Sarah Ware

West Greenville community member. One of the first African-American women to work in a factory after desegregation.

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Sarah, you are 94 and your birthday is coming up!

In December, if I live to see it. I thank the Lord. I ask the Lord, when I get to where I can’t do for myself… He knows.

Tell me a little bit about growing up in West Greenville.

Well, I lived in Anderson County. But my momma worked over here and stayed over in town. We would walk over from Anderson County on the weekends. … That was a long piece, a long way walking. That sticks out in my mind, how we walked so much. My daddy died when I was little, and I don’t know anything about him. But she raised us two girls. I was the oldest; my sister’s name was Janie. She passed away 50 years ago.

When you were here in West Greenville while your mom was working, where did you stay?

We lived on Pack Street, just down the street. Here in West Greenville. The house we lived in was just like this one (my current house) but it had two sides. Can you imagine that? There were a lot of people in and out. We made it. We made it. West Greenville has changed a lot. A real lot. It used to be filled with those housed on Julian Street. There used to be fields all around where houses are now.

What did your mom do growing up?

She worked at a boarding house on Woodside. It was the Woodside Boarding House. She would walk to work every day, and now we can’t even walk to the end of the street. We would go to work with her when school was out. She had to clean up the rooms and cook. The Todds ran the boarding house. I can’t think of their first names. We used to go there and make up the beds and clean the bathrooms. She worked there until she died. That was a long time. My momma was a really good cook. She cooked really different than I did. I always think about the real good chicken dressing she could make. Macaroni. Cakes. She’d make these pound cakes, strawberry cakes. All kinds of cakes.

“When we first moved here, they said it was the worst place to live. But I have been here all my life and I don’t want to go anywhere.”

So when did you make the transition to living in Greenville full time?

Well, my mom was born in Anderson, and I was born in Anderson, and I came to Greenville when I was about 12.

And how did you end up on Doe Street?

I married my husband, Robert Ware, in 1943. We stayed in Easley for about a year, and then we moved back to Greenville. We’ve been here ever since. I met him through “ The first job I got sewing, that was the first factory that opened up, you know, for blacks to work in. I prayed about that job, and I got it and loved it.” my aunt and uncle; they lived in Anderson. They knew my husband’s people. That is how I got acquainted with him. He used to live down in Easley and walk into Greenville for a job on the weekend. And he would come by my house. Believe it or not, I would run and hide from him. I just didn’t like him. Ended up marrying him. When he came by, I used to tell my momma or sister to tell him I wasn’t there. I had a good many boys come by to see me – not a whole lot – but he kept insisting and just kept coming by. He was a real good person. … He passed away in 1980. He was a minister for more than 15 years, the pastor of Golden Grove in Travelers Rest for 15 years.

The first job I got sewing, that was the first factory that opened up, you know, for blacks to work in. I prayed about that job, and I got it and loved it.”

Tell me about your life together with Robert.

He was in the Army first. We went together for about two or three years, and I remember we got married at home, the one down on Pack Street.

So as soon as you got married, Robert went into the Army?

Yes, World War II. He was stationed at Fort Bragg and stayed there all his time. He was away two years; came back in ’45. Then he worked in the funeral home and was a pastor until he passed.

Tell me about your family.

We had five children: Robert Jr., Barbara Jean, Calvin, Kenneth, and Sherrilyn. Kenneth was a boy that we raised who was just one of the family. That was my husband’s  niece’s son, and she wasn’t taking care of them. So we took him in, and someone took the other ones. She had them, but just wasn’t taking care of them. My baby girl, Sherrilyn, was the youngest. She passed away in 2015. She was diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t live two years after that. They all went to the West Greenville

So let’s back up. What was it like to grow up here in West Greenville?

Well, you know, they say West Greenville is a rough place to stay, but I’ve never had any trouble. When we first moved here, they said it was the worst place to live. But I have been here all my life, and I don’t want to go anywhere. It sure was different when I was growing up. Just mostly fields back then. For me, it has been a nice place to live. I remember, my husband bought a lot in Nicholtown, and we were going to build out there, but when we got to talking about building out there, I told him I didn’t want to move. So we ended up selling the lot to somebody.

Tell me more about the changes that have taken place.

I have known Rev. Fleming a long time. When he first came over here, he went to different churches and reached out to everybody. He did a lot for West Greenville. school and then to Sterling. When I was coming up, all the peoples around here was just real close, you know, with everybody. Everybody knew everybody. It’s not that way now. I don’t have a lot; I don’t see them much. I used to have neighbors that we would go out on the porch and holler at one another, talk to each other.

After you were married, and starting your family, what was your life like?

I didn’t go to high school. I hated that. I had to drop out to help my momma. I was hard on her back then. When we were growing up, my sister, she would do the cooking and I would do the cleaning. I never did like to cook, but I had to cook after I had a family. I worked too.

The first job I had, I worked in a factory making dresses. I worked there for 12 years. I never can think of the name of it. … I sewed zippers in dresses. They went out of business. When I left there, I went to [a factory] and they made sleeping bags and I zipped zippers in there. … The first job I got sewing, that was the first factory that opened up, you know, for blacks to work in. I prayed about that job, and I got it and loved it. I had wanted a factory job. And I prayed that I would get it, and I did. I was hired the first year they started hiring African Americans.

That sounds very busy.

I don’t like sitting around, getting wore out. I was workin’ and raising my babes too. I had this lady who would care for them, and she was like a mother to them. That was good, because it is hard to get people sometimes to watch your children and take care of them. After I retired from work, I worked in housekeeping and kept the children for the Ashemores. He was a lawyer. Her name was Laura. And then I worked for the McDonalds, doing housekeeping. They didn’t have any children. He had polio when he was younger and it left him in poor health. I love to stay busy.

What was it like living in “mill country”?

My daughter had a daughter who worked in the mill. I liked sewing at that time. It was OK. You know, I never confronted a lot of hateful people. You know, back then, we couldn’t go and eat in certain places, but at that time it didn’t bother me. I think the Civil Rights Movement was good because it brought us closer together and made us better people. And, you know, we all have differences of opinion, but there is nothing like being together, loving people. I never thought about hating people. If we work together, we can do a whole lot.

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