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Interview with Elizabeth Schmoke Randolph

Interviewee: 
Randolph, Elizabeth Schmoke
Interviewer: 
Greeson, Jennifer
Date of Interview: 
1993-06-16
Identifier: 
MURA0047
Subjects: 
Education; Teaching; Segregation; Desegregation; the Depression; Works Projects Administration; President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools; West Charlotte High School; Biddleville School; University Park Elementary; PTA; Alternative schools; Magnet schools; University of Michigan; Chapel Hill; YWCA
Abstract: 
Elizabeth Randolph discusses growing up in a family that highly valued education and reading. She discusses her dedication and appreciation for education throughout her life in such roles as a teacher, a principal, and as associate superintendent, and highlights her experiences in these different occupations. She concludes her eventful story by describing her enthusiasm as an active speaker, as an editor to an African American picture book and her recent world travels. Her story spans the unstable period of desegregation, before, during and after. She illustrates her personal experiences in voting, attendance in public schools and as an educator in both segregated and desegregated schools.
Coverage: 
Charlotte; North Carolina; 1930s-1990s
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed at 1616 Patton Avenue, Charlotte, NC
Collection: 
Levine Museum of the New South, Professional Women Series
Collection Description: 
Interviews in the Professional Women series are the product of a summer internship with the Museum of the New South created in cooperation with the Benjamin N. Duke Leadership Program of Duke University The internship was supported financially by that program, the Duke Power Company Foundation and the Museum.
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
ER (Elizabeth Randolph): I have an opportunity to, to compare interview styles.
JG (Jennifer Greeson): OK. [Laughter] And you told me if you want me to ask you more specific questions or whatever.
ER: Well that's what you're going to do, you going to ask me questions aren't you?
JG: I'll ask you some questions. Sure. OK. This is Jennifer Greeson with Elizabeth Randolph, in her home on the sixteenth of June 1993, and it's 11:30 in the morning. OK, so Mrs. Randolph, I'm here from the Museum of the New South to talk to you about your education career and all your involvement in the community. And I know we can't do all that in an hour and a half, but we'll try to get some of it. [Laughter] OK. Let's see. Let's start out with a hard question. [Laughter] Why did you choose to become a teacher and to go into education? Why was that then important?
ER: Oh, that's an easy question.
JG: OK.
ER: I have always all my life known that I would to be a teacher because my mother, from the time that I was able to understand what she was saying, told me that she wanted me to be a teacher. So I grew up knowing that I would be a teacher. And I never had any desire to be anything else.
JG: Do you know why your mother told you?
ER: Well, she was a teacher. And she believed in, in education. And all her six children grew up knowing that they were going to college. We always had our, our, around the table in the afternoons, when she came home from work--. Well we came home from school before she came home from work. She taught out in the county. And, we, when she came home, we had dinner and then we got out our books and our homework and we sat around the table and, studied. And we, all of us grew up doing that. That was, we grew up valuing education. And my brothers and sisters who have children have continued the same tradition. [Pause] I have a nephew who's Mayor of Baltimore and, when finished high school he went to Yale, he got a, a scholarship to Yale and he went to Yale. He got a Rhodes scholarship and went to Oxford, came back from Oxford and went to Harvard Law School. And he's now Mayor of Baltimore. I have a, another nephew who went to Dartmouth, and, after Dartmouth he went to Georgia Tech and he now runs his own computer business. And then the rest of us--. Well two of us taught, and then the one brother who's a chemist and he worked for the government.
JG: Did you specifically want to teach in North Carolina? Was that originally your plan?
ER: Yes, I, I never thought about teaching anywhere else. I never wanted to teach at home, I grew up in Raleigh. And I did not want to teach at home. [Laughter] And, and I never did. My first teaching job was up in the mountains near Asheville, in Rutherford County. And my second job, I, I went from there to Wake Forest, which was as near home as I wanted to get. That was sixteen miles from home. And from Wake Forest I went to Burlington. I was in Burlington for a year and I was persuaded to apply for a job in Charlotte by a friend who was on the faculty there. And then I came here, I came here in 1944 and I've been here ever since. I taught from 1944, until, well I retired in 1982, but I wasn't teaching all that time. I taught English for fifteen years at West Charlotte High School. Then they pulled me out of West Charlotte and asked me to open a new elementary school on this side of town, which is University Park Elementary School and I did that. I was there for nine years. And then they pulled me kicking and screaming away from University Park Elementary School and took me to Central Office. I was in Central Office from 1967 until I retired, and I had several different jobs at, in Central Office. When I retired I was associate superintendent.
JG: [Pause] Why didn't you want to teach around home?
ER: Well, I don't know whether you know, you know that or not, but you, you, you want to get away from home sometime. [Laughter] And having lived at home all my life I, I wanted to, go somewhere else and see how people lived in, in other parts of the state. I never wanted to go in--. Out of the state. But, I graduated in 1936, graduated from college in 1936 and that was in the midst of the Depression. And, I was glad to get a job. So even if the job that the, that the school, recommended me for had been out of state I think I would have gone because I, [laughter] I had to work.
JG: And that was Shaw, in Raleigh?
ER: Shaw in Raleigh, uh-huh.
JG: How was school at Shaw?
ER: Oh, Shaw was just wonderful, wonderful. I, enjoyed it. I, I liked my teachers, I, I was active in student life there. I wouldn't have gone anywhere else. Of course, I couldn't go anywhere else because it was in the midst of the Depression. My father died when I was a, a senior in high school, and my mother had six children to rear. So I was able to go to college because when I graduated from high school I won a scholarship. And then I, during the, I was in school during the Depression and that was the, they were the, the Roosevelt years. And I, I was able to get a, a job funded by the WPA, Works Projects Administration, under the Roosevelt, administration and I always had a job. So that was the way I was able to pay my way through school. And I was the valedictorian of my class, so I was first on the list to, for, for the, the schools, the office that helps you get jobs. So I was first on the list and I got a job.
JG: Let's see, what, was it a, specifically a scholarship for teachers? The scholarship that you won?
ER: What the scholarship that I--? No, no, it was just a scholarship for the valedictorian.
JG: Oh, I see. Well, how did you like that first job?
ER: Well, I liked the job very well, because I--. And I have, I always enjoyed teaching. But I had an, an experience up there in Rutherford County that, was not pleasant. And, that was the reason I left. I, I, I didn't like it. One thing my mother taught us, in addition to education and going to school and being kind to each other, helping each other, sticking together. She, she taught us to vote, to register, to value the privilege of voting. Well, we didn't have any problems there's no problems with blacks voting when we grew up in Raleigh. Mama always voted. So it never occurred to me that I, I would ever be in a place where I couldn't vote. So. The year that I, I went to Rutherford County to teach was the, an election year. And it was the year that Franklin Roosevelt was running for his second term. And I was just all excited, I said, "Oh I'm going to get a chance to vote for President Roosevelt." Well, when I talked about it at, at school, the teachers were saying, "So what do you mean you're going to do what?" I said, "I'm going to vote for President Roosevelt." And so they said, "You aren't going to vote for anybody." I said, "What do you mean?" They said, "Well, they don't let black people vote up here." I said, "What? What do you mean?" So they said, "Well," they said, "If you don't believe us, you can try." Well, I didn't believe them so I went to the election for it, to register. I was already registered in, at home but I, I would have to register up there if I could vote, if I voted up there. They would not allow me to register and told me that I could not vote, that they could not allow black people to vote. I could not believe it but it was true. So I decided that that was not any place that I wanted to, to live to be. So I didn't go back the next year. I got a job in Wake Forest and I taught in Wake Forest for six years.
JG: Was Wake Forest better?
ER: Well, Wake Forest was sixteen miles from home. So I didn't have to bother with that, when it, when it came time to vote, I, I was registered at home in Raleigh and I, I went to Raleigh and voted so, I didn't even try that out.
JG: And then you came, did you come straight from Burlington to Charlotte?
ER: Yes, I ca--. Uh-huh, I went from Wake Forest, I taught at Wake Forest six years. And the, the, my principal in, my first principal up in Rutherford County, Dr. Johnson, went to Burlington as principal. And he had contacted me and told me he wanted me to, to teach with him in Burlington. And I, I resigned my job and went to Burlington. And just before I got to Burlington he was drafted. And when I got to Burlington, he, he was in the army. So I, I stayed there one year and I would have stayed there longer, but this person I told you about this, he was on the faculty, was from Charlotte. And he told me that he thought I ought to, I ought to apply for a job in Charlotte. So I said, "Well," I said, "I don't have any, I don't know anybody in Charlotte, I don't have any contacts in Charlotte." And I said, "Why do you think I could get a job in Charlotte?" Well, he told me that I, I ought to, I ought to apply, you know, he said, "Because a teacher like you ought to, ought to be in a place like Charlotte." I said, "Well, why?" I said, "Good teachers are needed everywhere." He said, "Well, Charlotte pays a, a, a supplement. It, it pays their teacher." See, teachers were paid by the state, and there are some communities that supplement teachers' salaries through local tax dollars. And Charlotte was one of those, it had the highest supplement in the state. So, he said, "You, you ought to go there because you'll get paid more." Well, I still didn't, didn't bother but I said, "I don't know anybody, I'm not in Charlotte and I'm not going to worry about it." But he kept on after me. So I finally applied. And, and he, he told me who to apply to, he said, "Apply to the, to Mr. Blake, who was principal of West Charlotte High School." Well, I wrote the letter because, to get him off my back. [Laughter] And he mailed it. And I never thought I'd hear anything more from it. I went to summer school, I was working on my master's degree at the University of Michigan in the summer time. So I went to summer, supposed to go into summer school but not even thinking about that letter, knowing that I'd never hear from it. So, oh about the second week I was at summer school, I, well my mother forwarded me a letter from Mr. Blake offering me a job, teaching at West Charlotte High School. Well, at that time it was too, it was too late for me to, to, to resign. I would have lost my, my teaching certificate if I had resigned, without giving the superintendent thirty days. But, here again I had luck, the Lord was with me. There was a young man there who lived in Greensboro and he was teaching down at eastern North Carolina. And he was an English teacher as I was at this time. So he, let's see Burlington was, oh, just about twenty miles from Greensboro and he told me that he'd like so much to get nearer home and he, he asked me if there were any openings in, in Burlington. I said, "Well, it just so happens that there is an opening in Burlington, or there could be." So I, I told him that I had been offered a job in Charlotte and I wanted to take it, but I, I had not resigned and I didn't know whether I, I could get released or not. So what we did, we decided that I would write to the superintendent in Burlington and ask for release, and at the same time he, in the same mail, he would put his application in. [Laughter] So that's the way we did it, and I got my release and he got the job. [Laughter] So then I came to Charlotte and I've been in Charlotte ever since.
JG: Well, that worked out well. Why were you at, at Michigan? Why did you choose the University of Michigan?
ER: Well, that's an interesting story. I chose the University of Mich--. Of Michigan because I was following a man that I was in love with. [Laughter] And he went to summer school at University of Michigan. And so I decided, most of my friends were going to New York to Columbia. But I decided that I was going to the University of Michigan because that's where he was. [Laughter]
JG: How many summers did you go?
ER: Four.
JG: Was he there all four?
ER: No, he was in, in fact, my first year there was his last year there.
JG: Oh! [Laughter] Were you always teaching high school? And were you always tea--? You were always teaching English, I'm sure but--?
ER: Yes, I always taught Eng--. English in high school. I taught English, English and French, in my first job up in the mountains, English and French. Then I came to Burlington, it was English and French. And I was a, a part-time librarian. And when I came to Charlotte it was English. And, in, in Burlington, I, I was in charge of the, of the library but I was also in charge of drama, and when I came to Charlotte, my principal was a drama, oh he was a drama buff. So I found myself teaching English. I didn't teach French then, I just taught, I just taught English. I had charge of the, the Drama Society and later on I had charge of the Student Council. And I, I did that until I, I left to go to University Park School, which I did not want to do. The, the superintendent called me, and told me that, University Park was a new school. The kids in this part, this neighborhood and some of the other neighborhoods around here, were going to Biddleville School. And Biddleville School is, it no longer exists but it's, it, but when you turned in Patton Avenue, before the highway was put there, Biddleville School was at that spot. And that school was closed when they started to, constructing the highway. These kids had to go to another school on double sessions and the parents didn't like it so they went to school board and said that they didn't want their kids to go to school on double sessions, they wanted the, our board to build a school in this area for, for their children. So they told them, the parents that, the school board did, if they would find the land for a school, they would build it. So they found the land, where University Park School was built, and the superintendent called me and told me that a, a delegation of parents had come to him, asking that I be appointed principal of the school. Well these were parents whom I had taught in high, high school, at West Charlotte High School. So, he, he, he asked me if I was interested. I said, "No, Dr. Garinger," I said, "I'm a high school teacher." I said, "I, I don't know anything about the elementary school." So he said, "The principalship." Said, "Nobody's asking you to teach first grade. The principalship is a leadership position. And your job is to create a climate where teachers can teach and children can learn. And you can do that. You've already shown in your community activities, your work at West Charlotte, you are a leader. So you, you don't have to, to worry about that." He said, "But I suggest that you ask some other people, ask some friends of yours who've had the same experience, who have, who have taught in high school and, and they're principals at elementary school. There are a lot of such people." I said, "Yes, I know some." And I did, I checked around with some of my friends. And that's, that's the, the answer. All of them encouraged me to take it, he said, that I would enjoy it. Well, I did. I didn't think I was going to like not teaching, but I did. The elementary school principalship is really a-- What a marvelous job. You have, get the children when they are most ready to learn, and you get the parents when they are most cooperative and you get the teachers where they're teaching the child and not the book. And I enjoyed it, I just hated to leave when they pulled me out of there to bring me to the Central Office, I did. I was just not happy about that at all but of course, when your superintendent says, "Come." [Laughter] You come.
JG: What did you feel like some of the differences were between being a teacher and a principal?
ER: Well, the principalship is a leadership position. And you, you, you are leading adults. And what, what you, your responsibility is, is to see to it that they get, they have all, that the conditions under which they teach are the right conditions for children to learn. You, you see that they get the staff development that they need. You see that they get the, the materials that they need. And then you, you, of course when you are a principal you, you--. I always felt the principal ought to know everybody in the school and I did, I knew every kid in that school. And you work with parents, also. And at the elementary level, parents, you get parents where they are the most cooperative. Now, when I was teaching in high school, parents would come to PTA, and sometimes they wouldn't come to PTA but they'd come when there was some sort of problem you know, with, with the kid but they were not as cooperative with the school as, as the elementary school parents are. You don't have any problem in getting, getting an elementary school parent to come to a conference, to work in the, in the, in the cafeteria, to do anything that, that needs to be done, or also work in library, volunteers you know. So, you get the, the teaching-learning situation is at its peak in the elementary school, with students, teachers and parents.
JG: What was it like to be in charge of a brand-new school?
ER: Oh, that was exciting. That was really exciting. And it was a brand-new school, but it, it had not been completed. The library was not, had not been completed, the cafeteria had not been completed. And the, the school, the Central Office would send out, sent us boxed lunches from other cafeterias, other school cafeterias until our cafeteria was, was finished. And the poor librarian, bless her heart, worked out of a, out of a closet. [Laughter] But when both of those facilities were finished, they, they were lovely. They were. But you, you had all of, all of those people, all of the teachers were people who they'd taught in the elementary school, you know, all their career. And I, I always thought, I said, "I know they wondered what this high school teacher, boy, what does she think she can teach us?" So at my first faculty meeting, I told, I said that day, I said, "Well, I know that all of you are wondering how this high school English teacher is going, how she's going to run this school?" So I said, "But we are a team." And I said, "We will run this school together." And I said, "I will be visiting your classrooms to see what it is to teach a first grade child, to teach a fifth-grade or a sixth-grade child." And I said, "We are, we're going to be a team and we're going to make this school the best one in the cou--. In, in Charlotte." And that was of, of course, this faculty meeting was the one where I, you know, I got on their good side, you know, that, that I was, I was OK. [Laughter] In fact, the nine years that I taught there were very, very happy years. And I, I remember when I, I was moved, one teacher came to me and said, "I knew that they weren't going to let you stay here, I knew it." I said, "What do you mean?" [Laughter] She said, "They always get the good principals and bring them to the Central Office, for the Central Office administration." And this, this, I, I was the principal during the very beginning of when, of desegregation. And my, my school had some of the first white teachers. And I had three white teachers. And the teacher who told me this was a, was a white teacher. She said, "I knew that we weren't going to be able to keep you." So I said, "Well I certainly wish you were," I said, "Because I don't want to, I don't to leave," I said, "But I have to do what the superintendent says." But I enjoyed it. It was a good school. We made it a good school. And when I see students now who went to school there and parents and teachers, they always, we always talk about what a good school University Park was.
JG: How was the Charlotte school system different from the other school systems that you had taught in? Other than that they paid the teachers better, which is important.
ER: Well, in those, those were the days of complete segregation. And all of the schools where I taught were schools for black students only. One thing that was, that I, I, I got, you know. The first three places that I taught, Rutherford County, Wake Forest, and Burlington, the educational and instructional materials were not, sufficient. In each one of those towns, the black schools got the leftovers from white schools. The books that we got, textbooks were the textbooks that the white schools had used and they had got, they got the new books coming from Raleigh, from the, the, the school, the office that, that sent out, sent out the books. And the old books that they had used in their school were sent down to the black schools. And that occurred in the first three places that I taught. I did not expect to see it in Charlotte. But, I did. I did. The same thing was going on in Charlotte, in, in Mecklenburg County. Now, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County were not consolidated then. We had two school systems, the Charlotte City Schools and the Mecklenburg County Schools. But the other thing that was, was the same as, you had dual school systems, you had black school systems and white school systems, and you had that throughout until the Supreme Court decision outlawed, outlawed the school desegregation, school segregation. So those were the things that were, that they were the same. Another thing that was the same that we had to, teachers had to have fundraisers to buy supplies that they needed because they didn't get what they needed from the Central Office. And that happened in the first three places I taught and it happened, up to a point, in, in Charlotte. But the, the person who stopped that was the superintendent, the same superintendent who later on asked me to be principal at that school. He was the principal of my superintendent when I got here. And he went to a football game one Sunday afternoon, it was a professional football game and he saw the band, the West Charlotte High School band, playing during the intermission of that football game. And he was very, very disturbed. So he came to the school the next day to see the principal and he said, wanted to know why did he see the West Charlotte High School football, I mean band playing in a professional football game? So the principal said, "Well, it's a fundraiser for us." He said, "We," he said, "We're trying to get," he said, "You, you noticed that our band did not have uniforms? And I happen to know the man who was the, the owner of this team and he told me that if I would bring my band to play at, on, when they played on Sunday, I think it was at eight o'clock, I would bring the band to play during intermission, said he would give me money to buy uniforms." So the superintendent told him that, "Well, you tell him that you have, that your band has played its last game, that the superintendent said so." And he went to the board of education and he told them story. He said, "It's absolutely unreasonable. It just, it just, it doesn't make any sense for those kids to have to play for a professional football team on Sunday afternoon to buy uniforms." And he persuaded the board to provide the money to, to get the uniforms and they did. So every, in those days, before the, the days of, of desegregation, everything was just about the same. Black and white were separate and unequal in everything.
JG: Why did you expect it to be better in Charlotte whenever you came down?
ER: Because it was a, it was a large town, it had, it had more, it had a, a supplement and I didn't expect the desegregation to be any, any, any different because I knew that that wasn't but I, I did not expect black schools to, to, to have to use hand-me-downs because Charlotte was a, a progressive city and it, it provided and all, all the teachers in the Charlotte City Schools got a supplement, the black teachers and white teachers got supplements. There wasn't any, any difference there. But it was a difference in the, in the instructional materials.
JG: Whenever you said that that principal that excuse me, that Dr. Garinger went to the school board, were there separate school boards too or was there one school board?
ER: Oh, there was one school board.
JG: That was over both systems?
ER: No, uh-uh. You mean over the black and white?
JG: Right.
ER: Oh, yes, yes. But, you see, the school system now, we have a, a consolidated school system. In the 1960s, the county schools and the city schools merged. But at that time there were two well, I guess you can say there were four school [laughter] systems. Charlotte the city had, the city schools had a black and white school system and the county schools had a black and white school system. So, in Mecklenburg County you had four school systems, two black and two white.
JG: Well what was the composition of the school board?
ER: Oh, all, all, all white!
JG: All white.
ER: Yes, we didn't have any blacks on the school board until, oh, in the 60s, mid 60s.
JG: How did that affect the black school system?
ER: You mean the, the fact that the--?
JG: That the board was all white.
ER: Was all white? Well, the, the school board, the, the, the schools did not interact with the school board. The school system interacted with the administration, with the superintendent and the, and, and, and his staff. Nobody on, I doubt, OK, because I, I, I can't say that's true but I doubt that anybody on the school board even if they were at the, that, that game with Dr. Garinger, would pay any attention to the fact that there was a black band out there playing. There might have been some person who might have noticed it, but it was the superintendent who, who noticed it. And, and he didn't have to go to the bo--. School board and ask permission to, to, to provide uniforms for that band. He told the, the person who, who, who provided schools with funds to include in the, the budget uniforms for the, the school and they did. [Pause] The time when schools, when, when the school board was involved directly in, into what happened in the schools, what happened to schools was during the period of desegregation, when they were--. The law said schools must be desegregated and the school board had the, the job of, of assigning people to decide how the, how the, the schools would be desegregated. And then before then, the, the consolidation of the, the schools, the county and city schools were consolidated before desegregation. And that was another fight that involved the school board. When, when the, the bond was voted to consolidate the city and county schools, everybody was not in favor of it. People in the county didn't want to consolidate, but it was put to a vote of the, of the citizens, and the consolidation passed. But you, you can imagine how people who had been teaching in the county and had to teach in the city and vice versa, you know, that kind of thing caused a lot of tension. And then when we, we got that worked out. In fact, it's my opinion that we, we would never have satisfactorily segregated, desegregated the schools if we had not yet consolidated the city and the county into one school system.
JG: Why not?
ER: Huh?
JG: Why not?
ER: Well, you, you, you had four school systems. And you, you would, instead of one, one school system having to deal with the problems of desegregation, you had the city and the county having to deal with the problems of desegregation. And it was much, much easier, it, it wasn't easy, even so. But if you had two school systems, in essence four school systems having to do it, well I don't know. It, it would not have happened as, as, as peacefully as it did I don't think, nor as quickly as it did.
JG: Whenever you first began teaching, do you feel that teachers were more respected?
ER: Um-hum.
JG: Than they now are?
ER: Yes indeed, they certainly were. The teacher and the preacher were the most respected people in the black community. But I think that the teachers were respected everywhere and maybe the preachers too. But the, the entire community looked up to the teacher.
JG: Why do you think that that's changed?
ER: Oh I don't know, so many things have changed. So many things have changed. I don't know, one thing about it is, there are, there are more jobs available to people now than there were. When I, when I grew up and when I went to college, I, of course, I always knew a I was going to be a teacher because that's what my mother told me from the time I was a little girl, but I, I can't think of anything else I could have done. But now, you, you have, you have options. You don't have to, have to be a teacher. [Phone rings] You don't have to be a preacher, you don't have to do anything that's, that's just ordinary. And people who, who teach now teach because they want to. There used to be times when people would teach because there was nothing else to do. And the teachers weren't as, weren't as good I think in those days as, as they are--. They, they didn't, for instance, when I was going I don't remember my teachers having a master's degree. But when I, when I graduated from college, my goodness, I started on my master's degree, that, that was something that was just expected you know then. And most teachers have master's degrees now. And it's not, not just because you, you, you get more pay, but also it's because you, you keep in touch with what's going on in education, what kids should, should learn, should know.
JG: When you said you couldn't have done anything else but be a teacher, do you mean there are less jobs that interest--?
ER: That's right, there were, there were no--. I can't think of anything else that was, that was available, that I could do with my college education other than teach. There were no, and there certainly, certainly were not, it was really true for the, for the, for the people at, at, at large, but there certainly were not any, any other jobs that, that black people could aspire to. If you didn't get a job teaching, well you, you, you went to the post office or you did something that was menial.
JG: Were there more men teaching then than there are now?
ER: No, not more. I think there've always been more women teachers, teachers than men.
JG: [Pause] How long would you say the desegregation period was?
ER: How long?
JG: Uh-hum.
ER: Oh, my goodness. [Laughter] It was forever. The schools were not desegregated, the Supreme Court did not, didn't hand down the ruling until 1954.
JG: Right.
ER: And it took a long time after the 1954 decision for the, for the school systems in, in the, in the South and places where they, they were segregated, it took them long time. The Supreme Court, I remember my husband and I were in, in, in the kitchen coo--. Fixing dinner when we heard on the, on the radio news then that this is, the Supreme Court had outlawed the segregation of schools, and so my husband said, "Well, do you think it's going to happen next year?" And I said, "No, indeed, it won't happen next year. It'll be a long time." And in, in Charlotte-Mecklenburg it was in the 60s, when the, the, and that, it came about because of lawsuits on the part of black, black parents.
JG: Did you ever advise any of your students to apply or your teachers to apply to move to the white schools?
ER: Did I ever--?
JG: Did you, did you know any people who were doing that, because I know that's how some of the lawsuits got started?
ER: Oh I, I knew everybody, in fact the, the, the neighbor of mine who picked up my li--. Who took my package in is the mother of Dorothy Counts!
JG: Oh.
ER: [Laughter] Yes, indeed, I know all of the people in this town who are--. The Swanns who were here then, and who were, for whom the Swann vs. Board of Education is named, they lived here. Dr. Hawkins, who was one of the litigants, he lives on the next street over there, on Madison Avenue. Dorothy and her family live right down the street. No, I, I, I didn't ever encourage anybody to, to, to apply for white school. I didn't have to, the NAACP was the organization and the churches. NAACP was really the organization that worked with the parents, but the churches also assisted. [Pause] But we, we got through it. And we, we have, have done very, very well. In, in fact, Charlotte has the reputation of having had the most success in desegregating schools. Although you, you certainly would kno--. You wouldn't be surprised to know that all parents were not satisfied with particularly white parents. But even with the busing, we we've got along all right. And youngsters who grew up in desegregated schools had quite a different experience from those who grew up in segregated schools, if for no other reason because they were in schools where the instructional materials were, were available of all, the kinds that, that they'd never had in, in, in segregated schools. I remember when I was principal then at, at the University Park, and we had one school, one white school but the old school was closed and the fellow who was made principal of that school when it was closed was a black fellow. He was the first black principal. And he, the, the kids who lived in that neighborhood, it was their neighborhood school, didn't come, their parents didn't bring them to school. The only, only kids who were there were the black, the black kids a few white kids but not many. Well anyway I remember when in August when all the schools were getting ready to open school in September, he called, called me and he called two other black principals in the area, and said, "I want you to come over here, I have something to show you." So, we went over there and he showed us closets full of audio-visual materials, all kinds of instructional materials, and he said, "I could never use all of this," so he said, "I want you to take what you want." And each one of us [laughter] went out of there with a carload full of materials. Yeah, an interesting time, an interesting time. Another thing that, that, interesting thing that occurred because of, of desegregation is because--. Is black and white principals and black and white teachers interacted for the first time. There was, in desegregation, in segregation we had separate meetings. But we had meetings together, principals and teachers, and we got to know each other. I, I, I never will forget one principal who called me the day that, that, that, the first day of busing and she was, she was going to get some black kids in her school. And she called me and asked me how she was going to treat the parents, "How am I going to act when these parents bring their kids to school?" And so I said, "Well, how do you act when white parents bring their kids to school?" I said, "There's absolutely no difference." So I said, "You just act the same way that you would act for all your other students who will be coming to school and their parents." So at the end of the day she called me and thanked me for what I had told her. She said, "Really, there's absolutely no difference." She said, "The parents brought their kids to school, and wanted to meet the teacher, I took them around and showed them the school, took, took the parents and the children to meet the teachers, and see, nothing happened." I said well, I said, "I didn't expect anything to happen!" [Laughter] I said, "But I am so glad that you learned a lesson today." And when the, a teacher, this happened before desegregation, when the schools were consolidated, the white schools and the black schools in, in, in the city and the county, you know. We were, when we became one school system, well there were a lot of changes made, lots of changes made. And teachers, county teachers didn't want to, to move to the city, city teachers didn't move to the town nor move to the county. But they did and nobody got killed. [Laughter] That went OK. I told you that, that my school was one of the first schools that had, had white teachers. And I had the, the first teacher that I had was a, who was assigned, was a music teacher. And she was very reluctant, I could see that she, she was having problems. So when, after the first faculty meeting, I, I gave the teachers the schedule of PTA meetings for the year. And she came to me afterwards and asked me if she had to come to PTA meetings. I said, "Of course you have. All teachers come to PTA meetings." I said, "Why don't you want to come to PTA meetings?" "Well, the PTA meets at night and I just didn't think I'd be safe coming in this community." I said, "Well, I assure you that you will be." I said, "I assure you that nothing will happen to you." I said, "You have to come to PTA meetings." So she came to PTA meetings, and she didn't get killed and she didn't get raped. [Laughter] And so, at the end of the year, she came and she was turning in her reports, she came to me and she says, wants to--.
ER: Other teachers were reluctant to come. I said, "Well, if they were, they didn't tell me!" And they came. [Laughter]
JG: [Pause] How else do you think, how else do you think school was different from, for, for the students because of desegregation, besides that they had much better facilities and materials?
ER: Um-hum. Well, they, they, they learned to get along with people of, of, of another race. And that, that was important. And, and not only were, did, were the teachers and principals interacting with, with, with blacks and whites interacting with each other but the children did, also. And the children who grew up in desegregated schools, who started kindergarten in desegregated schools and came up through, through, through the ranks, have much different attitudes. They, they learned from kindergarten that skin color makes no difference. And you, you'd be surprised to know, I know I was surprised when I visited a school, a, a former white school, and the principal was taking me around and she showed me two little girls in a room, and she said, "You see those two little girls, one black and one white?" She said, "They are the best of friends and their mothers are the best of friends. And they, they have sleepovers in each others' house." So, it did a whole lot for just plain human relations. People learn, learned that they could live together regardless of their color. And I think that that's one of the good things that came out of desegregation.
JG: Do you think any bad things came out of it?
ER: Any bad things?
JG: Um-hum.
ER: Well, I, I can't think of any bad things but I, I can think of, of things which were available to black kids in all-black schools that they still do not get, all of them still do not get now. And that is the, the, the nurture and the, the, the individual attention from teachers. Now, when, when we, when I was teaching, I didn't only teach English. I was a counselor. When a kid had a problem, he would come to me. If he got in trouble, well I helped him get out of trouble. And black kids do not get that kind of nurture from white teachers. Now, it's, it's not that none of them do, that's not, that's not true, there are some white teachers who are very nurturing. I just love going into an elementary school and, and look at a reading group and here's the white teacher with a kid on her lap or the kid with her arm, with her arm around the kid. And so it's, it's not universal, but it is also, it, it was universal that all kids, all teachers took it as a part of their job to not only teach the subject that they were teaching, but to, to teach kids you know how to get along with each other, and they, they, how to behave, and talk about values. We talk about values now, our kids not only got values at home but they were en--. Reinforced at school. But you, you don't find that kind of interaction, that, that kind of, of teaching in desegregated schools. Not here and not anywhere else. You have black parents say, "My child's not being taught. My child will raise her hand and the teacher won't call on her." And you, you, that goes on now, even now. And I was, one, one thing that happened when we first desegregated, we had staff development for teachers and principals, where they you know learned to interact with, with each other. And I know we, sometimes now even before, before I started working we would say to, when somebody a parent would say something like that to a principal or to a teacher, they would say, "Well why is it that we don't have those workshops that we used to have?" See, we used to have these human relations workshops where we learned how to know each other you know and know how to deal with each other. So we, we need to have some of that again. And I was at a meeting last week with one of the superintendents, the one who has charge of curriculum. I said that to him, I said, "You know, parents call me and say, I don't want my child to go to that school. He says that he studies his lessons and he knows his lessons, but when he raises his hand the, the teacher won't call on him." I said, "Are you doing anything about that?" I said, "We used to have workshops, human relations workshops where teachers learned things they needed to, needed to know about each other." So he told me that that was something that, that they were including in their staff development for teachers, beginning this summer. So, there, there were plusses and minuses. And I would never go back to the segregated schools, never go back. I just think that what we need to do is just continue to treat each other like human beings.
JG: Do you feel like the goals of education changed at all--?
ER: Goals?
JG: Since segregation? Goals of the teachers matter--.
ER: I don't think goals, as far as what you teach in English and what you teach in math and you know all that. What, what had to be learned was how to get along with people of another, of another race. And I don't think that that has been achieved one hundred percent.
JG: [Pause] So, they dragged you out of your school [laughter] and made you come to the office?
ER: And [laughter] made me come to the Central Office, yeah.
JG: Was the Central Office already desegregated, at that point?
ER: Yes, there was one black administrator in Central Office then. He was in charge of federal programs, and that was my first job. I, my first job was, that was during the Johnson administration when Head Start and Title I money was provided and we used our Title I money for kindergartens. The state had not put kindergartens in schools yet and our administration and board decided to use our money for kindergartens. So they asked, they, they brought me to Central Office to organize kindergartens. And this, this other person was already there, he was in charge of all federal programs, not just the kindergartens. And I worked under him. And then when he, he left to go to Raleigh to the state department, and then I was promoted to his job, in charge of all federal programs. And then my third promotion was administrative assistant for operations and I was in charge of, how many schools did I have? I think I got about ten. I was, I had to monitor. And then the, my last promotion was as associate superintendent for Program Services in the curriculum department and pupil services department record. And that's what I was doing when I retired in 1982.
JG: So, you were the second black administrator brought in.
ER: Um-hum.
JG: What was that like?
ER: Oh, the, the, the superintendent, see I reported to the superintendent and the superintendent was just a wonderful person. And then of course when, when I was, when I was doing the kindergarten thing I--. We had to put the kindergartens in the schools where they're qualified for the federal money and I dealt with principals that, that, see I, I had already had been a principal so I, I knew the principals and so that wasn't anything new. I already knew the principals with, that I was dealing with, so--. And when, when I became associate superintendent for Program Services, having been in Central Office, you see, the people who were in charge of Program Services were in the Central Office, and I already knew them. So I, I didn't have any problem.
JG: At what point did the, did the black administration of the school system, of the, of the segregated school system get moved out and this Central Office, white administration took charge of everything? Mostly white.
ER: Well now, before, before the Supreme Court decision, there were no black administrators in Central Office. That there were none. And the Central Office desegregated really more slowly than did the schools, because they weren't desegregating under court order but the schools were. So, let's see, Jim Burch was the first black, Waddell was the second black, he was assistant to the superintendent, I was the third and then, there were some, then they brought secretaries to the--. My secretary was white, on purpose. I said, "Well, my, my office is going to be desegregated." [Laughter] So I looked for and got a white secretary. But, secretaries came more rapidly than other admin, admin, administrators did. But when I was in charge of Program Services, we had, let's see the person in charge of, of, of, of [pause] disturbed, kids who are disturbed was black and kids who were physically handicapped and, and mentally handicapped persons who was in charge of that department was black. A person who was, in the meantime, the state had put kindergartens in all the schools and [cough] the person who was in charge of kindergartens, the supervisor of kindergartens was black. So, gradually you know they brought blacks into the administration.
JG: Were a lot of those people women?
ER: Um-hum yes, most of them were women. In fact, the, the first administrator, black administrator was black, I was the second, the third was black, came to the Central Office as assistant to the superintendent. I don't know what his duties were, probably just a gopher but he was the third, the second man and through the years let's see there was a man, currently the, Calvin Wallace who was the, he was the interim superintendent before Dr. Murphy was there, he's black. And he's now assistant superintendent for Auxiliary Services. And let's see there's another black man in, in the administration, I've forgotten--. I can't say nothing because I'm, I'm not up there now so, everyday, so I don't see them. And then a whole lot, there are a whole lot of new people have been, have been hired. And as far as the principalship is concerned, ever, ever since the, the Supreme Court decision, ever since we desegregated the schools, the principalship has been pretty desegregated.
JG: What has having a desegregated Central Office brought to the schools?
ER: Well, if, if, if you have black people in Central Office, they know what's going on. [Laughter] And they're in a position to influence decision-making. So, that, that, that's it, you--. You're where the power is and you are part of the, the power structure. And you are part of the, the, the decision-making, people.
JG: So it's--.
ER: Which was not true, of course, you know in, in, under segre--. segregation, because there was nobody in, in, no black person in Central Office. In fact, black people didn't even go to the Central Office, unless they were the janitor. So it made a difference. Being where the decisions were made and being part of the decision-making, structure.
JG: So, whenever you got that transfer, did you feel like it was an important opportunity?
ER: Oh, yes. It never occurred to me to, to, to turn it down.
JG: You just didn't want to leave the school.
ER: I, I just, I, I just missed my, my, my children. And there's no, there's no teacher who has been taken out of the classroom and moved up to, to an administrative position who won't tell you the same thing. You just miss the children. But, you, you realize that what you're doing is going to benefit the children.
JG: Um-hum. Do you feel like the administrators should be taken out of the classroom, that that's the place where they should come from?
ER: I think that a, a person who is, an administrator who has had teaching experience has more insight and understanding about the needs of children. Of course, what the parents say is that, "Now, you can take anybody, but don't take my child's teacher." And oh, I got, got, got a lot of criticism from, from parents when I left West Charlotte, "I wanted my child to take senior English under you!" [Laughter] But it's, it's an advantage. Having, having been in the classroom, it's, is, is an advantage to being an administrator, because you know what the needs are. And when you visit a school, you know what you're looking at, and you know what to look for.
JG: What did, what did you think about busing? What do you think about busing?
ER: Well, it's the only way to get to school unless you have a car or unless you, you're close enough to school to walk. When, before de, desegregation, youngsters who lived in, in the county, all the counties, rode the bus to school. And the only difference was that black kids rode a, a separate set of buses and they rode the bus right by the white school even if they lived just, just a few steps from the school. They, they , they still couldn't, couldn't ride, they couldn't walk to the school nor could they ride the bus to the high school. So, in view of, of where people live, this really, you couldn't have a desegregated system without busing. The, the school across here on Oaklawn Avenue, right across from my church, that's the elementary school. Well, if, if all the kids who went to that school lived in this area, they could walk to school, that's their neighborhood school, they could walk to school. But you couldn't, you can't desegregate that school without bringing white kids in there. You can't desegregate Dilworth school without bringing, bringing black kids in there you see, so, there's no way, living patterns being what they are, there's no way to desegregate the schools without busing. [Pause]
JG: What do you think happened to the, the voice of the black schools whenever desegregation went into effect? I know a lot of schools ended up being torn down eventually and not used and so forth.
ER: Oh, there, there were some black schools here. All, all the black schools in, in the county were closed. Now, they were used for, for something else for instance up at Davidson, that school is--.
JG: Ada Jenkins.
ER: Ada Jenkins, uh-huh. Is used for a, a sort of community center. And they, they, they have a, they have a, a Head Start program in, in, in that center. In the city, most of the schools, which were closed, were, let's see, were reopened, most of them were reopened. There weren't as many schools in the city closed really. Bethune School was closed and they, that school and Biddleville school down here where I, I told you, you when you turn into Patton, that used to be right across the street there. They, they were closed to make way for something else. Up here where Bethune school used, used to be is the sight where they have a, a school for retarded people. Young children, and adults, retarded people up here on Graham Street. Let's see, was there another school? The school out in, out near the airport. I've forgotten the name of it now but it was, it was closed as a school, but it is the place where textbooks are kept. But now my school, University Park School was not, it was, it wasn't closed at that particular time. It, it was, it was integrated. White kids were bused over to that school. And when that school was closed, the, the white parents were just as mad as the black school and they reopened it the next year by the way. They, they, they, what they did to that school when the closed it was to rent part of it to the State Department of Public Instruction for some of it's offices, and then some of the offices of the, the school system were put there. The place where you, where the, the, what am I trying to--? It wasn't the books, they, they didn't--. The books are still out there near the airport. Something having, having to do with--. Trying to think, what was there? It could--. Of course, it used to be downtown and then they moved over here to University Park School. Video, audiovisual materials, things like that, that's what's up there. That's where you go to get your, your, your, if you want to, to borrow a VCR or something like that, that's where you go to get that. I don't know what they're going to with it. They, they're reopening the school and I'm so glad they are reopening it because that's a beautiful school. The library is just, just out of this world. Of course the, the library was used by the state department for their workshops. And I, I know that where they are now they don't have anything that nice. But I'm glad it's going to be used for children again. It's going to be one of the magnets I don't know which one.
JG: Why did they close down the black schools? Why were those the ones they closed down?
ER: Well, that was the easiest thing to do was to, to desegregate, that, that was it. Those, those schools that were, were closed, and see all the black schools were closed in the county. And see those schools were not, see the county, that's one reason that the city and county de--. I mean, consolidated was because the city schools were not only better in, that they, they had better teachers, they had better a curricula and everything but they also had better school facilities. And, that is the, the, the white schools did, of course all the schools did really. But, those schools that were closed really should have been closed long before they were closed. They really should have.
JG: Because they were--?
ER: They could not have, they could not have bused white kids to some of those schools because of, of the condition they were in. And it's, it's just like the reason the, the pupil assignment plan here has been fought so by black parents, is because the plan, the bussing plan that was finally decided upon bused all black kids from kindergarten through third grade to the, to the suburban, formerly all-white schools. And the only black kids who, only white kids who were, in elementary school, who were bused were those from fourth grade on up through sixth and high school. So, and, and the reason they did that was because whites made it very clear that they weren't going to let their young kids be, be bused to the inner city. And that's one thing that the magnet program has accomplished. The magnet school is a, is a, it's a magnet, it attracts. And you have for the first time you have white parents sending their kids to an inner city school because it's a magnet. Now the school right around the corner from me across from my church Oaklawn School is a magnet. It's a science, math and technology magnet. And the white kids from kindergarten on up through fifth grade. You see that the, the magnet school, magnetizing the school system is a desegregation tool. You, you have parents who allow their children to be, their young children to be bused white parents who allow their children, young children to be bused to an inner city school which is a magnet, it has a curriculum that they want them to have.
JG: Do you think that having those school cut, shut down what, do you think that that's been a loss to the community of people who grew up going to those schools and so forth?
ER: Well, when at the time when it happened I remember it was just in the county, and they, those schools were really, really community centers. Programs that they had, when, when they, they had artists brought to the, to the community, they, they used the school auditorium you know. And don't, don't think that it was done without protest. It was. When those schools were, were closed, the black community really rolls up in arms. But, there was nothing they could do about it. So they accepted it. But all of those schools now are being used for something that is beneficial to the community, all of it. The one in Huntersville is, has programs for the elderly. [Pause] And oh yes I just thought about it, one of the schools that was closed, the Pineville School was reopened and remodeled and it's used as an elementary school. I think that's the only one that was, still being used as a school.
JG: What sort of different problems do you see facing kids in the schools now, than you did whenever you started? Or what sorts of problems did you see back then that you don't see anymore?
ER: Well, when I was, when I growing up and when I was teaching, and when I was a principal, you didn't have the discipline problems that, that they're, you have now. You didn't, didn't have the violence that you have now. And, you didn't have the drug abuse that you have now. When I, I, I listen to the things that happen now, read about them and I look back on my own career and I just wonder whether or not I could, I could deal with some of the problems that high school teachers have to deal with now. I hope that I could but I don't, I'm not sure that I could. You don't get the cooperation from parents that, that we used to have. And that's one thing that, you asked me about a bad thing that happened with desegregation. It's, where, I guess you can call it a bad thing but you, you, you did not have the parental cooperation with, with black parents and white teachers that we had, you know, in the, in the segregated school systems. In fact, when I first started teaching, when I taught at Wake Forest, we were required to visit our homes. We were required. Whatever homeroom you had, you had to visit the, the parents and, and give the principal a report on your visitation. [Coughs] But teachers aren't required to do that. They, they are encouraged to, to you know get in touch with their parents and to know their parents. And in, in the alternative schools, that, that, that is something that is required, in all of the alternative schools even now.
JG: Where do you think the discipline problems are coming from?
ER: Where? They're coming from all over. They aren't just coming from the inner city. They're coming from all over.
JG: I mean, what sorts of social situations or--?
ER: Well. You get discipline problems from youngsters who don't have a, don't have a, a caring environment at home. Sometimes, there're broken homes, where there's only a one-parent family. But it has nothing to do with race. [Pause] I mentor in a, one of the alternative schools. I went to a graduation last week and it was just such a pleasure to see those kids, most of whom, who had been in trouble, get their diplomas. And their parents were there. And it's, it's a requirement from the alternative. A kid can't get into an alternative school unless the parent agrees to be involved. I know a little girl who, who I mentor, is an unwed mother, she had a baby in December. And she was there, in her cap and gown. And her family was there. Her mother was holding the baby. And she's going to college. She's going to Central Piedmont and her family's going, I talk to her mother. I used to take them out to, to, to dinner, take her and her mother to dinner. And I asked her when she found out she was pregnant, she wouldn't tell me. I learnt it from another mentor who, whose, whose girl, whose girl told her that Evelyn was pregnant and she asked me if I knew that Evelyn was pregnant. I said, "No I didn't. She didn't tell me." And she never did tell me until the baby was, was born. She had to tell me then, you know. Of course I could tell she was pregnant. But I talked to her mother about it, and her mother said, "Well yeah." Said, "She's, she's pregnant and she, she wanted to keep the baby so we told her that we would help her." So her mother and grandmother, take care of and mostly her grandmother because her mother works. But she's going to Central Piedmont she says she wants to be a nurse. And I'm going to keep on, keep up with her. I told her, I said, "Now just because you're graduating doesn't mean that we aren't going to see each other any more." I said, "You can ca--. I have your telephone number and you have mine." But a, a, a person like that I mean she, she grew up in a, in a, in a loving home and she goes, she made a mistake is all. After all people who, who, who are brought up in good homes make mistakes too. But the, the alternative school was good for her. She, she was going to Harding and when the alternative school opened her mother decided to put her into, in the alternative school because it was a smaller situation with more, more one and one. And the, the alternative schools have facilities for unwed mothers. And, so they, they try to help the, the youngster adjust and make some, some, start making some good decisions about their lives. And there's not a sane person in that class that graduated from Mayfield alternative who is not going to school. And another thing that, that we saw, there was a girl, one of the, one of the graduates who had a baby and the father of the baby was also enrolled in, in the alternative school. He graduated last year. He was at the graduation, so I went over and spoke to him. I said, "Well it's good to see you." So I said, "Why are you here?" I said, "You graduated last year." He said, "Yes ma'am, I did, but my girlfriend is graduating this year." I said, "Uh-huh." So, of course I knew he was the father of the child, but, oh, it was still funny. I said, "Oh really so," I said, "your girlfriend?" He said, "Miss Randolph you know that so and so is my girlfriend." So I said, "Well is--," I just asked him I said, "Is that your baby?" "Yes Ma'am." And I said, "You taking care of it?" "Yes Ma'am." He said, "I have a job," and he, he said, "we aren't married, we are thinking about getting married but I, it's my baby and I take care of it." So well that's just wonderful. But the ones that you see on the six o'clock news don't have that kind of nurture. And the schools, well, of course the schools cannot do everything, they cannot do everything. But providing those alternative schools, is something that the schools, the kid, the girl whom I mentor that went to Harding and her mother told me that she was very unhappy at Harding, very unhappy. And she was glad that that school was available for her to go to. And but, the kind of nurturing that she's getting at that alternative school was not available at Harding. A teacher who's got five classes, with thirty kids in five classes in each one of them does not have time to be Mama. A counselor who has all of the ninth graders can't possibly be, possibly be Mama to all of them. That's, that's just not possible. So I am very glad to see that the schools, the school system is providing for these kids who have needs. Now there's one, I want to, they have two schools and they're called management schools. And they are for kids who have, who've gotten into serious trouble. And I visited one, one over on Independence Boulevard right across the place where the Kentucky Fried Chicken used to be. It used to be a, a Catholic Church. And I went over there and spent some time with them. And it was just interesting to see. Now these, these kids are kids who are on the verge of being expelled from school. And they had this option to go to this management school. And there was an article in the paper about some problems that appeared in the management schools, the fighting or a kids hit a teacher or something. So I went over there with some other people who are friends of mine, we are interested, interested in the alternative schools. So, when we went over, the, the halls were just as quiet, you know and the bell was ringing, they could change classes and we talked to a counselor. We asked her about the fact that had occurred that was reported on the television and in the newspaper. And she said, "Well that was a special situation." I said, "Where is the young man?" I said, "Did you, did you put him out?" "No. We told him that, he, he would have to straighten up and he'd have to do something to show us that he wanted to go to school or else we, we'd have to put him out if, if anything like that happened again. And so we asked him, 'Do you want to finish school? Do you want to get the stuff to get your diploma?' And he said, yes he did." And so I said, "Well I'd like to see him." So I said, "I don't want to talk to him I just want to see him." And so she took us to where he was in class and says, and she pointed out the person who he was. And he was looking at his book. And he was studying or he looked like he was studying or he was pretending to stu--. To study. [Laughter] And we went, went into the computer lab and those kids were just working on those computers, doing some math on the computers you know. Now these are kids who are serious discipline problem. But they are in an environment, in an environment where people care about them and they take time to talk to them, and where the parent has to be involved with the school. So you see what's happening to, to the education. You, the schools have to provide for kids who have all kinds of needs, not just mentally, mentally handicapped and physically handicapped, but the emotionally disturbed and kids who need a, a kind of nurturing that, that is not available in their home, that they don't get in their homes. So, education is not like it used to be! Much more is required of the public schools than used to be.
JG: In one newspaper article that I read in the library it said that the North Carolina state kindergarten system was based on the system that you developed in Charlotte?
ER: Yes, we developed in Charlotte. We started with the Title I money I told you about when I first came to the Central Office. That's what we did with our Title I money. And that's what many schools systems all over, all over the state did. See because at that time, the state didn't have the money. It was something that was needed.
JG: Why, why was it needed?
ER: Because youngsters who, who get a start in school early on, they, they, they do better. A kid who, who goes to kindergarten--. Now here, here's a kid and, and these kindergartens that we started to say, "Well this money was for disadvantaged kids, lower-income." All right that kid didn't learn his alphabet at home, he didn't learn his colors at home. But the kindergartens was available to him, so it gets him ready for first grade. So when he goes to first grade, he, he's, he's ready to go over his numbers and all the other things that he learned at our team. He's, he's ready to learn to read. And of course, some kids learn to read when they're in kindergarten. And, you know, you, you, you read a lot and you hear a lot about the necessity of, of early childhood education. It, it is. And it's necessary for everybody, but everybody doesn't get it. See even when we didn't, did not have kindergarten in the public schools, people who could afford it could send their kids to private kindergarten. And another thing that kids in those schools got, in Head Start and the Title I kindergarten, they had, not only did they get a, a, an academic, a measure of academic training, they got examinations, health examinations. They had, each, each we put our money in schools, we had four kindergarten schools. One of our kindergarten schools is a, was a in Davidson where Ada Jenkins was. Another one was at, at, at Pineville. That was a school that had been closed and then they used it for that. Another one was at Morgan, which was another school that had been closed. And each one of those schools, they were organized just like schools, each school had a principal, each school had its teachers, of course, each school had a nurse and each school had a social worker. And so you see all the, the, the services that those kids were getting in that school. When they finished kindergarten, they were ready to go to first grade, they, they were ready to move. And, another thing, the parents had learned to interact with the school. [Pause]
JG: Why do you think, why do you think so many more women than men have gone into the education field?
ER: Have gone into?
JG: Have gone into education?
ER: Have gone into education?
JG: Um-hum.
ER: Well, let's see. I don't know. A man would tell you it's because women's personalities are more suited to it. That's what a man would tell you. [Laughter] And, and, and maybe that's right. Because we have, we have few men in the, in the elementary schools, very few men in the elementary schools. And the men who are, who are in education, they're, they're coaches, they teach the sciences. And they, they most of them want to go, want to be principals. Even those who, those who don't, who don't make it, want to be--. I know many who want to be principals. Apply year after year to be a principal. But a teacher, whether he's a man or a woman, has to like children. You have to love children. And the men who teach are men who love children. Just like the women who are teachers. I remember having, the only teacher I ever hired, I fired when I was principal was one who, just by observing her, I could tell that she didn't like kids. And one time I had a conference with her, and I said, "You don't like children, do you?" "Well, why do you say that?" I said, "Well, when I observe you, I just notice the way you, you teach them." I said, "You don't act as if you care whether they learn or not." So. And not only did I fire her, I suggested that she consider doing something else, changing her profession. I don't know if she ever did or not, I never saw her again. But all, all people who, who love children and who want to see children learn and grow are not women. But they have to, no matter what their sex, they have to love children and want to do everything they can to help children grow.
JG: Um-hum. What, what, what do you feel like the value of an education is?
ER: An education should equip you to live a good life. START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A
JG: Oh OK. That was great, thank you. Let's see. I also wanted to ask you about what, what your--. Did you ever feel uncomfortable whenever, whenever the school system started being desegregated and you were put in this position of sort of pioneering in to the Central Office?
ER: No. When I went to the Central Office, see, I, I had been a principal for nine years, and, and those were, all, in all those years you know the schools were desegregated, well, partially because I never had any, any white kids in University Park. I had white teachers. So I wasn't uncomfortable being around white people. It didn't bother me at all. And when I went to, to graduate school I went to University of Michigan, and that was the first time I had ever been to school with white people.
JG: Um-hum.
ER: So, I, being in a desegregated school system at Central Office was not my first contact with, with, with whites. Because the four years that I was at University of Michigan I made a lot of friends who I still have now.
JG: And you also went to Chapel Hill.
ER: Uh-hum. Yes, that's where I got my administrative credentials after I became a principal. I went to Chapel Hill got that.
JG: What was that like, because it wasn't long for being desegregated then?
ER: Oh, that was interesting. The, the first, see Chapel Hill , you know, has not always been desegregated. And the year that a friend of mine and I went to summer school there was, the year I started on my, on my administrative credentials, we, we went to summer school and we applied for a, a room in Kenan Dormitory. And they had several kinds of, of accommodations and one was a room that had a, a, a room that had a bath. So we applied for one of those, and we got it. So, when we showed up on the registration day and checked into the dormitory, I never will forget, the lady who was in charge of the dormitory said, "Well, I know one thing. You never will desegregate like this." So we said, "What?" She said, "You know what I'm talking about. Now, why did you all apply for a room with a private bath?" Well, she, she knew why, why we applied for a room with a private bath. So she said, "Well," said, "We never will get anywhere like this." So the next, next summer, my, my friend and her husband had gone to Nigeria to teach and so I, I went by myself and I did not apply for the room with the, with the private bath. I went all the way to the bathroom on the hall with everybody else. [Laughter] But, I, I did, I enjoyed being in the classes. In fact, I was the first black person to get the, to earn administrative credentials at, at Chapel Hill. When the, when my, my teacher asked me, "Do you know that you're the first black administrator to come through this program?" I said, "No." I said, "Is that important?" [Laughter] He said, "No, I just thought you'd like to know." I said, "Well, since you, you think I should've known." I said, "Thanks for telling me." [Laughter] But I, I went to, I went to Chapel Hill two summers and during the year I went on Saturdays, I commuted from Charlotte to Chapel Hill every Saturday. And took classes so I could finish earlier. But I enjoyed that. I never--. I didn't experience any unpleasantness at all from anybody, students or, or from teachers.
JG: OK, I know that you've been involved in many, many, many different activities in Charlotte community activities. And I, I wonder what your philosophy of community service is? What source of responsibilities you feel you have?
ER: Well, that's another thing that I grew up with, my mother was a person who worked in the community. She, we, we were members of the First Baptist Church, she sang in the choir. And oh, another thing I didn't tell you, I took music lessons, piano lessons when I was growing up. And my mother sang in a choir. I, I played for the Sunday school and the organist, the church organist taught me how to play the pipe organ, and when she was not available, I would play the pipe organ for the choir. And my mother belonged to a lodge, she, she was on the board of a daycare center, and she, she just was a person who believed in contributing to the community, that's what you have to contribute in. She taught us that. So it never occurred to me not to be involved in something. So the first thing that I, I, I got involved in when I came to Charlotte was YWCA. And we had a, they, they called them, let's see what do they call them now? They call them Y-Teens now. But they called them something else, they, the girls who have these clubs you know in the schools. And the first leadership position I had outside of the school was being an advisor to the Y-Teen Club at West Charlotte High School and that, that put me in touch with the YWCA. So as the years went by I would do something else in the YWCA and I ended up of course now the YWCA at that time was segregated. And there were two YWCA's. And I became president of the black YWCA. And they of course, the Y was really one of the, one of the first national organizations that, that open its doors to black women. And so I, I continue to work with the Y, I still work with the Y. And if you go over to Park Road YWCA. You go into the, the Billy Collins room, that's named after a black woman who was president of the Y. She was the first black woman who was president of the Y. Micky Riddick was the first Y, black woman who was the executive director of the Y. But in that room named after Billy, they have pictures of all of the former presidents of the Y. And they have the pictures of the black women who were president of Phyllis Wheatley YWCA that's what the name was, named after Phyllis Wheatley of Blackburg. And so you'll see my bug up on that wall as one of the first presidents of Phyllis Wheatley Y. And then I, I, I came on as the years past I would be invited to do more things. More organizations and I haven't yet learned to say no.
JG: Well what have been some of your favorite projects?
ER: Oh my favorite. Well, working with, with young people. I, I was a high school teacher so I, I worked with teenagers. And I, I have always enjoyed working with, with young people. Of course after I got out of the classroom I wasn't away from the high school. I didn't have as many opportunities. But now, you know when I'm, I'm mentoring now with the city and schools, alternative schools programs, in the, in the alternative schools. I'm, I, I, I enjoy being back with, with the teenagers again. But I'm a, I, I enjoy the other things that I do. I'm on the, the board of trustees of four colleges and I enjoy that. That, although being on the board doesn't put you in contact with the students, well you know very much you at least are do, doing something that affects young people. And I like that. What I do in my church I'm on the board of Christian education in my church. And that has to do with developing programs in the church for young people. And let's see now. Foundation for the Carolina's. I, I like that because the programs that the foundation of funds are for young people and young marrieds and people trying to, make a good thing out of their lives. So most of the things that I do are things which are people things. [Pause] And I guess you saw my vitae over in the library if you've been looking at that.
JG: Um-hum. [Pause] What about your book?
ER: Well now this book is the, is the library's book, it's not my book. [Laughter] The library asked me to edit that book. And I did it. I used to be on the library board and I was chairman of the board for two years. I thought it was impo--. An important project when the director came to me and told me about it. And they, they wanted to do something to celebrate the centennial of the library. And they, they did not have as much information in the Carolina Room as they thought they should have on the black community. So, they decided on this project and they put out the word through all parts of the media, they're asking African black people to come to the library on certain days and bring pictures of family and church, school, whatever they had relating to family life. I mean life in the black community before 1950. And they would, they, people, we were just overwhelmed at this response. And people came and they brought their pictures and we copied their pictures and gave them their originals back. And the, the, the, well we got over, over fifteen hundred pictures. So the Knight Foundation was interested in it and they funded it. And Mr. Cannon asked me if I would edit it. So for one whole year, I spent most of my time in the library, [laughter] going through pictures and categorizing pictures in various, in the various categories that we used. And it was a pleasure to--. I, I saw people whom, who I, I had taught. I saw people who go to various churches, I met new people. It, it was just great. And I, but I, I don't take credit for it being, it's not my book it's the library's book and I just edited it for the library. It has, it, it has won a couple of awards but Mr. Cannon called me recently and told me that it had won another award from the White House conference on libraries, something like that. And, he and, and Pat Ryckman who runs the archives at, at the Carolina Room, the three of us are going to Indianapolis on the thirtieth of July to receive the award. We're really excited about that.
JG: Um-hum. Do you think it has been an important project for the black community in Charlotte?
ER: Oh my goodness. They, they can't keep the books in the city. They, they are sold in the library branches. And they can't keep the books. It, it--. We, we had a, when, when, when we, we had an opening night when we presented the book to the public and we, we had them there for sale. It was a, we had a reception and we talked about the, how the book came about and then we opened up the upstairs and we, where we had library employees sitting at various stations and selling the book. And they had me sitting down autographing the book. [Laughter] But that, that--. We sent invitations to everybody who had contributed to that, that, allow us to use their pictures. And goodness that place was full. And they're, but they're buying the book, the books are, sell, they sell very well. And they're, you'll find them all over the country. People from California, people from New York, people from Washington, people from Detroit. Somebody with, in their family or some friends would tell them about the book. They would see something written about the book, or they would come home to visit and see the book, you know. I had, I went to my nephews graduation at Morehouse College last commencement and ran into a, a minister who used to teach with me when I, the first year when I went up to the mountains to teach. And he is a minister now there, from the ministry in Los Angeles, but he is also the president of the board of trustees in Morehouse College where we were. And when I saw him you know we had to reminisce a little bit. So he told me he said, "You know," he said, "I, I, I had read something about a, a book that was being, a photographic album on black life in Charlotte, that was edited by somebody whose name sounded like yours." I said, "Yes." I said, "That was name." So he said, "I thought so, I said to my wife I'll bet that's Libby." So I sent him a copy of the book. And he wrote me, told me, to say he knew almost everybody in there. And the families. But I, I think it is a good thing for them. It, it has sold well and people, I have been--. I, I've talked to, to clubs. I have talked to classes in schools, you know about the book so it's quite interesting. And everybody is always asking, "When are you, when are you going to do another one? When are you going to pick up after 1950 and more?" And we have, you know, material to do another book but, we need another grant. [Pause] It has stimulated a lot of interest in, among other groups. Sycamore High school Alumni Association has formed what they called an African American Coalition. And they, they are working with the neighborhoods, black neighborhoods. And helping the neighborhoods organize and one, a, a couple of neighborhoods have had these, what do you call them? Let's see, Greenville called it Greenville Fest. And West Charlotte called theirs West Charlotte Fest. And they, they have a, exhibits. The Greenville, they had an exhibit in the Greenville community center, you know. And families would bring their pictures you know. And they had storytelling and all kinds of things. And I think that in, in, in some way, I won't say that, that book was the, the reason that all these things happened, but after we, people got involved in the book, bringing their pictures out, I'm sure that they got some ideas about some of the things that they are doing. [Pause] But the idea was not mine. In, in fact Pat Ryckman in the library was the, the, in the Carolina Room, the manager of the Carolina Room was the person who gave the idea to Mr. Cannon. So I was just asked to be the editor. And it took a long time. It was some hard work.
JG: Sure
ER: But I enjoyed it.
JG: [Pause] What am I thinking about? [Laughter]
ER: What are you thinking about?
JG: Oh!
ER: Travel?
JG: Whenever you--? Hum?
ER: Oh I, I thought you, you said, "What are you thinking about?" I said, "Travel." [Laughter]
JG: No. Whenever you became the associate superintendent--?
ER: Uh-huh.
JG: The last promotion, right?
ER: Yeah.
JG: And you, you, you were working with a national curriculum, committee?
ER: Oh the, the, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development?
JG: Um-hum.
ER: Yes, that's a, a national organization of, of educators who work in curriculum. Um-hum.
JG: Um-hum. What--? Right, you became the president.
ER: I became the president of it. The first black pres--. No, no, second black president, first black woman president. First president, black president was a man. That is the first three black presidents I have hanging on my wall up there but I, I am just so happy that I was not the last black president. In fact, the current president is a black woman.
JG: What kind of work did you do with them?
ER: Well it's a, it's a professional organization, that deals with the curriculum issues. They have, they, they, they publish curriculum materials, they have, they have, each year they have a national convention that brings people from all over the world. They, and, and periodically during the, the school year, they have workshops that are available to teachers and other people who are working for it.
JG: And what were some of the specific things that you worked on?
ER: Well, the, the president has to write the, the preface and forward to each one of their, their publications. And there were many. So I did a whole lot writing. [Laughter] Whatever the, the, the publication dealt with, if it dealt with early childhood education I had to write a, write the preface. And most of, of the publications were publications that were essays and things that other people had written, you know. And what I had to do was to write the full word to tell how important this particular issue is.
JG: Well what sort of issues did you deal with?
ER: Well as far as curriculum is concerned just about everything. Early childhood education, multicultural education, education that dealt with, with subject matter. Language arts, math. There's nothing, see curriculum is what is taught in schools, and we, we did the whole gamut, you know, of curriculum. And we would also go into, people who were dealing with curriculum on the college level would sometimes write a, write articles about the kind of people who a school system ought to hire, you know, for, to do curriculum work.
JG: In the articles from the Observer it said that you were going to have to deal with a, a demand, like a nationwide demand from a back to basics education, at that time. Did you see very much of that or was that just the Observer?
ER: Well there was a, really a whole movement, a back to basics movement.
JG: Um-hum.
ER: Um-hum. And, that, that did occur during the time that I was involved with ASCD. The organization you know had a, had a viewpoint on, on the back to basics movement. And of course at the time I was president I had to speak to each one. One of the things that I did was to visit. The organization has chapters in every state in the union and I was, as president I was often invited to speak at their, their state conventions. And whatever the, the burning issue in education was usually was what, you know, I was asked to talk about. I do remember talking to, about that issue in some convention. But that wasn't the only issue, whatever issue was burning at that time was the one I had to deal with. They had the fiftieth anniversary of the ASCD this year at the annual convention. I, I'm not, I don't, well I still belong but I don't go to the national conventions anymore because when I went to national conventions the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools paid my way. So but, I decided to go because they asked all the past presidents to come back, you know. They had a special luncheon for us and introduced around, you know. And I went back there, it was in Washington, D.C. And I enjoyed seeing people I hadn't seen in a long time. I didn't have anything to, to do. They asked me to be, to, to be on a panel and I refused because I didn't feel like it. I have been away from the practice, the educational practice so long that I don't keep up with everything that's going on. And in order to be on that panel, I would have had to do a whole lot of reading, and I didn't want to do it. [Laughter]
JG: Did you travel--? Was this one of the first times that you traveled around the countries lecturing or had you done that before too?
ER: No, uh-uh. That's, that's the first time that I, I went around, around the country doing something specific for an organization. My traveling has, my personal travel, I travel for pleasure you know was mostly outside of the country.
JG: How did you feel like you were received in other parts of the country?
ER: Couldn't be better. I even was well received in Mississippi. [Laughter]Yes indeed that's when I was traveling for ASCD. I was very well received by the educators and everybody else I came in contact with.
JG: So gave Charlotte a good name, huh?
ER: Huh?
JG: You gave Charlotte a good name?
ER: Well, really I did. There was an, an essay, I guess the library must, might have that. The editorial that somebody wrote that the year that I was inducted and I got the, Governor Hunt was governor then and he gave me the Order the of the Long Leaf Pine. You know, some of those plaques that you see on the wall there have to deal with the time when I was president. And some of them I got because I was national president. I enjoyed it. It was a very, very enjoyable experience.
JG: Did you feel like you'd have a pretty big impact on--?
ER: What personally?
JG: Um-hum.
ER: You mean in, in that role?
JG: Um-hum.
ER: Oh I don't think so. I, I was doing what was expected of me, I was, I was an educator. I was working in curriculum and I was elected president and I was supposed to go around and talk about curriculum when I was invited and that's what I did. I don't think, no, I didn't do anything creative.
JG: Well, what sorts of impacts do you think you've had on Charlotte?
ER: On Charlotte? Oh come on Jennifer. [Laughter] What kind of impact have I had on Charlotte? Other people will have to tell you that. I, I can't, I can't say that I've had any--. Well, I don't mind saying that I, I have had an impact on the, the students whom I've taught and who were at University Park School when I was principal. I, I think that the greatest impact I have had has been in my professional capacity as a teacher. I don't think I've had any other impact on Charlotte. Somebody else might think so but you'd have to ask them.
JG: OK. Well is there anything else you want to tell me about, you think of I should have asked about but I didn't?
ER: Oh no, I don't think so.
JG: I'm sure there's tons of stuff.
ER: Huh?
JG: Well it's been about half an hour so I should probably--.
ER: Oh yes another half an hour and the telephone's going to ring and it's going to be for me.
JG: Right I should probably let you eat some lunch or some--.
JG: Travels.
ER: Oh I have traveled a lot of places. And most of the places I traveled I traveled before I, before I retired. Although I have been some places after I retired. I was still working when I, when I went to, to Africa. I visited the friend that I told you was my roommate the first year we went to Chapel Hill. Well she's a childhood friend of mine. We grew up together in Raleigh, and she lives her now. Her, her husband was called to Africa by the state department to help develop a, a college in Nigeria in Lagos, Nigeria. And I went over to visit them. And I, I went by myself. I flew to New York and took the plane to, to the first stop was Monrovia, Liberia and I had some friends who were in the Peace Corps. And I stopped and visited them for a couple of days and then I went on to Ghana, I had some other friends in Ghana and I stopped to visit them for a couple days. And then I went on to Lagos. And visited the Durants. And they were coming, coming home on furlough and they, we all came back together. Flew from Lagos to Madrid, from Madrid to, where was it? Athens, from Athens to Rome, from Rome to Munich, and from Munich to London, from London back home. And then the next time I went, I was, I was still working. We were working on, on kindergarten and we were studying the British infant schools and we went over to London and visited the British infant schools. We went to Oxford and, visited several British infant schools. And then let's see, where did I go next? Did I go anywhere else before, before I retired? I don't think so. But after I retired I went to China. I went with, most, most of my tours after I retired were with Phi Delta Kappa. They, they have a, it's, it's an educational organization, and they have a, a travel program. So, and I have a friend who retired and she's my neighbor and church member, sorority member. And we traveled together. And we, we went to China, together. We, we toured China, went to China, to Hong Kong and then to, to Tokyo on the way back. And then the next place we went on a cruise to Africa, I mean not to Africa to Alaska. And we flew from here to Chicago, Chicago to Anchorage, and from Anchorage up to the midland passage to Vancouver. And let's see where did we go next? After Alaska we went to, on a tour with Discovery Place to South America. We went to places I wish I hadn't gone.
JG: Why?
ER: Well, we didn't go to any of the big cities, we--. Discovery Place you know is a science museum and they have some places that they want to get some, some of the local flora and fauna. And we found ourselves going through the rainforest and all that. But it was the year of the Hailey's Comets and that was one thing we enjoyed. Let's see, what's--? Is this the thing? Yeah. Uh-huh. This was something they had there.
JG: Oh.
ER: I bought that on the ship.
JG: Uh-huh. Could you see it?
ER: Huh?
JG: Could you see it well?
ER: Yeah.
JG: Uh-huh
ER: Uh-huh, sure did. Uh-huh.
JG: That's great, you were in the right hemisphere.
ER: Yeah. Uh-huh. [Pause] Let me see now after that where did we go? [Pause] I believe that, I believe that Australia and New Zealand--. No, no Australia and New Zealand was our last trip. At the next trip we, we took the, the trip to London on the QE2. And we, we stayed there, because of us had been to London before but we took this trip for the transportation. We wanted to ride on the QE and we came back on, on the Concorde. Oh and that was just great, that was just great. And our last trip was to Australia and New Zealand. That was Phi Delta camping trip too. And we said that our next trip was going to be Scandinavia but we haven't been yet. I don't know whether we'll go or not, but things started getting sort of hot over in that part of the world and we said, "Well we don't want to, to be hijacked and we don't want give it to, get into anything, as unpleasant so we decided to wait until things cool down a little. But we still may go to Scandinavia. Haven't made any plans to do so though.
JG: So, how do, how does the United States look after you've been all over the world?
ER: It's always good to come home. I enjoy traveling but I always want to come home. I haven't been anywhere that I've wanted to stay. Now I've been to places I'd like to come back to, Switzerland, I'd like to go back to Switzerland. I'd like to go back to Australia and New Zealand. Beautiful. But I haven't been anywhere, anywhere that I'd like to live. I'm always glad to come home.
JG: Well what made you want to go all the places?
ER: Oh I've always wanted to, you see, I, I, I grew up reading in a reading home. And we always read a lot and I would read about places and I, I'd get interested in them and I said, "Well one of these days I'd like to that place." So, and I, I, I've always wanted to travel and I said, "Well as soon as I can afford it I'm going somewhere." And I did. [Laughter] You know I have scrapbooks that I always take my camera. And I have scrapbooks full of pictures that I've taken on my travels, but you wouldn't believe it. It makes me mad every time I think about it. The only place that I went where I wasn't able to take pictures, that I took pictures was, and I don't have pictures that I took with my camera, of all places Australia and New Zealand.
JG: What happened?
ER: And I thought I was taking pictures and do you know I had--? Let me see. Oh I think I had about a, a dozen roles of film and I took them to Wolf Camera to be developed. And do you know not a single one came out? Not a single picture.
JG: What happened?
ER: Well, the man said there was something wrong with the camera. But I told him that I had, had the camera checked by his company before I went out. But that'll, every, every time I think about it, I--. You know I have some pictures that you buy in the store that, you know at the stores in the, the, the souvenir stores and all like that. And one or two of my friends felt sorry for me and, and sent me some copies of some pictures they made. But oh goodness those pictures that I took, I was just looking forward to seeing them and sharing them with friends, you know. Didn't happen. So I need to go back to Australia and, and New Zealand and take some pictures. [Laughter] And, and an interesting thing that happened in New Zealand, one of the features of the trip to New Zealand is spending a night with a family. And I still hear from those people. We, we change, exchange Christmas cards and notes and they always invite me to come back sometime. So one of these days, I tell Mildred I say, "One of these days maybe we can go back to visit them."
JG: [Laughter] That's great.
ER: But we have fun. She's a, she's a good traveling companion.
JG: [Pause] You don't hear about too many people going to China.
ER: Why yes you do. A lot of people go to China. A lot of different, China, a lot of people in this neighborhood have been to China.
JG: Really?
ER: Yeah, there, there are some, there are some interesting trips to China. I wouldn't mind going back to China but that's, that, that wouldn't be my first priority so if somebody would say, "We'll give you a trip, where would you decide to go?" If somebody offered you a trip, and it would be Australia and New Zealand. Because we didn't go to the outback and I'd like to go to the outback. Beautiful, just, just it's a beautiful country. Australia and New Zealand.
JG: I'm sure it is.
ER: Um-hum. And of all the traveling I have been, or that I have done in my life I have never been to the Caribbean. Never. I have never been any further south than Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
JG: Do you want to?
ER: And one of these days I'm going to take a cruise, a Caribbean cruise. And see my traveling companion has been, been on, she's been on several. And she says she's not interested in going back to the Caribbean.
JG: Oh.
ER: I'll see if I can find somebody else who'll go with me. But. I better hurry up and go because I'm getting along in years and I, I, I'll get to the point where I can't walk and climb as much as I used to. [Laughter] [Coughs] But that's one thing you surely have to do when you travel, you have to, you have to walk. You ride a lot of places but after you get to where you, where the ride is taking you, you have to get off the bus and try and walk.
JG: Uh-huh.
ER: But it's been a good life, I've enjoyed every bit of it. Every bit of it. I don't have any regrets.
JG: Um-hum.
ER: I just hope I have a little bit more of it. [Laughter] As, as my mother used to say I'm not homesick. [Laughter] [Pause]
JG: I can ask you one more thing.
ER: Huh?
JG: Do you think multicultural education is important?
ER: Um-hum, I surely do. I, I think it's important for people to know each other and to know where, know where other people came from, know where other people's roots are. And I, I, I find out a lot about that you know when I, when I travel. That's one reason I want to go to the, to the outback. I've, I've had a, of course I bought the videotapes, you know, when I was in, in Australia. I'm glad I did. Because we didn't go to the outback anyway, although we did see some aborigines in some of the places that we visited. But, I'd like to go back there, and go to the outback and see how those people live. I just think it's imp--. It's, it's important to know about people and know who they are. I don't ever get bored if I'm in a group with somebody who's talking about their family and bring out their family pictures. I just think it's, that's, that's a part of, of living a good life, I think. Knowing about people, other people. And knowing where they came from and how they grew up and what they're thinking. How they feel about things. And I think if you miss that part of life you miss the whole good slice of it that you ought to have.
JG: Whenever you were an English teacher did you ever try to teach different authors, you know authors from different backgrounds and stuff like that?
ER: Well, when you're, when you're teaching in a public school you have to, you have to teach the--.
JG: Right.
ER: The curriculum, the state curriculum. But I taught senior English and that was, that, that dealt with British literature so I did teach British Lit. [Pause] If I had to teach now, I'd, I'd like to teach something that's a little broader, you know. Where I could, I could make my own multicultural curriculum. [Laughter]
JG: Um-hum.
ER: Um-hum. But I don't think I ought to teach anymore. When I get, I, I'm invited to come to schools. It's either to, to talk about the album or it's during black history month and somebody wants me to, to, to tell them the story of my life. [Laughter] Just, just talk to the kids and answer their questions, whatever they want to know about. And I enjoy that.
JG: Well that's teaching.
ER: Yeah that's teaching you.
JG: Well is there anything else you want to tell me about your life? [Laughter]
ER: No, I think that's enough. [Laughter] If you think, think of anything else you, that you want to know you, you call me. [Laughter]
JG: OK.
ER: Um-hum.
JG: Well I might do that because it's, I think--.
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