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Interview #2 with William T. Alexander

Interviewee: 
Alexander, William T.
Interviewer: 
Alexander, Sarah Land
Date of Interview: 
1992-04-25
Identifier: 
OHAL0008
Subjects: 
Education; Mallard Creek School; Derita Elementary School; Newell School; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Abstract: 
Sarah Land Alexander interviews her father, William Tasse Alexander about his past, specifically about his education and schooling. William Alexander attended a one-room school called Mallard Creek School from first grade to seventh grade. Mr. Alexander describes the one-room school as having wooden log benches and a small fireplace. The one-room school was not an accredited school but catered to the Mallard Creek neighborhood. He remembers some of his teachers especially the disciplinarians who gave him whippings when he was naughty. Mr. Alexander also attended Newell High school and describes taking general classes and eating lunch at the school. After graduating from high school he attended UNC Chapel Hill where he majored in History and Government and minored in English.
Coverage: 
Charlotte; 1918-1992
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed at the family home at Mallard Creek Church Road and Highway 29. Mr. Alexander was in declining health at the time of the interview.
Collection: 
Piedmont Stories
Collection Description: 
This is one of a series of three interviews conducted by Mr. Alexander's daughter, Sarah Land Alexander.
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
SA (Sarah Alexander): Testing one, two, three. April 5, 1992. The first thing I want to ask you, I'm going to start with your education, going back when you went to Mallard Creek School. And I just want you to describe where that school was located in relationship to the church and what kind of a building it was. Was it one room, two room, or, you know, things like that? What was on the inside? Did you have a wood stove to heat it? Just, what did it look like? Did you have a chalkboard, or [laughter] all those kinds of things?
WA (William Alexander): Well, it was a one-story schoolhouse, one room. And they had a, the youngest children, and the ones up about seventh or eighth grade.
SA: It did not go up to high school?
WA: I don't believe it would've been quite the equivalent to high school. And, they had lot, a lot benches that you sat on.
SA: Log benches?
WA: I don't know what
SA: Or was it like old-timey school desks, you know, where you had a chair and a tabletop, or was it more like a bench?
WA: Well later on, they got that, but they didn't have it at first. And they had some, a little longer benches the-- back at the back. And
SA: Was it a log structure, or was it wooden?
WA: No, it was just a wood, weather-watered building. It was located, you know where that well is, up there on the corner out on the back road?
SA: The well, where the main sanctuary is, back, back in that area? Was it near the old session house?
WA: Well, it wasn't too far from the session house. The session house at that time was about
SA: I know where that was, 'cause I remember
WA: No, it, it wasn't that little
SA: Oh they moved it?
WA: at that time, I mean the, the session house was approximately, [pause] I'd say where the west corner of the present sanctuary. And the schoolhouse was out there, where approximately where that well is. And they had glass windows in the
SA: In the building?
WA: In the school building.
SA: Did you have a chalkboard?
WA: Yes.
SA: Did you write with pencils or pens or [laughter]?
WA: Well, it was chalk mostly. And every Friday afternoon, they had a spelling bee.
SA: Uh-hum Sarah Alexander, Sr. Now let me ask you one time, did you have an ink well hole in your desk?
WA: Yes.
MA (Margaret Alexander): I did too.
SA: They had an ink well hole in their desk. [laughter]
MA: You don't even know what we're talking about, do you?
SA: Yes, I do. I've seen them in museums. [laughter] I'm going to stop this.
WA: We had a leader that selected the people they wanted on each side. They had to take everybody that was in the schoolroom.
SA: So that would have been all the way from the very youngest students to the oldest?
WA: To the oldest. And Martha McLaughlin and I usually headed up the teams.
SA: Now who has Martha McLaughlin, and how did she fit into the other McLaughlins in the community?
WA: Oh she was, a sister, older sister to the, Elizabeth McLaughlin. You know her?
SA: I don't think I knew her. Oh, Lib McLaughlin!
WA: The one that's
SA: Lib Wilson.
WA: married Joe Wilson.
SA: Yes, I know who you're talking about.
WA: And she was quite smart. And she wanted to be a nurse. And I think she finally studied nursing. And they would, the ones that would spell the words correctly kept moving to the front. And the ones that kind of sat down that, they flunked out on the spelling bee. And usually it was Martha and myself still spelling when the teacher cut it off.
SA: Uh-huh. Now I want to ask you a question. Did you use the blue-back, the, is it the blue-back speller? You did use that book when you were in elementary? What, what were the courses that you would have taken when you were at Mallard Creek School? And I would assume you would have taken English and math, just basic English and math
WA: Well, we had, we had mathematics and we had writing. We were supposed to practice that, but I never did.
SA: Practice your writing, handwriting?
WA: I never did get to be [laughter] proficient in writing. And [coughs] we had math, mathematics, and about whatever you would have from the first grade to the seventh grade.
SA: Seventh grade? So you would have had history, like, you remember studying North Carolina history, or US history, World history, and all those kinds of histories? [laughter]
WA: Well I don't remember too much about the history.
SA: Geography?
WA: Yes, geography.
SA: Did, did you take any kind of foreign language, like Latin? You didn't take that until you got to high school?
WA: No, not at that point.
SA: Was that an accredited school?
WA: No.
SA: It was just, was it a church-sponsored school, rather than a--?
WA: No.
SA: It was a public--?
WA: No, no it was a public school.
SA: Uh-hum.
SA: Now did grandmother ever teach at that school?
WA: [pause] I don't remember that she ever did.
SA: Uh-hum. Uh-hum. Do you remember who your teachers were? Did you have just one teacher for the whole time, or just a year or two, or did you change over a period of time?
WA: I only had, I had Helen Kirkpatrick was one, and Lula Marsh. And Lula was quite a disciplinarian. She had a bunch of hickory whips in a cylinder that she kept in the corner of the room when she whipped anybody that misbehaved. I was only whipping
SA: Did you get whipped very much? [laughter]
WA: Almost every day.
SA: Oh goodness, so you were a bad, a bad [laughter], bad kid?
WA: Most of mine were getting whipped for fighting, and ( ) too.
SA: Boys or girls, or both?
WA: Mostly boys.
SA: Now did you have a bell like I've seen on old schoolhouses, where they rang a bell when you went out to recess and then you came back in, or did you just start at a certain time?
WA: Well it was, she rang a bell calling back from recess.
MA: Did you have double desks, where two people sat in a desk?
WA: I don't remember that.
MA: Well we had that at Lands School. Two girls would sit at the same desk, two boys.
SA: Did you take your lunch?
WA: Usually, yeah.
SA: Did you take it in a paper bag or did you take it in a, a carry, kind of like a lunch pail of some sort?
WA: Well, part of the time, it was a paper bag, and part of the time, we had a lunch box.
SA: Did you ride a horse or did you walk when you--?
WA: I walked.
SA: You walked. It would take you about twenty minutes or so to walk from here up to there, more or less?
WA: Well, it all depends on whether you
SA: How fast you were walking.
WA: ( ) along the way. We went the back path out across the field here that cut off at a bend in the road.
SA: Uh-hum. Uh-hum. So you were there till about the seventh grade, and then you went to Derita after that?
WA: Yeah.
SA: Now was, was that at the same location where Derita Elementary School is today, more or less, in that same grounds, or--?
WA: Well it was a little, the old school building was about where the northern end of the present elementary school building is. It was a, a two-story wooden building.
SA: Did it look anything like the Community House does?
WA: No it, it had a different contour from that.
SA: How many, approximately how many classrooms would they have had in that school building?
WA: About nine.
SA: Would there have been anything like an auditorium or a gym, or, or was it just classrooms and, but you, you didn't have a cafeteria?
WA: They didn't have an auditorium in the first part of it up there.
SA: Did you have a cafeteria of any kind?
WA: No.
SA: So you took your lunch?
WA: Yeah. And I rode a horse from here up there most of the time.
SA: Now how long did it take you to ride a horse from here to there?
MA: ( ) we didn't have school lunches until after FDR.
WA: I guess about thirty minutes.
SA: About thirty minutes to ride a horse?
WA: I took a back route.
SA: What do you mean when you say a back route?
WA: I rode up Mallard Creek, you know that old road that goes up
SA: In front of Mallard Creek Church?
WA: No. Down, one went by the old Grissom place.
SA: Yes, I think I know where that
WA: And also by the, Alexander's lived there where the Garrison place is.
SA: And when you
WA: It came out at Ed Morris's place.
SA: Now who was Ed Morris?
WA: Well, we placed through his place and came out up there on that curve where the DeArmons
SA: Live.
WA: The Cochranes live there now. That was
SA: So that was kind of a short cut compared
WA: Yes.
SA: to the way you'd go there today. Or was that an old, old road that had been there for ages?
WA: No, its just country, country
SA: Country road?
WA: path, more or less.
SA: So it really wasn't an official county road?
WA: No, it, the, you could take a buggy up as far as the Grissom place, which was this side of the, where, G. W. Garrison used to live. But on beyond that, why you were just riding more or less a path ( ) the creek up there.
SA: So what, what was in your curriculum when you went to Derita? Was it, now that was through what grade, do you remember?
WA: Eighth.
SA: Just the eighth grade?
WA: Well, I mean they had more than that, but I didn't go but one year.
SA: Oh, I see. And then where did you go after that? Is that when you started at the high school?
WA: They consolidated the schools over in the Newell district, built a new building over at Newell.
SA: So you went over to Newell?
WA: Yeah, I went, well I went in the old building over at Newell.
SA: The one that was built before the one that I knew?
WA: Yeah.
SA: The brick building. And was that a wooden building?
WA: Yeah.
SA: Was it as big or bigger than the Derita School?
WA: I, it was, I guess a little smaller.
SA: Smaller school. And did you ride a horse over there?
WA: No. Most of the time I rode a school bus on that.
SA: And that would have been about what year? Would that have been before 1920?
WA: In 1920.
SA: About 1920. Now when did you first start driving the school bus?
WA: 1920.
SA: And that was at Newell, when you would drive it?
WA: Yes.
SA: And you drove basically from here over to Newell, up, down Suitor's Lane?
WA: Well I don't, I, went up to [pause] what they call Salisbury Road, up where, almost where, you know that road that turns left there, just before you get to Faulk's?
SA: Yes.
WA: That was the Old Charlotte-Concord Road. It turned left on that bend, across the railroad there at the chemical place now, and went up two miles and crossed the railroad back, and drove on down to the school. That was the first trip. The second trip was go down [pause] down Newell corner on down towards Mallard Creek Road, and went down to Ms. Cora Hunter's place, and turned around, and picked up the kids on that. Then when I got that one done, the third trip was down what they call Rocky River Road now.
SA: Now that would that be the Rocky River Road that we know today, more or less, or not?
MA: I'm going to go get some medicine while you
WA: Well it wasn't it, it wasn't known as Rocky River Road at that time. It was, oh what did they call it? Well, I've forgotten the name, but it was something about the Hodges, and we went down and picked up the Hodges, and the students along down there, brought them back.
SA: How long did it take you to do all those three routes, more or less?
WA: I guess half an hour, three-quarters.
SA: So that, you had to, what time would you have started that route, about, before six-thirty or seven?
WA: I started about seven o'clock. You were supposed to have them all in there by nine.
SA: I think that was basically what we, kind of schedule we had when we were going to school. And then you had say from three o'clock when you let out of school, or was it earlier than three o'clock?
WA: Oh, it, I don't remember exactly the time, but whenever they let out, I took the trip down to Hodges Road first, and the one back to Cora Hunter's house, and then the one back to home here. I parked the bus here. And it was an old commerce truck that you had to hand-crank.
SA: You mean it was basically a truck that was converted to a bus? [laughter]
WA: Well, it was what they made the school buses on.
SA: Now who made commerce trucks? Was that any--?
WA: Well, there was, there was a, [pause] a, Cummins Engine folks made the engine that was in the commerce trucks, I think. And Cummins Engine in still, still in manufacturing for trucks.
SA: Ah
WA: And the roads weren't paved, except up the, they had macadam road up here on
SA: 29 or--?
WA: Starting at the Hudson place across the creek over here. It wasn't even paved then. It, it was just, what's it called?
SA: Gravel?
WA: Well it's one they kept graded, supposedly, scraped up.
SA: Did it have big, muddy mud holes, and chug holes?
WA: It, well yeah, a right many. And that, we crossed on that old big field there back up at the present, where the front office, where the bridge abutment is there, back in there, well we crossed the bridge there.
SA: Uh-hum, Uh-hum.
WA: But the, there was [coughs], they filled in all, and all that field would get right muddy in maybe eight or ten inches of mud sometimes after a good long rain or a snow. Cars could hardly navigate it. And then they had the macadam road came down to where the county home.
MA: Now tell her what a macadam road is.
SA: I know what a macadam road is, cause it was named after a Scot named Macadam.
WA: Well it, it was a one-lane road, and then they had a dirt road off to the side.
SA: Kind of a limited access road?
WA: And the, [coughs] the Concord Road, which you turned on up the, near Faulk's Hardware now. [pause] I guess you'd call it a tar road, for one lane. It, in other words, it was paved.
SA: Not a lot of traffic then?
WA: No, not too much.
SA: Would there have been in the early 1920s, would there still have been wagons and, and horses--?
WA: Yeah.
SA: a, a good bit, and carriages and then a few automobiles? Is that, was that a typical picture of, of it, in that earlier period?
WA: Yeah.
SA: Let me see, what courses did you take when you were at Newell? Now how many years did you go to that Newell School? Through
WA: I went one.
SA: Just one year? So you went to one, one year in Derita?
WA: Yeah.
SA: And then one year at Newell?
WA: Yeah.
SA: And then after that, is that when you went to high school?
WA: I went to high school in Charlotte. And I rode with Mr. McCraven who was a neighbor, worked with the Southern Railroad in Charlotte. And he had to be at work at seven o'clock in the morning. So I had to get up in time to meet him to get him to work on time.
SA: Would that have been about five-thirty or so? [laughter]
WA: Oh it was six
SA: Or six o'clock?
WA: six-something. In other words, we had to be ready to go at six-something.
SA: Now when you went to the high school, did you have a cafeteria, or did you take your lunch. Do you remember?
WA: They had a cafeteria over there.
SA: Now did you take Latin or anything like that when you were at Newell, or do you remember?
WA: No.
SA: It was just the basic courses, like history, English, math, just the, the very basic-now what, and it was not an accredited school?
WA: Turned out not to be.
SA: Was it a, it was a county-supported school, though?
WA: It was state
SA: State-supported?
WA: State or county. Most of the things were paid, paid for by the property owners in the particular district.
MA: Let me show you something. You'd be interested in this. I went to a tri-county. Madison, Jefferson, and Fayette didn't have enough money to have, start a high school. So they went together. And it was, they, they got the approval, so they'd get accredited from the State Department. And that's how I missed it just by a hair. I, I finished from an accredited school, but it was sponsored by three counties. I'm going to get your pills.
SA: Now let me, let me think a minute, what I-now when you went to Graham, and that was Alexander Graham?
WA: Alexander Graham. It was the only high school in Charlotte at the time.
SA: And how many students would there have been in that school? Do you remember how, how many, more or less?
WA: It was nine hundred or more.
SA: Now did you take Latin?
WA: Yeah, I took Latin there.
SA: In high school? What other courses besides just the routine sort of courses?
WA: Well, whatever the requirements that they had to get in the University.
SA: What were some of, of the most memorable teachers that you remember when you were in high school?
WA: Ms. Bertha Donnally.
SA: What did she teach?
WA: She was a homeroom teacher. She taught math, but she didn't teach me. I just sat, that was the first room I went to when I got there. And Ms. Fanny Wall was the math teacher. And she was the greatest disciplinarian that I ever had any contact with.
SA: And what do you mean when you say disciplinarian?
WA: I mean you were prepared when she called on you, and you stood up.
SA: Very formal sort of classroom procedure?
WA: And if you, if you couldn't present your problem without stuttering and stammering, she'd look at you if you weren't prepared, and that meant sit down. And if you came into her room after the bell had rung for class to start, she'd look at you and look at the door, and that meant go to the principal's office.
SA: [laughter] So did you go to the principal's office very often?
WA: Not very, not very often.
SA: [laughter]
WA: In other words, I made it to class on time.
SA: What other teachers stand out, that you remember in high school?
WA: [pause] Ms. Horne, who was a history teacher. I thought her name wasn't, but she was very good. And she also made a statement. She, she later went down to teach history at Peace College in Raleigh.
SA: I was trying to think of something else to, to ask along that line. But as a whole, were the teachers good
WA: They were very good.
SA: in high school?
WA: Charlotte, Charlotte was recognized as producing some of the better students in the state as far as entering and, and surviving in the University.
SA: Now you belonged to a debate team when you were in high school?
WA: Yeah.
SA: What other extracurricular activities were you involved in? Were you in any sport activities?
WA: No, I didn't
SA: Have time?
WA: participate. I usually used my car to haul students to wherever the ball game was being played, Shelby or somewhere like that.
SA: So you took your school bus?
WA: No.
SA: No? You took a car?
WA: Priv-a private car.
SA: Where did you get a private car? [laughter]
WA: Well, I mean, we had an old 1918 model Studebaker.
SA: Oh, that was your regular car that you had here at home, you're talking about.
WA: Yes.
SA: Family car, that wasn't your car?
WA: No. But usually I'd take as many as could get into it. And we'd go to various games. And I was a great promoter of the cheer, cheering and what have you. I wasn't a cheerleader, but I mean, I participated.
SA: Now what other towns or cities would you have taken kids to, like Shelby and Hickory, or--?
WA: What it, whoever Charlotte was playing, playing at the time.
SA: Would it have been Concord or Gastonia or--?
WA: Well, they in particular, they didn't have it necessarily organized as closely as it is now as to who they played. It was whoever they could work into the schedule that would play with them.
SA: What do I want to ask you next? So you, you were, you studied a lot when you were in high school, before going to class or--? In, in other words, did you have a lot of homework and, and that sort of thing when you were in high school?
WA: Well, there was a certain amount of it.
SA: But not an excessive amount that you remember?
WA: Well, it all depended on what you wanted to do.
SA: Did you write term papers in high school?
WA: Yes.
SA: And you had special projects, I guess. For different classes. Did you have science classes?
WA: Yeah, we had physics class. [pause] And I guess a little bit of [pause] zoology.
SA: Uh-hum. So
WA: Just the regular required courses. You had to have, you had to have at least two languages.
SA: And what were the two that you took in high school? I knew you took Latin.
WA: Well, I didn't, I, I didn't take anything but Latin in Charlotte. But you could, with four units of Latin would meet the requirements into entrance to Chapel Hill. But when I got through, I didn't have but three-and-a-half credits. And I had a half-a-credit that was still due.
SA: So what did you do to, to qualify?
WA: Well, I took Spanish, and Spanish I and II
SA: When you went to the University?
WA: when I went to the University-counted as high school credits. They didn't count towards college credits. And I had counted on coming back and studying for that half-a-unit of Latin. After one year at Chapel Hill, they told me, no, I lost my opportunity on that by not taking the examination when I entered. And they made me get all my high school deficiencies. Why, I could either take French, but French I and II didn't count towards college credit. I was on down about my junior year when they told me all this stuff. So I finally, they were giving a premium on German which would count for high school and college credit, too, and for Greek would count for
SA: You didn't take any Greek, though, did you?
WA: I, I took German.
SA: German. That's what I thought. Well, I, now I think I'll get to Chapel Hill. You went down there a year behind your other students' cause you had--?
WA: Well, I had to come back and make up the eighth and ninth grade 'cause Dr. Garinger wouldn't
SA: Accept it.
WA: accept the work I did at Derita and Newell.
SA: Newell. And how, and where did you do that, when you say you came back? Did you go to summer school?
WA: Well I, I went to eighth at Alexander Graham High School.
SA: Another year, is that what you're saying?
WA: Another year and it made, I took those courses.
SA: That were offered at Alexander at, although you should have taken them in the lower, those, at Newell and Derita?
WA: Yeah. I did take them at Newell and Derita, but they wouldn't give me credit for them. So instead of graduating in 1922, which I should have, I didn't graduate until 1923. I graduated here in May and went to Chapel Hill in September.
SA: Now I have one or two other questions before I get to Chapel Hill. Grandmother, no, I want to ask you about that later. You went to a private school when you were in elementary age, or was it junior high, for a brief time down, I forgot now where it, where it was. Can you tell me about that?
WA: I was at, I never did use that in my, in my school report.
SA: What was that school? What was the name of it? Do you remember?
WA: Yes, I remember. But I don't see any need to drag it in.
SA: Well I just, out of my, my own curiosity, I'd like to know what it was. [laughter] What was the name of it?
WA: Oh, you're just trying to make me invent something.
SA: [laughter] Yes.
WA: I, I could sleep with it.
SA: You'd rather forget. [laughter] How old were you when you went to that school?
WA: Oh, I guess I was, it was in 1918.
SA: Was that between Newell and Derita?
WA: Well I, after I dropped out of that, I didn't, wasn't there that whole school year, went to Derita.
SA: So how many months were you at that school?
WA: [pause] I guess three or four months.
SA: At, was that a church school, or a private school, or boarding school?
WA: It's a private boarding school, private school.
SA: And where, where was it located?
WA: It was up in, [pause] what is the name of that school?
SA: Was it Stanley? START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
SA: You don't remember?
WA: Well I was just trying to, trying to remember the name of it.
SA: Well if you think about it later, I'll, I'll ask you, but I, I was going to ask you a question or two about, Aunt Margery went to school over in Concord. Do you remember the name of that school?
WA: ( ).
SA: And that was in elementary for her?
WA: It went, it was up to about seventh or eighth grade, something.
SA: And then she went up to Asheville to school?
WA: Yeah.
SA: And what was the name of that school, do you remember?
WA: Asheville Normal.
SA: And Uncle Tom attended the public schools around here until he got in with the wrong crowd, and then he went to Highland Presbyterian School. Was that the name of that school that he went to, up in Kentucky?
WA: Yeah.
SA: Now Uncle Bob, he went all straight through to public school here in Mecklenburg?
WA: Well, he went to Newell. But Newell finally got accredited
SA: Accredited by the time he went there. Now what about Uncle Mode? Did he follow the same pattern, going to Newell?
WA: Yeah, I think he graduated completely from
SA: Newell.
WA: Newell.
SA: Without having to go to Charlotte?
SA: Uncle Bob went to Charlotte. But he went to, they had built Central High School in 1926, and Uncle Mode went to that one.
SA: Now, let me skip back a generation. Your father-did he, he didn't attend schools. He had a tutors, or do you remember--?
WA: Well, he had, he had some tutoring here at home. He had the opportunity to go to Davidson College but didn't take it. And he always regretted that. He said he was going to have his children educated. And Ms. Lottie was bent on us getting an education. So the whole family was pointed in that direction. There wasn't anything else expected of us except go ahead and go to college.
SA: Now what was her early education? Did she go to any kind of public school when she was real young, or did she have a tutor at home, or do you remember her ever saying?
WA: Well, I guess it was probably tutoring. I don't know. I don't think she ever had any regular formal school.
SA: But then she set up, when she got up in her teens, she kind of set up a school, didn't she? Out of a log cabin situation?
WA: Yes she, she taught some down there even before she entered-I don't know what the entrance requirement. But she was in the first class to, at Women's College up at Greensboro.
SA: Greensboro. And she didn't graduate from Greensboro. Do you know how many years she went to school there, two or three?
WA: Well, she was, two or three years anyhow.
SA: And then did she go back to Anson County to teach before she came to Mecklenburg, or, or did she? Or did she come straight to Mecklenburg after she finished up, or quit?
WA: I think she taught, it seems to me like she taught down at Monroe somewhere. I'm not sure. And she came over here and taught at Newell.
SA: Now was that at the same location where the Newell School was--?
WA: No.
SA: It was at a different location?
WA: It was
SA: Was it even called Newell School when she was there, or did it have another name?
WA: I don't know whether, what the official name of it was, whether it was a school at Newell. And she was one of the teachers. And it was located in an old building. [pause] Some of that old building is still over there.
SA: Where is it located?
WA: It's, it's in that stretch of houses just beyond the Gulf Service Station over there, over on the right.
SA: So one of those houses is part of the school building. I didn't know that. That's interesting.
WA: And that's where she
SA: She taught. You know how many years before she married that she taught in Newell, more or less?
WA: Don't know the exact schedule.
SA: Now she met your father at Newell
WA: Yeah.
SA: and he was riding a horse called Wildfire?
WA: Yeah.
SA: And she thought he was kind of out of it because he was riding the horse too fast?
WA: Yeah.
SA: [laughter] So that was how
WA: She, she wanted to know who that fool was riding that horse so fast.
SA: And how did they actually meet after that, or was it later, or do you know the circum-have you ever heard the circumstances?
WA: Oh, it was shortly after that
SA: That they started
WA: dating.
SA: started dating.
WA: Started a conversation over something.
SA: Now let me see what else I, losing my train of thought, I, I'm still trying to stick to schools. What went on in the schools at that
WA: She taught down at Union School, which was
SA: Where?
WA: About, over there about where Benny Wilson lives now.
SA: Lives now. And how, she taught there after you boys and Aunt Margery had grown up a little bit, and you were
WA: Yeah, and she also taught up at, I don't remember the school, but up there at [pause] Westfield Road, way on out up there near the Wallaces.
SA: And what was the name of that school? Do you remember, or--?
WA: I don't know what ( ). She lived with ( ) Clarkman's parents, boarded with them because she was teaching up there. And she, she taught a lot of these people that, people that--
SA: That are in the community?
WA: Yeah.
SA: I know of Nanny, Mrs. Braylee, Pat Hill's mother. She taught her. Did you know that? And then I think Pamela Sue's father, but, Howard Wilson. I think she taught him and maybe some other people. I don't, I, I can't really remember now. But I think, you know that generation, they would have been younger than you, more or less.
WA: Well anyway, she taught in that group. And she'd come home on the weekends.
SA: Now did she teach Latin, or do you remember? I, I think I
WA: I don't know what she taught. It was just
SA: The basic things that were required?
WA: I know one or two or three teachers at the school, something like that, said she wasn't. And she taught a little bit, about two months over at Newell later on.
SA: Oh really? So she would have taught at the school where Bain Wilson lives first, and then the one up there where the Wallaces are maybe second, and then somewhere in between Newell, or was that third?
WA: Or maybe she just sort of filled in over at Newell.
SA: Kind of substitute teacher?
WA: And that [pause] Johnson family down there, on the old Concord Road, all those boys went to school too. And they all used to come and visit her over here, and tell her how she, they appreciated what she did, had done for all the boys.
SA: Now let's go on to Chapel Hill. You started down there. Now how did you get back and forth to Chapel Hill most of the time from Charlotte? Did you ride the train a good bit?
WA: The train.
SA: And you took a trunk full of books and clothes, and suitcases, or mostly a trunk when you went down?
WA: Most everything was in a trunk.
SA: Now how long did it take you to ride the train from Charlotte, or from here? Where did you go to get the train to go down there?
WA: Well, I left in Charlotte.
SA: At the train station?
WA: Yeah.
SA: Would that have been the train station that's down, that was down-?
WA: On West Trade Street.
SA: Right. I was trying to think where that was located. But it was that station, the one they tore down a few years ago. So you went all the way to Charlotte. You had to ride in your car or whatever. And then you got on the train. And then how long did it take you to go to Chap-did you go directly to Chapel Hill?
WA: Well, we went to Greensboro and took that line that runs down to, I guess Goldsboro.
SA: So, so you went to Greensboro, then kind of got another train that took you into Chapel Hill or Raleigh?
WA: Oh it, it didn't take you into Chapel Hill.
SA: Where did it take you?
WA: It, in other words they had a spur that ran out from University Station, which was a place that's almost out in the woods.
SA: Just out in the middle of nowhere?
WA: And we ran from University Station on a special train from there over to Carrborough, which is about a mile from Chapel Hill. And we had to get a, a ( ) to get our trunk brought to the dormitory.
SA: So how long did that take you all, did it take about all day to do that?
WA: Yeah.
SA: So when you went down there, you usually stayed
WA: When I left here about [pause], if I remember, it was about three o'clock in the afternoon, then I got there sometime
SA: About midnight?
WA: Usually midnight.
SA: [laughter] so how often did you come back and forth to Charlotte? Did you just go down and stay a semester, or--?
WA: Usually stayed most of the time. And they had, had very few buses at the time. And I remember one time when I was going back, that man was on a bus. The bus broke down between High Point and Greensboro. And it was snowing. They put us on another bus and took us into Greensboro, put us on a train. And we went to Durham. And then they had to hire a taxicab to get over to Chapel Hill, which is about twelve miles.
SA: Now you were down at the University. It was not exactly the Depression, but it was hard times, wasn't it, generally?
WA: Yeah it was.
SA: So you had trouble scrounging up enough money to buy your little blue book that you needed for exams, or was that--?
WA: Well that, you always had to have at least a nickel on hand because you didn't know when they were going to give you a pop quiz. They sold those books. I carried one nickel for three weeks one time.
SA: And you didn't have an exam during that time? [laughter] Or a pop quiz? What were some of the most memorable professors that you had at Chapel Hill?
WA: Well, I had several good ones. Dr., [pause] Dr. Edward.
SA: What did he teach?
WA: He, he was the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and taught English. He was outstanding. In fact, he was the only professor I ever knew that you could have an opinion of your own and he'd you a grade for it if you-[laughter]
SA: [laughter]
WA: [coughs] And I had a fellow-Potter--got in a fast section of English. And he told us first day that any one of these three things happened, I'll flunk you. It was [coughs] to misspell Lincoln. The other one was to misspell secession. And the other one was to make a comma fault.
SA: You made the comma fault?
WA: I made the comma fault.
SA: You didn't put a semicolon at "however?"
WA: Yeah. And he said, drew a red line up to the side of the paper and said, worth a B plus, for this, F.
SA: So that, you didn't, you didn't graduate Phi Beta Kappa because of that?
WA: Yeah.
SA: And you had about an eighty-nine average?
WA: Average for the four years. And they counted the, well the English course at thirty. And I had to drag it up that much, with my other grades.
SA: Now you took German. Was that one of the hardest courses you took when you were at Chapel Hill? What was the hardest course?
WA: I guess the German was probably the hardest, or--Kent Brown, the professor said that you had to guarantee him four hours study a day. He didn't care about, what the other work you had. But, just give him four. And we started off with a class of forty-two. And then only seven of that group
SA: Graduated or finished?
WA: finished that course. They all dropped out except that seven. I was in the seven.
SA: So Chapel Hill was a lot more difficult than what you had experienced when you were in high school, or not necessarily?
WA: Oh, it, it wasn't too bad. I mean, you had to study. And I, I studied a lot of botany while I was down there. I did that to earn a little money on the side. And I was appointed lab instructor in the Botany Department. And that was in my junior year and senior year. I got 250 dollars a year salary, which was big money back in those days. I was still going to school.
SA: Now you went, what were some of your trips, when you were in the botany class? You went down to Morehead City?
WA: No, it was [pause] Southport.
SA: Southport. And what did you do when you went down to Southport?
WA: Well we were collecting mostly soil collections, which had [pause] various and sundry plants that broke up the soil and sort of reworked it. [pause] I guess the chemical content of the soil was, is the, it helped in the decay of materials.
SA: Was there any particular reason you went down there? Was there some special-?
WA: Well it was, it was just a general field trip. We were taking samples of the soil and then get these ( ), microscopic type plants that grow in the earth, at the earth's first ( ). And we'd take them back to, to the laboratory and start a culture on them, try to grow them, study about them.
SA: Was the Botany Department a big department at Chapel Hill?
WA: It was a pretty good size. Dr. W.C. Coker headed it up. And he was, it was the Cokers who
SA: The Coker family that, Coker
WA: ( ) for South Carolina.
SA: College.
WA: And he went to school at John Hopkins. And he was a good businessman while he was still in school. And he accumulated a lot of real estate around Baltimore while he was up there. And he, he would, he, he didn't accept a salary at Chapel Hill. He always he put that back into the Arboretum to-and he was, supervised the plantings on the campus around there.
SA: All, all over?
WA: All over the campus. And he also selected the location of Kenan Stadium down there.
SA: Any particular reason he selected that site?
WA: Well it had, it just, it, the contours of the land
SA: Were conducive for a stadium?
WA: worked, worked into a beautiful site for that type of operation. And he was quite a character.
SA: What do you mean you say he was quite a character? [laughter]
WA: Well, he was an old bachelor for a long time, by the time he got married.
SA: So he enjoyed the college--?
WA: And he, he had, had his own house up in Chapel Hill, even when he was still a bachelor. He used to let me use his house when I would have my girl visiting me down there. And I could keep, keep her at his place. And that was, and his grounds were, had every type of
SA: Plant?
WA: plant that you could think of.
SA: I remember when I was little we went down to Chapel Hill and there was a real pretty residential area. And it, and I, I think what stood out in my mind about that area were the beautiful shrubs. The houses were not mansion size necessarily, but the shrubs and just the manicured yards were so pretty. You think he had an influence on doing the yards that way?
WA: I, I, I don't think that there was any doubt about that.
SA: You think he did?
WA: Yeah.
SA: Now you majored in History?
WA: And Government.
SA: And Government. And do you have, do you remember any outstanding professors in that area?
WA: Well, I had Dr. Pearson, who was head of the History Department. And even had Dr. Graham for North Carolina History.
SA: Would that have been Frank Graham?
WA: Yeah.
SA: Now what was his, his specialty? He, he later ran for governor, didn't he? And I, and was he with the UN or, not the UN, but the, was he ever an ambassador or anything like that?
WA: Oh, he had some sort of government
SA: Position?
WA: I've got a book over there of his life, if you want
SA: Alright. [laughter] Let's see, what was your minor?
WA: [pause] I guess English was probably have been
SA: The minor?
WA: In other words, even, even though I flunked it, Dr. Edward said it was unusual for somebody who was flunking a course to, to take so many English courses.
SA: Now what were your dormitories like? Do you remember which dormitories you were in?
WA: Well I, I was in the same, Grimes Dormitory
SA: Was that one of the real old dormitories?
WA: No. It was a group that was built just about a year before I went down to Chapel Hill. They were almost brand new the year that I went down there. And I had to, my freshman and sophomore year, I lived in four hundred and six. And through priority and application, I got a hundred and eight, which is a corner room on the ground floor. And it was cooler down there than it was up.
SA: You didn't need air conditioning, in other words. Did it have a lot of trees around it, or do you remember?
WA: Well, the trees weren't too large at that time. There were some trees around, but not, not too many around what they call the Quadrangle, which was these four buildings.
SA: Now what were the other dormitories you were in while you were at Chapel Hill?
WA: I wasn't in any other
SA: So this was the one you were in the whole time you were there? You must have really liked it. [laughter]
WA: Well, it was about as close in as any of them that were available. You had Steele Dormitory, which was a small one, was up near the center part of the campus. And then there was Old East and Old West. But they were old buildings, and I didn't see any or have any great desire to be in them. And then they had some dormitories down there near the post office. And I didn't, that was Pettigrew and what have you. I didn't, didn't particularly like those older buildings in relationship to this new one. Facilities were better in Grimes.
SA: Now did you walk mostly around on campus, or did you have a bike? Did people ride bicycles around, or was that--?
WA: Well, most everybody walked at that time.
SA: Walked in those days. And how many students would have been on the campus, more or less, at that time?
WA: Oh, I'd say about 2700 to 3000, maybe.
SA: And not too many women, but some?
WA: Well, they had about, I'd say about sixty women. Spencer Dormitory was-
SA: The women's dormitory?
WA: And they had to be sophomore year or more before they'd let them in.
SA: Well, can you think of anything else to add to education? [laughter] I've about covered it.
WA: Well that, we had the, what we call the Tin Can, which was the, where, they played basketball.
SA: Did you play basketball in there?
WA: I started to play basketball and they, they had such a string of more competent players than I was that I felt like I would just be mostly warming the seat, working myself to death and not getting anywhere. So I, I went out for, started to go out for it, backed out.
SA: What extracurricular activities were you involved in at the University?
WA: Well, I had the [pause], the Dialectic Senate, which was the debating team. I went to that to practice about once or twice a month. And I was in the German Club, which was ( ) a little bit to dancing.
SA: What do you mean dancing? They just danced German dances?
WA: Well I mean, the German Club
SA: Was a social club?
WA: well it was a social club that sponsored dances around the University.
SA: Not German dances, just dances?
WA: Well I mean, it, it was just a group that was interested in dancing and
SA: What were the, the most popular dances? Was that the time of the Charleston, when you were down there? Or was that kind of past that period?
WA: No, it, it was right in the middle of the Charleston.
SA: So that was one of the more popular dances at that time?
WA: Well, they had Black bottom and just ordinary ballroom dances some of it. There was sort of a mixture. All depend on that, that big orchestra we had as to what type of dances they
SA: Now what, when you say big orchestras, were they from New York or other parts of the country? Or were they North Carolina in origin?
WA: Well, most of them, some of them were, and some of them were national, ones that were brought in. Guy Lombardo and the ones just like that were, played.
SA: What sort of cultural activities-did you go to lectures and concerts, plays?
WA: To some extent. Yeah.
SA: Did you ever--, was Thomas Wolfe there on campus when you were there?
WA: No. He was ahead of me.
SA: And Paul Green?
WA: Paul Green was there.
SA: Was he doing anything in plays at the time you were there, or you-?
WA: Yeah. But he was an instructor in the theater business. Taught. [pause] He wrote plays and Dr. Koch [pause] taught Shakespeare mostly and the English end of it. And he was very much interested in Little Theater.
SA: Is that how you became interested in the Little Theater here in Charlotte, by your experiences at Chapel Hill?
WA: Well, I never, I never was in any of the plays down in Chapel Hill.
SA: You, you were never in any of the plays down there? But you, of course, went to see some while you were there?
WA: Yeah.
SA: Developed an interest in plays? Now what churches did you attend when you were at Chapel Hill?
WA: Well, they had a sort of rotation experience. I mean, the Baptists would have all the students maybe one Sunday. Pitch it in that direction. The bulk of the students would go to various churches, sort of on a rotation basis. [coughs] And we attended the Methodist, the Baptist, Episcopalian, and non-denominational group at Gerard Hall. That was about once a month. And we had the Presbyterian Church down there.
SA: Did you go to that one very often?
WA: Well, I went to it more or less regularly when, [pause] when the student body wasn't pitched to one of the other churches. We were sort of a [pause], I guess you'd call it a rotating type of student body that was asked to be at the Baptist Church this week and the Methodist Church next week. They would have a, a full congregation when they, when they all got together on that day. Each of them tried to outdo each other.
SA: Competition between the churches? [laughter]
WA: Yeah. I guess the Baptists had the biggest assembly room. And but, Parson Norris was the head preacher at the Presbyterian Church. And he would have a full session of the students to answer any questions they might have or, or to help them develop a belief.
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