hot Southerners. They didn't like the idea of slavery, 00:12:00both on religious and on sort of political grounds. They just didn't believe in it. And my grandfather went on a man's -- a friend's note. The friend defaulted and in repayment gave him some slaves. This outraged the family [chuckles]. They all rose up and descended on him and told him to -- he'd have to do something about it. So, he sold 'em. That was even more outrageous, "How can you deal in human flesh?"
BIRDWHISTELL: Bad enough to own [chuckle] --
PEARCE: And when his wifedied -- when his wife died, his sister went and got my grandmother and brought her over to PeWee Valley, Kentucky, where she was 00:13:00reared by an uncle, James Chilton. That's where the Chilton name becomes in.
BIRDWHISTELL: I see.
PEARCE: And she went tothe female academy. She was a very -- She was tall, slender, rather pretty, a religious, gentle woman. And --
BIRDWHISTELL: Which female academy did she go to? Do youremember?
PEARCE: That's all they te---told me.
BIRDWHISTELL: Just they went to the fe--- she --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- went to the female academy.
PEARCE: Yeah. So didmy mother and her sisters. The -- Up a--- up at Tazewell, Virginia.
BIRDWHISTELL: They went to a girl's school --
PEARCE: Yeah. Uh-huh.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- in Tazewell.
PEARCE: It was considered alittle more genteel than the public school, you know.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Right.
PEARCE: Girls learned girl things.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Right.
PEARCE: And that's sort ofthe family.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, -- Okay, so your -- I want00:14:00to make sure I don't lose track of who's who here.
BIRDWHISTELL: Your grandfather on your mother's side ran the -- herfamily ran the newspaper in -- in Tazewell, Virginia.
BIRDWHISTELL: And then your grandfather on your father's side had beena school -- school person, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- educator, hotel --
PEARCE: School person.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- operator, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- and business man.
BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. And eventually moved over to --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- to Norton. And, now, did your -- didyour -- Okay.
[interruption in taping]
BIRDWHISTELL: That's your grandfather, right? Okay. Now, your father,d--- where did he go to school?
BIRDWHISTELL: Georgetown --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- Kentucky?
BIRDWHISTELL: What -- what brought him up to Georgetown from Norton?
PEARCE: Well, in the firstplace, they were a bunch of Baptists [chuckle--Birdwhistell] and -- and Kentuckians, so it was not unnatural for him to gravitate to Georgetown. 00:15:00In fact, my brother Don says that Daddy took a look at preaching after he got out of Georgetown, that's where he met my mother. That he was holding revivals and things like that, a itinerant sort of soul-saver. And --
BIRDWHISTELL: So, was he in Virginia doing this when he metyour --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- mother?
PEARCE: Yeah. He was-- H--- her father, of course, was a big Baptist.
BIRDWHISTELL: All right.
PEARCE: They were all abunch of Baptists. And so he met her and married her in Tazewell.
BIRDWHISTELL: Wow. Now, did the --
PEARCE: He was a tall,dark-haired, blue eyed, rather handsome man who played instruments. He was wonderful on the mandolin, guitar, violin, but could also play the piano a bit. And that's what he should have done instead of trying to go into business, because he wasn't worth anything in --
BIRDWHISTELL: Did he --
PEARCE: -- business.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- use those talents in his revivals? [Do you00:16:00know ?]?
PEARCE: I don't think so,but I do know that he went on concerts. He went on concert tours where he would play, you know. Because I'd seen concert bills --
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
PEARCE: -- featuring him.There he was strumming his mandolin.
BIRDWHISTELL: So, he must have -- D--- W---Did he learn this as a ch--- as he was growing up in Norton? Did he take --
PEARCE: I th---
BIRDWHISTELL: -- music lessons and --
PEARCE: -- I suppose so,b--- The whole family was musical, because Uncle Will was known only for the two things that I can recall. One, he played the violin, and the second, he died. [Chuckles] That's not much of an autobiography, is it?
BIRDWHISTELL: No. No. But after your father --
PEARCE: Married my mother.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- married -- married your mother, did -- did the-- did the Leslie family set him up in the newspaper business --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- [then ?]?
PEARCE: He got some moneyfrom my -- from his father and he borrowed some money from 00:17:00her father, which was surprising, because the Leslies were frugal people. They knew the ancestry of every penny in the bank. I'll tell you they traced their family back two generations, but they traced their money back to the [chuckle] origins of it [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. They -- they were nice people, kindly people, but just -- as I say, they were frugal people. They wasted nought. And Daddy wouldn't know the value of a dollar if you hit him with it. And he took the money and went to South Dakota to become a rancher.
BIRDWHISTELL: [Chuckle] Oh. Now, what year -- what yearwas this happening?
PEARCE: Hell, I don't --
BIRDWHISTELL: This was --
PEARCE: -- know.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- after they were married, right?
BIRDWHISTELL: What year -- Do you remember what year theygot married?
PEARCE: No. I canfind out, if you're really interested.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. We'll -- we'll -- we'll -- we'll look00:18:00at that later. But the e--- So they loaned him this money, on the basis that he was gonna become a rancher in --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- the Dakotas?
PEARCE: And he bought aranch. He bought a ranch, although my sister Rose, who knew more of the family history than anybody, says that he really didn't ranch, he sold insurance in Rapid City [chuckles] to keep their ranch going [chuckles]. And he was breaking a pair of horses to this buggy. They ran away, he tried to jump out, he got his feet -- leg caught in the wheel and it not only broke his leg in a dozen places, but fractured his skull.
PEARCE: Left him in badshape. Momma took him to Chicago, got him patched up, and they told him "your cowboy days are over." So he went back -- They went back to Wise, Virginia, which is five miles from Norton where his father was at the time. Why, 00:19:00I don't know, and neither did Rose, my sister. There once more he turned to Momma's family, and once more those tightwad people lent him some money, and he bought -- he bought the Coalfield Progress, or founded the --
BIRDWHISTELL: Founded, umhmm.
PEARCE: -- Coalfield Progress.
BIRDWHISTELL: Sold the ranch. Did he sell the ranch?
PEARCE: I guess. Yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Probably sold the ranch.
PEARCE: If he really ownedit. He [chuckle--Birdwhistell] may have just had a down--- You know in those days you could homestead forty acres --
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, that's right.
PEARCE: -- for nothing.
BIRDWHISTELL: That's right.
PEARCE: Well, he started thenewspaper. And f--- it -- from the beginning, it was enormously profitable. Bought a big, old rambling house there on Virginia Avenue and had a big family. The first child was Ann. And Ann married a man named Taylor Leonard, who worked for Kentucky 00:20:00Utilities and -- until he went to North Carolina to work for Duke Power Company. Then Virginia was born and straight-away died, --
BIRDWHISTELL: As an infant?
PEARCE: -- in infancy.
BIRDWHISTELL: As an infant.
PEARCE: Then Rose Gibson wasborn, named for the Gibson family of Pineville who owned that big, old house down by the river in Pineville.
BIRDWHISTELL: Family friends?
BIRDWHISTELL: They were friends of the family?
PEARCE: Yeah. And thenMary Catherine was born. And then I, named for my father. I dropped the Junior when he died. Then my brother 00:21:00Donald, Donald Crittenden, whose second name was from a Kentucky friend of my father's in South Dakota, a man who had migrated from Kentucky and settled in South Dakota like my father.
BIRDWHISTELL: Had they been out in South Dakota together or hadCrittenden --
PEARCE: Yes, apparently. ThenJoseph Chilton, named for the Chilton branch, my grandmother. And he fell afoul the musician [stripe ?], became a pianist and a teacher, and for a while wrote music for the movies in Hollywood and things like that. He was also director of music for Virginia Military Institute. Didn't like the military people and quit [chuckles].
BIRDWHISTELL: Didn't mind the music, but the military --00:22:00
PEARCE: He has written anumber of books on philosophy and on child rearing and things like that. He -- he's sort of weird, but an interesting guy. Pretty good writer, too [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. My brother Don went to Milligan College over in Tennessee -- or Virginia. Is that in Ten--- I think it's in Tennessee, it's right down there in the corner. And then went in the Marine Corps for World War II. Was shot up twice, came home, finished college, and became a professor of English. Taught at Sullins College for Girls and then he taught at the University of South Carolina.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
PEARCE: He's retired and nowlives in Columbia. And my youngest sister, Susan Leslie, named for 00:23:00my mother, went to either h--- to Radford, I think -- now, I'm not -- yeah, I think that's right -- College in Virginia, and married a man named Wilfred Ritz, R-I-T-Z. He was a professor of law at Washington and Lee [University]. And they lived there. He retired about five years ago and died this past year.
BIRDWHISTELL: Is that right?
PEARCE: And they lived thereever since.
BIRDWHISTELL: And she still lives in Lexington, Vir--- Virginia, then?
PEARCE: Yes. Now, mybrother married -- my brother Don married a girl named Judy Skeen, S-K-double E-N, who was a daughter of a judge there in Wise County. I guess that's about enough about that, isn't it? 00:24:00
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, eight -- eight children.
PEARCE: Yes, seven le--- ands--- seven lived.
BIRDWHISTELL: And seven lived.
BIRDWHISTELL: The big house in Norton, is it still --
PEARCE: Yeah, it's --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- [there ?]?
PEARCE: -- falling down.Never was much of a house, in my opinion [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. The coldest house [chuckles] I ever saw. [Telephone rings]
[Interruption in taping]
BIRDWHISTELL: The -- the girls in your family that were bornprior to you, the three that -- Ann, Rose, and Mary, did they go to college?
BIRDWHISTELL: They all --
PEARCE: Ann did not.
BIRDWHISTELL: Ann did not.
PEARCE: Ann ran off fromhome and got married at an early age.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, I've read -- I've read your essay -- oneof your essays about having five daughters, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- and I -- I thought you had some --I liked what you said, when people would say something like, "Well, do you wish you'd have had a son or something?" And, of course, in your family then, you become the first male.
PEARCE: I was first maleand I was in the middle. I had three older and three younger.
BIRDWHISTELL: But you were the first, and you're named after your--
BIRDWHISTELL: -- your father. Did that -- did that giveyou a special place in the household?
PEARCE: I think it did.A--- at the time, of course, I was not aware of it. But I think that I was somewhat spoiled and I think that it worked against me, too. I don't know how to say this without making it sound silly, and it wasn't, but I think that my father always thought I [chuckle] was smarter than I was [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. For example, I started school when I was [chuckle] barely five years old, and I skipped -- I skipped the fifth grade, I remember. And they were always sending off places. 00:26:00For example, when I was about in the fourth grade, how old was I, I was just a kid.
BIRDWHISTELL: Nine or ten --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- years old. Well, of course, you would havebeen eight or nine if you s---
PEARCE: [Yeah, or eight ?].
BIRDWHISTELL: -- [well ?], if you started at five.
PEARCE: And they sent me-- I was older than that, so must have been more than the fifth. They sent me to Lee Baptist Institute down in Pennington Gap, Virginia. I've often wondered if my father had some mad idea that I would become a minister of some sort. Send me to a Baptist school. [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] I couldn't have cared less. I liked it. I liked Lee Baptist.
BIRDWHISTELL: Was it a summer program or you actually went toschool there?
PEARCE: No, it was aboarding school.
BIRDWHISTELL: You went to a boarding school.
PEARCE: Yeah. I went toboarding school.
PEARCE: Oh, it was a-- It was pretty nice. I enjoyed it and had a good time. And I guess I made good grades, I always did.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did you stay there then while -- Was that00:27:00just one year or did you finish there?
PEARCE: No, went there oneyear and then went back to Pineville to --
PEARCE: We moved to Pineville,I think, in 1924.
BIRDWHISTELL: So you were five years old.
PEARCE: Just about, yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. Yeah, five or six years old. Now,why did your fa--- why did your family move from Norton to Pineville?
PEARCE: 'Cause my father didn'thave sense when it came to business [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. He sold that flourishing weekly in a booming town. Norton was a coal/railroad town surrounded by coke ovens, coal mines, and it was a -- it was a railroad terminal. It was the end of the line for the L. & N., Louisville and Nashville; it was the end of the line coming west for the Norfolk and Western; and it was also the terminal for the interstate railroad, which was mainly a coal-hauling railroad. But it had about thirteen tracks running down past 00:28:00that station. It was really quite a railroad, coal, coke town. And a considerable shopping center for that end of Virginia and eastern Kentucky. We got a lot of coal operators, doctors, and lawyers from over as far as Hazard would come to Norton to shop. Had good stores, banks. He sold out there for very little and moved down to Pineville. I guess he thought because he had been a boy there, he would be welcomed. He was not. There was already a good paper there run by [Herndon Evans?].
BIRDWHISTELL: [Randall's ?] son [was ?] [inaudible].
PEARCE: Yeah, right.
BIRDWHISTELL: So, then he established a new--- a new newspaper --
PEARCE: A new -- new--
BIRDWHISTELL: -- or bought a paper?
PEARCE: He established a newone.
BIRDWHISTELL: And what was it called?
PEARCE: It was called theCumberland Courier and it wasn't much good. It never was as good, I think, as the Pineville Sun and it was never as prosperous. I -- We made a -- We had 00:29:00a good living there. Pineville was a awfully pleasant place for a boy to live. It was right rough. But Norton was right rough. About a year ago I was sitting here and the phone rang, as it did just then, and a man said, "Are you by any chance from Norton, Virginia?" I said, "Yes." [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] He said, "I live out in California and I come through here every now and then on my way home to Norton, and I saw your name in the paper. And I was just wondering if you could be the same one." Said, "Your daddy owned the newspaper there, did---" "Yeah." [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] And he said, "My family owned the hotel just down the street, the Pack Hotel. I'm Harry Pack."
BIRDWHISTELL: Pack, P-A-C-K?
PEARCE: I remembered him verywell.
BIRDWHISTELL: Is that right?
PEARCE: He was a tall,blonde man who was oh, ten years older than us high school boys, and he was always telling us the facts of life [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. 00:30:00He'd -- We'd hang around the front of the drugstore [chuckle--Birdwhistell] and he would tell us about the horrors of gonorrhea, --
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really.
PEARCE: -- clap [chuckle--Birdwhistell] andwhat it would do to you. He'd scare us to death, you know.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did you --
PEARCE: But --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- remind him of that on the phone?
PEARCE: [Chuckle] No. [Chuckle--Birdwhistell]The -- the Pack Hotel was rumored to be a whorehouse. Whether it was or not, I don't know, because I was too young to know anything about that [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And he said, "Hey, Norton has changed, hasn't it?" I, "Yeah." He said, "I can remember, man, when they had board sidewalks down there in Little Italy, east Norton." And he said, "It's cleaned up now, but it's dead." [Chuckles] And I said, "Yeah, it's cleaned --"
BIRDWHISTELL: [Chuckle] Cleaned up --
PEARCE: -- "up and dead.They -- they embalmed it before they buried it." [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] And he said, "I remember once some miners up on the road to Wise there, where it turned -- or curved at the 00:31:00Norton Coal Company got in a fight with a nigger and killed. Actually they didn't know whether they killed him or not, but they didn't see any sense in people poking around in it, so they picked him and they carried right down the hill there and threw his body in a coke oven." He, "[Man ?], they threw you in a coke oven and they won't find a bone of you in ten minutes." And it reminded me of what a rough little town that was at times. I -- On press day, I'd go down, I was four and five years old, you know, and get papers. And I would run all through the downtown section selling Coalfield Progress. "Hey, get your Progress." [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] I -- I think I got to keep a penny or so of it.
BIRDWHISTELL: So, you were in the newspaper business fairly early.[Chuckle--Pearce] All of your life, right?
PEARCE: [Chuckle] All mylife.
BIRDWHISTELL: All your life. I'm surprised, thinking about some things00:32:00I've seen -- what you've written about your mother and thinking about this, that your mother wouldn't have vetoed a move away from Virginia to Kentucky. Would she have been able to veto a move like that?
PEARCE: No. I don'tthink so. My father always ran things. And furthermore, according to my sister Rose, Momma was absolutely crazy about him [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. She did anything he wanted to do. It was fine with her. Rose said, he'd come home and say, "Hey, I'm going -- I'm going to Knoxville -- I'm going to Cincinnati, or so forth. You want to go?" And she -- in -- in five minutes, they'd leave. Momma'd say to me, "You and Catherine take care of the children," and away [chuckle--Birdwhistell] they'd go [chuckle] and leave the two older girls there with us. So, no. Momma was tough, she was very tough woman. She could 00:33:00stand a lot of adversity, and did, but she was not domineering in the sense that she would run her husband. She was reared in a genteel Virginia family where my grandmother called her husband "Mr. Leslie" all of his and her life. And in the evening, we'd g--- Oh, I loved to go and visit my grandparents in Tazewell, the summer, and we were allowed to scream and holler through the house until it came time for Grandfather to come home from the office, from the newspaper office. And then my grandmother would say, in that quiet by steely voice of hers, "You children will have to get out now. Mr. Leslie will be coming home." And Mr. Leslie came in, and put his hat in the hallway, and walked into the -- into the parlor. 00:34:00And he sat down under this lamp that had fringe hanging down. And he would light his pipe and get out the [chuckle] Roanoke newspaper, or the Richmond newspaper, and read his paper. And you kept the hell out of the parlor while [chuckle] Granddaddy was reading and smoking his pipe [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. When Granddaddy sat down at the table, you ate. You did not eat before Granpa sat down, and gave thanks, and served the plates. Then you could eat.
BIRDWHISTELL: He dished everything --
PEARCE: Furthermore, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- out.
PEARCE: -- you could nottalk. You did not speak until Granddaddy had served everybody, and then he would say something and you could talk. Furthermore, Granddaddy wanted you to chew every bite forty-eight times [chuckle--Birdwhistell], which we would 00:35:00try to do, but hell after two bites, [chuckle--Birdwhistell] you know, it was half gone. And this -- I don't want to give a wrong impression. He was a sweet, loving, and gentle man. The Leslies were all short, blonde Scots people and the Blands were all short, and skinny. I bet Granma didn't weigh eighty pounds when she died. She was very small, about five feet tall. My mother was five feet tall. My father was six feet tall. But it was that kind of family. Patriarchy was -- it was unexceptional, of course. It was expected.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. I was thinking, in the essay in Seasons[:A Collection of Essays, Vignettes and Random Thoughts] entitled "Mother" you talked about -- or you wrote about the times your father would 00:36:00go out of town, and sometimes your mother would stay and she seemed to enjoy the opportunity to --
PEARCE: Oh, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- to get involved in the newspaper.
PEARCE: Now, for -- forextended stays. My father was always running off somewhere pursuing some mad idea he had for wealth [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. For example, he went down to Knoxville once and started a -- a trucking line. He had been in the grocery business with a man named Elam there in Pineville, and he noticed that they were spending a lot of money trucking stuff in from Cincinnati and Knoxville. So he said, "Hell, let's start our own line." So they did, and lost their shirts [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. Didn't know a thing about it and had about these four big old Mac trucks [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And the drivers would get drunk and wreck them, and ruin the cargo. And they lost a lot of money. And he would go out of town and just leave the newspaper to Momma.
BIRDWHISTELL: So, she ran it.00:37:00
PEARCE: Yeah. And Mommawould get it cleaned up [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. She would pay the bills, and clean up the office, and get everything straightened up, and -- and she was a good writer. She was a --
BIRDWHISTELL: Did she write for the newspaper?
PEARCE: Yeah. Yeah.And --
BIRDWHISTELL: Under her name? Or --
PEARCE: You know, there wasno names.
BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. She would just do stories and --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- but she --
PEARCE: A lot of itwas personals --
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, she would --
PEARCE: -- and that sortof thing.
BIRDWHISTELL: Social, personal, those --
PEARCE: Yeah, umhmm.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- kinds of things. Uh-huh.
PEARCE: And -- Oh,sh--- and she loved it. She loved to go around the courthouse and get news from the courthouse, and everybody knew Momma and liked her. She was really a very likeable person. Little, short, squat person.
BIRDWHISTELL: I just had the impression of -- from that briefessay you wrote, that in another time and place, she may have 00:38:00been a newspaper person herself, coming out of a newspaper family.
PEARCE: Well, not only that,but she would have been in some sort of business. I always got the feeling, and so did my sister Catherine, that Momma did not like to keep house. And she -- I know she never cared a great deal for cooking. She'd cook [chuckle--Birdwhistell], she had to.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did you all have a cook in the house?Did you --
PEARCE: Almost never.
BIRDWHISTELL: Almost never.
BIRDWHISTELL: Housekeeper? [Inaudible]
PEARCE: Only in North Carolina,we had a drudge who [sloped ?] in every now and then, and especially did washing and ironing.
BIRDWHISTELL: In North Carolina.
PEARCE: I'll get to thatin a minute.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh. Okay [chuckle--Birdwhistell].
PEARCE: But in Pineville, wevery seldom did.
PEARCE: Momma took care ofeverything.
BIRDWHISTELL: Well, that's a lot to take care of. Imean, you have seven children in the house --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- give or take who's coming and going.00:39:00
PEARCE: When Momma was runningthe paper, why we sort of -- the girls would cook and we'd all do things [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. It was a relaxed house. Strangely, I was always rather fond of my mother, and didn't like my father much. I was scared of him. He terrorized me from the time I was a little boy.
BIRDWHISTELL: In what way? In terms of --
PEARCE: I don't --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- expectations or --
PEARCE: -- know. He-- Huh?
BIRDWHISTELL: Expectations or pressure or --
PEARCE: As I say, Ithink he expected too much of me. [Chuckle] That -- a weird thing, to show how weird he was. As I say, he was a great musician and a great Baptist. So, when I was seven years old, or eight year old, whatever, I found myself at the First Baptist Church down in front of the congregation while Daddy [chuckle] played the guitar or piano, I would sing 00:40:00[chuckle--Birdwhistell], "Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam," and "Yes, Jesus Loves Me." That sort of crap. And, "Oh, [look Martha ?], ain't he cute?" [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] Which made me think, he's cute. I got over that [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. [Chuckle] People helped me [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And -- and when I was about ten or eleven, he got a limb and whipped me with it. It wasn't a paddling, he beat the hell out of me. The first time I was just sort of shocked by it. I didn't think I had done anything to deserve that kind of punishment. When we'd do something that Momma didn't like, or she'd say "No" and if we did it again she'd grab us by the collar and hit us once across the butt, wham. And we'd scream and 00:41:00holler and run around.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, more of a --
PEARCE: And --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- swat.
PEARCE: Yeah, it was aswat. And we expected it, and we recognized the justice of it, and [chuckle--Birdwhistell] it was all right. And we -- we didn't -- And -- and she was a -- she was -- she was nice to us. She was a -- I liked her. After the first time that my father beat on me, I didn't care too much for him. That's a terrible thing to say, but it's true. I -- I guess I [was ?] prejudiced against him after that. And I really regret it now. It's one of the things I regret about my boyhood. I -- He was not a violent man, he wasn't a vicious man, and I think that most of his life he was a very nice fellow. But -- 00:42:00
BIRDWHISTELL: Do you think he thought that was just what --
PEARCE: That's what you did.
BIRDWHISTELL: That's what you did to keep boys in --
PEARCE: Yeah, keep --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- in line?
PEARCE: -- 'em line andteach 'em right from wrong, as the saying goes. I -- A terrible thing, you shouldn't beat on children.
BIRDWHISTELL: Umhmm. Let me turn this over.
[End of Tape #1, Side #1]
[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]
BIRDWHISTELL: Did you -- You said you were ten oreleven and that was the first time, and sometimes after that. Did you try just to -- and keep some distance, is that how you dealt with it?
PEARCE: Well, yes, I keptdistance from all grown-ups. And when I was a boy, we sort of divided the world into our world and their world [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And, you know, seriously.
PEARCE: We thought it wasa good idea to stay away from grown-ups. Unless you wanted something from them, then you smiled a lot.
PEARCE: Otherwise keep away fromthem.
BIRDWHISTELL: The -- the -- the -- Yeah, the --the mingling that you get between young people and adults today was 00:43:00almost unheard of.
PEARCE: Yeah, they --
PEARCE: -- didn't spend anyquality time with us [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. Thank God. We didn't want 'em to. Now, the -- the -- From the time I lived in Norton, in the evening we were all together. We never went out, they never went out, and my si--- my parents would sit and read, my sisters would sit and study, and I'd see them reading, and I wanted to read. And I worried poor Momma to death, "What does this say? What does this say?" I really learned to read at a very early age because of seeing other people reading.
BIRDWHISTELL: Sure. Having --
PEARCE: And it was always--
BIRDWHISTELL: -- older sisters and --
PEARCE: -- great pleasure tome. And so today when they talk about children not reading, I think it's a -- it's [chuckle] -- it's remarkable, because I 00:44:00can't imagine having grown up without reading. We all -- all of us boys read. When I was a boy, we'd -- living in Pineville, we got magazines. My parents subscribed to Youth's Companion, American Boy, Open Road for Boys, things like that, which I loved. And before that, Child Life. And then we would get -- I don't know where, maybe we'd buy 'em or steal 'em or something, we'd get things like Wild West Weekly, and Railroadman's Magazine, Blazing Trails, all of that.
BIRDWHISTELL: Adventure --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- magazines.
PEARCE: Yeah. Shoot-'em-ups.
BIRDWHISTELL: And you'd have a lot of newspapers in your house.I guess your --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- parents would have newspaper from surrounding communities and fromprobably Richmond and different --
PEARCE: Roanoke, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- places.
PEARCE: -- yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: Roanoke, umhmm.
PEARCE: And on -- on00:45:00rainy days, a bunch of us boys would all get together and we'd bring magazines and swap 'em.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really.
PEARCE: We'd sit there readingWild West magazines, you know [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And then later on, when I got to be eight or nine, I started getting Tom Swift books. Loved Tom Swift books. And the Pecks -- Pecks, and -- who was it? Then I got into Zane Grey and -- and James Oliver Curwood. Those j--- and later went into Jack London.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, would you get those in paperback or --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- hardback from --
PEARCE: I'd get those forChristmas.
BIRDWHISTELL: You'd -- So, those'd be gifts to you from--
PEARCE: Oh, yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- people, uh-huh.
PEARCE: From my parents, usually.And my uncle. He'd give me two or three Tom Swift books. Oh, boy. [Like getting a pony ?]. And books were always prized possessions. At a fairly early age, 00:46:00living in Norton, we got -- no, we lived in Pineville -- got Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia. I started at "A" and headed for "Z" [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. I don't know that I ever got there or not, but I liked to read that stuff.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, justall that information and all of that --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- just right there. I mean, it's a --
PEARCE: And you learned words,and that'd give you a big -- big advantage in school.
BIRDWHISTELL: Were there -- were there books in your house, likejust --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- bookshelves of books?
BIRDWHISTELL: It was a --
PEARCE: We had little bookcases.I remember one with a glass --
BIRDWHISTELL: Just k--- Yeah.
PEARCE: -- cover that raisedup and -- and it was full of fiction books. And then there was another one where we had encyclopedia and things like that, and dictionaries. And it was a musical family, too. 00:47:00And from a very early age, I liked music, and we had an old Victrola with a lot of classical records.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
PEARCE: Yeah, we'd have JohnMcCormick and [Gala Curchy ?]-- who -- [Enrico?] Caruso.
BIRDWHISTELL: Just your typical Appalachian background.
PEARCE: [Chuckle] Yeah. [Chuckle--Birdwhistell]Well, we had -- You know, we had a really good music library.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, I know. I'm --
PEARCE: And my brother andI'd put on, and we'd crank that thing, you know. We also had silly records on there, --
PEARCE: -- like the littleboy and his mother at night. He wanted a drink of water and all that crap. And then we'd have "Yes, We Have No Bananas," "When It's Nighttime in Italy, It's Wednesday Over Here." [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] I still remember, you know, some of those. And so we always had music in the family. When -- 00:48:00when we were in Pineville, I remember that we had a [Nobby ?] grand piano. And the Cumberland River -- We lived on the river -- on the riverbank. And about every -- almost every year, here it came.
BIRDWHISTELL: I was gonna say, it's --
BIRDWHISTELL: You know something about floods.
PEARCE: Oh, [chuckles] boy, doI ever. And we would run upstairs, you know. Get everything we could carry upstairs. The girls would usually go up and stay with friends on the hillside there who had high homes. Daddy would drive the car up and park it up on Tennessee. And then we'd get ready for the river. And it would come up. And every now and then it would hit the house. It would get in the front -- We'd watch it come up the steps and over the front porch, and into the house. And we'd retreat up the stairs to the second floor.
BIRDWHISTELL: So, you -- you would stay at the house.
PEARCE: Oh, yeah. Wewent ups--- upstairs. And usually somebody from down the street, who lived in lower houses, would come up and stay with us. 00:49:00
BIRDWHISTELL: And [chuckle] you're stay---
PEARCE: Yeah. I rememberRichard Dike and his wife. I think he lives out here now in Middletown. She called me once. They came down -- they were just married, so they came up, stayed with us. It was exciting. But each time that it looked bad, the family would get together [chuckle] and we would lift one leg of the piano and put books under it, and then we'd go to the other [chuckle] --
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
PEARCE: -- and put books.Get the piano as high as we could on books [chuckle--Birdwhistell] hoping the flood wouldn't -- And this one time we had the damn thing almost against the ceiling, but here came the river, and, man, we watched it crawl up the book -- crawl up the legs of the piano. Oh, [chuckle] don't let it get the keyboard, you kn--- And it didn't.
BIRDWHISTELL: And it didn't.
PEARCE: It missed it justabout that much. The floods were a mess.
BIRDWHISTELL: So, you would take all your furniture out of thelower levels, I guess, and move upstairs.
PEARCE: What we could.
BIRDWHISTELL: What you could.
PEARCE: What we could.
BIRDWHISTELL: And you --00:50:00
PEARCE: China closet, --
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, --
PEARCE: -- cabinet.
BIRDWHISTELL: Were the floods then like you read about now, thatwhen the water receded there was mud everywhere?
PEARCE: Oh, it was --[chuckle] it was really horrible.
BIRDWHISTELL: Was it?
PEARCE: Yeah. And I'd--
BIRDWHISTELL: And [you knew ?] the work was involved in itafter the -- after the river was done.
PEARCE: Oh, me. You'dget all -- We always kept two or three hoses, and as fast as it would go down, we'd try to hose out.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, while it was still fresh.
PEARCE: Follow the mud down.We -- Of course, there's nothing to do about the lawn, the yard, and the backyard, and all that. It was just going to be a -- anywhere from an inch to six inches of mud, just mud coming down from Harlan Valley, I [chuckle] guess. And -- and it was awfully hard to get the house clean. And for weeks after it would smell, that musty, muddy smell of a flood. I don't think you ever get -- really get the dirt out from between the boards of the 00:51:00floor and --
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, is that house still in Pineville?
PEARCE: No, it -- itburned, oh, a long time ago. And then they built a flood wall. [inaudible] --
BIRDWHISTELL: Well -- Yeah, you -- I mean, everytime I go to Pineville now, I think about how different that must be.
BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, with -- You drive along the floodwall, right? I mean, it --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- doesn't the wall the road go on top ofthe flood wall?
PEARCE: You do. Andyou drive right over where we lived. Every time I look over there and there and I say, "Well, I'm over where I --
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, in --
PEARCE: -- "[once ?] was."
BIRDWHISTELL: -- relation to the -- where that football stadium is,where was your house from that?
PEARCE: It was toward us.
BIRDWHISTELL: Back --
PEARCE: It was --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- [this way ?].
PEARCE: -- west. Itwas west.
BIRDWHISTELL: But right there on the river.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right there on the river, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- you know, your house. Did you ever wonderwhy you lived on the river?
PEARCE: No, I was sodelighted [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. Oh, the river was, you know, --
BIRDWHISTELL: A small price to pay for all the --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- other --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- great things you got.
PEARCE: And my father gaveme a little boat, square-end boat.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, did your yard actually go down to the river,00:52:00or was your --
BIRDWHISTELL: Your backyard, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- went right to the river?
PEARCE: Well, it went tothe riverbank.
BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I'm saying.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Uh-huh.
PEARCE: Yeah. Right.
BIRDWHISTELL: And so you had a -- a boat?
PEARCE: Yeah, I had alittle boat and I'd paddle out there. And my mother, "Oh, you're gonna get drowned." It's a wonder I didn't, I couldn't swim for sour apples [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. But boy, here I'd go.
PEARCE: And fishing, yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: A lot of fishing?
PEARCE: Yeah. And exploring,up and down the banks.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, yeah. That's high adventure for a kid.
PEARCE: Oh. Wonderful.
BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. And you had kids in the neighborhood?
PEARCE: Oh, yeah. Andwe had -- It was -- it was just a lot of fun to live there. The mountains -- And again, my mother would let me run up in those mountains. And we'd go up there and spend the night, and we'd cook out, you know, and --
PEARCE: -- all that.Yeah. And I loved the mountains. Oh, I really did. I just --
PEARCE: -- loved the mountains.I liked nature from the time I was a kid. I liked trees and fl--- I was always climbing trees. 00:53:00Always --
BIRDWHISTELL: Did you hunt?
PEARCE: -- screaming at me,"Get out of there, you're gonna break your neck." Momma thought my neck was made for breaking [chuckles].
BIRDWHISTELL: Destined to be broke, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- right? [Chuckle] Did --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- you hunt, as a -- as a boy?Did you go --
PEARCE: Did what?
BIRDWHISTELL: -- hunting, hunting with guns?
PEARCE: When I went toTexas -- When I was either eleven or twelve, Daddy went down to spend [chuckle] the winter with Uncle Richard [chuckle].
BIRDWHISTELL: Spend the winter?
PEARCE: Yeah. Left thepaper to Momma to run.
BIRDWHISTELL: Took you with him.
PEARCE: I went -- andtook him -- took me with him. And we s--- and we lived out there on the prairie. Uncle Richard had a house not far from the railroad. And they gave me a four hundred and ten shotgun. And I assassinated the wildlife wholesale [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. You know, from the beginning I was a pretty good shot.
BIRDWHISTELL: Were you?
PEARCE: Yeah. Man, Icould hit birds on the wing. I'd shoot -- Didn't 00:54:00make any difference what kind it was. I'd shoot meadowlarks as soon as hawks, you know. And rabbits [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. I bet they got sick of rabbits. Every day I'd bring home a rabbit or two. I loved it. We had -- I had a wonderful time that winter, out there on the prairie shooting --
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, you weren't in school, right?
PEARCE: Yes, I went toschool at John Marshall School there in Houston.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right there in Houston.
PEARCE: My Uncle E--- myAunt Eva would drive me to school in the morning and pick me up in the afternoons. It was --
BIRDWHISTELL: And the days --
PEARCE: -- all right.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- days off you were off hunting.
PEARCE: I was always out[hunting ?].
BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. Now, what'd you think about being in Texas?You must have -- that must have made quite an impression on you, being in Texas as a young boy, out hunting and doing all that.
PEARCE: It was okay.
PEARCE: That was all.I didn't think anything exceptional of it.
BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, going out there for the winter, that wasn'tany big deal, huh?
PEARCE: No. [Chuckle--Birdwhistell]The biggest deal I remember was that we crossed Lake Pontchartrain on 00:55:00a ferry, and I saw seagulls for the first time, and smelled the sea. I -- I remember that to this day. And going through Alabama, we would drive over these red clay roads.
BIRDWHISTELL: Must be the mid--- mid--- like 1926, '27, --
PEARCE: Yeah, around in there.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- or maybe --
PEARCE: Before '30.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Sometime in the late '20s.
BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. You're going down Alabama.
PEARCE: I remember there wasa little black boy dancing out in front of this store where we stopped to get something to eat, a grocery store. We'd get Vienna sausage and stuff like that. And he -- this little colored boy's dancing. Boy, he was good. And I felt sort of -- And people would toss him coins, pennies. And he looked at me and I looked at him, and I -- it was the first time I ever felt uncomfortable about 00:56:00a situation. I sort of felt bad about him having to dance for pennies. No, I didn't feel unusual about being in Texas. I didn't feel unusual about being anywhere. I was [chuckle--Birdwhistell] -- Looking back on it, I took life pretty well as it came. I remember one night, a whole bunch of us boys were up on the mountain where Pine Mountain State Park is more or less, that overlook there. We were camping out. And some of the older boys, the [Hamlins ?] twins, took me on the snipe hunt. And the idea was, they would take me way out in the bushes, you know, and leave me there. "Now, you stay here, and we'll run the snipes, and you catch 'em in the bag, [and we'll ?] --" [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] "Okay." Well, I sat down and I held the bag there for a long [chuckles] time. And it was obvious that the snipes weren't coming. So, I got up, and I went 00:57:00on back to camp. That wasn't the way it was supposed to be [chuckle]. They didn't know -- I knew that mountain better than they did. So, I didn't think anything about it. I just wandered on [chuckles] back to camp. Didn't make them happy. And -- [Well ?], --
BIRDWHISTELL: I want to go back to the Alabama thing.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, you have a memory of being uncomfortable with the-- with the black person having -- dancing there. Why -- why do you think that was?
PEARCE: I don't know.
BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, --
PEARCE: [It was just ?]--
BIRDWHISTELL: -- what -- was there something in your -- theway you were brought up, a sense of -- justice is -- be probably too -- too strong a word, but you [kind of ?]--
PEARCE: I don't know.I just remember that I saw -- saw --
BIRDWHISTELL: Just didn't seem right to you.
PEARCE: I didn't have anygreat feeling about race, or black people. When I was a teenager and worked in the Norton pharmacy -- [telephone rings]
[Interruption in taping]
BIRDWHISTELL: When you were a -- You were talking aboutyour feelings about race and --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- you mentioned the Norton pharmacy.
PEARCE: Yeah, we had ablack boy in there named -- I don't know what his name 00:58:00was. I never learned. Called him ["Lightening" ?]. And he was jack-of-all-trades around there. He would deliver prescriptions, he'd come in in the morning and clean up, and so forth. Handsome, and bright. I always wondered, later on, what he could have done with a better chance. We didn't have an awful lot of black people in Norton. They lived over at what they called Southside, and they would work up in the camps, up at the coal camps. But --
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, when you -- you moved to -- to Pinevillewhen you were five or six.
PEARCE: [About ?] six.
BIRDWHISTELL: And your father set up the Cumberland Courier.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, did you move back to Norton, then?
PEARCE: No. In, Ithink, 1929 we moved to Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. Where is that?00:59:00
PEARCE: It is about, oh,thirty, forty miles from Asheville.
PEARCE: Right at the footof the mountains. Not far from Lake Lure and Chimney Rock.
PEARCE: Hendersonville, that area.And that was the happiest home I ever had.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, why did you all move there?
PEARCE: My father bought anewspaper.
BIRDWHISTELL: Sold the one in Pineville?
PEARCE: Sold the one inPineville. I bet he didn't get ten dollars for it [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. Wasn't worth anything. But he bought his fine paper in Rutherfordton, and with it got this beautiful home. Big white home sitting up on a hill, surrounded by pine trees and -- A beautiful home. I remember it smelled like cedar because all the closets and everything were made of cedar.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah. That -- [that'sa ?] smell you [remember ?].
PEARCE: And we did wellthere. I could sense that we were -- we were well 01:00:00considered, substantial people, you know. Kids can tell that, I think, whether your family is well respected. We had a pretty home, we had a business, and -- And Rutherfordton was just a wonderful place for a boy, that's all. I loved it. And [where ?] we lived, behind us there were woods, pine and oak, and I used to go out there and look for muscadines and scuppernongs.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did you miss the river?
PEARCE: Well, no. Ithought that when we moved from Pineville it would break my heart.
BIRDWHISTELL: When your parents told you you were moving, that --that was a difficult --
PEARCE: Oh, me.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- [thing ?].
PEARCE: -- I -- Idid. I just said I couldn't stand it [chuckle--Birdwhistell], live -- leaving my friends and leaving the river and the hills, the mountains 01:01:00there. I thought, "God, what will I do without the mountains?" I was in Rutherfordton about six hours and I thought, "Boy, this is it." [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] It was -- And it smelled good. Rutherfordton. It was sort of a mill town. There were a lot of textile mills over in Ruth, and [Milltown?], and Spindale, little towns around us.
BIRDWHISTELL: Was it -- Was Rutherfordton smaller than Pineville --
PEARCE: No, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- as a community?
PEARCE: -- it was somewhatlarger.
BIRDWHISTELL: Somewhat larger? Okay.
PEARCE: About the same.They -- they were all around five thousand people and, of course, Norton -- Pineville now has dwindled until it has about twenty-five hundred, I think. Oh, it was nice living in Rutherfordton. And I had such good friends. And I -- I had a girlfriend. That was my first girlfriend. And I was becoming interested in girls, and wanting to look cute [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And it 01:02:00was a wonderful place to live. We played a lot of sports. We've always playing football and -- and baseball, and there was a place called Woodland Park that had a big swimming pool -- a swimming hole real--- A little lake, you know, s--- and a diving board. And we'd go down there in the summer. I remember it so well. And they used to sell a frozen candy bar called "Forever Yours" and it was good. We'd have a nickel and we'd buy a frozen candy bar and go swimming. [Chuckles] And we had passes to the movies. I remember I saw John Wayne in The Way West. He was a new kind of cowboy.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, we're getting into the Depression though, aren't we?
PEARCE: Oh, yes.
BIRDWHISTELL: And was that --01:03:00
PEARCE: We moved --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- [did that ?] --
PEARCE: -- there just aboutthe time the Depression was settling in.
PEARCE: It was --
PEARCE: -- settling in onus, '29, '30. And went to school at Central High [School] outside of town, about a mile I guess, mile and a half. It -- We'd hitchhike out each morning, just [oodles ?] of kids [chuckle--Birdwhistell] hitchhiking out. And everybody would stop and their car would be settled on like locusts. And people just took it for granted, you stop and pick up the kids, and haul them out to Central. And [chuckle--Birdwhistell] in the afternoon we'd either hitchhike or walk home.
BIRDWHISTELL: Why'd they build the s--- the school outside of town?
PEARCE: Well, it w--- itserved really Spindale and other small towns around.
BIRDWHISTELL: Hence the name "Central".
PEARCE: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
BIRDWHISTELL: It was like in the --
PEARCE: Good school. Yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: Was it a better school than Pineville?
PEARCE: Bigger, I think.Yeah. But --
BIRDWHISTELL: And you were getting into higher grades, so --01:04:00
PEARCE: Yeah, I --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- it's hard to compare.
PEARCE: -- loved it.It was good. At first, we went down to this little shack, grocery store, down beyond the football field. We'd bring our lunch, and go down there and get a Coke or something, and eat our sandwiches. And then mess around, wrestle around [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And then the second year we were there, they installed a cafeteria, and that was good.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Were you the smartest kid in the school?
PEARCE: No. My sisterwas.
BIRDWHISTELL: Your sister --
PEARCE: My sister Sue Ithink made the highest -- She and a girl named Jane [Gilmer ?] made the highest grades ever made in Norton High.
BIRDWHISTELL: Your sister --
PEARCE: I was always --I was always a good student. If they hadn't made me skip the fifth or sixth grade, where I missed fractions, and --
BIRDWHISTELL: [Chuckle] You --
PEARCE: -- and I loveddoing --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- just missed fractions altogether [chuckle].
PEARCE: Yes, altogether. Justdidn't have 'em. And I was supposed to catch up overnight. 01:05:00Well, here's what they're about. [Coughs] Excuse me. And it was always a handicap to me after that.
BIRDWHISTELL: What about athletics? Seems to me that one ofthe things that -- traditionally for boys, if you skipped grades, then you're [smaller ?] --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- and younger.
BIRDWHISTELL: Your body's less mature --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- as you're trying to compete in sports.
BIRDWHISTELL: Was that your case?
PEARCE: Absolutely. I didn'ttry in Rutherfordton, I was too -- I was too small. Another good thing that happened in Rutherfordton was Chimney Rock Camp for Boys. My father printed the newspaper for the camp; they put out a little paper every week. And he got a deal maybe and sent me to this very expensive camp for boys up at Chimney Rock. It was on Lake Lure. And that 01:06:00may -- been -- that may have been the most satisfying and pleasantest experience of my early years.
BIRDWHISTELL: Why is that?
PEARCE: It was simply wonderful.
BIRDWHISTELL: What -- what made it so wonderful?
PEARCE: I loved everything aboutit. Our cabins were nice, and it was sort of like being away at school, except you didn't have to go to school [chuckle--Birdwhistell], you played all the time. And -- and had everything good to do. We shot rifles at targets, we shot bows and arrows, we made little things, you know, in the shop, we rode horses on the trails, and we had a fleet of canoes. And we'd check out the canoes and -- and we'd have jousts, and -- where we'd try to knock each other out of 01:07:00the canoes and things like -- It was more fun. We had a nice dock and diving boards, and we'd swim. Had a nice gym. And that's when I started playing basketball. I fairly good little basketball player I think, and we'd go to other camps and play the other camps. I remember we beat the hell out Sequoia, ha-ha-ha [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. And [chuckle] -- And we'd go on overnight hikes. And I remember once we went to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain outside of Hendersonville, and you could see, oh boy, all around from Sugarloaf.
BIRDWHISTELL: I'll bet.
PEARCE: A couple of yearsago when I was down there, I was going to Charlotte to see my sister, and I stopped through Hendersonville to see a friend of mine named Jimmy [Wooldrig ?], who is from Christian County down here. He'd been a farmer for years before he retired to Hendersonville. And I mentioned Sugarloaf, and he said, "Well, you want to go up there?" And I said, "Well, could we drive 01:08:00up?" "Yeah." [inaudible] It's a series of homes and condos, of townhouses, all over Sugarloaf.
BIRDWHISTELL: it still has that view, obviously --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- up there. Uh-huh. Wow.
PEARCE: I could have killed'em [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. They just -- And, of course, Chimney Rock -- the camp is gone, and the dock was off, the diving tower was falling down. It was -- And the gymnasium by the water, the roof was rotting and the shutters falling. It was very sad. I wish I hadn't gone there, because I loved Chimney Rock. The food was good. And I got in a fight with a boy from Cincinnati, and we'd fight every day [laughter--Birdwhistell]. And we didn't know how to stop this. And every time we'd meet, well, there's nothing else to do in here, we'd pummel hell out of each other, you know [laughter--Birdwhistell]. 01:09:00And it was disgusting. And one day I was down in a -- went down before class, whatever, down at the dock, and I was -- and I almost ran into this kid sitting there. And he looked up, and it was this Pete boy. And we sort of looked at each other [chuckle], and he grinned and I grinned, and we became close friends. And we were in the same canoe for -- for jousting. And we were very good.
BIRDWHISTELL: Joined sides.
PEARCE: Yes. [Chuckle--Birdwhistell]Tennis, I didn't do too well in tennis, but I got in the tournament. And a boy named Al [Low ?] beat me. I resented that.
BIRDWHISTELL: [Chuckle] Sports were important to boys.
PEARCE: Oh, yeah.
BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, they had to --
PEARCE: And we had a-- we'd have a big campfire at night. And I loved the bugle calls.
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really?
PEARCE: Yeah. Lie therein bed and hear 'em play "Taps", you know, and -- 01:10:00And it was a beautiful place. I'd lay there at night and you could look up the valley and see Rumbling Bald Mountain and those big cliffs, or look through the trees at the lake in the moonlight. Oh, it was -- it was lovely.
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, this is just one summer that you did thisor --
PEARCE: Just one.
BIRDWHISTELL: Just one.
PEARCE: I had been upto the lake a lot before. I -- We used to go up to the lake and camp out and fish. And I remember there and -- in the little town of -- of Chimney Rock there was a place called Hillside Gardens. And it was a dance place. Big dance floor, built almost over the lake, with trees growing up through it, --
BIRDWHISTELL: Oh, really? Yeah.
PEARCE: -- you know.And a bandstand. And all the people from the tourist hotels around would come there, and they'd have on their summer tuxedos, and 01:11:00the girls would have on their long dresses. We'd sit out in the bushes and watch 'em [chuckles]. And I remember so clearly this one night they were playing "Heartaches." [Sings] "Heartaches, hearta---" I thought, "Man, that's cool. When I get big --" I had a girlfriend named Vivian [Keater ?], and I thought we'd grow up, boy, and I'm gonna wear a white jacket like that. We'll dance, and we'll s- -- stand by the railing and smoke cigarettes, and make witty conversation [chuckles]. And we never did.
BIRDWHISTELL: Never made it. [Chuckle--Pearce]
PEARCE: Never made it.But -- those -- those were just wonderful years there at -- at Rutherfordton.
BIRDWHISTELL: Where were the boys in the camp from? Youmentioned a boy from Cincinnati. Were they mostly imported?
PEARCE: Yes. We hadboys from South Carolina and Georgia, but we also had boys from Louisville, Cincinnati. 01:12:00
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, was there obvious distinctions in wealth and background betweenthe boys? I mean, was that an issue that was --
PEARCE: I don't know.
BIRDWHISTELL: That wasn't an issue --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- that you --
PEARCE: My family didn't haveanything. And I'm sure that some of the boys were quite wealthy.
BIRDWHISTELL: That's what I'm saying, that there -- But thatdidn't --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- that was not part of the discussion at thecamp, about who had what or --
PEARCE: Oh, no.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- who's family had what.
PEARCE: No. There werethe distinctions with this boy from [Hamburg ?], South Carolina wet his bed [chuckle--Birdwhistell]. Poor kid.
BIRDWHISTELL: That'll -- that'll do you in [chuckle] real quick.
PEARCE: Oh. Even thenI felt sorry for him. And there was a boy named Walker from Cincinnati, whom I didn't like. He was in my cabin. I just loved it, I loved that camp, and --
BIRDWHISTELL: Now, the -- the boys at -- at school in-- in Rutherfordton, did -- did you get along pretty well with 01:13:00people there? I mean, was that a --
BIRDWHISTELL: You had a lot of friends and --
PEARCE: Didn't have any enemies.[chuckle--Birdwhistell] Now, we had -- I had lots of friends, [yeah ?].
PEARCE: And girlfriends, I wasstarting to get girlfriends. And life was just very pleasant.
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah. Yeah. It's --
PEARCE: [I think ?] --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- so --
PEARCE: And then one day,in about '32, I knew that something was wrong. I think that there's a chemistry [chuckle] about people. And I can -- My mother -- Two or three times I saw my mother standing in the kitchen door looking out toward the woods, and a worried, sad look on her face. I knew -- Well -- well, and then -- One day Daddy came home, 01:14:00I guess, and said we were gonna move. And I remember I went down to the newspaper office and Miss Louise, the bookkeeper, said -- she was crying. And she said, "Oh, it's all over. It's all over." And I ran home and Momma said, "Yes, we've lost the newspaper." My father -- As I said, he was no good in business. He shouldn't have tried. He -- He had borrowed from the Rutherford Sun to start the paper over in Spindale. And then he borrowed from that to start a paper down in Tryon. And he borrowed from that -- he was starting a paper in Spartanburg. 01:15:00He was -- he was pyramiding it. And he didn't know enough to do that. And so when the Depression started closing the mills and poverty became acute, his papers would fold, and he'd have to sell them in order to pay off a loan. And -- and just as they pyramided up, they pyramided down. He lost everything. And we lost our home. And you talk about being a heartbroken kid, I was. Life was good, and it was rich, and it was happy, and I had a great deal of confidence in myself and in my status. And we got in the car and we went back to Norton, where 01:16:00we still had the house on Virginia Avenue and the building that my Uncle Doc had given to my grandmother. I think she inherited that and later she moved into an apartment over this store, and we got the rental, or she did, and shared it, I guess, with us. But those were miserable years.
BIRDWHISTELL: S--- so you -- the -- You have toleave Rutherfordton.
BIRDWHISTELL: I mean, that's painful. Your father loses his --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- business. You lose your house.
PEARCE: Lose our pretty home.
BIRDWHISTELL: Okay. And so then you -- you move backto Norton and -- and you -- But you still own the house in the Norton, which was, I guess, a --
PEARCE: It had a mortgageon it. Yeah, I think we still owed money on it. 01:17:00
BIRDWHISTELL: Yeah, but I mean, at least you had a placeto go.
PEARCE: Yes. And that'sabout what it was, --
BIRDWHISTELL: So, --
PEARCE: -- [a place ?].
BIRDWHISTELL: -- now you're saying your father made money by --by the money that was coming in from the rental of this business -- building?
PEARCE: How much, I don'tknow. It was not much of a store.
BIRDWHISTELL: But this was right as you were entering high school,is that right?
PEARCE: Yes. I went-- I had gone to -- in my second year at Rutherfordton, and I had been a freshman, but they put me back, as I recall, about a half a year, or something or another, entered Norton. No, I'm -- I'd better think about that, I'm not sure.
BIRDWHISTELL: So, how did your -- how did your family getalong, then? I mean, what -- what'd your father end up doing?
PEARCE: Nothing. It killedhim.
BIRDWHISTELL: Was he [a broken ?] --
PEARCE: It just took along time.
BIRDWHISTELL: -- a broken man, is --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- one way to describe it?
BIRDWHISTELL: [I mean, as ?]--
PEARCE: It broke his spiritand -- He tried selling insurance. And my Uncle Doc, 01:18:00my Uncle Clarence Chilton, the doctor [?] --
PEARCE: -- died the firstyear we were in Norton and left my father some money. Instead of trying to get into some business -- A man with a little capital was not in bad position then, because capital was so hard to come by.
BIRDWHISTELL: Right. Right.
PEARCE: He started loan sharking,and lost it. He couldn't collect. He'd -- He had no sense about that, and he would lend to people who were not trustworthy. They didn't --
BIRDWHISTELL: Not only could they not guarantee their loan, he couldn'ttrust 'em to --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- pay him back.
PEARCE: And the collateral oftenturned out to be nothing. The car that had been cannibalized, things like that. No, we had a very hard time.
BIRDWHISTELL: How did your mother handle all that?
PEARCE: Not too well.I think leaving Rutherfordton hurt her very much. We had a 01:19:00lovely life there and a lovely home. It -- it was tragic having to leave there, I'll tell you. And Norton wasn't a very nice town. It was a tough little town. It was good if you were among the select. If you weren't, it was -- it was a rough town.
BIRDWHISTELL: And you knew both sides. I mean, you all--
BIRDWHISTELL: You knew the top of the rung, --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- and now you were experiencing --
PEARCE: Now, we're --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- down the rung.
PEARCE: Yeah. It was-- Now, I got along pretty well. In fact, most of us did, I think. I fell in with an awfully good crowd. The children my age belonged to the better families there, or at least very good families, and a lot of them 01:20:00were poor, too. But as my sister said [chuckle], there were several years there where we had no money, but we were never poor people. And that was right. And -- But boy it was -- [chuckle] it was rough. And, when I was a sophomore, my mother and sister got me and told me that I'd have to quit school half a day. I went to work for the printing office there. But we needed the money. And that was humiliating beyond [chuckle] expression.
BIRDWHISTELL: How did --
PEARCE: I --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- you deal with that, then?
PEARCE: That's what I say.It was --
BIRDWHISTELL: It was just -- I mean, did it makeyou bitter or -- ?
PEARCE: Yeah, a little bit.It sure made me self-conscious, and embarrassed, and -- You know how a boy feels his -- at fourteen, fifteen years old, 01:21:00he's all pride.
BIRDWHISTELL: It was the worst time in the life --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- it could happ--- I mean, it couldn't comeat a worst time --
PEARCE: No. And Iwas --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- [in terms of things ?].
PEARCE: -- just starting toget hair on my peter, you know, and my body was starting to fill out a little bit, and I was very conscious of girls and what girls thought of me. I was a pretty nice looking young -- young boy. I was -- up to -- you know, until I was a [rich ?] young man. And I was handsome, fairly, and athletic, and proud as hell, and --
BIRDWHISTELL: So, this was tough.
PEARCE: -- m--- many thingswere embarrassing to me then, and I worked there, and it was a miserable job. Interesting, but miserable.
BIRDWHISTELL: Did it put you on a time table then thatyou would not be able to graduate with your friends?
PEARCE: Yes. And that'swhat it was. It wasn't that I was put back. 01:22:00That was when I missed a half year, was in my sophomore year. And a lot of boys quit school then and never went back, during the Depression. They had no choice, I think. But I went back and --
BIRDWHISTELL: A lot of p---
PEARCE: -- I was --
BIRDWHISTELL: You know, you make a lot of jokes about money,and a lot of people make -- make kidding remarks about John Ed Pearce and his money. Is it -- is part of it because -- Is part of your thinking about money go back to this time of --
PEARCE: Oh, there's no --
BIRDWHISTELL: -- your life?
PEARCE: -- doubt about it.
BIRDWHISTELL: It's -- it's -- See, I didn't know thisabout you, so that -- I mean, it --
PEARCE: That and college.
BIRDWHISTELL: Uh-huh. Yeah.
PEARCE: I learned --I thought I learned how important money was. It isn't that important. But you're so self-conscious and you're so proud when you're that age. It hurts [chuckle] so much [chuckle--Birdwhistell] and -- 01:23:00
BIRDWHISTELL: So, when people see John Ed Pearce, who've known youonly in the last twenty years, they see a successful man who's obviously done well, and wonder why he might think about money, it's because there was a time in your life when -- when it hit you over the head, right?
PEARCE: If I had kepton I'd probably been valedictorian. But I dropped back a half. And actually I didn't try as hard as I should have. I -- I don't know. I was little -- getting a little rebellious, I guess, maybe a little bitter about things. We'd -- we had taken such a social beating as well as economic. And let me tell you, we were hungry all [chuckles] the time. I'm -- See, me, I was always hungry during those years. And my -- And if I had to get me new clothes, I had to buy 'em. So, I had to get out and get jobs. 01:24:00
BIRDWHISTELL: You had to hustle.
PEARCE: Yeah, I had tohustle [to beat hell ?]. It was -- it was very di--- Those were just very difficult years. And I always had jobs in the summertime. I was lifeguard at the swimming pool at least one summer [inaudible]. That was a good job. [Chuckle--Birdwhistell] Girls would come down, we'd mess around.
[End of Interview]