Gertrude Carpenter, who was born in Munich, Germany, in 1926, came to North Carolina as a war bride in 1948; she’d met her husband, Melton Carpenter, in 1944 when he was with the Army in Germany. They lived first with his family in Sandy Cross in Nash County, then became tenants on the farm of Mrs. Alston near Nashville. Carpenter says she had never seen tobacco growing, but soon learned how to work it: breaking the blossoms and suckers, and handing and looping (stringing and tying hands on sticks). She always had a big vegetable garden, and learned to pick her butter beans, potatoes, and other vegetables the day before they were to barn the tobacco, so she’d have big pots of soup ready to feed the helpers on barning day. She would also feed everyone pork or chicken and biscuits, which her American mother-in-law had taught her how to make. Carpenter's life changed when a friend of hers invited her to go one day to the soup kitchen in Rocky Mount where the friend herself was volunteering. Carpenter signed on as a once-a-week volunteer cook, and worked there for a number of years. She often took produce from their farm to the soup kitchen. They would also make big pots of rice and pots of gravy. A specialty of hers was deer stew, made with deer her son (and later grandson) shot. The preparation took four days. After she’d worked at the soup kitchen for several years she was invited to a ceremony in Little Washington where she was given an award for public service. She had to retire from her volunteer work in 1996 because of ill health. She had to spend time at Nash General Hospital, then Duke Hospital, then a rest home in Tarboro, and finally to South Village in Rocky Mount, a rest home.





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