Mary Sue Metoyer Interview

Mary Sue Metoyer sitting in the Oakland overseer's house
Ms. Mary Sue Metoyer


Date: 10/10/2015

Place: Oakland Plantation, Natchez, Louisiana

Interviewed by: Dayna Bowker Lee

Ms. Mary Sue Metoyer is the daughter of Leo and Camille Metoyer, granddaughter of Rene (Raney) and Suzette Metoyer. Three generations of Metoyers, one of the oldest Creole families on Cane River, lived in the Oakland Plantation overseer’s house for fifty years. Rene Metoyer was the overseer or yardman at Oakland, his wife Suzette was a cook for the Prud’homme family. Rene and Suzette lived here with their son Leo and his wife Camille and eventually their son’s three children: Mary Sue, Leo Jr., and Josephine. Like his father before him, Leo was employed the Oakland yardman. His wife Camille followed in her mother-in-law’s footsteps and worked as the cook for the Prud’homme family. Mary was born and grew up at Oakland Plantation. Upon high school graduation she settled in Natchitoches.

Q) Start with my name is, and tell me your parents’ name, and how long you’ve lived in the house.
A) Okay, my name is Mary Sue Metoyer, and my parents were Leo Metoyer and Camille Metoyer, and I was born here, and my father also was born here. His mother and father lived with us after his father had the stroke; he took over the overseer job.

Q) What were his parents’ names?
A) Raney Metoyer and Suzette Metoyer.

Q) And Raney was the first overseer?
A) No. What’s the guy’s name? I’ve forgotten his name now.

Q) And Raney was the overseer after that?
A) I guess so. I’m not sure; but they have in there that the other guy’s the overseer. They didn’t have anybody else, but I don’t know.

Q) What did the overseer do?
A) Well, he did stuff at the house, and took care of the cattle, did a lot of plowin’.

Q) Did the overseer supervise the workers, like the plantation workers, at all?
A) I don’t think so, not that I ever known it; and he did the garden, the flower garden.

Q) Did your mom work here too?
A) Yes. After my grandmother, well my grandmother was the first one that—I mean not the first one, I guess—but my grandmother did the cookin’ over there, at the Big House, and when she got to where she couldn’t, my mother started workin’ over there.

Q) And that was her role, she cooked?
A) Yes.

Q) Did you work here?
A) No. I picked cotton; first started out with the sharecroppers, pickin’ with them, had a little flour sack, pickin’ cotton, and a few years, I guess when we were teenagers, my dad took a little crop for us to do. But he was always busy on the farm; he didn’t pick.

Q) How many brothers and sisters did you have?
A) One brother and one sister.

Q) And y’all all grew up here? What years?
A) Well, I was born in November 1933, and I stayed here until August ‘55. My brother, let’s see, he was born in August ’34—uh-uh, August ’35—and he left here from here, I’m not too sure—he must’ve been 17, 18 when he left. And my sister lived, she was born in ‘37 and she, let’s see, she left here in ‘57 or ‘58 and went to work in Natchitoches. But my mother did babysit for Alphonse and Jane Prud’homme. She did that, too, and my sister babysit for a while.

Q) So, when you were growing up, it was before mechanized cotton had taken over?
A) Yes.

Q) So, people were still doing cotton by hand?
A) Yes, they were doing it by hand.

Q) Can you tell a little bit about that process? When they planted the cotton, what was the process? And then when you took the cotton from growing stage all the way to harvest.
A) We did the hoein’ and the pickin’.

Q) How many people worked out there?
A) At one time there was two, let’s see, was there two sharecroppers? I’m thinking there was only two. Then dad took a little piece of land, I can’t remember what year it was. We were teenagers, but I think it was only two who were sharecroppers. I might be makin’ a mistake, but I think there was only the two.

Q) Were there a bunch of kids out here you grew up with?
A) Not too many. The one we used to pick cotton with, he only had two children, and, well, the other had, I think they had about seven or eight children. Well, the other lady that moved here and stayed in that house, at one time, she was raisin’ her grandchildren. She had three granddaughters that she raised, but they didn’t have a crop.

Q) Where did you go to school?
A) I first started at St. Paul’s school, then I went—well, we did move away in ‘47, after my grandfather died. He died in December ‘46, and daddy said he was going to try and work in Natchitoches, so I went to school from January to May at St. Anthony’s Catholic School in Natchitoches. And my grandmother grieved—she wanted to come back home; this was her home. So, dad asked ‘em, and they took him back, and then we went to St. Matthew then. Well, St. Paul closed right after that, and I finished high school at St. Matthew’s.

Q) Where did y’all go to church went you lived out here?
A) Well, went to St. Charles sometimes and sometimes we went to St. Augustine.

Q) It seems like it would be a hard trip to St. Augustine.
A) Yes, uh-huh. Well, let’s see, before we left to go, I have it in there, I don’t remember what year, but it’s on that picture in there, my dad—no, it’s writing, it’s not a picture—that he bought a Model A Ford. Oh, we picked pecans too. We picked pecans that year, and he went and bought a car, and we say, “Why’d you spend our money on a car? “And he says, “Y’all wanted a car, didn’t you?” So, that’s how we got that Model A Ford.

Q) Well, you mentioned going to town, moving to town briefly. So, did a lot of people leave the river and move into town?
A) Yeah. People went to Chicago and places like that, you know.

Q) When mechanized cotton came in?
A) Yeah.

Q) What was your parents’ typical day? You said your mama was the cook and your daddy was the overseer. So, when they got up in the morning, what did they do?
A) Everything. Did breakfast and do whatever you had to do around the house or whatever. Like he milked the cows and stuff like that, you know, plant the garden if it was time to plant,
tend to the garden. Lot of times we helped with the garden, too, because we cut the grass in the garden, hoe the garden, yeah.

Q) So, you had the garden in the front, but did you also have a vegetable garden?
A) That’s what I mean, the vegetable garden. He would see to that, too, and we would help with that. And we had a little garden here and we had fig trees. We had three fig trees, I think, right out there, and I can see myself climbing those trees. I’ve got two trees now and I can’t climb ‘em!

Q) So, you and your mom would make preserves?
A) Yes, she would can a lot of vegetables and stuff, wasn’t no freezer, or electricity until, oh, I don’t remember when we got the electricity.

A) Were you a kid?
A) No, teenager.

Q) You didn’t have electricity, but if you killed a hog or something, how did you preserve the meat?
A) They dried it out or something. Well, we would get ice. He had a little refrigerator that would hold a block of ice, and we’d use that for the food. Couldn’t have too much at a time [laughs].

Q) I notice Dustin put a stove back there. Is that the kind of stove you grew up with?
A) No, it was a regular iron stove; it wasn’t a fancy one like that [laughs].

Q) That one’s too fancy, huh? [laughs] What did you burn in it? Did you burn oak? What kind of wood did you burn in it?
A) I’m not sure, probably it was pecan. They had a lot of pecan trees. I can’t remember. I was the one—my brother and sister and I were the ones that would cut the wood. We would saw the wood, had a little thing to hold the logs up and we would saw, and if it needed splittin’, we had to split the wood. Daddy was always workin’.

Q) So that was some of you kids’ jobs. What else did you do, because your dad and your mom were working all day long, what else did y’all do?
A) We were in the house, working stuff, my sister and I, and my brother … after he got old enough, he tried plowing, did some stuff around the plantation until he left. I can’t remember what year he left.

Q) Tell me about the inside of the house. I saw a bedroom over here, and a living room, so tell me about the interior space and how it was used.
A) Let’s see, when we were first born, there was that little room over there, and this living room, which was a living room and bedroom together, and on the back, to the right, there was a really small kitchen, and then that was a back porch, my dad closed that in. And then, well, I can’t remember what year, but he took this room over here for a kitchen. Well, there was a bed in there when we were small, and he made a kitchen out of it, and then he put a bed in that little room back there. One time there was two beds in the living room.

Q) Who slept where? Who slept in the living room?
A) I slept in the living room; my grandmother slept in here. After my grandfather had a stroke, he had a little bed that he slept on, single bed. He died in ’46. I think he had that stroke for five years—been five years he couldn’t do anything, had to help him out of the bed and everything.

Q) When did your parents leave here?
A) Let’s see, I was already working in Natchitoches when they left. I think it was in ‘65 that they went to Natchitoches, because my mother’s dad died in ‘64, and I was living with him and my mother’s sister. And so, she said they had better move to Natchitoches. It wasn’t much going on here anymore, so they moved to Natchitoches with us.

Q) You had a good time growing up here?
A) Oh, yeah, played hide and seek and all kinds of games. Children don’t know all that these days. You see, this house was so high, we could hide up under the house [laughs].

Q) What else did you play? Did you play marbles?
A) Yeah, played with my brother. I had to shoot the cap pistol for him so he could put his hands on his ears! [laughs] And we played hide and seek, hide, and switch. Somebody said something about that the other day, said, “Children don’t know nothin’ about playin’.” I said, “No, they don’t know nothin’ about that. All they know is the TV.”

Q) Tell me about, I’ve never heard about hide and switch.
A) You hide the switch, and whoever found it would get behind everybody and try and whip ‘em before they got to the base. I don’t know who invented that, I thought it was just us did that, but my sister-in-law said the other day that they did.

Q) I see you’ve got these big double doors on here. Did you get a lot of storms out here, like tornadoes and bad winds?
A) Looks like the weather wasn’t as bad then, sure didn’t seem like to me, but I remember the lightning hittin’ those trees. But like hurricanes? I don’t remember anything about hurricanes until I was working in Natchitoches, and I think it was Hurricane Audrey came through, and I didn’t know what it was, and the boss man said, “Y’all try to get home before the weather gets too bad,” and he said, “That’s a hurricane.”

Q) You don’t remember any tornadoes hitting out here?
A) No, I don’t remember.

Q) What about flooding? Did y’all get any flooding?
A) We had flooding, but it didn’t bother us. It was over the river. The people from over the river had to come over to this side.

Q) So, it was more from Red River?
A) Yeah.

Q) Your daddy took care of the cattle out here?
A) Yeah.

Q) How many head of cattle did he have?
A) Oh, I don’t know, and they had several horses. I don’t remember how many horses.

Last updated: August 12, 2023

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