Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Calvin and Naomi Davis

Interviewee: 
Davis, Calvin; Davis, Naomi
Interviewer: 
Metzger, Mary
Date of Interview: 
2004-11-23
Identifier: 
BBDA0014
Subjects: 
Davis, Calvin C., educator; Davis, Naomi A.; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Second Ward High School (Charlotte, N.C.); Topeka (Kan.). Board of Education; West Charlotte High School (Charlotte, N.C.); Education--Parent participation; Educational tests and measurements; African American teachers; Homework; School discipline; Segregation in education; Social history; Students--Academic workload; Students--Attitudes; North Carolina--Charlotte; Interviews (Sound recordings); Oral histories
Abstract: 
Calvin and Naomi Davis describe their experiences as students, teachers, parents, and grandparents in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, and reflect on the significant changes in education during their lives. Although they discuss the difficulties that integration presented during the 1960s and 1970s, they also acknowledge the success of Charlotte Mecklenburg in integrating the schools, and express concern about the possibility of re-segregation in the future. The Davis’s perceive the major threat to integration as the shift in public attitudes, which they attribute to the influx of people from other parts of the country into the Charlotte area.
Coverage: 
North Carolina--Charlotte; circa 1930 - 1979
Interview Setting: 
Home of Calvin and Naomi Davis, North Carolina--Charlotte
Collection: 
Before Brown Collection
Collection Description: 
These interviews were conducted in conjunction with the Levine Museum of the New South’s award winning exhibit, "Courage: The Carolina Story That Changed America,” which was originally mounted in 2004. The interviews focus on the educational experiences of members of the African American community of Charlotte during the era of segregation.
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
MM: We need to establish on the tape where we are and who all of us are. And I am talking to Calvin and Naomi Davis and we are in their home at 6017 Jester in Charlotte, North Carolina. And the question that I wanted to ask you all first is what schools did you attend in Charlotte?
CD: We both attended Johnson C. Smith University.
MM: Oh well I think we're thinking even further back. Yeah.
CD: I attended Morgan Elementary school.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And then to Second Ward.
MM: Right.
CD: Naomi went to--.
ND: Fairview Elementary.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: West Charlotte.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Second Ward.
MM: And at the elementary school level what do you all both recall about your elementary schools? What were they like?
CD: We had very caring teachers.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: There was a good relationship between the schools and the home.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: Parents and teachers were really involved. Really supported the students.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: The community was involved, fully involved.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: The same thing applied to high school. We didn't have anything like junior high it was from elementary to high school.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: Elementary was from first to seventh grade in my case.
MM: Uh-huh at Morgan?
CD: At Morgan.
MM: OK.
CD: And the principal was Mrs. Anderson. She would care for you she would discipline you she would involve your parents. It was really a direct line to homes from the schools.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: PTA meeting was an important meeting and our parents served all over the place PTA presidents and secretaries.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: They were supportive of the schools.
MM: Mrs. Davis you were at Fairview.
ND: Yes that was grades one through six.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Then I attended West Charlotte--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --which is now Northwest School now.
MM: Oh.
ND: But I attended West Charlotte from grades 7 through 9.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And then I went onto Second Ward 10 through 12. But the same thing I could repeat what Calvin said. You just had caring teachers. You were anxious to go to school because they always had motivating things for you to get into your subject.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: A lot of it they had to buy on their own without--with their own money--.
MM: Yeah.
ND: --but they just made school a pleasant place. And what I think is lacking now is a lot of discipline. The children were disciplined.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: They respected the teachers and the teachers respected the students.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And the parents became involved if you were disrespectful.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And they just brought you down in front to face the teacher and got you straightened out.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And you knew not to do that again. And what I really enjoyed about my school was that I participated in a lot of activities.
MM: Yeah.
ND: I started off-Calvin knows I'm not good-with basketball. And I sang all the way through high school-all the way through school. College-high school, then college. Singing is one of my favorite things. And playing the piano was a disappointment to my mother. She made a big sacrifice to get me a piano when I was ten years old because she wanted me to really play it but I didn't want to learn to play it because I couldn't afford to go to an expensive music teacher Mrs. Beckwith here in Charlotte. All of the kids went to Mrs. Beckwith.
MM: Yeah, yeah.
ND: But I couldn't go because she didn't--they didn't have the funds but Mrs. Dugass was another music teacher and I went with her and she was very good but I just had that in my mind and I regret it today that I didn't give it my all. That's one thing that I think I disappointed my mother in not playing the piano. I played--.
MM: Right. Yeah.
ND: --but she wanted me to really excel in it. And I do-Calvin will tell you now-I still think about it I still talk about it that was a big disappointment.
MM: I think a lot of kids feel that way.
ND: Yeah. But school was just really fun.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: You know we didn't have all of the equipment--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --that some of the other schools had and we got the hand-me-downs the books and all.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But we took them and we learned and we enjoyed it.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: So with all of the new technology and stuff today it's almost puzzling that a child can't learn because they--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --are afforded it. All they have to do is take advantage of it and so I don't know what we're going to do about it but we've got to do something about it.
CD: I remember if you looked like you didn't have breakfast--.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: --they would give you peanut butter on slices of bread.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I have something else in mind and I'm not clear on how it was but as I remember it the school was involved in it. The city had to have evidently matching funds to build Charlotte Memorial Hospital.
MM: Hmm.
CD: I remember cleaning up the community in those times--during those times they bought rags. People would come around in trucks buying rags.
MM: Yes that's right. Yeah.
CD: They would also buy iron and steel.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I remember the whole community of Cherry collecting all of the junk iron and selling it. That money was turned in I think through the schools.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And that money was given to Mecklenburg County to help them make the matching funds I guess that's what it was.
MM: Hmm.
CD: But I remember that as a boy.
MM: OK.
CD: And the radio stations played it up big.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I remember going up to the radio station I believe trying that around the end of the school.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: That was a big deal back in those days.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And they built Charlotte Memorial. Not like it is now but they built it.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And that's in my mind but I can't get it together how it really did occur.
MM: Do you all recall some really influential teachers? Teachers who you could visualize now--.
CD: Oh yeah.
MM: --and what they said.
CD: I remember Mrs. Gunn, Mrs. Floretta Gunn.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: She was my fourth grade teacher.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: She was very influential. She was an easy-going teacher.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: She was like Mama Number 2.
MM: [Laughter]
CD: You had a problem you could talk to her or she would recognize when you had a problem and she would approach you.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I've seen her even give clothing to kids who didn't have proper dress.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I know she had to buy it out of her own money.
MM: Yeah.
CD: At Second Ward I remember-what was her name?
ND: Mrs.--.
CD: Mrs. Dennison.
ND: Mrs. Dennison yes, yes.
CD: Mrs. Dennison she lived in Washington D.C. later and she passed there. But I called her and told her I know she was responsible for my getting a couple of scholarships.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: My father had become ill and there was no money for me to go to college. But I know she was influential. I was given three years of scholarships to Johnson C. Smith University. I got the Civitan Award which was money that would let you go to the college of your choice.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: They gave one to Second Ward and-West Charlotte wasn't in existence any more.
MM: Right yeah.
CD: And they gave one to the white school Central. I remember that.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I remember the young man coming to present that at awards night to me.
MM: Oh my gosh.
CD: And a very strange thing was when I was a reading teacher there was a program in North Mecklenburg. For some reason I had a part in that program.
MM: Hmm.
CD: And he recognized me--.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: --and he approached me and said "Are you the Calvin Davis that was given an award in Second Ward?" And that was years later.
MM: Yeah.
CD: And I said "Yes I am." And he said "Well I declare our money paid off."
MM: [Laughter] Wow.
ND: Well I remember Mrs. James I can't think of her first name.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: She was my third or fourth grade teacher. Mrs. James and Mrs. Steele--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --in elementary school. In high school Mr. Jack Martin--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --and Mr. Levi. And I just thought Mr. Grigsby--.
MM: Oh at Second Ward oh yeah.
ND: --was the best principal in the world.
MM: He was something.
ND: Yes. So I remember those people they kind of stand out with me.
MM: What makes Mr. Martin and Mr. Levi stand out?
ND: Well Mr. Levi taught me physics.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --and I didn't catch on right away. And he would tell me to come back and he would work with me. And so after working with me to improve my physics well the next year I was a senior and they had what you call Career Day.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And a teacher would choose a student to teach their class. And I was chosen by Mr. Levi to teach his physics class.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: [Laughter] And I never will forget that.
MM: Wow. Were you terrified?
ND: No I was really proud I think I did a good job. And that's why he chose me because see at first I was having difficulty.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And he worked with me on the side you know.
MM: Right.
ND: And gave me special attention and then I came out pretty good in grade-wise in his class. And so when the teachers would choose who they wanted to teach their class and he chose me. And so that was a long time ago.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: [Laughter] Physics teacher! Mr. Jack was my biology teacher at West Charlotte.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And I guess you'd say "You sure did have a lot of problems in school!" but I am not a person to dissect anything.
MM: Oh.
ND: You know and--but he would always make sure that he worked along with me that I wouldn't develop that fear.
MM: Yeah.
ND: I would just get so upset you know and but he would just take his time and explain "Now Naomi this" and "Naomi that" you know and I got through biology and I got a good grade but oh some of the things we did. Now the experiments and things: fine.
MM: Right.
ND: But when it came to the animals and things. Oh that was scary. And he kind of just squashed my fear. And he stands out also with me because I told him after I got grown that he tried to drown me. [Laughter]
MM: [Laughter] When did he have time for that?
ND: Mr. Martin was the playground director for the summer and my mother sent me to learn to swim. And I don't swim today and I've always blamed him.
MM: Oh no.
ND: He always started out you know playing in the water you know how they do you and then the one day after a few days he decided that he was going to put my head under water. So you know I know now that he wasn't trying to drown me and you know to learn how to--but I thought he was trying to drown me.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And oh boy I got out of that pool and I ran home and I never went back. So that was--.
MM: [Laughter] So much for swimming.
ND: I guess, I guess that's why I didn't learn to swim-I don't know what. [Laughter] But you know he was in our church. He's deceased now but he always teased me about that you know. But he said "But you made it through." So I proudly made it. [Laughter] But I've had some good experiences in school and even in college. I've really had good--I just wish-I've always told my children--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --if you could just experience what I have experienced in school--elementary, high school and college you know.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: It's just indescribable.
MM: Yeah.
ND: I just really had a good, good time.
CD: Those teachers would pick you up when you were down.
ND: Yeah they would, they would it was just fun.
CD: I don't think kids today have enough fun.
ND: No they don't.
CD: They want to get in and get out.
ND: Yeah.
MM: They seem to do well in a small school.
ND: Yes.
MM: If the classes aren't so big maybe--.
ND: You're right.
MM: But if the class size heads over 30 I think it's tougher.
CD: Yes.
ND: Yes. But now back then in some schools teachers had 2 or 3 grades they taught-.
MM: Yeah I know they did.
ND: --in that one room.
MM: Yeah. Uh-huh.
ND: But class size makes a difference and especially, especially now. I guess it was something we were used to back then.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But now class size makes a difference in teaching.
MM: That's what I'm reading.
ND: Because get--you're able to give the child individual attention.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: You have discipline.
ND: Yeah.
CD: That was entirely different than the discipline in those days.
ND: Yeah.
MM: What was it like then or what were the expectations about discipline?
CD: Back then-.
ND: It started at home.
CD: Yeah.
ND: Got disciplined at home first.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: If you got punished at school you would look for punishment at home.
ND: At home.
MM: Right.
CD: And if you were out of order you could expect your parents to come to school and straighten you out.
ND: Uh-huh.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I don't know about physical punishment but that's a thing that ought to be looked at but it was administered back in those days.
MM: Oh yeah sure.
CD: Now it's illegal.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: Now a child can call up social services and put the parent in jail for child abuse and they've taken discipline partially away from parents--.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: --and put it with social services.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And kids know that.
ND: The first step in teaching--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: The first step in teaching I believe is discipline.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Because you're not going to be able to teach unless you have a disciplined class.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: So I know I remember when I was teaching.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: The books are very important but those first few days and weeks of school-you know you should just get to know your children get them under control--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --and then branch out into what your subject matter.
CD: Establish some discipline in the class.
MM: Yeah uh-huh.
ND: Yeah but it seems like when they first start now they just go right in the second day of school. The kids bring a stack of books home right there.
MM: Oh yeah there's already homework.
ND: You see so a lot of kids are frustrated. They are frustrated because they get the frustration from the parents, the parents who say "Get your homework." They've got five or six subjects that they have to get done and a project to do over here.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: It's overwhelming.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And they say "Well we have to get this done because the state expects us to be able to" you know.
MM: Yeah.
ND: And really and truly we are doing away with a lot of kids by doing the way we--you know and some children they just give up and say "Well I'm not going to do anything."
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: You know? Now a child that comes home should come-OK you want a sandwich get a sandwich--relax.
MM: Right.
ND: You've got a few minutes but they've got to come and go right into their room and start their work. They work four or five hours. I see two hours I see a good two hours of homework. But when a child's got to stay up half of the night--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --and then the parents got to go and try and help him to do it.
MM: Yeah right.
ND: What good is it doing the child if the parents have got to do part of it?
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: So I think we need to reexamine what we're putting on these children really.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Because if they can sneak away from school and not have to do the work that's what they do.
MM: Hmm.
ND: You know?
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And it makes it hard for the teacher, makes it hard for the teacher to know that these kids here want to learn and these are goofing off.
MM: Right.
ND: But we've got to work out some way to meet--do something about it. And it's unfair to these kids and really and truly it's unfair to these because they're not able to keep up with the work. So what are you going to do with them?
MM: When you both were in high school did you have a sense that they were hurdles that had to constantly be jumped in terms of state testing requirements? Were there a lot of standardized tests or benchmarks that everybody had to meet?
ND: Not when we were in school.
CD: We had them.
ND: Yeah.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: But it wasn't the pressure that it is.
ND: No it wasn't the pressure.
MM: Yeah.
ND: It wasn't the pressure. You see what you find now the reason they're covering-have to cover all this work--.
MM: Right.
ND: They are required.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: They are required to cover this work no matter what comes up no matter what you've got to do this.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And it's frustrating to the teacher.
MM: Sure. Yeah because maybe there's a lesson they'd like to expand.
ND: That's right.
MM: Because the kids are having a little trouble with it or because there's a really creative way of approaching it but uh-oh here comes the next test.
ND: That's right and we've got to get ready for it.
MM: Right.
CD: I think back at York where I started teaching there.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: The classes were set up based on their test scores.
MM: Oh.
CD: And we had something like 7.1 to 7.14.
MM: What does that mean?
CD: The brighter students are in 7.1 and they run on down the line.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: 7.14 was the bottom of the barrel.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: But I had 7.14's. 7.15 was special ed.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I didn't have the books, the materials to work with those children. I asked the principal for money to buy books that they could use.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: He said "The state doesn't provide money for that." So I had to make my own books.
MM: Was this at York? Is that a high school?
CD: Junior high.
ND: It's Kennedy now.
MM: Junior high and now it's called Kennedy?
ND: Uh-huh.
MM: So there were no instructional materials for this particular group?
CD: At least on that level.
ND: On that level.
MM: On that level.
CD: Now you had 7th grade materials--.
MM: Uh-uh.
CD: --but not for all 7th grade students.
ND: How is the time?
MM: Right oh this tape will run an hour.
ND: It will.
MM: Uh-huh so we can go past 1 if that's alright.
ND: OK well a little past I'm having an appointment.
MM: Oh of course.
CD: And I had to make materials for them.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: They couldn't read out of that 7th grade book.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I taught English and social studies so what I did was to get a fourth grade book where I'd done my practice teaching borrowed books from that teacher.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I would read the stories and they would tell it back to me and as they told it to me I would write it on the board.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And then I would copy that, take it home that night, type it up and that became the reading lesson.
MM: Oh my gosh.
CD: And they could read what they had told me when I explained it to them.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And that way we got through it. That's what got me into reading.
MM: That experience. Yeah.
CD: How we reach these kids. But I don't know how they do it now.
ND: Yeah.
CD: But I'm sure they have that same kind of kids that they receive.
ND: Uh-huh.
MM: Uh-huh. When the both of you were at West Charlotte I'm sorry at Second Ward were there activities that you both participated in at school?
CD: She did.
ND: Yeah I was in the drama group.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: The chorus and I was Miss Second Ward. [Laughter]
MM: Oh you were?
ND: Yes and I was also an attendant for the May Court twice.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And then when I went to Johnson C. Smith University I was the runner-up to Miss JCSU.
CD: If she'd been a campus girl she would have been Miss JCSU. She was a city girl.
ND: Yeah.
MM: It made a difference?
ND: Yes it did.
CD: Yes that's the thing about that. Surprisingly she was the runner-up in '60.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: [Laughter] And I was the drum majorette for the band at Second Ward. So I had just a good time. [Laughter]
CD: I was in student government and I was in the drama class.
MM: OK.
ND: Yeah I had a very good time.
MM: And both of you graduated before the Brown decision. Have I got that right?
CD: Right uh-huh.
MM: After that decision happened did a lot of folks feel that there would be changes right away? I wonder how much of an impact folks thought it would make then?
CD: Yeah I thought it would. I think the big thing was "How do we do it with the changes coming."
ND: Uh-huh.
MM: Right.
CD: They big thing was "How do we go about this."
ND: Yeah but I really don't know how to answer that.
MM: Some of the folks who have been involved in the interviews have said that a lot of folks were a little stumped at first.
CD: Yeah.
MM: Where to begin?
ND: Yeah.
MM: So I think at some schools there was an effort to integrate the teaching staff first.
CD: Yeah.
ND: That's what they did.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: That's what they did.
MM: Yeah and I don't know if you all remember you probably do what for your own two kids was there an integrated teaching staff when they began school or was it still in process at the time your oldest child started school?
ND: With Calvin--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Calvin didn't have--it wasn't integrated with Calvin. Was it?
CD: I don't believe it was.
ND: I think it started with Eric.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: He had--the classes were integrated and the faculty.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But no Calvin didn't experience integration. It was still segregated.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But Eric did.
MM: Do you remember getting letters home? Both of you were very involved in the system so did the district communicate to everyone by letter letting them know these are the changes that are coming this is what to expect?
ND: I don't remember a letter do you?
CD: No I don't remember.
ND: I don't remember--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But it was some kind of communication.
CD: Most of the time it was in conferences.
ND: In the PTA--.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: The PTA--.
ND: --to let you know what was going to happen.
CD: Principals' meetings, teachers' meetings.
ND: Rather than send letters.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: I don't remember letters do you? But just like he said it was the meetings.
MM: Yeah.
ND: And those that weren't there the word was passed on you know.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But I remember the teachers having assignments to ride the school bus when integration started--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --to make sure that things were kept in order.
CD: The special teachers.
ND: Yes special teachers like the reading teacher.
CD: If you weren't there teaching classes you ride the bus to keep order.
ND: Uh-huh so that kept down--kept the confusion down and after so long they didn't have to do it. [clock chimes] I don't know it just seems like we had a better relationship with the children. You know?
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: So we've gotten away from it.
MM: Do you recall where Calvin went to elementary school?
ND: Yes Calvin went to Lincoln Heights.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Noland Freeman was the principal there.
MM: And do you feel he had an experience in school similar to the one that you all had at Morgan and Fairview?
ND: With the teachers--.
MM: With that sense of closeness?
ND: Oh yes.
CD: Yes.
MM: That sense of communication.
ND: Oh yes.
MM: Among students, teachers, and parents.
ND: Yes.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And then he went from there to Northwest Junior High.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And then when he finished off with junior high we sent him to prep school for a year--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --at Laurinburg Institute.
MM: Oh yeah.
ND: And then he came back--.
MM: Yeah.
ND: --and finished West Charlotte.
ND: But--.
CD: He participated in the band.
ND: Yeah.
MM: Was Eric in the same school as his big brother had been to?
ND: Yes.
MM: So they both went to Lincoln Heights?
ND: Lincoln Heights and he also went a couple of years he started off-Eric did--at Oaklawn.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And then after the first or second grade I believe second grade we moved him to Lincoln Heights because that was where I taught at Lincoln Heights.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: Kids on one side went-this in Russell Avenue--.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: --kids from one side went to Lincoln Heights and the other side--.
ND: Other side yeah.
CD: --went to Oaklawn.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: So I was able to make that change but and then he went to Northwest and then to West Charlotte.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And when we moved here he went to East Mecklenburg that's where he graduated.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Calvin graduated from West Charlotte.
MM: So you all have a memory of West Charlotte that goes back a long way and saw it change over the years?
ND: Yes.
CD: Yes that's her school.
MM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
CD: [Laughter]
ND: Yeah I had both schools Second Ward and West Charlotte.
MM: Were Second Ward and West Charlotte football rivals?
ND: Yes.
CD: Yes very much so.
ND: Yes.
CD: Very much so that was a big evening.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: It was, it was.
MM: When you all were beginning your teaching careers I'm sure you probably tried to recreate that same atmosphere you recalled as students?
ND: Yes that's true.
CD: Yes very much so.
MM: Yeah and I wonder what you feel was difficult about beginning your teaching career as expectations began to change. For example in my own schooling and I remember every year there was a new way to teach math. And I was terrible in math.
ND: Uh-huh.
MM: And I came home every September and said "Mom they've got a new way to teach math. They say that you and I will both get it this time." [Laughter]
ND: [Laughter]
MM: And we usually didn't.
ND: Yes.
CD: I'll tell you some other time the experience I had at NYU with math.
MM: Really? [Laughter]
CD: Yeah.
MM: But there's always seemed to be a new method a new approach--.
ND: Yeah.
MM: --that was going to revolutionize education.
CD: That's what they called improvement.
MM: Yeah.
ND: But every year they would come up with new ways of doing things.
MM: Right.
ND: And you had to adjust to it.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: They would have you know we would have I don't know if they still have it but we would have before school opened we would have meetings all of the teachers would meet and they would let you know about the new changes--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --that were coming about and everything and so you know you'd get kind of anxious about it though. "How we are going to have time to do this, that and the other if we have to do this, that."
MM: Right.
ND: And so it was just a new challenge almost every year.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Something new up until today. [Laughter] It's all you know the teachers complain about the paperwork they got to do.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Lots of things and when you think about it's taking a lot away from the student.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Because she has to get her work done.
MM: Somehow uh-huh.
ND: Plus teach it. So I don't know why we're going so fast but I guess I'm just old and I'm thinking this way.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: But I think it has a lot to do with children's attitudes toward learning.
MM: There are lots of distractions.
CD: There is.
ND: We didn't have all of that.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: You know it was learning and then you had recess.
MM: Yup, yup.
ND: You know you had lunchtime--.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: --and it was nice, it was really nice. But you've got to rush they give you 20 minutes to each lunch.
MM: That's right.
ND: Children got to gobble their food down and they don't know how to eat properly. They've just got to you know get it done.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And you've got what 3 minutes or 4 minutes to get to class and then it's always running off.
MM: That's right yup.
ND: But you know really you know how rushed you are when you have as an adult when you have all these different places to go and different things to do it's frustrating.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: So just put this child in your place. They're frustrated with all this you know.
CD: And look at all these books they're carrying.
ND: Yeah and I can't even pick up my child's books.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: My grandchild's books. They're too heavy.
CD: I think we're going to have a kick back from this generation for carrying all those heavy books.
MM: Uh-huh. Some of those are college-level books.
CD: Yes they are.
ND: Yeah they are, they are. They really are.
MM: Uh-huh especially in the sciences.
ND: And just think little children--every child's not a big child.
MM: No.
ND: I think about my own grandson Eric Allen.
MM: Yeah.
ND: I don't think he needs to be carrying all those books but he carries them but I just think about this you know he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease.
MM: Oh.
ND: And thank God that he's doing fine.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But he's not a big child.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: You know?
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And to have him lug them but he doesn't complain because he wants to do just like the other kids.
MM: Sure.
ND: He doesn't complain but I just think it's not good for him especially because he's a slender-made child.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: You know.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And he's got to lug all those books around all day.
CD: But he carries them.
MM: But he does it.
CD: But he carries them.
ND: Yeah because he doesn't want to be different from the other kids.
MM: He's in high school now isn't he?
CD: Junior high.
ND: No he's in 8th grade.
MM: He's in junior high OK.
ND: He goes to high school next year.
CD: He's excited about it he's going to Harding University.
ND: Yeah we went to visit-from you know he goes to Pen Piedmont.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And so they sent a letter home and that's a magnet school.
MM: Yeah it is.
ND: So they sent a letter and his parents were serving the homeless Thursday night so we told them we would go.
MM: Yeah.
CD: Grandparents again.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: So anyway it's really a nice school, it's really a nice school.
MM: Fantastic.
ND: And he said, he said that--.
CD: He's really ready.
ND: He said "I think I'm going to like this." You know and the principal he seems to be a really fine principal and his expectations are every child come there--you come there to really learn.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: So be ready to learn.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And he's all set to teach and get up.
ND: Yeah uh-huh. So I would bet that he would be happy about it after we visited the classrooms and he seemed to really like it. He seems to be excited. But I worry about them I worry about the kids here. I know they've got to have all this stuff now but we'll have some doctor bills too.
MM: Well there might be.
CD: Yes that's the kickback that I'm thinking we're going to have.
MM: Yeah.
CD: Now there was a period in Charlotte-Mecklenburg when the schools were falling apart. We used to have teams that worked out of the Ed Center.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And you couldn't do your job from running from one school to the other.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I was on one of those teams. They didn't have a lot of black people down with the kids.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: So I wound up rotating between teams you see.
MM: Yeah.
CD: And I remember them falling apart--Independence, Independence was the last one, West Mecklenburg, South Mecklenburg. We had to go put them back together.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And get the kids to talk and I've crossed a lot of kids from my neighborhood.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And there was always a complaint about the assistant principal.
MM: The assistant? Not the principal?
CD: Right he was unfair in his practices.
MM: Huh.
CD: They accused the administration of dishing out double standards.
MM: Hmm.
CD: Most of these were black kids--black boys in particular and you'd have to go put those schools back together and it wasn't an easy job. But I got to where I enjoyed putting these back together.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: They'd look to call for us at times they wanted a vacation and they would create problems just to close schools.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But you did when you closed them?
CD: Yeah.
ND: Did you?
CD: Yeah schools were out two or three days.
MM: Was this in the late 50's, early 60s?
ND: Must have been close to--.
CD: To '69.
ND: Or '57? That was between the [ ].
CD: Yeah.
ND: It wasn't Eric or Eric's school.
CD: Yeah.
ND: It must've been in early '70s?
CD: I can't--I forget--a couple years but it was during the early part of integration.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: You would be out in the field then you know just about to get one together and then they'd call you over to another one.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I remember West Mecklenburg.
ND: I still would like to give Charlotte-Mecklenburg credit.
CD: You have to.
ND: For the way they have handled integration.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: In fact I think they have done an excellent job. But I'm afraid of what will happen now that's what I'm afraid of.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Because it was-it--we had our down hills back then.
MM: Right.
ND: But we worked it out.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And you know it was for to benefit everybody, white, black, whatever.
MM: Right.
ND: But I'm afraid now you know we have different people coming in from different locales that really never experienced integration. You have to think about it--.
MM: Right, right.
ND: A lot of northern cities and things--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --they have never experienced integration. Because I-just like I have a girl friend that's from--I can't even think--a small town in New York.
MM: Right.
ND: Her family was the only family--black family in the whole community.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: So you have, you have if you're not used to this-.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --it's hard to for you to come in and accept it.
MM: Right, right.
ND: So you're gonna come and we'll change because you have not you're not used to--even her husband his family they weren't from the same town but his family was the only black family and this was a northern state.
MM: Right.
ND: Which you know we think of the north in a different manner.
MM: Right.
ND: But when you think about it we have more integration in southern towns than you have in the northern and--.
CD: Western.
ND: --western, eastern you know?
MM: Right.
ND: Northeast you think about it and so therefore you are coming in and you are making these changes.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And really it's upsetting the system it really is because we were doing fine.
MM: [Laughter] And then Charlotte got real popular.
ND: That's right.
CD: Yeah.
MM: And people are pouring in.
ND: I mean people came from other states--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --just to see what Charlotte-Mecklenburg was doing.
MM: Right.
ND: And go back and was taking the ideas and things and trying to do it in their cities.
MM: That's right.
ND: We were almost a model city.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But I don't know about now because really being in--you know things are changing. And I do I think about it I think we were doing just great.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: I know I like the idea of Charlotte growing but it was brought a lot of problems. It really has. It has brought a lot of problems because you and don't get me wrong I'm glad our city's growing and these people are moving in and bringing their companies here and this, that, and the other but--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: It's just upsetting to see the things that are changing and it's not changing for the good it seems like to me in every instance and some of it's bad.
MM: It's going to be tough.
ND: It is, it's going to be tough. We are going to hurt our future worse than we think we are.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: Our grandson said he's going to move away from Charlotte.
MM: He did?
ND: Yeah he said--.
CD: Yes not growing up here because "They've destroyed all the trees" he said "and you're not going to be able to breathe."
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: Eagles and everything have to find a place to live because they're cutting them all down and putting up all the everything.
CD: The animals have no place to live.
MM: This is Eric Allen.
CD: That was when he was in elementary school.
MM: He said it then?
ND: Oh yes he's my grandson but he's a very, very--.
CD: He's a reader.
ND: He's an avid reader.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And he's a smart little guy. [Laughter]
MM: Yeah.
ND: Yeah he is, very artistic. We're just trying to find somebody that will take a look at his art work because he's terrific and he wants to be a cartoonist.
MM: No kidding?
ND: And we have been trying our best to find someone in that area to work with him.
MM: Yeah, yeah.
ND: You know because I don't know if it's still down there or not but he was about two years old and we took him downtown--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --one night to see downtown Charlotte.
MM: Right.
ND: And he came back the next day and he built the city.
MM: [Laughter] Out of Legos? With blocks?
CD: With blocks, little blocks.
ND: What do you call those little things?
MM: Oh Legos.
CD: Legos yes.
ND: Legos.
MM: Yeah. [Laughter]
ND: Yeah I think it's still over there.
MM: We had them all over the house.
CD: [Laughter]
MM: We usually stepped on them.
ND: Yeah here it is.
MM: You found it.
ND: See right here.
MM: Oh my gosh sure enough. [Laughter]
ND: See, see right there.
MM: Yes, I do.
ND: He came back and built that.
MM: The prediction next year is that there will be 20,000 new students coming into the CMS system.
ND: 20,000?
MM: 20,000. Yep I don't know where they'll all go.
ND: You know what bothers me--.
CD: They're going to go to Union County and Cabarrus County--.
ND: What bothers me is that a lot of these new schools--Calvin and I have been around to some of them.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: They are empty.
MM: Are they?
ND: I mean the children aren't there.
CD: I think they're on the west side.
MM: Really?
ND: I mean beautiful schools they-I thought that there was just a group of children at Lincoln Heights you remember when we went?
MM: Oh wow.
ND: I said, "This must just be a certain group". That was the whole school.
CD: Mainly black and Hispanic students.
MM: On the west side of town?
CD: Uh-huh.
ND: Uh-huh.
MM: Was this an elementary school?
CD: Yeah Lincoln Heights.
MM: Oh where you had been.
ND: Yeah where I taught.
MM: So what happened to all the kids?
ND: We don't know.
MM: Huh.
ND: We really don't know.
MM: Was there redistricting that sent them to another school?
ND: I guess so and you see because when they changed and made it choice.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: Well all the kids--that's why you see all of these trailers and things.
MM: Yeah, yeah.
ND: They've got to find somewhere to put these kids but you've got schools sitting over there empty. And that's what I can't understand.
MM: Uh-huh is Lincoln Heights a choice school or a magnet school?
ND: It was a magnet.
MM: It was a magnet.
ND: But--we you know we just wondered about that I just don't know but maybe they'll work it out I hope they do. But these are kids just falling over top of each other--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --in certain areas.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And then schools are not filled up in other areas.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: But they've got to work out some way or other to-but then too you're spending money.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: You're building more schools, more schools that you've got to build them because that's what they say to do but what are you going to do about these-.
CD: And they're expecting 20,000 students.
ND: --empty schools? That's what I'm wondering.
CD: The trailer people are smiling.
MM: I guess so-the trailer people.
ND: Trailer people, yeah. And you don't get the same-you do not I don't care how many trailers you have or how modern they are you do not get the feel that you would get in a regular classroom. It is not set up for a classroom situation. Children are all on top of each other you know?
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And you don't--the setting is different. That's just like setting up in a house with the drapes drawn all day. You know something like that.
MM: Right, no usually there isn't a window.
ND: And so therefore you don't have a good feeling.
MM: Yeah.
ND: You know?
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: You're staying in the dark all the time. So I just don't see you know how learning could be that inviting in a trailer.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: And I've taught in a trailer.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: I've taught reading in a trailer and it's different.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: I've taught reading in a trailer and it's different and that you can't tell me about that-- but that's what they're doing. Now until Eric's school but I don't why-they were supposed to be kept in Piedmont in September. They're still not in there. They renovated it.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: He told me the other day he said "Grandma, I don't think I'm going to get to experience the new school the renovated school. I'll be gone." And I don't know but you know he's in a trailer and we went to I guess it was open house and we-no not Harding.
CD: Oh Piedmont.
ND: Piedmont and we sat up in there and we looked all around "Where are your bulletin boards and all of this stuff for children's displays?" And you know "What space do you have to do the things that you want to do with children?"
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: "How are grouping them?" You know all children don't learn at the same rate. "How are you grouping children?" You've got a group of children you know and a group of children, and a group of children and you can move around from group to group and teach.
MM: Right.
ND: But how are you going to do that in a trailer?
MM: It's harder.
ND: You know I hope something will be done I really do, I really do.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: We're being unfair to our children, we're being unfair to our children and these are our leaders. Well I have talked enough.
MM: I should probably close.
ND: No go ahead and you can finish up your questions.
MM: Well I believe to a great degree they're done. I guess the one question I want to ask you both is what inspired both of you to go into teaching?
ND: Well I think I can answer that for Calvin but I'll let him answer that.
CD: Basically I wanted to be a lawyer.
MM: You did?
CD: That was my dream but after I finished school I finished Johnson C. Smith University I got drafted.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I was supposed to go to Korea but at the last minute they changed it and sent us to Germany. Well I was personnel sergeant-major in records. We got a group of fellows in--new fellows. Evidently they just put them in uniform and gave them backpacks and sent them to Germany.
MM: [Laughter]
CD: We got some that could hardly write and hardly read.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And so I went to my company commander and asked him if we could set up a school. And he said he thought it was a good idea.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I said "We'd like to use the day room three nights a week."
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I recruited some fellows to help and we started a school.
MM: Wow.
CD: And we didn't have to hunt for the boys they were there every night.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: They enjoyed it and we worked with them and worked with them. We had to make our own materials--.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I liked it so when I came back home I went back to school to be an educator.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I went back to Johnson C. Smith University, studied for about a year.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I started teaching. They didn't hire me in Charlotte I went to Salisbury and I worked there a year and they called me back to Charlotte and I liked it.
MM: Yeah.
CD: Now you can hear how she was found.
ND: Well [Laughter] I guess I became a teacher because of that dissecting that frog.
MM: Frogs! [Laughter]
ND: I never forgot that and I wanted to be a nurse. [Laughter] I had to do these things in order to become a nurse so I chose teaching. [Laughter]
MM: [Laughter] I can understand.
ND: That's exactly why I am a teacher.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: But I wouldn't take in-it is the most rewarding--.
MM: Yeah.
ND: You don't get the money but you get so much more. And when you go out like we go out now--.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: --we hardly ever go anyplace that you don't meet some of your kids--.
MM: Yeah.
ND: --and they tell me "Miss Davis you know you inspired me I'm a teacher now." But I had one little fellow-I'll tell you this and then I'm going to stop talking. I met this little guy his name was Lee. I never will forget because he was a little short fellow in my fifth grade class. He always wanted to play with the big boys and they would go out you know they were bigger and they would play basketball and little Lee had to stand at the side you know. He would try to play and they would give something else to do you know. Well I went over to we went over to a men's store or something--.
CD: Yeah.
ND: On Independence.
CD: Independence.
ND: And coming out this young man and it looked like his son walked out and he said "Ms. Davis" and I said "Lee oh I'm so glad to see you!" And so we started talking and I said "Well Lee what are doing now?"
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: He said "I'm a nuclear physicist."
MM: Holy cow!
ND: [Laughter] And I said "You are!" And he said "Yes ma'am." And he said "I'm at the Duke Power Plant you know." And he said "This is my son and I'm getting him ready to go to college." I was just elated and he said--I said "Well Lee I am so proud of you." And he said "Well I never will forget you." He said "I never ever have forgotten you." And he said, "I was just hoping that I would run across you one day you know." And I said "Well where are you living?" He said "Do you know where Myers Park County Club is?" I said "Yes." He said "I live across the street." [Laughter] I said "Oh that is great!" I wanted to tell Lee "Yeah I know where Myers Park Country Club is--." [Laughter]
MM: [Laughter]
ND: "--but I would never be able to go there because I couldn't afford the membership fee." [Laughter] And so anyway you know it just did me good--.
MM: Wow.
CD: Lee--.
ND: --because you know what Lee was a good--a very good average student. He wasn't one of those top students and it just shows you how he worked-.
MM: Yes he did yeah.
ND: And how he worked because of how he worked to become a nuclear physicist.
CD: I'll give you one story of my students.
ND: You know that is something.
CD: We meet them all the time.
ND: All the time, all the time.
CD: Judges everything else.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: When I came to York Road and I just started working with the students and I had to turn the money into the office. I got back this boy was up imitating Mr. Davis making jokes--.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And stopped the kids from working so I walked in and told him and he goes and runs and gets his things and gets up and started standing in the hall. And I got my students back to work and go out in the hall and he had gone to the bathroom, the boy's bathroom.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: We go up to the bathroom and so I got this big tar bell and stick it up under the door knob. Then I said "Now young man you took over my class and I don't like that." I said "So I'm going to give you a chance to beat me or I'm going to beat you." He said "Mr. Davis, I don't want to fight you." "Yes I can do it." So at the end of the day-I had no trouble out of him-at the end of the day he comes up and says "Is there anything you want me to do?" I said "Yes take the trash out. But that's not the point that I wanted to tell you." Shortly after that I went to other jobs.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I became an administrative assistant.
MM: Right.
CD: I got a letter from a judge in Chicago Judge Warren or Waring or something.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: He had a letter that said he had 24 different charges on Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. It was a double standard being used.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: He was a federal judge and he wanted a response to all of them.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: There were 24 different charges the superintendent called me and said "This in your field. Get me the answer for each of these. I want to send it back to the Judge."
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And so in the process there were some parents in the Fairview homes. I went to see them to get their response. They had the same charges they had some--but the same offense black kids were beaten with a larger paddle.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: That's when you could use corporal punishment.
MM: Yeah.
CD: And so I stayed there listening to those ladies until midnight and I said "Oh I've got to go." I said "I'll tell you what I'll share this with the superintendent and you'll get an answer within two weeks." So I-the lady walks me to the door and all those apartments are built leading down the street.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: I started down that walk and I'm thinking about what the lady had said to me. And I looked up and there were four guys sitting on the hood of my car two on each side.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And as I started walking two of them got up and started to walk facing me.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I looked back at the lady she was gone she'd turned the lights out.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And I thought "Well I'm in trouble." And so I keep walking and I got about as far as from here to the porch I see the same guy and he says "That's Mr. Davis." Boy I tell you it felt like I had dropped a thousand pounds off of my shoulders. He was the young man I had disciplined.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And somebody had killed a man a month earlier and I'll never forget it. I always remember that when working with students.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: But you never know.
MM: Uh-huh.
ND: [Indistinct]
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: There was another one--.
MM: [Laughter]
CD: There was another one a young man in my class. I thought he was gonna be a doctor he was always included.
MM: Hmm.
CD: And one day my brother-in-law had an accident and we had to go to court he asked me to go to court. We had to be there at 9 o'clock.
MM: Uh-huh.
CD: And this young fellow that I thought was going to be a doctor came on out into the courtroom and he turned out to be a lawyer.
MM: Hmm.
CD: We stood there and talked he was so glad to see me. And I told him I thought he was going to be a doctor. I said "This judge sure is wasting the citizen's money. I've been here since 9 o'clock. It's 9:30 and he hasn't shown up yet." And I talked awful about the judge. And he kept on with the span and then he said "Well I've got to go." And so he left and went back down the hall. And the sheriff came out and said "The judge is here. Come on in you people." And we went in, in walks the judge and it was that boy--.
MM: [Laughter]
CD: --with that robe on. He looked at me and winked. I could have gone through the floor. [Laughter] He was the judge.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: We've had some wonderful experiences.
MM: Oh boy.
CD: Yeah.
ND: It really has.
MM: [Laughter]
ND: We've really had some wonderful experiences.
CD: Wonderful experiences.
ND: Yeah.
MM: Well I want to thank you folks very much for talking with me today it's been a pleasure.
CD: Same here.
ND: We've enjoyed you, we've really enjoyed you.
MM: Well, I want to thank you both very much for talking with me today. It's been a pleasure.
Groups: