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Interview with Madelyn Joyce S. Wilson

Wilson, Madelyn
Desmarias, Melinda
Date of Interview: 
Charlotte, NC; Segregation and education; Susing; Leroy "Pop" Miller; Southern Railway; Second Ward High School; West Charlotte High School; Race relations; Faul and Crymes, Inc.; Desegregation; Integration
Ms. Madelyn Wilson describes her experiences in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System as it underwent the process of integration. Ms. Wilson attended West Charlotte High School until her senior year when many of the students and teachers throughout the school system, both black and white, were bused to various schools throughout the county. Ms. Wilson shares how she felt when Judge James McMillan handed down the ruling on the integration of the school system and also describes a conversation she had with him many years later. In addition to describing how the various students and teachers reacted to the change, Wilson discusses how many students were deeply affected, both positively and negatively, by busing. Wilson makes it a point to explain that, as the years have passed, she has come to see the value of integration and busing, and, in the end, she believes that the decision to bus was the correct and most beneficial one.
Charlotte, NC 1953-2002
Interview Setting: 
The office of Madelyn Wilson, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
NAACP Leadership
MD (Melinda Desmarais): This is Melinda Desmarais, the interviewer. The date is February 2, 2002 and I am here with Madelyn Wilson at her office at UNC-Charlotte's campus and I am interviewing Ms. Wilson today for the digital sound archive initiative, the special collection's department at UNC-Charlotte. Please state your name.
MW (Madelyn Wilson): Madelyn Wilson.
MD: And Ms. Wilson, what's your date of birth?
MW: February the 6th, 1953.
MD: And where were you born?
MW: I was born in Patterson, New Jersey.
MD: And tell me your parents' names.
MW: My mother's name is, or was, Wilma, Wilma Stinson, and my father's name is Charles Banks.
MD: And although you were in, born in New Jersey, I know you moved to this area.
MW: Yes.
MD: Tell me about, about that, how old you were and.
MW: Well, I tell people that I'm Northern by rearing, Southern, Northern by birth, Southern by rearing. Because I moved to North Carolina when I was six months, no six weeks old because I was just out of the hospital. I was a preemie, so I had to stay in the incubator for six weeks and then my mother brought me home to her family here in Charlotte, North Carolina. So, I've been here the remainder of my life and I am now forty-eight in a few days, February 6th, will be forty-nine.
MD: And tell me, I know you mentioned, earlier to me that your grandparents raised you--.
MW: Yes.
MD: Here in Charlotte. Tell me their names.
MW: My grandparents on my mother's side were Maddie Frasier Stinson and Eli Stinson.
MD: And what, what did they do for a living?
MW: My grandfather retired from Southern Railway as a mail handler. My grandmother retired from Mercy Hospital, she worked in the laundry room.
MD: So where did you live here in Charlotte with them?
MW: Basically, you would say I guess, we'd say the north end of Charlotte, but we were not as far out as the University. I actually grew up in the Druid Hills area. We moved to that community when I was five from the Greenville neighborhood in Charlotte so when the house we just sold it a few years ago when my grandmother died. So, basically Druid Hills neighborhood, which is between Statesville Avenue and Graham Street, is where I grew up.
MD: Describe for me a little bit about your neighborhood when you were growing up, what was it like?
MW: Very close knit, the end of Druid Hills, I lived in had mostly families. There are two sections of Druid Hills and the lower end, had more of the lower income, not that we were rich or anything, but it was the working class, most of us had parents or grandparents. I grew up actually on a dead end street, Jefferson Davis. We were very close. It was during the time where if you got home from school and your parents or grandparents, in my case, were at work, you had neighbors that watched you, made sure everything was OK. You played, you know, all, you knew all the neighbors. They knew you. So it was very connected at that time. And its funny, because I end up, after I got married, for ten years, moving to the next street over from the street I grew up on. [Background noise]. So, it's a very special area to me. And we still have family in that area on, even on my husband's side. The librarian at the, where I went, eventually became my aunt by marriage. So who, the lady I knew as Ms. Bower, at Druid Hills, became Aunt Sarah. [laughter]. So that was interesting.
MD: So, you went to school in your community? You had a neighborhood school and elementary school.
MW: Yes, when I went to school we had the first year I went to Druid, I'm sorry, Double Oaks because Druid Hills was still being constructed. From second through sixth it was at Druid Hills, seventh through ninth was J.T. Williams Junior High School, eleven, twelve was West Charlotte, no, tenth, eleventh, West Charlotte, twelfth was my senior year we did busing. And we were bused out to Garinger High School.
MD: And I definitely want to talk with you about that in a few minutes, but let me ask you this about your community. Did, did you go to church, attend church in your community too?
MW: Not in my community, in Charlotte. When I was younger our church was located over in the Brooklyn area of Charlotte, as a matter of fact, right across from the park that which even still today sits over in Midtown Square. I watched, them, we called it the Charlottetown Mall at that time. I watched them build that mall. And when that area was being re-developed the church we were located on Pearl Street, in that neighborhood, the church was relocated to Jordan Place, which is right off of North Davidson Street. So we were kind of like north Charlotte, but just over in another neighborhood. And---.
MD: And what's the name of the church?
MW: It was Myers Chapel. Of course, New Myers Chapel FPH Church Of God.
MD: Well tell me a little bit, you, you know, have told me a little about your community, it was close knit, tell me a little bit, what you remember as a child about race relations in Charlotte?
MW: I think my first remembrance of race goes back to when my grandmother would go to her doctor, she went to a white doctor by the name of Dr. Black, he was located over in one of the, it was a house that he had converted behind, at the time it was Charlotte Memorial, now everyone knows it as Carolina Medical. And I remember going to the doctor with her and he had a sign up over the waiting room, one, said whites only, other said colored only. That's probably, that sticks out in my mind more than anything else. I could never understand why we had to go to a separate waiting room and that just, you know, stayed--. But my grandmother always explained. She said I was taught that people are people, whether you're black, white, whatever. People--, you had good people, bad people. And my grandmother said this is the times. But Dr. Black was one of the few white doctors that would treat black patients. Was a very good doctor. And my grandmother said, you know, there are some things we have to endure, but we have to also remember the good. So that kind of stays in my mind, you know?
MD: And, you know, did you guys take other trips downtown where you would go to department stores or any other kinds of experiences like that that you remember?
MW: We did, we went downtown, but you know, I don't remember so much of the segregation when I'm downtown, although I know there were things. I just remember you just knew where you were allowed and where you weren't. For some reason, like I said, the doctor's office just stayed in my mind. We did go downtown. I remember going to the old (Kress's) store on the Square, you know get your peanuts or whatever. And I--. A lot of times I'll try to think back and it's like, I don't, it's just not registering that difference, even though I know I was taught that. One of the jokes I have even up to today is that I will never, and I have to almost be dying to drink out of a water fountain and sometime people say, "Oh, is that because, you know, blacks couldn't--?" I say, "I just don't want to drink behind anyone else, black or white." But then part of it could be that I just knew when I was younger, you don't drink out of it. And I just--, now, I don't. I tell them if I can't get water out of a spicket or something I just do without. But, it's funny when I think about it because I know it has to be some of that there. And again because I was raised by my grandparents, two generations up I was always told about the history and what they went through so I got to hear a lot more than some of my classmates about race relationships. But even during my grandparents' time, they were from Lancaster County, South Carolina. And my grandmother talks about a family who her parents and this white family, they would have their children about the same time, the kids grew up about the same age, and it was like her mother would go and help when the lady would have her baby, and when my great grandmother have her baby, she would come. And she talks about them going and eating chocolate cake. Knowing, you weren't allowed maybe at the table, but the white lady, would serve them chocolate cake, along with her children sitting on the back porch and they'd all sit on the back porch. And she said, "We knew it wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worse because they treated us as human beings." And that's the one thing here in the South I think, sometimes we have a tendency to forget, even though as bad as it is and was that there was an understanding. You had the people who tried to do what they could as much as society, I guess, would allow them and you had a few that would step over the line and take the brunt or whatever repercussions came out of it. But I tell people, especially from the North, that here in the South, we've learned to live with some things. Didn't always like it. But, I, I look at the North where you could be white, but you could be German, Italian, Greek, whatever, and they didn't want to get along. And here it was at least black and white and it wasn't always so much against black white, it just depended on where you were and we knew how far we could get with some things. And there were people that were willing to try to help.
MD: In terms of your grandparents--,
MW: Uh-hum.
MD: did they, did they, ever coach you on how to, about race relations or how to, how to cope with that sort of a thing when you were younger growing up?
MW: One of the things I can remember my grandfather saying, "always look a person straight in the eye." It's like, you know, don't look down, don't look away and sometime I find myself now, like, you know, looking around, but it's not because I'm afraid to look at them. And when I was younger, I used to make a point of that. I mean, I would stare a person down and look them in the eye 'cause my grandfather said, "Always look them in the eye," you know. But, one of the things, in talking to--, my mother was the oldest of six children, so it was two girls, four boys--, and in talking to my mother's siblings I remember my uncles talking about how my grandfather was, they used to think he was mean, you know, we thought Daddy was real mean, he didn't let us do this and this and that. But my grandfather knew what lynchings and what had happened to black men in particular and I think he was very protective of his boys getting into some relationships and it wasn't until they got older and then when we sit around and we talk about it, I'm like, but you know, Daddy always told me that, but I think when you're young and you're raising your children, you don't always tell them what sometimes what the grandkids, or the other kids get to hear. And so there was a difference. My grandparents had mellowed probably some too when they were they were raising their children. So, there was always an understanding. I was always told about the history and not so much for fear, but just for understanding because I was getting it from two generations up.
MD: And did you ever have that sense of fear, in Charlotte? Or do you think they did? Or was that the history as you mentioned?
MW: Not so much fear, no, because this is what I knew. I can remember my grandfather cut grass for several white families. And they used to make me so angry, they'd call and you know, may I speak to Eli? And I'd be like, why does this woman keep calling? Why does this white woman keep calling? I mean, I knew, you know, he was working and there was some that was really nice but sometime it was just like ugh, get away from me. Well, you know, somebody's got to do it and why shouldn't they pay me instead of paying anyone else. But there were a couple of families that were very nice. Christmas time, things would send over extra little like cookies or whatever. And I had to also realize, that the era they came from, you know, some, you had some that would say colored. Little colored girl. Colored, you like. I'm black or whatever. But I also had to realize the age that it was coming out of. And, so you may not like it, but you still said yes ma'am, no sir, thank you, you know, you're very direct but you gave respect. That was another thing I was taught, to give respect. You give respect, you'll get it. It may not come back from the person you giving it to, but it will come back. And so a lot of times you know there was respect. There were older members of my church. I can remember one of the deacons that worked for a gentleman here, a white gentleman that ran the largest hosiery mill here in Charlotte. And when I was up out of school, so they were old. Deacon Clinton was probably as old as the gentleman he worked for and they were crossing the street in downtown Charlotte, about Third or Fourth Street, and I was going to catch a bus, and I'm like, that's Deacon Clinton, so I spoke, spoke to the white gentleman, you know, "Hello, how are you?" And he got in the car, it had been drizzling and I'm like, "Is that the man you work for Deacon Clinton?" And he's like, "Yes it is." And I'm like, "Oh your old." And he said, "Yes." But I also learned as I got older every time Deacon Clinton had a new car that I thought was his car, it was his car he drove for the white man. But they loved him, so they allowed him to take it home. They bought him a beautiful onyx ring and my church being Pentecostal, you didn't wear jewelry, but when he had to work a dinner party, it was always the stories we heard, and one night he came to church, we was having service, and he had it in his pocket and I got to see the beautiful black onyx ring, that he would have to put on when he served dinner and he always had the black suit and the white shirt. Always very neat and I'm like you know, why do you do this, and he said, well, you know, we've got to work for someone. But this was also the same family that there house had all these beautiful antiques, I have a cuckoo clock today because there was a cuckoo clock in their house. I didn't know any black people that had cuckoo clocks at that time. And it's funny when you're five years old and you look up and you see that what sticks. But these people had given them a little stool that was a tapestry stool-beautiful. I'm sure it was worth money. It came from the white people's house. It was in the black people's house and I saw and I knew. So when I look back I, I realize how much, again like I said, there were some who took care of quote, unquote, "their own." They may not want all the other blacks in their house, but if they believed in you, you were OK. And even up until, there were several in my church, up until their death, it had been stated to the children, you make sure they have, they should not go lacking of anything, as long as any of my family is alive. But of course what had my black people given to them? They raised their kids; they cleaned their house, whatever. But again, they had. They were considered, you know, oh, they got a little money. It wasn't so much that, the people they worked for them took care of them. So, again, it was the respect. You, you--. It was the times. You didn't always like it. But, we have come through and it is funny now because you look around some, there some things still going on. And you're like, "Well haven't you learned?" Some people, won't. But, again it's up to us, how we make a difference.
MD: It sounds like to me though, that, you, at, at your age, your young age, were questioning things, right, they were still telling you. Yes, this is respect, and we can't really change this. But it sounds like, I mean, was your generation, the generation that questioned?
MW: I think it was like a little bit before, maybe, in like my uncle's, the baby's, there was like fourteen years difference. I was born in '53, they would, they would have been coming out of school in '52, '53, '56. That's during the sit-ins. I think it, you know, it's always been questioned. I mean we can go back to slavery and all, but
MD: Right.
MW: I think of the generation, was just a little above me, that really started the like I said again, the sit-ins, and the movement, Dr. King. I think they really came forth. And then my generation just kind of went on to the next level. Whereas you have the children now, I mean, they're like, what, what's that? They have no clue sometime of what their forefathers went through for them to be able to live in the neighborhoods, and drive the cars they drive, and have the friends they have, and that's where it hurts me that they take it for granted. I don't want you to still live in that time, but I want you to know where you came from because I say how do you know where you're going if you don't know where you came from? And that's what I guess I was blessed with. It was shared with me where I came from. And what could happen for the future. It would take, it wouldn't happen overnight. And sometime, yes you had to be cautious, but it was also stated it can happen. You can, you can advance. I think my grandparents looked forward, they did the best they could for their children, but they wanted their children to go much further than they did. My grandmother always talked about in the country. She didn't really want to get married; she wanted to get with a white family and travel but she ended up getting married and having six kids. But what came out of that is that all of us have a love for traveling. And even my grandparents traveled some. You know they, they got around here there and yonder. My grandfather worked for Southern Railway, we'd get a pass and hop the train and you know, go visiting. But again she instilled that. She was not able to do it all. But I have an aunt who has traveled extensively. And a lot of times we think about it. She say you know, "Thank God for mama." Cause mama's the one. You know. She instilled that.
MD: That put that in your heart. Well, you know, that makes me think when you talk about travel, did you, when you would go, if you would go north or other places, did you see differences, or were there differences in the way that you had to travel because you were an African American? In terms of you know, public segregation and--.
MW: I can remember, if we didn't go up to Washington. All of my grandmother's family was not here, was in Washington and when we'd go to Washington, we were not on the train, I don't remember so much on the train, although I know it was happening, that you know, blacks in a certain area and the whites in a certain area. But it was when we traveled by car. We laugh now, because you know, you packed the fried chicken, and you packed some white bread and whatever because you couldn't stop at restaurants and eat. And I can remember, you know, having the food. I mean, you, you packed a meal, going up. And when I look back on it I say, "Oh yeah, that's right. We couldn't stop just anywhere." I can remember my senior year and, no junior year, 'cause I was still at West Charlotte, talking to a young lady about Pizza Hut. And she was telling me, and I was like, what is pizza made of? What is a pizza? You know, and she was like, you would love it. She was like, get your, get your boyfriend to take you to Pizza Hut and it's this and that. And I'm looking at her like, what? And she's like, it's ground beef and its da, da, da. And I think back, like kids now go to McDonald's and all the fast food places. And I really didn't do that until I probably was up out of school because most of the time we raised, we had gardens. My grandfather had raised hogs on his mother's property. And I had uncles that worked in grocery stores so a lot of time they had meat and we bought our--, you know so we'd cook. My grandmother cooked full course meals everyday. And I think about a big thing for us was going on Friday. We'd have fish, Friday or Saturday or we'd have, go and get the thick slice bologna or luncheon meat and then get your fresh tomatoes and your lettuce and make this big sandwich that I couldn't hardly bite into. At that time I could eat two, and was much smaller than I am now. [laughter] But anyway, it was, it was good food. It was lots of vegetables and everything. And then you look at the kids now eating fast food and they're larger than I am, more developed but they're so young. They're developed in the physical, but not the mental and the emotional. So, a lot of things when I look back I guess I know, you know, I just automatically knew, we just didn't do that, or when you did you went to a certain area of it. You got what you were going to get and you'd go back and I mean, it probably was because we were in quote, unquote, "the city". You know, Charlotte was "a city". So, I probably didn't catch it as much as some other people from smaller places. But I, I, I know, I know that yeah, I was taught and I just, it's just like I knew, but I had to know because it had been instilled in me. I mean, it wasn't like, you're born knowing I just know, oh well probably from baby up, my grandparents just telling me, well we can't do any problems, I ask them questions and they're telling me. So, it was just if my grandparents said it was OK, it was taught and that's what you did.
MD: So, I know that, obviously, you saw race relations really sort of evolve and change over time and I would think that's especially true in terms of your experience with school. [laughter]
MW: Very much so.
MD: And so tell me a little bit about your experience. You, you mentioned to me that you were in the first class to sort of be bused with, with desegregation or integration, however you, however you want to look at that. So tell me a little bit about your experiences before when you were starting high school at West Charlotte. Obviously, when you were in junior high school, was still a--.
MW: neighborhood schools.
MD: Neighborhood schools, which were divided by race.
MW: Right.
MD: Primarily, even though there were a few token race integrations in Charlotte with the Counts. Whatever. So tell me a little bit about your experience when you were at West Charlotte first.
MW: OK. Well when I went to West Charlotte from J.T. it was just a continuation. You had Double Oaks and Druid Hills that, and Lincoln Heights, that came into J.T. Williams Junior High. And then from J.T. Williams, you had the students who had gone to Northwest Junior High. And they probably came from University Park or whatever the other schools were and so you had two junior high schools that poured into one high school, which was West Charlotte. So the only difference was I was just meeting other black kids from some of the other neighborhoods. Some of them I knew because they were family, some of them I knew church, outside friends, but it was just a continuation. It was, you know, it was just life, went J.T. to West Charlotte. Now, one of the things that was interesting in my family was that my family, all my mother and her siblings all went to Second Ward High School. Again, I'd told you, we didn't have a whole lot, we were over in the Brooklyn area and Second Ward was considered like the poor black school even though there were some rich people there that, well, rich, affluent people that went to Second Ward and grew up in that area. But West Charlotte was considered the prominent blacks, you know, that side of town, Beatties Ford Road.
MD: Like ( ) point was good old (mills).
MW: That's right. So when I got registered to go into the tenth grade. My uncles, the twins, the ones closest to me, fourteen years older, said to me, and they called me Joyce, which is my middle name. They said, "Joyce, we'll pay for you to catch the bus and go to Second Ward if you'd go over there, because you know, we're not into West Charlotte." And I'm like, "No, I don't think I want to ride a bus everyday. I'm going to go to this school." And they're like, "Oh, OK, you're going with Pop Miller." And Pop Miller was the assistant principal. Everyone knew Pop, you know. And, so, I told them, I said, "No you know you guys went there and you know I love it, but I want to go to West Charlotte. I just go where my friends are." And in turn, I was glad I did, because Second Ward closed after my sophomore year, so if I had gone, I would have gone to Second Ward for a year, West Charlotte, or somewhere junior year, and then senior year, bused. So, one of the beauties for me I thought was that I went to West Charlotte. And I can say, OK I'm bringing West Charlotte, and I had other cousins that went there afterwards. But, that was kind of like a little thing in the family. Joyce going, you know, she going to West Charlotte. We all went to Second Ward. And when I would go to events, like the Christmas parade or whatever, you know, I'd have to pull for Second Ward when they were still around, and of course, pull for West Charlotte. But I find even now when we do like Johnson C. Smith parade and when Second Ward come through I mean, I'm probably pulling more for them sometime than West Charlotte because Second Ward is no more, and West Charlotte's still around. So, to me it's just a lot of history there. So, I guess that was probably the biggest thing was within my family, not so much--. And just being in a high school, going from junior high to high school. But it probably wasn't until we were bused out, that's the real, my junior year, the end of my junior year when all the word came down that we were going to be going to a new school we had to be bused out and it was just a lot of confusion.
MD: So, leading up to that summer when all of this was finally decided. Spring and summer and with the McMillan and the Swann case and all of that. What was it like? I mean, obviously you were in high school and probably you were all wrapped up in the things you were doing, I don't know how much high school students think about that. But, what was that like to be around all this stuff going on where people are going back and forth in the community, you know, talking about where African-American students could go or not go? Well, what, what did that feel like?
MW: I think it wasn't until, we were, we were aware of it, but we, you know, kind of bonded together as just a group. And it wasn't until toward the end that would have been '69, '70, my junior year, that word came down. Well we--, there was going to be the busing. And at that point Judge McMillan was still trying to decide whether seniors or who all were going to be bused whatever. And so, I can remember the last probably month or two before school let out, people started getting very tense and restless. And it, it got a little scary. There was one incident I can remember. We were in class at West Charlotte and word came that some students were rioting and that the teacher was to keep the class in until we were safe to go through the hallway.
MD: This is while you were still at West Charlotte?
MW: This was while we were at West Charlotte because word was coming down that we were going to have to be bused. And people were like, "Oh no." You know. "I'm getting ready to be a rising senior. I want to go here." And so I remember when we finally--we stayed in there for it seemed like a couple of class periods or so-and we finally were able to get out of the building and get back up to the main part of the campus on the front side. And when we got there, we found out that some people had been doing some serious things, you know, throwing some rocks, putting some stuff in police cars, sugar in the gas tanks, that kind of thing. I mean, you know. Police was there. A news crew was there. And when they finally, I think, again, Pop Miller was the one who could really handle the students. And he was just the assistant principal, but he had a way with the students. He knew you, and knew of you, and knew your family. And if you saw Pop, even the kids who wanted to do things when they saw Pop, they tried to straighten up, you know. And they came out and said, "OK, you know, what's the problem?" And everyone was like, "We don't want to go, you know? What's going on? We don't know." And, and I think the biggest thing they were saying at one point we would have to maybe go over into the summer. We'd have a summer session, of being off, and then they say, no we won't do that, we'll just start it earlier, in the fall. And I mean, it was just all a mess. And finally it just came down to Judge McMillan saying everyone has to be bused. Seniors, rising seniors, will have to be bused. And I think once it was settled, people didn't like it. But they settled down, and you know, they tried to tell us it's going to be better for you and look for the new adventure. And the, the thing, I guess that bonded, we said, "OK, if we've got to go, we're going together." And what we found out, there were several neighborhoods that were bused out. Because you took one all black school and was splitting it up on the northern end of Charlotte to cover the other schools, for busing. And that was interesting, that we ended up from West Charlotte going to Garinger, Independence, West Mecklenburg, and North Mecklenburg.
MD: So were you, obviously, the day the news came down there was a lot of anxiety.
MW: Very much so.
MD: And tension. How, how did you feel throughout the summer, waiting to go?
MW: I think we all were a little anxious. Not knowing, going to a new school, I had personally had, a very good friend of mine, we grew up in the neighborhood, she lived right up the street and she had gone to Garinger in the tenth grade. For some reason her family felt going to Garinger was going to be a better school than going to West Charlotte.
MD: Even though she was African-American.
MW: Even though she went to the same elementary and junior high school.
MD: So she make during that choice plan?
MW: Yes. Well no, she went before then. Yes. She went even before. See Garinger already had some of the black students, cause they had black students going there, and then they got some of the ones from Second Ward when it closed, so there were already some schools that had some students going to them. You had, what? Olympic and South Mecklenburg and well York Road, and when they closed. So some of the communities already were supporting, but this was citywide. It was like, "OK, we, we need to do this citywide." And that's how if affected I think West Charlotte even more so. Then some of the other schools. And also Harding-some students, you know, at Harding. And like I say, the students at West Charlotte--depending on which neighborhood you were in-you just got sent all over. Here we were to be the rising seniors, kind of like top dog, you know, and all of a sudden, you're core group was broken apart and scattered all over the city.
MD: What kind of an affect did that have on you to be scattered like that?
MW: I was taught to adjust, to, to, you know, try to, try to, OK, take it in stride, but to be honest with you I felt, I felt angry, I felt cheated, I did not feel a part of Garinger when I first got there, even the whole year as a matter of fact. When I graduated from Garinger, it took me a few years before I would even tell people I had graduated from Garinger. It was like, I went to West Charlotte; I just happen to graduate from Garinger, but I went to West Charlotte. Because I, I had English first period, you go to homeroom, do your little homeroom stuff, and then I went to study hall, and then I was in a class entitled COO, Cooperative Office Occupation. It was kind of like equivalent to DE, but it was office skills. So you went in you had your class, then you went to work and they found you a job in the office. And my job was with Faul and Crymes sporting goods downtown. So by mid-day, I was leaving school going to work, to work the other half of the day. I wasn't there for pep rallies; I wasn't there for any of the club meetings or anything. So I really didn't feel a part of Garinger. I was there, I knew, you know, it was like, OK, we have to do this, you know, so we can make this progress. But the interesting thing that came out of it was that the next year they decided not to demand senior to be bused. You had a choice. You could stay at that school or you could be re-assigned. Because it took several years of this plan being implemented to get everyone where they felt they needed to be. But our year was the year and, and it's interesting because a few years later, after I graduated and was married, I had to do jury duty with the civil court. And I in Judge McMillan's courtroom, and I actually had a chance to question him and I said, "You know, Judge McMillan, you really are a nice person, I said I used to not like you." And he looked at me, "Ma'am, and why not?" I said, "Because you made me bused over to Garinger." And he, said to me, he said, "I know, a lot of you were hurt the first year, because I uprooted you," he said, "but in order for it to work, I felt I had to." I said, "Well, I can see where now." But I think, "I want you to know, I really didn't like you." I said, "But you're a nice man now." And, and I meant that. I really did. For a long time we did not care for that man too much, but when I got in his courtroom and he saw, he really tried hard to be just in his rulings, then you say, OK, and as I look up with the young ones now, I can see where it worked now. But the thing that bothers me is what Charlotte's trying to do now. And I don't think they know what they're doing. Again. I mean.
MD: We're going to get to that.
MW: Yeah, but that, that's like, ugh. [laughter]
MD: I want to ask you that. [laughter] But lets finish, lets finish we're you were before we go like maybe where we're going. Or--. I'm not real sure. You said that, that when you first heard about all this, people were like, go for the adventure or this is what it takes. Did you receive, did, did the students who were, you know, being busted up at West Charlotte or anywhere, did the school itself give you, any kind of like, I don't want to say training, but, you know, counseling on what to expect, or OK, now you're going to be in this integrated situation? Or--?
MW: Not really. They pulled, you know, they pulled the, the school together. Had an assembly and they tried to give encouragement, but you got to understand, it wasn't just students that were bused, but teachers also reassigned. So, you had a lot of angry people. You had teacher that had been at schools for years, the kids that come through, they knew the neighborhood. I mean you know. And all of a sudden, the black teachers are going to some of these white schools too, you've got white teachers, all of a sudden they got to go over to West Charlotte, they got to go over on Beatties Ford Road, to whatever the other schools were you know. And it was a lot of tension. I can remember, arriving at, at Garinger, and actually you just felt it. You felt like some of the classes, you had teacher's that didn't want you there. And I don't even think it so much was a black-white thing. They just, just the sense of thing being disturbed, your, your--, what you were comfortable with had been all uprooted and you're relocated. So you had a lot of people dealing with a lot of issues. So, you know, the whole time the school's trying to tell us, yes, this is good for you and I don't think it was so much West Charlotte, it was the school board, the media, everyone else trying to tell us. But again in the black community, because your teachers, your preachers, your doctors and then just, just your neighborhood, you know, came together and said, "OK, this is what we've got to do, we're going to make the best of it. We may not like it, but we expect our children to go and you're not going to now, no you don't just take anything off anyone. If some help, you come and let us know. But we do expect you to go in there and be young men and young women. You're representing your race. Again, we know you don't like it, we don't necessarily like it." Because parents were having to go drive way out, I can remember some friends off the Double Oaks Road, off somewhere way out at Independence, and back then kids didn't have cars like now. I mean, you had a few kids that had cars. Most of us didn't have cars.
MD: You had to ride the bus.
MW: You had to ride the bus. It was a city buses. We didn't have school buses like they do now. They had a few, but we were using city buses.
MD: So they weren't really prepared?
MW: Right, right. And even before we went to Garinger we used city buses for even the neighborhood schools because I can remember catching the bus on cold mornings to go to J.T. Williams. Or you can catch a bus to go to West Charlotte. But it picked up in your neighborhood and transported in the morning and the afternoon. But when you, and we went to Garinger, they still using city buses, but your parents or your family members had so far to sometimes go to get off work to go and meet with your teacher. So there were a lot of things going on. And when I look back, we did probably quite well, considering. But I think it was because we all had to do it. It wasn't just black kids, it was white kids too. So everyone, once you got to the school, it was like anywhere else, you know, good people, bad people, and as you got into your classes, you met people, you became friends, and for us it was just the one year. But you did get to know people and I also saw that where as some of the black schools you always have your different levels of classes, your upper class, your middle class, you know, even within the school, that some of the kids who maybe had been considered middle class, lower class, when they were dispersed at these other schools, all of a sudden, they became these superstar athletes, they were able to be on student council, whereas maybe at the old school, they wouldn't have or some of the kids who had been the little top dog, all of a sudden, they weren't so special because they were competing with other people. So it was interesting that there was some good and bad in both. The other thing it was told, you know, go to school, this is the best thing for you, they'll be better for you. We found that we got to Garinger, I remember thinking, the year before, the class before us, had given new furniture to the student lounge. When we got there, there was not a stitch of furniture in the lounge area. I understand they tore it up in one year. Back at West Charlotte, we had that old sofa we had, probably from the 50s. But it was still good. And so, you know, you're taught, they've got more over here and they've got this, and you found, not necessarily true that they had better. Some things yes, but also over time I look back too because the white kids that went to West Charlotte, I mean there were parents say, "I'm at West Charlotte." And you're like, "You're where?" And they had to run. "Oh yeah, I guess you are at West Charlotte." ( ) There were some things because the black schools offered, more like some of the trade classes, cosmotology, mechanics, brick masons, they tried to train the black students for a trade, cause not all of them went to college or were able to go. So, a lot of our schools had that, versus some of the academic classes that you got at the white schools. But then when the white kids went over there and were trying to, you know, even things up, they got there and they found some of the music departments, and some things, they got there and just loved it. So, in time, I can see where it was good for the city, but it was just because we were the first. We were the last all black junior class at West Charlotte and the first rising seniors, you know, of course being [laughter] bused out. So, we got the brunt of it. But afterwards, you know I can see where it was worth it. And it did last. And some people went to college and it affected them. It just kind of messed you up mentally as well as emotionally for a while, but then again, we, we know people that believe in resolution, so we try to, you know, move on, for those of us ( ) that truly have that. You always have again, some people that not, they going to stay in the past and stay over here. But as a general rule, most of them now, when I talk to them you know, we're doing OK, cause it's their kids now that have the results of what we had to go through.
MD: Well it's interesting that you say, that you know, there was a lot of resentment in the African-American community because I think on the part of a lot of people, and there's not just one African community, and I don't mean to say there's just one white community I mean, that's not accurate, but [laughter], but in the white community, if you'll forgive me being so general, there was this idea, that wow, you know, these folks from the African-American community are going to be able to go to this white school they must be thrilled. And you know, I talk with some people who just thought it was great, but they might not have necessarily have been bused or moved. So, you're saying that there's sort of this double-edged sword, this mix.
MW: Very much so, like I said, going to the new school, like go over here, we're going to be over here, but going into the neighborhoods, that of course, you know people are watching you. I can remember some of the kids talking about those who were on the cheerleading team, and football, basketball, and sometime when they are going to the games I happen to be at the school late in leaving. Some of the looks they would get, you know, what they doing there, you know, I mean, but you're at school, you know like, "Hey, we're trying to get to school." You know, whatever. But--.
MD: Like they say, "You're an African-American in this community, what are you doing?" And, OK.
MW: Very much so. And, it was, it was just a feel. I can remember even at, at Garinger that year there was I think they, they tried to kind of you know keep you like calm, like OK, you know, it's alright, we'll do this, we'll do that. But they knew there was an uneasiness throughout the city. And I think it, it was not surprising because you understand that, like I say, it wasn't even just the students. The teachers, like I said, we got there and the resentment of some of the teachers, you know--.
MD: How did that manifest itself? I mean, how did you feel that as a student, were certain things said? Were certain things done?
MW: Well, mostly, you know, you sat there; you listen to them, because back there again, that respect level.
MD: Did you have a personal experience?
MW: I, I guess, an English teacher. [laughter] I can remember sitting in her class. She was an older white woman, but her thing wasn't even so much even blacks. Hers was kids that didn't come to school. But, still there was a little resentment because there was a group of us, it was about five or six of us, in this English class, and most of them would kind of sit over to one side, and you know, we had students beside us, and we knew other people, but just that knit, you know, of being close to someone that you knew. And a lot of times, when she was doing her teaching plan, she'd say, "OK, we're going to read Antigone," and she'd say, "And you know last year, you had such and such in eleventh grade." And we're like, "No we didn't. We didn't read that book, we read--." And so what we realized you know the, the school system give you a list and you can choose this and this and this. Well where West Charlotte had maybe chosen one group of books, Garinger used another, and we knew nothing about that. And she knew that. You know, because we, we said, "Look, we, we didn't do that." And she'd go, "Well, you'll just need to do it, read it on your own." And, I mean, it was very resentful. We were like, "Oh no." You know, I remember I worked, and I'm like, how am I going to get this book? You know when I get off of work, my grandmother wants me to catch that bus and get home before it gets dark. And that was just because she was older and I was young, coming from downtown, and I'm like, "You mean I need to walk to the public library because I don't have time to go to the school library to check it out?" That was at the beginning of the school year. By the end of the school year, I'd gotten, an award for COO, and it's like she changed. "Madelyn, I, I didn't know you had that in you. Oh, here, you can use my personal copy." And I'm thinking, lady, why couldn't you do that when I first came? We didn't give you any trouble, we came in willing to learn, but she often referred to the eleventh grade year, knowing we had not gone there. And, so it's kind of like twisting the dagger in you every time she would do that. But again, she was older, and we were try to like, OK, this is going to get better. Now, by the end of the year, granted, she, as she got to know us, it did, it toned down. But I think she was a little fearful, you know of these kids from West Charlotte in my class.
MD: Something different she thought.
MW: Something different.
MD: Now, how about, I know I'm kind of back tracking here a little bit, but do you remember your first day that you went to Garinger?
MW: I don't know if it was my first day. I remember riding the bus. I remember catching the bus and as we got on the bus, because they had picked up some kids from Double Oaks and they came into the Druid Hills area. So, the bus was almost full.
MW: We were probably, the last, one of the last stops. And I can kind of remember us saying, OK, here we go, we're heading over there. And then you get there and its kind of like the first day at any school, you know, where do I go? Except for at West Charlotte, we knew it. It had been our first day, we knew the grounds. But you're going into a school as if you went from ninth grade to tenth grade at a new school. You kind of, "Where's my class? Do you know, do you know?" But again, also, we knew some people there. So, I had talked to my girlfriend, I had my cousin that went there, I had talked to a few people that kind of said when you get there, you want to go to this building, go that building. But still, it was a new school. And, so, what you--I guess what we did and when I think about it, when you going in the hall and when you see someone from West Charlotte, you even give them the power sign, the fist, or yat, yat, yat, just something, sometimes just the eye contact. That, it's going OK? Yes, it's going OK. But, the first day, I think we just remember pulling up and thinking OK, this is it. Let's make the best of it. And trying to do it as this group. You know, somewhere during the day, touching back base, with some people that you knew and felt comfortable with.
MD: So, trying to have a support group among the students?
MW: Uh-hum. Uh-hum.
MD: How about, how about, you know, and again I don't mean to generalize and say all white students, but, you know, obviously you, there were African-American students; some of your friends and family went there before you. What, was, was there resentment on the part of them to have more African-American students? Did you have any personal experiences yourself or having a feeling about what they thought?
MW: There, not so much the people I knew, but I do know I remember feeling that they kind of singled out, like you're the West Charlotte group. I mean, you know, you're talking to some of the students and it didn't come as much from, at this point, at this part, from so much from the white students as yes, the students who had been there. Their thing was like, "We were at Garinger when you came. We were here last year. We know our way around. This is our school. You're the new guys. I don't care if you are a senior." I mean, yes. That very much so.
MD: They was turf issues that even transcended race. I mean.
MW: Because I think you know, like you had the football players. I can remember one of the key football players, popular boy that was a junior with me, rising senior, and he, you know, he got bused to Garinger. So, all of a sudden, whoever had been top over there, they were going to compete with the guy, they're on the team I'm sorry, with the guys who they had competed against. Maybe at one point or whatever. You know, it's like, OK we know of you. OK, now you're, but again, like I say, you, you those who stayed in school longer. We left. My experience, I left by midday. But what I saw, the people who stayed around, was able to catch the bus at three o'clock or whatever time we got out, they seemed to knit and fit in a lot easier than those of us who left. We fit in with the people we knew. I knew people at my English class, I knew people--, some of the people in homeroom, one was a white guy who was a very good friend, and very protective of--, it was like two of us from West Charlotte and another young lady had gone to Garinger. And I remember the other young lady from West Charlotte came in one day and she was crying, she was crying, and we had no clue what it was, but somebody had said something to her. It was over a boyfriend or something from the weekend. But he didn't know and he was like, "Did anybody bothered you? Let me know." And I have, I have commended him so many times because I thought that was so nice of him to even care. I'm like this white guy doesn't know us except for we're in homeroom. And over that year we got very close to him and got to know him as a friend, really felt as a friend as compared to--.
MD: What was his name?
MW: Landis Toole was his name. And so there were people who accepted us, and I'd say again, it was new to them. And you, you blended in, but the ones who stayed longer they seemed to be a little bit more a part of the school. I remember when the prom came up, a lot of us from West Charlotte, were like, we're not going, we don't have cars, it's way out. It was at Independence. And the group probably who went again were people more in the clique. And a few of us went but most of the people from West Charlotte did not go to the prom. So, you know, they're like, "No, no we're going. We couldn't be at the prom for West Charlotte you know where we should have been. No, we're not going." And you had those who went. And now I look back and it's like should have went. Should have gone, if you had to go by yourself, just go. Just to say you went to your prom. But again they was, it was the ones who were more comfortable I guess that probably went on. Or just bold enough to go. Say, "I'm going to make a statement. I'm going to go and show them I'm here." But even like I said, at the end of school, you still had some of that, you know, going on because that was the first year. It took several years and again and they were still moving people around.
MD: How about you know I, I read in the newspapers, and other things, at some schools, like at Olympic I think especially but, some schools there were a lot of expulsions of students that tended to be more heavily, much more heavily African-American students who are being expelled, you know, in altercations and you know, bumps in the road, but, but I, I, I you know, I read a lot about the expulsions much more heavily weighted toward African-American students. Did any of that happen at your school or that you recall incidents that you know?
MW: I think I can remember Ralph Stewart was a guy; matter of fact Ralph was right in front of me when we graduated. He's Stewart, I'm Stinson. Ralph was at West Charlotte, everybody knew Ralph, he was, had a mouth on him you know, everybody knew him. And when he got to Garinger I guess you could call it a more militant kind of attitude. And there was a fight one day and we found out Ralph was involved and then somebody had a fire alarm threat, something, bomb threat or whatever. Anyway, I remember when everybody heard it was Ralph, it was like getting to him, first off what went down, is it something we need to take care of later, you know, when we got the gang or--. And when I say gang, not gangs like we have now, just the group. And, and then trying to calm him down to keep him in school and I remember one of the things was, I remember saying, "Ralph, look, you made this far. We've come too far. You don't want to get out of school now. Stay in. Hang in here." And so it was a thing of trying to get to him and it was almost like we were very protective of our own little inner group. I can remember the same English teacher I had, one day she asked me question, I told her what I thought it was, not being smug, what I thought the word was and she told me look under my desk get the dictionary out and look it up. Well, when I looked it up, it was exactly like I said. And I remember sitting there and thinking woman; I could throw you to that, threw that board. Now I was not the type of person to lose my temper like that. I mean, I knew the wrath of my grandparents at home, so you just--, some things you know. And I can remember sitting there. And I had a young lady from West Charlotte behind me, a guy from West Charlotte to my left, a girl up in front here to my left and a person in front of me, directly in front of me. And, they looked at me and they said my eyes were like you could see steam coming out. And I remember sitting there, looking at her and they kept saying, "Madelyn, it's alright, it's alright." And I remember when I got up from my desk, one girl got on one side of me and the other and guy got on the other and almost like closed me in and walked me out of the class because they knew it had to take a lot for me to get angry. And I felt very threatened that day. And, and, but again, they protected me. They got me back to the homeroom and said, "It's going to be OK." And that's like I said, this same teacher, by the end of the school year was saying, "Madelyn, you can get anything I want." I mean, you know, because we tried to give respect even in the midst of it. But it was times, buttons were pushed. And you just tried to get to them. [laughter] I'd say, "Don't. You don't want to get this far." Because again, we were the seniors. And, and some, this particular teacher she was known for flunking you out. So, we really felt we had to work in her class. But it wasn't even black out. She had been known for flunking half of the senior class the year before.
MD: Were there different expectations? I mean, I, I heard like, I've read about like the school board members and the concerned parent's councils and all these people saying, well, the whole stereotypes about racial inferiority and, you know, in terms of academics, I mean, did you feel like people bothered you?
MW: Yeah. Comments that were said, again like I said, you know going to the white school would be better. This bus is going to be better for our children, this was. And I say, in the long run, I'm sure there were some things. But it wasn't all they made it out to be. That's the bottom line, it just wasn't. Because when the white kids came to West Charlotte and some of the other schools, they found out, it's not as bad as they told us it would be. I mean, it was like, it was like matter of fact, I laugh because the parade would come through, and I'm like, "OK. White kids. West Charlotte. Alright." You know, but, I should have known, but it was interesting to get there. They were very proud to say, "I'm at West Charlotte." And I've actually said something, "You went to West? Do you really like it?" And they'd say, "Oh yeah." I said, "I know you." I said, "Yes I do. I'm glad I'm there."
MD: Did you see a lot of differences in the physical kind of things at Garinger? I mean, did you see differences in what was available like or the physical environment there?
MW: Yeah, just the school. With our school, West Charlotte was a old school, like I said, my parents, my mother went to Second Ward, now, but all the people equal to her and even older, even my grandparents ages. I can remember a lady in our neighborhood that went to Second Ward and it would have been people her age that went to West Charlotte because it was Second Ward and West Charlotte. So it was an old school. But it was kept; it was maintained. And when you got to the, to Garinger. I couldn't say, I know, Independence was a newer school. So, it was probably nicer. But for Garinger, I remember walking in and thinking, this is all this is? Like, I mean, this is not that much better than what we had at West Charlotte. We know West Charlotte's old. What's, what's the excuse for Garinger? Things like that. Just, just some things you look around and you saw, like I say, just some of the attitudes of the teachers. I was blessed, like I said I had my COO teacher, was a very sweet lady. Enjoyed her. And I said, got to know my teacher English teacher. But a lot of people didn't like her, black or white, I mean, but she was just older, and she came from a different school. She didn't care whether your black or white, Asian, or whatever, she wanted you to learn. And her thing was I'm not paying my tax money and you don't come to school. So, she fussed at the kids that was in school for the ones that didn't come, but that was all. She wanted young people to learn. And so as we got to know her and understand, but so we had some people like that at West Charlotte, some of the black teachers, I mean they wanted you to learn. So what I found in my experience it wasn't as bad, but even in the hallways sometime, you just, you could just tell the teachers just, they didn't want to be there. They had been bused to different schools too. And I think that just that whole attitude just that year. We were glad, I was glad to graduate. I was, I was ready to get out. I was just like, I don't want to be bused anywhere so I wanted to get out. And it was funny because when I went out I went to Central Piedmont, where of course you got mixture. And again it wasn't even that I think it was just our senior year, that's what we felt robbed, we felt robbed of that senior year. You're coming into a school, you're only there one year and you're trying to learn the school and you're out. And that's hard, but then you've got kids that moved that travel lot. And sometimes they experience that constantly.
MD: But did you feel, was there, was there sort of an underlying tension about race?
MW: Yes, oh yes.
MD: I mean, even though, you felt, obviously you're robbed, I hear you.
MW: Um-hum.
MD: That would still even with the students, do you think?
MW: It was still underlying it, because like I said, I went to work, you know, worked around white people at the company I worked for my senior year. There was only one other black person, a gentleman who had been with Faul and Crymes for year, Herbert Maxwell, and I came in being black, of course the second black, the youngest person with the company, and a female, within a sporting good store. But I was blessed again that I worked for the owner and his sons, the secretary was sweet as she could be, I mean I learned from them. But again, I had been raised by my grandparents to take people at what they're worth, not to, you know, whatever, the good, bad, whatever, you take them as who they are and you learn to deal with it or if its something you said, and you say this is the way it is, then, OK, that's it I'm through with it. And you go on. So I was blessed I guess in the sense of way I had been taught. But I also went in working some good people who accepted me, who was willing to take me under their wing and teach me, and I've, I've always been willing to learn from people, if given a chance. But where I have a problem is people who don't want to give you the chance. And there was still a lot of that still going on. Because of some of the other prominent people in Charlotte would come in to Faul and Crymes and just the way they would talk to you, you know, if you just a girl in the office. Well, I was just a girl in the office, but it was more than just the girl, you could hear it in their voice.
MD: There was an underlying--?
MW: Underlying, that like kind of underlying Southern understanding, the good boys, the good ole' boys, you know. Until the Crymes' let be known, this is Madelyn, she works for us, she's one of our secretaries, and you know, when you come in, this is Madelyn, you'll probably see her at desk first, or whatever. And she comes in. And so, as they got to know me, I, I saw some of that soften. But again, like I say, it's, it's how you are sometimes are presented because you can do all your best, and sometimes that's not good enough for some people. But it depends on what another person can say about you that can that sometimes make a difference. And then another thing, a lot of times people watching you, and I said, "Well watch me. I have nothing to hide."
MD: Any other ideas or reminisces you have about your time at, at West Charlotte?
MW: At West Charlotte?
MD: I mean at Garinger. Yes. [laughter]
MW: I would say now, one of the beauties for me, when I look back on it, I, I truly believe had I been at West Charlotte, you heard me say, there was an award that I received at, while I was at Garinger, for COO class. And it's, my name is on a plaque that is still there at the school. It's a plaque that each year a name would be added to. And that particular ceremony, for my senior year when they did the awards, and we had it at Ovens Auditorium, off from school that day, we all met at Ovens. And we were sitting there, OK, give you this, this kind of thing, we're sitting there, you've got all the students, black and white,
MD: This is Melinda Desmarais, the interviewer and this is the second mini disk of my interview with Madelyn Wilson, and it is February 2, the year is 2002. Well, hey, continue with your story.
MW: OK. The awards day for our senior year at Garinger High School, it was held at Ovens Auditorium. And we had the day off from school to be present at Ovens. So, we all come to Ovens, all the students, seniors from Garinger. And I can remember again sitting with some of my, my classmates from West Charlotte as well as my new classmates from Garinger. And we're sitting there and they're having the awards and they're calling names out and every name they called, you know, up to a point, was a white person and white person, white person. And I mean and this went on you know, and we're like, OK. And it wasn't cause, some of them we knew and we were happy for them, I mean, you know, we were like, yeah, but it's like, even, we were thinking at this point, what about the black students who were from Garinger already? I mean, because like, somebody else should be--. So, we're sitting there, and you know and we kind of like--you could hear kind of the students from West Charlotte, you know, saying close, "They ain't going to call nobody black up there?" And all of a sudden they get to the Cooperative Office Occupation class. And like I said, we, we knew there were two awards being awarded. One, the class had voted on, had nominated one young lady out of the class to get the person most liked in the class, that everyone liked. And all of us blacks knew we had voted for one particular white girl to, really nice, she caught the bus like us and went to work, I mean, you know. And there were someone else but she was just down to earth. And come to find out, the white students had voted for her too. So, we knew, she was getting the award, I knew that. And the funny thing was Faul and Crymes, being in sporting goods, was the one that printed up or engraved the awards I had for our class; I had to take them, but the teacher picked them up. And I couldn't, they wouldn't show it to me, because, you know, I didn't need to know, but we just kind of knew, cause we had all said, "Yeah. Kay's going to get it." So we like, "Kay gets it." So anyway, and I thought that was funny. But anyway, so they called Kay up and you know, she got it and we were clapping. "Yeah." You know, "Yeah," because Kay, "Yeah. We like Kay." And then, they go to the next category. And when they said a person's name, everything stopped, and it was like in a movie where, it goes in slow motion. And I remember seeing a young lady, Beverly Cureton, black lady had come from West Charlotte, was always Student Council and all that, you know, and she was up there and she was going, [clapping] you know, just clapping and I remember looking over and someone else was clapping, and I'm like, that was my name, that was my name, and I'm looking at the girl next to me, like, "That was my name." And she said, "Madelyn, that's you. Madelyn, that's you." And it's like, you know, everything stopped and I remember standing up. And, and just standing for, it seemed like forever, but I know it wasn't and then somebody said, "Well, go down and get your award." And as I went down, you know, I had ( ), "Yeah, Madelyn. Yeah, Madelyn." I mean, people who didn't always speak to you. "Yeah, yeah, yeah." And I'm like, OK. And my girlfriend, that I grew up with said, to me, she said, "You walked up there so calmly and cool as a cucumber as if nothing had happened." And I remember just saying, "Keep yourself composed. Keep yourself composed. Don't trip and fall." And I went up, shook their hand, got in and turned around, then smiled just kind of very business like, and went back to my seat. And went, "Yes!"
MD: [laughter]
MW: And what I realized, you know, they said, "Did you realize, you're the first black one?" And after that, they started calling names of black students from Garinger and those who had come from West Charlotte and on. But it was like, it broke the ice. And for me, I was just like that middle range kid in school, you know, wasn't in the upper class, wasn't in the lower class, just knew everybody, or a lot of people, just, "Hello. How are you?" And went on about my business. But, I know, probably at West Charlotte, that would not have happened. But the advantage, because the teacher said to me, said to us, said it to the class, "The young lady the year before had won both awards." She said, "We're not going to have that." She say, "And I'm not going on race issue either," she said, "because you guys vote on one and I will choose," well, thank God, that the Crymes always gave me a very good report on my little grading from work. And so it just so happened that it was a white person and a black person that represented our class. And it just so happened at that ceremony I just happened to be the first one to receive, and after that, of course many more. But you know, how you sit there forever, and you're like, "OK, is there anybody--? And it didn't have to be black, I said somebody from West Charlotte. I said, "Is there anybody from West Charlotte that's going to win the award?" And it was like, after that, they rolled on. And, so, one of the things that kind of stuck in my mind was that that was, that was a plus for me in being at Garinger. I truly believe that. I just, I just you know feel like, like that wouldn't have happened at West Charlotte. And that's where you get caught on the reverse side of that, being at an all black, and again those classes, the upper class, the middle class, the lower class. That even within a race, there are still these levels of class or status, you know, that go on. So, again, as my grandparents said, "They're good people, they're bad people." You know, but that always stuck out in my mind. That, that was an advantage I, I felt, for me being there. That still didn't just totally win me over to Garinger. But I would say to people, to young people that went there, afterwards, next time you walk past the trophy cabinet, look in there for COO class, and you're going to see my name, Madelyn Stinson, 1971, on there. And a couple of kids went back there, "I saw it, I saw it, I saw it." I said, "Yeah, I be there forever, I guess." [laughter] And that's my little claim to fame, you know. My name on a plaque at Garinger. And so, when I look back, though, like I said, for the ones who came behind me, I feel like it was, it was for the best. I mean, you know, there was like Counts, and others who had gone before us to make a difference. And, yes, we were the first class to be fully bused out over the city, but someone's got to pay the price, and it didn't kill us. I mean, we're still alive and breathing, a little healthier than we should be, but you know, we made it. And because of that, we can look back and share experiences, as I'm doing now; to say, we made it through. And, and I believe, like I say, it wasn't even just for us because, there was some awakening for the white community as well, to, like I say, to know that some of the community's didn't go in, and all of a sudden it was OK. You know, it's OK. They're people like us. And I think in some ways, some people found out that we're more alike than different. Over the years, because you look at kids now, I mean, it's just nothing to see these groups intermingled and walking down the street, and of course now, you know, we've got the Asians, we've got the Hispanics, Latinos, I mean, you know, we just--this area is becoming so diverse. For the first time this year, I've taken a Spanish class, because I didn't take any foreign language. But I, I feel like, you know, whatever we did and those before me, I'm just a little notch along that road, of hopefully, making it better for some, for those to come.
MD: Well, tell me, just real quickly, before I ask you the, sort of our final wrap up question, you, I have a great thing here about, about your principal, that one of your students wrote, one of your friends.
MW: One of my friends, yeah, one of my classmates.
MD: Drucilla Sayles. And, and it's caused We're A Winner
MW: Uh-hum.
MD: Can, can you tell me a little bit about her writing this and, and what this means to you? You've kept it all this years.
MW: At that time, it expressed, I think a lot of things we were feeling. I remember as we were coming up for graduation--I really was trying to find my yearbook--there were, kind of like, I remember they were called like a last will and testament that the seniors could write out something, you know, a statement or whatever, and I remember, you know, I had to write mine--I wanted to find it because it's funny when I look back on it what I wrote-but in going through photo albums, I found this piece that Drucilla had written. And I can remember as she wrote I was like, I was like, "Yeah, yeah, I like that,"--to the point I asked for a copy of it. It just captured some feelings that we were, you know, feeling at the time.
MD: Can you tell me what those feelings were?
MW: Well, you know, you, you, like I say, came in to the, we were anxious, we were angry to a point, you're trying to make the best of it, yet you felt like you had people looking, you know, looking the principal, all these people kind of really watching. I mean, at West Charlotte, you know, we had Pop Miller, and you, you didn't want to be out in the halls, you were supposed to be in class, you know, and as much, with Pop, it was we feared him out of respect. With the principal there, it was just like, it wasn't so much the fear, but just like, "Why you watching me?" You know, the question, "Why are you always watching me?" Or, "Why are you teachers, why you feel you got to walk the halls?" Or if I'm doing this, why, or it just, you know, or else you had the ones who went overboard. They'd say, "Oh, now you know you're just so--we just so glad to have you here, and we just-." So, I mean, you got these mixed feelings and you're, you're like seventeen, eighteen, and you know, OK, I'm going out in the world, I'm going on to college. I'm supposed to be top dog, nobody knows me. You know, it was just a lot going on. And yet and still, I think a lot of us tried to rationalize that, you know, down the road, there's got to be a reason for this. Because I had cousins younger, or some people had sisters and brothers younger, and you're like, OK, and I think our thing too was, don't forget our schools. You know, you had York Road and closed, you know, but Second Ward closed, and West Charlotte still going on. But I think, that was enough, please don't forget our schools, and don't take away what we've worked so hard to build in the sense of the community, you know, your kids come out of the community, we're going to watch your kids, and we're going to watch you too, so you can watch us, I mean, watch us, in the sense of looking out, being protective, caring about us. And I think that was the thing, you just felt like you was in an environment where you weren't quite sure what they thinking about you. So, that kind of left you a little more on edge, or a little more apt to jump to conclusions sometimes. You get one person over here that's looking at you like, "Ugh, why're you here?" And you get another person that really meant said what they said to you. But because you were already jittery about that person, you maybe spoke out to this one, and they're like, and you end up hurting their feelings, and, "I'm sorry, you're not the one, it should have been that one." But, in time, like I say it wasn't always for us, as blacks. It was whites too. I mean, it was people; we just all were bused. Just so happen, I was at the all black school that was bused. But like I said, there were kids were sent into West Charlotte, and teachers were moved, so it was just a, I mean, a lot of, lot of stuff going on that year, and so there was just, you just felt it in the air. And even after I graduated, for the next few years, I think you still, it, you know, maybe not quite as bad, but they were still moving people. I say it took several years, I was talking to my cousin, like, "Oh yeah, but you know now, they're going to so and so, they're busing over here and they've been bused over there." So, it was a few years before it kind of settled where people felt like, "OK, this is where we belong." But, you know, it's always going to be the good, the bad, some tensions here or there, some people troublemakers that's going to try to cause something where there's nothing there. That's part of life. But, I just think those first few years, we just knew, like, just get us out of here. We just want to graduate and move on. And yet and still we tried to look back, because I can remember talking to my uncles and trying to talk to those who had, had worked with some of the set-ins and all and, and again, listening to my grandparents, you know, and think, OK, if they did that, I can make it through this school. I can go. I can go. I can make it, because at least I'm there, you know, and I've got other people there I know. And their, no, I know their not at all bad and we'll be OK, but it's, when it's, it's your senior year, that was the hurt. That we had to move, we had to leave our school and, but in the long run, I know there was some good that came out of it, I know that there were some people who were damaged and scarred.
MD: Because of?
MW: Because of being pulled away, the security blanket. There were some that refused to accept life. That this is part of life, there are going to be changes, be disruptions in your life, it's not going to always go the way we want it. And some people just did not want to get over that, some people just like, OK, I have to go over here to sound better. It's like, no, you know who you are, you should, you should know who you are because of where you are and in time you saw a lot of people who got to that point, you know, to that level, and then there were some that just never, and you just figured they never probably will. I mean, there are just people like that. But, yeah, it was, it was, it took me a long time to feel comfortable about Garinger High School. Even now, I mean, I look over there and I'll say, yeah, I graduated from there, you know, I went there, but I look at West Charlotte and there's just a pride that comes out of West Charlotte to know it's still there, that it's students there, black, white, I don't care, just students are still there, you know. And I look at Garinger, and I'm like, yeah, Garinger. And, I, you know, but I've softened some. But I, I still know, I don't, I don't have the love for Garinger that I had for West Charlotte. And I think it's just because I, I did not get to really feel a part of it. I was there, I did what I had to do, and I left and went to work, which was still part of my schooling. But, I, I looked forward to leaving school and you know, going away. And like I say, my cousins and friends who stayed and did the pep rallies, they got to know because they had lunch. See, I didn't even lunch at school. So, I didn't mingle in the, the lunchroom or around the campus. When we finished that class, we went and caught the bus because we had to be at work. And normally, you'd be, was at work around one o'clock. So, it was that first part of the day, do your school, get out of here, go to work. And that was hard enough, they were not in your class, or you didn't know someone who'd introduce you, I didn't know them. And there was that, you know, just that. But then, some of the people who stayed, like I said, they still had some issues they dealt with.
MD: With, in terms of, I mean, I'm sure race was--?
MW: I think also themselves. What was, what it was required of them. Things you got away with at your old school you could not get away with necessarily at the new school.
MD: Like, like what sort of things?
MW: OK, you're at the old school, you know the campus, you know where to dodge in and to dodge out, you know everybody, upper classmen usually, underclassmen, maybe family friends, just people you know. When you got to the new campus, OK, first of all, you had to learn your way around it, again, like I said, when Pop Miller stands out, we had a principal, but Pop was the man, you just, you can, I can even think of upperclassmen that I knew, smart, one guy in particular, smart, and he just wanted to hang out in the halls, do his thing. Pop, would come in there, talking about, "Boy, if you don't get in the class," you know, "you get yourself in there." Said, "OK, Mr. Miller," you know, "OK, Pop." At Garinger, it, it would either be, you look at them and say, "OK," or you'd buck the system. You had those students who I think rebelled in their own way, so maybe the kids who didn't, wasn't troublemakers at the old school or because, you know, ( ) we all here. And you had somebody there who'd call your bluff that you knew, "I ain't going to sent." "But you're new here, who are you?" "Black or white? Who are you? I'm from West Charlotte. Who are you?" Yeah. And so you had some kids that kind of puffed up because that was their defense mechanism. "Yeah, I'm from West Charlotte, what about it?" And, and like I say, our thing was to get our class in there, out of there, graduated and move on. And then you had those, like I say, who genuinely made friends because I can remember when my cousin went to Appalachian. That there were some of the white kids I knew from Garinger that went up there, we'd asked about them, they'd tell me hello, tell me, some would say, you made friends, but people, I was taught people were people. So for me I just had to go out and say, "OK, I'm here, let's make the best of this, let's go on." And I had still some of my friends there. And like I said, ran into a old girlfriend who had been there, so she and her cousin would come tell me some things about the school. But, you know, and moved on. And knew I was only there the one year and I was out. And, you know, made the best of it.
MD: So, you mentioned earlier about what they are doing now in Charlotte with the Swann case and the choice plan, and all this sort of thing and obviously, you, you were in the first class that to really have to implement what had been going on in Charlotte for a long time. What are your thoughts about that now? What's happening now?
MW: When I first heard it, my thing was, they don't know what they're doing. That's just, just the way I felt about it. I was like it, you're going to try to go back to neighborhood schools, granted there are a lot of communities that are integrated, still a lot that are not. I questioned when you go back to, you know, to putting them back into the neighborhoods, will the resources be there? Because that was a problem, they kept saying we didn't get the money and I'm sure we didn't always get the money. So, the community would do things, the alumni group, cause like I say, you had these people long history and they supported their school, you know, I questioned, whether will it really be equal? You're going to have kids going back into neighborhood schools that you didn't take care of the first time, and now you, you think you're really going to send money over there. And, as maybe some of the communities are not integrated, and yet and still, I know there are some kids though that when they tell me what time of morning they get up, I mean babies, and how far they have to ride to school, I'm like you're what? And you say, but you have a school, you know, you got a school right there near you, right, but again, I, I, I think they think they know what they're doing because they feel like we are there now and Charlotte's not. Charlotte's a long way from being there now. You look at certain areas; you can move into them, you still get looks. You're walking down the street you got your big $400,000 house, you driving your car, you know, you been going to the best of stores, maybe out dress your neighbors, but because the color of your skin, they're still looking at you. And now, not only are they looking at you, they're looking at, at--, you know, you got the Asians, you got the Latin Americans, you know, coming in. And, so they're looking, you know, these groups, these groups, but my thing is we need to be diverse and if you reversing it, and your community's not diverse, where is that going leave us? I mean, so that's the one thing I, I, I kind of, I question. How diverse will some neighborhoods will be? Yes, granted the children are there and I understand, I would love to see them because we've got the schools all over, but we need to know, because one thing about it as we knew, and we were told when you get out into quote, unquote the "real world" it's not going to just be all the black families, whatever. You will be working with white people and you will be, you know, wherever and wherever. And so that was one of those things, like I say, it was that progression, that we knew, we needed to try to continue to get to where, you know, where Dr. King and some others, fought so hard, and now, you know, it's like OK, you're going to take your kids back into that school that you didn't put money in before. So, what's going to happen to them when they've had a taste of that over there? All of a sudden there going to say, "Why, why, why don't we have the books that Heather's reading?" You know? "When Heather and I would go to the library and why are we not doing this activity?" Because they've had a taste of it. And, so I, I want to make sure if they're going to pull them back into neighborhood schools, make sure that the resources are there, that it is distributed equally among the whole city. And for those neighborhoods that aren't, maybe there could be some type of like school day exchange where the schools could come together, even if it's at like a park or something cause you're going to have kids who've known kids from other schools, you know, their friends, and maybe they're calling them, "Hello. Hello. How are you?" Whatever. But for those that you know that are still setting in some of either pretty much predominantly black or predominantly white those are the ones I really wonder about. What's going to happen? What's, what's going to be the attitudes of the generation to come, pulling back? Cause you are going to have their parents who at once, just, you know, carefree and that's all they knew. Now, all of a sudden their kids are going back, and see these parents won't or have not accepted the history as maybe my generation and the ones before. Their thing is like, "So what if they did this back then." I, you know. So what? So they're not instilling history in them to give them a foundation to know who you are regardless, and that we are people. I mean, you may be black, you may be white, but still, we're people and I know my history and I share with you and we find out, boy, we're, we're pretty much alike, you know. But see these younger parents, now, they, they can't do that because they don't have it. Their parents try, but they just like, oh no, I'm supposed to go over in this neighborhood, I can marry this person. I'm like, that's fine, you can. But also know what it took, when you look at a child, African American, Native American, Irish, whatever, whatever, and all of a sudden, you can't tell them a thing about it, but yeah, your granddaddy was this and your granddad, and so and so, and that's all you know. But you can't instill in them, we're still humans, we're still, you know and they can't give them anything. And this, this generation is the computer literate. So, I mean, they can go in, they can read, but if the parents aren't saying, "Well, baby, now I want you to go back in here, and I want you look this over now." If they're not dealing with it, or the kids, may go back in and come ask mom, and they have no clue or dad. And if grandma and granddad is overloaded with raising another set that somebody doing whatever drugs, or whatever, I mean, you know. There's so much going on, that I, I sense they may get lost in the shuffle. So, twenty more years, thirty more years from now, where will we be? [pause] And, and that's I guess my biggest thing. Just make sure, that I'd, I'd like to not loose the diversity. And I want to make sure the resources are there for all children equally regardless of race. Across the board. And that we understand that we are people and the history that we can move forward as one. Still going to take a while.
MD: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
MW: Just that I, I, I thank you. I, I, I, you know, started out saying, what do I have to offer to this, trying to remember my senior year here. And I'm sure there are a lot of other thoughts floating around somewhere out there. But the, the main thing, like I said when I looked over and I talked to some of my other classmates, people you had known all your life or the ones you met in junior high and then you got split up when senior year, I remember the first few years after, coming together, or talking to people and they said, "Boy, you know it's been rough, I, I couldn't shake that senior year." They like, "You couldn't shake it? You're the star football player, you're the cheerleader, you were the whatever, I'm just--." It affected everyone. But what we have done is come together because we even had a, started to trying to have a reunion of the junior class from West Charlotte, a few years back, and it was interesting to look at where people are now, but also to be able to sit down, and one of the things we're proud of, like, "We were the last, you know, junior class at West Charlotte," but also, we made it though that first year. And so, you know, we pulled and we came through it together because even though you went to schools wherever there were times your neighborhoods was still connected. So, you could come and you run into somebody, "How's it going for you?" And, and we knew for our children, and it's funny cause you, when your young and in high school you talking about, "Yeah, I'm going to have kids," I'm going to do this and that. And as you get older and you look back and say, "You got five kids." But, there was still, I think it had been instilled in us. Probably not too much, below me was that generation, but still you're instilled, you're still doing this, there's a reason, there's a purpose, and then kind of on down later, just like you just do it. You're just there. This is the way life is, and to think now, it's like, OK, there was, there was a purpose for it, but now to hear what Charlotte what wants to do, is like, OK, you mean went through that and now you want to do this. And I guess the other thing is too to know that there have been people from the outside who have come in and forced some of these issues. That to me is like you let outsider come in, you know, do this you know, well people here couldn't it but you had to get somebody and then they left. So I, I think some of that you know, kind of like, OK, who's sitting over there now, who's watching the ball bounce up and down or whatever. But, again, someone will have to pay the price. There will always be, and its not martyrs, its not so much being a martyr whatever, it's just part of life. There will be some ups and some downs, good days, bad days, have trials and tribulations, but we can make it. And it's not just black people cause one thing I found out too talking with some of my white co-workers. Especially out to Tennessee and the mountains of North Carolina that we thought we had it hard, but they had it hard on a different level, because even sometime their own white people look down on them. And, you find again, like I say, people are people. But, we've got still a ways to go. And it will have to be on a one on one individual thing. And everybody won't get it; they just won't see the picture. But that's OK, hopefully there will be enough people that will continue to carry on, and I've enjoyed it.
MD: Thank you very much for your interview.
MW: You're welcome.
MD: Thank you. .