City of Creeks oral history project Videos recount memories of Charlotte creeks

Some remember swimming in Charlotte creeks, before city pools were open to black citizens. Some remember finding pollution – raw sewage, industrial chemicals – in city creeks. Others recall baptisms, and using springs near the creeks as a water source.

For more than a year, researchers at KEEPING WATCH on WATER: City of Creeks have collected oral histories focusing on the waterways of Mecklenburg County. Funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, UNC Charlotte history graduate student Tenille Todd interviewed and filmed almost two dozen people. The video recordings and transcripts will be deposited at the UNC Charlotte Atkins Library’s Special Collections.

Following are edited selections from the oral histories. The first group, “Creeks in memory,” describes remembrances of the creeks. The second group, “Pollution past and present,” offers information about pollution problems. Scroll below for videos featuring: Wenonah Haire;  Grady Walker; Curley Hall; Laura Rankin; Rickey Hall; Les Todd; current and former Cherry residents Doris Dennis, Ruthie Hamlin, Charles Patton, Everett Taylor and Richard Perry; current and former Grier Heights residents Hawthorn Broadway, L.C. Clifton, Marvin Price, George Wallace and Willie Davis; Pat Stith; Jonathan Belton; Ed and Pozy Menhinick; Bill Stokes; Rusty Rozzelle.


Wenonah Haire: The Catawba creation story of water

Grady Walker: Life in Revolution Park

Curley Hall, Laura Rankin: Baptisms in the creek (film by Ben Premeaux)

Curley Hall, Laura Rankin: Water from the Reid Park spring (film by Ben Premeaux)

Rickey Hall: The lost spring of Reid Park (film by Amber Veverka)

Rickey Hall: The spring’s significance to Reid Park (film by Ben Premeaux)

Rickey Hall: Learning to swim in the creek (film by Ben Premeaux)

Rickey Hall: Changes in Irwin Creek (film by Ben Premeaux)

Les Todd: A boy, a creek

Richard Perry, Cherry neighbors: Snakes in the swimming hole 

Grier Heights memories: The Big Boy Hole at Briar Creek

Cherry neighborhood residents: Crossing the creek bridge

Charles Patton: Why he did not swim in Little Sugar Creek

Pollution past and present

Pat Stith: Reporter investigated Little Sugar Creek pollution in 1969

Pat Stith: Sewage in Briar Creek

Jonathan Belton: Briar Creek ‘always had a smell to it’

Pat Stith: Pools of formaldehyde

Ed and Pozy Menhinick: Uncovering a polluter

Ed and Pozy Menhinick: ‘Silt is a very bad pollutant’

Bill Stokes: Trash in the Catawba

Bill Stokes: Collecting Charlotte’s trash downstream

Bill Stokes: The journey of one Charlotte basketball

Rusty Rozzelle: Runoff can kill a creek