When Bill Boyette was 14 years old (1944), he went to work at the Matthews Drug Company. There were 2 doctors, Dr. Reid and Dr. McManus with offices in the back. “Doc” Yandle was in the pharmacy. He made all the medicine, liquid and capsules, without a prescription. The Doctors just told him and he would make it.
They would wait on all the white people first then the black people. When the patients came out from seeing the doctor, they would pay Bill. A doctor visit was $3.00 and prescriptions were $3.00. There was a soda fountain and ice cream. Fountain drinks were 5 cents and 1 scoop of ice cream was 5 cents.
When Bill was 16, his black friends wanted to know why they couldn’t buy a fountain drink. Bill asked “Doc” Yandle who said it was OK but they had to drink them outside. Within a 5 year period Sadie Morton, Ed Smith, and Amos Boyette all worked at the drug store with Bill.
On Sunday, Bill and his cousin Amos Boyette opened the drug store after church. When it was time to go back for evening church service they would close at 6:00. Then Bill would take the keys upstairs to Mr. Hunt, who lived over the drug store. L.H. Yandle, “Doc’s” only child, married Mr. Hunt’s daughter Mary, also an only child.
People paid their burial insurance at the drug store for McEwen Funeral Home. The drug store also sold bus tickets. They had a strict policy of NO credit extended to customers.
Bill Boyette Sr. Drug Store c. late1940s
(click to enlarge photos)
THE STOKER HOME WAS THE FOURTH LOCATION OF THE MATTHEWS SWITCHBOARD. Mary Anne (Mame) Stoker lived in Raleigh Carolina, for thirty-eight years, during which time she first worked at a small drapery shop, then bought and ran it, at the death of its owner, until late 1942 when she returned to Matthews to live with sister Josephine (Jo), who, since 1937, had lived alone in the original home place, now demolished, that sat directly behind the present Matthews Town Hall. In early 1943 Mame was the officially contracted operator of the Switchboard, and Jo volunteered to help out only now and then.
The Switchboard (referred to as the ‘Board) was in the dining room, with the large round table pushed into the corner. In winter the room was heated by a small coal-burning heater, and cooled in summer by a 1930’s electric oscillating table fan.
Usually, four or five “beloved” cats lay in the chairs or on the table, and a forty-pound white shaggy dog with dangling black ears named Chookie rested on the black leather lounge at the window.
From fall until spring the coal heater was used to cook everything from barbecued rabbit to corn beef hash - and the aluminum coffee pot sat on the stove throughout the day brewing MAXWELL HOUSE - and nothing but MAXWELL HOUSE - coffee.
Unable to leave the ‘Board unattended, Mame ate each meal on a slim knee-hole desk beside the ‘Board, while Jo, in a small rocking chair, ate from a tray in her lap.
Jo, of course, slept in her bedroom, but Mame was on a roll-away bed near the ‘Board each night.
Mamie and Jo Stoker ran the switchboard
FOLLOWING INSTALLATION OF THE SWITCHBOARD IN 1943, TWO YOUNG BOYS, ONE OF THEM A CLOSE RELATIVE TO MAME AND JO, BECAME INFATUATED WITH THE ‘BOARD. From the first day, the 12-year-old relative was allowed to be “acting operator” for several calls, after which he invited his 13-year-old friend to join in the fun. In short time, the boys became “adroit operators,” and were permitted to take charge for a whole day, while the Stokers went with friends on a shopping trip to Charlotte, and for an entire weekend when they visited Greensboro. As expected, when left alone the boys could not resist making person-to-person “fun calls” to Hollywood movie stars - never speaking to the stars, but getting a thrill on hearing MGM Studio, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox answering.
Then of course there were many prank calls - but without serious repercussions - only once an “annoyed” resident, with strong suspicions, complained to Mame.
The boys operated the ‘Board throughout their high school years, much to Mame’s delight, because it afforded her many well-appreciated breaks.
TO THE STOKER SISTERS, CHRISTMAS WAS THE GREATEST TIME OF YEAR. A Christmas tree was an absolute MUST. They had a batch of decorations, dating back to the 1920’s, but during the year they saved the circles of metal strip off the opening “key” that wound around the top of a MAXWELL HOUSE coffee can, and later stretched them into long silver spirals that made beautiful ornaments. The young boys who assisted with the ‘Board, and visited almost daily, would cut a wild cedar tree from the woods, set it up in the living room, and help decorate it.
Making fruitcakes - usually five or six - was pure delight for Mame and Jo - they even made their own candied orange and grapefruit peel ingredients. And they always mailed a cake to nieces and a nephew living out-of-state.
The nieces mailed them Christmas presents, usually cosmetics or items of clothing, which Mame and Jo dared not open until Christmas morning, and despite all the “oohing and ahhing” during the openings, many items, especially the lingerie, were considered “too nice to use,” so they consequently wound up stored in a bureau drawer.
In the afternoons just before Christmas, Jo built a fire in the living room heater, turned on the tree lights, and brought in a round silver tray bearing a pitcher of ice water, a bottle of bourbon (OLD MISTER BOSTON), several glasses, and a jigger. Mame turned on the special ‘Board bell to alert her if someone called, then went to the living room to enjoy several drinks as she and Jo happily reminisced for the boys many of the golden “times gone by” especially Mame’s memories of Raleigh and her trips with the dentist to New York, the summers in his boat on the North Carolina coast, and much more.
Mame and Jo died two years apart, Mame in 1963 and Jo in 1965. Both are buried in the Matthews Historical Cemetery and for several years after their deaths, one of the boys placed a small decorated Christmas tree between the two graves.
If one phrase could express their philosophy of life, it would have to be “They loved all that lived.”
Growing up in Matthews was a wonderful time in the 1940s and 50s. So many memories, but the most prominent in my life was summers spent at Sustar’s Pool which was built before I was born. There were swings for a short time near the shallow end but later removed due to safety issues. One boy stood on the seat of a swing to take a backwards flip but was turned in the wrong direction and went sailing over the fence, not into the water, landing in the grass unhurt. So many people came from surrounding neighborhoods in Matthews, Charlotte, Mint Hill. I worked there for several summers. Everyone loved to dance to the jukebox which was the favorite part of all, dancing the days and nights away to the hits of the 50s. Every summer vacation was a wonderful time we had at Sustar’s Pool. I’ll never forget.
One hot summer afternoon in the mid-fifties, a large crowd of swimmers were enjoying the spacious pool when someone yelled “Snake”. And the crowd parted instantly and moved towards the sides, like the parting of the Red Sea. In his eagerness to get out of the pool, one young man swooshed himself up on the side so fast he left his trucks around his knees.
Do you remember the cable that was there? Guys climbed a tower and hung onto handles that rolled down a wire towards the side of the pool. They dropped into the water about half-down. And the swings? Remember those? And swimming lessons for 100 or more kids every week most of the summer.
Then there was Lila’s famous “Swandive” that Claude Neal always got such a kick out of. There was a leap up high with arms stretched out head up then “belly flop”. Laughter from everyone who watched.