Growing Up On Hillsboro Road

Ruie and Bertie Eubanks sitting in their yard at 730 Fifteenth Street (ca. 1943). Hillsboro Road is seen in the background. The bus is heading toward what was called West End where Hillandale, Englewood and Hillsboro Road intersected. The street directly behind Mr. and Mrs. Eubanks is 15th Street. West Durham Baptist Church is to the far left of the picture. You can see the wall near the front doors of what is now called Greystone Baptist.

Whenever the circus came to town, neighbors would sit on the wall and watch the circus animals go by (from the RR station on West Main Street to what is now the Kroger store on Hillsboro Rd).

The road in front of the Coca-Cola sign is 16th Street (now Warner). The Coca-Cola sign is on the wall of a building housing the barber shop, Fent's eating place (best food in Durham!) and Ideal Sundries. Before Bill Holmes, Doc Newton was the wonderful man who ran the drugstore. The Hester family lived just past the drugstore on Hillsboro.

Across Hillsboro Road is a neighborhood grocery store (now Fisher Signs). The Ideal Sundry eventually moved across the street. The Ice Plant stood on the next corner, past 16th Street.

OWD friend Nancy "Goat" Eubanks remembers their large yard at 15th and Hillsboro as being a great place to sit and count cars coming down Highway 70 (Hillsboro Road). Sometimes as many as ten or twelve cars would pass in one evening! Goat also reports that she still has one of the chairs from this photo, on her deck.

Growing up on Hillsboro Road

By Nancy Eubanks

Listening to someone reminisce about growing up in West Durham in the 30's and 40's would be, to say the least, incomprehensible for most people today. I have often tried to tell my children how it was: we could walk anywhere, anytime we wanted - alone or in a crowd. Windows and doors were left open in the summertime without worry. I could catch the bus and go to a movie downtown at night with friends - they on the Erwin Road bus and me on the Hillsboro Road one, meeting at and departing from the bus stop at Five Points. My children have often said they wish they had lived in an era like that. It's really difficult for them to imagine how it was when I was a little girl.

The entire community was drawn together when Mr. Erwin decided to make the neighborhood a place where "his people" would have wholesome entertainment and a place for good, family fun. Just coming out of the Depression, no one was wealthy moneywise, but as a neighborhood full of love and respect for each other - as human beings, neighbors, friends - we were rich beyond anything that words can convey. Everyone worked hard together, worshiped each in their own church, played together, and lived as a unit.

Traffic on Hillsboro Road

One of my family's "claim to fame" (an extremely dubious honor) was when a truck ran into our house. We lived where the Greystone Baptist Church parking lot is on the corner of Fifteenth Street and Hillsborough Road (then spelled Hillsboro Road). I was born there in 1934 into a family of three sisters and one brother. Trucks, cars, motorcycles all came crashing into our yard at times over the years. Occasionally we would hear a truck or car coming down the hill and someone would say: "That one isn't going to make it." Often the prediction was right on target and the vehicle would turn over in the lower part of our yard.

On one 1940 school morning around 7:00 or 7:30, as I recall, an 18 wheeler came barreling down the highway, missed the curve, and plowed through Dad's well-groomed hedges, across our yard and into the house right under the raised living room window. (It didn't even break, believe it or not.) Back-to-back fireplaces in the living room and one of the bedrooms, created a very large square brick pillar under the house and this is what stopped the truck from passing right on through the house.

The house was built on a sloping lot which placed it a little better than six feet off the ground in the back and almost on the ground at the front door. Our dad was getting ready to leave for his job hauling coal to Erwin Mill employees. As he stood by his truck, he heard a loud noise and saw house shift several feet right in front of his eyes. We still wonder what kept the house from collapsing - but by the Grace of God, it stood firm.

Mother had sent me across the road to Mr. Wallace's store on Rosehill Avenue leaving mother, my three sisters and my brother inside the house at the time. Hearing his family's screams, our dad bounded up thirteen steps dodging huge pieces of chimney falling all around him, any one of which could have killed him. But the Grace of God stepped in again. Daddy took charge inside the house making sure everyone was all right and escorting them all outside. Then he began looking for me. Not knowing where I was, he assumed I had been in a swing in the front yard (in the path of the truck) where I sat every morning to wave good-bye to him as he drove off to work (without me!! school really got in my way cause I always "worked" with Daddy until school interfered).

[CAPTION TEXT] Car-train Collision (ca. 1940): On the other side of West Durham, an utterly demolished Bluebird taxi cab still on tracks in front of train locomotive with billows of smoke coming from inside. Three people were killed when the Southern Railway passenger train collided with the cab at Mulberry Street (present-day West Main, near Erwin Mills).

Grabbing the truck driver up by the collar, Dad began trying to get information about my whereabouts, asking if he had seen me. The driver seemed totally unconcerned about the situation and before Dad knocked his block off, a neighbor told Dad someone was bringing me across the road from Mr. Wallace's Store. Finally, Daddy was relieved to have all his chicks within his arms' length.

To show you how things have changed in 60 years - the day they pulled the truck out of our house leaving a gaping hole in it, there was no looting. No one took advantage of the fact that we had to move out of the house while it was repaired. Not one thing disappeared from our house. And shock of all shocks - an impending law suit against the trucking company yielded exactly what my mother and father asked for: enough money to repair the house and replace the living room furniture which had been destroyed. According to their attorney, they could have won a suit worth much, much more money.

But our parents were people of honor - as were most all of West Durham people - and they only accepted what they felt they were entitled to which, in their opinion, was only what they needed to get their lives back to normal.

All of this may sound Pollyana-ish to those of you who did not grow up in West Durham. But I really doubt that - because when Chlorese (my sister) and I met some of the "newcomers" to the area (and several of us oldies were there, too) at a recent Old West Durham gathering in a restaurant, we found a love for the community and a warmness that was truly reminiscent of our childhood. We really enjoyed meeting people who now are fortunate enough to have the claim of being a part of a haven called: West Durham.

Source: Nancy Eubanks (daughter of Ruie and Bertie Eubanks) Family: Ruie, Jr. [deceased], Ann Maynard, Chlorese Johnson and Louise Whitfield, [deceased].

The Hillsboro Road bus (ca. 1930).