Camera Rolls: 317:43-45
Sound Rolls: 317:23
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Sidney Hayman , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on March 02, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
OK, [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] . So, Mr. Hayman-
Fourteen, fifty-one, time-coding.
Why don't you tell me the story that you told me, the story you told me before, about how the families in the Depression had to pass the soup bones around? How you—
Right, sure. Ready?
Time, times were tough in Somerset County during the Depression. I had a friend who lived in a small village west of Princess Ann, and he told me about his family. His mother went to the store and bought a soup bone, and she brought that bone home and she made soup with it, and after she finished with the soup bone, she gave it to a neighbor. The neighbor made soup, and after she finished with it, she took it to her neighbor, and that neighbor made soup, and she took it to her neighbor on the other side of the street. Then, somebody, the neighbor took it to another young couple, just married, and she made black-eyed peas with it, and that ruined the soup bone. [laughs]
No, that's great, that's just what—
Tell me about, we talked before, remember we talked about how times were tough, and the fishermen, and the—
Yeah, the barter, the barter.
The bartering. Tell me a little about how the bartering worked in the early [unintelligible]
OK. We didn't have much money then, the money was very, very scarce. What we did, a lot of us in the country, instituted a barter system. The watermen would go out on the river, and tong oysters or catch crabs, and they would bring them home, then take them up the river to the farmers. They would trade those seafood things to the farmers for eggs, and chickens, and things that the farmers had, and in that way we got along fairly well, but we didn't have any surplus money, any money to throw away. But we lived during those times, but it was awfully tight. The poorer people were more hard-pressed than we were, because they were on the lower economic scale, and they didn't have the facilities that we had. But fortunately we live in a country that had a lot of trees, and forests, and they would go out in the summertime and the fall, and they would cut firewood and sack it, and that's what they would burn in the wintertime. They had little airtight stoves, and they would put a stick of wood in there, and it would burn and give a lot of heat, so that we got a lot of heat, free, almost.
Great, great. Good. Can you tell me about, you know, you were talking about the poor people on the lower economic scale, and, and that sort of thing.
Can you tell me, can you tell me about how, and you were telling me this before, how the, the black folks, the Negroes, as they were called then, and the white folks, how the, how the race relations were, how people got along, and what did people do for each other. I remember, at one point you told me that "they knew their place."
Yeah, that's right, yeah. Well, we have a lot of blacks living in this county. I think it's about thirty, seventy percent, maybe it could even be a larger percentage than that, blacks. But we've always gotten along. We've never had any tensions, there's been harmony, and peaceful all during my lifetime. What we did, we respected their rights, and they respected us. They knew their place, and we knew ours. We looked out for them as much as we could, and they looked out for us. I can remember, in the springtime, going around these country roads, and in these colored churches they'd have their festivals, and they'd have a strawberry festival, and they were out there in their delightful little clothes, and horses, and buggies, and tables set up with white tableclothes[sic], and they were having a grand time. That's the way we lived, we lived that way, we had our festivals and they had theirs, and there was no tension as far as I can remember, the whole time I came up in my life.
Great, thank you, were they—is this a problem for the...?
Is that bothering you?
OK, that's all right.
Could we cut for a second?
There is a little bit of—
Am I talking too loud?
No, you're fine. Everything's going, you're doing great.
I just wanted to, to follow, when you said, I want to follow up what you said before, when you said that, that everybody knew their place. The Negroes knew their place, whites knew their place, what, what do you mean when you say "they knew their place"?
Well, they didn't encroach on our—
I'm sorry, could you start over and just say, the Negroes, or the coloreds, or however you referred to them back then.
Yeah, yeah, the colored didn't encroach on our way of living. By that, we kept our distance as well as they did. They worked in our homes, the colored people worked in our homes, the colored women. The colored men worked on the farms, they plowed and they picked strawberries and so forth and so on. But we each knew our place, we knew our place too, so we got along grand together. There's only one thing that happened—shall I go on to the rape?
There's only one aberration that happened during that whole time that I can remember, and that was a rape that we had in Somerset County, and that was a black raped an old white woman, and people became incensed because of that. We had never had anything like that in the history of Somerset County, and the result was, that, we had a lot of people come in from other communities, we had people from Delaware, people from Virginia came in here, and they got to drinking and carousing, and they decided to lynch the victim, the colored man. And they did. Up until that time, everything was grand in Somerset County with the races, no problem, and it took a little while for that to blow over, to get back to normal again. For a while we were very restrained, both races, and we watched our p's and q's. But gradually it came to pass, that we operated like we did in the past.
Great, thank you. Can you tell me, 'cause I know you've told me about this, can you go back now, and just take a minute, and I know you've probably been thinking about it since we first met, you—
[coughs] Go ahead.
And tell me, about the night that that lynching happened, and where you were, what you were doing, and what you saw, and how you came to see it, and that sort of thing.
Yeah. Well, the night, the night of the lynching, I had a date to play bridge, and I lived, my house was just about a block and a half from the jail. I remember hearing all these horrible yells, and screaming, so I went out on my upstairs porch to see what was going on, and I looked across the street and I saw five big men trying to pull up a telephone pole. Then I realized, maybe I should be careful where I would go that night, because things were getting pretty much out of hand. Then we went to play bridge on a street or two from the main street, and we heard all the ungodly yells, and we didn't know what was happening, so we broke up the bridge party and came out on the main street to see what was going on. There, about two or three blocks away,
I could see this mob coming towards us, and perhaps there were about three or four hundred people in the mob, and they were yelling and screaming, and oh, it was just horrible
** what went on. So, I walked out towards the middle of the street where the mob was, to see if I could recognize anybody, and I couldn't recognize a soul, I didn't know anybody that was in that mob. But they were dragging, they were dragging that poor devil by a rope they had tied around his neck, and of course he was dead. By that time, the dirt and everything, he was sort of blackened and disheveled, you know, just all over. They took him, and, about two blocks from where we were staying, and dumped him in a lumber yard,
** and that's where he was left that night.
OK, can you cut for a second?
Of course, I assume, I can't remember that, but I'm sure they gathered in clusters and walked, talked about it, I'm positive of that, but I can't remember actually what happened.
But even, but you even said that the next day people went to work normally, that's all I'm asking.
Oh, yeah. All right. The next day after the lynching, the colored people who worked in the homes went to work just like everybody else, and there was no difference there. And they were treated just the same as they were usual.
OK, thank you. What about the press, you said that there was a, a lot of press. I think we're going to have to cut, Mike, well, hang on a sec, this might be a long one.
OK, sir, why don't you start with you dressing...?
Well, about every two weeks, we had a bridge club, the four of us played. The same people played every two weeks, and I was dressing to go to the bridge club, to meet with the boys playing bridge. I went out on my upstairs front porch, we only lived about a block and a half from the jail, and we heard all this screaming and so forth, and I looked across the street, and there was a big telephone pole, and four big people trying to pull it up and screaming. Then I realized maybe I shouldn't be out there. So, I went back in and finished dressing, then we played bridge for about a half hour, then we heard all this screaming and yelling, and we didn't know what it was, so we broke up the bridge club and we walked up on main street, all of us, to find out what was going on. We looked south, and we saw what looked like three or four hundred people coming down the middle of the street, and before they got up close to us we didn't realize that they had a man on the end of a rope. I walked out into the street to see if I could recognize anybody, which I couldn't. I didn't recognize any, anybody in that mob. Then they took him about two blocks from us, and put him in a lumber yard, and that's where he stayed all night. In a lumber yard.
Do you know what happened that night in the lumber yard? Did they just leave him there, or did people go to look at the body, or—?
They just, no, I don't think so, I don't think so. I don't think the people, nothing but the mob went there, the townspeople...
OK, so, can you tell me again, when you saw a crowd of people coming down the street, was, was George Armwood alive, was he dead, were they pulling him by a rope, can you tell me what you saw?
We, a couple blocks or three blocks away, we couldn't see anything but the group of people, because the street light wasn't so good, and all we could see were the people moving back and forth and running up and down, and we didn't realize that they had a man on the end of a rope, which they did. And of course he was dead, and wiggling around like they were, running up and down the street.
Then I walked out to see if I could recognize anybody, which I couldn't, and they kept on pulling the mob, mob kept on pulling the man for a couple of blocks, and then they dumped him in a lumber yard down a side street, and that's where the man stayed that night. That was the end of the man.
Great, great. Now afterwards, the city press, , they had some pretty harsh things to say about the folks, you know, on the, on the Eastern Shore, and that didn't sit well. What was it that the papers were saying, and what, how did the local people react to it, and what did they do, what kinds of, what, what was that situation?
Well, of course, the next day, the incident was in all the city papers, especially the , the , and the . It was well-publicized, on the East Coast everybody knew about it, and a lot of the reports, was, a lot of the reports were inaccurate. They told things that didn't happen, they described things that didn't exist, and we were amazed, the people, the local people, were amazed to read the accounts in these city papers about what had happened in Princess Anne, because a lot of it wasn't true. We were criticized severely by Mr. H.L. Mencken of the , who at that time was in his prime, and well-known, and a good writer. But I question whether Mr. Mencken had ever been on the Eastern Shore. I also question whether he ever knew anybody from the Eastern Shore, but he had his opinions, and they weren't good.
What were they?
Well, he called us uncivilized, rednecks, uneducated, everything he could think of he put in his , printed it. At that time I had just finished school, going to school in William and Mary, and the was considered five, one of five of the best papers in the United States. , .
That's OK, let's move on, what about , though? How did people feel about after all that criticism?
Yeah, but, when I read accounts in , I was aghast, I couldn't believe that they would publish fabrications like they did. It upset me, and I lost some respect for , and from that time on, I have not exactly followed the word for word. [laughs] They'll probably come down and shoot me.
But yeah, right—let me ask you something, though. Didn't, wasn't there kinds of actions, didn't people, you were telling me people turned over trucks and canceled subscriptions and, I mean, wasn't there a lot of, like, retaliation on the part of the people?
Yes, there was, there was, after that time, of course, subscriptions fell off. People refused to read , because they didn't believe in them. You couldn't trust from what they was said [sic]. It was a long time, a long time, before they got their circulation back in Somerset County.
You don't recall any incidents of violence towards drivers for , or turning trucks, or any of that stuff, do you know anything?
No, they didn't destroy the paper, no, they—not to my knowledge.
OK, OK, all right. A month after the lynching, the National Guard came and arre—we talked about this, came and arrested four people, right?
Right, yeah, right.
There was a lot of trouble up in Salisbury.
With the National Guard. Can you tell me, I mean, it was almost a riot, what happened, what happened and why did it happen? What got people so upset?
Well, give me a minute.
Take five. OK, Steve.
OK, so you were saying shortly after about ? They were still saying...
I'm sorry, start, just start by saying, "shortly after the incident..."
Shortly after that, was still continuing to publish information about what happened in Somerset County. It's my recollection that the people in the state of Maryland wanted something done, so Governor Ritchie, who was governor at that time, and an excellent governor, he sent the National Guard down here to try to find out who the culprits were. They came down here, he sent the National Guard unbeknownst to the people in Somerset or Wicomico County, none of us knew that the guards were coming. So they came down and by the word of mouth they picked out four people they thought were the ones who lynched the man. No search warrants were, were, were given, were delivered, they just went and got the four people who, considered to be the ones who were instigators of the crime. Of course, the people got up in arms about that, we were invaded, a lot of them said we were invaded by our own National Guard. So, what happened? They had a court case, in Somerset County, in Princess Anne, and the National Guards were here, and of course the reporters came back from all the city newspapers, and it was quite a time. A lot of [laughs], a lot of festivities going on. But, they brought the prisoners in and it was, two or three of them were our main leaders in our citizenry, in our group, they were the stalwarts of our citizenry. They were taken up to the courthouse, before two judges. One was a chief judge, and one was a local judge, and a hearing began. But, what they found out, there was no testimony, nobody could bring in any written testimony, nobody could tell them anything, so they had to disband the court, there was nothing to try. Of course, by that point, the reporters were running wild with the telephones, and so forth and so on. That continued for a while, so, it was quite a time in our, in our experience.
What about when the reporters, these reporters, these big-city reporters who had been saying such bad things about the community, when they did come into the community, how did the people of the community react to them?
They didn't pay any attention to them. They ignored them.
So they didn't give them the time of day, there was no confrontation between...?
No, no. No.
OK, OK. Let me ask you something, I just want to get your opinion and you can talk about this if you think you can. Why did this thing happen on the Eastern Shore? Why do you think it happened here? You know, it didn't happen in Baltimore, it didn't happen in Pennsylvania, you know, the people from the big-city newspapers were very critical, why do you suppose, what is it about this area that made it possible for something like that to happen?
Well, I think it happened because we live so close together, the races. We...in the urban areas, people pass and didn't speak, and there was no, no feeling towards one another, there was just, just somebody, and that was it. But in our local community, we did converse with each other, and we looked after the welfare of the other people, the blacks, if we could, and we got to know them, we got to know them very well.
I think, which I am not sure of—
Sixty-three. Take six. OK, Steve.
We had never had a lynching in Somerset County, ever, so people were outraged. It was a heinous crime, especially on an old woman, that didn't bother anybody and had a lot of friends, and I suppose the reason it happened, maybe—
I'm sorry, excuse me, what you said was, you hadn't had a lynching, what I think what you meant to say was you had never had a—
I mean, a rape, a rape. Yeah, she—
An assault, an assault on a woman.
An assault, yeah, shall I say—
'Cause I don't think it was really was a rape [sic], I think it was an assault.
OK. So, why don't you start, it's just, you mixed up the words.
I'm sorry. Shall I repeat it?
We had never had an assault on a poor white woman before in Somerset County, and people were enraged on it. They'd never experienced anything like that. That's why, perhaps, our citizens didn't wait to let the law take its course. But, in any community, in any community, in a city, you do have what we used to call "a bunch of rednecks," and they were the ones. They were the ones who promulgated this crime. The good-thinking people of this county would never have done anything like that. It'd never cross our mind to do anything like that, because we have always been law-abiding citizens, and the laws, one, takes care of everything they should have [sic].
Great, thank you. OK, I just have one more question, and that was the thing about the banks, and why it was so—
Yeah, I think that's important.
OK, why don't we, why don't you tell me about how the banks closed and didn't open.
The reason, [coughs] the reason why the Depression was much worse on us in this county was because, in the northern part of the county we had two banks, and in Crisfield, which is the southern part of the county, we had two banks. And most of the people in the upper part banked with our local two banks, and they closed during the Depression, during the government holiday they closed, and when the time came to reopen, our banks didn't reopen in the northern part of the county because they were insolvent, they couldn't open, so that left us without any ready cash. The only cash we had was what women had in sugar dishes and stuff, hidden around like that, we didn't have any ready, so we had to provide some other way of living. That's why Somerset County, the northern part of it and Princess Anne, and that area, was hurt so much.
Great, thanks. Cut.
So, when you were out there on the street, you saw this mob. Were you afraid, were you angry, were you upset? Did you want to run, did you want to look more, what were the feelings that were going on in your stomach and your—
Well, let's begin by my telling you, my getting dressed for the card party. When I went out on the upstairs porch and saw those four men trying to pull up a telephone pole, I became frightened. I realized it was no place for a person on the street, because you didn't know what they would do. Then I had to walk to the, to the card party, and that was about three or four blocks, and I was actually afraid. I was looking in back of me, and around me, to see if anybody was coming, but it so happened everybody was down at the other end of the town, so I was all right. But when I walked out on the street to look at the mob to see if I could recognize somebody, I was frightened too, I didn't know, because, then I realized for the first time that a lot of them were drunk, and a lot of them were red-necks, and you didn't know what they would do. So I did go back right away on the sidewalk, with the rest of the people.
But you did stay, you didn't go home.
No, I didn't go home.
What, what kept you on the sidewalk?
What, what kept you on the sidewalk? Why did you stay?
It kept me on the sidewalk because people were still milling around, and talking and yelling, and we wanted to see what would happen next. We didn't know what would happen, we didn't see any law people, we didn't see any police or sheriffs, so we didn't know what would happen. That's why we stayed out there for a while, until the crowd dispersed.
Well, was it like a party, I mean, was it, was it a festive affair, or was it—?
Well, it's hard to describe because, I just don't know how to tell you, it wasn't festive at all. It was frightening. The whole thing was frightening. It really was. And I will never forget it, I will carry it to my grave, what I saw.
Thank you. Cut.
This will be take eight, fifteen, forty-two, twenty-two.
When I went out on the porch I saw these five big men around a telephone pole, and they were trying to pull it up, and what they were trying to do was get the telephone pole to use as a battering ram to break the jail door in.
** But of course, the telephone pole was about twenty-four inches in diameter and well dug in, so I don't, they didn't do much with that. But they sure as hell did, you can't believe it.
So what did they finally break down the jail door with?
With a telephone pole.
So they did get, did they get it up?
Oh no, no, but it was one, you know, they have them lying around, you know, how they, getting ready to put a new pole in, they found one and came back, no.