Sarah Stallings May spent most of her life in Bailey, but was born in 1910 in Edgecombe County on her parents’ tobacco farm, the ninth out of twelve children in her family (her father married twice). In addition to being a farmer, Sarah’s father, Wright Lawrence Stallings, was Sheriff and owned a saw mill. She says she and her sisters didn’t have to do too much farm work, except at tobacco barning and cotton picking time, because there were so many boys in the family to do the chores (as well as six or eight tenant farming families on her father’s two farms). The children earned money working on the farm, and liked to spend it going to the Tarboro and Rocky Mount County Fairs, where rides were five and ten cents each and there were a lot of exhibits to look at (she says the livestock at the fair wasn’t interesting to them because they saw enough of their own cows, pigs, horses, and mules). Their mother would pack them a fried chicken picnic to take on Fair days. Sarah recalls the big feast everyone would eat at tobacco barning time, and dinners when it was someone’s birthday. The birthday boy or girl got to pick what they wanted to eat (invariably fried chicken) and their mother made a cake and ice cream. On Christmas morning they would all wake up early and drink home-made eggnog laced with whiskey, then spend the morning shooting off the fireworks they’d received. On Thanksgiving the family would eat turkey and possum with cranberries and dried apples. Summer treats were roast corn and watermelon. She also talks about their making syllabub and home-churned butter, and gathering blackberries, mulberries, and pink berries. Sarah started her education at a two-room school near the farm, where one teacher taught first through third grade and the other fourth through seventh, and then transferred to Pinetops, catching a ride with a brother who drove the school bus. She graduated from high school at Pinetops in 1927, then went to East Carolina Teachers’ College and took the two-year normal course. In 1929 she went to teach seventh grade at Cooper’s School, and stayed on there for many years. Among the school officials she mentions are L. S. Inscoe, Cara B. Wilson, and Eugene Curtis Pierce. Sarah and the other teachers all boarded with local families. In 1935 she married T. C. May and moved with him to Bailey. She describes their first date at a flour mill. Sarah describes teaching in Nash County during the Depression. Most families didn’t have enough food, and the school couldn’t afford to buy reading books for all the students. People would bring raw sweet potatoes to be cooked at the school for the children to eat, along with biscuits and molasses. Partway through the year the county ran out of money to pay teachers’ salaries, but they all stayed on (and received back pay later). The teachers depended on the generosity of their landladies to feed them. In the thirties Sarah got further teacher training at Atlantic Christian College (which became Barton College). She gives several teaching-days anecdotes and mentions some of her former students who distinguished themselves later, among them Frank Brown (later Sheriff) and Jack Farmer (later Mayor). Sarah was a strict disciplinarian and regrets that discipline seems out of fashion. She remembers (briefly) Hurricane Hazel, and before that (very briefly) the flu epidemic of 1918-1919 when she was a child, and her family’s buying war bonds during World War I. In recent years she has taken up painting, and is a member of several local clubs. She has long been a member of the Methodist Church in Bailey and was Sunday School Superintendent for 15 years.





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