The transcript of the interview conducted with Callie Saleeby is now on our website under the Saleeby Family collection. You can access it here.
Callie speaks openly in this rich interview about her Scotch-Irish upbringing in Wilmington and Fayetteville, NC.
I had to raise the children that was left when my mother died when I was twelve. And I didn’t um, I had to stop school, cause she had a baby just three weeks old. Now she’s uhh, got a family of her own. That’s the only one that’s left of my brothers and sisters. There was seven of us. And that’s the only one that left. Me and Mary. But Mary was three weeks old when mother died. And umm I had a difficult time because we were told we were coming from school, five children coming from school, riding the school bus in the country. And we’d get off the bus and walk a little distance to our house. And umm…and my father met us and he said…I hate to give you some bad news, but your mother’s dead. And uh, she’s…and…of course you know we went running to the house and um, so um, so it was awful sad.
I didn’t do anything much as a child, you know, we had wonderful experiences…lived in a neighborhood of just families, we owned a lot of property…and um, had hundred acres of just cotton. And was just lots of forrest land and other kinds of crops, you know. And uh, everybody that lived…
She discusses her marriage to Eli Saleeby:
That’s where I was, the Little Pep restaurant, when I met Eli.
Anyway, they were straight people, but a little bit offish too, you know, just “How’s this gonna work, you know? Why’d Eli marry that girl?” and uh, so, they accepted me, made dresses for me, uh, would come and help me with anything, came to work with me in the studio and so, I mean, I just had another family. And my father would come and…he liked him…very much liked Eli, buy you know, it was something strange for a Scotch-Irish to marry out of your race, you know, out of your class, too. Completely out.
Everything was different, but I found out he was just like the rest of us. I mean people are the same, um… and I have uh…and I’ve met a lot of different kinds of people now. But, uh, I was telling you about trying to get to Lebanon, being baptized in the Jordan River, and I thought… “He used to tell me…” he’d see all the cosmetics and everything I’d buy and he’d tease me, he said “Look, I don’t have to buy all that deodorant and perfume and everything, I was baptized in the Jordan River and I won’t ever stink.
Her short courtship with Leyton:
She still comes to see me and we stay very close…and Leyton loves the Saleeby family…they accept him right off, I thought I was gonna have problems…haven’t had any problems, so and you know what? I got Saleeby friends everywhere…
I came home one day from work, and Leyton was in the…my neighbor’s backyard fixing Leonard’s tricycle. And I said “Who is that man?” and then I…then so, I met him, Leyton, and he said “Well I’m visiting my cousin here, and she told me about Leonard’s tricycle and I’m fixing it.” And, uh, he could fix all things. And so, uh, he fixed it. And then one day he said “You know, would you like to go to a movie or something?” I said “Yea.” But anyway, it was pretty fast, we dated about a year I reckon before marrying.
And raising her son Leonard:
And what we did through the years and how it affected Leonard’s life. And Leonard always came first to me…
Anyway, it was quite funny, my life was quite funny. And how to live with it all and still be true and raise Leonard like he ought to be raised. Leonard came along about a year after I was married [to Eli].
She discusses her business endeavors:
You know, he would do things like that, and um, then he’d tell me “why don’t you start a business of your own?” and uh, then of course I didn’t do it then, Leonard came along and I couldn’t start a business right then. But um, later on I did, I started Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio. And it was the first one in North Carolina, and you had…and I wrote to the company and I wanted to carry the product, I wanted to sell the product. They said “You can’t sell our product unless you have a studio.” And uh, well then you had to have money if you wanted to buy a studio, you had to have money to pay rent and to buy dressing tables and display cases…you had to have money to do that… you had to have a place for people to sit and a place to give demonstrations. Well, I got all that, finally, God, I found I could do all that, but they said “Well, no, you got to go to California to get the training.” I said, “I can’t go to California” and they said “the nearest studio is Columbia, South Carolina.” I went there for my training and when I finished that I started the studio. I rented a place, started, was very successful with it. And um, it didn’t start immediately as successful, I was striving.