Interview with Hilda Povall OH# 387 on September 24, 2007

Interviewed by Emily Weaver and Dr. Cameron McMillen

Transcribed by W. Ray


Side A

EW:    This is Emily Weaver and I’m with Dr. Cameron McMillen and we are in the Povall home this evening and we are speaking with Mrs. Hilda Povall about her house and the Historic Neighborhood Project.  Mrs. Povall do you willingly participate in this oral history project?

HP:                 Yes I do.

EW:    Well great, thank you. Cam.

CM:    I understand that you are not from Cleveland?

HP:                 That is correct.

CM:    How long have you lived in Cleveland?

HP:                 We moved in Cleveland in August 1973.

CM:    Did you move into this house?

HP:                 No.  Victoria.  South Victoria, about two blocks over.

CM:    Do you remember the number?

HP:                 I’m trying to think.

CM:    Or who lives there now?

HP:                 702 I think.  It was a small little rental house next door to the Whittington’s.  And they are no longer here.  They’ve moved to Jackson.  It was a great little house.  Tiny, tiny.  You could stand in the Breakfast Room and touch everything – every room in the house.

CM:    And did you move from there to here?

HP:                 We moved from South Victoria to Lamar Street.  1307 or something near Canal.  We were just one house off Canal Avenue.

CM:    And then to here?

HP:                 And then to here in 1981.

CM:    Do you know the history of this house?

HP:                 Some.  I know that it was built in 1912 more or less, and finished maybe in 1913.  Somewhere in that neighborhood.  We found – I knew that was the date that I had been told but when we were doing some renovations we found some old Commercial Appeal newspapers stuffed in the walls.  It was pretty funny, just you know, little sections.  And then the original owners were the Shands.  Audley Shands, who was an attorney.

CM:    How do you spell that?

HP:                 A-u-d-e-l-e-y I think.  Audeley – I’ll have to think.  That doesn’t sound right.

CM:    That’s about right.

HP:                 But he’s in a lot of the Cleveland history.   The Bi-centennial Book.  And he moved to Cleveland to represent the railroad.  And they built this home and it was the first house on this block.  And I think it was followed soon thereafter by Mr. Ward.  But they owned all of the lot that this is on, and the lot next door and straight through in behind.  All the way to Leflore, the whole block.  And we had a picture somewhere which I wish I could find to show you tonight of two of the Shands children standing inside the yard by the porch shade and you can see nothing but cotton fields behind the house  And that’s pretty neat.  The Shands have been back and Kirk was asking me today if I knew how to find them and I said I do not but I’ve got on my list to call LePoint Smith and ask how to get in touch with them because you know they are not going to be with us much longer.

CM:    Did you buy the house from them?

HP:                 From Bootsy Ashley who now lives right up the street here on Bolivar.  Mr. Ashley and her husband bought the house, I believe in the ‘50’s, because Wally Ashley if you know Wally, he is the only son of the children of Mrs. Wally and I think there were two sisters and he is the only child that still lives in Cleveland.  They grew up here.  And as I understand they bought the house in the very early ‘50’s from Mrs. Shands who her husband had died much earlier.  And she lived here as a widow and during World War II, and even in the ‘30’s rented out rooms in the back of the house.  So when we moved in there were two apartments in the back of the house.  That’s kind of interesting.  She must have lived in this front bedroom as best we could figure, Mrs. Shands.  And there’s a set of back steps that we think at one time was the back porch and there was a little one bedroom apartment on the north side and there was this tiny little kitchenette in the closet which was I guess one of the first, I don’t know who made them, but you know Sears or whoever, but the little metal – they were very heavy and had the little stove, sink, refrigerator and a tiny little stove.  And then on the south side of the back of the house which is where our bedroom is now, there was another apartment.  And it had a much larger room with a bathroom and a much larger kitchen.  It was not in a closet.  It was actually a small little room which you couldn’t do much in there.  And it was a window at the top of the stairs which makes us think that this front part of the house was the original structure.  And then at some point, maybe in the ‘30’s, they added on a whole back section upstairs and downstairs and over the porch.  I think that room on the back was a back porch and that was pretty clear.  And about four years ago when we did another renovation and we took all of the ceiling tiles – sheetrock and stuff down and went back to the bead boards you could see the opening where the porch stairs had been, you know to go upstairs, so that was kind of fun.  But anyway, they had the two apartments and when Mrs. Shands sold it to Mrs. Ashley, they just left all of that in there and the kids grew up here and I think they all had a great time growing up.  So we were the third family to live here.  We bought it in ’81.

CM:    So a hundred years and only three families.

EW:    That’s pretty impressive.

CM:    You’ve got some gorgeous woodwork here.  Is it all original to the house?

HP:                 Absolutely.  We haven’t changed – nothing structurally to the front of the house.  All of this was plaster originally.  And at some point they, I guess the Ashley’s did the sheetrock but if you’ll look up at the top of the stairs you can see the hallway upstairs is the only thing left of this plaster.  There.

EW:    Oh yeah.

HP:                 And then the hallway upstairs (inaudible) and this front bedroom is still plaster.  Which I have no intentions of changing.

EW:    It’s difficult to take plaster down or to change that.

HP:                 It’s hard as a rock.  I mean it’s like concrete.  And the plaster – it’s interesting, Mary Elizabeth’s house down the street that they just bought which was the Hill home, had a different sort of plaster in it that was more sheetrocky.  I don’t know how to describe it, but it was not this stuff.  This stuff is heavy duty.  I mean it is like concrete.  We’ve tried to put this mirror in and you had to I mean…

EW:    Drill?

HP:                 It was incredible.  The carpenters – and the same thing on securing these mirrors.  It was a major challenge.

EW:    They are not going anywhere.

HP:                 No, they’re not going anywhere.  But getting the hooks through the concrete and it’s real interesting to get through the sheetrock and then you know you’ve hit that plaster so you have to use a really – almost a concrete nail or something to get it in there.  But anyway, it’s pretty interesting.  Very sturdily built but one thing which is kind of a fun story.  When the Shands sisters came to visit us was that during the depression when they had (inaudible) artists?  Do y’all remember that painting at Will Jacks house?  That was in the, let’s see you come in the front dining room and then there was the sun porch and then that other room that I call the sitting room.  Well over the mantel, it was Gerald’s office there’s this gorgeous painting.  And it looks like a painting and I asked about it and Jamie said that during the ‘30’s when the Denton’s were there that an (inaudible) artist came and painted this on the wall and they did molding on the wall so that it looks like a frame.  Well according to the sisters in the library, this whole wall right behind us was painted with a mural over the fireplace on both sides.  By the time we bought the house it had long since been either sheet rocked over or painted over.  There was no – and it made me so sad to know.  But of course I didn’t know that at the time.  I didn’t – we had lived here ten years by the time the Shands came back and started telling us stories of different things.  And we had – it had been a Music Room originally and we did it kind of a Music Room and a Library and added all those bookcases.  And there was a door at the other end of that room that opened into this little hallway which we think that was a back door.  And under the stairs were all these pipes.  We think at some point that must have been sort of like a little mud room.  They had a sink and I have no idea what else.  But it was very obviously plumbing of some variety.  Not a toilet but you know, water and that sink.

CM:    Have you found lots of things in renovations?  Have you found newspapers and have you found other things?

HP:                 Not a whole lot of interest.  In the attic there were some interesting things but not so – and they cleaned it out pretty well.  The thing that was pretty interesting is the fact that in the back yard there was a garage, a two car garage with – well, I say that but it might have been for just one vehicle and it probably was, but it was wider and maybe that was a workroom on the other side.  By the time we moved in there was just remnants.  And the back yard was just a disaster in terms of stuff.  And when I had the little children, when we moved in Mary Elizabeth was like six, Margaret was – she was younger than that, Mary Elizabeth must have been about three for she was born in ’79 so she was – gosh, she wasn’t but a couple of years.  Margaret was born here, she was born here, she was born in, when was Margaret born?

I take that back, Mary Elizabeth was born – I’m getting very confused.  Mary Elizabeth was born in ’76 and Margaret was born in ’79, so Margaret was just a couple of years old and then Kirkham Wright was born, he was born in ’83.  Anyway it was filled with bamboo and just stuff.  But the yard had wonderful azaleas everywhere, even in the back yard. But there was also all these pipes that were from the plumbing or whatever and gas things that went to this other house.  And I’m not sure what all else was back there but it just made you really nervous so as we cleaned up slowly and the plumbers would come and they would chop off this and we’d try to get grass to grow.  And you would find all sorts of little pieces of concrete and old bricks and a lot of glass.  You know broken things as in you know, china and dishes.  Not anything fine, just stuff.

EW:    Everyday.

HP:                 Yeah, things. And all sorts of tools.  You would find busted old hammers and screwdrivers and that might have been in the workroom in the corner.  Whatever stuff you leave in a garage or whatever.  But evidently when Mrs. Shands lived here, the story goes that you know in the early teens in the railroad community there was not a lot of no restaurants and things.  Mr. Shands being the attorney for the railroad had visitors come and Mrs. Shands’ duty was to cook and she served a wonderful meal every day.  And she cooked you know for however many regardless.  And she never knew who was coming home but whoever lived in the little house, evidently it was her cook and her helpers, and she had, the hole is in the cook where she had her bell to the kitchen.  You know to come and serve.  And I think we finally filled the whole in the wall in the little butler’s pantry there.  And according to Keith Dockery she had many elegant parties during her time before Mr. Shands died.  But my favorite story is that his biggest duty was to defend the railroad against farmers whose cows had been ran over by the train.  Funny.

EW:    Poor cows.

HP:                 I know, isn’t that sad?  But they didn’t know any better to get off the track and I guess they weren’t fixed as well.

EW:    Not any fences.

CM:    Do you have stories about parties and entertainment?  The elegant parties that she had, or I know you had the Arts – the Crosstie here, and a wedding.

HP:                 Oh absolutely, a wedding.  I don’t know a lot about the Shands but everybody Keith’s age and others have said that there was always many parties.  Always lots of fun.  I know they had a piano.  I don’t know what they did for music and entertainment, but evidently it was the place to come.

CM:    Keith is not from Cleveland either is she?

HP:                 No Kirk is not either.  He grew up in Holmes County and we arrived just kind of a fluke.

CM:    (Inaudible)

HP:                 Kirkham was graduating from law school and was interviewing for a job in Greenville and Indianola.  And my parents lived in Arcola, well actually in Hollandale.  They live in Arcola now.  And so we drove down from Oxford to spend the night and at some point during the week my mother, who has always bought her cars from Ed Kossman, came up to have her car serviced or whatever and he said, “How are the children and how is everybody?”  And she gave, you know how you do, “Well Allegra is in Columbus and she’s doing fine and Hilda and Kirkham are coming home this weekend.  Kirk graduates in May from law school and looking for a job and he is going to be interviewing in Greenville and Indianola this weekend.”  And Ed said, “You know at Rotary the other day Arthur McIntosh said they are looking for an attorney.  I’ll tell him.”  And so sure enough the next day Kirkham gets a phone call.  I don’t remember who called whether it was C. Arthur or Mr. Jacobs or whomever and so he set up an interview in Cleveland as well.  Anyway, we ended up here and (inaudible) that was in, I can’t remember, it had to be like in April.  We were fond of Indianola.  Really thought that would be, we would just love it.  We knew a lot of people there.  We did not know a soul in Cleveland.  And as it turned out, Kirkham graduated in August.  They don’t do that anymore.  He lacked whatever course, some short course, so he finished in summer school.  But a good friend of ours was graduating in May and here it was April and he did not have a job and he was also interviewing in Indianola.  Although we did not know that. But they called Kirkham and said they were desperate for some help and that they could not wait on him until August.  We were heartbroken.  But we thought that was a very nice way to say, “We’re hiring so and so.”

EW:    That was (inaudible) that you found out that.

HP:                 But we didn’t know that at the time.  And then the next – and when the person told him you know that he was going to Indianola.  Kirkham said, “Oh really!   Who are you going to work for?”  But things have a way of working out.

EW:    Oh absolutely.  Kind of like Delta State.  It just happens.  It is for a good reason that you landed here.

CM:    Do your pocket doors still work?

HP:                 They do.  So do these in the living room.  And we do use them a lot.  Well not so much these but I use these a lot when we have parties you know to close them off.  Just a little dinner party or something, or even a bigger party when you can do, you know, serve drinks and hors d’ oeuvre and then open the buffet and it is just kind of nice.  I love them.

EW:    With a bit of flourish, opening the doors.

HP:                 Oh absolutely.  And you can have your toast or prayers on the stairs. There have been many blessings said from that staircase, as well as many toasts and many announcements.  We did a wedding announcement from the stairs.  We’ve had several wedding announcement parties and the father of whomever the bride was..

EW:    Traditions that have started.

HP:                 Did their toasts.

EW:    Well who knows.  In a hundred years there might be people coming back to this house saying, “Do you remember when your mother or your grandmother was announced on the steps here?”

HP:                 That is funny.  They are all fun.

EW:    What attracted you to this house?  This property?

HP:                 Didn’t know a thing about it.  How odd.  I mean, really.  I had never been to – you know College cuts up there – you know this is a little dead end?  I had never seen this house.  And we moved here in ’73 and we moved to Cleveland in ’73 and moved to this house in ‘’81 and I had never seen it until like the week before we bought it.  But we knew that we wanted to live in the old neighborhood.  The big thing at the time was everybody was trying to buy a lot from Hillcrest Circle.  When we moved here that was not full.  There were still vacant lots over there.  And that was just not what we wanted, although at some point Kirk finally did buy a lot over there which we saved for a little while.  But once when we did sell it I was thrilled.  But we would do things like, and this is so – we would read the obituaries and we would ride and we knew houses and we would know, you know, who was not in good health and we would watch ….

EW:    See how things were going.

HP:                 Every night, we did.  I mean that is embarrassing to say.  I know a lot of people have done it.  It’s not – and I’ve said that and…

EW:    It’s so southern.

HP:                 I’ve said that and people would say, “That’s not a bad idea.  Just watch.”  But as luck would have it, the Walt Service Station was the gathering point for everybody for all the news in town.  And Kirk’s office was in the Commerce Building and so any news…And whoever said, “Women do more gossiping.  They know everything.”  So they would sit at Walt’s Service Station every morning and they would drink coffee and Kirkham got word that Mrs. Ashley was living here by herself by however many years and that she had decided that she wanted to downsize.  So from however Kirkham got up his nerve and called her up and said you know, “We would love to buy your house.”  And I had not even seen it and knew nothing about any of this.  And so I’m at home and he calls me up and says, “Hilda, I think I’ve found us a house.”  And I said, “You’re kidding.  Where is it?”  And he told me and I said, “Are you sure?  Where is this?”  And he said, “I’m coming.  I’ll be there in a minute.”  And so he came and got me and we came over and came and looked at the house.  And it was really interesting.  I’m trying to think.  This is the only light fixture that’s still here.  I have the light fixture that was in the dining room and it was a brass fixture similar to this but square.  And I mean, it didn’t have the thing in the middle, but you know, the little crossbars, and it is actually out in the – I have it outside.  When Mary Elizabeth bought their house and I had bought this chandelier, she took that light fixture and put it in her house down the street and it was perfect.  But she saved it.  When she sold her house she took it back down. And I couldn’t let it go so I still have it.  I feel like I’ll find a spot for it again.  But in that room, they had taken down the original fixture.  Evidently right before she decided to buy it, she took out a number of really big fixtures and put them in an antique shop over in Drew and told me if I was interested I could go buy them.  Well, it was a challenge for us to be buying this house.  We had three children and you know, so we had to make decisions and the things that I decided on were these two mirrors, the tier mirror and then there’s the Queen Anne mirror in the den in there and then somewhere in there is a little round oak mirror that I thought wonderful.  And the option was, you know she had a lot of Victorian furniture.  And you know, you just do what you can do.  So we moved into the house and painted and it was very empty.  The dining room was the Christmas tree room for a number of years.  Then we finally got a dining room table and the library became the Christmas tree room.  Anyway, …

EW:    Does the Christmas tree have a room now?

HP:                 It doesn’t have a room now.  It’s just in the corner.

EW:    It has to share.

HP:                 Anyway, that was funny.

CM:    What structural changes have you made to the house?  You said you didn’t make any to the front.  Have you made any to the back?

HP:                 We did.  But mostly upstairs until recently.  We added on that little back section which is, the main reason being is that we wanted a bathroom upstairs and the bathroom that was in our bedroom.  Do you remember me saying that the original apartment up there had a bathroom that was separate?  That belonged to it?  Anyway, it was really tiny and we wanted a real bathroom.

EW:    So beyond that one that was in your bedroom, there was no bathroom upstairs?

HP:                 No, there were two others.  They were shared, yeah.  There is one up above the piano because one year right at the Christmas holidays we were on our way to a party and I remember the people were coming to pick us up and I ran to the door, and I ran back to get my coat and – it was Tom and Alinda actually, and she said, I came back and she said, “Hilda your ceiling is dripping in the piano.”  And so we got a big bucket.  You can’t move it, it weighs three tons and oh, and I covered it over with a big, I’ve forgotten what we found.  Anyway it turns – I told my son, you know, (inaudible) was his room.  I said, “You cannot turn the water on, you cannot do anything.”  But when they finally, they had to you know, cut a hole in the ceiling to get to it, it was an old iron pipe and a nail had hit it when they had hit it when they were building the house.  At that point it would have been you know seventy or sixty-five or whatever earlier.  The nail finally rusted.

EW:    Rusted away.

HP:                 And the water you know –

EW:    Oh my.

HP:                 Pretty funny.

EW:    Yes.

HP:                 But anyway so that bathroom, there were two bathrooms and on this side there were three bedrooms upstairs and one bath.  And it was a nightmare.  Two girls were fighting in the bathroom and not conducive to sharing it.  You know it was just this long little bathroom – it was very nice – and the toilet was behind the tub and the little sink was there.  And the sink was right in front of the toilet.  So I mean there was no convenience there.  You couldn’t get to it even.  So every morning was just fighting. So I think in ’90 – 1990 we redid that side and took the middle bedroom and cut it in half and used – made all that area into a bathroom that went between the back bedroom and the front bedroom and then the other half, actually it was less than half, I made a little small walk through office that acted also as a hallway.  And so that worked out really smoothly.  I would go give you a tour except everybody is up there.  I’ll give you a downstairs tour.  But you’ve seen it.  Cam has been here and has seen most of it I think.

CM:    I didn’t come in to most of it I think.  So I saw some of it.  Did you – when did Kirkham buy his building for his office?  Was it much later or …

HP:                 ’91.  November 21st we moved in and then we opened.  And then soon after we had a grand opening party which was great fun.  It was the first week in December or the end of November.  It was right after Thanksgiving.  And I don’t know that a law firm had ever done such an event in Cleveland, but I guess we like to have a party.  So we had a grand opening and the conference room became the, you know, the buffet table.  And we turned the back parking lot into a giant bar.

EW:    Oh, fabulous.

HP:                 And invited everybody in town that we could think of and told others that didn’t get invitations until we ran out of invitations.  And it was a lot of fun.  But that was after Desert Storm, so that seemed to be – Kirkham had been in Jacobs, Eddins, Povall , Meador and Crump up to that point.  And he left to go to Desert Storm in December of ’90 and we were in the throws of doing this renovation.

CM:    Kirkham left to go to Desert Storm?

HP:                 He was gone a little over six months, which was better than a lot of people, I mean it might have been closer to seven.  Left in December and I think came back in July, middle of July, so it was about seven months.  And I will never forget we were you know, all the Iraq things going on and you were hearing about it on the news and Kirkham had been to drill and we knew it was coming up and our congressman, who at the time was Sonny Montgomery, was just adamant that the National Guard should go to war.  So they could prove who they were.  But the regular Army I don’t think wanted them that much and the Mississippi Calvary that he was in, the 187th, went – ended up in Fort Hood.  And actually they were the 155th, I’m sorry.  Anyway, they ended up out there but we had been – the weekend that we had gotten the announcement, we had been to a football game in New Orleans, I mean Baton Rouge LSU.  And we came home and he answered the phone and it said, “The Warring Bull.”  And that was the code.  And he had to show up, he had twenty-four hours to get where it was they were going, which was Camp Shelby.  Now, I’m – I laugh – I’m talking way too much.

CM:    You said that building came about at the close of Desert Storm.

HP:                 Okay, I did.  He did, when he returned home in July it was like one of those epiphany’s that you know, “Why am I doing this?  Life is too short and I want to do what I want to do.”  And the firm had looked at buying this building and I can’t remember what the deal was about why the decision was made that that was not going to happen.  But anyway, I think Lindsey and Robert decided that they were going to go somewhere else.  So anyway, Kirkham made the arrangements to purchase the building and we had two weeks to you know, do whatever it was that we were going to do and we went through and I mean I did some serious decision making and we carpeted, painted, wallpapered, and just cleaned it up and did almost all of that in two weeks.  It was quite remarkable because nothing had been done to that building in years and years and years.  Sam Langston had bought it and done a little to it but I mean, it needed a lot of freshening up so we did.  And it was great fun and Kirkham has not regretted it.

CM:    Have you done any structural to it?  Is that the closest home in Cleveland?

HP:                 The other home that was built at the exact same time more or less which was about 1884 is the Moses Coleman home which is that Halfway Shelter, the Rainbow Shelter House.  It was built about the same time.  But it was on the other side of the bayou.  So this is the oldest on the west side.  If you think about where they are.  They were just right down on Jones Bayou.  And if you think of Jones Bayou was much bigger.  And the transportation.  You know people went up and down the bayou.  And all of this was just a big swamp.  Trees.

CM:    And when did you move the house that was the Baptist parsonage?

HP:                 Probably – was it 2001 maybe.

CM:    Every ten years or so you (inaudible) a project?

HP:                 I don’t know.  If that’s the case I must be getting close.   Kirkham and I were talking the other night.  With the Historic District coming up you know to light, I mean we’ve been working on it since 2003 at least, maybe 2002.  The Heritage Commission trying to get it happening.  And Mary Elizabeth is working on her tax credits on her house.  And Signe Adams is too and she’s excited.  So anyway we were talking about that and Kirkham said – that house that is just right down from you and I just love, and I think it might have been that Baptist parsonage.  It’s got that window up above.  And we were talking and Kirkham said, “Hilda, why don’t you and Mary Elizabeth buy that?”

CM:    Would you please fix it?”  And the one next to it as well, David Bailey owns that.

HP:                 I knew that and that’s a challenge.

CM:    It is.  So what made you decide to buy the Baptist parsonage?

HP:                 Well, actually it was a gift.  They were trying to give it away.  And about five – many people before I got to it tried to figure out how to do it, and after consideration figured out that it was just impossible.  Could not be done.  That it was way too costly.  Way too time consuming.  And I don’t know what all other “way-too’s.”  But it way too.  And so I don’t remember how I found how I found out about it.  But the bank was trying to get rid of it.  To give it away to keep from pay to tear it down.  Which people don’t realize but demolition is expensive.  But they thought if they could give it away that would save them some money.  So that’s exactly what we ended up doing.  And I found a mover and we were able to do the tax credits and I think I can remember it might have been in 2000 because I had it five years when I sold it.  And I sold it in 2005.  Or maybe early 2006.

CM:    Was the house in good shape?

HP:                 Incredible shape.  But we found some really interesting things in it. It was done in 1886 I believe it was.  And it was also, well it was on a row of many houses very similar.  And it was stuffed with insulation, you know just like (inaudible).  So when they cut it in half to move it just all this stuff went everywhere.  It was really – but there were all sorts of things left in there.  After it was the Baptist parsonage, I’m not sure what all else it had become – a family lived there, the Stalling’s.  Their family lived there and there was one pantry that was full of family preserves.  I mean like pickles and jelly and whatever that were probably there since 1940.

EW:    I’m sure it was distilled.

HP:                 I mean there were some really interesting things that had just never been cleaned out and these little pantry’s were just closed off and at one point it was a dress shop and they had – you saw on the front where they had just closed the porch off and that was – I don’t know, they had windows and I guess that is where they did their display or whatever – their showroom.  But anyway, we got it moved.  I actually have a video of the moving that was saved because they either had to stop traffic to get it…

EW:    (inaudible)

HP:                 Uh hmm.

EW:    (inaudible)

HP:                 Over on this side is where they had – that was their little display room.  It doesn’t really look like – I don’t know what they did.  It was pretty disastrous.  Anyway we got it done and by using the federal tax credit, you know it made it almost profitable.  It was not a loss but you know as Kirk would say, by the time you got through you didn’t really make much of a profit.

EW:    But you saved Cleveland.

HP:                 But it saved the house.  My father just had a fit.  He said, “Why are you doing this?  You could build a house cheaper?”

HP:                 I said, “You’ve missed the whole point.”

EW:    What gets you involved in historic preservation?  Was it your training in school or is it just a passion?

HP:                 You know (inaudible) and I have a Master’s degree in (inaudible).  The – you know I’ve always loved history and Kirk has always loved history.  When – back in the late ‘80’s or early ‘90’s, you know how you get that letter from the Chamber and it says what committee would you serve on.  (inaudible)

EW:    It’s okay.

HP:                 But I do.  I’ve been on committees and we attend stuff and do all those things, but I had never served on something that I really enjoyed at the Chamber.  And that year when the letter came out it had a little thing to check that said “Historic Preservation Sub-Committee”.  And I don’t even know what it was a sub-committee of but it was something to do with Cleveland, so I put a check mark beside that.  (inaudible) need to do some stuff around here but it’s kind of sad.  All along the railroad track where the walking trail is?  It used to be a whole row of shotgun houses there when we moved here.  And I remember when the last one left, it made me so sad.  The guy didn’t want to move.  He didn’t want to leave his house. And I’ll bet you’ve heard that story.  But he was there until they showed up with a bulldozer.  But anyway all of it was just falling down around us and which now commonly you hear the expression “tear down.”  Oxford is just suffering from tear-downs.  But anyway, evidently I was sensing all of that and so he was like “go to the meeting” and so the next thing that happened I was chairman and what do we do?  So I just got busy and I don’t remember who I called or how but I got to investigating and calling Archives and History, and you know now I’m best friends with everybody down there.  Not really, but I love them all.  And they’ve done many good things you know to help Cleveland.  And discovered the way to get help is by being a Certified Local Government so I went to the Mayor and Mayor King was just wonderful.  He said, “Hilda, you figure it out and whatever you think we need to do we will do it.”  And you can’t ask for any better support.  And he was just fabulous.

CM:    What happened to the row of houses you said that were where the Baptist parsonage was?  You said had been a row of houses.  What happened to them?

HP:                 They were little cottages and they all disappeared.  In fact that photograph, this photograph I got from Sue King and she lived – that is Sue, well at an early age of about three – two or three- and this – you can’t see it in this because I have narrowed it down to show the house, but right here is a little bicycle thing  – you can tell that is what that is, a bicycle.  And she is standing right here.  I’ve got to – I don’t know what I’ve done with that photograph, but I have it somewhere.

EW:    We would love to get a copy.

HP:                 And ….

EW:    Did she give you the original?

HP:                 Oh no.  She’s got it.  And they called them the “honeymoon cottages.”

EW:    Honeymoon cottages.  But were they there when y’all got to town or were they already gone by then?

HP:                 This was the only one that I remember.  But it doesn’t look anything like a honeymoon cottage does it?

EW:    Well it really…

HP:                 But they were really cute.  But you can tell they were not enclosed underneath and they were – but anyway, so I just say thanks to Mayor King. And Ned Mitchell I think had the idea at the Chamber to do that.  And then he said, “Hilda, you do it.”  And that’s not exactly true because he was on the committee.

EW:    It is so much easier to move forward with (inaudible)

HP:                 No doubt.

CM:    It just seems like there is so much to talk about.

EW:    Well I have a question about this house.  This house seems to have so many stories it could tell.  What do you hope – what impression have you left on this house having owned it?  The next people that own this house, how do you want them to see it?

HP:                 Oh just as a…it’s been such a great place for our family.  I mean I just think lost – the house is so full of memories – you just can’t even you know, whenever you leave, I mean even your little place when you go on vacation you have all these wonderful memories.  I mean we just have loved being here and it’s been fun to share it with you know your friends.  I mean whenever there is a need for something to go on, Kirkham is real quick to say, “We can do that.  Let’s do that.”  And it’s fun.  Example, coming up this Christmas there is going to be a wedding at the Church in December. And ironically I received a phone call from a friend who is on the Heritage Trust Board.  And she called me and said, “Hilda I have a friend in Jackson whose son is getting married in Cleveland in December and she is divorced, and so the father is having her son a Rehearsal Dinner at KC’s and she would like to have her sort of Pre-Rehearsal Party and can you help her?  I told her I had a good friend in Cleveland that would know exactly where to have this party.  Can you help us out?  And I said, “Oh goodness, you know, the Gallery, but that’s ten miles away.  You know, the Church is not very conducive – the Parish Hall – but it’s going to be by next spring we are going to have it fixed up, but it is not going to help you now.

Side B

I said, “Who is the groom?  I mean, who is this person?”  I kind of had an idea.  She told me who it was.  And I said, “You are not going to believe this, but our families – her family – my family were good friends.  Our parents were really good friends.  I know you know Kit and her younger sister, and she had a younger sister that was my age.  And the middle sister was my older sister’s age.   And so I always knew Kit.  But our parents were just best friends.  My daddy and her father.  I mean I knew him almost you know like a really special friend because my daddy talked about him all the time.  They were always on the phone and I said, “Oh that is great.  I am so excited.”  I said, “Well let me think on this project and I will get back with you tomorrow.”  So of course I came home and told Kirkham and he was really good friends with the middle sister.  And we talked about where the possibilities were, and then you narrow it down.  And we came up with two options and I called her back the next day and I said, “Friend.”  Because I didn’t have Kit’s number and I had told her I would call her back.  I said, “I can come up with two options.  One is you can have a small gathering at one end of the upstairs of the Warehouse, but it is not really terribly conducive to a small event.  And the other option is you can have it at my house.  And we will make all the arrangements and we will leave if you want us to, you can use the house for just an hour and a half and we can slip out and go somewhere.  Whatever y’all choose you know.”  So anyway, sure enough they came up the next day and they came by the office and we visited and so I gave them a tour and showed them the Church, and places downtown.  Anyway, she called me and came by the house and I told them things that they can do and we talked about it and gave her the name of the caterer and the bartender and I said, “And they don’t need me because they’ve done stuff and they know where all my plates and china and silver is and they can find it and you’ll be fine.”  And so she called me back the next day and she said, “Oh Hilda, I accept.”  And so I called her father and he was just thrilled and she said that her mother almost cried you know it was just so special.  Well it was just such a fluke.  It was just meant to me because you know small world.  But anyway, so we are going to have another party.

EW:    Yea!

CM:    Did you grow up in an older home?

HP:                 Not terribly older home.  It was a house, I mean at the time when we were growing up it didn’t seem that old.  It was built in the late ‘40’s and it was a neat old house.  It was neat.  But it was built like an older home.  And in fact, it had tall ceilings.  Yeah, it was a reproduction.  How about that.  It was a neat reproduction.  But it had you know nice ceiling molding and it had big doors similar to this in the dining room.  But it didn’t have the pocket doors. They just opened.  And I like those pocket doors.  I like being able to close them which is funny.  But anyway I know the family that lives there now and I’m crazy about them.  And when they moved in I was thrilled that somebody – and that’s the way I feel about this house.  When we’re gone I hope somebody will get it that really loves it and will want to not, I don’t know, retrofit it or something to make it something that it’s not.  So anyway…

EW:    If you knew when you first bought this house what you know now, would you still buy this house?

HP:                 Absolutely.  I mean, I would do a much better job.  I would a better job. It’s funny.  I have learned so much, I mean not intentionally, but just by you know, working.  Of course, you know you do learn from your mistakes but just different things that I have learned about old materials that I didn’t know before that I could have saved some things and maybe I didn’t save.  And I kind of you know wished that I had done it.  I’m not sure that I would ever go back and buy any of those old light fixtures.   They were just, I don’t know, gaudy. They were real big and you know, took up – the one in that room I cannot tell you just stood out and it was copper and it had all these leg things that stuck out you know and hanging in all different directions.  And evidently it was a gas fixture that had you know been retrofitted for electricity.  But I mean it was really neat and interesting, but wow, I mean it just….

CM:    Had she taken any of these mirrors out and taken them to the antique place?

HP:                 They were still here and she really wanted to sell them because I mean they weighed …

EW:    How could she get them out?

HP:                 Yeah.  They weighed two tons, I mean they are so heavy.  It took five or six guys, six men to you know lift them.

CM:    Did she just have them sitting there and they worked?

HP:                 This one was actually here.  The one that is in the library was in the dining room and I just didn’t like it in the dining room.  I like it better in there.

EW:    (inaudible)

HP:                 It was a challenge.  And when they took them down to paint, which we have done twice…

EW:    The walls or to paint them?

HP:                 The walls.

EW:    Oh okay.

HP:                 This one I called Bill Lester to come.  It’s got some few chips on it and he said he could fix it.  We have not done that yet but I know he can do it.  I guess I’d better come and do the little repairs before he leaves and goes somewhere else now that he’s retired.  But I don’t think he’s leaving.  I don’t think he’s leaving but I was thrilled he did come and you know figure out he could do it.

EW:    (inaudible) transplants get stuck in the mud and (inaudible).

HP:                 Oh goodness.  But see that’s another connection.  I mean, Bill’s mother and my father were really good friends growing up.  And my father dated his mother in college.

EW:    How neat.

HP:                 Isn’t that funny?  And when my parents moved, my dad had a painting that his mother, Margurite, had given him of a scene in Hollandale.  It was the Blue Front Café, anyway, so he gave it to me and I gave it to Bill.  So I just thought he should have it.  And then he gave it to his daughter, McCloud.  So I hope she loves it, I don’t know that she does.

EW:    You need to tell her the story.

HP:                 I don’t know if Bill told her the story or not, I’ll have to ask him.  Anyway, I thought it was great and very dear and a real treasure.  That was hard, but I thought she should have it.  I mean that Bill should have it.  That he, you know, so… things like that you just  don’t – you know the family ought to have them.  So anyway..

EW:    Cam, do you have any more questions?
CM:    I think we have covered it pretty well.

HP:                 I’ve talked way too much.

CM:    No, we talk for hours.

EW:    Oh yes.

HP:                 I would love to give you a little short tour.

EW:    Okay.

CM:    Do you mind if I took some pictures of like the woodwork.

HP:                 Oh no, not at all.

Tape Ends



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