Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Peggy Henry

Henry, Peggy
Johnson, Jean
Date of Interview: 
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools;Department stores; Religion
Peggy Henry, a childhood friend of Jean Graham's talks about Billy and Melvin Graham working of the farm and remembers Billy Grahams' parents in connection with her friendship with Jean. Ms. Henry recalls Jean's contraction of polio. She also talks about her family and her work here in Charlotte.
Charlotte, 1930s-1990s
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed at 6218 Grove Park, Charlotte, NC.
Levine Museum of the New South, Billy Graham Series
Collection Description: 
One of a series of interviews carried out in preparation for an exhibit on Billy Graham at the Museum of the New South.
Interview Audio: 
JJ (Jean Johnson): This thing doesn't seem like it's working. There it goes. Yeah, I'm just looking at my dials now. Okay, we're all right. Okay, well tell me a little bit about yourself first. You were born here?
PH (Peggy Henry): I was born and raised here in Charlotte and we moved on Park Road. And we moved from Eastway in Charlotte to Park Road. And there was nothing out there but fields. And there was a house up the street, across the street from us and that's where Billy Graham lived. And, there was a house in between our house and their house in a field, that there was a big old huge field in between our house and theirs and of course that little old narrow road which is now Park Road. The street that, I mean, our driveway was, was off of Park Road which is now Courtland Street. And that was our same old, our driveway that you, you know, made the way up and, up and down. But the house that we lived in was an old, old house and there was a field of hay outside in, in between our house and Maggie Bell Lindsey, that was a colored family that lived there, well, it was just him and her. And, she would come down and do our mother's laundry for us, just, you know, just to get some spending money. But, in the hot summer time Billy and Melvin would come out there and cut that hay because their farm had a silo when, they ( ), you know, they had done their cows and stuff. Well, it was so hot and they would be out there working just with their long pants on and getting a suntan and mother would make lemon juice, lemonade or water or tea, and my brother and I, we was, I guess I was about 5 or 6 years old, and we would take it up there. And one day, I spilt the lemonade and Melvin said, "Now Peggy, why did you do that?" And, I said well, I stumbled and, as I said I'll go back and get you some. So I went back and mother made some more and we took it up there. And then, I can just remember it, as that was yesterday, him out there, now I don't know how old he was, but I was a young thing. And, we would, Jean was a very close friend of mine at that time but just, there was nobody else around there for us to play with. And, I was there the day that she, we were swinging and playing up there, and she started coughing. And I went in the house and got Mrs. Graham and she come out and Mrs. Graham and Mr. Graham said that they was going to have to take her to the doctor. And, so, of course, I went home and I worried about Jean because she, she was the sweetest thing to me and she and I just did everything together. And, of course, Billy and Melvin would hover over her and also Catherine, but, because she was the baby and I was the baby too. And, and then Mr. and Mrs. Graham come down to the house one day, and two or three days later after they got the results of what she had and was very concerned about my welfare and my health because I was playing with Jean at the time that she had contacted or developed the polio. And, my sister said that whenever Billy would go out and round up the cows or go out and milk the cows that he would always have to have his boots on. And I guess he was afraid that he might step in something. [Laugh] But, anyway, she said I remember him doing that and she said I asked one day, and he said, "I just have to, I just have to." And Mr. Graham would give Melvin and Billy money for their haircuts and Melvin would always give his money back, but Billy was going to save his. And so, I, I remember the Grahams very, very well.
JJ: I'm going to slide this under your bracelet here because we're picking up a clanging noise.
PH: Okay.
JJ: Tell me about Mr. And Mrs. Graham, what were they like?
PH: The best I could remember, I wasn't around them too much as I was Jean and Billy and Melvin. But, they reminded me a lot of my folks. They were quiet and I never did hear them raise their voice to either one of the kids. You know, the whole time that I was with Jean, I never heard them. They corrected them, yes, don't get me wrong, they corrected them but as far as yelling and screaming, no, no, no, they never did. And, if they ever got a whipping, I didn't know anything about it. But they were a, they were a very, very nice family.
JJ: Did you go to the same church or did you--?
PH: No. We went to Sharon Presbyterian. And we didn't go to the, the same church.
JJ: Now where, that's on Sharon Road?
PH: Yeah, yeah, but it's off of, it's around the corner from Park Road. You know where Southpark is?
JJ: Uh huh.
PH: Okay, it's, it was over there, then. And, I don't know where Billy and them went but, no, we didn't go to the same church.
JJ: They went to Chalmers, over here on the corner of South Boulevard, it was an ARP church.
PH: No, we didn't, we didn't go over there.
JJ: And then they switched to Calvary Presbyterian--.
PH: Um-hum.
JJ: On 4th Street.
PH: There was, it wasn't too far from, form where we lived. But this bring, really brings back a lot of memories I can--. I just wish that we had pictures. You know, we didn't make pictures back then like we do now, you know, everywhere you go you have a pic--, you know, taking shots. And, I told you yesterday that I was, did not sing in the crusade in '58. I did, because my two children were small and mother Henry kept my children while my husband and I, David, and I sung in the choir. And I looked for those hymnals and I didn't find any.
JJ: Well, what was the '58 crusade like? It was long.
PH: Yeah, it was long, but it was, oh my, it was good. I mean he, he really did--. I can just see him firing now, you know, of course his age, you know, he has slowed down quite a bit as all of us, you know, cause I can tell I've slowed down [laughter] a lot. But, it was great. He had, what's his name, Cliff Barrows, he had, you know, we had to wear all white blouses, [Ms. Henry whispers something inaudible.] We had to wear all white blouses you know, and it was just, it was just magnificent. It was just great, just wonderful.
JJ: Was it different every night?
PH: Oh yeah, yeah, it was different every night. He--.
JJ: How did it, how was it different?
PH: There was more people come, come down and he, he seemed to be, the more he, each night he got more energetic and he was doing all kind of reading and doing his hands, and really getting, don't get me wrong, he gets the Word now, but back then it seemed like that he was more energetic and more lively. Naturally he would be at that age, you know. But, it was, it was great. It was great.
JJ: When you sing in the choir, can you make the altar call?
PH: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, sure.
JJ: And did you go down?
PH: Yes ma'am, I certainly did.
JJ: Once or--?
PH: Yeah, just the once, the once. But, now whenever he preaches and I see him on T.V., we, me and my husband both, what we do, is that we dedicate our lives every year either at our own church, or there at whenever he is preaching. Because we think that, you know, it's most important to do that, you know. At the church that we go, we went to back then, well we still are members there, but they don't do it because of the congregation being so, so huge. But, every February, they would have dedication and they would go and we all would renew our vows, our wedding vows. And it was, that was great, but now they have grown so large that, you know. But, yeah you could, you could go down during altar call when you're singing in the choir and I'm really looking forward to this time. Now, I think that the first meeting of singing is the twelfth of September and it's going to be out at Hickory Grove Baptist Church. But, David and I will be in, on our way to Hawaii--. So, that's the last dream of mine.
JJ: Would you like to sing in the choir again?
PH: Oh yeah, yeah, I do plan on it.
JJ: What, what about 1972, did you go to that crusade or do you remember that one?
PH: My husband said that we did, but I remember the, the '58 one the most. And I don't know why, I guess it's 'cause it was his first and my first. I guess that's the reason that I remember it so well, you know. And I thought, oh my word, how would you, wouldn't it be great to be part of that family and see him, and I thought, yeah but I know Jean. [Laugh] You know, I saw him when, you know, [laugh] and I can see him out there just, when with his shirt off getting a suntan, doing the hay, you know and everything, and it, it was great. But they had a lot of, lot of cows and you know Billy and Melvin took care of those, you know, things, but, it, it was great.
JJ: Well, I, you're not alone; most people remember the '58, that seems to have had a tremendous impact on Charlotte--.
PH: Yeah.
JJ: And a lot of people can't remember if they went to the '72 one. Of course, the '58 was five weeks--.
PH: Uh huh.
JJ: And the '72 was just a few days--.
PH: Yeah.
JJ: You know that's a big difference. And, you, you weren't--? Let's see, you talked about 1947, you thought you were, too, you were fourteen or so.
PH: Now, I was 24, I miscalculated.
JJ: Oh, you were 24--.
PH: Yeah--.
JJ: Uh, oh.
PH: Yeah. [Laughter]
JJ: We won't, we won't say anything about that.
PH: I, I'd subtracted wrong, Jean. [Laughter]
JJ: But you didn't go to the '47 one?
PH: No.
JJ: Okay.
PH: No.
JJ: That was one of his earliest, in '47.
PH: Yeah, yeah, I was, '47, I was born in '33, so I didn't, I didn't go to that one. But, yeah, I remember the '58 and I can--. Another thing about Mrs. Graham that I remember, was that whenever I would go up there, she would always be dressed to perfection. Well, Jean and Catherine was too. When we would play, say in the mud you know making mud cakes, you know and everything, mudpies, Jean didn't want to get dirty and they were, they were just, it seems like there was, I want to say a halo around them all the time. But, they didn't, they were just special. It's the only thing that I can think. They were just special. But, the house, I've never seen their house dirty, you know, and she would cook for all of them and, you know, everything. She would clean up as she, as she done stuff, you know. But, but I've never, never saw her, Mrs. Graham, messed up, her hair messed up or dirty or anything. And even when Mr. William would go to the, to the barn, he always had clean clothes on, you know. They were just, they were just special family.
JJ: What kind of outfits did she wear?
PH: Just dresses. I never saw her in any pants.
JJ: Did women wear pants then? On a farm maybe? On a--.
PH: On a farm maybe but, I never saw her in any pants.
JJ: No.
PH: No, no.
JJ: Everyone says she was really lovely.
PH: She was, she was beautiful. She was pretty, but, now I think, Billy looks like Mr. Graham and I think Jean and Catherine favors their mom. Now, Catherine looks more like her dad, I think, than Jean did, but they're both, they both are real pretty. Yeah, she was real neat.
JJ: What was Charlotte like in 1958? Do you remember?
PH: Nothing. [Laugh] It was, the house that we live in now, we moved there whenever I, I was, I've been married forty-two years and we moved there whenever we got married and I've never moved, and it was nothing. Back when we lived on Park Road, Jean, there was nothing out there but our house and the Grahams, Maggie Bell Lindsey and, I think, Carl Lippard was down the street. The Atkins' that I mentioned to you yesterday, they were out there and that's the only houses that I can remember that was out there. Of course the place that the sewage place was there and Daddy worked at the Atkins' and then he would go over and work at the sewage place. And stunk, oh my! It, it really, it really did. [Laugh] But, and there was a creek, Sugar Creek, that led down behind our house and, excuse me, and we would all go down there and swim in, in that and once or twice, the, the Grahams came down there and brought a picnic basket. But there again, we did not see Mrs. Graham in a bathing suit. We swimmed out there in the, in the creek. And she would come over and pick black berries down, you know, along the side of the, we had a farm too, but it didn't have a silo or anything, we kept our hay up in our barn loft. And, we would get up there and jump down on the hay and ground and all this. And, but they, we didn't have a silo like, like they did, the Grahams did.
JJ: Where did you go to school?
PH: Sharon, I went to Sharon School and then when we moved, I went, you know, across town to Steele Creek, and then to Berryhill and then to West Charlotte, Mecklenburg, excuse me, West Mecklenburg.
JJ: So Sharon was just an elementary school then?
PH: Uh-hum, yeah.
JJ: Because when Billy went he went, he graduated from there.
PH: Yeah.
JJ: What did you do when you went into town in 1958? What was the city like?
PH: They had, I was trying to think, a Kress store I believe it was. It was nothing like it, naturally, it is now. We drove, Daddy drove and old dilapidated car and Belk's was here, Ivey's was up there. It was, it used to be Eckerd, something else, and then it turned into Eckerd's and that's where we would go up there every Saturday. Everybody would make the jump to Charlotte on Saturday. And, it seemed like, Jean, that it would take us forever to get there, because there was nothing in between, you know, us and home, I mean, that and home, you know. It was, Efird's was up there. Some people, some people had horse and buggies, but not, not a lot. You would see, you know, some. They had an old remnant place up there, but it wasn't anything, naturally, like it is now, it's all built up and--.
JJ: Did you see people bringing cotton into town?
PH: If I did, I don't remember. No, but it was, it's been a long, long time.
JJ: Is you husband from here?
PH: No, I met him at school, Berryhill, yeah, Berryhill school. And, he was, he was born in Tennessee. So, yeah, I remember when we moved from Park Road. Jean didn't want me to go, but of course, I had to go with my family, you know. And, of course, by that time that we moved, you know Billy was already gone.
JJ: He came back to preach here in 1939, he came to a little church off Central and gave a sermon. Did you ever catch up with him at any of those times?
PH: No.
JJ: So it was '58 was the first time that you were there?
PH: Yeah. And, I guess I have, like, I, I've said before, I have seen Catherine and Jean at the Women's Christian Luncheon. But see, since I'm retired now, I can go back to that, but see, I just retired just--.
JJ: What'd you do?
PH: Switchboard operator.
JJ: Oh.
PH: Talked. [Laughter]
JJ: Where, where?
PH: I started out at the Baptist Book Store.
JJ: Oh.
PH: That was my first love. And, Mrs. Gwen at the Baptist Book Store had showed me, well; I answered the call for that, the ad in the paper for that, switchboard operator. Never done it before, but, I never meet a stranger, and so she, you know, I said well I think I'd like to do that. So, she said well okay let's give a try. And, it was one of those cord boards, and so her boss was going to call in after I got trained for it and she said, "Now you must do this right." Wrong, I didn't do it right. Cause you know they had two cords [laugh], two cords and of course, whenever I plugged her in and went to plug him in, I plugged him into the wrong thing and cut him off. But, that was when I first got the, the hang of the switchboard.
JJ: Where was the Baptist Book Store?
PH: Right up the street here.
JJ: That's what you remember?
PH: It was, it was right up the street here, two or three doors down. What is that now? [Pause] I can't remember what, but it was, it was, it was on College Street.
JJ: Toward town?
PH: Uh-hum. It was a block or two from College Street.
JJ: I sort of remember it.
PH: That's where, and I stayed there for several years. And then I went to secretary for Shamrock. And then my children was in school and they didn't want to stay at home by themselves so I quit. And then whenever they started back into high school, I started back. But there again I went as a switchboard operator. Thirty years.
JJ: Well, that's changed a lot. I mean the job has changed a lot.
PH: Oh yeah, you used to be just a switchboard operator, now you got all these computers and you know things and printers and you do everything, but I, I loved it. But, I decided that my husband had retired three years ago and we both in seemingly good health. If we got anything wrong with us, we don't anything about it. So, I decided I would take a early retirement and be with him. But, I loved it. I'm still going to work part time.
JJ: So, you're off on a big trip now in your retirement?
PH: Yeah.
JJ: That's nice. Is this the first trip you've taken or have you taken some others?
PH: Well, we've gone to the beach a couple of times, but my oldest, our oldest granddaughter is graduating from high school in June the 7th so--. Is this still--?
JJ: Uh-huh. It doesn't matter.
PH: So, we are taking her. She, she said, " Mamaw, you know, I want to go to the beach. I'm going to drive down there by myself." And I said, "Yes, Stephanie, you know, okay." And I said, "Well, who are you going with? "Me, just me." And I said, "Why, why are you going to do that? And she said, "Well, I'm not real close to any of my friends at school." She said, "You know, they drink, they smoke and I don't do anything like that and I, I just don't know, but I really don't want to go to the, to the beach, where I'd really like to go is to Daytona." So David looked at me, my husband looked at me, and his eyebrows went up, he didn't say a word. Didn't say a word. So, two or three weeks went by and I noticed him calculating down this and this and this. So, he said, "Why don't you call the Chamber of Commerce." And I said. "Why?" And he said, "Well, get some literature on Daytona," he said, "I think our finances are where we can take them." And I said, "Take who, where?" He said, "Take Stephanie to Daytona." He says, "She's not close to anybody at school that she can really feel comfortable going to the beach with." He said, "Let's just take her and Michelle--who is fourteen--to Daytona." Michelle is the cousin. So I said, " Well, okay." He says, "I'm going to fix lasagna for supper." He said, "Call them over and see if they want to do it." Man, they didn't have to say that but one time! [Laughter] So, that's our big trip, one of our big trips. But, yeah, we decided to--. All my life I've always wanted to go to Hawaii and I always wanted to go to the Holy Land, but there's so much going on over there we decided that, you know--.
JJ: Go the other direction.
PH: Yeah.
JJ: You, you flying? You're flying?
PH: Um-hum, we're going with a little senior citizen's group.
JJ: I think it will be fun.
PH: I think it will be too. My sister Geraldine is going. I don't know whether Billy would remember any of my sisters or not. Because like I told you yesterday, they were all raising their families whenever Harry and I was growing up. Geneva is two years younger than Billy. He may remember her. But, and, he may not remember me, who knows, but I remember him, I remember him a lot. But those, that's, I was laying in bed last night thinking now, what else do I know about Billy Graham; I can really sock it to him. [Laughter] But, I don't know anything else, so--.
JJ: Nobody wants to say anything bad about him anyway.
PH: I don't know anything bad about him.
JJ: Yeah.
PH: If he ever said, you know, a cuss word, I, no, I never did hear it. And, I'm sure out there in the hot sun, he had a lot of chances to do that if he really wanted to do it. But, like I said, they were unique family; they really were, very nice, very nice.
JJ: Okay, well thank you.