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Interview with Alma Blake

Blake, Alma
Randolph, Elizabeth
Grundy, Pamela
Date of Interview: 
basketball; girls basketball; high school sports; coaching; gender and sports; boys' rules and basketball; semi-professional basketball; college basketball; basketball tournaments; educators; school administration; family reunions; senior citizens; senior citizens and recreation
Former player and coach Alma Blake discusses her life-long involvement with basketball. Throughout the interview, Blake discusses gender and the game as she reflects upon her own unwillingness to participate in high school basketball under "girls'" rules of play. She also discusses the limitations placed upon girls' basketball in the 1940s and 1950s by the belief that competition and strenuous activity were harmful to girls seeking popularity. As a former basketball coach at West Charlotte High School, Blake recalls student athletes, game strategy, her coaching philosophy, and various West Charlotte opponents. Joined by former colleague Elizabeth Randolph, Blake and Randolph discuss life as retired educators.
Charlotte, 1930s-1993
Interview Setting: 
Museum of the New South
Levine Museum of the New South, Basketball Series
Collection Description: 
Interview was produced in conjuntion with an exhibit on basketball at the Levine Museum of the New South.
Interview Audio: 
PG (Pamela Grundy): Start out by asking you what your earliest memories of playing basketball are. When did you first start to play basketball?
AB (Alma Blake): Oh dear, it's been so long. You mean as a player?
PG: Uh-huh, as a player.
AB: Oh, when I was at the Morgan State College.
PG: Uh-huh. Had you played at Second Ward High School before that?
AB: No, no, no, no, no. I hadn't played there. You see, then I don't think they had girls' basketball at Second Ward. And they had to use the girls' rules, which meant that you, you couldn't have but six players on the team. And we said, we didn't--, weren't going to play we had to play like that until they changed the rules. Then they changed the rules to boys' rules, which meant that you could play five. You could go all up and down the court, see, with six players, only three forwards stayed on one side and the three guards [Laughter] stayed on the other side.
PG: Uh-huh. Now was this at Morgan State when you played the boys' rules?
AB: Yeah, yes.
PG: And you refused to play by the girls' rules.
AB: Yeah, yeah.
PG: And what years were that that you were there?
AB: In the 30s. Oh about '30, '30, [Pause]'36 I think it was, '36.
PG: Um-hum. Um-hum. And who, who did you play when you were playing at Morgan State? Who did you compete against?
AB: We played different teams. It was mostly intramurals.
PG: Um-hum.
AB: And, and extramurals. But we didn't, we didn't play too many other coll--, schools.
PG: Um-hum. Um-hum. What did you like about the boys' rules? Why did you want to play by the boys' rules?
AB: Because it was faster.
PG: Uh-huh.
AB: [Laughter] The girls' rules you could--. Three of us just standing there waiting for the ball to cross the line. And, and if you crossed that line, that was a technical foul. But the boys' rules, you can go up and down the line, foul somebody.
PG: Uh-huh. So was that--. That was the first time that you ever played any basketball?
AB: Yes.
PG: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. And what made you want to play basketball? Why did you get interested in it?
AB: Well I was just interested in physical education, and I guess, you see, my, my father was a pitcher on a basket--, on a football, on a baseball team. And of course my mother was a musician. She played the violin and the piano, and the only teacher she had was her mother, which was my grandmother. And I think they all thought I should've been musical, should have played the--. [Laughter] But I do play in a hand bell choir up here at First Methodist Church.
PG: Right. You were telling me about that.
AB: Yeah, and I transpose a lot of the music from notes to numbers because some of them can't, don't know notes out of the book.
PG: Uh-huh. Well it sounds like you inherited something both from your mother and your father.
AB: Right. I think I swung, swang, swung most of the time, towards [Laughter], towards my father.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Did he encourage you
AB: In athletics.
PG: in becom--, being athletic?
AB: Well, not necessarily because, you see, my, my mother died when I was very young. I think I was about twenty-one days old--.
PG: Oh my.
AB: and my grandparents reared me--.
PG: Oh, OK.
AB: And then of course my father remarried, because I didn't live with them too long.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Well then after you played at Morgan State did you come right back to Charlotte after you graduated?
AB: Oh yes.
PG: OK. And you got a job at West Charlotte?
AB: At West Charlotte there and I, I started a basketball team there, and that's where we played different schools in the, in the state organizes, Twin State All-Girls Tournament.
PG: What gave you the idea to organize that tournament?
AB: Well that's a good question [Laughter]. We just, just decided that maybe some other schools would like to play with us. To tell you the truth, I don't really remember how we got started, right now.
ER (Elizabeth Randolph): You were competitive and you wanted, you wanted your team to compete.
AB: Oh yes. Yes.
PG: Did you think it was good for the girls to be competitive like that?
AB: I did, I did but as time went on they said it was, it wasn't, it's too, it was harmful for the girls to play sports and how they played it just like boys. I don't think it affected them anyways.
PG: Who was it that thought that is was harmful for the girls to play?
AB: Well I guess the, the, either their parents or the administration. I don't know, they just didn't, didn't approve of girls playing basketball like they did the boys. They specialized mostly with the boys instead of the girls.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. What did you think about that when that was, when that change came?
AB: Well I, I thought it was great [Laughter]. I thought it was wonderful. Yeah, that they play boys' rules, I mean to play.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. But when you were coaching these teams and then there were people who felt that they shouldn't play and then girls' basketball got less important, what, what did you think about that?
AB: Well we went right on and played, those who would permit them to play. Parents who wanted them to play, they did. They didn't have any problem.
PG: Uh-huh. And you said you organized a kind of an all-star team?
AB: Yes, I think I--. I have--,whether I brought that. I'll have to get that to you another time the--.
ER: A picture of her, one of her, her teams is, is in our African American Album.
AB: In that album.
ER: But you have a whole lot of pict--. You brought us a whole lot of pictures.
AB: Yeah, I'm telling you, I don't know why I couldn't--.
ER: Well you all going to see each other again?
AB: Again. Oh yeah, yeah we will.
PG: Yeah. Well we'll do it--. Yeah, we'll, we'll do that. We'll get in touch. Why did you organize this all-star team? What was, what was--?
AB: Well most of them had graduated, you see. It was semi, sort of a semi-pro team. I was a player, coach, and manager. [Laughter]
PG: Oh, uh-huh. [Laughter] ( )
AB: We even made our uniforms and made our little skirts. And then I think the art teacher at West Charlotte printed all-star across the--. You know Otis Williams?
ER: Uh-hum.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. And who did you play when you had this team?
AB: Well anybody that would, that would want to play us.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. You say semi-pro. Did you all make any money in the games?
AB: No, we just played for just for the fun of it. We called ourselves semi-pro.
PG: Uh-huh.
AB: We were just--.
ER: Was there many high schools that they had girls' basketball at that time?
AB: Yes, let's see Livingstone, Livingstone College I think. I don't know whether they played--, were semi-pros but they--. Yeah, we played Price High School. Some of the other schools. Lo--, what's the school in Concord?
PG: (Do you mean) Logan. Uh-huh.
AB: Logan.
ER: Uh-huh.
AB: And Dudley in Greensboro. It's been so long I don't even keep up all them stuff in my mind.
PG: It sounds like you did a lot of traveling.
AB: Yeah.
ER: They did.
PG: And it's quite a, quite something. Well did you find when you first came back to West Charlotte that the girls were interested in having a basketball team?
AB: When, say when they first came--?
PG: When you first came back to West Charlotte and started the first teams there, did you find that they were interested?
AB: Oh yes. I had a girl there, she was six feet two. Old Ruby Washington.
ER: Old Ruby.
AB: I was trying to find that picture of her.
ER: Big Ruby.
AB: I have it here; it's somewhere, let me see.
ER: Well she, she is on the picture that's in the album.
AB: No she's not.
ER: Isn't she?
AB: No. You remember you, you, you said you--, the ones that you could use or couldn't use.
ER: I thought she is.
PG: Well she must have been a good player.
ER: She was.
AB: Oh yes, she, she--. Oh then another thing if you have time I'd like you to go to West Charlotte and in that trophy case those big balls that we had won.
PG: Uh-huh.
AB: The championship basketballs. Yeah, about two or three in there. Ruby have to put those in there because, see, she was so tall. She was too clumsy to do the floor, and I put the shorter players to work the floor, you know. And I just put her, and I told you stand under the basket there now and be the post. And we'd feed her the ball, and all she'd do is dunk. See, because if she tried to run she'd fall down. [Laughter] I said, "Ruby, don't you try to run now. You just, you just let them feed you." See now here, here she is.
PG: Oh look this is wonderful here.
AB: Oh see.
PG: Oh yeah these. Oh these are these little skirt things. Oh my goodness.
AB: Yeah. Yeah. Those are--. [Laughter] Let me see this.
PG: Those are--. That's quite an outfit there.
AB: Let me see now. I have a picture of Ruby and the whole team here somewhere.
PG: Now where did you, did you make these uniforms as well? Did y'all--?
AB: Oh no, not those. We made the, the, the, the semi-pro, the all-star, has all-star, and those are West Charlotte. And this is the year they, they dedicated this--. Do you remember this?
ER: Um-hum.
AB: Yeah. That's the way I used to look. [Laughter]
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
AB: [Laughter] Tell her that's the way I used to look back then.
ER: Yeah.
AB: I think the other one was dedicated to you. The next one was dedicated to Barbara, Barbara Davis.
PG: Well when you were coaching these girls what did you try to teach them? What was the most important thing?
AB: Well the first thing I tried to teach them was sportsmanship. I said now, we'd like to--, everybody wants to win. But now we wouldn't want to win at any expense of just winning. Let's be sportsmanlike and, and, and team spirit, too. I said you've got to learn to work together as a team, as a unit as a team, not as an individual. I said just don't be selfish. Who's in a better position--, if the other person is in a better position than you are, give her the ball. See, don't just stand there and hold the ball and freeze it, you know. We, we tried to emphasize that, that much too.
PG: Um-hum. Um-hum. Now they were, were they playing with the girls' rules now when you came back and coached?
AB: No, we were playing boys' rules.
PG: Uh-huh, even when you were playing here at West Charlotte?
AB: Oh yeah, boys' rules. I don't--. Uh-uh, we never did play girls' rules at West Charlotte.
PG: You just kept up there, huh?
AB: That's right.
PG: And now would y'all play before the boys' games? Was that when you played?
AB: Oh yes, all the girls always preceded the boys games.
PG: And was there as many people come to see the girls as the boys or was it different?
AB: Yeah, they would come early enough to see the girls, because some of the parents wanted to see them play, after they learned, after playing boys' rules. Nobody wanted to see three people standing over here on one side of the line [Laughter] and three standing here waiting for the ball to get over the line. And maybe they couldn't, couldn't cross over the line. And that was, that was Jack Markum. He's--, that's, that's Jack.
PG: Right. I went and visited him.
AB: Uh-huh. He's not doing so well I don't think.
PG: No, that's what I hear.
AB: Uh-huh. Now that's, that's sit there in my office at the desk there in my office.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
AB: In my office. And that's McCullough, Charles McCullough there.
PG: A lot younger back then, isn't he?
AB: Yes, uh-huh. [Laughter]
ER: Have you talked to him?
PG: Yes, yes.
AB: I'm still trying to find--.
ER: Another thing, about, about her girls, they were, there were never discipline problems. They never had any, any trouble.
AB: No, never had any. Back in those days I guess, well they, well, I don't know just why but we just never had any problems. We'd go on the bus.
ER: You didn't stand for it.
AB: No. [Laughter] Well I, we tried to, I tried to work with them and not, you know, make them feel like they were [Pause] being--. You know, we never--. I don't know, we just didn't have that problem. I don't remember having to punish anybody.
PG: Would they do what you told them when you were, you know, coaching them in a game and it wasn't--?
AB: Oh yes, yes, because they were eager to learn, and they wanted to play, see. I could screen them out and tell those who wanted to play and those who just, I mean who wanted to learn to play basketball. See, these are some of our, these are some senior players here.
PG: Oh yeah. Well that's a nice picture.
AB: Uh-huh. And these are some, some girls ( ).
PG: Now y'all were wearing those shinny uniforms?
AB: Oh yeah, those are West Charlotte, West Charlotte colors.
PG: That's wonderful. I tell you, I sure do wish somebody had saved one of those uniforms, you know you just--.
AB: You know now, ma--.
ER: Somebody may have.
AB: No, I don't think so, because I think Jack said they go in and cleaned it out when they built the--. And I was so hurt because they could've at least saved one.
PG: Oh yes, I wished that somebody had saved, saved one, because it would be so wonderful to have something like that on display.
AB: Uh-huh, you know, there are these some people that everything is junk to them, you know.
ER: So none of the girls would have a uniform they would have saved. Of course they, they had to turn them in.
AB: Oh yeah, they had to turn them in, and, see, I think they were down in the basement of the, of the auditorium or something. I was, I guess I was in summer school that year, and I came back. And then they had thrown those things out. I was so hurt.
PG: And I guess nobody would have saved one of those all-star uniforms that y'all had?
AB: I don't know. Now, there's a girl that lives across the street from me, Rosita. She was a Osborne then. She's now, her husband was a mail carrier. Rosita Barnette, she is now. I can check and see--. Now here's a picture with Ruby.
ER: Yeah, that's Big Ruby all right.
AB: Uh-huh. Now that's Big Ruby.
PG: Oh there she is in the front.
AB: Uh-huh. And that's--.
PG: And there she is now. Look at that. Now y'all won this tournament that you had a couple of years.
AB: Oh yeah.
PG: I noticed.
AB: We won--. The trophy's out there. Sometime when you have time, we can stop by West Charlotte and the trophy case--. They have them all out there in the trophy case. We won mostly, or we got second place--. Oh, and we played this team down in, in South Carolina. Where was it, the Twin State? This Schofield [Pause] team in, in Aiken, South Carolina. And a lot of these teams stopped playing us because they said [Laughter] we, we beat.
ER: Because we beat them all the time.
AB: We'd beat them all the time.
PG: Well I hear the Schofield team was pretty rough, tough team. I was talking to somebody else they said when they played Schofield, they were really--.
AB: Oh yeah, they were, they were really good. Let me see now, we--, they--. Let me see. Schofield? Did we ever beat Schofield?
ER: No. I was just fixing to ask you that question.
AB: I don't think we ever beat Schofield. But they, they were tough girls. A lot of the South Carolina teams were very tough.
PG: It seems like in South Carolina they put a lot of emphasis on their basketball team.
AB: Oh yeah. That's right.
PG: I talked to Gladys Worthy. She played at Highland during this time.
AB: Oh yeah, Highland. I forgot about Highland.
PG: She talked about playing Schofield. She remembered them particularly, and she said they were a tough team.
AB: Yeah. Yeah. They were tough, and another team--. It will come to me. Another team that nobody could beat. Laurinburg.
PG: Oh, uh-huh, at Laurinburg. They had a girls' team, didn't they?
AB: Oh yeah, and Laurinburg. I, I, I think we (say anything) at all.
PG: Well, it's been a long time.
AB: Yeah it's been--.
PG: Who was your big rival? Did you have a big rival team that you played?
AB: Second Ward.
PG: Second Ward. Uh-huh.
AB: And we beat Second Ward.
ER: You'll find that's true with boys and girls.
AB: Yeah, boys and girls. You'll see on the, on the, this big trophy--, you know, those balls, you know those balls almost big as that lampshade. And it had the names on there that--.
PG: I think actually I've seen that.
AB: Yeah.
PG: I've seen it with, it's got--. It looks like Second Ward won it a couple of years, and you won it a couple of years.
AB: Yeah, I think you had to win it two years and then, and then it became yours. If you won it twice or three times or whatever it was, it was yours.
PG: Uh-huh. Something like that?
AB: Yeah, you could keep it. So I think, I know we have two in there. So we must have won it.
PG: Well how long did that tournament last?
AB: You mean--?
PG: The Twin Cities, the Twin States Tournament.
AB: Well, it depends on how many--. Let me see, was it a two or three day tournament, I think. And a lot of the students that came over as, that spent the night, we accommodated them, and some of the parents took them. And we didn't have any, any problem like you have now with the--. No, no discipline problems. You didn't, you just felt that the parents, they just felt that child--, the girls were all right. I mean they were taken care of. You didn't have to worry about--.
ER: What was it--? Were you still have the tournaments when you retired?
AB: No, I think the, what--.
ER: When was the last tournament?
AB: That's, that's when they said that--. What was that they had some reason that girls--. Oh, that's when they came up with this idea that it was too strenuous for girls, and that they couldn't, it affected the womb maternally I guess. [Laughter] They had more babies now than--. [Laughter]
ER: When was the last tournament do you remember?
AB: Willamina Pfieffer. Did you remember Willamina Pfeiffer?
ER: Uh-huh.
AB: I don't know whether I have a picture of her either, (maybe not). I know she was, she was something. And Crawford, John Crawford you see was there then with McCullough.
PG: Right. He's talked about him.
AB: Yeah, John Crawford.
PG: Could they have been in--? Was it maybe 1953 when you had the last one?
AB: What was on the--? I noticed that, that picture in your album is 1950. 1950 because you see you had, goes back four--?
ER: Was that the last? Was that the last ()?
AB: No, that was the all-stars team.
PG: Because I thought that there was a law passed.
AB: Yeah.
PG: They did, they passed a law. They were trying to get rid of the girls' tournament in the white schools.
AB: True. Yeah.
PG: And they passed the law saying you couldn't have private tournaments.
AB: True, that. I knew it was something like that.
PG: I think that was in--. Because I noticed the trophy you had the last date was 1953 on the one trophy that I saw.
AB: Yeah.
PG: And it thought that's when most of the private tournaments ended.
AB: Yeah. Well, now this was in, this was when I won the, it was called Piedmont, PGHSA, Piedmont Girls' High School Athletic Association.
PG: Uh-huh.
AB: In 1956 there I won there as coach for the year for that.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Oh, this is coach of the year. That's what this is for?
AB: Yeah, uh-huh.
PG: Oh well that's really nice.
AB: Libby, I mean Betty Rice was living then, the Spanish teacher. She and I worked together, too. Do you remember her? I wanted you--. That's what I was hoping you was going to get this in that album to see Big, Big Ruby.
PG: Oh, Big Ruby.
AB: But I guess you couldn't put but so many, and then, then that was a junior varsity there. And that's Burt Robinson, she worked with the junior varsity.
PG: So did the girls have to compete to be on the team? Was it hard to get on a team?
AB: What do you mean comp--?
PG: To, to get a place on the team--?
AB: To place a person?
PG: Were there more girls wanting to play than you had places for?
AB: Oh no. Well, I'd sort of screen them out myself. I knew what I was looking for.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
AB: [Laughter] I liked height, but I had a little girl on there, the little short one back there. What was that child's name? She, I guess she was hardly five feet tall, but she could move that floor, see. And I mean, she, she wasn't tall enough. She could shoot. You could shoot, too, if you were short, but I knew Ruby could do it, and Ruby didn't have to move. Because if she moves she fouled. You know, she didn't have coordination; she just didn't have the coordination as the, the little ones did.
PG: Did you have any particular kinds of strategy when you would play a game? Would you have special plays that you had?
AB: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
PG: Could you tell me what some of them were?
AB: [Laughter]
PG: Now that they're not secrets anymore? [Laughter]
AB: [Laughter] Well we, we played some of the, the, you see, left forward or right forward. See, we had one play that we'd pass it back to the guard and cut across just to try to confuse the opponents you know. We'd do everything to confuse our opponent.
PG: Oh, uh-huh. That was your (move). That was your move.
AB: Yeah, don't ever let them know. If you look this way, pass that way, see, sometimes. You know, if you look one place, pass it over yonder, you know.
PG: (Fake them out).
AB: Yeah, you just had to know how to confuse your opponent before they confused us.
PG: [Laughter] I guess they were trying to confuse you, too.
AB: Oh yeah. But it was so much, it was just all in fun you know. Nobody got hurt. I don't believe we had any, any casualties at all.
ER: Uh-uh. I don't remember any.
AB: Uh-uh.
PG: Where did you learn these strategies from? Where had you learned how to do that?
AB: Well in reading and, see, we had rule, a rule books. And back in those days you--. And then you learned from other teams, see. You watched them. See, you get ideas from each other, you know, I tell them. I tried to instill in them not to be selfish, you know.
PG: So you think that was very important?
AB: Yeah.
PG: Did it take the girls a while to learn that?
AB: No because, those, in those days they were anxious to learn. You know, they wanted to learn, and they didn't have many distractions as they do now, you know. You didn't have to force them to, to want to play.
PG: Well was it prestigious to be on the girls' basketball team?
ER: Um-hum. [Laughter]
AB: [Laughter] Tell her about it, Libby.
ER: Yes indeed. Really an honor.
AB: Yeah. Yes sir.
PG: Did you tell the girls that other people in school would be looking up to them? Did you think about that?
AB: Well I probably didn't have to tell them that. They, they just wanted to look up to them, you know. Say y'all, say, representing West Charlotte and teachers. We just all worked together like one big family, you know. And just see--. The principal, I was the principal's niece, too, you know. We just worked like one big family. He blessed me out, cuss me out if he felt like it. I told somebody, don't ever live in a house with a schoolteacher or the administrator. They work you to death, because I guess they figured that they were going to show partiality, you know, to the--, any other members.
PG: Uh-huh, uh-huh. Well one thing that, that Mary Alyce Alexander told me about you that she says was amazing was she says you never got mad and yelled at the team. That you just said (I can't talk to the team).
AB: Isn't that something? Oh yeah she was one of my star players, I mean--. Is she, she still up in Huntersville?
PG: Yes, that's where I went.
AB: Yeah, I haven't seen her lately.
ER: I haven't either.
AB: Well they said I, they say I always grinned all the time. But I guess I just couldn't help it.
PG: Was it hard sometimes to keep from losing your temper or was it not so--?
AB: Well, I don't think so because we didn't have the type of students--. It just depends on what type of material you had to work with, you see. A lot times you didn't, didn't have to worry about losing your temper or this one hitting that one or fighting or getting mad with each other. We were just like one big family.
PG: That was just their ( ).
AB: Sisterly. Um-hum.
PG: Are there any other players that you remember particularly well as playing there?
AB: Oh yes, some of my--. What was the name of that girl Floyd, Floyd, Dot, Dot Floyd, or--? When you're gone now
AB: I can probably call him by name, but check in here. [Pause] Yeah that's Mary Alyce, right there.
PG: Oh is it?
AB: Yeah, I remember seeing her.
PG: She said she just loved to play basketball ever since the third grade.
ER: Uh-huh. How did you find Mary Alyce?
PG: Charles McCullough told me to call her.
ER: Oh, Charles McCullough.
PG: When I talked to him he said--. I asked him who I should talk to, and he said I should call her up and--.
AB: Uh-huh, that's--. Who is? Who is this child's name--?
ER: Honey, don't ask me. I know I taught her. I said I know I taught her, but I can't remember her name.
AB: Uh-huh. I can't think of the, it will all come to me. [Laughter]
PG: Yeah, later on. But we can talk if you remember some things you can, you know, let me know about things--.
AB: Just let you know.
PG: Are there any games any big games that you remember particularly well. Anything, winning, losing that sticks in your mind as a specific game?
AB: The, the game, the team, the game we lost through Second Ward, I guess. [Laughter] Because we was such rivals at that time. I think we lost it to them by one or two points or something like that.
PG: Oh my goodness.
AB: And we were sick because we knew we--. I don't know what happened. I just, you can't put it on anybody or anything that happened. It's just, it's just one of those things. It's just like the, the Atlanta Braves just--.
PG: Yeah.
AB: Yeah. They won all year, and then came up last night, and then the Phillies beat them.
PG: Yeah, they did.
AB: Yeah, I was pulling for Atlanta, the Braves.
PG: Oh, I was pulling for the Braves, too.
AB: I, too.
PG: But they didn't do too well. They just didn't do too well. What, what was the atmosphere like when you would play Second Ward' in the gymnasium? What would that be like?
AB: Very high. It was, the spirit it was. [Laughter] It was always high.
PG: Would you think about that all year? Would that be the last game of the year or would you play--?
AB: No. It was like the Queen City Classic. That was big, that was a big classic.
ER: That was football, wasn't it--?
AB: In football, and then basketball came in. But this girl, Willamina Pfeiffer, she, she was--. That was the time when Crawford was there. I don't understand where Willamina--. She should be on here somewhere.
ER: Willamina Pfeiffer?
AB: Yeah, Willamina Pfeiffer and this other girl named Houston, Dell, Dallas, Dalmus Houston or something. This is one of West Charlotte's first faculty. [Laughter] Did you ever see that?
ER: Hum.
AB: This one is right here.
ER: Oh, the first one? Yes, I've seen that.
AB: Yeah, this isn't the first one but as we said it was one of the early faculty. I didn't make that out of--. I didn't get a lot of, I didn't get there.
PG: You were one of the first faculty or something?
AB: Uh-huh.
PG: What year did you come to West Charlotte--?
AB: I was there in '40, '40-'41.
PG: Uh-huh. Look at all of these. Oh, this is just wonderful.
ER: Pictures of the senior class or junior class you might recognize some of, one of your players.
AB: Oh yeah. Uh-huh. Let me check there.
PG: When they come in here, I'll get you.
AB: Yeah. Let me check, check there.
PG: Oh yeah, look at those yeah. Well these are just--.
AB: Yeah, don't let me hold you up, Libby.
ER: No, I'm not--.
PG: Oh yeah, just do whatever you have to do--.
AB: Yeah, just, just I just--. I told her I felt more comfortable with you if she was here. [Laughter]
PG: Right. No, I understand that. That's no problem.
AB: You know, I'm not, not much of this kind of, kind of business.
PG: This is wonderful; I really enjoyed this. Did you have to raise some extra money ever for the team, to help with uniforms or--?
AB: Did I?
PG: Yes.
AB: Did we? Not as a, I mean the school--. We didn't have to do it individually, I mean as a, a team. You just--. It was part of the athletic department.
PG: Did you ever have bake sales or sell anything--?
AB: No.
ER: The homerooms have those.
AB: Yep. That's right.
PG: I love to look at these old annuals and see, see these pictures.
AB: Yeah. [Laughter] That's the one she was looking at me where I was standing on, at the, at Morgan this friend of mine. She's not doing so well. I talked with her the other day, the other night. Georgiana. I was headstand, knee-shoulder stand, and she was the base.
PG: Now did any of your students ever get a chance to play basketball in college? Did you have any to go on--?
AB: I'm, I'm sure. Yeah they--. Well, after they cut out basketball for girls, I don't know whether they did too much of it when they went off to college or not.
PG: Now did you have any daughters?
AB: No.
PG: No.
ER: Did you say daughters? [Laughter] No we didn't. No.
PG: Somebody you could pass your basketball ability on.
AB: No.
PG: I was talking to some women, and I asked them about their daughters if they played basketball. And one of them said, "No, my daughters, they were all cheerleaders," she said. "They didn't want to be on the basketball team." [Laughter] She sounded like she was ( ) about that.
AB: That's what I was telling them now. That the way Charlotte is turning into cheerleaders and debate and they didn't do any--. As I tell them almost all of trophies put it there by the girls' basketball team. This was the year we, we made the numbers one, nine, five, two: 1952.
PG: Oh, OK. I see. Look at that; that's great. I really like this picture.
ER: That's a really nice one.
AB: Yeah. Whose numbers was that? Ernestine Lily. I don't think she's--, I think something happened to her. So she was number one. And somebody, Ruby or somebody was number nine. And then somebody was number five, and somebody number two, so we made it 1952. Oh we, we just--. I don't know, we just, we just had fun and just creative you know. And did whatever.
PG: Do you think the girls learned things from playing that helped them later on when they left school?
AB: I think so.
PG: What do you think that they learned?
AB: I think the--. Well I think some of them are in vocation--. I mean what's the word--beautician. Just learned how to, to, to meet people, how to live with people and how to get along with people. And, you know, just--. I think one of them was my, my beautician now.
ER: Who is that?
AB: Little, little--. And do you know Ruby Washington is--? I have a card with her name. She's Ruby something-else now.
ER: Yeah, yeah.
AB: And the shop right on Beatties Ford, and her daughter is almost as tall as she is.
ER: I remember because I saw her ( )--.
AB: Have you seen her?
ER: Huh? I haven't seen her since she was in elementary school. Because Ruby had to come up one time. She, she got in trouble at school and the teacher said to Ruby--.
AB: [Laughter] Oh, oh the, the daughter got into trouble. Is that so?
ER: Uh-huh. That's when Ruby told me after that happened, and went to my secretary, and I asked her to send her in. I said, "Send that parent in here to me," and she came and said, "Oh, Mrs. Randolph, is that you?" [Laughter] Oh, and so I said, "What are you doing here, Ruby?" "The teacher sent for me. My little girl's been bad." "Has she been up here to the office?" "No, the teacher didn't tell me to send her to the office. Sent for her mama." And so she said, "I'm going to go down in there and talk to her." I said, "Well yes, you go right ahead." And she said, "Mrs. Randolph," and so, "I told Mrs. whoever-it-was that if, if she ever was bad again just, just to, to call me and bring her up here and tell you to spank her." And I said, "Well, I'm not going to spank her, Ruby." And I said, "Well she can spank you. But you tell her that your English teacher and your homeroom teacher, told--, is the principal of this school, and that if she's bad again the principal will get her." [Laughter]
AB: [Laughter] Oh dear. Well I've got to check in there and see. I think her shop is right off of Gilbert area, you know, like I go down and do volunteer work in that Dogwood Mountain nursing home. I'm in creative crafts down there, creative craft, crocheting, knitting.
PG: She works at the, at the nursing home?
AB: No, who Ruby? No, she is in that shop. I've got her card.
PG: Beauty shop?
AB: Uh-huh. Somebody gave me her card. I think she is, she might be manager or partner now like I said. I'm going, I'm going to check it out next chance I get.
PG: See how, see how well she does?
AB: Yeah, and see how she--.
PG: ( )
AB: I meet a lot of my students in grocery stores, and they say, "How you, Miss Blake. Do you remember me?" I say, "How could I forget you." I couldn't call they names to save my life, but I didn't let them know I didn't know them.
ER: I do. I tell them, I say, "Well, you know, I say you've changed more than I have. [Laughter] And so you just tell me who you are."
AB: And I'd tell them, I said, "Hundreds of thousands of you, and I--. Just one of me. [Laughter] You can remember me. I can't remember all of y'all." And they just laugh.
PG: Well I think this is getting pretty much what I was interested in. Again I appreciate you coming down. I did have one more question. I was really interested when you talked about all those girls coming for the tournament, the state tournament, Stanwood people. Would a lot of people stay? Would a lot of girls stay with parents?
AB: Oh yeah, and then. Yeah. Well, now mostly. I tell you we had an Alexander Hotel. You remember the Alexander?
ER: Yes.
AB: And they accommodated quite a number of them. And we didn't have any problems, or anything. It's just, I just can't explain it. There were about three or four hundred children I think, girls, and the Hotel Alexander used to be on McDowell, what street was that on?
ER: McDowell.
AB: Yeah, street, they, they would accommodate every one of them. And they--.
ER: But before the hotel, before there was the hotel they stayed in homes.
AB: Homes, uh-huh. Right. And now they've torn that hotel down. It's a shame.
PG: How would you find the homes for them to stay in, or would you just let people know they were coming?
AB: Yeah, well a lot of the times I'd know the parents, and they'd know me, and maybe some of them had relatives here. And then they could see--. It was just, we didn't have. It wasn't any problems at all. It was just, everything looked like it just worked in place.
PG: One quite--, one thing that I had talked--. I talked to some of the men coaches from different schools and they talked about how at night they would go out to make sure that their players had gone to bed on time. They'd go out, and if they were up partying somewhere they'd go find them and make them go home. I was wondering if you ever had to do that.
AB: I guess that would be different than boys and girls.
ER: Boys and girls.
AB: Yeah, girls they, they, they wouldn't be caught in there anyway, you know. But a boy, you know, he's free to go anywhere he want anytime, any hour.
PG: And girls would stay home more.
AB: Yeah.
ER: And another thing about it, if a, if a, if a girl stayed in a hotel there was chaperones.
AB: Oh yeah.
ER: Their teachers, and if they stayed in homes of the other players or homes of parents, the parents would see to it that they--.
AB: Right. I didn't have any problem.
PG: I guess traveling to other towns was a big deal for some of those girls.
AB: Well we didn't, we never spent the night. Now let's see, we didn't have to spend the, spend the night because we went on the bus and--.
ER: Came back after the game.
AB: Came back after the game. Maybe some other teachers, maybe like Mrs. Randolph would help, would come along chaperon, you know. And I'd drive my car or go on the bus. And if it wasn't too far, I'd put them out at their home, you know. And I said, "Well now, all righty, I'll, I'll wait until you get inside now, and then you close the door then I know you're in. And if you come back out of there I'm not responsible." [Laughter] Oh my we can joke when--. You know, we laugh it off and everything. I knew they weren't come out of there. I just said, "All right now, I'll wait here now. Cut the motor off. I see you close the door. Now if you come back out of there that's your responsibility." I tell the parents that, too.
PG: It sounds like you were kind of their friend.
AB: Well, yeah. Well to tell you the truth, we just all looked like grew up together, because some of them I guess when I started out young, young when I started teaching. And some of them now I see I said, we, I said, "It wasn't too many years difference in our ages I guess."
ER: Ladies, I've got to go.
AB: Well, Libby, appreciate it.
PG: I appreciate it very much, too. Thanks for, for coming.
AB: It was so nice of you to, to come and--.
ER: First time I've chaperoned in a long time.
AB: [Laughter]
PG: Well, I bet it's been--. I bet you thought your chaperoning days were over.
ER: Chaperon old folks.
AB: The chaperon for old folks. [Laughter] Didn't, didn't know you'd going to have to chaperon [Laughter] old folk. OK, keep on going.
ER: All right.
AB: We belong to the same sorority, same, same chapter. So I felt, she's sisterly so I would call her, Libby, and have come stand back, backbone me up.
PG: Well now that you've met me though, I hope now you'll feel that you can, you can see me without a chaperon there.
AB: Without a chaperone there.
PG: Yeah, by yourself.
AB: [Laughter] I told, I had Libby laughing. I said time's so critical. This lady wanted me to meet out there. I said I don't go out and meet people, unless I know who I'm meeting. And then she mentioned you, and I knew you were connected with the year book, I mean that album.
ER: Museum.
AB: Album. I said oh well she's, she's all right then. [Laughter] She must be all right because I didn't want to read about the ( ). [Laughter]
ER: You are so funny.
PG: Thanks so much for coming.
AB: All right.
PG: I appreciate it.
AB: You keep in touch.
ER: All right.
AB: All right. Oh wow, we have more fun. I mean now that's, that's just been our life in school, in the, in the classroom and everything. We just have fun and whatever you did, it wasn't a burden to you. And it look like now everything, people--. And we didn't mind staying after school. [Laughter] Sometimes we'd, we'd stay there because a lot of times we had to practice. And I tell them, I said now, "I can't get you all, you all in class if your teachers won't let you out of class to practice. I said we have to stay in sometime." Now the music teachers and I would have, we'd do more practicing, you know, after the, after school hours. And we, we weren't ready to go home at night, but now I get in there before the sun goes down.
PG: Right. Yeah, there's a difference. Right so you would, you would have practice late.
AB: Oh yeah, we had, we practiced after school. Accept unless now those who were in my gym classes I'd give them, I let them maybe practice free throws, individually, you know, or whatever they wanted to do. But as far as a team I couldn't take them out as--. They used to say, "You can't get my math, go to the gym." You didn't have any problem with you in school did you?
PG: No I, I, I stayed in class pretty well. I liked to study and all that.
AB: Yeah, they said, they couldn't, they couldn't math and they couldn't--, you know, and they still throw them down there in the gym. [Laughter] Go down there, like go down there. That's the play room. But--.
PG: But I think it sounds like they learned a lot of important things there.
AB: Well I, I tried to help them best I could, because I, I played right a long with them, you see. And that, that meant a lot to them, you see, then. Now I didn't make them feel like I was pushing them and I was over there with--. I see you've got some of the West Charlotte Lion.
PG: Yeah they've got some here; they've got a number of them.
AB: Uh-huh. '67. Those some of the later ones.
PG: Uh-huh. When did you leave?
AB: I left in '70, in '70.
PG: So you were there quite some time.
AB: Yeah. See my uncle was principal there, and I think he, he left, he retired in I think '66 was his last year, '66.
PG: Yeah, Coach McCullough said that your uncle being the principal helped you to keep the girls' basketball team a little longer than maybe some of the other schools.
AB: Probably that's true. Uh-huh. So I said maybe I thought it wasn't so bad being the principal's niece. [Laughter]
PG: Uh-huh.
AB: [Coughing]
PG: So did you really have to push these girls' teams? Did you have to, have to go out and insist that you were still going to have a girls' team even though they said ( )--?
AB: Well, no, after they made the rules, you just learned to, to do what they told you to do. You know, because I wasn't getting any extra. [Laughter]
PG: Oh, uh-huh. Yeah I bet you did, I bet that was all-volunteer.
AB: Yeah, yeah, just because I just enjoyed doing it. Nowadays I think coaches get extras and bonuses.
PG: Um-hum. Yeah, I think so. I think it's a different thing.
AB: Didn't you tell me you were Charlotte--? No, you're tell me you weren't a Charlottean.
PG: No, I'm not. I'm from Texas originally.
AB: Oh yeah. What part of Texas?
PG: Well I'm originally from--. I was born in Houston, but my parents are living in Dallas now. And our family is actually all from up at the Pan Handle, which is around Amarillo, Lubbock-Amarillo, up in the top part. So we're kind of from all over the top. Their roots are very deep in Texas.
AB: Um-hum. Yeah. What was your field?
PG: I study history. I'm actually a student up at Chapel Hill. I'm in graduate school, and I'm doing this research for the basketball project. And it's a special project, and so I go back and forth between here.
AB: Did you know Barbara Jordan from Texas?
PG: I know who she is. I've never had the honor of meeting her.
AB: Uh-huh. Yeah, we're related.
PG: Oh really?
AB: Uh-huh. On my mother's side. Not on my father's side.
PG: Uh-huh. Oh she's a very (fine) woman so--.
AB: Yeah, my mother's people in Philadelphia, and we were looking up the--. Went to a family reunion down in the country in Aug--, last--. Let's see, this is October. We had a family reunion last month. And said that back in my day, they didn't--, it wasn't as popular as it is now. You know, I think it's a nice thing, and I just tell young people just go right ahead and plan it. I sat back and acted as a guest.
PG: Well that's nice. That's what they're supposed to do is--.
AB: I said they was coming along all the way where I've already been. And so they planned it and had it. We stayed at this Shoney's Inn. And North Carolina doesn't have a Shoney's Inn; they have a restaurant here.
PG: Yeah, do they not have one? I hadn't never seen one.
AB: Uh-uh. That's what they said Virginia, South Carolina, Florida-was it Florida I think? Everywhere but North Carolina. And then--. But it was lovely there. We stayed there and the big--. Accommodated a whole family. And some of them, see, they met last year I think in Detroit in 1995. They meet every two years. They're going to meet in Washington, DC. I have a cousin who's there, who teaches there. She's about ready to retire, too. She--.
AB: Boys and three girls.
PG: Uh-huh. Well that's a lot. You used to have a lot of cousins.
AB: Uh-huh, I was one of the boys' children. When I was eleven, weren't but ten of us grandchildren.
PG: Oh really?
AB: Should have been about a hundred kids.
PG: I was going to say. ( )
AB: It didn't happen so fast that--.
PG: Didn't do too many. Well do you go see the girls' basketball games now any?
AB: Well I, I haven't, I haven't been too regularly. I go once in a while. Because the--.
PG: Do you like to watch girls play now?
AB: Oh yeah, when I'm with--, when I go, but look like I'm doing something else when I've been playing. I have kept score sometime up at Johnson C. Smith. But I haven't done that too long, too much. They keep me so busy in recreation see. I told my field was health, physical education and recreation. But when I retired I went to the recreational side. Creative crafts, crocheting, knitting, macrame, needlepoint.
PG: Did you make this piece?
AB: Yeah, that's my junk bag.
PG: Oh, that turned out very nice.
AB: Uh-huh. You can just wash that in the bathtub with a brush.
PG: Oh well, hey, that's just (swell).
AB: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
PG: Well I just--. This has just been wonderful. I've so enjoyed it. I'm glad we finally got together to talk.
AB: Yeah, yeah.
PG: It's been a great help I think ( ).
AB: Well, that's good. I'll, I'll start looking up some more things.
PG: Well, if you find some things, you know, that would just be great, because we're just looking for--. And we think, there's going to be a lot of people coming to the exhibit, so we'd like to remind them, you know, about those things that happened. And I'm sure a lot of people would like--.
AB: You said it won't be until March, around in March?
PG: Right, but we're going to need to know, we're going to need to find the things just as soon as we can because it takes a long time to design it and to get it made and stuff. And so we would need to know pretty quick what the items are.
AB: And I'm going to get in touch with some of the players (I can find), if they're still around, especially the one in that all-star. I thought Libby was going to put that in the album, but I guess she couldn't put but so many, so much.
PG: Yeah, I think there's--.
AB: But I, I had that thing there I thought. I got so much junk in that house, maybe if I'd clean out some of that junk, I could find it. [Laughter]
PG: You just take that as a good excuse to clean things up.
AB: That's right.
PG: To clean things out.
AB: I'll say Pam's got me doing this. [Laughter]
PG: That's right see. So, we would, the museum could improve your life in many things. [Laughter]
AB: True. Yeah, that's right.
PG: But it would, I would really love it, because I think it would real nice for people to see, you know, all the different teams in the tournament. And it would sort of remind them about those schools.
AB: Right and some of them who graduated and some of their children who see for themselves, "Oh there's my mama!" "There's my--."
PG: Exactly. I think that that's just what we'd like to do, so these will be nice.
AB: I'm going, I'm going to get working now. They keep me so busy, so many other activities at the nursing home, and I eat out at these senior citizens hot lunch programs up at Hall House. I just left from up there. It has ceramic--. I don't do much ceramics, I'm too clumsy. I break that stuff, and that's it. So this too, got too expensive. I used to take flower arrangement here. They had Rapers. I don't know if you remember Rapers over there on Freedom.
PG: No, I probably wouldn't remember that. I haven't spent too much time in Charlotte. It's really only been the last year and a half that I've been here at all so--.
AB: Your family here?
PG: No, they're not. They're in Texas.
AB: Oh, yes.
PG: They're all in Texas. And I stayed some in Chapel Hill and then, you know, I spend part of the week usually down here, and then I go back to Chapel Hill.
AB: But you live here in Charlotte?
PG: I, I stay here about half the time. I've got a friend who I stay with here, and I've got my apartment is actually up in Chapel Hill. So I drive a lot back and forth, back and forth.
AB: Oh that's nice.
PG: It's a long way, but I'm going to go ahead and--.